TENNIS – Roger Federer fought back from losing the first set against Jo Wilfred Tsonga to reach the semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the first time since 2008. Federer was on verge of defeat at 5-6 0-30 before forcing the second set to the tie-break. Tsonga saved 15 break points before Federer managed to convert his 16th break point at the start of the third set. The tie-break win was the turning point for Federer who cruised to a easy 6-1 in the decider to join his compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals. by Diego Sampaolo
The third quarter final match between Federer and Tsonga was expected to be a great match and it certainly lived up to the hopes of the crowd who packed the Central Court of the Monte-Carlo Country Club on a cool afternoon.
The first set went on serve until 2-2 when Federer earned a break point chance but Tsonga saved it to take a 3-2 lead. Roger made a lot of unforced errors and Tsonga built up a 5-2 lead before closing out the first set with 6-2 after 35 minutes.
Early in the second set Federer received a very rare warning from the chair umpire when he hit a ball out of the stadium. Tsonga earned a break point on Federer’s serve when he was leading 6-2 3-2 but he hit his backhand into the net. The Frenchman went up 6-5 30-0 on Federer’s serve and came just two points away from winning the match but Federer showed his mental strength when he forced the second set to the tie-break. Federer opened up a 6-3 lead in the tie-break but Tsonga saved three set points. At 6-6 Tsonga fired a forehand into the net before Federer clinched the fourth set point chance with a forehand volley for 8-6.
“It was not close only in the breaker but I think I was down 6-6 30-0. A tough point at 15-30 with a half volley backhand defense. It wasn’t looking good there. It was frustrating for a long period of time missing all those breakpoints. Looking back I can take some positives from this match. It was a tough day at the office. I am happy I found the way to tough it out.”, said Federer
Tsonga, who reached the semifinal in Monte-Carlo last year, fended off 13 break points in the first two sets which lasted 1 hour and 56 minutes.
Tsonga fended two more break points (the 14th and the 15th of the match) but Federer finally managed to break serve on his 16th break point for 2-0 in the second game of the third set. Roger broke serve once more to cruise to a easy 5-0 in the decisive set. Tsonga avoided the bagel in the sixth game but Federer claimed the win in the following game after two hours and 26 minutes.
Federer hit 40 winners to 45 unforced errors and won 21 points at the net. He delighted the crowd with some spectacular shots but he converted just 2 of his 19 break point chances after recording a perfect break point conversion rate in his previous three matches of this tournament.
Federer is looking to win for the first time in Monte-Carlo, one of the three Master 1000 titles missing from his trophy cabinet. The other two Master 1000 tournaments he never won are Rome and Shanghai. He won a total of 21 tournaments of this category.
After the shock defeat of eight-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal in the Spanish derby against David Ferrer, Federer managed to avoid another upset reaching the semifinal for the fourth time in his career. He lost three consecutive finals against Nadal in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Two Swiss players will play in the semifinals for the first time in the long history of the Monte-Carlo Tournament. Earlier Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka beat Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
“The conditions were changing a lot during the match. It was becoming colder and the balls were not bouncing that much anymore and it was difficult for me to give some height. He had more and more of those balls at the height of his hips. That’s where he feels more comfortable. It was more difficult for me to put away from him. I forced myself a bit and I go into trouble”, said Tsonga.
“I don’t think it was much of a change, to be quite honest”, replied Federer. “It went through phases and it definitely got cooler rather than warmer. I don’t think there was any wind change. We played in those conditions millions of times. I think conditions were quite nice from the start to finish. The ball wasn’t bouncing all over the place. It was quite frustrating that we weren’t playing better. I don’t think our best matched up. When he was playing well, he was in the lead. Finally, when I got the lead, I was dominating”
After escaping the big scare in the second set, the third set was like a stroll for Federer. “Losing the second set was tough for Jo. I just thought it was important to hold my first service game. It was my opportunity to be in the lead for the first time in the match. I really believed that I was going to come through. It’s not possible to go through so many breakpoints. I was playing good enough to make the break and serve my way home. The most important was to carve out the positive stuff in my mind.even during the first two sets when things got tough. It was frustrating to waste so many breakpoints. I chucked a ball of the stadium”, said Federer
The Swiss Maestro set up a semifinal clash against Novak Djokovic who also survived a big scare after losing the first set against Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez but he rallied from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-1. Djokovic will meet Federer for the 34th time. The Swiss leads 17-16 in their previous head-to-head matches. This year Federer won a fantastic semifinal in Dubai but Djokovic took the re.match winning the Indian Wells final in three sets.
“Reaching the semifinal helps me feeling more relaxed for the following Master 1000 tournaments. It helps you knowing where you stand. I am not the most favoured player but tomorrow might be an opportunity for a good performance. There is nothing guaranteed but I will try”, said Federer.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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