AO15: Straight sets win for Djokovic against Bedene - UBITENNIS
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AO15: Straight sets win for Djokovic against Bedene

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TENNIS AO15 – Novak Djokovic opened his Australian Open campaign with a convincing 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over Slovenian qualifier and this year’s Chennai runner-up Aljaz Bedene in 109 minutes dispelling any doubts on his fitness after a virus hampered his build-up to the first Grand Slam of the year. Diego Sampaolo

AO 2015: Interviews, Results, Order of Play, Draws

World Number 1 Novak Djokovic started the ATP season with a quarter-final loss against “King of Aces” Ivo Karlovic in Doha and recent illness hampered his preparation to the Australian Open but the Serbian star played a solid match against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, who recently lost the Chennai final against Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic recovered from a slow start against Bedene who kept his pace with Djokovic until the eighth game of the opening set. The Slovenian player, who reached his career-high of 71st in the ATP Ranking in 2013, hit three consecutive aces in one game before earning break point chances in the fifth game which were saved by Djokovic. Bedene, who lives in Great Britain and has applied to become a British citizen, handed a first break point chance by hitting a forehand long. The Serb converted on it as Bedene hit a smash into the net. The World Number 1 wrapped up the first set with 6-3 in 30 minutes.

Djokovic cruised through to winning the second set with 6-2 in 27 minutes. Bedene called a medical time-out at 1-2 in the third set because of a hip problem. Djokovic took advantage and got two break points with a down-the line backhand. He converted on the second break point chance in the fifth game. He had to save a break point chance before cruising to a comfortable 6.4 with a love service game in the third set.

Djokovic converted on four of his eight break point chances and hit 30 winners. Djokovic, who won the first of his seven Grand Slam at Melbourne Park in 2008 and three consecutive Australian Open titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013, is looking to become the second player in history to clinch five titles in Melbourne.

The World Number One reflected on his slow start and how the match could have changed in the first set.

“I am just glad to be back competing at the highest level. The Australian Open are dear to me. It was my most successful Grand Slam. I have been playing my best tennis throughout my career on these courts. I am trying to soak up every joyful moment on these courts. The start was a bit slow from my side. He had a couple of breakpoints. The match could have gone a different way in the first set. I never played against him. I watched him only once”, said Djokovic

“The effects of the virus are fading away. I had two rough weeks health-wise but I fought my way through. Now it’s behind me. I think I did well in terms in terms of responding to the slow start today, feeling a little bit rusty on the court. Hopefully the next one will be better. Bedene surprised me. I had a difficult time reading his serve. The courts are playing a little bit faster than they were in the past two years. If you have a big serve, you know how to use it. It’s a big advantage on these courts. Bedene is a good player. He reached the final in Chennai and qualified again here. I managed to stay tough and overcome some kind of challenges that I faced at the beginning of the match. I played much more comfortably in the rest of the match.”

During the court-side interview Djokovic reflected on how his life has changed since his marriage and the birth of his son Stefan.

“These two events are the most beautiful events I have experience in my life. Stefan is a blessing we received. I have now more motivation”, said Djokovic.

Djokovic was asked what he thinks about the two Australian rising stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis who reached the second round yesterday raising the hopes of the Australian “Fanatics”.

“I was saying that they both are very talented. They have a huge motivation to play in front of their fans. They had great opening matches. They could not ask for anything better. They have a huge support. I congratulate them both. It’s not easy as an 18-year-old to overcome the challenges, the pressure and the expectations. Especially Kyrgios, with the amount of attention he got this week, prior to the Australian Open. To be able to face that and win the way they did, shows the character. I wish both well for the rest of the tournament. Nick had a lot of attention in the media. Australia wants to have another big star. Kokkinakis did very well to win yesterday’s match, facing some match points. They have the potential, no doubt about that. It’s a long road ahead of them. I am sure they are aware of it”, said Djokovic

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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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