US Open: Marin Cilic wins his first major in magnificent fashion - UBITENNIS
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US Open: Marin Cilic wins his first major in magnificent fashion

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TENNIS US OPEN – Few had Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals and fewer still had either of them in the semifinals. However, none had them pegged to be in the final together competing for a major title. The Croat won it in straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-3. Form New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

When considering the 2014 US Open championships and the concluding event, the men’s singles championships, an old adage comes to mind, “The game is won and lost on the field and not on paper.” Few had Kei Nishikori (10) and Marin Cilic (14) in the quarterfinals and fewer still had either of them in the semifinals. However, none had them pegged to be in the final together competing for a major title.

They both showed great form at this tournament after no real success at any of the warmup tournaments coming into this event. Now, one of them was going to get a major credit to his name.This was an even split between most pundits, very little to separate these two for a clear winner. Nonetheless, Cilic distinguished himself yet again to be above all before him, displaying consistent superior tennis. This was the man who dismantled the game of Roger Federer, the hottest men’s player this summer in the semifinal. Therefore, Nishikori stood little chance against the might of Marin as the Croat took it in straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-3.

“[S]eems completely unreal to be called Grand Slam champion. I was dreaming about this all my life, and suddenly last four, five days everything started to change … [I]t means everything. It’s just a huge accomplishment and huge moment for myself and for my team and for everybody around me who was with me all these years supporting me, believing in me and never giving up. So this is just the peak of the world.” Cilic said after the match.

Cilic served to open the match and fought off a break point which was perhaps due more to nerves than anything else. He quickly swatted this away with a forehand winner and closed out the game with a service winner. Nishikori also had to avoid trouble in his opening service game as he had to dig himself out of a love-30 hole to remain on serve. They remained on serve for the first 5 games of the match but it was clear that Cilic was having a far easier time on serve than Nishikori. The Croat would drop only 4 points on serve in the set. Cilic seized the opportunity to break in the 6th game earning himself triple break points as Nishikori played an erratic service game. The Japanese was able to save two with monster serves but on the 3rd point, Cilic got his racquet on another monster serve for the return and rallied his way to the break when Nishikori’s forehand floated wide. With this 4-2 lead, Cilic rode this momentum to take the set 6-3 in 33 minutes.

Nishikori is known for his languid style of tennis; very laidback and no histrionics on the court. This is very much a product of working with Michael Chang. Conserving energy on court and using explosive speed around the court with precision and efficient power were all fundamental to the Chang game. It had definitely proved itself an excellent strategy having taken out Milos Raonic (5), Stan Wawrinka (3) and Novak Djokovic (1) in that order at this tournament en route to the final. However, this game plan did not seem practical against the aggressive style of play from Cilic. Once Cilic gets a slight lead, he maintains it and then opens insurmountable gap.

Nishikori had no breathing space in the match as Cilic was relentless in his pursuit for his first major title. Cilic broke Nishikori in 3rd and 7th game of the 2nd set to lead 5-2. Serving for the set, Cilic was broken and Nishikori was serving to stay in the set. However, this momentum shift did not last long with Nishikori as he remained erratic on serve. Cilic had set point and played a magnificent forehand down the line for the set 6-3. Nishikori later stated, “[H]e served great and very aggressive, you know, both forehand, backhand.”

Down two sets to love, Nishikori had a chance to grab the early lead in the 3rd set. He was attacking the Cilic serve as the Croat found himself struggling to hold serve after being up 40-0. However, Nishikori was unable to get the break and perhaps at this point, he knew that he would also be unable to get the title. The listless walking around the court was not some ploy by Nishikori to lull his opponent into some mistaken belief that he could not get to shots. It was the real deal. Nishikori had run out of steam.

“[P]lay two five sets and another three hours, two hours against Novak. And now I’m here with you – my body is heavy still,” Nishikori said.  Cilic broke Nishikori for the 5th time in the match for a 3-1 lead. There was no coming back from this break as Cilic served out the match with a backhand winner, 6-3 6-3 6-3 in just under two hours.

