Murray outclasses Monfils in a non-thrilling 5 setter - UBITENNIS
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Murray outclasses Monfils in a non-thrilling 5 setter

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TENNIS – Andy Murray was facing Gael Monfils for a place in the French Open semifinal. This is the major where Murray has most struggled to assert himself but conversely where Monfils has had his most success. Both players have made it to the semifinal round once before and very eager for a second trip. Cordell Hackshaw

Interviews, Results, OOP, Draws from the Roland Garros

Andy Murray (7) was facing Gael Monfils (23) for a place in the French Open semifinal. This is the major where Murray has most struggled to assert himself but conversely where Monfils has had his most success. Both players have made it to the semifinal round once before and very eager for a second trip. The match had all the makings of a Davis Cup tie with the French crowd clearly supporting their last player in the singles draw. However, it turned out to be a letdown not just for French fans but for tennis fans all around. The match had highs and lows, ebbs and flows and then it simply flatlined. In the near dead of darkness, Murray dispatched of Monfils 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0.

Murray took an early lead with 3-0 lead in the first set. He denied Monfils the chance of the early break to maintain the lead. However, the Frenchman would break in the 5th game and then hold serve to get things even 3-3. They held serve until the 10th game when Murray showing his trademark defensive skills, outlasted Monfils in a 34-shot rally to break him and take the set 6-4. In the 2nd set, it seemed as though Monfils went away completely until the final moments when facing triple set points for a 0-6 set, he decided to get on the scoreboard. Monfils held serve and forced Murray to serve it out. Murray would require a further 5 more set points in order to close out the set and take a 2-0 set advantage 6-4 6-1.

The French crowd began to thin out as they felt there was no point sticking around watching this losing effort from Monfils. They had all reason to feel this way as at the beginning of the 3rd set, Monfils still seemed disinterested in the match as he was facing 2 break points. However, perhaps it was sensing the waning supporting from the crowd or perhaps his own ego, Monfils became heavily invested in the match. He saved those early break points and held serve to stay ahead 1-0. Monfils began to play to the crowd. He elicited their support to spur him on in the match and soon it was Murray who was having trouble holding serve. Monfils maintained the slight lead in front at 5-4 and forced Murray to serve to stay in the set. Murray’s self-confidence began to waver as he was the one making the unnecessary errors. In the end he would net the backhand and now Monfils had a hold in the match as he took the 3rd set 6-4. “I’m just happy I waited and I was patient, because in the beginning the conditions were very difficult. There was a lot of wind, and in these conditions Andy’s much stronger than I am.” Monfils said to explain his slow start.

It was almost like watching a role reversal as Murray began playing like Monfils did in the beginning of the match and Monfils like Murray. The Scotsman could hardly gain a foothold in the points. He was being forced to retrieve instead of dictating play as he preferred. His shots missed by miles and his shot selections were questionable and proved to be costly and he was down 1-4 in the 4th set and serving to stop the bleeding. Murray would later offer up this assessment of the match thus far, “[A]t the start of the match I was the one dictating all of the points. The third set I was still dictating a fair amount of them. But in the fourth set,…he put me on the defensive that whole set. So I was having to do most of the running. I don’t know exactly why,…he raised his level significantly in the third set. The fourth set, my level definitely dropped in the fourth a bit.” Murray went on to be broken in the 6th game and Monfils served out the set 6-1 and forced the match to be decided in a 5th set.

