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

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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