Old Champions Become Anew In Dubai - UBITENNIS
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Old Champions Become Anew In Dubai

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TENNIS – I am not sure if many who watched both the WTA (February 17-23) and ATP (February 24- March 1) Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships realized that the respective champions from both event, Venus Williams and Roger Federer are well over the age of 32. Cordell Hackshaw

 

I am not sure if many who watched both the WTA (February 17-23) and ATP (February 24- March 1) Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships realized that the respective champions from both event, Venus Williams and Roger Federer are well over the age of 32. Williams will be 34 years old in June and Federer 33 in August of this year. However, I am sure fans of both players were beside themselves when they saw their “player” hoisting the winner’s trophy as Federer and Williams showed signs of a resurgence of their dominant self from yesteryears.
Venus Williams’ battle with Sjögren Syndrome has been well documented but her unwillingness to let it kick her out of the sport might have gone unnoticed. Since being diagnosed in 2011, Williams maintained that she is not retiring even though at 31, she had earned the “right” to do so. Many of her contemporaries left the game before or around this age. It must be noted that amongst active players, Venus Williams alone occupies the 2nd slot on most major titles list with 7 behind her sister, Serena Williams who has 17. However, Venus has not won a major title since 2008 Wimbledon and last appeared in a major final in 2009 Wimbledon. The elder Williams will no doubt be elected into in Tennis Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, her many accomplishments makes no difference to the American as she made the decision to work her way back to the game which has brought her so much fame.
Williams’ last title was in Luxembourg 2012 and coming into this event, she had a good run in Brisbane earlier in the year where she made it to the final before losing in 3 sets to Ana Ivanovic. She seemed to be in excellent shape and had a fairly decent draw at the Australian Open but she lost in the opening round to Ekaterina Makarova. However, Dubai is a somewhat magical place for Williams. She has an unbeaten streak at the tournament having won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010. Despite her 3-year absence in subsequent years due to injury, Williams proved that she still has the magic in 2014. Given a wild card into the tournament and unseeded, Williams, currently ranked 31 in the world, played some of the best tennis seen from her racquet in a long time. With the exception of the quarterfinal where she dropped 8 games against Flavia Pennetta, Williams surrendered no more than 5 games per match during the entire tournament. Before, getting to the final, she took out Elena Vesnina who took her out in the 1st round of 2013 Wimbledon, Ivanovic, quite handily 6-2, 6-1 in the 2nd round (a bit of a revenge scoreline perhaps), then Pennetta and Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal. In the final, she had total control of her game with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Alizé Cornet who had taken out Serena Williams in straight sets in the previous round. Venus Williams stated “I have had a good week. Everything is falling together pretty much, is all I can say.”
What was most impressive about Williams’ game during the week was her resilience and stamina. She was not negative on the court but stayed focus and relied on her heavy groundstrokes and smart court coverage which allowed her to win the title without dropping a set. In the final, Cornet soon realized much to her dismay that Venus Williams was the tougher Williams sister that week as she was clearly frustrated by the American’s game as early as the 5th game of the match. The Frenchwoman was in tears during the changeover as she complained to her coach about her inability to make any inroads in the match. However, Williams continued her assault and picked up the bagel in the 2nd set to take her 45th career title. As always, Williams’ serve was problematic. In the finals, she had only 48% 1st serves in and was 55% for the entire tournament. Nonetheless, Williams was very quick to come forward to finish points at net at the slightest opportunity, which many believe is one of the American’s most “deadly weapons” on court.
What more can be said of Roger Federer at this point in his career to denote his impact on the sport. He remains an enigma; indescribable and ever the epitome of the game. That he is still playing at this age and at such a high quality is astounding to say the least. With such a distinguished career, one wonders when will enough be enough for the great Swiss maestro? Federer has suffered several setbacks over the past years and having not won a major title since Wimbledon 2012 and only winning one title in all of 2013, many asked whether he should consider hanging up the racquet to maintain his legacy. However, the word “retirement” is not a part of the Swiss’s vocabulary. He has put his plaguing back injury behind him and has a new pep in his step with a new coach in legendary Stefan Edberg and new baby on the way. Federer at 32 years old looks just as eager to be out on court today in 2014 as he did when he was 25 in 2006.
Federer is currently ranked 8th in the world and was seeded 4th at the Dubai Championships, an ATP 500 level tournament. However, this tournament is very popular on tour and has been known to attract many of the top ranked players each year. Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were all in attendance. Federer had a bit of a hiccup in the 2nd round against Radek Stepanek when he dropped the 2nd set in a tiebreaker but he quickly put the Czech to rest in the 3rd set. Nonetheless, it was in the latter stages of the tournament, the semifinal and the final, against world’s number 2 and number 6, Djokovic and Berdych respectively where Federer showed his true grit.
Federer dropped the opening sets against both players and for a while, it looked as though Federer was on his way out of the tournament in the 2nd set. Interestingly enough with these match ups, Federer had lost his last two previous encounters against both players. Last year, he squandered match points against Berdych in the semifinal. Djokovic and Berdych were exhibiting signs of their true tennis prowess on court as they blasted winners from all angles of the court. However, Federer dug deep into his reservoir of experience to come up with brilliant plays and level the match by taking the 2nd set. Djokovic and Berdych both blinked in the 3rd set, perhaps figuring that Federer could not maintain this level of play and soon found themselves facing match points with no real answers to save them. Federer thus collected his 6th Dubai trophy (2003-2005, 2007 and 2012) and 78th overall title to be 3rd on the All-time titles list.
After the final, Federer stated, “Things definitely went my way out here tonight, but I have had a lot tougher matches in the last one and a half years, so this is nice to get a lucky break again.”
Maybe one can say it was all luck for both Williams and Federer in winning titles at this stage of their careers. However, looking at their matches and the continued effort to still be on tour amongst the game’s elite, the “lucky charms” defense becomes soggy. This is determination and persistence paying off. In one of her post-match interviews, Williams spoke of the fact that winning majors as she did in the past required “a lot of nerves and mental prowess.” She added, “I’m not looking to do anything I did in the past, because I already did that. I’m looking to improve and be a better, smarter Venus.” Federer and Williams are striving for this level of improvement it seems and are sticking to the plan despite the odds being against you. Who knows what their success rate would be and how long their bodies can withstand the rigors of the tour.  It might be that “success” does not necessarily come in the form of winning more major titles and recapturing the glory days for either player. One thing is certain though; retirement is clearly not an option. Both Williams and Federer have made it clear that Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 is in their sights. They will be 36 and 35 years old respectively during the Games.
Cordell Hackshaw

