Nishikori wins another 5-set battle to make his 1st major semis - UBITENNIS
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Nishikori wins another 5-set battle to make his 1st major semis

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TENNIS US OPEN – It is said that slow and steady wins the race. Well Kei Nishikori has taken that adage as his own personal mantra. He has now played two consecutive straight set matches where he seemed to be prolonging the matches instead of taking the early initiative and run with it. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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It is said that slow and steady wins the race. Well Kei Nishikori (10) has taken that adage as his own personal mantra. He has now played two consecutive straight set matches where he seemed to be prolonging the matches instead of taking the early initiative and run with it. He took on Stan Wawrinka (3) for a place in the semifinal. Nishikori again weathered the storm as he upset the reigning Australian Open champion, 3-6 7-5 7-6(7) (5)6-7 6-3. Nishikori now joins the “Young Guns Club” of Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic as making their first major semifinals.

Wawrinka started the match in impressive style. He quickly broke Nishikori for a 3-0 lead after saving break point on his opening service game. Wawrinka maintained this lead to take the set as he ended it with an ace for 6-3. In the 2nd set, Nishikori had 4 early chances to break but again failed to capitalize on those opportunities. However, later on in the 12th game, Wawrinka double faults to hand Nishikori the set 7-5 and in essence level the match.

Nishikori used this momentum to gain the upper hand in the 3rd set. He was finding his range on his groundstrokes and forcing the errors from Wawrinka. He was up 5-2 and had a set point on Wawrinka’s serve but made a forehand error and the Swiss kept cool under the pressure to hold. Serving for the set, Nishikori had what could be described as a mental lapse. He played one of the craziest service games ever including going for a “hotdog shot” which inevitably gave Wawrinka break point. It seemed as though Nishikori was not ready to close out the set as he was broken and then 20 minutes later was forced to play a tiebreaker. After many shifting momentum in the breaker, the Japanese was able to close it out 9-7 points and gain a 2-1 sets lead.

In the 4th set, both players held the course as neither faced a single break point. Hence a tiebreaker was necessary to decide the matter. Wawrinka raced out to a 4-0 lead before Nishikori found his way back into the breaker for 4-4. However, he began to play loose shots and so Wawrinka was able to take the set 7-5 points and force a decisive set. Again, like the 4th set, they remained on serve for much of the 5th set. Nishikori was looking rather lifeless on the court trying not to overextend himself since the latter stage of the 4th set. He was conserving energy and mainly concerning himself with holding serve. “From outside he looks really dead, but we know on the court he can play, and he play long like what he did today. If even at the beginning he looks like he’s going to die on the court, but he’s there. Physically he’s there,” said Wawrinka.

In the 10th game, up 5-4, Nishikori knew the time was now to act if he wanted to win this match. Wawrinka serving to stay in the match became rather dodgy as he double faulted to bring up double match points. He was able to save one but on the other, his forehand was dumped in the net. Nishikori won 3-6 7-5 7-67 56-7 6-3 and is through to his first semifinal in a major. After the match, Nishikori said, “I was playing much better in third and fourth and I have more confidence to get in the fifth set. So, you know, I tried to focus on my service game. I just took, yeah, one chance in the end.”

There was nothing outstanding about the statistics than the 8 double faults from Wawrinka particularly the two that would give Nishikori the break/set points. Also of interest in the fact that Wawrinka was not making a lot of 1st set serves, 56% for the match and only winning 51% on his 2nd serves. His 2nd serve has been key for him in his big wins this season, particularly against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. Wawrinka also had 68 winners and 78 errors compared to Nishikori who had 41 winners and 51 errors. “I’m a little bit disappointed with myself, with the level I had today. I don’t think I played a great match. I think I was a little bit hesitating with my game. I didn’t find a way to take control of the rhythm of the match big time because he was playing well, but I still think that I should maybe try something different. But it’s tough,” said Wawrinka. Nishikori will play Novak Djokovic in the semifinal for a place in his first major final.

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Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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