Stop looking for Fabio! - UBITENNIS
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Stop looking for Fabio!

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TENNIS – It isn’t every day that a player defeats a seeded opponent in under an hour only to find himself a mere footnote in the narrative. It happened to Nadal who coasted past Fognini 6-2, 6-2 as the Italian’s umpteenth meltdown against top opposition saw him shank his way to losing 11 of the match’s first 12 points. Edoardo Dalmonte

 

It isn’t every day that a player defeats a seeded opponent in under an hour to book his place in the quarter finals of a Masters tournament, only to find himself a mere footnote in the narrative.

 

It took Rafa Nadal the better part of an hour to coast past Fabio Fognini (6-2 6-2), as the Italian’s umpteenth meltdown against top opposition saw him shank his way to losing 11 of the match’s first 12 points, going 3-0 down within minutes and all but surrendering the set.

 

The whole encounter was nothing but a collection of horrendous shot selection, minor tantrums and embarrassing stat lines for the Italian No.1, who was unable to conquer a single point on Nadal’s serve in the first set. A severe disappointment for a player who had come close to defeating the current No. 2 last year in China, and who still has to get over the hump against top five opponents, against whom he has never won a match.

 

Yet there was worst to come: not only did the encounter offer few clues regarding Nadal’s current form (though he has won six sets out of six so far in Key Biscayne, his opponents so far have hardly played vintage tennis), but it also provided ammo aplenty to those looking to do a hatchet job on Fognini because of his character issues.

 

As the mental errors piled up for the Italian, the ether exploded with outrage: not only was Fabio reacting with far too much irritation at his mistakes, he was also being accused of mailing it in. Let that one sink in just a little: a pro athlete quitting on one of the most important tournaments of the season just because he kept on shanking shots. Not a frustrated tennis player who has been unable to keep a lid on the pressure that has accompanied him since an early age (a big chunk of it self-imposed) and is hugely peeved at his inability to master shots he could normally make with his eyes closes. Not at all: just a spoilt player with the gall to overreact to his own laziness.

 

There is little doubt that Fabio Fognini still needs to mature – who can forget how he was admonished by Mohamed Lahyani in his third round win over Bautista-Agut (“you know what you said”), or indeed his purposeful foot-foul last year in Cincinnati. What is peeving, however, is when these red flags are nonsensically conflated with a supposed lack of drive and, more importantly, results.

 

The trouble with Fognini is that he has no manners. He is so rude. Of course he never wins anything”. These words weren’t uttered yesterday, mind you, but came after a similarly poor performance in the first set of last year’s third round tie against David Ferrer right here in Key Biscayne. Nor were they uttered by an inebriated fan, either, but by someone who supposedly earns a living covering sport.

 

Do nice guys truly win more? Is there a direct correlation between kindness and Slams won? Or is it just like one of Brad Pitt’s better quips in Moneyball, when he berates his scouts for mistaking certain attributes (size, good looks, even an affable personality) with evidence of talent (“It’s like we’re looking for Fabio!”)?. Just like your baseball player doesn’t need to be a halfway house between Hercules and Prince William in order to pitch a perfect game, so your perfect can fall short of perfection, easily win the “Prix Citron” (as numerous Grand Slam winners have, along with Marcelo Rios) and still fill his trophy cabinet.

 

It is perfectly acceptable to find the world No. 14 irritating –though a tad unrealistic considering how much these perfectionist players have dedicated to an imperfect sport, and how they react when things go wrong – but preposterous to assume that foul-mouthed, gesticulating players (McEnroe, anyone?) don’t win.

 

As it turns out, my colleague’s statement was far from prescient, as it prefaced a good second set performance by Fognini (who still fell 6-1 7-5), and what can be considered a rampage, at least by his standards: a semi-final in Montecarlo (a career-best Masters result) being followed by a brave loss to Nadal on Philippe Chatrier and climaxing in a near-hat trick of trophies in Stuttgart, Hamburg and Umag. Not bad for somebody presumably unable to keep up appearances at Downton Abbey (though Lord knows that would be smashing fun), or keep alive a partly mythologised vision of tennis as a gentlemen’s sport. Tennis would be so much more boring if all the nice guys took home the crown jewels all the time. I bet we’d be pining for the second coming of Marcelo Rios before long.

 

Moreover, Fognini’s worst outbursts (the foot fault, his verbal joust with an Argentine heckler, his recent warning) all came after his sudden ascent. Correlation, of course, does not imply causation: rather than being an obstacle, his anger turned out to be an admittedly unideal way of dealing with the increased pressure. Having slowed down last autumn, Fognini began 2014 with a career-best fourth round in Australia (where he’d only ever jumped the first hurdle once) and another fourth at the BNP Paribas Open, as well as a trophy at the Chile Open (the first Italian to win there) and a final in Buenos Aires.

 

Excessively tense ? Definitely. Worryingly happy to talk to himself at all times? Perhaps (his father attributed this to a paralyzing, yet not immediately apparent shyness). But by no means unusual, or for that doomed for fail. Maybe it is best if we appreciate a man who emerged first as a face-pulling, satanic-looking cult figure, and only afterwards as a potential giant killer. Who knows what awaits down the line…

By Edoardo Dalmonte

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Novak Djokovic Opens Up About Wimbledon Points Removal

The world No.1 states that he will always support the views of his peers.

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Novak Djokovic (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

In his press conference following his win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open, Novak Djokovic expressed his views about the ATP decision to remove points from Wimbledon.

