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What has this US Open taught us?

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TENNIS US OPEN – Our Giulio Gasparin analyses the results of the just-finished Us Open to find new angles for the reading of a surprising edition.

 

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

For the second time this year, we have witnessed a new male grand slam champion, Serena Williams has joined Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 slams, the Bryan brothers have taken their 100th title and Martina Hingis has played her first doubles’ final in 12 years.

It has definitely been a surprising Open, with countless upsets and many unexpected results, but looking backwards it seems it all started even before the tournament started, when Rafael Nadal and Li Na announced their withdrawal from the event due to injuries.

But let’s put some order first and consider each of the events, starting from the biggest surprises, the men’s event.

Stan Wawrinka by Art Seitz

Stan Wawrinka by Art Seitz

The post-Wawrinka case

It has been said over and over by both journalists and players, but the victory of the “second” Swiss in Australia has completely changed the way players consider their chances at majors.

It is nothing new to the world of tennis and it resembles a lot what happened in the WTA tour in the past years, but one knows the substantial differences between the two tours and, before January 2014, it seemed unreal to consider any new slam champion, let alone two!

Wawrinka, in that, did a lot more than win a slam and upset two of the main favourites en-route. He was the St George and killed the dragon: so by doing that, he revealed the myth of the unbeatability of the top names at slams.

All players said that, his win gave a new attitude to all the players fighting from behind the “big four.” Beating them and dreaming of a slam were no more an unforgivable sin, it was possible, it was real.

Truth is that for two more slams this has not occurred. In Paris and London, the same old faces played the last act of both tournaments, but this did not mean all the others would forget what had happened in January.

It all resulted in what we all know: the first final without any of the big four involved since 2005.

On top of that, this result gives us another point of discussion and it is the indirect benefit for Cilic that the doping ban was.

This is no place to discuss the reasons of the suspension, even though I believe it was a case of negligence rather than malice, but after his first slam success, it almost seems a bless in disguise.

The time away from the tour allowed the Croat to concentrate on his flaws, on working to fix them and improving both physically and mentally.

Working on technique is very hard and it is even harder to squeeze it on a very short off-season, that is one of the reasons why changes on top are hardly ever as sudden. Cilic had a long break to exploit and do all the tweaks he needed to be successful, that and the “death of the dragon” came about nicely and it all came about right on time to rise the most important trophy of his career.

Shall we expect more upsets and new slam champions from now on?

Hard to tell, the class of the top names is undeniably great, but this 2014 proved that they are still human, the dragon can be killed, and now every player is aware of it.

Srena Williams by Ray Giubilo

Srena Williams by Ray Giubilo

Serena roars again, but not alone

In a way, Cilic’s success is a bit overshadowed by the great result of Serena Williams, who turned around an horrific season in slam tournaments by conquering her first of the year, the 18th of her career. It was a significant one because she beat Roger Federer on time and, in all time terms, she joined Navratilova and Evert.

Williams, we can say, overcame the women’s version of the Wawrinka-effect, for which she had been upset early in the previous three slams, so that she had never won fewer matches in slams when playing a full season in more than ten years.

The expectations on her to do well in her home slam were great, but she finally found her best form and game to win her third consecutive title in New York, this time without dropping a single set and never losing more than six games in a match.

Sadly, it will not be a final that will be remembered because of its quality, as Williams looked nervous and a little tentative, but, on the other side of the net, her close friend Caroline Wozniacki was probably even more.

The win of the America put an end to the perfectly-scripted story of the broken hearted girl that finds success after being dumped by her fiancé a few months away from the wedding.

But, as Williams whispered to the Dane at the net “you will win one too one day”, the former world number one has proved to be a contender if she can keep up this focus and intensity.

Wozniacki has lost four matches on hard courts this summer and, apart from a blip against Camila Giorgi in New Haven, all the other three losses were close matches against the current world number one.

The Dane has given a statement by beating Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber before the Open and then by taking down a very positive Maria Sharapova in one of the best quality matches of the New York slam this year.

But beyond the two obvious storylines of the women’s draw, there have been many others: the first quarter-final of Belinda Bencic (the youngest since Martina Hingis to reach this stage in New York), the surprise runs of Lucic, Krunic and most of all Peng’s, ended by an horrific heat stroke.

