TENNIS – Roger Federer beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets with 7-5 6-2 in 75 minutes in the semifinal of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters setting up the first ever all-Swiss final against Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Diego Sampaolo
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic met for the 34th time in their career. Before today’s match the Swiss won 17 head-to-head clashes against the Serb including two matches played on the clay surface of the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
The first set went on serve until 4.4 when Federer went up 30-0 on Djokovic’s serve before earning the first break point of the match but Djokovic saved it to go up 5-4 in the first set. In the 10th game Djokovic created two break points on set points at 5-4, 40-15 but Federer managed to save them with a fantastic drop shot.
In the following game Roger went down 0-40 on Djokovic’s serve but he clawed his way back to break serve for 6-5 before closing out on the first set point with an ace after 50 minutes. In this game Federer produced a spectacular backhand stop-volley.
Unfortunately Djokovic was affected by a wrist injury which hampered him during the second set. Federer broke serve twice in the third and in the fifth games to cruise to a easy 6-2 on the first match point after 74 minutes to reach his fourth final in the Principality. In the third game Federer converted his first break point. In the fifth game Federer earned two break point chances. Djokovic saved the first break point but Federer converted it at the second opportunity when Djokovic sent a backhand wide.
He was unopposed in the second set where he dropped just five points on serve.
“It was just a match to forget for me”, said a very disappointed Djokovic. “It’s unfortunate that when you are playing at this level against Roger, something else is taking away all your energy and effort. This injury has been present for the last 10 days but I tried not to think and talk about it. I did everything I could really. I was on the medications every day. I was doing different therapies and injections. At the end of the day the semifinals are a good result for me. From the end of the first set and the whole second set every shot was pain, especially with the serve. I am not trying to take away from Roger. He deserves to be in the final. I am just very disappointed I was not able to give better effort”, said Djokovic
“I did not want to pull out because people then start talking different things about me and my withdraws. I am going to go and see doctors tonight and tomorrow I will have another MRL to see if anything has changed in the seven days since I had the last one. The good thing is that I don’t need to have surgery. I don’t have any rupture or something like that. I just need rest now”, said Djokovic.
In his previous three finals at the Country Club Federer lost three times in a row against Rafa Nadal in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He will be chasing the 22nd Master 1000 title and the first since his last triumph in this category of tournaments since Cincinnati 2012.
With this win Federer broke Djokovic’s 13-match winning streak which included the Indian Wells-Miami double. The Serb’s dream to win five consecutive Master 1000 titles after Shanghai, Paris Bercy, Indian Wells and Miami came to an end. Before Monte-Carlo only two players Nadal and Djokovic had won all the Master 1000 Tournaments since the start of 2013 but tomorrow a Swiss player will break the Djokovic.Nadal duopoly.
Wawrinka won the first semifinal against David Ferrer in straight sets with 6-1 7-6 (7-3).in one hour and 29 minutes. Wawrinka dominated the first set cruised to 5-0. Ferrer, who ended a 17.match losing strike against Rafa Nadal on clay in the quarter final, won his first game of the first set after 29 minutes. The second set came down to the tie-break where Wawrinka stormed out to a 4-0 lead before converting his second match point at 6-3 when Ferrer hit a backhand into the net.
Federer will chase his 22nd Master 1000 title and his first ever Monte-Carlo crown, one of the very few titles missing from his trophy cabinet. Wawrinka could add his first ever Master 1000 title to his Grand Slam win at the Australian Open last January. The Lausanne player already played in two Master 1000 finals finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in Rome 2008 and to Rafa Nadal in Madrid 2013
Federer has won 13 of his 14 previous matches against Wawrinka and their last 11 matches but this year’s Australian Open champion took his only win against the 17-time Grand Slam champion on the Monte-Carlo clay in 2009.
Federer will chase his second win this year on tour after winning in Dubai. He will lay his second Master 1000 tournament after losing at Indian Wells against Djokovic in three sets.
If Federer wins tomorrow’s final he will overtake Wawrinka returning to World Number 3 in the ATP Ranking but it will not be easy as Wawrinka reached the final without dropping a set in the whole tournament.
“For me it’s a bit of surprise to be in the finals again of a tournament this year, especially the first on clay. I feel like I have put in the performance to be there. I gave myself the opportunity this week. I am very happy with my play. Now I set up my dream final against Stan It’s very very exciting time for Swiss tennis and Swiss fans. It’s incredible that we are in the final together. It’s so rare that we are able to have this moment together on a centre court. This is very special, especially with the way Stan has been playing in the past few months, It’s nice living a moment like this together in a final. It’s really wonderful. It’s going to be a wonderful day tomorrow”, said Federer.
“I saw that Nole was struggling at one point. For me it was just making sure that from my side I was playing a good, solid, tough match with some defensive play sometimes, but mostly trying to stay on the offensive as much as I could. I was able to deliver on my side, which was the key”, said Federer.
