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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Updated Entry Lists For Eastbourne, Mallorca

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Photo by mallorca-championships.com

Two ATP 250 events will be played on grass before Wimbledon, with a new tournament taking place in Mallorca (Spain).

 

The third week of the shortened grass-court season will see two ATP 250 events being played in Eastbourne (Great Britain) and Mallorca (Spain) from the 20th to the 26th of June. Eastbourne has been hosting a grass-court tournament since 2009, when it took the place of Nottingham in the ATP Tour’s calendar, while the Mallorca Championships is a new event.

World’s number one Novak Djokovic plans to play doubles in Mallorca, while Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev have received a Wild-Card in the singles draw. The defending champion Taylor Fritz has withdrawn from Eastbourne due to injury.


ATP 250 Eastbourne (GBR, Grass), entry list:
Monfils, Gael (FRA)
De Minaur, Alex (AUS)
OUT Wawrinka, Stan (SUI)
Karatsev, Aslan (RUS)
Sonego, Lorenzo (ITA)
Basilashvili, Nikoloz (GEO)
OUT Fritz, Taylor (USA)
Opelka, Reilly (USA)
Davidovich Fokina, Alejandro (ESP)
Ramos-Vinolas, Albert (ESP)
Bublik, Alexander (KAZ)
OUT Paire, Benoit (FRA)
OUT Krajinovic, Filip (SRB)

Norrie, Cameron (GBR)
Millman, John (AUS)
Fucsovics, Marton (HUN)
OUT Cilic, Marin (CRO)
Djere, Laslo (SRB)
(SE)
(SE)
(WC)
(WC)
(WC)
Alternates:
IN Bedene, Aljaz (SLO)
IN Koepfer, Dominik (GER)
IN Nishioka, Yoshihito (JPN)
IN Popyrin, Alexei (AUS)
IN Pospisil, Vasek (CAN)

Alt.1 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA)
Alt.2 Tiafoe, Frances (USA)
Alt.3 Ruusuvuori, Emil (FIN)


ATP 250 Eastbourne (GBR, Grass), qualifying:
Tiafoe, Frances (USA)
Ruusuvuori, Emil (FIN)
Gerasimov, Egor (BLR)
Kwon, Soonwoo (KOR)
Herbert, Pierre-Hugues (FRA)
Gombos, Norbert (SVK)
Ivashka, Ilya (BLR)
Seppi, Andreas (ITA)
Duckworth, James (AUS)
Bagnis, Facundo (ARG)
Ymer, Mikael (SWE)
Anderson, Kevin (RSA)
Kukushkin, Mikhail (KAZ)
Kuzmanov, Dimitar (BUL)
(WC)
(WC)
Alternates:
Alt.1 Mahut, Nicolas (FRA)
Alt.2 Viola, Matteo (ITA)
Alt.3 Klein, Lukas (SVK)



ATP 250 Mallorca (ESP, Grass):
Carreno Busta, Pablo (ESP)
Ruud, Casper (NOR)
Khachanov, Karen (RUS)
Humbert, Ugo (FRA)
Lajovic, Dusan (SRB)
Mannarino, Adrian (FRA)
Struff, Jan-Lennard (GER)
Kecmanovic, Miomir (SRB)
Harris, Lloyd (RSA)
OUT Delbonis, Federico (ARG)
OUT Kyrgios, Nick (AUS)
OUT Chardy, Jeremy (FRA)

Pella, Guido (ARG)
Querrey, Sam (USA)
Lopez, Feliciano (ESP)
Sandgren, Tennys (USA)
Andujar, Pablo (ESP)
Simon, Gilles (FRA)
Thompson, Jordan (AUS)
(SE)
(SE)
WC Medvedev, Daniil (RUS)
WC Thiem, Dominic (AUT)
(WC)
Alternates:
IN Vesely, Jiri (CZE)
IN Moutet, Corentin (FRA)
IN Travaglia, Stefano (ITA)

Alt.1 Munar, Jaume (ESP)
Alt.2 Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
Alt.3 Giron, Marcos (USA)


ATP 250 Mallorca (ESP, Grass), qualifying:
Munar, Jaume (ESP)
Mager, Gianluca (ITA)
Cuevas, Pablo (URU)
Albot, Radu (MDA)
Pouille, Lucas (FRA)
Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
Hanfmann, Yannick (GER)
Carballes Baena, Roberto (ESP)
Martinez, Pedro (ESP)
Sousa, Joao (POR)
Galan, Daniel Elahi (COL)
Istomin, Denis (UZB)
Bachinger, Matthias (GER)
Kuhn, Nicola (ESP)
(WC)
(WC)
Alternates:
Alt.1 Viola, Matteo (ITA)
Alt.2 Watanuki, Yosuke (JPN)
Alt.3 Klein, Lukas (SVK)

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Dominic Thiem Signs Up To New Athlete Management Agency Launched By Kosmos

The world No.5 has become the first athlete to ever be represented by Kosmos.