As usual, the WTA does not lack unpredictability and the future looks pretty certain to remain alike, starting from the last battles to qualify for the Master of Singapore.

Bob and Mike Bryan by Art Seitz

Bob and Mike Bryan by Art Seitz

Bryan’s 100th

Bob and Mike Bryan lifted their 100th trophy, the 16th slam, the fifth US Open title. There is little to add to these number, they are the first team to ever reach three digits and it was simply amazing for them and the American crowd that all happened at the home slam, in front of their compatriots.

Martina Hingis by Art Seitz

Martina Hingis by Art Seitz

Hingis in another slam final

Many fans and experts were sceptical when the rumours of Martina Hingis’s comeback were confirmed, but after finally finding in Flavia Pennetta a doubles’ partner that fit her traits, the Swiss champion has reached her first slam final since 2002, when she was the double’s title with Anna Kournikova and lost in singles to Jennifer Capriati.

The experienced due crumbled from a set up in the decisive act against Makarova-Vesnina, but this looks to be a team that can improve a lot from here on.

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Injury-Hit Borna Coric Reacts To First Grand Slam Win In 16 Months

The Croat admits he was unsure how his shoulder would hold up in his opening match at Roland Garros.

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Borna Coric - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)

Borna Coric said he is relieved that his body managed to hold up during his opening win at the French Open on Sunday.

 

The former world No.12 spent almost three hours on the court before defeating Spain’s Carlos Taberner 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, in what was his first Grand Slam match of any kind since the 2021 Australian Open. Paris is only the seventh tournament Coric has played in since returning to the Tour following a year-long absence due to shoulder surgery. The 25-year-old is yet to win back-to-back matches this season.

It does feel great. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of my shoulder because I’ve never been in the fourth set, fifth set (of a match) for one-and-a-half years,” said Coric.
“So it was also kind of worrying for me, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel and how my whole body is going to behave in those later sets. Obviously I’ve been practicing it, but it’s really never the same.”

Impressively the Croat produced a total of 54 winners against 39 unforced errors in his latest match in the French capital. Furthermore, he won 76% of his first service points and 53% of his second.

“The last few weeks haven’t been very easy, I lost many tight matches. I mean, I was also quite happy with my tennis, but I was just losing,” he reflected.

Coric was once tipped to be the future of men’s tennis after rising quickly up the ranks at a young age. In 2014 he was the youngest player to end the season in the top 100 and a year last he was the youngest to do so in the top 50. He has recorded a total of nine wins over top five players, including Roger Federer, as well as winning two Tour titles.

In the second round at Roland Garros Coric will take on the formidable Grigor Dimitrov who has been ranked as high as third in the world. He will enter the clash as the underdog given his ongoing comeback from injury. At present Coric’s principal focus is on his body but that will change in the coming weeks.

Until Wimbledon my health needs to come first and after Wimbledon I can kind of try to switch in my mind so I can start playing more and more tournaments. I can train more and I can focus more on the tennis rather than on my shoulder,” he explains.

Coric has reached the third round of the French Open on four previous occasions.

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Roger Federer’s Team8 Considering Bid To Buy Cincinnati Masters Rights From USTA

The potential move has gained support from one former world No.1 player who says ‘it is nice to see responsible names’ in the mix to buy the prestigious event.

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Roger Federer Wimbledon 2021
Roger Federer (SUI) playing against Adrian Mannarino (FRA) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 2 Tuesday 29/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

It is understood that sports and entertainment company Team8 which was co-founded by Roger Federer is looking into potentially submitting an application for ownership of the Cincinnati Masters, according to two sources.

 

Sports business publication Sportico and Steve Weissman from The Tennis Channel have both reported that the business is among a number of interested parties who want to buy the event that is best known as the Western and Southern Open. In February this year it was confirmed that the USTA is selling their 93.8% stake in the tournament for a ‘nine-figure sum.’ It is understood that the organization doesn’t want the event to be relocated from Cincinnati in part of any deal.

