Nishikori takes down the juggernaut Djokovic for first major final - UBITENNIS
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Nishikori takes down the juggernaut Djokovic for first major final

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There are upsets in the tennis world and then there are tectonic shifts. That Kei Nishikori (10) coming off back-to-back 5-set matches beat Novak Djokovic (1) was no upset; this was a tectonic shift in the tennis world. No one doubted Nishikori’s ability to hang with the big guys but as Roger Federer noted, one “[j]ust wasn’t quite sure that in a best-of-five-set-tournament if he could get all the way to the back end of the tournament.” Well he has made it to the final of his first ever major having beat Djokovic 6-4 1-6 7-6 6-3 in near 3 hours. “I was playing really well and really aggressive … Even the opponent is, you know, Novak, I was playing my tennis,” Nishikori said after the match.

 

Nishikori started off the match with an aggressive stance. He knew that he could not win this match being passive. He broke Djokovic in the 3rd game of the match but was unable to consolidate the break. They remained on serve through to the 7th game when Nishikori broke again for a 4-3. This time, he was able to hold serve for 5-3. Djokovic seemed content to stay back and allow his opponent to dictate the points. Nishikori seized this opportunity and served out it out 6-4 and took the early lead. This momentum did not follow Nishikori into the 2nd set as Djokovic morphed into an entirely different player. His levels began to rise and Nishikori could not keep up. Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead and again for 5-1 to serve for the set. Djokovic closed out the set 6-1 to level the match.

In the 3rd set, Nishikori fought off 4 early break points to remain on serve. However, unlike the 1st set, the Japanese player was not getting a look on Djokovic’s serve. Djokovic was having an easy time on serve. However, in the 8th game, down 3-4, Djokovic opened his service game with a double fault, revealing a slight chink in his amour. Nishikori was now more alert on the court knowing that a break here would give him the chance to serve for the 3rd set. At 30-30, Nishikori fully unleashed on a backhand crosscourt to give himself a break point then followed that up with a monster forehand return winner for the break and 5-3.

Nishikori’s troubles with consolidating breaks continued as he was broken once again serving for the 3rd set when he double faulted on break point. Nishikori began managing his movement and energy on court. He was conserving his powers for the big moments in the match and allowed Djokovic to spend his effort trying to rally the crowd. Both players held serve to force a tiebreaker where Nishikori immediately raced out a 4-0 lead. With the lead in hand, Nishikori grew cautious on his shots allowing Djokovic to get back into the thick of things. Up 5-3 Nishikori double faulted again to reduce his lead to 5-4. This was where you expected Djokovic to raise his level to unplayable as Nishikori was not as assertive as he was in the beginning of the match. Instead, Djokovic committed two wild forehand errors to hand Nishikori the breaker and with it a 2-1 sets lead 6-4 1-6 7-64. “I was winning 4-0 and he came back … very close game. But you know, that helped after winning third set,” Nishikori said.

Nishikori took the momentum into the 4th set as he broke Djokovic in his opening service game. Serving for a 2-0 lead, Nishikori found himself down triple break points. However, this time around, he was able to hold as he came up with some big plays and shots to keep Djokovic at bay. This was perhaps the crucial point in the match as it was now or never for Djokovic. This is usually the point in these big matches where he raises his game and steals the momentum from the other player. Twice in the semifinals back in 2010 and 2011, he saved match points against Federer. However, such heroics never took place on this day. Those three squandered break points from Djokovic, in essence broke him. Djokovic never found his way back into the match. “Other than that second set, my game today was not even close to what I wanted it to be. A lot of unforced errors, a lot of short balls. Just wasn’t myself.”

At 3-5, Djokovic, serving to stay in the match, Nishikori shrugged off his lackadaisical stance and looked ready to break the 2011 champion for the match. He picked up his level and had Djokovic on the defensive. With a backhand winner, he secured two match points. Djokovic saved one but again his forehand failed him at this critical point when it sailed well long. Kei Nishikori secured the win, 6-4 1-6 7-64 6-3 and becomes the first Japanese player to reach the final of a major.

