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 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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Garbine Muguruza Battles Past Kudermetova In Dubai For 13th Win Of 2020

Garbine Muguruza battled past Veronika Kudermetova to continue her red-hot start to the 2020 season.

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Garbine Muguruza (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Garbine Muguruza battles past Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 4-6 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai. 

 

The Spaniard claimed her 13th victory of 2020 in a hard-fought match against Russian Veronika Kudermetova in 2 hours and 25 minutes.

There was little to separate the two players but the Australian Open finalist used her confidence and experience to edge into the last eight.

Five breaks of serve were enough for Muguruza as she continues to make a big statement under Conchita Martinez’s guidance.

After her win, Muguruza claimed more work needed to be done in order to win matches more convincingly, “There are a lot of things that I could have done better,” Muguruza told The National.

“But I’m excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarter-finals. I was just staying in the fight, not giving up until the last point, because she was playing great.”

After a couple of tough years on tour, the Spaniard seems to have found her best tennis when it matters as she aims for the top of tennis once again.

Next for the Spaniard is the in-form American Jennifer Brady, who managed to edge out Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-4 6-1.

Although Muguruza will be favourite to reach the semi-finals, the world number 16 knows the threat that awaits her tomorrow, “When you’re in the quarter-finals, you’re playing girls that are progressing through the tournament,” the 26 year old said.

“(Brady) is playing good and I’m excited to play her for the first time to get to know her tennis.”

There were also wins for Aryna Sabalenka, Petra Martic and Elena Rybakina on Wednesday in Dubai as the quarter-final line-up looks set to be a mixture of variety and power.

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New York Open Saturday Recap: Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi Advance to Sunday’s Final

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The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Home of the New York Open

The Brit and the Italian both comfortably prevailed in their semifinal matches, and will play for the championship Sunday afternoon inside Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.

 

Kyle Edmund never trailed in Saturday’s first semifinal against fellow seed and ATP Next Gen upstart Miomir Kecmanovic.  In the second game of the first set, Kecmanovic was serving at 40-0, but then lost the next five points to drop serve, which included two double faults. Miomir’s next service game at 0-3 went to deuce, when Edmund promptly crushed two forehand return winners to gain a double break. Edmund would take the first set 6-1.

Kyle’s forehand was on fire in this match, with his backhand showing some noticeable improvements as well.  However, as the second set progressed, Kecmanovic started ripping his own forehand and backhand with much more authority. But at 4-4, Miomir lost control of his groundstrokes, resulting in a break at love. Edmund would then hit multiple aces in the final game, closing out the match 6-1, 6-4. Kyle won an impressive 79% of first serve points in the match.

Regarding the tighter second set, Edmund stated, “You play top players in the world, you expect a fight back.”

“I had to weather that storm a bit, he was gaining more confidence,” Kyle said.

In the second semifinal, Andreas Seppi also allowed his opponent just five games, eliminating qualifier Jason Jung by a score of 6-3, 6-2. Just like the first semifinal, Seppi broke his opponent in his first service game, and never looked back. Jung understandably started off a bit tight in his first-ever ATP semifinal, and never settled into the match. Seppi will now vie for his first title since 2012.

The singles championship match will take place Sunday at 4:00pm local time. Edmund leads their head-to-head 4-1, with a 4-0 edge on hard courts. Their last meeting was just last month in Auckland, where Kyle won 6-3, 7-6(4).

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