Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters: Federer comes from a set behind to beat Tsonga - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters: Federer comes from a set behind to beat Tsonga

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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

Interviews and images from Monte-Carlo

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.

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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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