Federer v Monfils in the Open quarters - UBITENNIS
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Federer v Monfils in the Open quarters

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The last of the Round of 16 matchups were quite exciting as they provided a nice mix of styles and a lot of great tennis for fans. Roger Federer (2) continued his domination of Spanish players not named Rafael Nadal as he overcame the tough charge from Roberto Bautista-Agut (17) in straight sets 6-4 6-3 6-2. Gael Monfils (20) is again striking the balance between great tennis and mental stability on court as he upset Grigor Dimitrov (7) also in straight set 7-5 7-6 7-5.

 

Federer and Monfils will play each other for a 8th time with Federer leading the head-to-head 5-2 but they have been 2-2 in their last four meetings. Interestingly enough, the only major they have met is at the French Open where Federer has a 3-0 record. Federer described Monfils, “[H]e’s got easy top 10 potential, you know. He’s a great mover. He’s got a wonderful serve, really, which nobody really talks about because of his athletic movement which stands out so much, you know. His issues have really been just his fitness and his setbacks he’s had because of injury. Then sometimes, you know, maybe not wanting to play sometimes because of reasons only he can explain.”

In order to face Monfils, Federer had to first get past Bautista-Agut who he was playing for the first time. Federer was aware of the challenges that the Spaniard provided as he noted that “He hasn’t got the biggest game but he’s consistent. He’s fast. He can adapt. So he’s got things that can make you feel uncomfortable, I must say. He can absorb pace well.” However, Federer seemed well adept to handling him as he raced out to a 5-2 lead. Things got complicated somewhat as Federer was broken serving for the set. He regained his focus and took it 6-4 in 43 minutes. In the 2nd set, Federer again broke early for a 3-1 lead. He saved break point on his serve as he continued to press the issue going for his shots particularly up at net. He closed out the set at 6-3. In the 3rd set, with both the crowd and momentum clearly in his favour, Federer broke Bautista-Agut twice to win the match 6-4 6-3 6-2 in near two hours.

What was most impressive about the match from Federer was his willingness to come forward. He was up at net 52 times and won the point on 32 of those occasions. His serving was not at its best but it was working well enough. He only got 57% of his first serves in, winning 78% of those points with a measly 51% on his 2nd serve. He had 36 winners and 25 errors which included 8 aces and 5 double faults.

Monfils too had a straight sets victory but it was far from routine against Dimitrov. Monfils has been playing spectacular tennis throughout this tournament particularly in the 3rd round when he defeated 12th seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets. Monfils took on Dimitrov for the 3rd time in their career, 2nd time at the US Open. From the beginning of the match it was clear that Monfils came out to play serious tennis. Always accused of being distracted on court, Monfils played a complete and focused match. He secured the crucial break in the 11th game of the 1st set and served it out for 7-5. Dimitrov was not making it easy for Monfils but in the big moments, the Bulgarian was unable to step up his game to gain the momentum. He broke for a 4-2 lead in the 2nd set but was broken in the 8th game to level the set. Things were pushed to a decisive tiebreaker where despite leading 6-3 points, Dimitrov allowed Monfils to fight his way back into it and take it 8-6 points and with it a 2-0 sets lead.

In the 3rd set, Dimitrov failed to convert on two break opportunities. They remained on serve until the 12th game when Dimitrov was serving to push the set into a tiebreaker. On match point, the only break point chance that Monfils saw in the set, Dimitrov double faulted to hand Monfils the win in straight sets, 7-5 7-6 7-5. “[I]t was a very poor match for me … Didn’t play as close to the way I wanted to, and I think it was a great stage for me to come out on there on the center court and perform my best … Of course I have to give credit to Gaël that he played a really good match, but I also did a lot of unforced errors and that cost a lot. 6-3 in the tiebreak, I had all odds on me. And it was just poor shot selection. Eventually I didn’t execute at the right time.”

There was not much to separate the two in this match and as Monfils mentioned that it was partially luck that saw him through this match. “I’m happy I think because I played good. I think I played solid. I think I hit better the ball day after day; served better. I keep like simple thing in my head, so obviously is working. Then it’s luck. To be honest, look at set point. I hit one of the worst dropshots I ever hit and he hit a frame. It’s pure luck, you know, to haven’t drop a set. So you need to have it sometime, and I hope I will have more.”

Monfils went on to speak about playing Federer, “[H]e’s definitely the legend of the tennis, you know. I think right now he’s the greatest tennis player we ever had, and for me it’s always challenging to play against him … I think I play tennis for, to play against a big legend, big court, show time. That’s what I train for. That’s why every day I wake up and I wish I could play those matches” Monfils along with Djokovic are the only players in the men’s quarterfinals who have not dropped a set en route to this stage.

ATP

Alexander Bublik reaches his third career semifinal with win over Denis Shapovalov in Marseille

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Alexander Bublik reached the third ATP Tour semifinal of his career after beating Canadian Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov 7-5 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Bublik fended off a total of four break points in the first set, including three chances from 0-40, got the break in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5, when Shapovalov hit a forehand volley wide at 30-40 after 45 minutes.

Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Bublik did not convert three break points at 3-2, when he hit a forehand into the net on his first break point chance. Shapovalov broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead with a drop shot and wrapped up the second set with his third ace.

Bublik opened up a 2-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Shapovalov broke straight back in the third game. Bublik got another break lead in the eighth lead at 15, when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide. Bublik sealed the win with a hold at love.

“He is a great player and serve. It was our first match, but I have known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I am very happy”,said Bublik.

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ATP

Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe and Ugo Humbert reach the quarter final in Delray Beach

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Milos Raonic hit 11 aces and saved the three break points he faced to beat German Cedrik Marcel Stebe 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 36 minutes reaching the quarter final at the Delray Beach, an ATP Tour 250 tournament.

 

Raonic earned a break in each set. Stebe earned a break point in the ninth game with a forehand down the line, but Raonic saved it with a forehand. Raonic faced two more break points in the 11th game, but Raonic saved them with service winners. Raonic earned a break with a forehand down the line winner in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5. Raonicwon four consecutive points on return to earn a break and closed out the match 6-3 with a hold of serve.

“I got lucky through that first set and then I tried to be a bit more aggressive, create more things and that put a bit more pressure on him. It opened up the match for me a bit more”, said Raonic.

Raonic set up a quarter final against Steve Johnson, who edged past his compatriot Jack Sock 6-4 5-7 6-1 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach his first quarter final at ATP Tour level in six months. Johnson came back from losing the second set by racing out to a 5-0 lead.

“This is just one of those tournaments where you feel comfortable coming back every year. It’s great to see Sock back. I thought he played a really good second set and I just got bit of a momentum in the third set”, said Johnson.

French Next Gen player Ugo Humbert edged Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 42 minutes to reach his third quarter final in 2020. Humbert fended off eight of the ten break points he faced and earned three breaks to win the last four games of the first set from 2-4 down. Humbert broke Kecmanovic, as the Serbian player was serving for the second set at 6-5. The Frenchman saved a set point and came back from 5-6 down by winning the final three points of the tie-break to clinch the win after 1 hour and 43 minutes. Humbert has improved his win-loss record this year to 8-3.

“It’s always tough to play against Miomir, because he is a great player. He always plays at a high level. I lost to him last week and I was a little bit stressed before the match, so I am very happy to get the win today. You have to enjoy the victory because it’s not easy every week. Winning in Auckland gave me a lot of confidence. I beat some great players, but I have to continue my improvement every day”,said Humbert.

Humbert will face US player Frances Tiafoe, who battled past Tommy Paul 7-5 7-6 (7-4). Both players stayed neck and neck in the first set until the 11th game when Tiafoe earned a break with a return winner. He served out the set 7-5 with a service winner in the 12th game.

Paul earned a break in the sixth game, but he dropped his serve, while he serving for the set at 5-3. Tiafoe closed out the match with a backhand crosscourt winner at 6-4 in the tie-break.

“It’s never easy playing a good friend. It’s awkward, but I thought it was a pretty good match overall. My forehand was definitely on, so that helped. I am starting to play good tennis again and just competing hard in every match”,said Tiafoe.  

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Simona Halep rallies from one set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka in Dubai

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Simona Halep came back from one set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 6-2 6-2 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in one hour and 35 minutes to advance to the semifinals in Dubai one day after saving a match point against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

 

Halep earned her third win in four head-to-head matches against Sabalenka.

Halep broke in the second game of the second set to take a 2-0 lead, but Sabalenka broke straight back in the next game. Halep broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and never faced any break point in the next games.

Halep earned a break in the fourth game of the decider and backed it up to open up a 4-1 lead. The 2019 Wimbledon champion was taken to deuce once in her last eight service games of the match.

“I think I started to play a little bit stronger in the second set and find rhythm. It’s always tough to play against her because she is very strong and hits the ball really hard, so I had to play faster, be quicker on court and give everything I had to win”, said Halep.

Halep will face US qualifier Jennifer Brady, who clinched a win against a top 20 player for the third consecutive year by beating this year’s Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4. Brady has reached her third WTA semifinal and the first at Premier level.

Muguruza earned a break point with a forehand winner, as Brady was serving for the set. Brady was broken, when she hit two consecutive forehands into the net. Muguruza rallied from 1-3 to draw level to 5-5 and earned her first set point. The Spaniard sealed the tie-break, as Brady sent her backhand long.

Muguruza earned a break point in the sixth game with a backhand winner. Brady saved the break point with a forehand crosscourt winner and held serve with a backhand winner down the line. Brady broke serve to take a 4-3, as Muguruza made two forehand errors and hit two double faults. Muguruza dropped her serve again with another double fault.

Both players held serve in the first nine games of the third set. Muguruza held three break points in the third game, but Brady saved them with a backhand crosscourt winner. Brady sealed the win with a break on her second match point, as Muguruza sent a backhand long.

 

 

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