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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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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