TENNIS WIMBLEDON 2014 – Twice now Andy Murray has had to defend his major title and twice he has failed to do so falling in the quarterfinal round each time. Murray came into this matchup in excellent form having not dropped a set in the first four rounds. Prior to this year, Grigor Dimitrov has failed to get past the 2nd round at this tournament. Cordell Hackshaw
Twice now Andy Murray (3) has had to defend his major title and twice he has failed to do so falling in the quarterfinal round each time. Murray came into this matchup in excellent form having not dropped a set in the first four rounds. Prior to this year, Grigor Dimitrov (11) has failed to get past the 2nd round at this tournament. However, this year on the grass courts, Dimitrov has looked quite at home having won Queen’s Club tournament prior to this event. Dimitrov has been showing signs all season long that he is ready to make a break into the top echelon on the game. Him making his first major semifinal is a huge step in that direction especially after beating the defending champion Murray in straight sets 6-1 7-64 6-2 in just over 2 hours. “I was pretty steady during the whole match and came out the winner,” said Dimitrov after the match.
Murray was on the attack from the very onset of the match giving himself a 0-30 lead on Dimitrov’s serve. He would earn himself a break point in this opening game but Dimitrov would hold serve as Murray’s backhand found the net. Murray went on to hold serve with ease but that would be just about the only easy thing he would have in this match. Dimitrov broke the defending champion twice in that set, the second time at love and served it out 6-1 in 25 minutes. Murray would later state, “I started the match badly. And I think that gave him confidence. You know, I should have done a better job.” Murray’s life remained difficult as Dimitrov made it clear in the 2nd set that he was looking to break in every Murray service game. His aggression paid off as he broke in the 7th game for a 4-3 lead. Murray got the break back for 4-4 and held serve for 5-4. They remained on serve till 6-6 for a decisive tiebreaker with Murray again having to save break points in order to get to the breaker.
Murray opened the breaker with a double fault, which seemed to encapsulate his entire state of mind in the match thus far; he was well off his game today. Murray would get back the mini break and they remained on serve to 4-4. Dimitrov then stepped up the intensity and earned himself the minibreak for 5-4. The set now rested in his hand with two serve. He went 6-4 with his signature backhand winner and then an amazing pick up volley for the set 7-65.
Perhaps British fans were not initially concerned by this 2-0 sets lead that Dimitrov had attained. Their local hero Murray had after all staged several miracle comebacks here at Wimbledon, including last year in the quarterfinals against Fernando Verdasco. However, there must have been real panic as Dimitrov remained on for the upset by breaking in the 6th game of the 3rd set for a 4-2 lead after Murray again double faulted. Dimitrov consolidated this break with an ace to go up 5-2. Now Murray had to serve to stay in the match. There would be no Murray Magical comeback today from the defending champion. He looked defeated as he soon fell behind 0-30 in this crucial game. Murray double faulted yet again to bring up two match points for Dimitrov at 15-40. Dimitrov would only need one as Murray’s forehand found the net. Dimitrov is through to his first major semifinal 6-1 7-6 6-2.
Dimitrov spoke of performance in the match, “As soon as we started warming up, I sensed his game wasn’t at his highest level and I was pretty confident and playing good tennis. The first set helped me get into a good rhythm. The second set tie-break was a key moment for me. Coming into the third set, I knew I had a lot of things under control.” Murray replied that he felt fine and added, “Today was a bad day, you know, from my side. I made many mistakes, unforced errors, and then started going for too much and taking chances that weren’t really there.” There is very true for Dimitrov was clearly the better player on court today. The Bulgarian outperformed Murray in every single category. Dimitrov had 10 aces and 3 double faults to go with 32 winners and 18 errors while Murray had 5 aces and double faults, 24 winners and 37 errors. Even on serve, Dimitrov was the better man. He got more 1st serves in than Murray and won 77% of those points and 59% on 2nd serves. Murray on the other hand only won 72% on 1st serve and a pitiful 31% on 2nd serve. This difference clearly explained why Dimitrov had more break opportunities, nine in total and coverted five of them whereas Murray would only break that once in the 2nd set. Dimitrov will next face Novak Djokovic in the semifinal for a chance at his first major final. If he wants to win that matchup, he would have to maintain this form and then some in order to deny Djokovic a chance at a 2nd Wimbledon title.
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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