Federer and Wawrinka met for the last time in Monte-Carlo five years ago. Wawrinka won his only head-to-head clash with his compatriot. That match took place just a few days after Federer’s marriage to Mirka.
“I remember that the conditions were rainy similar to those we will experience maybe tomorrow. Five years ago I was on my honeymoon. I married on Saturday and I came over here and played against him on Thursday. Stan played well. It was one of the matches I never go into it. Stan was better.”
Gael Monfils Joins Forces With Former Long-Time Coach Of Dominic Thiem
Will the Frenchman return to his best form with the help of his new mentor?
Tennis star Gael Monfils will start the 2021 season with a new team setup after confirming the appointment of a new coach.
The former US Open semi-finalist has paired up with the renowned Gunther Bresnik who is best known for his time spent working alongside Dominic Thiem for over a decade until their split in 2019. Thiem is now coached by Nicolas Massu. Bresnik is the former Davis Cup captain of Austria and has worked with numerous top names such as Ernests Gulbis, Jerzy Janowicz, Boris Becker and Henri Leconte.
Monfils has been training with Bresnik during the off-season but only now has it been confirmed that the two have formed an agreement to work together. However, over the coming weeks Monfils will be guided by another Austrian. Co-coach Richard Ruckelshausen will work with the world No.11 in Australia and has been appointed as the captain of the French ATP Cup team.
“I’ve known Gaël for a long time,” Bresnik told krone.at on January 9th. “With Ernests Gulbis and Stefan Lochbihler’s son, he worked on his shape here in Spain (during the off-season).”
The 34-year-old will be looking to get back on top form following what was a roller-coaster 2020. Monfils started last year by winning 16 matches within a three-month period. However, following the pause in tennis due to the COVID-19 pandemic he struggled to regain that form. Ending the season with three consecutive first round losses.
Monfils had been working with Liam Smith. The upcoming Australian Open will be his 54th appearance in a Grand Slam main draw. He has only reached the quarter-finals at the Melbourne major once which was back in 2016.
So far in his career Monfils has won 10 ATP titles and has been ranked as high as sixth in the world.
Alex de Minaur Says US Open Breakthrough Was A ‘Dark Time’ For Him
A milestone performance at a major is usually a reason for celebration but for the world No.23 it was bittersweet.
A turbulent 2020 season marred by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has only added fuel to the fire for Australia’s top ranked player Alex de Minaur.
The 21-year-old Sydney-born player is currently ranked just five places below his career high at 23rd in the world. At present he is the third youngest player in the top 30 on the ATP Tour after the Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Last year de Minaur broke new territory at the US Open with a run to the quarter-finals in what is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. At Flushing Meadows he scored wins over the likes of Richard Gasquet, Karen Khachanov and Vasek Pospisil. He was stopped in his tracks by Dominic Thiem who went on to win the title.
Despite his New York run, de Minaur believes it wasn’t his ‘best achievement.’ Even though he had only reached the fourth round of a major once in 11 attempts leading up to it. For him, mentally he wasn’t in the best place due to the effects lockdown had on him last year. During the 2020 Tour shutdown he was residing in his training camp in Spain.
“2020 was a tough year. Obviously I had my best result at a Slam (Grand Slam tournament) but it doesn’t feel like my best achievement,“ de Minaur told ABC News Australia.
“It was still a dark time. I wasn’t feeling great. It was just mentally — I wouldn’t say — my best performance.
“I ended up putting a couple of matches together and I had my best result. It’s still something to be proud of but still 2020 as a whole, I would say, I had a lot of expectations for it and … it’s just fuelling the hunger for 2021, to make it even better.”
Striving for a bigger and better year, the Australian started 2021 off in the best possible way by winning his fourth ATP title at the Antalya Open in Turkey. His most high-profile win at the tournament was over world No.16 David Goffin in the semi-finals. As for the months ahead, de Minaur is staying coy about his expectations.
“I’ve got my goal in my head of where I want to be when 2021 finishes up, but it’s a goal that I don’t like to say out loud,” he said.
“It’s a goal that me and my team had and this is a strong start. Realistically I want to keep pushing myself up the rankings, keep putting myself at the end of weeks and keep pushing these top guys.
“That’s where I believe I should be and where I want to be and I’ll do everything I can to get there.”
The next test will be the ATP Cup where de Minaur will be hoping to guide his country to the title. It was at the tournament last year where he suffered an injury which ruled him out of the Australian Open.
“Hopefully I can be playing my best tennis at the ATP Cup and the Aussie Open,” he concluded.
Andy Murray won’t travel to Australia
Andy Murray will miss next month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago.
Andy Murray has made it official, he won’t be making the trip down under after working with Tennis Australia to find a viable solution to make it work.
“We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”
Murray was scheduled to fly to Australia with one of charter flights but due to a positive Covid test wasn’t able to make the flight and put his tournament in jeopardy.
Although he missed the chartered flights there was still a small chance he would play but had to workout an agreement with Tennis Australia to make it work. However it didn’t work and was gutted with the news.
“I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love.”
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