US Open: It's difficult to convince players there's another alternative to groundstrokes - UBITENNIS
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US Open: It's difficult to convince players there's another alternative to groundstrokes

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TENNIS US OPEN – Most of the players in today’s game don’t have anything to fall back on when their groundstrokes aren’t producing positive results. They don’t have the luxury of an efficient alternative. They don’t have a proficient net game. By James Beck

 

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Most of the players in today’s game don’t have anything to fall back on when their groundstrokes aren’t producing positive results.

They don’t have the luxury of an efficient alternative. They don’t have a proficient net game.

Roger Federer is an aberration in today’s game. He has an excellent net game that most of the time these late days in his legendary career produce positive results.

But when a big hitter and server such as Marin Cilic is “on”, there is no answer, even for a player of Federer’s skills. Cilic simply hits the ball too big for Federer to get to the net. At least, that was the way things went in Saturday’s semifinals when Cilic posted a dominant straight-set victory over Federer.

Saturday Was An Anomaly

Federer does have the alternative of going to the net. Saturday was just an anomaly. The old Cilic would never have rolled past Federer with such ease.

Most players are stuck on the baseline. When confronted with another talented baseliner, their only alternative is to hit bigger and bigger . . . and to go for more lines. That’s a perfect recipe for sporadicity.

The situation can get bleaker and bleaker for a baseliner on those days. Balls fly off the court at an alarming rate.

And even worse, fans become disenchanted with the match and head for the refreshment stands — a more predictable alternative.

That’s the dilemma that the tennis hierarchy is currently facing in a day when some players are near giant-size and rackets may be too potent.

Tennis Wouldn’t Consider Reducing Court Size?

Reducing the court size slightly might help, giving volleyers less space to cover at the net. Or taking the lines out of play, taking that target away from the big hitters.

I know this is wild thinking. Tennis would never change the size of the courts. Right?

If more Stefan Edbergs or Pete Samprases don’t come along soon, the men’s game may be headed out of control.

Thankfully, Federer and Edberg have teamed up to keep the hope alive for a return to viable net solutions.

Don’t Forget Becker Is Djokovic’s Coach

If only coach Boris Becker, one of tennis’ most reckless net-rushers ever (right up there with Pat Rafter), can get through to Novak Djokovic. With his quickness and big serve, Djokovic would be a natural serve-and-volleyer in the second part of his career.

After Saturday’s drilling by Kei Nishikori, Novak might be more receptive to such thinking.

As a result of what happened Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, it will be extremely interesting to see what happens when the players show up in Australia in January.

Will the game change? That’s almost a certainty with the new wave of Grand Slam champions — Stan Wawrinka and either Nishikori or Cilic.

Federer Beat-Down Sends Out Alarms

Federer is growing older, and even though he may be playing the best tennis of his career, the beat-down by Cilic is sure to send out some alarms for the game.

There shouldn’t be as much concern for Djokovic’s camp. The Serbian wonder may just have been a victim of the heat Saturday, even more so than being victimized by Nishikori’s quickness, serving game and harnessed power from the baseline.

And Rafa Nadal should be back in January at the site of where his back injury against Wawrinka may have changed the course of Grand Slam title history.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

See James Beck’s Post and Courier columns at:

http://web.charleston.net/news/columnists/james_beck/

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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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Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013

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Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.

 

 Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.

The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.

The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.

Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.

Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.

“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.

 

 

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