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.”
Andy Murray Surging In Confidence After Reaching First ATP Quarter-Final Since 2019
The 34-year-old believes he is getting better with every match played on the Tour as he eyes a spot in the final later this week.
Former world No.1 Andy Murray says he is starting to gain more belief in his game after reaching the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open on Wednesday.
The three-time Grand Slam champion rallied to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the French city. Murray dropped serve only once at the start of the second set but broke his opponent four times en route to the victory. It is the first time he has registered back-to-back wins on the ATP Tour since Wimbledon and it is the first time he has reached a quarter-final since winning the 2019 Antwerp Open.
Murray showed glimmers of his best tennis recently at the US Open where he took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the first round before losing. However, in his following tournament on the Challenger circuit he lost in the second round to world No.154 Roman Safiullin. Despite the mixed performances, the Brit says his fitness continues to improve and he believes he is heading in the right direction.
“For me, this period of the last few years has been the most I have played really,” Murray said following his win over Pospisil.
“My body feels good and I am starting to gain just a little bit of confidence with each match, starting to see the points and how I want to play them, which is great.
“There have been times in the past year where I have been a little bit confused and not seeing how the points are developing which was always a strong part of my game.
“It made me feel quite uncomfortable on court when I was feeling that way, so I am starting to get that back and the results are coming, my tennis is getting better.”
The 34-year-old, who now plays on the Tour with a metal hip after undergoing two operations, is targeting a return back into the world’s top 100 for the first time since 2018. He came agonisingly close in July when he reached 102. At present, he is currently ranked 113 but will climb at least four places following his run in Metz this week.
In the next round Murray will play either top seed Hubert Hurkacz or former top 10 player Lucas Pouille. Both players are likely to be a stern challenge for the three-time Grand Slam champion who is hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2007.
“I would love to get another opportunity to play here in the final, but there is a lot of tennis to be played before then potentially against the number one seed in the next round,” he reflected.
“It is not going to be easy if I want to reach the final, but I am playing well and have an opportunity.”
Murray has won 42 ATP titles and has earned more than $62M in prize money so far in his career.
Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat
The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.
The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.
On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.
Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.
“Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”
Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.
“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.
Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.
The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.
“Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”
Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.
Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour
23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.
Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.
The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.
Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.
“I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
“It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.
Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.
“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”
Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.
Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.
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