Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 31st of March 2014 - UBITENNIS
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Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 31st of March 2014

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TENNIS – Andy Murray gets slimy. Miami sets an unwelcome record. Serena Williams becomes the fourth woman to win 7 titles at the same event. The men prepare for Davis Cup duty and the women play in Charleston and Monterrey. Joshua Bosco

Murray gets gunked

Andy Murray got more than he bargained for during his press conference at the Crandon Park Tennis Center last week. Buckets of green goo were thrown all over him as a publicity stunt for Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards 2014.

 

I feel incredibly privileged to receive Nickelodeon’s UK History Maker Kids’ Choice Award […]. Getting slimed is definitely the most outrageous award acceptance I’ve ever done – it was pretty good fun” said Murray afterwards.

Tennis History in the making

Tennis history was in the making in Miami last Friday. Both the men’s semi-finals scheduled for that day were resolved with a walkover, with World No.1 Rafael Nadal and World No.2 Novak Djokovic advancing to the final of the Sony Open without having to play a single point.

According to the ATP, It’s the first time in the Open Era (since 1968) that both semi-finals at a tour-level event end in walkovers.

The first player to withdraw from his match was Kei Nishikori: the Japanese player, after a successful week in which he defeated Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer and Roger Federer (all ranked higher than him), was forced to forfeit the semi-final due to a left groin injury.

In the second walkover of the day  Tomas Berdych was forced to pull out of his match against Nadal with gastroenteritis. Despite his withdrawal the Czech player will now rise to No.5 in the ATP rankings, matching his career-best reached in August 2013.

Yesterday’s final marked the 40th match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard, after last night’s 6-3 6-3 loss, still leads 22-18 in the Head2Head. Worthy of mention is the fact that  Nadal and Djokovic are now defending champions in all nine  ATP World Tour Masters 1000, with 5 titles to Djokovic’s name (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Shanghai and Paris) and Nadal trailing with just 4 (Madrid, Rome, Canada and Cincinnati).

7 times Serena

After winning the Sony Open in Miami on Saturday, World No.1 Serena Williams became just the fourth woman to win the same tournament at least seven times. She managed to do so thirteen years after her first triumph there in 2002, a straight sets victory over the then-World No.1 Jennifer Capriati.

She joins Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert in this elite club: Navratilova has won 8 different tournaments seven or more times (including 12 titles in Chicago in a fifteen year span and 9 Wimbledon titles), while both Graf and Evert have won “only” 2 different tournaments at least seven times (Wimbledon and the German Open for Graf, Roland Garros and the Family Circle for the American).

Davis Cup weekend

No major tournament will take place this week in the ATP World Tour as players will be busy with the Davis Cup quarterfinals and Zone Group I and II ties this weekend.

Japan vs Czech Republic will feature Miami’s semi-finalist Kei Nishikori and two-times Davis Cup champion Radek Stepanek;
France vs Germany will see a full-powered French team (Tsonga, Gasquet, Monfils and Benneteau) take on a German side missing its four best-ranked players;
Italy vs Great Britain Wimbledon champion Andy Murray will have to defend himself against Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi on clay;
Switzerland vs Kazakhstan World No.3 & No.4 Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer will be hoping to reverse the result of the 2011 Davis Cup when Kazakhstan beat Switzerland 5-0 and reach the semi-finals for just the third time in over 90 years.

Some fascinating encounters can also be found in Zone Group I and II ties: the most anticipated is Poland vs Croatia, which will see World No.21 Jerzy Janowicz and formidable doubles team Fyrstenberg/Matkowski take on Marin Cilic and junior sensation Borna Coric.
Colombia will put faith in their consolidated quartet, made up of Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Falla and doubles Miami finalists Cabal/Farah, for their Colombia vs Dominican Republic tie and World No.15 Grigor Dimitrov will play in Athens this weekend in Greece vs Bulgaria.

Family Circle & Monterrey

The WTA Tour, however, won’t stop this week:

In Charleston, World No.1 and Sony Open winner Serena Williams will try to win her third successive Family Circle Cup (and fourth in total) but will have to compete against a tough field including her sister Venus, Jelena Jankovic, Sara Errani, Sabine Lisicki, Sloane Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard and Lucie Safarova. Nadia Petrova received a wildcard while Alize Cornet, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands have withdrawn before the start of the tournament.

In Monterrey players including Flavia Pennetta, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Kirsten Flipkens and Garbine Muguruza will try to take advantage of the absence of last year’s winner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and World No.4 Victoria Azarenka to take home the title.

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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