The numbers are not pretty for Nishikori. He was simply outplayed, outmatched and outdone by a superior opponent. Everything was working in Cilic’s favour on the day. Cilic had 17 aces including 4 in one service game to hold at love. Nishikori only had 2 for the entire match. Cilic won 80% of his 1st serve points and 61% on his 2nd serve compared to Nishikori with 55% on his 1st serves and 55% on his 2nd serves. Cilic had 38 winners whereas Nishikori had only 19. Nishikori had 9 chances to break the Cilic serve, which is remarkable considering that Federer only had two chances to break in the semifinal and Tomas Berdych (6) had only 4. However, Nishikori could only capitalize once on those opportunities.

It seems as though players underestimated Cilic because he was able to put together some unbelievable tennis these two weeks in particular this last four matches being guys who all have winning records against him. They were all playing the Cilic of old but Federer noted that there is a difference to the Cilic at this year’s US Open, “I feel like he’s cleaned up his return game to the some degree. I think he’s serving much more consistent throughout an entire match and entire tournament; whereas before he could have a good day, bad day, good set, bad set.”

Cilic’s win is big news in the tennis world but absolutely huge for the country of Croatia. This is only its second major winner, with the first being Goran Ivanisevic back in 2001 Wimbledon. Ivanisevic happens to be the coach of Cilic. He spoke about the influence of Ivanisevic to his tennis, “Goran in his day was I feel, and by most of the guys were saying, he was athletically and physically best player in shape. And he was absolutely ready for everything. We worked a lot on that. I felt that helped me to gain some, you know, extra steps in my game. With everything, that helped me to become better … He brought just, in the team, very relaxed atmosphere, besides extremely huge knowledge. The help he brought to me, I feel that the fun is the best spice of everything, that I think collects all the other pieces together. I mean, every day with him is extremely fun.”

Coming back from drug suspension last year, there will undoubtedly be awkward questions, whispers and smirks attached to this win by Cilic. However, Federer spoke of this matter in his press conference after his loss to Cilic and it is worth noting, “I truly believed that didn’t do anything wrong in the sense that he did it on purpose … I feel like I know him well enough and I don’t think he would ever do it … [W]hen I see him it doesn’t cross my mind in any way … I think he was becoming the player he is already way before that.”

For Cilic, all thoughts of that unfortunate episode is behind him as he constantly noted that he worked extremely hard to return to the top ranks of the game and how this win means so much to him. He is also aware of the fact that his win might not just be anomaly in the era of the “Big 4” (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray) “I feel it’s gonna definitely be much bigger competition from next year. I feel the guys at the top are gonna pull the other guys, too. I think the game of tennis is definitely going to evolve much more.” With this win, Cilic is now back in the top 10 at number 9 equaling his highest career singles ranking.

 

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Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match

Following his first round defeat, the Brit spoke about why he believes it is important to speak out in support of the LGBT community.

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Image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/

It is sometimes the small gestures which go a long way and Liam Broady showed that during his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

Taking to the John Cain Arena for his night-time clash against Nick Kyrgios, the qualifier embarked upon a situation he had never experienced before with a boisterous crowd cheering on their home player. At times the atmosphere resembled that a football match with fans drinking beer and chanting Christiano Roinaldo’s ‘siu’ celebration. The reason as to why they were doing that particular chant was unclear.

Broady ended up falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, to Kyrgios who will next play the formidable Daniil Medvedev. Throughout the match the world No.128 was wearing rainbow laces and he did so for a special reason.

“I just kind of wanted to send the support. I know obviously within men’s tennis — is it a taboo? I don’t think it’s really a taboo, but I’ve seen questions before about why there aren’t any openly gay men on the tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area,” Broady explained during his press conference.
“And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you in my own sort of way.”

The Rainbow Laces initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League before later expanding into other sports. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport.

https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/1483379917337534465

Tennis is renowned for having some of the most formidable LGBT athletes over the years with the likes of pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who were among some of the first to speak openly about their sexuality. However, on the men’s Tour it is somewhat different. There are currently no openly gay players and only a small handful in the past. Although most of those players, such as Brian Vahaly, came out after retiring from the sport.

“I saw that the first openly gay footballer just came out in Australia (Josh Cavallo) a month or two ago. And it’s difficult, right? I mean, it’s a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it’s pretty rubbish that people don’t feel like they can be openly gay. It’s quite sad, really,” Broady continued.
“Hopefully I will help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and you kind of, you don’t want to force them to come out, you know, especially if they don’t want to. It’s their choice.’
“So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything’s okay.”

