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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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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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