A season of red clay to start, who to watch? - UBITENNIS
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A season of red clay to start, who to watch?

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TENNIS – Will Rafael Nadal be once again the only man under the spotlight for the full length of this 2014 season of red clay ? With only five losses in the past four seasons, it is very unlikely to see the Spaniard suddenly lose his crown, but Novak Djokovic will not stay on the side watching. Giulio Gasparin

 

Will Rafael Nadal be once again the only man under the spotlight for the full length of this 2014 clay season?

With only five losses in the past four seasons, it is very unlikely to see the Spaniard suddenly lose his crown, but Novak Djokovic will not stay on the side watching.

The Serbian is looking for his only missing Grand Slam title in Paris, where he reached the final only once in 2012, when he lost to Nadal in four sets.

The rivalry between the world number one and two is very likely to dominate the scene of the European clay season for a series of reasons.

First of all, Nadal has lost on the red clay only to one top 10 player in the past four years: Djokovic, including the latest loss in Monte Carlo, the “second home” for the champion of Manacor.

Secondly, as already mentioned, the world number two is surely looking forward to finally complete his career Grand Slam and he knows he probably is the only one capable of stopping Nadal on the courts of Roland Garros –like showed last year, when the eventual champion needed a 9-7 fifth set struggle to beat him.

Another reason why tennis fans should aspect a clear dominance of the world’s top two lays in the fact that the rest of the usual slam contenders and outsiders is clearly a whole step behind them on the red clay.

The group on the chase is clearly led by world number three and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka.

The Swiss is however called to face a hard task stepping on the courts of a slam with a whole new amount of attention derived from the Australian success.

Wawrinka is, anyway, a player grown up on the often slow clay of the Alps and in the past has shown great skills on the red dirt. He is likely to go deep into the draws, also thanks to his high seeding, but it is very unlikely to see him pulling a major upset.

The most famous of his compatriots, Roger Federer, has demonstrated that he is still alive and that he wants to be a slam contender again, but the more aggressive tennis that is helping him back is surely not suitable for clay.

The 17 times slam champion has won only once the Roland Garros and it was in 2009, the only time in recent years that Nadal did not raise the trophy, nor reached the final, and it is quite clear that his game has never been apt for the red.

Similarly to Wawrinka, one would expect him to go deep into the draws and it is not impossible for him to win Madrid, where the clay is faster than most hard courts, but in Paris his target would be to reach a semi-final.

Last year’s Roland Garros finalist David Ferrer is unlikely to repeat his exploit, but the Spanish grinder is one of those players that you simply know will fight heart and soul for every point, every game, every tournament.

He has not had the best of the starts this season, but he collected a title on the clay of Buenos Aires and he surely will be one of the most consistent players during the clay swing.

Among the players that are expected to shine during the next weeks, Italian Fabio Fognini is clearly the most discussed.

After winning back to back events in Stuttgart and Hamburg in the summer of 2013, the Italian has started a new chapter of his career and is looking eager to enter the top 10, 35 years after the last Italian who did it, Corrado Barazzutti.

His recent win over Andy Murray in Davis Cup showed he is ready to take his career another step ahead, but even if he can manage to control his temper, it is hard to imagine the Italian challenging Nadal and Djokovic.

With a title in Vina del Mar and a final in Buenos Aires, he has already tested his clay skills in this season and he is expected to upset most of the players between five and ten in the world.

Despite having reached at least one semi-final each in the past at Roland Garros, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych are the names to keep an eye on when in search for a possible upset.

John Isner remains the top 10 player with the poorest record on European clay and has never passed the round 3 in Paris. It is hard to imagine he can do any worse, but probably any better as well.

The duo of young up and coming talents, Dimitrov-Dolgopolov has never expressed a great game on clay, but they are both playing their career best tennis and it will be interesting to see how they will adapt to the red.

A different case applies to Ernest Gulbis, that ever since his heart breaking loss to Nadal in Rome last year, when he came extremely close to a fantastic win, has never expressed any similar level on clay.

His extravagant tennis and moody attitude, as usual, will make him the most unpredictable of the top players.

One last name needs to be drawn to attention, young Argentine Federico Delbonis is improving a lot and by reaching the final of Hamburg last summer, he has already demonstrated how competitive he can be on the dirt. This year he has taken the title on the clay of Sao Paolo and he could easily be the unseeded player that everyone would like to avoid.

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Casper Ruud beats Alexander Bublik to win his first indoor match in St. Petersburg

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Norway’s Casper Ruud came back from one set down to beat Alexander Bublik 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2 at the St. Petersburg Open to win his first win at an indoor ATP Tour tournament.

