Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 16th of June 2014 - UBITENNIS
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Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 16th of June 2014

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TENNIS BITS & PIECES – Federer and Dimitrov win on grass. Gerry Weber Open honoured. Azarenka ready to return. Kumantsov banned for life. Monica Seles ties the knot. Happy Birthday Steffi. The Wimbledon Wild Cards and the Mallorca will turn to grass. Joshua Bosco

 

Grass winners

Grigor Dimitrov won his first career grass court title, defeating Feliciano Lopez 6-7(8) 7-6(1) 7-6(6) in the final at Queen’s. It’s the third title for Dimitrov in 2014, after Acapulco (hard) in March and Bucharest (clay) in April.

It’s been a good week for Ana Ivanovic who lost only 21 games in five matches on the way to her first grass court title, in Birmingham, where she beat Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova 6-3 6-2. It’s the third title for the Serb this year, after winning Auckland and Monterrey (hard). She also reached the final in Stuttgart (clay) where she lost in a thrilling three set match to Maria Sharapova.

In Halle Roger Federer won his 14th title on grass and his 79th title overall with a tightly contested 7-6(2) 7-6(3) victory over Alejandro Falla. By doing so he successfully defended his only 2013 title and captured his second trophy of the year. Federer will now rest for a week before starting his campaign for an eighth Wimbledon Crown.

Russian player banned for life

Former Russian tennis player Andrey Kumantsov has been banned for life after being found guilty of charges related to betting and match fixing.

Kumantsov, who has a career-high ranking of No.261, was sentenced based on the findings of an investigation relating to incidents between 2010 and 2013. The ban, which applies with immediate effect, forbids the player from entering any event “organised or sanctioned by the governing bodies of professional tennis.”

Grass will grow in Mallorca

The Spanish island of Mallorca will host a new WTA grass-court tournament starting from 2016. The event, which will be played two weeks before Wimbledon, will feature a 32-player draw.

The tournament, which will take part in Nadal’s hometown, will have 5 natural grass courts, the construction and maintenance of which will be in collaboration with The All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Gerry Weber Open honoured

The Gerry Weber Open has won the 2014 ATP European Award of Excellence for the best fan experience. The award was presented on Monday by Chris Kermode, the ATP Executive Chairman and President, to the Tournament Director Ralf Weber.

Kermode later said: The Gerry Weber Open offers the fans a great tennis and entertainment program. It is noteworthy that 12,500 spectators came on Monday for the tournament”. In 2015 Halle will become an ATP World Tour 500 tournament.

Azarenka comeback

It looks like former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka is finally making her comeback on the WTA Tour. The Belarusian, who has played just one match since her loss at the 2014 Australian Open, has taken a wildcard for Eastbourne and said: I’ve worked hard to rehabilitate my injury and to get fit for my return. [..] The grass courts are world-class, which will give me the best possible start to the second half of the season, and the perfect preparation for Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon wildcards

Five British men were awarded wildcards for the 2014 Wimbledon Championships: Daniel Cox, Kyle Edmund, Daniel Evans, Daniel Smethurst and James Ward. Marcos Baghdatis and Jiri Vesely also got a place in the main draw along with Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios, who won the Nottingham Challenger last week.

Naomi Broady, Tara Moore and Samantha Murray are the three British women who have been given wildcards for the main draw along with Silvia Soler Espinosa, Taylor Townsend and Vera Zvonareva. Krystyna Pliskova, winner of the Nottingham $75,000 tournament, will also be in SW19 while the last wildcard is still to be announced.

Martina Hingis, who won the singles title in 1997 and the doubles in 1996 and 1998, will make her Wimbledon comeback after being awarded a wildcard for the doubles with Vera Zvonareva.

Who’s playing where

Both men and women player will continue their preparation for Wimbledon this week playing tournaments in Eastbourne and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Defending champion and fresh Queen’s winner/finalist Feliciano Lopez, top seed Richard Gasquet, Alexander Dolgopolov, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Ivo Karlovic will battle for the men’s title in Eastbourne, while Spanish poker David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Roberto Bautista Agut and Marcel Granollers will lead the field in the Netherlands.

Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki will battle for the women’s title in Eastbourne, while Simona Halep will try to defend her 2013 title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch against Dominika Cibulkova, Eugenie Bouchard, Andrea Petkovic, Kirsten Flipkens and Klara Koukalova.

Happy Birthday Steffi!

On Saturday, legendary former tennis player Steffi Graf celebrated her 45th birthday.

The 22 time Grand Slam champion is the only player to have ever completed a Golden Slam, winning all the four Slam tournaments and the Olympics Gold Medal in 1988. She spent 377 weeks at the top spot in the rankings (all time record), 186 of those weeks being consecutive between August 1987 and March 1991 (a female record).

All we can say is, Happy Birthday Steffi!

Monica Seles to tie the knot

According to reports, former World No.1 and nine time Grand Slam singles champion Monica Seles is engaged to her partner Thomas Golisano. The 72 year old billionaire and Seles have been dating for the last 5 years and live together in Florida.

 

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina Play for the Women’s Championship

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Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

2022 was a trying year for Aryna Sabalenka.  She completely lost her form on her second serve, striking double-digit double faults in many of her matches.  And in her third Major semifinal within a 14-month period, she again lost in heartbreaking fashion, by a score of 6-4 in the third for the third straight time.  Many athletes never recover from such issues and scar tissue.  But in just the first month of 2023, and after working with a biomechanics specialist to fix her serve, a calmer, more confident Sabalenka has achieved her first Major singles final.

 

2022 was a milestone year for Elena Rybakina.  Six months ago, the 23-year-old had only won two WTA titles at smaller events, and reached one Major quarterfinal.  Then she surprised the tennis world by winning Wimbledon this past July.  However, she was granted no ranking points due to the controversial backlash to Wimbledon’s ban of Russian and Belarussian athletes.  And in the ensuing months, Elena was often banished to outer courts at bigger events, including this one, with court assignments unbefitting of a reigning Wimbledon champion.  Rybakina used all of this as motivation, and has achieved her second Major final just six months after her first.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Will an Aussie team triumph for a second year in a row?  Wild cards Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler will face Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski, in a first Major final for both of these partnerships. 


Elena Rybakina (22) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (5) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Sabalenka is a perfect 10-0 in 2023, and 20-0 in sets.  This is the fourth time out of the last six Majors she has advanced to the semifinals or better, and she already owns two Slam titles in women’s doubles with Elise Mertens.  Regardless of Saturday’s result, Aryna will reach a new career-high of No.2 on Monday.

Rybakina had lost five of her last eight matches heading into this fortnight, but has found her form as the event has progressed.  She has dropped only one set through six matches, to last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins.  Elena will debut inside the top 10 on Monday, as high as No.8 if she wins this final.  And she would be solidly inside the top five with her points from Wimbledon.

Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 3-0, though all three matches have gone three sets.  In fact in all three, Sabalenka won the first and third sets, while Rybakina won the second.  They’ve played four years ago in Wuhan, two years ago in Abu Dhabi, and two years ago at Wimbledon. 

Aryna’s vastly-improved serve and demeanor have been crucial in advancing her to her first Major singles final.  But can she avoid double faulting, and remain calm, in what is the biggest match of her career?

No player’s serve has been more effective during this tournament than Rybakina’s.  As per Tumaini Carayol on Twitter, more than 50% of Elena’s serves have gone unreturned, which results in a lot of easy points.  And no player remains more calm on court than Rybakina, despite the berating comments her coach may share during the match

I expect Elena’s experience winning Wimbledon six months ago to prove extremely valuable on Saturday, and slightly favor Rybakina to win her second Major.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic Seals Final Showdown With Tsitsipas After Paul Victory

Novak Djokovic will look to capture his tenth Australian Open title on Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic is into the Australian Open final after a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over Tommy Paul.

 

Djokovic will have the chance to claim his tenth Australian Open title and his 22nd Grand Slam title after a dominant straight sets victory.

Paul gave a good account of himself in his first Grand Slam semi-final but was ultimately outmuscled by Djokovic.

Djokovic’s bid for history will now go through Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.

Competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, Paul settled into the match playing some dynamic tennis to force Djokovic into early errors.

Djokovic started the match in rather erratic fashion but managed to save a break point to hold in the opening game.

However the former world number one found his range eventually as some world-class returning capitalised on nerves from the American as he broke and held for a 3-0 lead.

