BNP Paribas Open Is Heating Up! - UBITENNIS
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BNP Paribas Open Is Heating Up!

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TENNIS – If the action over the last two days is any true indication for the rest of the tournament, the BNP Paribas Open 2014 is going to be mercurially hot in the coming days. Day 5 saw the fall of fourth seed Berdych to Bautista-Agut, the withdrawal of Del Potro and Wozniacki’s win over Shvedova. Cordell Hackshaw

 

If the action over the last two days is any true indication for the rest of the tournament, the BNP Paribas Open 2014 is going to be mercurially hot in the coming days. Day 5 at this “major” event was incredible for both casual and avid fans alike. The men’s draw featured several high octane 2nd round matches. Tomas Berdych (4), fresh off a tournament win in Rotterdam and finalist in Dubai last month, came into this tournament with considerable buzz behind him. However, the Czech was flat against his 2nd round opponent, Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain. Berdych was down an early break in the 1st set, 2-4 but got himself together to win 4 straight games and close out the set 6-4. Bautista-Agut remained undeterred from his task of scoring the upset and showed that he was the more aggressive player as he raced out to a 5-1 lead in the 2nd set and closed it out 6-2. One wanted to believe that Berdych was going to get his act together and protect his career high ranking of No. 5 in the world but one only saw him employing the wrong strategies out on court. He was missing his forehands badly and engaging Bautista-Agut in long rallies but unable to pull the trigger at the right time. Bautista-Agut was relentless and proved to be the more fit of the two. This gave the Spaniard many opportunities to find his range and take the offensive against the Czech. A few games into the 3rd set, one just knew the upset was coming. Berdych was able to erase an early break by Bautista-Agut and even things at 4-4 but in the end, his error prone forehand done him in. Bautista-Agut knocked out the 4th seed 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

With Berdych’s unexpected departure and the late withdrawal of Juan Martin Del Potro (6) because of a plaguing wrist injury, Novak Djokovic (2) saw his draw become even easier than it was before; the top half of the men’s draw is jam-packed with heavy “arsenal”: Rafael Nadal (1), Stanislas Wawrinka (3), Andy Murray (5) and Roger Federer (7). Nonetheless, in order for Djokovic to get to the final, he has to get through the early rounds and that is what he did. He took care of Victor Hanescu in straight sets 7-6(1), 6-2 albeit a bit erratic in the early parts of the match. There were several other straight sets winners: John Isner (12), Grigor Dimitrov (15), Ernests Gulbis (20), Marin Cilic (24) and Fernando Verdasco (30) are all through to the 3rd round. Tommy Robredo (16) is also through to the next round with a win over Marinko Matosevic in 3 sets as did his countryman, the unseeded Feliciano Lopez who initially looked as though he was about to squander the golden opportunity of Del Potro’s withdrawal. Lopez faced lucky loser James Ward who took the 1st set 6-3. Lopez got his head straight and closed out the match in 3 sets 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Richard Gasquet (8) is also through to the 3rd round when his opponent Teymuraz Gabashvili retired after dropping all 8 games played in the match.

There were several upsets most notable of which was the straight sets dismissal of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) by his countryman Julien Benneteau 4-6, 4-6. A rather disappointing result for Tsonga one is sure. He fancied his chances of getting far in this draw but instead will join Gilles Simon (21) who sent packing by Austrian qualifier Dominic Thiem (5)6-7, 2-6. Philipp Kohlschreiber (22) was virtually dismantled by Yen-Hsun Lu in straight sets 2-6, 2-6 as was the 25th seed Vasek Pospisil who only won two games against Mikhail Kukushkin 0-6, 2-6. Ivan Dodig (31) lost to Alejandro Gonzalez in 3 sets. Florian Mayer (26) retired in the 2nd set against Jarkko Nieminen.

On the ladies’ side, there were several battles for a place in the Round of 16. Caroline Wozniacki (10) looked to have been completed outclassed by Yaroslava Shvedova. Shvedova lead in the 1st set 4-2 but it seemed she grew uncomfortable with the lead or momentum in her favour. Wozniacki fought her way back and took the set to a tiebreaker where she saved set points to take it 7-6(7). Again Shvedova raced out to an early lead in the 2nd set 4-0 but became erratic and allowed things to get back on serve. However, she was able to close out the set 6-3 but the effort proved to be too much for her. In the decisive set, the wheels came off completely and Wozniacki avenged her lost to Shvedova last year in Madrid and took this match 7-6, 3-6, 6-1. Alizé Cornet (22) won another war of attrition against Carla Suarez-Navarro(14). They were both uncomfortable with playing very aggressive from the baseline or moving forward as they were “miles” behind the baseline. Although when they did become aggressive or came forward, it was at times in spectacular fashion. Carla Suarez-Navarro looked to be taking charge of the match often but then soon relinquished this hold. She took the 1st set 7-6(4) and had 3 match points in the 2nd set. However, Cornet was determined to fight to the end as she saved match points and soon wore down her Spanish opponent to take the match 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 in nearly three and a half hours.

Aga Radwanska (2) took care of business when she picked apart Annika Beck’s game 6-0, 6-0 to move through to the Round of 16. She would be joined by Jelena Jankovic (7) who defeated Magdalena Rybarikova (31) and Simona Halep (6) who quelled the late surge of Lucie Safarova (26) to take the match in 3 sets. Doubles team Sara Errani (9) and Roberta Vinci (13) will have to hope for the doubles title as their singles’ dream were dashed by Eugenie Bouchard (18) and qualifier Casey Dellacqua respectively. American Lauren Davis continued her good fortunes of defeating an ailing Victoria Azarenka in the 2nd round as she excused her compatriot Varvara Lepchenko from the tournament in straight sets for a place in the Round of 16.

As have been the norm here, the doubles events continue to be a hot ticket. The ladies draw not to be outdone by the men’s saw a bit of drama when Flavia Pennetta pegged both her opponents Kristina Mladenovic and Kimiko Date-Krumm. Her blow to Date-Krumm resulted in play being halted for some time as Date-Krumm was treated for possible injury to her eye. Pennetta was very apologetic about the matter and rushed for ice to soothe her opponent’s pain. In the end, play continued and Date-Krumm/Mladenovic took out Pennetta/Zahlavova-Strycova in the super-breaker 10-5; revenge is the best medicine for pain. The wildcard entry of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sam Stosur also won their match to move to the 3rd round. On the men’s side, Andy Murray and his partner Jonathan Marray lost in straight sets to the 2nd seed Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares in the 2nd round. The monster combo of John Isner and Sam Querrey took out Jeremy Chardy and Gilles Simon in the 1st round. Neither Jerzy Janowicz nor Philipp Kohlschreiber found doubles success after singles failure in their pairing as they lost to 4th seed in Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek. All in all it was a great day for tennis and Day 6 promises to be even better.

ATP

The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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