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 RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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