TENNIS US OPEN – In a continuation of an epic day of upset men’s semifinal, Marin Cilic not only beat Roger Federer for the first time, he crushed him in straight sets 6-3 6-4 6-4 for his first major final. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw
Goran Ivanisevic: “You saw everything. It was the best match of his life”
The tennis world barely got over the shock of world’s number 1 Novak Djokovic being dismissed in 4 sets by Kei Nishikori (10) before it had to face another startling reality; Roger Federer (2) was summarily dismissed from the tournament in straight sets by Marin Cilic (14) 6-3 6-4 6-4. This is almost like tennis Armageddon; both top men’s seeds beaten on the same day in emphatic fashion by two players not even officially ranked in the top 10. Surely when Djokovic went out, it could not be possible that Federer would exit on the same day, having not made the finals. Coming into this match, Federer was 5-0 lifetime against Cilic. In fact, he beat several weeks ago en route to the Montreal final. Yet in this match, Federer hardly looked like he had a clue as to what was going on as Cilic was as he said, “[F]irst point to the last, I was absolutely playing the best tennis of my life.”
The match was barely on its way before Federer was facing break point having been up 40-0 in the game. Cilic was able to secure the early break and with that, complete control of the match. Cilic closed out the set 6-3. In the 2nd set, Cilic continued with his great form as he broke Federer early for a 2-0 lead. Federer never saw a break point chance in the set as Cilic continued to be dominant. Cilic on his 10th ace, took the set and a 2-0 sets lead. This lead was unassailable and even Federer knew this as he would later state, “I wasn’t as confident this time around because Marin played more aggressive … I knew probably this comeback would be tougher just because of the risk he was taking and … how big he was serving.”
In the 3rd set, Federer started it off well with a break of Cilic’s serve for the first time in the match. However, he was broken immediately after to get back on serve. Cilic then broke Federer again in the 7th game to lead 5-3 after consolidating the break. Federer was able to hold serve comfortably for the first time to force Cilic to serve for the match. Cilic completed the task in spectacular fashion. He served three consecutive aces to bring up triple match point and then hit a backhand winner for the match win, 6-3 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes.
The real measure of this match was the completeness to Cilic’s game, on both his serve and his return. He was doing everything right. He won 87% of his 1st serve points and 56% on his 2nd serve compared to Federer who was only winning 71% on his 1st serve and 48% on his 2nd serve. “I felt today the return was extremely good, especially on the second serve and that, you know, opened up many more opportunities for me,” Cilic said. This was very much the case. He broke Federer four times in the match compared to Federer who did it once and only saw two break point chances. Federer did not necessarily play a bad game, he was simply outplayed and outmatched. He had 6 less errors than Cilic for the match, 17 to 23 but Cilic had 43 winners compared to the 28 from Federer. “I think him playing with the lead he played with, you know, no fear and just full-out confidence … It was just like full swing from all sides … No holding back from his side. I just couldn’t hang with him for long enough to create some doubts in his mind,” Federer said after the match.
This is the first time since 2005 Australian Open men’s final that neither Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray nor Rafael Nadal has made the final of a major event. “[I]t’s interesting situation, you know, where you have two players who have never been in a Grand Slam final before and in a way they have nothing to lose,” Federer said. Cilic also spoke on this matter, “[I]t’s a bit of a changeup year considering all the past years that these top four guys were making it to the final. Wawrinka opened the doors for us from the “second” line and I think most of us guys have now bigger belief that they can do it on the Grand Slams.”
Nishikori is 5-2 lifetime against Cilic and interestingly enough, they played at the US Open twice in the past and they each won one of the matches. Cilic spoke of the matchup, “[W]e have both different game styles … [H]e hits the ball extremely well from the back of the court. I think I’m going to have to just focus on my game to break that a little bit of rhythm and to try to serve well.”
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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