TENNIS – The 2014 Roland Garros crowned Rafa Nadal for the ninth time and Maria Sharapova for the second time. The French Open was also been highlighted by Ernests Gulbis who reached the semifinal after beating Roger Federer in the third round and revealed rising stars like Eugenie Bouchard, Garbine Muguruza, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ajla Tomljanovic. It’s time to look back at the most successful players and those who disappointed more in the two exciting weeks in the French capital. Diego Sampaolo
The King and the Queen of Clay
Rafa Nadal: Rafa has been crowned as the King of the Roland Garros for the ninth time becoming the first player to win so many titles in a Major. He won the last five editions with 66 match wins and just one defeat in ten years against Robin Soderling in 2009. With 14 Majors the Mallorcan legend has tied Pete Sampras as the the second most successful Grand Slam winner. Only Roger Federer was more successful with 17 Grand Slams. Only Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer won a Grand Slam tournament for five consecutive editions. Moreover he has extended his winning streak at the Roland Garros to 35 victories and improved his winning record to 23-19 in head-to-head matches against Djokovic
He did not enjoy a particularly successful build-up to the Roland Garros on his favourite clay surface to his traditional extraordinary standards. He suffered quarter final exits in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona before winning his only European clay tournament in Madrid (he was on the verge of defeat against Kei Nishikori who suffered an unlucky back injury in the most crucial stage of the match). He lost in three sets against Novak Djokovic in a close three-set match in Rome in the final tournament before Paris. In the French capital he recovered from a set down in the final against Djokovic but he edged the Serb in four sets with 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4. He lifted his ninth Roland Garros Trophy after dropping just sets in the whole tournament
Maria Sharapova: The Siberian Queen of Clay faced three very hard battles in which she recovered from a set down in three consecutive matches to reach the final. She again had to fend off a tough match in the match against Romanian 22-year-old Simona Halep in which she was forced to third set for the fourth time in the tournament. This year Masha has enjoyed a successful clay campaign on clay winning three tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid and the Roland Garros.
Sharapova did not played her best tennis during the tournament. She was two games from losing against Sam Stosur. She was one game from dropping the quarter final match against Garbine Muguruza in the quarter final and one game from losing against Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinal but she raised the game in the most crucial moments of the tournament and celebrated her second triumph at Porte d’Auteuil two years after beating Sara Errani in 2012. Sharapova has moved from 8th to 5th in the WTA Ranking.
“This was the toughest Grand Slam final I have ever played. All the respect to Simona. She played an unbelievable match”She had an amazing two weeks and this is just the first step. Simona will have an incredible career”, said Sharapova.
Novak Djokovic: The Serb missed the chance to win the only elusive Grand Slam time of his career and complete the Career Grand Slam. He dropped his first set of the tournament in the semifinal against Ernests Gulbis in the semifinal before losing a four-set battle in the final against Nadal. In the final Djokovic made a crucial double fault handing the win to Nadal. In the final he won the first set but Nadal bounced back to clinch his third match against Djokovic in three consecutive editions of the Roland Garros after the final in 2012 and the epic semifinal in 2013.
Simona Halep: The 22-year-old Romanian player has completed her rise from the 57th spot in the Ranking in 2013 to her career-high Number 3 overtaking Agniewska Radwanska after her incredible Roland Garros in which she won three consecutive matches in straight sets against Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter final and Andrea Petkovic in the semifinal. In the final she forced Sharapova to the third set and give the Siberìan star a run for her money
“This is my first Grand Slam speech, but I wish to have many more in the future”, said Halep after the Roland Garros final. She will certainly have the chance to celebrate her first Grand Slam in the future if she continues to play so well.
The come-back of the tournament:
Andy Murray: Clay is not the favourite surface for Murray but the Scotsman has showed encouraging improvement reaching the quarter final in Rome and the semifinal in Paris losing on both occasions to Nadal. In Rome he played a great match against King Rafa losing a hard-fought match in the third set. In Paris Nadal was simply too strong but Murray is gradually reaching top form and his coach relationship with Amelie Mauresmo could boost his confidence ahead of his title defence at Wimbledon.
