Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters: Federer beats defending champion Djokovic - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters: Federer beats defending champion Djokovic

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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.”

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina Play for the Women’s Championship

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Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

2022 was a trying year for Aryna Sabalenka.  She completely lost her form on her second serve, striking double-digit double faults in many of her matches.  And in her third Major semifinal within a 14-month period, she again lost in heartbreaking fashion, by a score of 6-4 in the third for the third straight time.  Many athletes never recover from such issues and scar tissue.  But in just the first month of 2023, and after working with a biomechanics specialist to fix her serve, a calmer, more confident Sabalenka has achieved her first Major singles final.

 

2022 was a milestone year for Elena Rybakina.  Six months ago, the 23-year-old had only won two WTA titles at smaller events, and reached one Major quarterfinal.  Then she surprised the tennis world by winning Wimbledon this past July.  However, she was granted no ranking points due to the controversial backlash to Wimbledon’s ban of Russian and Belarussian athletes.  And in the ensuing months, Elena was often banished to outer courts at bigger events, including this one, with court assignments unbefitting of a reigning Wimbledon champion.  Rybakina used all of this as motivation, and has achieved her second Major final just six months after her first.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Will an Aussie team triumph for a second year in a row?  Wild cards Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler will face Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski, in a first Major final for both of these partnerships. 


Elena Rybakina (22) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (5) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Sabalenka is a perfect 10-0 in 2023, and 20-0 in sets.  This is the fourth time out of the last six Majors she has advanced to the semifinals or better, and she already owns two Slam titles in women’s doubles with Elise Mertens.  Regardless of Saturday’s result, Aryna will reach a new career-high of No.2 on Monday.

Rybakina had lost five of her last eight matches heading into this fortnight, but has found her form as the event has progressed.  She has dropped only one set through six matches, to last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins.  Elena will debut inside the top 10 on Monday, as high as No.8 if she wins this final.  And she would be solidly inside the top five with her points from Wimbledon.

Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 3-0, though all three matches have gone three sets.  In fact in all three, Sabalenka won the first and third sets, while Rybakina won the second.  They’ve played four years ago in Wuhan, two years ago in Abu Dhabi, and two years ago at Wimbledon. 

Aryna’s vastly-improved serve and demeanor have been crucial in advancing her to her first Major singles final.  But can she avoid double faulting, and remain calm, in what is the biggest match of her career?

No player’s serve has been more effective during this tournament than Rybakina’s.  As per Tumaini Carayol on Twitter, more than 50% of Elena’s serves have gone unreturned, which results in a lot of easy points.  And no player remains more calm on court than Rybakina, despite the berating comments her coach may share during the match

I expect Elena’s experience winning Wimbledon six months ago to prove extremely valuable on Saturday, and slightly favor Rybakina to win her second Major.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic Seals Final Showdown With Tsitsipas After Paul Victory

Novak Djokovic will look to capture his tenth Australian Open title on Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic is into the Australian Open final after a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over Tommy Paul.

 

Djokovic will have the chance to claim his tenth Australian Open title and his 22nd Grand Slam title after a dominant straight sets victory.

Paul gave a good account of himself in his first Grand Slam semi-final but was ultimately outmuscled by Djokovic.

Djokovic’s bid for history will now go through Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.

Competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, Paul settled into the match playing some dynamic tennis to force Djokovic into early errors.

Djokovic started the match in rather erratic fashion but managed to save a break point to hold in the opening game.

However the former world number one found his range eventually as some world-class returning capitalised on nerves from the American as he broke and held for a 3-0 lead.

The Serb’s variety in pace and depth of shot was too much for the American as he dictated the tempo of the rallies.

Once Paul held serve to settle into the match in the fourth game, Djokovic’s onslaught continued as another break in the next return game secured another break and a comfortable 5-1 lead.

What would follow would not be in the script though as Djokovic produced more and more errors with Paul’s stubborn and dynamic style finding confidence as he punched holes through the Serb’s game.

Djokovic couldn’t convert set point and was broken twice as Paul reeled off four games in a row to level the opening set at 5-5.

In the end Djokovic would produce his best tennis when it mattered most with the Serb holding to love and then breaking on his first opportunity to take a tight opening set 7-5.

Although the opening set was littered with errors and erratic from both players, Djokovic produced a consistent standard in the next two sets as he improved the level on serve.

Once again Djokovic took a 5-1 lead in the second set and despite late resilience from Paul, the Serb held his nerve to wrap up a two sets to love lead.

The world number 35 had his moments of world-class tennis but ultimately it was Djokovic who was too strong as a further two breaks of serve sealed his place in a tenth Australian Open final.

After the match Djokovic commented on the state of his hamstring injury, “It’s great, and perfect and 100%,” Djokovic gladly commented in his on-court interview.

“Yeah – we’ll say against Stefanos in two days! Of course you are not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of of hours in the off season. I know what’s expected and I have been in so many positions in my career.

“It’s a great battle, with yourself and the opponent. Long rallies and you could feel the heavy legs in the first set but I was fortunate to hold my nerves. After that I was swinging through the ball more and I am just pleased to get through another final.”

Djokovic and Tsitsipas will face each other in a second Grand Slam final after Djokovic won the Roland Garros final in 2021 in five sets.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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