Djokovic assessed Nishikori’s performace by saying, “He played some great tennis. I congratulate him for the effort … His backhand is very solid. One of the best double-handed backhands from all over the court. Really aggressive. He’s very quick so he gets a lot of balls back. Uses every short ball to attack.” The numbers for this match tell a very interesting tale, Djokovic made 59% of his 1st serves compared to 58% from Nishikori. The Serbian won 80% of those points but a poor 37% on his 2nd serve. Nishikori won 67% of his 1st serve points and 50% on his 2nd serve. They had similar numbers in the winners to errors category with Djokovic at 38 winners and 35 errors and Nishikori at 37 winners and 34 errors.

Djokovic was not able to get a real edge on Nishikori as the Japanese was sticking to him very closely. It was Djokovic who was being forced to go for more on his shots and the margins for errors very small. As Nishikori later noted, “Everything was worked well today.” Djokovic had 13 break point opportunities but only converted 4 of them. Nishikori on the other hand converted 5/7 break chances. Since teaming up with Michael Chang, Nishikori has shown even more potential to be one of the top players on tour. He has played the top guys very hard this year and even more this tournament, taking out Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic en route to the final. No matter who he faces, Nishikori clearly has a great chance to win his first major title.

ATP

Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the doubles tournament in London

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Former ATP Finals champions Jean Julien Rojer from the Netherlands and Horia Tecau from Romania beat 2019 year-end number 1 team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-2 5-7 10-8 after 90 minutes in Max Mirnyi Group of the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London.

 

Tecau broke serve with a backhand crosscourt winner to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set. The Romanian player went up a double break with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-2 to seal the opening set after 28 minutes.

Cabal and Farah did not convert any of their break points in the ninth game of the second set before breaking serve for the first time in the match two games later to claim the second set 7-5 forcing the match to the decisive set.

Rojer and Tecau went up a 6-2 lead in the Match Tie-Break. Cabal and Farah won four consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Rojer and Tecau rallied from 7-8 down by winning three consecutive points to claim the Match Tie-Break 10-8.

Rojer and Tecau have now a 1-1 record in Group Max Mirnyi. The Dutch and Romanian team took the re-match against Cabal and Farah, who won their previous head-to-head clash in five sets at Wimbledon en route to their maiden Grand Slam doubles title.

“I am happy with our form. We lost the first match and knew we would need to bounce back against a very good team. We played a very good first set, prior to them making adjustments in the second set. We played a really good Match tie-break”, said Rojer.

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ATP

Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus secure their spot in the semifinal in the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London

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Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus beat Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3 6-4 in the evening’s double match securing their spot in the semifinal with a record of 2-0 in the Group Jonas Bjorkman.

 

Klaasen earned an early break with a forehand volley to open up a 3-1 lead. Venus and Klaasen dropped just four points on serve and did not face a break point. Venus held serve at 5-3 to close out the opening set 6-3 after 32 minutes.

Both teams held serve until the ninth game, when Venus got the first break at 4-4 with a half-volley winner, when Melo was serving on a deciding point. Kubot and Melo fended off two match points in the next game to force a deciding point and got their first break point of the match.

Venus sealed the win after 71 minutes with a big serve on their third match point in the 10th game. Klaasen and Venus won 86 % of their serve points.

US players Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury scored their first win in the Group Jonas Bjorkman at the Nitto ATP Finals, when they beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 3-6 6-3 10-6 in the Match Tie-Break. The US team improved their ranking to 1-1.

Dodig and Polasek earned the first break in the fourth game of the opening set to open up a 3-1 lead. They saved four consecutive break points in the ninth game, when they were serving for the first set at 5-3. Dodig and Polasek sealed the first set with a service winner after 33 minutes.

Ram and Salisbury did not convert break points in the most crucial moments of the first set. Ram and Salisbury earned their only break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and did not face a single break point to win the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the third set.

Ram and Salisbury opened up a 3-0 lead with an early mini-break in the Match tie-break. Dodig and Polasek rallied to draw level to 5-5. Ram and Salisbury sealed the win on the first match point, when Polasek hit a backhand volley into the net at 9-6.

Dodig and Polasek, who won two titles in Cincinnati and Beijing, lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 10-5 in the Match Tie-Break in last Saturday’s first match.

 

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Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis

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Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.

 

Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.

“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.

Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.

She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.

Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.

“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.

 

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