TENNIS US OPEN – Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov were amongst the few remaining men who had yet to play their first round match at the US Open despite it being Day 3 at the championships. None of the other big names have been upset so far in the tournament and neither Berdych nor Dimitrov wanted to be the one to change this status. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw
Tomas Berdych (6) and Grigor Dimitrov (7) were amongst the few remaining men who had yet to play their first round match at the US Open despite it being Day 3 at the championships. None of the other big names have been upset so far in the tournament and neither Berdych nor Dimitrov wanted to be the one to change this status. They faced tough opponents in the form of Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison respectively. However, despite Hewitt and Harrison doing their level best to cause trouble for Berdych and Dimitrov, in the end their efforts were in vain as they lost in straight sets. Berdych took out Hewitt 6-3 6-4 6-3 and Dimitrov dispatched Harrison 6-2 7-64 6-2.
Hewitt knew the importance of holding serve against the likes of Berdych and was battling hard to avoid going down an early break. He was able to fight off the early break opportunities against him but a mighty backhand return winner from Berdych secured him the break and the lead at 3-1. Berdych was able to maintain this break advantage to close out the set 6-3. In the 2nd set, Hewitt was able to turn things around as he got up 4-1. Berdych then turned up his intensity to take the next 7 games and extend his lead to 2-0 sets and a break in the 3rd. Hewitt later stated, “[T]hat was my obviously my small chance out there if I could have tried to keep that lead … Yeah, if I had broken again and then given myself a chance to serve for the 2nd set, at least put … more doubt in his mind”
Hewitt was able to level the 3rd set at 3-3 breaking the Berdych serve in the 6th game. However, Berdych broke back immediately and did so again to take the match 6-3 6-4 6-3. “It was a tough opponent, a big challenge. The conditions were extremely tough today. The heat, the wind and facing Lleyton for the first round … I’m happy with the way I handled it.” Berdych was simply the better player. He had 9 aces whereas Hewitt had 9 double faults. The Czech had seemingly horrible numbers on his winners to errors sheet with 43 winners to 51 errors. This hardly mattered as Hewitt had only 19 winners along with 36 errors. Berdych will have to clean up his game if he wishes to have another good run at these championships. He will play in the 2nd round Martin Klizan who rallied from 0-2 sets down against Steve Darcis to win it in 5 sets.
This is the second consecutive major where Dimitrov and Harrison are meeting in the first round. At Wimbledon, Dimitrov beat Harrison in straight sets on his way to his first major semifinal appearance. In this match, Dimitrov was a lot more alert from the beginning than he was in London. The Bulgarian broke the American in the 4th game to lead 3-1. He broke Harrison again in the 8th game to close out the set 6-2 in just over half an hour. Similar to the Berdych match, the lower ranked opponent made a serious bid in the 2nd set to even the match. Harrison broke an erratic Dimitrov for 3-2. He maintained this break and served for the set at 5-4. However, he could not close it out. Harrison had soon gone from leading 5-3 in the set to trail 5-6. He held serve to force the breaker but again on the big points, he either made an error or allowed Dimitrov to control the point. Dimitrov won the tiebreak to lead 6-2 7-64.
There was very little Harrison could do in the 3rd set to stop Dimitrov as he was broken in his opening service game. A second break of serve in the 5th game sealed his faith as Dimitrov serve out the match 6-2 7-6 6-2 in just over two hours. Harrison was simply outclassed by a superior player. He had 37 unforced errors to 25 winners whereas Dimitrov had only 19 errors and 37 winners. Dimitrov was winning 84% of the points behind his 1st serves and 66% on his 2nd serves along with 8 aces and faced only two break points the entire match. Harrison could only muster up 62% on his 1st serves and 45% on 2nd serves with 6 double faults and 3 aces. The American was broken 5 times in the match. Dimitrov faces Dudi Sela in the 2nd round. Sela beat Carlos Berlocq in 4 sets.
Alexander Zverev Powers Past Erratic Nadal To Set Thiem Showdown
Alexander Zverev secured his best win of his career on a clay court by beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid.
Alexander Zverev powered past an erratic Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in Madrid.
After a slow start Zverev produced some stunning tennis to knock out the five-time champion Nadal, who had an error-prone day at the office.
The German will now play Dominic Thiem in the last four in a rematch from the 2018 final.
It was the 20-time grand slam champion who started off the fastest as he looked to target the Zverev forehand early with uncomfortable spins and heights.
Eventually Nadal would get his rewards for an accurate tactical game-plan as a Zverev double fault handed him the break.
However that advantage was to be short-lived as the first point of the seventh game would change the momentum of the match with Nadal putting in simple unforced errors especially on the forehand side.
The German took advantage as he used his backhand to dictate points from the baseline. Furthermore, Zverev used his superior net play to his advantage by shortening the points and creating a faster tempo.
