Indian Wells: Li Na wins all-Chinese match. Nadal survives Stepanek scare - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells: Li Na wins all-Chinese match. Nadal survives Stepanek scare

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TENNIS –  On the women’s side, Li Na (1) took on her and beat countrywoman, Zheng Jie who was a dangerous floater in any draw. The first seed won 6-2. 7-5. In the men’s event Rafael Nadal survived an early scare against Radek Stepanek. Cordell Hackshaw

 

With all 1st round matches concluded over the past 3 days, Day 4 at the BNP Paribas Open has heated up considerably for the 2nd round matches. Many of the top seeds and tour favourites were on court and the fans loved every moment of it. On the women’s side, Li Na (1) took on her countrywoman, Zheng Jie who is a dangerous floater in any draw. This is the highest seeding Li has had at a “major” event and she most definitely was not about to waste this opportunity. Li took the first set easily 6-2 but lost her way a bit as she was down 2-4 in the 2nd set. However, Zheng was unable to close the deal and force a 3rd set as Li cleaned up her game and took the match 6-2, 7-5. She will be joined by Maria Sharapova (4) in the 3rd round who took out Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-4.

Other top seeds were in action and moved through to the next round including Petra Kvitova (8) who took out American wildcard Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets as did Dominika Cibulkova (12), Sam Stosur (16) who took out Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-3; a rematch of the 2010 French Open final, and Sloane Stephens (17). Ana Ivanovic (11) had a tough time against her opponent Elina Svitolina. Ivanovic’s inability to stay focus in matches is now legendary and found herself down a set in the early parts of the match 4-6. She was able to take the 2nd set 7-5. However, Svitolina served for the match twice in the 3rd set in a string of six consecutive breaks of serve culminating in a tiebreaker to decide the match. It was at this point that Ivanovic found her range again to take it 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(1). Flavia Pennetta (20) found herself in a somewhat similar fight against 17-year old American Taylor Townsend. Townsend, despite all the talk of her body, has a very solid game and it would be interesting to see how far her career goes in spite of the weight of expectation. Nonetheless, it was not her day today. The American had a break in the 3rd set but could not consolidate and the more experience player in Pennetta simply capitalized to take the match 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

Other winners of the day included several Russians who will join Sharapova in the 3rd round: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (21), Ekaterina Makarova (23), Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) and unseeded Alisa Kleybanova who took out the 32nd seed Garbine Muguruza in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. It is nice to see Kleybanova back on tour and playing top draw tennis as she did when she rose to No. 20 in 2011. Since then, she has successfully battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which took her off the tour for a considerable amount of time.

There were several upsets, the biggest of which saw Angelique Kerber (5) bounced out of the tournament by Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in 3 sets 6-2, 6-7, 4-6. Sabine Lisicki (15) continued her inconsistent streak of play as Aleksandra Wozniak took her out on her way to the 3rd round 7-5 1-6 7-6. Soria Cirstea (25) and Klara Zakopalova (28) were also knocked out of the tournament by Camila Giorgi and Karoline Pliskova respectively.

The men’s draw proved to be far more interesting than the ladies in the earlier rounds of the tournament as many of the top men face stiff opposition from their opponents. Andy Murray (5) dropped the 1st set 4-6 to Lukas Rosol, the man who took out Rafael Nadal out of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. Murray had only 1 winner to the 18 from Rosol in that initial set. However, the Scotsman righted his ship and soon nullified the potential threat that was the Czech. Rosol had the initial break in the 2nd set but was unable to adapt his style of play, the monster serve/forehand combination to the superior tactics of the 2 time major winner. Murray drew Rosol side to side and withstood the barrage of heavy-handed forehands which became more and more erratic as the match went on. In the end, Murray was just too much for Rosol to handle and Murray moved on 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Things were looking very comfortable for Roger Federer (7) against Paul-Henri Mathieu as he was up 6-2, 5-4 serving for the match. However, he gave Mathieu his first looks at break points and Mathieu converted on this rare occasion. Federer then became quite erratic and the match became anything but routine for the Swiss. He barely got the 2nd set to a tiebreaker and was down a mini break. Federer then found his top form again and closed out the match 7-6(5) to move through to the 3rd round. It seemed as though all the top men wanted to complicate their lives as Rafael Nadal too joined in on the action. He dropped the 1st set to Radek Stepanek who was playing a most aggressive style throughout the match. Nadal did his best to avoid the upset and just got by to the 3rd round in under two and a half hours 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. The world’s number one is looking to retain the title here as he did last year when kick started an incredible 2013 for him on hardcourts. He did not lose a match all of last year on the surface.  Milos Raonic (10), Fabio Fognini (13) and Andreas Seppi (29) also had to battle it out in 3 sets to get through to the 3rd round.

Several of the other top seeds figured out how to get to the 3rd round in an easier fashion. Current Australian Open champ Stanislas Wawrinka (3) won in straight sets over the monster serving Ivo Karlovic. Other straight sets winners include Tommy Haas (11), Kevin Anderson (17), Kei Nishikori (19), Gael Monfils (23), Dmitry Tursunov (27) and Alexsandr Dolgopolov (28). In terms of upsets, Jerzy Janowicz (18), one of the potential stars of the tour, lost to Alejandro Falla 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(5). Janowicz was up 5-2 in the 3rd set before becoming unraveled. Pablo Andujar (32) also lost to Jiri Vesely in 3 sets.

It was not just the men’s singles matches that proved to be interested at this tournament. There were many great pairings on the court which has made the men’s doubles event here a hot ticket. Novak Djokovic paired up with his countryman Filip Krajnovic for a chance of doubles glory but it was cut short by the team of Ernests Gulbis and Milos Raonic in straight sets 7-6, 6-1. The giant duo of Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro got together to take on the very experienced team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. They also lost their bid for doubles glory as the Nestor/Zimonjic took in the super-breaker 4-6, 6-3, 10-8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and his partner Nicolas Mahut came through against Kevin Anderson and Robin Haase. They will join Richard Gasquet and Jonathan Ehrlich in the 2nd round as they took out the Polish team of Marius Fystenberg and Marcin Matkowski.

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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