Gael Monfils: The Frenchman pleased the local crowd with an impressive win in a roller-coaster third round match against Fabio Fognini 5-7 6-2 6-4 0-6 6-2. He went on to reach the quarter final where he lost 4-6 1-6 6-4 0-6 against Andy Murray.
Ana Petkovic: The German player beat 2012 finalist Sara Errani 6-2 6-2 in the quarter final achieving a great result especially considering that the Italian clay specialist beat Jelena Jankovic in the quarter final two weeks after reaching the final in Rome. Her dream ended in the semifinal where she lost to Halep in three sets. . She faced rivals who are ranked Number 71 or lowerin the early rounds but the semifinal is a well-deserved prize after so many injury problems. She has showed the same form which propelled to a career high World Number 9 in 2011.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: The 2009 Roland Garros champion played one of the best matches of the tournament against Petra Kvitova in the third round. The Russian player edged the 2011 Wimbledon champion in three sets with 6-7 6-1 9-7.
Other good notes go to:
Carla Suarez Navarro: The Spanish player reached the quarter finals without dropping a single set before losing against Eugenie Bouchard in the round of eight.
Sara Errani: The Italian player reached her third consecutive quarter final after a great win in the fourth round against Jelena Jankovic but she lost in round of 8 against Petkovic. Errani also reached the final in the doubles with her close friend Roberta Vinci but the Italians lost against Peng Shuai and Hsieh We who won 11 of the final 13 points
Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger Vasselin: French crowd had something to celebrate as Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger Vasselin became the first French doubles winners at the Roland Garros in 23 years after beating Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-3 7-6. It was just their third Grand Slam tournament together.
The major surprises:
Milos Raonic: The young Canadian is continuing to make big progress on clay. He followed the semifinal in Rome (where he lost against Djokovic in three sets) with a quarter final in Paris (losing again to Djokovic in straight sets). He has become the first ever player from Canada to reach the quarter final at the Roland Garros and has moved a step closer to reaching the ATP Finals in London at the end of the season.
Ernests Gulbis: He followed up his win win in Nice in the warm-up to Paris with a remarkable semifinal in the French capital where he knocked out Roger Federer in the fourth round after a five-set epic match and Tomas Berdych in the quarter final. He reached his first Grand Slam semifinal where he forced Novak Djokovic to the fourth set. He jas joined the Top-10 for the first time in his career.
Garbine Muguruza: The young Spanish player produced the major upset of the tournament knocking out defending champion Serena Williams in the second round and advanced to the quarter final where she lost a hard-fought battle against Sharapova.
Taylor Townsend: She was the sensation of the first week when she reached the third round in her Grand Slam debut. She beat Alizè Cornet in the second round before losing against Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.
Eugenie Bouchard: At the age of 19 she has already reached two Grand Slam semifinals after reaching this stage at this year’s Australian Open. Sharapova had to dig deep to beat the young Canadian. It’s a matter a time before Bouchard could join Sharapova in the list of Grand Slam champions.
Ana Tomljanovic: The 21-year-old player beat 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round, Elena Vesnina in the second round and Agniewska Radwanska in the third round before losing to Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round
The major disappointments:
Roger Federer: The Swiss Maestro, Roland Garros winner in 2009, played just one match in the five weeks between the end of the Monte-Carlo and the start of the French Open following the birth of twin sons Lenny and Leo and this had an impact on his preparation for the Roland Garros. He lost in five sets in the fourth round against Gulbis but he will have the chance to bounce back on his favourite green surface in Halle and Wimbledon in the coming weeks
Stan Wawrinka: The Lausanne player came to Paris with the dream to win a back-back Grand Slam tournament after clinching the Australian Open last January. He won his first Master 1000 in Monte-Carlo on clay which boosted his hopes to lift the Roland Garros crown but he suffered a major upset losing to Guillermo Garcia Lopez in the first round. The Spaniard, who won in Marrakesh and reached the quarter final in Monte-Carlo on clay earlier this year, inflicted a bagel in the fourth and final set.
Grigor Dimitrov: He travelled to Paris with high hopes following his semifinal in Rome (where he lost to Nadal in straight sets) but he suffered a first-round defeat against Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic in the first round. The young Bulgarian could find some consolation when his girlfriend Maria Sharapova lifted her second Roland Garros Trophy.
