TENNIS FRENCH OPEN – The 2014 French Open is finally here! Tennis fans have been waiting with bated breaths because this year’s event, the 47th Championships since the Open Era (1968), promises to be an epic tournament on both the men and women’s sides. Cordell Hackshaw
The 2014 French Open is finally here! Tennis fans have been waiting with bated breaths because this year’s event, the 47th Championships since the Open Era (1968), promises to be an epic tournament on both the men and women’s sides. The draws are loaded and they offer many interesting match ups not only in the first rounds but also in the latter stages of the tournament if seeds hold true to form. The defending champions Rafael Nadal of Spain and Serena Williams of the United States are both here and seeded No1. The world’s number ones have not had a stellar clay court season as they did last year, winning multiple titles at the big tour events. However, they are prodigious talents with both the experience and confidence to put themselves deep in the draws despite the shaky season. Nadal is looking for his 9th overall title in his tenth appearance and 5th in a row here in Paris. The Spaniard’s credentials on clay need no introduction as he is far and away, the greatest clay court player ever. Meanwhile, Williams is going for her 3rd title in Paris. She has never defended the title here making it the only major where she has failed to do so at least once. She has done it at Wimbledon twice (2002/2003 and 2009/2010), Australia (2009/2010) and the US Open (2012/2013). The American might not be the “classic clay court player” but since 2012, she has been showing herself to be quite adept on this surface. Nadal and Williams are also trying to further cement their names in the history books with overall major titles. Winning here will give Nadal his 14th title equally Pete Sampras’s effort and tie him for 2nd on the all-time list. Williams wants to equal fellow Americans Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to be 4th on the list with 18 singles titles.
Interestingly enough, neither Nadal nor Williams is the overwhelming favourite at this major event. There are several players who see themselves holding up the singles’ trophy at the end of the two weeks. Nadal can expect competition from his “arch nemesis” Novak Djokovic (2) in particular, Stanislas Wawrinka (3), Roger Federer (4), David Ferrer (5), Andy Murray (7) as well as several young players like Milos Raonic (8), Kei Nishikori (9) and Grigor Dimitrov (11). Williams has former champions here Na Li (2), Maria Sharapova (7) and Ana Ivanovic (11) along with Agnieszka Radwanska (3), Simona Halep (4) and Petra Kvitova (5) all looking to take this title away from her. The American has to also deal with her own personal demons which have caused her to self-implode most infamously here in Paris in 2012.
With all that being said, THE DRAWS: In an effort to make things simple, the 128-player draw will be divided into halves and then quarters which will be headed by the top seeds of the sections. These are not predictions but merely possible projections. This is tennis after all. The game is won on the court and not on paper.
Men’s Top Half: Nadal (1)/Wawrinka(3)
Nadal’s Quarter [1/4]: Nadal is likely to face his countryman Ferrer (5) in the quarterfinals but he must get past another compatriot Nicolas Almagro (21) in the 4th Round. Almagro handed Nadal a rare defeat in Barcelona earlier this year. Ferrer might be up against Dimitrov (11) who will be looking to make a major splash here. Tommy Haas (16), oldest man in the draw at 36 as well as one of the youngest, 20-year-old Dominic Thiem of Austria are ones to watch in this section. Thiem who took out Wawrinka in Madrid could face Nadal in the 2nd round.
Wawrinka’s Quarter [2/4]: The 2014 Australian Open champion is looking to be the 1st man since 1992 when Jim Courier did it, to win the first two majors of the year. The Swiss should have a relatively easy time getting to the Round of 16 though Feliciano Lopez (26) might be a bit of a task. Wawrinka could face either Fabio Fognini (14) or homecrowd favourite Gael Monfils (23). Richard Gasquet (12) or Murray (7) could be potential quarterfinals opponent for Wawrinka.
Men Bottom Half: Djokovic (2)/Federer (3)
Federer’s Quarter [3/4]: Federer getting to the finals of majors are no longer foregone conclusions. He has not reached the finals of a major since Wimbledon 2012, his last major victory. In fact, he is now struggling to get to the second week of majors. However, this year, Federer has renewed confidence, strength and a new coach in the form of Stefan Edberg. Things have been going rather well though with the birth of a second set of twins, Federer might be distracted as he lost 2nd round in Rome couple of weeks ago. Nonetheless, Federer will very much like a 2nd French title. He has the unpredictable and enigmatic Tomas Berdych (6) as a possible quarterfinal opponent. There is a possible 4th round clash between the Swiss and Ernests Gulbis (18) of Latvia. An interesting bit of side note: John Isner (10) could possibly face Nicolas Mahut in the 2nd round.
