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.”
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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