TENNIS – Wimbledon 2014 has launched the career of 18-year-old Australian sensation Nick Kyrgios who impressively stunned Rafa Nadal to reach the quarter finals. The Championships also confirmed the great prospect of Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic. On the women’s side Canadian rising star Eugenie Bouchard reached her first Grand Slam final after two consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. Diego Sampaolo
Nick Kyrgios was born in Canberra on 27th April 1995. His father is a self-employed house painter. His mother is a computer engineer. He is the third of three children. He was a promising basketball player in the early teens before taking the decision to focus entirely on tennis at the age of 14.
Kyrgios emerged in January 2013 when he he beat his compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis in the Australian Open Junior final with 7-6 6-3 to win his first Grand Slam Junior title. He scored his first ATP Tour match at the 2013 Roland Garros when he knocked out Radek Stepanek in three sets which ended each in a tie-break before losing against Marin Cilic in the next round. Later in the summer he qualified for the US Open where he lost against David Ferrer in the first round.
He has been considered as the new Australian star with a potential to continue the proud tennis tradition of this country which produced some tennis legends like Pat Cash Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis. Kyrgios, the son of a Greek father and a Malaysian mother, played an impressive Wimbledon tournament in which he recovered from two sets down and fended off nine match points against Richard Gasquet in the second round before sensationally knocking out this year’s Roland Garros Rafa Nadal in the fourth round to qualify for his first ever Grand Slam quarter final. He became the first male debutant to reach the quarter finals since Florian Mayer in 2004. He lost against Milos Raonic in four sets in the quarter final.
Kyrgios hit 312 winners and 128 aces in the five matches he played at the All-England Club. He entered Wimbledon but he has moved up 78 spots to a career best 66th after the third Grand Slam Tournament.
Mark Philippoussis, who beat former World Number 1 Pete Sampras in the 1996 Australian Open when he was a teenager, praised Kyrgios and the other Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis.
“I watched Nick a couple of times and he has got a big serve and a big forehand. He had an amazing tournament. He should get a lot confidence from this and hopefully learn from it”, said Philippoussis
“He is a big guy. He has to be careful and has to be careful the way he trains because he could be prone to injuries. When you beat Nadal the way he did, you can beat anyone in the world. He has to grow as a tennis player, and get more experienced and work a little more on the volleys and he is gong to get better. He has got a big game. What I really love is that he has a big heart. He doesn’t give up until the end that’s beautiful to watch and something that I enjoy. I think Australia should be excited. He is the best prospect since it was myself, Pat and Lleyton”, continued Philippoussis
Philippoussis also criticized another Australian young star Bernard Tomic who reached the quarter finals at Wimbledon in 2011 but he did not live up to his huge talent since then.
“When you hear that he loses a match against Jarkko Nieminen in 28 minutes, I don’t even see it’s possible to lose a match in 28 minutes. It’s impossible to lose that fast and it’s a shame. He can turn it around but it’s got to be now”, said Philippoussis
Wimbledon 2014 also confirmed the huge prospects of Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic. Dimitrov has continued his impressive period of form of 2014 in which he collected titles on all surfaces in Acapulco (hard-court), Bucharest (clay) and Queen’s (grass) and reached the semifinals in Rome and at Wimbledon.
At the All England Club Dimitrov showed that he fully deserves his reputation as the heir of Roger Federer when he upset defending champion and local hero Andy Murray playing great tennis in the quarter final. He pushed hard Novak Djokovic in four hard-fought sets but he was knocked out by the Serb with 6-4 3-6 7-6 7-6 in the semifinal where the young Bulgarian squandered three consecutive set points in the tie-break of the fourth set. The merit of this outstanding breakthrough goes to his coach Roger Rasheed who has contributed to his outstanding year in which he has moved to World Number 9 and has a good chance to qualify for the ATP World Finals in London for the first time in his career.
Milos Raonic has also made outstanding breakthrough this year thanks to the advice of former World Number 3 Ivan Ljubicic and Riccardo Piatti. He reached the semifinals in Rome and Wimbledon and the quarter finals at the Roland Garros. He beat only a seed Kei Nishikori to reach the quarter final where he beat Nadal’s conqueror Kyrgios. The young Canadian was beaten by Roger Federer in the semifinal. Thanks to these results he has reached the World Number 6.
Last but not least, we have a look at the new generation of women who made a major breakthrough this season and confirmed this reputation at Wimbledon. The most prominent rising star is young Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who has reached at least the semifinal in all three Grand Slam tournaments this year. Eugenie played an outstanding Wimbledon semifinal in which she did not drop a set in the whole tournament until the final where she lost against Wimbledon queen Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-0 in just 55 minutes. She beat two top-10 Angelique Kerber and World Number 3 and Roland Garros finalist Simona Halep in the semifinal. She showed the potential to win her first Grand Slam crown after winning Wimbledon at junior level in 2011. After Wimbledon she has broken the top-10 for the first time in his career reaching the World Number 7 spot for the first time in her young career.
Bouchard received a strong support of British tennis fans during the tournament. “I don’t know if I deserve all your love today during the final I lost against Kvitova but I really appreciate it”, said Bouchard.
Among her fans there was Princess and namesake Eugenie (the daughter of the Duke and the Duchess of York) who attended the women’s final in the Royal Box.
“I am very happy that she came out. Unfortunately I could not put on a better show for her”, said Bouchard
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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