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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Fabio Fognini Hits Out At ‘Inexplicable’ Disqualification From Barcelona Open

The world No.27 has protested his innocence after losing his temper over a call made by an official.

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Italy’s Fabio Fognini describes the decision to kick him out of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday as a ‘shock’ and has vowed to look further into the matter.

 

The 33-year-old was taking on Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the second round of the tournament where he was trailing the match 0-6, 4-4. After losing his temper, the world No.27 is said to have been verbally abusive towards a lines official and was subsequently defaulted from the match for his behaviour. The incident occurred over a line call decision which Fognini didn’t agree with.

On court, he tried to protest his innocence by telling the umpire ‘I didn’t say anything’ but it failed to overturn the decision. Leaving Fognini fuming as he broke his racket on purpose.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Italian continued to protest his innocence in the match and said he would ‘investigate’ the matter. It is unclear what he is referring to but players are allowed to make an appeal against any fine if they feel it is unjust.

“I’m really surprised with the ATP, especially the chair umpire and the supervisor, because I was here to play tennis, I was here to fight in the match, and even if I was losing, doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what they did to me was something inexplicable, so I’m going to investigate it, but nothing more, I paid for something that I didn’t do, that’s the first and clearest thing that everybody has to know.”

Zapata Miralles said he was initially unaware of what was going on in his clash with Fognini as he was focusing on closing out the match. Barcelona is only the seventh ATP main draw he has played in so far in his career.

“I was on the other side of the court, I wasn’t listening to be honest,” Tennis Majors quoted the 24-year-old as saying afterwards. “When I saw the referee on the court, I asked the umpire what’s going on. But I was focused on my work on the court, I was thinking on the next point, the next game, on things I had to focus on.”

Fognini has never previously been defaulted from a tennis match but he is no stranger to controversy. At the 2017 US Open he was fined $24,000 for insulting a female chair umpire and at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships he was heard saying ‘I wish a bomb would explode on this club.’ He later apologised for his remarks.

Zapata Miralles will play compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.

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Matteo Berrettini beats Marco Cecchinato in all-Italian match in Belgrade

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Number 2 seed Matteo Berrettini beat Marco Cecchinato 6-4 6-3 after 1 hour and 21 minutes in an all-Italian match to advance to the quarter finals at the Serbia Open in Belgrade. 

 

Berrettini broke serve three times and saved all three break points he faced showing that he is returning to his best form after an abdominal injury, which forced him ahead of his fourth-round match at the Australian Open. 

Berrettini saved three break points in the fourth game before earning his first break at 30 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Berrettini dropped just five points in his final three service games to win the first set 6-4. 

Berrettini went up a set and a break at 15 and never looked back in his next service games. He sealed the match 6-3 with his third break in the ninth game. 

This year Berrettini earned three top 15 wins to lead Italy to the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Last week he lost his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. 

“Confidence is something that goes away, it comes back. For sure I know that is my level. I know that I can play that kind of tennis. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It was obviously a shame. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It obviously was a shame. I was sad about my injury, but I know that I can play well on clay, on grass and on hard-court”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini set up a match against Serbia’s Filip Krajnovic, who eased past Nikola Milojevic 6-1 6-1. Berretini defeated Krajinovic in their only previous head-to-head match in the Budapest final in 2019. 

“It’s going to be very tough. He is top 10, he is a huge champion. He is very tough to play against. I played him once in the final of an ATP Tour event and he beat me, so I know how to play. It’s going to be very tricky, very tough, but I will give my best playing on my court. We see how it goes”, said Krajinovic. 

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Felix Auger Aliassime battles back to beat Lorenzo Musetti in Barcelona

Felix Auger-Aliassime reached the third round in Barcelona, where he will meet Denis Shapovalov.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@BATennisCom - Twitter)

The Canadian needed three sets and over two hours to get the win and set up a third round encounter with his good friend Denis Shapovalov.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime needed two hours and five minutes to beat the Italian Lorenzo Musetti 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 hitting nine aces in the win and setting up his next match with fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

“It’s not always easy, to be honest, now I’m sitting here, I am happy that I won but things were difficult at some point in the match, I was facing breakpoints in the second set again and things got tight so trying to stay calm, trying to find solutions that was the main goal, I mean there was some ups and downs but in the end, I’m happy with the way the match ended, sometimes your not playing your best tennis but you gotta believe and have courage and fight through”.

The Italian got off to a great start earning a breakpoint in the opening game of the match but the Montreal native was able to save it and hold serve. At 1-1, the world number 20 was under pressure once again but hung in to save the breakpoint.

The Canadian got his first breakpoint of the match at 2-1 but this time it was the Italian who would do a good job of saving it. The very next game the world number 87 went back to work trying to get the early break and this time he was able to pull it off with a superb lob to take a 3-2 lead.

He would serve out the first set to take it 6-4 and a comeback was required if the Canadian didn’t want to be upset at the hands of the Italian.

The world number 87 kept it going in the beginning of the second set earning more breakpoints in the opening game but the Canadian would save both and hold serve.

The very next game the number 10 seed would set up two breakpoints with a stunning forehand winner and would break for the first time in the match to take a 2-0 lead.

The next game the Canadian struggled on serve and the Italian earned two more breakpoints and broke right back to go back on serve. At 3-2 the Montreal native would have another chance to break but the world number 87 would save it again.

At 4-3 the Italian started to get tight and the world number 20 earned three more chances to break and this time would break through to take a 5-3 lead and serve out the second set to send it into a decider.

Clearly the momentum was with the Canadian and he would earn three more breakpoints in the opening service game of the third set and broke to take a 1-0 lead.

After consolidating the break he would earn three more breakpoints and break once more to go up a double break. At the changeover Musetti called for the trainer and took a medical timeout to have work on his lower back.

The Canadian didn’t give in and after holding serve once again he would earn more breakpoints and break one more time and would serve out the match to win the decider with a 6-0 bagel.

As mentioned this win sets up a match with Denis Shapovalov on Thursday with both players meeting a total of four times and each player has two wins.

After the match Auger Aliassime spoke about the matchup and gave Ubitennis his thoughts.

“I feel like we played quite a lot lately and the past year so It’s always a challenge to play him, hopefully, I can play a good match, we can have a great battle but it’s always a tough task so I’ll try to rest and get ready as good as I can for the match tomorrow”.

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