An unusual first set from Nadal’s perspective was complete as the fifth seed reeled off four games in a row to seal the opening set 6-4.
At the start of the second set, the Spaniard tried to up his level and intensity as he used some drop-shots at unexpected moments and attempted to bring the crowd into the match.
Despite this Nadal’s return game was lacking its usual ferocity as he couldn’t capitalise on Zverev’s second serves.
There was a lack of confidence in the Spaniard when implementing effective patterns of play as Zverev had a lot of success dictating play and winning the baseline and net rallies.
Another break in the fifth game ensured that Zverev’s dominance was being rewarded.
Although a double break advantage was denied, Nadal couldn’t deny victory for Zverev as the German sealed his first clay court victory over the ‘King of Clay.’
After the match Zverev admitted it was one of the biggest wins of his career, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in an on-court interview.
“Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”
Lots to ponder for Nadal as an error-prone performance sees him looking to improve in Rome next week.
As for the German, he sets up a 2018 final rematch with Dominic Thiem in the last four as he secured his best victory on this surface of his career.
Dominic Them reaches semifinal in Madrid after three-set battle with Isner
Dominic Thiem is into the Madrid semi-finals after an impressive three set win over John Isner.
The Austrian booked his spot in the semifinals after coming back to beat the American in three sets.
Dominic Thiem needed one hour and 55 minutes to beat the world number 39 John Isner in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 hitting 20 winners in the win while his opponent hit 26 unforced errors.
“We all know that he is one of the best servers in history and this altitude in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve but I was a little bit surprised by his return games, I think he attacked both my first and second serves and it took me a while to get used to it and I think the match changed when I saved those three breakpoints in the second set”.
It was the American who got off to the faster start holding his opening service game and then going on the offensive earning a breakpoint the following game and taking an early 2-0 lead.
The Greensboro, North Carolina native had a chance to go up a double break but the world number four saved both breakpoints he faced and managed to hold his first service game of the match.
That break was enough for the American to serve out the first set and he was one set away from the semifinals.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Dallas, Texas resident had four breakpoints but failed to convert and the match was starting to turn with the American looking gassed.
In the next game the Austrian had three breakpoint and converted for his first break of the match as he served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.
Isner was put under pressure early in the third set facing a breakpoint in the first game of the set but managed to save it and hold serve and it stayed on serve until 4-4.
That’s when the world number four earned two chances to break and on the second time of asking he would break and served out the match to book a date with either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal.
After his match in an on court interview he gave this thoughts on a potential matchup with either Nadal or Zverev.
“It’s going to be a good one, I’ve played two big matches here against Rafa ( Nadal) and one big match against Sascha ( Zverev), and against either one of them it’s going to be an incredible challenge and it’s going to be exciting tomorrow”.
With the loss today by Isner when the new rankings come out on Monday it will be the first time in the open era and since the rankings came out that an American will not feature in the top 30 players in the world.
Past Cancellation Of Clay Events ‘Double Motivation’ For Norway’s Casper Ruud
The 22-year-old is on a roll after scoring his biggest win yet over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open.
Last year’s decision to scrap a series of clay events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the world of tennis but at the same time a blessing in disguise for Casper Ruud.
The world No.22 is enjoying a surge in his form on the Tour after reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters and Munich Open. Furthermore, this week at the Madrid Open Ruud achieved the biggest win of his career on Thursday after stunning Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4. Registering his first ever win over a top five player on the Tour. He is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
Ruud partly credits his success on the clay to events that happened 12 months ago when he was unable to play on his favourite surface due to the pandemic. The French Open did take place but later in the year where he reached the third round.
“It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely forward to. I felt it was taken a bit away from not me but all the players when everything got postponed, some of the tournaments were cancelled,” Ruud said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have double the motivation to be here this year luckily.’
“This (Madrid) was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”
Growing up, the youngster trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and says his time there has shaped how he plays today. Toni Nadal, who is the former mentor of Rafael Nadal, remains ‘involved’ in his tennis. Although the 60-year-old is now switching his focus to working with Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pedro Clar, who he met at the academy, is still a member of his team.
“Pedro Clar is the one that travels more often with me. We have a very good relationship. He’s here (in Madrid) this week,” said Ruud.
“He’s been with me at some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semifinal in Rome last year, Pedro was with me. I think it’s helped me a lot.’
“Also getting help from Toni. Now Toni is helping Felix more personally. But he’s always involved with my tennis at some point in my career. Also Rafa, of course, he helped me a lot the last years.”
The next test for Ruud in Madrid will be Alexander Bublik who he beat in three sets in their only previous meeting back in 2019. Should he win again, the world No.22 would be through to his third consecutive Masters semi-final on the clay after Rome (2020) and Monte Carlo.
At the age of 22, Ruud has already become the highest ranked Norwegian player in ATP Tour history. Coincidentally the record was previously held by his father Christian who now his head coach. Following his latest win, he is set to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday.
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