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.

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Simona Halep ‘Happy To Be Back’ Amid Uncertainty Over US Open Plans

The Romanian still has reservations about her future plans after taking her first international flight in five months.

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World No.2 Simona Halep admits the prospect of travelling from Europe to America will be ‘mentally tough’ as she ponders whether or not to play at the US Open.

 

The reigning Wimbledon champion is set to return to competitive tennis in the Czech Republic where she will play her first tournament in five months at the Prague Open. Halep was originally due to make her return in Palermo but withdrew from the event due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured she wouldn’t have to go through quarantine. Speculation has mounted in recent weeks about if the Romanian would travel to the US Open later this year with the 28-year-old confirming she will make her final decision after Prague.

“I haven’t made the final decision yet,” AFP quoted Halep as telling reporters during a virtual press conference on Sunday.
“The travelling from Europe is a little bit tough with changing flights — we don’t have straight flights — so it’s going to be tough for me personally, mentally,” she told a video conference.
“I don’t want to put myself into that stress. As I said I haven’t decided yet, but the conditions are tough for me at this moment.”

Three members of the top 10 on the women’s Tour have already pulled out of the New York major, which will be played behind closed doors for the first time in history. Ash Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina have all withdrawn from the major due to concerns. In comparison, only one member of the top 10 on the men’s Tour, Rafael Nadal, has withdrawn specifically related to COVID-19 concerns.

Prague is Halep’s first international trip after being in lockdown in Romania since February. A country which reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases and 50 new related deaths on Friday in what was their highest 24-hour figure since the pandemic began.

“I’m a bit nervous but things are very controlled here and very safe so I feel safe,” she said upon arrival in the Czech capital.
“I’m happy to be back, I’m happy to be healthy.”

It will be double duty for Halep in Prague. Besides being the top seed in the singles draw, she will also be playing the doubles alongside local favourite Barbora Strycova. Who reached the semi-final of Wimbledon last year before losing to Serena Williams. It is the first time ever the two are playing alongside each other on the Tour.

“I’m sure we will have fun. I’m sure that she will understand if I miss easy balls at the net, and I hope we’ll enjoy it.” Halep commented on their collaboration.

Halep will start her singles campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington

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Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will be the top seed at the inaugural edition of the Lexington Open from 10th August 2020 on the same week as the Prague Open. The Lexington Open will be the first US tournament of the US hard court season, which will continue with the Western and Southern Open and the US Open, which will be held in the same venue at Flushing Meadows in New York. 

 

Serena was very close to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but lost four times in a Major final after giving birth to her daughter Olympia. 

The US legend will play her first match since she hepled the US team beat Latvia in the Fed Cup last March in Everett. There Serena beat Jelena Ostapenko but she was defeated by Anastasija Sevastova. 

Williams will lead a star-studded line-up, which features this year’s Australian Open finalist and former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and US rising star Cori Gauff. 

Sabalenka won two consecutive editions of the Wuhan tournament in 2018 and 2019, in Shenzhen in 2019, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and the Doha final in 2020. 

Stephens won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2017 and reached the final at 2018 Roland Garros. She finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. The US player lost to Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in Monterrey in her last WTA Tour match before the pandemic. 

Amanda Anisimova won her maiden WTA title in Bogotà in 2019 in her first professional tour tournament on clay. Last year the young US player beat Simona Halep en route to becoming the youngest semifinalist at the French Open since 2006. This year Amanda lost to Serena Williams in the semifinal in Auckland last January. 

Johanna Konta reached the French Open semifinal and the Rome Final in 2019. The British player enjoyed her best year in 2017, when she won the Miami title and reached the Wimbledon semifinal rising to her best ranking at world number 4. 

The Top seed Open will be the first WTA tournament to be played in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. The Kentucky tournament will feature a 32-player singles draw and a 16-player doubles field. 

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