Djokovic knocks out Murray for a 8th straight US Open semis - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic knocks out Murray for a 8th straight US Open semis

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TENNIS US OPEN – Novak Djokovic (1) avenges his 2012 US Open lost to Andy Murray (8) by beating him 7-6  6-7 6-2 6-4 for an 8th consecutive US Open semifinal appearance. 

 

Novak Djokovic loves it here in New York City. He might have only won a lone US Open title back in 2011, but there is something about NYC that brings out the best in the Serbian. It is requires a near herculean effort to beat him here as he has made 4 straight finals. He faced the 2012 champion Andy Murray (8) for a place in the semifinal. A lot was riding on this match for both players as they are hungry for another title here to lessen the gap between them and the major counts of both Rafael Nadal at 14 and Roger Federer at 17. The last time Djokovic and Murray met here at the Open, Murray won in 5 sets for his 1st major title. However, this time around, it would be Djokovic who won and keep alive his chance to get a 2nd title here this year. In an over 3 and a half hour battle, Djokovic dismissed Murray 7-61 16-7 6-2 6-4 for an 8th consecutive US Open semifinal appearance.

Murray came out firing as he broke Djokovic to open the match. However, he was unable to hold his own serve as Djokovic broke back immediately to level the set. It was clear at this point that this match was going to be long no matter the scoreline. It took 22 points to decide the first two games. The first set alone took 73 minutes to be completed. “[W]hen me and Novak play against each other, you obviously see a very tight, long rallies. Both of us do a lot of running,” Murray said after the match.  Djokovic broke Murray again for a 4-1 lead but he could not maintain the lead as Murray broke back in the 7th game and held serve to level at 4-4. They held serve and went to a decisive tiebreaker where Murray barely looked present as he won only a single point. Djokovic took the lead 7-61, 1-0 set.

In the 2nd set, Djokovic again got out to an early 3-1 lead and similarly he could not hold on to it. He was broken and the se leveled at 3-3. Djokovic responded by breaking back but Murray did likewise and they remained on to force another tiebreaker. This tiebreaker was almost a near carbon copy of the 1st set’s. The initial server raced out to a 4-0 lead before the other player won a point. In this case Murray was the one leading and Djokovic would only win a single point. Murray closed out the breaker with a huge serve to the body and leveled the match at a set a piece.

In the 3rd set, Djokovic continued the pattern of breaking early in the set. However, this time around, he was able to maintain the lead avoiding break points in the 5th game. Djokovic held serve and broke again in the 8th game to take the set 6-2. Djokovic now had the upperhand and Murray seemed to be fading. He noted later on that he felt that his hips were stiff at the end of the set and perhaps fatigued played a part in it. In the 4th set, Murray began lumbering around the court, clutching his body and wincing in seemingly endless agony. He continued to play.

Djokovic said, “[I]t was difficult because … he hits a serve 125 miles and suddenly hits a 90, 95mile first serve … [I]t was pretty unpredictable. It was not enough for me to just get the return back in play, because first shot he would just hit with a lot of pace.” They remained on serve until the 10th game when Murray serving to stay in the match, down 4-5, committed four unforced errors, two on each wing. He thus sealed his faith on a 2nd straight dismissal from the US Open in the quarterfinal.  “[I]n the most important moment in 5-4 in the fourth, he made a couple of errors. I stayed in the point and that’s what brought me a win,” Djokovic surmised after the match.

Both these players were evenly matched for the most part. However, Djokovic was just a bit stronger and more solid throughout the match and particularly in the key moments. Djokovic won 67% of his 1st serve points whereas Murray won 65%. On the 2nd serve, Djokovic was 52% and Murray was 47%. The real measure showed up in the winners to errors columns. Djokovic had 46 winners and 48 errors compared to Murray with 47 winners and 65 errors. Djokovic stated, “[P]laying each other and in such a close match, you’re not gonna win it by staying back and getting balls back in the court. You are going to win it by pressuring your opponent, by hitting … angles, by coming to the net … He didn’t serve as accurately as he did in the first part of the match, so that gave me more possibilities kind of to step in.”

