Internazionali BNL d'Italia Interviews. Novak Djokovic: “Maybe helps that I speak a little bit of Italian, but I do really feel like home here” - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali BNL d'Italia Interviews. Novak Djokovic: “Maybe helps that I speak a little bit of Italian, but I do really feel like home here”

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TENNIS Internazionali BNL d’Italia – N. Djokovic d. R. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. An interview with Novak Djokovic.

 

Q:You have beaten Rafa 4 times in a row and you’re now ready to steal his crown in Paris…

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s been a great week, considering how I was few weeks ago with the injure at my wrist and didn’t know how the wrist is going to react this week. Luckily for me I played with no pain, increasing the level of my tennis as the week went on. I had some tough matches: 4 out of 5 were three setter and had to come back from one set down yesterday with Raonic and today giving me a lot of confidence. Winning a final of a great tournament with Rafa on clay is definitely is a confidence booster and an ultimate challenge. I am very happy with my game and I hope I can carry it to the Roland Garros. Today I tried to be aggressive from the start of the match, it didn’t work a lot and I made a lot of unforced errors but I didn’t change the game plan and the I found the hitting range, the right rhythm on the court and I felt much more comfortable on the court. Going into the match today I was hoping that I could win, of course, I come into every match like that. But I do not underestimate any opponent and especially Rafa who is the best player ever in the history on this surface, we all know his record. I didn’t feel I had the match in my hands, but I do have the belief in myself and my abilities that in the end….mental strength, experience would have helped me to stay calm and play the right shots at the right times.

Q:I saw you playing in a lot of countries but I never see a crowd like this in your favour.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s amazing, I want to thank them all, they played a great part in this win. It’s something that I don’t take for granted and I very appreciate, I try to give them back and show as much love as I can. Maybe helps that I speak a little bit of Italian, but I do really feel like home here and very close to these people and I am glad I was able to win the title in front of them.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: This match has gone over 2 hours: there were a lot rallies, long point, and this is part of our rivalry, especially on the slow surfaces where you get to play more rallies than on the fast ones. He’s physically the fittest player on tour but I know that I am pretty fit too and I know that with my team I have been doing a great job in the last two years getting myself in the right shape and this gives me the right confidence once I am on court. I know I can rally with him but I know that the only to beat him is to be aggressive.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have to admit that I copied it from Gustavo Kuerten who did it in Paris: it’s the most spectacular celebration from many tennis players I have seen in my life. I felt that was something that come from inside me and I wanted to share with the crowd. And they liked it.

Q:As a soon father, how it was your reaction when the two children started to cry when you lost your serve? Do you remember?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not upset with the children, I was more upset with the people who were behind talking to them, applauding…. But look, it happens sometime with the crowd, it’s part of the sport.

Q:Regarding what is happening in your country, do you feel you were playing not just for yourself but for something bigger?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. I have been following during the last 2 or 3 days what’s going on with this catastrophic flood. It’s something that has taken away a lot of hope and homes and not being present makes me sad because I cannot physically contribute because if I was there I would, definitely. As soon as the flood passes by we’ll need help from the world because the process of recovery in our country can last for months or year and it depends on how much help will we get. This is the biggest disaster in the history of our country and people internationally didn’t know much about it and that’s why I am trying to spread the awareness with yesterday’s event and talking about it a little bit more than usual. I see that many athletes in Serbia are not competing and choose to help they fellow Serbian instead, and this win and this trophy is dedicated to them.

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios

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Serena Williams on Monday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay.  With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

 

In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios

Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday.  Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.


Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event.  But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career.  He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon.  And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings.  Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks.  But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four.  Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka.  On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess.  And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.


Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto

These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history.  Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time.  In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist.  Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US.  She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston.  Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old.  Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches.  But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day.  Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami).  Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month.  Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.

Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third.  On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle. 

Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe.  Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros.  Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final.  Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone.  Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets.  Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.

Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev.  Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches.  Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.

Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon.  20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?

Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths

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CARLOS ALCARAZ OF SPAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.

 

And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.  

In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.

There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.    

Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.

No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.

Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.

In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.

His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.

Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?

Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.

Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian. 

The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.

At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled. 

And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.      

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