“The USTA’s Board of Directors believes now is the right time to explore potential strategic options and alternatives in order to optimize the long-term growth of the tournament and take the tournament to the next level,” the USTA said in a statement published by tennis.com.

The USTA brought the rights to the men’s event back in 2009 for $12.5M and has since spent an additional $65M. Whilst Cincinnati is a combined tournament, the ongoing negotiations only apply to the men’s section. The women’s tournament is overseen by Octagon management.

Neither Federer or a member of Team8 have commented on the reported plans. The company was founded by the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his agent Tony Godsick back in 2013. Since then they have been involved in the creation of the Laver Cup, became a ‘major investor’ in the Universal Tennis system and are a ‘strategic investor and partner’ to On Running.

Should Team8 become the new owners, questions may arise about conflicts of interest with Federer still being an active player on Tour. The 40-year-old is currently sidelined from action due to a knee injury but is aiming to stage a comeback at the Swiss Open later this year. However, former world No.1 Andy Roddick has given his full backing to the possible takeover.

“In the world of tennis, where conflicts of interest know no bounds at all, Roger can do this. He has, obviously, been a great steward for the game and has created an incredible relationship with the fans in the city of Cincinnati. You’d like to see it stay in the tennis family with someone who actually knows and loves our sport.” Roddick told The Tennis Channel.

Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters a record seven times in his career.

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Daniil Medvedev ‘Happy To Play Wimbledon’ If Ban Is Lifted

The world No.2 says he is willing to speak with other players about the situation ahead of his return to action following surgery.

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Daniil Medvedev (RUS) in action against Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 2 Tuesday 29/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Daniil Medvedev says he is still hopeful that he might be able to play at this year’s Wimbledon Championships should officials at The All England Club decide to change their stance.

 

At present the reigning US Open champion will not be allowed to play at the grass court major due to his nationality. Officials at the Grand Slam have confirmed that Russian and Belarussian players have been banned from the event due to the war in Ukraine. Ian Hewitt, who is the chairman of The AELTC, said the action was taken in order to prevent ‘the propaganda machine of the Russian regime’ from potentially benefiting from their players’ success.

The ban is a controversial move for the sport which until now had a united approach when it came to allowing those players participate in tournaments but only as neutral athletes. Former Wimbledon champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokopvic and Andy Murray have all expressed some degree of opposition to the decision. Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA are considering the possibility of removing the allocation of ranking points at the event.

Speaking about the ban ahead of this week’s Geneva Open, Medvedev acknowledges that it is a ‘tricky situation’ but is still hopeful that a u-turn could occur which would allow him to play. The 26-year-old has made four main draw appearances at Wimbledon with his best result being a run to the fourth round last year.

“There has been a lot of talk around it. I just tried to follow what’s happening because I don’t have any decisions to make. It’s right now about Wimbledon itself, the ATP, maybe the British government is involved,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as telling reporters in Switzerland.
“It’s a tricky situation and like every situation in life, you ask 100 players, everybody’s going to give a different opinion.
“I can play: I’m going to be happy to play in Wimbledon. I love this tournament.
“I cannot play: well, I’m going to try to play other tournaments and prepare well for next year if I have the chance to play.”

The former world No.1 has been among a group of Russian players who have previously called for peace in the region. Although none of them have gone as far as publicly condemning the actions of their government. Something which has drawn criticism from Ukraine’s Elina Svitoliva.

“I had some time to follow what is happening, yeah, it’s very upsetting,” Medvedev commented on the war.

Geneva will be the first event Medvedev has played in since reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. He took time away from the Tour to undergo hernia surgery but has confirmed he intends to play at next week’s French Open despite his lack of match play on the clay.

During his time at those events, the tennis star says he is more than happy to speak with other players about the Wimbledon ban should they want to.

“Since I haven’t been on the tour, I haven’t talked to any of them face to face. It was the first time when I came here on Saturday when I can talk to players, and if they start talking about this, we can discuss,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what’s happening, what’s going to happen, if there are going to be more decisions made.
“Same about Wimbledon. I don’t know if this decision is 100 percent, and it’s over.”

Granted a bye in the first round, Medvedev will start his Geneva campaign against either Richard Gasquet or John Millman.

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