Now by this time, the crowds were beside themselves as it looked like Monfils could take this match. Murray appeared to be listless on court perhaps because he spent the most time on court than all the other quarterfinalists. There was also the added issue of the late hour which was making it difficult to see the ball. The tournament referee came out on court and asked players whether they wanted to play and this caused a bit of reaction from the crowd as they wanted the match to continue as the momentum was clearly with Monfils. However, they would get their wish but that momentum simply went dead. In what can be describe in no other words than a complete capitulation, Monfils lost the next six games winning a total of 7 points in the entire set. There is not much one can say about the set other than Murray simply had to put the ball in play and watch Monfils commit error after error. Murray would only need the minimum 24 points needed to win a set. Murray was at a lost as to what happened, “[T]he way that he played the last three or four games, yeah, for me it was unexpected, because his level in the third and fourth sets was extremely high.” Murray moved through to his second French Open semifinal slot to play Rafael Nadal (1) 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0 in 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Monfils went from dropping four points of serve in the 4th set to only winning 4 points on serve in the 5th set. He himself had no real explanation for his poor performance towards the end of the match, “I think I played a good first game. I think it was 1530. Then everything happened very fast. I missed a few shots, and I don’t know. I don’t really know what happened…I start to miss a lot of balls…Very strange…[I]t was dark, but I really wanted to finish tonight, because I knew that he was not in great shape. I felt better. Maybe that’s why I was a bit rushed in attacking him. I’m very frustrated.” He would also mention his lack of maturity in these situations and the need for him to work harder to take his talent to the next level. All in all, one hopes that Monfils find this balance and really start producing the sort of tennis his immense talents suggest.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Brits Andy Murray and Cam Norrie Meet in the Second Round

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A look at Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (twitter.com/cincytennis)

On Monday, Andy Murray overcame another three-time Major singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a three-hour thriller.  In the second round, he meets the new British No.1 Cam Norrie, who reached his first Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.

 

WTA action is headlined by three matches between Slam singles champs, which includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek.  Also on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals.

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.


Andy Murray vs. Cameron Norrie – 11:00am on Center Court

Murray will be happy he had a day of rest after his emotionally and physically taxing match against Wawrinka.  He has compiled a solid record of 23-14 this season, with 2022 being his most active year since 2017, when his hip issues began.  But Norrie has taken his place as the top British male, and has really come into his own over the past 18 months.  Cam is now 38-18 this season, and has reached 10 finals since the start of last year.  Their only prior meeting occurred three years ago in Beijing, with Murray prevailing in a long, tight three-setter that lasted nearly three hours.  But three years later, Norrie is a much-improved competitor.  While playing your fellow countryman is often tricky, especially when they’ve been knighted, Cam should be favored to even their head-to-head.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Sloane Stephens (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Grand Stand

Swiatek is vying for her 50th win of the season on Wednesday, with 37 of those victories coming consecutively between February and July.  But since those 37 wins in a row, Iga is only 3-3, and suffered a frustrating loss last week in Toronto to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-5 in the third after three hours of play.  Stephens continues to be a streaky player, as the 2017 US Open champion has gone on multiple winning and losing streaks of four matches or more throughout the year.  On Monday night, she crushed Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0.  Sloane often plays her best tennis in American hard courts, and advanced to the third round or better of this tournament in seven straight appearances between 2012 and 2019.  These two Major champs have never played before.  Stephens could be primed for another win streak, and it would be understandable if Swiatek experienced a dip in her level after all the tennis she’s played this year.  Yet after dominating the tour for most of the year, Iga should still be favored.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – It’s a two-time Australian Open champ against the reigning US Open champ.  Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi in three sets on Tuesday, while Raducanu easily prevailed over Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina vs. Garbine Muguruza (8) – It’s another two-time Major champ against the reigning Wimbledon champ.  Rybakina is 2-2 since her surprising run at The All-England Club, while Muguruza is a subpar 9-13 on the year.  They split two meetings last year, with Elena victorious in the more notable encounter, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Fritz started the summer by winning the title in Eastbourne, while Kyrgios was the champion in Washington.  This will be their first career meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Borna Coric (PR) – Despite his injury issues, Nadal is a staggering 35-3 in 2022, and 20-1 on hard courts.  Coric missed a full year of action due to shoulder surgery, and is just 12-12 at all levels since returning.  Borna has won two of their four previous meetings, including six years ago at this event.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

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


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

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


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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