Cilic - Nishikori Final at 2014 US Open Shows Rough Road Ahead for Men's Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Cilic – Nishikori Final at 2014 US Open Shows Rough Road Ahead for Men's Tennis

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TENNIS US OPEN – They figured it out a long time ago in Hollywood and just across the river from here on Broadway: You need a star. You become a hit by selling entertainment, not Shakespeare. You become a hit by putting big names on the marquee. The final of the U.S. Open Monday night didn’t have those names. What it had was Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori. Art Spander for bleacherreport.com

 

US Open: All the interviews, results, draws and OoP

They figured it out a long time ago in Hollywood and just across the river from here on Broadway: You need a star. It didn’t really matter if a famous actor could act, only if he was famous.

Whether that was because of what he did on or off the screen was insignificant.

You become a hit by selling entertainment, not Shakespeare. You become a hit by putting big names on the marquee.

The final of the U.S. Open Monday night didn’t have those names. What it had was Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori.

They are talented, dedicated and successful. They aren’t much of an attraction, and they didn’t have much of a match. In only one hour and 54 minutes, Cilic crushed Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Arthur Ashe Stadium was sold out, but there were a good number of unfilled seats, with people choosing not attend when the matchup didn’t meet their standard. After all, this is New York—not Peoria, Illinois.

Sure, the match started at 5:08 p.m. ET. Sure, it was held on a Monday. Sure, the weather was cool and breezy. But you just know if Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic—or, best of all, both—had been playing, the place would have been filled.

The semifinals had the big guys, but the little guys—figuratively speaking, since Cilic is 6’5″—knocked them out. The reaction of some was, “Great.” But not from CBS-TV, which was showing the tournament one last time.

ESPN will cover the tournament starting next year.

We need new faces in tennis or golf, we’re told, but when the faces show up, the public does not—even if, in this case, most of the 24,000 seats at Ashe were sold out in advance.

A barometer for this one was the report in Bloomberg on Monday morning that a dip in secondary prices for tickets, the brokers, the scalpers “could lead to a quiet evening in the seats and among television viewership.”

That’s a kind way of saying, “If you haven’t unloaded your tickets by now, you’re going to take a bath.”

According to SeatGeek (via Newsday’s Neil Best), after Federer and Djokovic were upset in the Saturday semifinals, the price for resale tickets plummeted.

Ever check the covers of People or US Weekly, or the content of Entertainment Tonight or Inside Edition? They don’t attract attention with a story on some studio technician or production assistant. They feed us a diet of Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney, Beyonce and Jay-Z.

A-listers make us turn the pages or pick up the remotes. Surprise finalists do not.

It’s not the fault of Cilic or Nishikori that they upset the big names. That’s sports. That’s also a possible box-office disaster.

Individual sports are the opposite of team sports, where people pull for the underdog—although they watch the games with top teams, such as Michigan, Alabama and Florida State.

Maybe someday, Cilic, who missed last year’s Open because of a drug suspension, will be as well-known as Rafa Nadal or Federer.

Cilic certainly can move a tennis ball (17 aces against Nishikori), but for the moment, he just doesn’t move the needle.

You want to know why ESPN is always showing Peyton Manning, Tony Romo or LeBron James? Because those players raise the ratings.

In team sports, at least, there’s a feeling of loyalty to the hometown 11 or the old school. It’s different for tennis and golf.

If Cilic or Nishikori were American, maybe more people other than the tennis purists would have taken note. But they’re not American, and that makes it even worse.

Federer has been so good for so long—although he’s 33 and in decline—he’s deservedly celebrated everywhere, transcending borders.

The guy in the stands and the woman in the streets want Federer to win the way they want Nadal and Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to win. They don’t want to ask, “Who’s he?”

Golf’s U.S. Open in June at Pinehurst, North Carolina, had the same trouble as tennis’ U.S. Open in September: A non-American, relative non-entity—Martin Kaymer—took the trophy. Two majors for Kaymer. No excitement about Kaymer.

Cilic, at No. 16, (seeded No. 14) is the lowest-ranked man to win the Open since Pete Sampras, ranked 17th in 2002. However, Cilic and Sampras are about as far apart as Croatia (Cilic’s home country) and California (Sampras’ residence).

Pete not only is a U.S. citizen, he had already won 15 Grand Slams previously.

The Australian Open this year had a surprise champion, Stan Wawrinka. The guy he beat, however, was hardly a surprise (Nadal). Then Nadal, as scripted, won the French, beating Djokovic. The Wimbledon final matched Djokovic against Federer. So far, so good. Glamour, glitz, greatness.

Djokovic is only 27, Nadal is 28 but frequently hurt. Who knows how long Federer can play at a high level?

The days of the Big Four—let’s throw in Andy Murray—may not be over, but they are slipping away. We’re probably headed for more of the new kids, or the kids who are almost new but hardly stars.

This is problematic for men’s tennis, as the U.S. Open showed that interest wanes considerably when the four players who have defined the era exit early.

The last Grand Slam of 2014 had everything it needed, until the final act. Would it be possible to shoot the scene again with another ending?

Article from bleacherreport.com

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Canada Daily Preview: Championship Sunday Features Halep/Haddad Maia and Hurkacz/Carreno Busta

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Hubi Hurkacz this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Sunday in Toronto, Simona Halep plays for her third title at this event.  She faces a surging 26-year-old in Beatriz Haddad Maia, who has already defeated four top 15 players this week, including world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

 

In Montreal, Hubi Hurkacz is vying for his second Masters 1000 title, after winning his first last year in Miami.  In Sunday’s championship match, he plays Pablo Carreno Busta, who at 31-years-old has reached his first Masters 1000 final in his 52nd appearance.


Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:30pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Haddad Maia is having.  She started the year ranked 83rd in the world, but with 43 match wins and three titles at all levels, she will debut inside the top 16 on Monday.  She is the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 singles final.  Beatriz credits her 2022 success to focusing on being more aggressive.  But Halep is a player who has achieved much success by absorbing her opponents’ power and using it against them.  And after a solid yet underwhelming season, Simona says her fire is back this week in Toronto.  This will be her fourth meeting with Haddad Maia, and her third this year.  She leads Beatriz 2-1, though they split their two 2022 encounters.  In a match of this magnitude, which is new territory for Haddad Maia, Halep’s experience and more consistent style make her the favorite to win her third title in Canada.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hubi’s path to this final has been a complicated one.  All four of his matches went the distance, and he even had to save a match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  Meanwhile, Pablo had advanced to his first Masters 1000 final rather decisively, only dropping one set to this stage.  Hurkacz and Carreno Busta are 1-1 at tour level, as each earned a hard court victory over the other last year.  Three of the four sets they contested were decided by tiebreaks, which is not surprising given their contrasting styles.  Hubi will look to dictate matters with his serve, while Pablo will look to extend points and force Hurkacz into long baseline rallies.   However, Hubi often doesn’t mind participating in long rallies.  As impressive as Carreno Busta’s level has been this week, Hurkacz has been the better player this season.  Hubi’s serve and powerful groundstrokes make him a slight favorite to win his second Masters 1000 crown.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez – Gauff and Pegula were finalists this year at Roland Garros.  If they win on Sunday, Gauff will become the new world No.1 in doubles, and be the youngest player to do so since Martina Hingis.  Melichar-Martinez and Perez have already defeated three seeded teams this week.

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (3) vs. Dan Evans and John Peers – Koolhof and Skupski lead the year-to-date doubles rankings, and are playing for their sixth title of the season.  This is only the second event in 2022 for Evans and Peers as a team.  Evans was also a semifinalist this week in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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