 

Bublik got the first break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Ruud broke staright back to draw level to 4-4. The first set went on serve until the tie-break which Bublik sealed 7-3 on his first set point. Ruud earned the only break in the third game to win the second set 6-3.

Ruud reeled off the final five games from 1-2 with two consecutive breaks in the fifth and seventh games to set up a second round match against Italy’s Salvatore Caruso, who rallied from one set down to beat his compatriot Thomas Fabbiano 2-6 6-3 6-3.

Mikhail Kukushkin came back from 2-4 down in the first set to beat 2017 St. Petersburg champion Damir Dzumhur 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 to secure his spot in the quarter finals.

Russian qualifier Egor Gerasimov cruised past Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-1.

Marton Fucsovics came back from 1-5 down in the first set and fended off five set points to beat Alexey Vatutin 7-5 6-1 setting up a match against Borna Coric.

Joao Sousa cruised past Jozef Kovalik 6-2 6-3 6-2 6-3 without dropping a set to set up a second round match against second seed Karen Khachanov.

 

 

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Roger Federer On Davis Cup And Olympic Plans For 2020

The 38-year-old has provided some insight about his schedule for next year.

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World No.3 Roger Federer has played down the chances of him playing in next year’s Davis Cup finals despite having representatives from Kosmos contact his team.

 

Federer is the only member of the Big Three to not be playing in this year’s team tournament, which has undergone a controversial revamp. For the first time in its 119-year history, the finals will take place over one week and feature 18 teams playing in a neutral location. The ties will feature two singles matches and one doubles in what will be a similar format to that of the football World Cup.

Efforts have been made to try and persuade the Swiss Maestro to play in the event. Gerard Pique, who is the founder of Kosmos, recently told Eurosport that attracting Federer to the event is one of his top priorities. Kosmos is the key financial backer of the Davis Cup revamp.

“Our main objective now is to see if he can play in 2020 if Switzerland qualify and he can join us and play Davis Cup.” Pique told Boris Becker on Eurosport.
“This would be great news, but right now as you can understand we are really focused on this event for this year because it will be the first time and want everything to be perfect.”

However, trying to get the Swiss player on board isn’t as easy as that. The 38-year-old once said the new structure has been made for ‘the future generation of players’ and not him. He has also warned against the Barcelona F.C player turning the event into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term that bemused the Spaniard.

“It’s normal that he (Pique) has to say that. Regarding wildcards you can always talk like that. It is also normal for him to be questioned over and over again and to talk to my management from time to time.” Federer told the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.
“But I do not necessarily plan on doing that, I do not necessarily have to play the Davis Cup. There are also no talks in progress, although in between it has been generally discussed.”

Since 1999, Federer has represented Switzerland in 27 Davis Cup ties. Although his last appearance was back in 2015. Along with Stan Wawrinka he helped guide his country to their first and only title in the tournament in 2014.

ATP Cup and Olympic duty

The new ITF-backed Davis Cup is facing rivalry from the ATP, who has brought back their team tournament for the first time since 2012. The ATP Cup is set to launch in January and will take place across three cities in Australia. The event has a prize money pool of $15 million and up to 750 ranking points up for grabs.

“I just hope that the Davis Cup Finals and then the ATP Cup will go well. Then you sit together and see how it goes on. Whether there should be these two cups forever, or whether there could be changes that would do the tennis good.” Said Federer.
“34 of the top 35 have confirmed for the ATP Cup, it also takes place on a good date. The Davis Cup should not be happy.” He added.

It also remains to be seen if Federer will play in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. Under current rules a player is required to play a certain number of Davis Cup ties within an Olympic cycle, which he hasn’t. However, he can potentially enter via appeal or a wild card. Something he will likely get.

“I planned 2020 season till Wimbledon so far, I already brought The Olympics up in the Team, they said, it‘s your decision, it‘s your career, I also talked with Mirka about it, I have a feeling that I will make a decision very soon.“

Federer, who is a four-time Olympian, hasn’t played an event in Japan since winning the 2006 Tokyo Open. Although he could be persuaded to return to the country in the near future by his sponsor Uniqlo. A Japanese clothing manufacturer that signed a 10-year deal with Federer worth millions.

Federer at the Olympic Games
-Sydney 2000 – fourth place in the singles
-Athens 2004 – reach round two in both singles and doubles
-Beijing 2008 – win Olympic gold in the doubles with Stan Wawrinka. Lost in the quarter-finals of the singles tournament.
-London 2012 – clinches a silver medal in the singles.
-Rio 2016 – did not play

In the immediate future, Federer’s focus is on the Laver Cup, which he co-founded. The third edition of the event will take place this weekend in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.

 

Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.

Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.

Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.

Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.

Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.

Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.

 

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