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Fabio Fognini Hits Out At ‘Inexplicable’ Disqualification From Barcelona Open

The world No.27 has protested his innocence after losing his temper over a call made by an official.

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Italy’s Fabio Fognini describes the decision to kick him out of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday as a ‘shock’ and has vowed to look further into the matter.

 

The 33-year-old was taking on Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the second round of the tournament where he was trailing the match 0-6, 4-4. After losing his temper, the world No.27 is said to have been verbally abusive towards a lines official and was subsequently defaulted from the match for his behaviour. The incident occurred over a line call decision which Fognini didn’t agree with.

On court, he tried to protest his innocence by telling the umpire ‘I didn’t say anything’ but it failed to overturn the decision. Leaving Fognini fuming as he broke his racket on purpose.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Italian continued to protest his innocence in the match and said he would ‘investigate’ the matter. It is unclear what he is referring to but players are allowed to make an appeal against any fine if they feel it is unjust.

“I’m really surprised with the ATP, especially the chair umpire and the supervisor, because I was here to play tennis, I was here to fight in the match, and even if I was losing, doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what they did to me was something inexplicable, so I’m going to investigate it, but nothing more, I paid for something that I didn’t do, that’s the first and clearest thing that everybody has to know.”

Zapata Miralles said he was initially unaware of what was going on in his clash with Fognini as he was focusing on closing out the match. Barcelona is only the seventh ATP main draw he has played in so far in his career.

“I was on the other side of the court, I wasn’t listening to be honest,” Tennis Majors quoted the 24-year-old as saying afterwards. “When I saw the referee on the court, I asked the umpire what’s going on. But I was focused on my work on the court, I was thinking on the next point, the next game, on things I had to focus on.”

Fognini has never previously been defaulted from a tennis match but he is no stranger to controversy. At the 2017 US Open he was fined $24,000 for insulting a female chair umpire and at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships he was heard saying ‘I wish a bomb would explode on this club.’ He later apologised for his remarks.

Zapata Miralles will play compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.