Serena Williams: Serena was looking to score her second consecutive Rome-Paris double but she suffered the major upset of the tournament against Garbine Muguruza, who went on to reach the quarter final.
Li Na: The reigning Australian Open champion and World Number 2 could not replicate her triumph in 2011 as she lost in the first round against Kristina Mladenovic.
Agnieszka Radwanska: The Pole started well with Zhang and Pliskova in the first two rounds but she lost in the third round against Tomljanovic
A new documentary, and the rekindling of Serena Williams’ tryst with 2018 US Open destiny
It’s almost a year since Serena Williams got embroiled in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the 2018 US Open final. The subject is yet to ebb entirely from memory though. The first episode of ESPN’s new documentary series Backstory – featured on the incident involving the 23-time Grand Slam champion – does its bit to ensure that on the eve of the 2019 US Open, attention is centred on what occurred a year ago.
Titled Serena vs the Umpire, the episode is an extrapolation of the match’s progression and what transpired within it. It presents facts through the pros and cons of Williams and Ramos’, and also of Patrick Mouratoglou’s actions that charted the match. Yet, in spite of this, the program makes Williams out as the wronged one.
First, by her coach, Mouratoglou, who displayed his commitment as a mentor by using hand signals to try and guide her. Then, by Ramos who penalised her for the Frenchman’s infraction. Without heeding her vehemence that she was not a party to her coach’s decision-making. The narrative of the program puts it out that regardless of Williams’ behaviour that saw her scream and rant at the umpire and call him a liar and thief, she did not deserve to be termed as the pariah of the match.
The program’s one-sided leaning does not change the problematic aspects of Williams’ and Mouratoglou’s behaviours. Williams, in protesting her innocence about receiving (and accepting) coaching, did cross the line with her aggressiveness. There was – and is – no denying her disrespect towards the authority on the chair officiating the match. And, rationales like the momentousness of the occasion getting to her do not justify her stance at all. Rather, they hinted at her being ill-equipped to handle the scenario in what turned out be the proverbial repeating of history, at the same tournament.
Mouratoglou’s near-immediate (after the end of the match) admission that he tried to help her – and his maintaining to do so, even now – also debilitates Williams’ position. The 49-year-old’s statements about what he thought was Ramos’ inability in letting the match spiral out of bands, is a bemusing segue as well.
“Ramos’ job is also to keep the match under control. He totally lost control of the match, completely, because he reacted with emotions. And he’s not supposed to — he’s a chair umpire, he’s not a player,” Mouratoglou said. Ironically, had Ramos lashed out emotionally instead of abiding the rules, the repercussions would have been far serious for Williams for name-calling him and for continuously challenging his authority.
Mouratoglou’s comments are revealing of how the program does not consider the ramifications of that fracas for Ramos.
Since the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) rules do not permit Ramos from speaking to the media – including to ESPN for this program – the 48-year-old has been short-changed as he cannot present his point-of-view countering the acclaimed coach. Also, in the year that has almost gone by, the veteran official’s on-court calls have been scrutinised and compared with his umpiring of that match. Moreover, Ramos will not be umpiring any of Williams’ matches at Flushing Meadows in 2019. All of these are indicative of how Ramos’ professionalism has been denigrated.
Players have the right to request to not have certain umpires officiate their matches and many have done so for reasons of their own. The avoidance of the tension between such a player and umpire is undeniably a positive to come out of the move. Yet, what does it leave the umpire with, since, irrespective of how a player behaves with the official, the latter does not have the same means to put forth his officiating preference.
Speaking of preferences, proffering his concluding thoughts on the match, Mouratoglou opined, “It was horrible for us. It was horrible for Serena. It’s fantastic for tennis. It was unbelievable, that was the best moment in tennis of the past 10 years. Tennis was everywhere. You don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all the other sports, but not tennis. People should be allowed to be herself and show emotion. You want passion, that’s why people watch sport. They want things to happen. They want to feel emotion, they want to root for someone, they want to be shocked, they want to be happy, they want to be sad. That’s what they want and everybody felt something that day.”
Indeed, the match prompted reactions from everybody who watched it. Nonetheless, its proceedings overshadowed the game of tennis so much so that the bigger picture was not that of the sport but that of egoism.
Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis
Janko Tipsarevic has announced that he will retire from professional tennis at the age of 35 next November. The Belgrade native enjoyed his best seasons in 2011, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, and in 2012, when he reached the quarter final at the US Open for the second consecutive year. In 2012 he reached the quarter final or better in 14 tournaments, including the semifinal at Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Toronto.
He reached his best ranking of world number 8 in April 2012 after qualifying for the quarter final in Miami. He won four titles in his career and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open.
He returned to action at the Australian Open last January after a long absence of 16 months following two harmstring surgeries. The Serbian player lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Australian Open. Later this year he reached the quarter final in Houston.
Tipsarevic is planning after the Davis Cup finals in Madrid next November.
“It has been a great 16 years. After a lot of sour searching and thinking what is important to me in this stage of my life and what does make make me happy, I have decided to retire from professional tennis. My last competition will be the Davis Cup in Madrid. In the following years my focus will be my family, franchising our Tennis Academy and International coaching for several weeks per year. Thank you for your ongoing support”, announced Tipsarevic via social media.
Cincinnati Open Final Preview: Will Kuznetsova And Medvedev Achieve Double Glory For Russia?
It’s Championship Sunday in Cincy, with two unlikely yet intriguing singles finals.
Both world No.1’s were upset on Saturday by Russian opposition, opening up a golden opportunity for today’s singles finalists. For three of the four, it’s a chance to win the biggest titles of their careers to date. And for the fourth, it’s a chance to win their biggest title in a decade.
Madison Keys (16) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (WC)
15 years ago, Kuznetsova was a teenage who shocked the tennis world by winning the US Open. Five years and three Major finals later, she’d win a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. But recent times haven’t been as kind to Svetlana, who has struggled with injuries, coaching changes, and visa issues. As per the WTA’s Courtney Nguyen, Sveta missed the beginning of the US hard court swing due to those visa issues, and contemplated retirement with her ranking at risk of dropping outside the top 200 due to her inability to travel. But just a few weeks later, she’s into her biggest final in over two years, thanks to four victories this week over players ranked 11th or higher. But in today’s final, she faces a competitor she’s never beaten. Keys owns a 3-0 record in their head-to-head, with all three of those matches played on hard courts. Madison is yet to drop a set to Svetlana. And just like Kuznetsova, Keys has looked really strong this week. She’s been just clubbing the ball, and taking the match completely out of her opponents’ hands. But as a player who has choked in big matches before, can Madison maintain her form in this final? Based on how well she’s fought this week and made slight adjustments when needed, and with a boisterous American crowd behind her, I think Keys will be ready for this moment.
Daniil Medvedev (9) v. David Goffin (16)
After a set-and-a-half against Novak Djokovic yesterday, it appeared the world No.1 would be cruising to a straight set victory. Novak had been dominating opponents all week, and Daniil was receiving treatment on his right arm, which looked quite painful. But it seemed the 23-year-old Russian decided if he was going down, he was going down swinging. Medvedev started going for his second serves, striking some just as hard if not harder than his first serves. He’d hit a total of 16 aces in the match. That, combined with his strong ground game which suddenly wouldn’t miss, infuriated Djokovic to the point where it seemed the world No.1 just wanted off the court before the final game had even been decided. Danill is now into his third final in as many weeks, but lost in the final of his last two tournaments. His opponent today capitalized on an extremely open half of the draw. But the tennis gods definitely owe Goffin some luck after the bizarre injuries that have recently sidetracked his career. He injured his eye when a ball glanced off his racket, and injured his ankle when he slipped on the tarp at the back of the court at the French Open. These two have met twice before, with both matches occurring earlier this year. Medvedev prevailed in straight sets at the Australian Open, while Goffin outlasted Daniil 7-5 in the fifth at Wimbledon. This will be Medvedev’s 16th singles match within the past 20 days, which is a ton of tennis no matter your age or your level of fitness. And coming back less than 24 hours after a thrilling victory over the world No.1 is never easy. But against an opponent that hasn’t been playing with much confidence, and who is also vying for the biggest title of their career, I suspect Daniil will power his way to the winner’s circle again today.
Other notable matches on Sunday:
In the men’s doubles final, Wimbledon champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek, who were Wimbledon semifinalists.
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