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US Open: Sporadicity taking over the men's game?

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TENNIS US OPEN – Rafa Nadal isn’t around. Tomas Berdych is dominated by Marin Cilic. Kei Nishikori upstages Stan Wawrinka. And Roger Federer takes advantage of a Gael Monfils meltdown to come back from two sets down. Is the competition for Novak Djokovic and Federer getting stronger or weaker? By James Beck

 

US Open: All the interviews, results, draws and OoP

What’s going on?

Rafa Nadal isn’t around. Tomas Berdych is dominated by Marin Cilic. Kei Nishikori upstages Stan Wawrinka. And Roger Federer takes advantage of a Gael Monfils meltdown to come back from two sets down.

Is the competition for Novak Djokovic and Federer getting stronger or weaker? And what happens when Nadal, Djokovic and Federer age out or get tired of being so dominant?

There’s a good list of outstanding players waiting for their time. But the drop off from the big three of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is immense.

Cilic’s Game May Or May Not Show Up

Of course, Cilic can play lights out at times as he did in rolling past Berdych in straight sets on Thursday in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. The Croatian also can play like an erratic teen-ager at times. His game may or may not show up for the semifinals.

Andy Murray just isn’t the same player he was two years ago, and may never reach that level again, despite the huge forehands he delivered against Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Wawrinka might have had his one shot of fame at the Australian Open, thanks possibly to Nadal’s physical liabilities.

And Jo-Wilfried Tsonga? He’s anyone’s guess at any time. He shows up or he doesn’t show up, a lot like some amateurish league tennis players.

Monfils Is A Misuse Of Talent

Then there’s Monfils. What a misuse of talent!

The athletic Frenchman was everything you’ve heard about him. At its worst. Thursday’s meltdown brings back memories of the 2004 French Open final when eventual loser Guillermo Coria tried to “gamesmanship” Gaston Claudia after also taking a 2-0 lead in sets.

Of course, that performance effectively marked the end of a promising career for Coria.

The question is how will Monfils’ meltdown on probably tennis’ biggest stage affect his career?

No One Will Believe In Monfils Again

No one will ever believe in Monfils again. Six points from victory, after already having blown two match points earlier in the set, Monfils badly double-faulted on two straight points to give Federer a 6-5 lead in the fourth set.

Monfils once again demonstrated that he’s the type of player who had rather say he “almost won” than actually won. Even in the fifth set, he tried to hit between his legs on a normal shot at the baseline when someone as athletic as Monfils easily could have turned and got setup for a normal groundstroke. Of course, he didn’t put the trick shot into play.

That’s the type of thinking that makes Gael Monfils the biggest joke in tennis.

Something Unpredictable In The Air?

There must be something in the air these days that renders some players completely unpredictable, not in the way they play but in their level of sporadicity. Maybe it’s the game they play, the boring baseline battles such as Cilic and Berdych displayed in the quarterfinals. Are the players bored with their own play to the extent they lose focus in matches, even when cruch time arrives?

Maybe the hierarchy of tennis should consider doing something to liven up the game before it falls into a deeper sleep. There has to be some mix of the baseline game and intelligent approaches to the net. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all incorporate at least a bit of that excitement in their matches, but few of the other players make an effort to escape the drudgery of baseline battles.

Thank goodness Federer is still around. He’s going to the net more than ever, and the tactic is paying big dividends as it did in the meltdown by Monfils.

Nishikori Is A Bundle Of Excitement

Other than the big three, the most exciting player in the game is Nishikori. The Japanese star plays with such ebullience and electricity that he is quickly gaining an international throng of followers.

Nishikori’s only weakness may be his body. He generally hadn’t been able to handle the physicality of long matches well until his five-set win over Wawrinka. So, maybe Nishikori has turned that corner.

The Japanese ace plays with childish enthusiasm, maybe too childish at times. That part of his game broke out at a critical time in the match against Wawrinka. It came on a game point when he tried to pull off a between-the-legs shot after running down a lob past the baseline. He appeared to have time to turn and hit a less show-offish shot.

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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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gilles Simon and Felix Auger Aliassime reach the the semifinal in Marseille

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Defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Vasek Pospisil 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 17 minutes to reach the semifinal at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Both players stayed neck and neck until 5-5, before Tsitsipas earned his first break, when Pospisil hit a backhand long. The Greek star wrapped up the first set with an ace after 45 minutes.