Djokovic will next face Kei Nishikori (10) who defeated Stan Wawrinka (3) in 5 sets 3-6 7-5 7-6 6-7 6-4. Djokovic had this to say about the Japanese player, “I think he’s playing of his life in the last 12 months … To be able to come back after winning against Raonic 2:30 am, again 5 sets, 5 sets, it’s pretty impressive. I give him credit for that. This would be their third meeting and so far they are evenly split at 1-1.

 

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Anett Kontaveit fends off two match points to win a hard–fought match against Ekaterina Alexandrova

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This year’s Palermo finalist Anett Kontaveit came back from a double break down  in the third set and faced two match points in the decisive third set to battle past Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6) in the first round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Alexandrova has won 33 of her past 39 indoor matches in the last two seasons since October 2018. The Russian player was leading 5-2 in the third set and 6-4 in the tie-break and served for the match three times. 

Alexandrova earned the first break point of the match in the third game with her backhand and converted it as Kontaveit sent her forehand into the net. Alexandrova came to within two points of taking a double break for 4-1, but Kontaveit hit two forehands to hold her service game. Kontaveit broke back at love in the sixth game and held serve to take a 4-3 lead. Alexandrova broke again in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and converted her second set point in the 10th game with a forehand wiiner. 

In the first game of the second set Alexandrova came close to converting her fourth break point with a crosscourt forehand, but a Hawkeye overrule that it had barely missed clipping the line. Kontaveit held her serve with two service winners. The 24-year-old Estonian player broke serve with a forehand winner to open up a 2-0 lead. Alexandova broke straight back in the third game. Kontaveit broke twice in the fourth and eighth games to seal the second set 6-2 with a lob. 

Alexandrova started the third set with an early break at deuce with a forehand winner down the line. The Russian player won nine consecutive points to get a double break for 4-1 with two consecutive forehand winners. At 5-2 Alexandrova wasted her first chance to serve out the win after a double fault and dropped her serve. Kontaveit pulled her second break back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5 with a forehand. Alexandrova broke again with her forehand in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead. Kontaveit broke back with a backhand return winner forcing the second set to the tie-break. Kontaveit saved two match points after Alexandrova netted her forehand on the first chance and Kontaveit hit a backhand winner on the second. Kontaveit converted her first match point with a forehand volley to set up a second round match against either Magda Linette or a qualifier. 

“I was so close to being out, so I just tried to stay in the match. I never really gave up. I tried to be a little more aggressive, when I was down. I felt maybe I had taken a little bit off my shots”, said Kontaveit. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Becomes First Greek To Reach Roland Garros Quarter-Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas made more history after beating Grigor Dimitrov at Roland Garros.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek male or female tennis player to reach the Quarter-Finals at Roland Garros with a 6-3 7-6(9) 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov.

 

Another historic milestone beckoned for Tsitsipas as he took down a spirited Dimitrov in straight sets.

It was Tsitsipas who made the quickest start as he grinded out the unforced errors from Dimitrov’s racket.

A 3-0 lead was the ideal start as his court coverage mixed with his power from the back of the court caused Dimitrov all sorts of problems.

The duo had never played before and the Bulgarian was finding it tough to battle past Tsitsipas’ defence in heavy conditions.

A lot of angles were created by both players as they looked to construct points well rather than power past their opponents.

Dimitrov was starting to figure out this solution but Tsitsipas remained firm and took the opening set 6-3, by the one break of serve.

A much more competitive second set developed as the variation between attack and defence was on show.

Dimitrov started to play smarter tennis by using the backhand slice to try and open up the court and make more consistent power off the forehand side.

This lead to more belief in Dimitrov that he could outsmart and outhit Tsitsipas in what was turning into a fascinating encounter.