It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out about LGBT rights. In 2018 he criticized Margaret Court who likened gay-rights activists to Adolf Hitlef in terms of what she claims is ‘propaganda.’ Court has a history of making anti-LGBT remarks despite insisting that she has nothing against gay people.

Broady says he doesn’t personally know of any gay player on the Tour. Although if there was, he assumed that it would be known because the sport is a ‘pretty leaky ship’ when it comes to having private details revealed online.

On Monday the Australian Open will launch their first ever Pride Day at the tournament.

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Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned

Busta has booked his place in the second round at Melbourne Park for the sixth year in a row.

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Pablo Carreno Busta - image via https://twitter.com/SuperTennisTv/

On day one of the Australian Open, Spanish ace Pablo Carreno Busta sealed an efficient straight-sets win to take his place in the second round.

 

The Spaniard was no match for Argentinian qualifier Tomas Etcheverry coming through 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

The 30-year-old from Giron sailed through the opening set that included two breaks in the fourth and sixth game.

Etcheverry, who won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, improved in the second set.

However, it wasn’t enough as Carreno-Busta flicked through the gears breaking his younger opponent in the third and seventh game to seal the set.

In the third, the 2017 and 2020 US Open semi-finalist took an early break of serve, only to be pegged back by Etcheverry who forced a tie-break.

It wasn’t to be for the 22-year-old though as Carreno-Busta turned up the heat with some big groundstrokes to move into round two.

Next up for the world number 21 is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor who thrashed a poor Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

The out of sorts Italian was beaten 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Having lost in the first round of the US Open in September, the former world number world number is nine is in danger of slipping outside the top 40.

Having shown much promise to win a first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo back in 2019, the husband of former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, looks desperately short of motivation and confidence.

Fognini is yet to go beyond the fourth-round of a major, and at 34 time is running out for him to mine the potential that made him one of the sports best juniors growing up alongside Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Elsewhere, former Australian Open star Lucas Pouille, was knocked out in round one by fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet.

Wildcard Pouille has endured a glut of injuries since making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago.

The 27-year-old has now fallen to 159 in the world. 

Pouille made a bright start to take the opening set 6-3, but his lack of fitness and confidence soon showed, as he lost the following sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Czech Jiri Vesley, also slumped out to American wildcard Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

He will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini next.

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Cameron Norrie Puzzled By Australian Open Defeat

It was a bad day at the office for the British number one.

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Cameron Norrie ad Indian Wells 2021 (Credits: @BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Cameron Norrie is finding it hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for him in his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

The 12th seed could only win seven games against Sebastian Korda as he crashed out 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, after just over 100 minutes of play. It is the third time in four appearances that Norrie has fallen in the first round at Melbourne Park but last year he did manage to reach the third round. Against his American rival, he hit 29 unforced errors compared to 23 winners and was broken five times.

I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and I was just slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.’
“Any time I had a chance to kind of come back, he (Korda) served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in any big points today.”

It has been a far from smooth start to 2022 for the 26-year-old who also suffered disappointment at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In the team tournament he lost all three of his singles matches to Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Zverev is the only one of the trio currently ranked higher than him.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Norrie’s latest defeat is the fact he seemed perplexed about why he played the way he did. Asked by one journalist if he was possibly suffering any lingering affects from catching COVID-19 during the festive period he replied ‘No, I think I prepared as well as I can, and I felt fine physically, fine mentally.’

Norrie was one of the breakthrough stars last year on the ATP Tour when he raced up the world rankings. He featured in six Tour finals across three different surfaces and won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The stellar season earned him a place at the ATP Finals as a reserve and he even played two matches following the withdrawal of Stefanos Tsitsipas due to injury.

“I don’t know why I played the way I did today. I was feeling good physically,” he said. “Yeah, I played a lot of matches (last year) but this is what we (tennis players) are paid to do and just not good enough. I just need to raise my standards, practice, matches, and execute a lot better.”

Of course, credit has to be given to Korda, who is making his debut at Melbourne Park. The American had a far from ideal preparation for the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 which forced him to withdraw from two warm-up events.

21-year-old Korda has now beaten a top 20 player on six separate occasions. He will play France’s Corentin Moutet in the second round.

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