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Dominic Thiem says he is ‘proud’ to be joining a new agency that has been launched by Kosmos which specialises in athlete management.

 

Kosmos, which was founded by Barcelona F.C star Gerard Pique, says their venture is aimed at supporting those in the world of sport. In a statement issued on Thursday, their objective is to provide ‘comprehensive service to athletes where, in addition to representation, commercial and public relations, it will also provide sports, legal and financial advice.’ The new division will be headed by Galo Blanco who is a former player and coach. Blanco previously served as the Competition Director of Kosmos.

“We are very excited about this project. Many people who have been linked to sport for many years and specialise in different key areas in the development of an athlete’s career work at Kosmos. We know what is important for the active player and for their future, because many of us are or have been professional players,” says Gerard Piqué, President of Kosmos.

27-year-old Thiem is the first athlete to have signed up to the agency. Coincidentally the Austrian was co-coached by Blanco on the Tour between 2017-2018. Blanco ended their collaboration in order to focus on the redevelopment of the Davis Cup. Thiem is now coached on the Tour by Nicolas Massu, as well as his father Wolfgang.

“I am very happy that Galo is part of the team again. He has been very close to me and my family, even when he stopped being my coach,” said Thiem.
“The season has not started as I would have liked, I am working very hard to get back to the level of the end of 2020, and adding Galo and the rest of the Kosmos team can bring a lot of positive things.”

Kosmos has become a growingly influential business in tennis since its launch. The company are the financial masterminds behind transforming the Davis Cup and have pledged to invest $3bn into the competition over a 25-year period.

This year’s Davis Cup finals have been spread across three cities in Madrid, Innsbruck and Turin over 11 days. Pique said the decision to use multiple cities is to prevent late-night finishes in the competition which was a problem back in 2019. Two year’s ago, Italy’s clash with the USA concluded at 4am.

“Some of the matches ended very late, so we made the decision to go to other cities and to play in 11 days instead of seven,” he said at the event’s official launch earlier this year. “The event has been evolving, maturing.”

Albert Costa, who is currently the Davis Cup Finals Director, will also take on the role of Competition Director for Kosmos.

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Uncle Toni Backs Rafael Nadal To Win 21st Grand Slam Title Before Season Ends

Nadal’s former mentor also explains why he was hoping Novak Djokovic would lose in the French Open final.

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The former coach of Rafael Nadal says he remains confident that he will win another major title in 2021 despite losing in the semifinals of the French Open.

 

Toni Nadal, who is Nadal’s uncle that introduced him to the sport at a young age, says he is ‘maintaining confidence’ that the Spaniard can achieve more major glory. The king of clay is currently tied with Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam titles won by a male singles player, which is 20. Although Novak Djokovic is now on 19 and could possibly overtake his two rivals this year should he achieve a calendar Grand Slam.

It was Djokovic who knocked Nadal out of the French Open after prevailling in four sets during their semi-final encounter. The Serbian has become the first player in history to have beaten him at the tournament on multiple occasions.

“We saw a good game and a denouement that brings Novak dangerously close to Federer and Rafael, in their struggle to close their respective careers as the greatest conqueror of Grand Slam titles,” Toni wrote for El Pais. “The next two tournaments, Wimbledon and the US Open, will probably be decisive in unveiling it. I would not dare to venture conclusions, but I do dare to maintain the confidence that it is my nephew who raises one of the two.”

Nadal is a two-time Wimbledon champion but he hasn’t lifted the trophy since 2010 and it has been a decade since he reached the final. At the US Open he has enjoyed more success by winning four titles, including two out of the past four times. He missed the US Open last year due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his column the 60-year-old admitted that he was hoping Djokovic would lose the French Open final to Stefanos Tsitsipas because it ‘would help alleviate’ his nephew’s disappointment. In the title match the world No.1 battled back from two sets down to clinch the title. Becoming the first man in the Open Era to have won every major tournament at least twice.

“The only thing that could have somewhat alleviated the disappointment over Rafael’s defeat in his Roland Garros semi-final match against Novak Djokovic would have been that he was defeated in the final by Stefanos Tsitsipas,” he wrote.
“Throughout these last two weeks of competition I was telling my children. The player that I saw as most capable of beating the Serbian on clay if the opportunity arose, apart from my nephew, of course, was precisely the Greek. And for much of the meeting I held out hope that it would happen.”

Nadal is currently back home in Manacor where he attended the graduation ceremony of his academy on Wednesday. He is not expected to play in any tournament leading up to Wimbledon which will begin a week Monday.

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