Djokovic’s Quarter [4/4]: There is no doubt about it that Djokovic wants this title badly and honestly, this is a good year for him to do it. He is the odds on favourite to dethrone Nadal here. His preparations have been excellent and he has beaten Nadal twice this season in emphatic fashion. However, he has a “Swiss problem.” In 2011, the Serbian looked poised to dethrone Nadal as he had beaten him 4 times for the year including twice on clay. Djokovic made it to the semifinals but ran into Federer who handed him his first defeat for the year. Federer is now again in Djokovic’s half. Furthermore, Djokovic has only lost to Swiss players this year; Federer twice and more prominently Wawrinka at this year’s Australian Open. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13) looms in the shadow as a possible Round of 16 foe for Djokovic. There is also a mouthwatering possible Round of 16 match up in this section: Raonic (8) verses Nishikori (9), who is under the tutelage of 1989 French Open champion, Michael Chang. The winner will likely face Djokovic in the quarters.
Women’s Top Half: Williams (1)/Radwanska (3)
Williams’ Quarter [1/4]: There will not be a repeat of last year’s final as both Williams and Sharapova (7) are in the same quarter and slated to meet in the quarterfinals. Williams may in the 3rd round face her older sister Venus Williams (29) who is far from being a threat these days. However, the younger Williams could face Sabine Lisicki (16) who took her out of last year’s Wimbledon. Sharapova could face 2010 French Open finalist Sam Stosur (19) in the 3rd round and possibly Dominika Cibulkova (9) in the Round of 16. There is a dangerous floater in this section in the form of Kaia Kanepi (25) who has made it to the quarters here in Paris twice in 2008 and 2012.
Radwanska’s Quarter [2/4]: Radwanska (3) could be facing Angelique Kerber (8) in the quarterfinals if the seeds hold true to form but the Polish number one has to get passed Spain’s Carla Suarez-Navarro (14) in the 4th round. There is a potentially interesting match in the 3rd round between veteran Flavia Pennetta (12) and rising star Eugenie Bouchard (18). Lurking in this section is the 2010 French Open champion and 2011 finalist Francesca Schiavone.
Women’s Bottom Half: Li (2)/Halep (4)
Halep’s Quarter [3/4] Newly crowned 4th ranked player in the world, Simona Halep will be looking to confirm her new status in the game here in Paris. The Romanian should have an easy time to the quarters as the only player of prominence is Sloane Stephens (15) whose stocks have been quietly declining since her Australian Open semifinal appearance in 2013. Ekaterina Makarova (22) might be a testy opponent for Halep in the 3rd round. Also in this section are 2011 Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova (5) and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic (11) who can potentially meet each other in the 4th round. Last time they played in Miami, Ivanovic lost 12 straight games after taking the opening set. She might want to avenge that horrible loss. Ivanovic will face home crowd favourite Caroline Garcia in the 1st round. 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) is a dangerous floater in this section.
Li’s Quarter [4/4]: 2014 Australian Open champ, Na Li will be looking to collect her 2nd major of the year with a strong showing here. She will have to get passed Andrea Petkovic (28), Caroline Wozniacki (13) and 3-time semifinalist here Jelena Jankovic (6) in the 3rd Round, Round of 16 and quarterfinals respectively. Jankovic could possibly face last year’s semifinalist and finalist in 2012 Sara Errani (10) in the 4th round. It really should be no problem for the 2nd seed Li to move through to the semifinals at the very least as she has shown herself in the past of being a very competent clay court player. However, Li like top seed Williams, has shown in the past to be capable of self-destructing on court.
REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach
The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.
Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.
TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.
The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.
“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.
Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.
Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.
Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.
Groh’s coaching CV
- 2011: Michael Berrer
- 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
- 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
- 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
- ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.
Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Only two players have won the award since 2004.
For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.
Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.
“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.
Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.
“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”
Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.
“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.
The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.
Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award
Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2
Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open
Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.
World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.
During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.
“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.
Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.
Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.
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