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

ATP

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

Published

on

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.

ATP

The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

Published

on

By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Continue Reading

ATP

ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

Published

on

Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading

ATP

ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

Published

on

Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending