US Open 2014 – Ernests Gulbis: “I completely swap his rhythm and his vision of the court” - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Ernests Gulbis: “I completely swap his rhythm and his vision of the court”

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TENNIS US OPEN 2014 – 27th of August 2014. E. Gulbis d. K. DeSchepper 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. An interview with Ernests Gulbis

 

Q. Pretty relatively easy time returning a big server. Only one ace.

ERNSTS GULBIS: I played with him in Queen’s. He served much, much better. But it helped me that we played in evening. Especially in the end of the second set, when it just became dark, when the light started to be a little bit stronger, when you toss the ball you lose it a little bit for a while. I think that’s his biggest problem, so that’s why he serves a lot of double-faults. Also I felt if I change a little bit the position of my return, I completely swap his rhythm and his vision of the court, so…

Q. It worked.

ERNSTS GULBIS: It worked (smiling).

Q. What has Gunter brought to you specifically for this tournament?

ERNSTS GULBIS: For this tournament? Nothing (laughter). We were practicing really hard because I skipped the tournament after Wimbledon. I took some time off because I needed it. After Paris probably I didn’t feel it at the first, but probably a little bit overexcited after that result. So I needed some time off. I took two weeks off and then I started to practice. We had a good mid-season preparation, similar stuff we did in the end of the season. In November and December, we did similar stuff now. I hoped for better results in Toronto and Cincinnati, but my game just wasn’t there. So here the first couple days of practice I was struggling a lot with my game. Yesterday I took a day off. Today before the match, you know, I started to hit the ball really well. It’s in the last moment basically the game came together.

Q. All because of Gunter?

ERNSTS GULBIS: If you say so. I have no problem with that. I’m looking for result. Whoever makes it happen, it’s good.

Q. On the technical side of your forehand, I know…

ERNSTS GULBIS: I have no idea. Honestly, I have no idea (smiling).

Q. I know you haven’t maybe broken it down or don’t think about it, you just do what you do.

ERNSTS GULBIS: You’re right. You have the answer already (laughter).

Q. Here is my question specifically. If you have no answer, you have no answer.

ERNSTS GULBIS: Okay.

Q. You start here, but before you hit, you take it to where everybody else does right in here with the elbow in.

ERNSTS GULBIS: Basically for style. What I do here is just for style (laughter).

Q. Just for style points?

ERNSTS GULBIS: Yeah, just to be different.

Q. How did that come about? Did you one day just start doing that?

ERNSTS GULBIS: You play the best tennis when you don’t think. It’s simple. Whatever comes out, comes out.

Q. Your coach didn’t say, What the heck are you doing?

ERNSTS GULBIS: No. He likes my forehand. I like my forehand.

Q. It’s a cool forehand. It’s unusual. Maybe some coaches would have said something.

ERNSTS GULBIS: No, no, no. I just pay no attention to it. I play like I feel. Again, the best is when you play from your subconscious and when you don’t think. You cannot think on court. You don’t have time. You just have to react. And, yeah, technique. You can work on certain things, but I definitely didn’t work that my forehand looks specifically or better or worse.

Q. What did you learn about winning six matches at the French, or playing six matches?

ERNSTS GULBIS: The biggest lesson I learned was that in semifinal against Novak that he felt similar to me. You know, it wasn’t that I walked up on court against somebody who is overwhelming me with confidence. He’s been there a lot of time. But anyway, every time is something different. Every semifinal, every final is something different. Final I never was, so I wish that I can experience that. But just to understand that you can be on the same level, that was the biggest lesson. Because I was feeling extremely tired because of the heat and because of the condition that day, because it was really humid and hot the first day of the whole two weeks. He felt the same. The first two sets I lost. I thought, That’s it. The guy is a machine. But in the third set I saw him already breaking down the same as I did. So that’s it about me. Yeah, even more confidence.

Q. A question about your formal education. When did you stop attending school on a regular basis? Did you finish the equivalent of high school independently?

ERNSTS GULBIS: Yeah. Well, I was going to school on a pretty regular basis until grade nine, so that means after nine years. The last three years of school I did in a sports school where I just had to do all the exams and all the studies. Like let’s say you have points what you need to get. So, yeah, last three years. Last three years was different. But in the end anyway, you have to make all the exams and all the tests. By Latvian law, you have to make it just to get a diploma, same as everybody else. It’s just I was lacking just the school time, you know, just lessons. But I was taking private teachers. It is different. It is different and difficult at times. My mother was very strict about me studying and not putting it aside.

Q. In a match specifically.

ERNSTS GULBIS: In a match specifically? No. In a match specifically, I don’t think so. In the life on road, life on tour, you know, the less you think, it’s easier. You don’t think, you just do. You wake up in the morning, you go to practice, you eat, you sleep. It’s just part of a routine. When you start to question yourself, Why am I doing this? What are my true goals in life? What is my true motivation? Then you start to question, Why am I doing this? I’m going to be 30 years old, and I’m still warming up like a 10-year-old kid, you know, playing balls, running around. Why? For what? For example, for me I have to remind myself What is my true motivation.

Q. I remember an interview with you talking about Dominic. You said you were giving him a lot of advice. It was some time ago. What is your relationship now? Are you a teacher for him?

ERNSTS GULBIS: I never said that I’m teacher, but we have a good relation. He gave a lot to me by helping me to practice. Because if I see young guy who is so motivated and so eager to practice, you know, let’s say I have to be not worse than him, so I push myself even more through that. When he saw me pushing more, then he was pushing more. It’s a win-win situation.

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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