Tsitsipas claimed his second break at 3-3 with a backhand return and reeled off 10 consecutive points to seal the second set 6-3.

Tsitsipas fired 8 aces and won 26 of his 30 first service points.

“It was not easy. I knew I would have to fight and be dynamic. He plays a very aggressive brand of tennis, so every point has to be treated respectfully. I played with passion and patience, and my fighting spirit, when I am in the right zone. It means good things can happen”, said Tsitsipas.

Gilles Simon cruised through to an upset 6-4 6-0 win over Danil Medvedev to advance to the semifinal. Simon converted five of his six break point chances and lost his serve only once.

The French veteran will take on Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Egor Gerasimov 7-5 6-2. The young Canadian star broke serve four times and and won 83 % of his first serve points.

Gerasimov earned an early break in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead, but Auger Aliassime came back by winning two consecutive games to win the opening set 7-5. Auger Aliassime converted his fourth break point in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead and sealed the second set with another break in the eighth game.

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Alexander Bublik reaches his third career semifinal with win over Denis Shapovalov in Marseille

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Alexander Bublik reached the third ATP Tour semifinal of his career after beating Canadian Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov 7-5 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Bublik fended off a total of four break points in the first set, including three chances from 0-40, got the break in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5, when Shapovalov hit a forehand volley wide at 30-40 after 45 minutes.

Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Bublik did not convert three break points at 3-2, when he hit a forehand into the net on his first break point chance. Shapovalov broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead with a drop shot and wrapped up the second set with his third ace.

Bublik opened up a 2-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Shapovalov broke straight back in the third game. Bublik got another break lead in the eighth lead at 15, when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide. Bublik sealed the win with a hold at love.

“He is a great player and serve. It was our first match, but I have known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I am very happy”,said Bublik.

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Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe and Ugo Humbert reach the quarter final in Delray Beach

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Milos Raonic hit 11 aces and saved the three break points he faced to beat German Cedrik Marcel Stebe 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 36 minutes reaching the quarter final at the Delray Beach, an ATP Tour 250 tournament.

 

Raonic earned a break in each set. Stebe earned a break point in the ninth game with a forehand down the line, but Raonic saved it with a forehand. Raonic faced two more break points in the 11th game, but Raonic saved them with service winners. Raonic earned a break with a forehand down the line winner in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5. Raonicwon four consecutive points on return to earn a break and closed out the match 6-3 with a hold of serve.

“I got lucky through that first set and then I tried to be a bit more aggressive, create more things and that put a bit more pressure on him. It opened up the match for me a bit more”, said Raonic.

Raonic set up a quarter final against Steve Johnson, who edged past his compatriot Jack Sock 6-4 5-7 6-1 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach his first quarter final at ATP Tour level in six months. Johnson came back from losing the second set by racing out to a 5-0 lead.

“This is just one of those tournaments where you feel comfortable coming back every year. It’s great to see Sock back. I thought he played a really good second set and I just got bit of a momentum in the third set”, said Johnson.

French Next Gen player Ugo Humbert edged Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 42 minutes to reach his third quarter final in 2020. Humbert fended off eight of the ten break points he faced and earned three breaks to win the last four games of the first set from 2-4 down. Humbert broke Kecmanovic, as the Serbian player was serving for the second set at 6-5. The Frenchman saved a set point and came back from 5-6 down by winning the final three points of the tie-break to clinch the win after 1 hour and 43 minutes. Humbert has improved his win-loss record this year to 8-3.

“It’s always tough to play against Miomir, because he is a great player. He always plays at a high level. I lost to him last week and I was a little bit stressed before the match, so I am very happy to get the win today. You have to enjoy the victory because it’s not easy every week. Winning in Auckland gave me a lot of confidence. I beat some great players, but I have to continue my improvement every day”,said Humbert.

Humbert will face US player Frances Tiafoe, who battled past Tommy Paul 7-5 7-6 (7-4). Both players stayed neck and neck in the first set until the 11th game when Tiafoe earned a break with a return winner. He served out the set 7-5 with a service winner in the 12th game.

Paul earned a break in the sixth game, but he dropped his serve, while he serving for the set at 5-3. Tiafoe closed out the match with a backhand crosscourt winner at 6-4 in the tie-break.

“It’s never easy playing a good friend. It’s awkward, but I thought it was a pretty good match overall. My forehand was definitely on, so that helped. I am starting to play good tennis again and just competing hard in every match”,said Tiafoe.  

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