 

Negatively affected by such a decision – he will drop 2000 points – the world No.1 praised the ATP’s stance and called for players’ unity.

“I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there are going to be some consequences. So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that.” He said.

Djokovic criticized the lack of communication between the parties involved, in particular with regard to a document of recommendation by the English Government which contained diverse options. Had it been discussed by the All England Club with ATP and players, a compromise may have been reached.

“I think it was a wrong decision. I don’t support that at all. But, you know, during these times, it’s a super sensitive subject, and anything that you decide, it’s unfortunately going to create a lot of conflict, a lot of separation instead of unification.” He continued.

Djokovic also mentioned other suggestions coming from WTA and ATP, that possibly men’s and women’s players from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia could play together at some exhibition event during the slam or something like this and prize money could go to the victims in Ukraine. There were different ideas, but there was never really a strong communication coming from Wimbledon.

He stressed that removing the points from Wimbledon, therefore not allowing players to earn or to defend points, is a decision that affects everyone, a lose-lose situation for everyone, as he called it.

Nonetheless, the charm and prestige of Wimbledon shall rest unaltered and its meaningfulness extends far beyond: “A Grand Slam is still a Grand Slam. Wimbledon for me was always my dream tournament when I was a child. You know, I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money. For me, it’s something else.”

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Injury-Hit Borna Coric Reacts To First Grand Slam Win In 16 Months

The Croat admits he was unsure how his shoulder would hold up in his opening match at Roland Garros.

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Borna Coric - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)

Borna Coric said he is relieved that his body managed to hold up during his opening win at the French Open on Sunday.

 

The former world No.12 spent almost three hours on the court before defeating Spain’s Carlos Taberner 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, in what was his first Grand Slam match of any kind since the 2021 Australian Open. Paris is only the seventh tournament Coric has played in since returning to the Tour following a year-long absence due to shoulder surgery. The 25-year-old is yet to win back-to-back matches this season.

It does feel great. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of my shoulder because I’ve never been in the fourth set, fifth set (of a match) for one-and-a-half years,” said Coric.
“So it was also kind of worrying for me, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel and how my whole body is going to behave in those later sets. Obviously I’ve been practicing it, but it’s really never the same.”

Impressively the Croat produced a total of 54 winners against 39 unforced errors in his latest match in the French capital. Furthermore, he won 76% of his first service points and 53% of his second.

“The last few weeks haven’t been very easy, I lost many tight matches. I mean, I was also quite happy with my tennis, but I was just losing,” he reflected.

Coric was once tipped to be the future of men’s tennis after rising quickly up the ranks at a young age. In 2014 he was the youngest player to end the season in the top 100 and a year last he was the youngest to do so in the top 50. He has recorded a total of nine wins over top five players, including Roger Federer, as well as winning two Tour titles.

In the second round at Roland Garros Coric will take on the formidable Grigor Dimitrov who has been ranked as high as third in the world. He will enter the clash as the underdog given his ongoing comeback from injury. At present Coric’s principal focus is on his body but that will change in the coming weeks.

Until Wimbledon my health needs to come first and after Wimbledon I can kind of try to switch in my mind so I can start playing more and more tournaments. I can train more and I can focus more on the tennis rather than on my shoulder,” he explains.

Coric has reached the third round of the French Open on four previous occasions.

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Felix Auger Aliassime Wins First Ever Roland Garros Match In Five Sets

Felix Auger-Aliassime earned his first ever victory at Roland Garros.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@MatchPointCAN - Twitter)

The Canadian found himself down two sets to none but fought back to pull off the comeback in a thrilling five set victory.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime is into the second round of the French Open for the first time in his career after battling back to beat the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas in five sets 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 14 minutes.

The Montreal native finished the match serving 14 aces and hitting 52 winners in a match that featured a lot of long rallies from behind the baseline.

“It was a dream for me to play here, it was an honor and my first time on Phillipe Chatrier and my first win at Roland Garros and I had to work hard to get it and credit my opponent he played very well today.”

The Peruvian started the match by breaking the number nine seed right out of the gate and at 3-1 managed to turn that break into a double break as he served out the first set with ease.

The first two games of the second went on serve but again the world number 122 seemed to play better as the Canadian looked stunned, searching for answers.

The Lima native once again took an early lead to take a 3-1 lead and again that seemed like enough for the Peruvian as he served out the second set and was one set away from an improbable upset.

The third set is where the Canadian started to turn things around and his groundstrokes seemed to have more precision. At 2-1 it was the Montreal native who got the first break of serve.

After consolidating the break the world number nine was hungry for more and turned that break into a double break and it looked like the match was turning in his favour.

The Canadian served out the third set to send it to a fourth looking to send it to a decider.

The Montreal native rode the momentum from winning the third into the fourth set where after holding the opening service game got the early break once again taking a 2-0 lead.

At 5-3 with the Peruvian looking to stay in the set, Auger Aliassime managed to get another break to win the set and send the match to a fifth set.

The fifth set stayed on serve until 4-3 when the Canadian had four chances to break and at the fourth time of asking he was able to break and serve out the match to complete the comeback.

After the match in his on court interview he was asked about the adjustments he made in the third set to turn the match around and pull off the win.

“I tried to give myself some more space and a little more time, my opponent at the beginning was playing very quick, aggressive, and flat so I tried a couple things and I also served better and after that it was easier.”

The Canadian will next face either Aslan Karatsev or Camilo Ugo Carabelli in the next round.

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