The Serb’s variety in pace and depth of shot was too much for the American as he dictated the tempo of the rallies.

Once Paul held serve to settle into the match in the fourth game, Djokovic’s onslaught continued as another break in the next return game secured another break and a comfortable 5-1 lead.

What would follow would not be in the script though as Djokovic produced more and more errors with Paul’s stubborn and dynamic style finding confidence as he punched holes through the Serb’s game.

Djokovic couldn’t convert set point and was broken twice as Paul reeled off four games in a row to level the opening set at 5-5.

In the end Djokovic would produce his best tennis when it mattered most with the Serb holding to love and then breaking on his first opportunity to take a tight opening set 7-5.

Although the opening set was littered with errors and erratic from both players, Djokovic produced a consistent standard in the next two sets as he improved the level on serve.

Once again Djokovic took a 5-1 lead in the second set and despite late resilience from Paul, the Serb held his nerve to wrap up a two sets to love lead.

The world number 35 had his moments of world-class tennis but ultimately it was Djokovic who was too strong as a further two breaks of serve sealed his place in a tenth Australian Open final.

After the match Djokovic commented on the state of his hamstring injury, “It’s great, and perfect and 100%,” Djokovic gladly commented in his on-court interview.

“Yeah – we’ll say against Stefanos in two days! Of course you are not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of of hours in the off season. I know what’s expected and I have been in so many positions in my career.

“It’s a great battle, with yourself and the opponent. Long rallies and you could feel the heavy legs in the first set but I was fortunate to hold my nerves. After that I was swinging through the ball more and I am just pleased to get through another final.”

Djokovic and Tsitsipas will face each other in a second Grand Slam final after Djokovic won the Roland Garros final in 2021 in five sets.

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Novak Djokovic’s Father Say Australian Open Flag Incident Was ‘Unintentional’

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Srđan Đoković - foto: Fonet

The father of Novak Djokovic has said he will not be attending his son’s semi-final match at the Australian Open to avoid the possibility of any ‘disruption’ after being caught up in an incident on Wednesday.

 

Srdjan Djokovic has been forced to issue a statement after a video surfaced online of him posing with fans waving Russian flags with one of those also bearing the face of Vladamir Putin. Witnesses reported there was pro-Russian chanting with one of those also wearing a T-shirt bearing the letter ‘Z’ which is a symbol for the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags, as well as items with the Z symbol, are banned from the Australian Open as a result of the war in Ukraine. Tournament organisers have implemented the rule since day two of the Grand Slam following an incident involving a Ukrainian player Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl in her match against Kamilla Rakhimovaon on the first day. 

62-year-old Srdjan said he never had any intention of causing controversy and said his family only want peace in the world. Although in his press release, he didn’t offer any apology for taking part in the photos. There had been claims that Srdjan was heard saying a pro-Russian phrase in the video but this has since been disproven. Journalist Sasa Ozmo confirmed the phrase used by him was ‘Ziveli, Ljudi’ which translates to ‘Cheers guys’ and also means goodbye. 

“I am here to support my son only,” Srdjan said in a statement on Friday. 
“I was outside with Novak’s fans, as I have done after all of my son’s matches, to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being caught up in this.
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.
“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home.”

No explanation has been given as to why Srdjan decided to pose for the pictures to begin with when it was visibly clear that the fans were holding a Russian flag. Especially given the current political situation with the war in Ukraine which the United Nations say has caused at least 18,358 civilian casualties, including 7,031 deaths. 

Ukraine’s Marta Kosytuk, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open women’s doubles tournament, said she was upset by the incident that took place. Speaking to reporters on Friday, she didn’t weigh in on saying if Srdjan should be banned from the tournament altogether but did point out that such situations ‘can’t be left unseen.’ 

“It hurts a lot because there were specific rules, they were printed out outside that this is not allowed to bring flags and so on,” said Kostyuk.
“Really hurts that they were out there for some time, they were on the court, in the stands as well.
“I don’t know, I just don’t understand, it really hurts and I don’t understand how this can be possible.”

As for Djokovic, he hasn’t commented on the matter leading up to his semi-final clash with Tommy Paul. The former world No.1 is bidding to win the Australian Open title for a historic 10th time in his career.

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