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Matteo Berrettini beats Marco Cecchinato in all-Italian match in Belgrade

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Number 2 seed Matteo Berrettini beat Marco Cecchinato 6-4 6-3 after 1 hour and 21 minutes in an all-Italian match to advance to the quarter finals at the Serbia Open in Belgrade. 

 

Berrettini broke serve three times and saved all three break points he faced showing that he is returning to his best form after an abdominal injury, which forced him ahead of his fourth-round match at the Australian Open. 

Berrettini saved three break points in the fourth game before earning his first break at 30 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Berrettini dropped just five points in his final three service games to win the first set 6-4. 

Berrettini went up a set and a break at 15 and never looked back in his next service games. He sealed the match 6-3 with his third break in the ninth game. 

This year Berrettini earned three top 15 wins to lead Italy to the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Last week he lost his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. 

“Confidence is something that goes away, it comes back. For sure I know that is my level. I know that I can play that kind of tennis. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It was obviously a shame. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It obviously was a shame. I was sad about my injury, but I know that I can play well on clay, on grass and on hard-court”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini set up a match against Serbia’s Filip Krajnovic, who eased past Nikola Milojevic 6-1 6-1. Berretini defeated Krajinovic in their only previous head-to-head match in the Budapest final in 2019. 

“It’s going to be very tough. He is top 10, he is a huge champion. He is very tough to play against. I played him once in the final of an ATP Tour event and he beat me, so I know how to play. It’s going to be very tricky, very tough, but I will give my best playing on my court. We see how it goes”, said Krajinovic. 

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Felix Auger Aliassime battles back to beat Lorenzo Musetti in Barcelona

Felix Auger-Aliassime reached the third round in Barcelona, where he will meet Denis Shapovalov.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@BATennisCom - Twitter)

The Canadian needed three sets and over two hours to get the win and set up a third round encounter with his good friend Denis Shapovalov.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime needed two hours and five minutes to beat the Italian Lorenzo Musetti 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 hitting nine aces in the win and setting up his next match with fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

“It’s not always easy, to be honest, now I’m sitting here, I am happy that I won but things were difficult at some point in the match, I was facing breakpoints in the second set again and things got tight so trying to stay calm, trying to find solutions that was the main goal, I mean there was some ups and downs but in the end, I’m happy with the way the match ended, sometimes your not playing your best tennis but you gotta believe and have courage and fight through”.

The Italian got off to a great start earning a breakpoint in the opening game of the match but the Montreal native was able to save it and hold serve. At 1-1, the world number 20 was under pressure once again but hung in to save the breakpoint.

The Canadian got his first breakpoint of the match at 2-1 but this time it was the Italian who would do a good job of saving it. The very next game the world number 87 went back to work trying to get the early break and this time he was able to pull it off with a superb lob to take a 3-2 lead.

He would serve out the first set to take it 6-4 and a comeback was required if the Canadian didn’t want to be upset at the hands of the Italian.

The world number 87 kept it going in the beginning of the second set earning more breakpoints in the opening game but the Canadian would save both and hold serve.

The very next game the number 10 seed would set up two breakpoints with a stunning forehand winner and would break for the first time in the match to take a 2-0 lead.

The next game the Canadian struggled on serve and the Italian earned two more breakpoints and broke right back to go back on serve. At 3-2 the Montreal native would have another chance to break but the world number 87 would save it again.

At 4-3 the Italian started to get tight and the world number 20 earned three more chances to break and this time would break through to take a 5-3 lead and serve out the second set to send it into a decider.

Clearly the momentum was with the Canadian and he would earn three more breakpoints in the opening service game of the third set and broke to take a 1-0 lead.

After consolidating the break he would earn three more breakpoints and break once more to go up a double break. At the changeover Musetti called for the trainer and took a medical timeout to have work on his lower back.

The Canadian didn’t give in and after holding serve once again he would earn more breakpoints and break one more time and would serve out the match to win the decider with a 6-0 bagel.

As mentioned this win sets up a match with Denis Shapovalov on Thursday with both players meeting a total of four times and each player has two wins.

After the match Auger Aliassime spoke about the matchup and gave Ubitennis his thoughts.

“I feel like we played quite a lot lately and the past year so It’s always a challenge to play him, hopefully, I can play a good match, we can have a great battle but it’s always a tough task so I’ll try to rest and get ready as good as I can for the match tomorrow”.

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