A couple of half-chances came and went for Dimitrov as some clutch play from especially on the backhand saw him remain solid on serve.

A thrilling second set tiebreak would decide the second set as the Bulgarian looked to take his momentum in the tiebreak.

After losing the first three points, Dimitrov played some bold and stunning shots when up against it but was too cautious when it really mattered.

Failing to convert two set points, a forehand unforced error into the net sealed Dimitrov’s fate as he lost the second set tiebreak 10-9.

From then on it was all about Tsitsipas as he raised his level and Dimitrov’s belief, momentum and level significantly dropped.

Creating a break point on every return game, a break in the second and eighth game sealed victory in 2 and a half hours.

A stunning match from Tsitsipas, who overcame a brilliant second set from Dimitrov, to win in straight sets and become the first Greek man or Woman to reach the last eight in Paris.

Next for Tsitsipas will be a rematch from the Hamburg final as he takes on Andrey Rublev.

The Russian came back from a break down in sets two and three to beat Marton Fucsovics 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4 7-6(3) in a three hour and 58 minute battle.

When Tsitsipas and Rublev meet on Wednesday, Tsitsipas will hope to end the world number 12’s nine match winning streak.

Rublev’s last loss came against Hubert Hurkacz in Rome.

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Dominic Thiem Hails Wildcard Gaston Following French Open Thriller

The second seed narrowly avoided a shock defeat to the world No.239 in Paris on Sunday.

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US Open champion Dominic Thiem survived a roller-coaster showdown against wildcard Hugo Gaston to seal a place in the quarter-finals of the French Open for a fifth consecutive year.

 

The second seed overcame a warrior-like fightback from the world No.239 to prevail 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, after more than three hours of pulsating action. Gaston, whose best tournament result prior to Roland Garros was reaching the semi-finals of a Challenger event, pushed the Austrian to his limit with repetitive use of the drop shot.  Despite the disparity in the rankings between the two, Thiem’s winners tally was overshadowed by Gaston who hit 59 to 30.

“I think it was an amazing match from both of us,” Thiem said afterwards. “Such good fighting qualities from him and I haven’t seen for a very long time a player with such a big touch with his hands.’
“His drop shots are from another planet. I was sprinting like 400 times to the net, all the credit to him. If he continues like this he is going to be a huge player.”

Initially it looked as if the match would be a one-sided Thiem victory as he eased to a two-set lead. However Roland Garros debutant Gaston refused to go away in what was an epic comeback that electrified the crowd on the premier court in Paris. In the end it would be a single break in the eigth game of the decider that would separate the two. A failed Gaston drop shot granted Thiem the break to move ahead 5-3 and serve the match out. A task he managed to achieve with the help of a body serve that his opponent returned into the net on match point. 

“I think I missed one break point at two sets to love up and four-all. It was an easy forehand mistake and from that point it changed a little bit,” Thiem reflected. “I was losing a bit of energy and Hugo was playing amazing with his drop shots. I couldn’t find a right answer to that.’
“Then in the fifth set I found a new energy and was playing good again. It was a great fight until the end. I am very lucky I made it through today.”

Overall Thiem won just 11 points more than the Frenchman (158-147) and crucially saved ten out of the 13 break points he faced. It is the tenth time he has won a five-set match in his career and second within as many months. At the US Open he came back from two sets down to defeat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final.

Thiem’s reward is a showdown with Diego Schwzrtzman who enjoyed a much smoother entry into the quarter-finals. The Argentine dismissed Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.

“It’s all about recovery now. I’ve had a tough past few weeks and today was three-and-a-half hours with a lot of sprinting and running,” the 27-year-old stated.
“Against Diego there are going to be some long rallies. I think he likes these conditions, a bit slower and not such a high bounce. I am looking forward to the match but it is going t be difficult.”

Thiem leads Schwzrtzman 6-2 in their head-to-head. 

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