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.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

 

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

 

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

 

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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