TENNIS US OPEN – Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori have been the best two players at this tournament. Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fabio Fognini were the biggest disappointments. Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem the two surprises, for different reasons, that didn’t reach the final.
It has been a strange US Open in the men’s singles event. For the first week there were hardly any surprises and many thought that we were headed for a Djokovic Federer final with little excitement before the final. In the second week though, the tournament came alive with captivating matches, upsets and an unexpected finish. Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori are the players of the tournament as well as the two biggest surprises, but they weren’t the only ones to impress. Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem also left their mark in the tournament. On the other hand there were a few disappointments like the French duo Gasquet Tsonga and the Italian Fabio Fognini. (Marks out of 10)
Marin Cilic 10 – The Goran Ivanisevic effect has been great on Cilic and it showed. The mild mannered Croat played a sensational tournament. The quality of his tennis increased as the tournament progressed as did his confidence in his abilities. The highlight of his tournament must be the thrashing of Federer in the semifinal. Cilic had never beaten the Swiss before, making the semifinal win even more impressive. Federer was reduced to the role of spectator as Cilic powered his way into the final in 3 quick sets. The difficult part starts now for the Croat, he will have to handle the extra fame and expectations, but there is time for that.
Kei Nishikori 9 – The Japanese player earned one point less than his rival because he didn’t win the final. Nishikori’s main regret must be that he failed to leave his mark on the final, but he played a fantastic tournament considering that he didn’t know whether he was going to travel to Flushing Meadows at all becuse of a foot injury. Luckily he decided to play. In the tournament he defeated three top 10 players, Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic before the final that he played with an empty tank of energy. Once the disappointment for the lost final has gone he will look back on an amazing couple of weeks that may have changed his career.
Novak Djokovic 7 – It was obvious that the World Number One wasn’t focussed on tennis, but marriage and a baby on the way are excellent excuses not to be focussed 100% on tennis. The two Master 1000 tournaments played, badly, before the US Open were a warning sign, but he played well during the opening rounds of the Major until he met Nishikori in the semifinals.
Roger Federer 6.5 – He gets half a point less than Nole as he already has a wife and kids (four) and he should be used to it by now. The comeback against Monfils was spectacular but it deprived him of the energy to counter Cilic’s onslaught in the semis. Another chance to win a Major title gone for Federer.
Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka 6 – It was a mediocre couple of weeks for both as they never managed to play their best tennis, but they did lose to the finalists. I expected better tennis from them even if their result wasn’t that bad.
Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov 5.5 – For quite some time now these two were considered to be the players most likely to unseat the current top players, but they were beaten to it. They both made it to the last 16 but it is fair to expect more from them. Hopefully watching Cilic and Nishikori inspired them to do better next time round.
Andy Murray 6 – The Olympic Champion is still far from the player capable of winning the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon the following year. The recovery from his back surgery is taking longer than expected, but initially the Scot didn’t think he would also have to replace Lendl as coach. The win against Tsonga and the first couple of sets played against Djokovic should encourage him even if he is now out of the top 10.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 5 – The win at the Rogers Cup raised hopes and expectations for the French player. Before the Toronto tournament, JWT had a poor season and hopes were that the Canadian event was the start of a better end of season, but it didn’t happen. He never really clicked and was easily beaten by Murray
Gael Monfils 8 – There is something in New York that inspires Monfils. In this event he was able to play good tennis, entertain and enjoy himself. He defeated Gasquet, Dimitrov and came close to ending Federer0s tournament. It’s a shame he only plays like this occasionally.
Dominic Thiem 8 – This was the US Open of the new generation also because of the Austrian’s performance. The 21 year old was playing in his first US Open (fourth slam). He reached the fourth round defeating his friend Gulbis and the experienced Feliciano Lopez on the way. His run was ended by Berdych, but hopefully he saw the two finalists as examples of how to grow and improve.
Nick Kyrgios 7 – Another positive tournament for the Australian. At Wimbledon he beat Nadal and started to get noticed by the general public and in New York he showed more of his talent. He shouldn’t be a one hit wonder and has the potential to become a very good player.
Richard Gasquet 3 – A year ago he was in the semifinals, a result that allowed him to qualify for the end of year Masters in London. A year later he looks lost. The separation from his coach Riccardo Piatti has hit him hard and he now looks confused as to how to play. Injuries don’t help, but he should be doing better with the talent he has at his disposal.
Fabio Fognini 2 – No offence to Adrian Mannarino, but a player of Fabio’s talent should not lose against the Frenchman, especially in a tournament like the US Open. What makes t worse is the manner of the defeat. Once the Italian fell behind in the score he didn’t fight back, but he started to pick fights with everyone as usual.
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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