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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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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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