AO2015: Djokovic and Wawrinka to meet in the semifinal - UBITENNIS
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AO2015: Djokovic and Wawrinka to meet in the semifinal

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TENNIS AO2015 – Defending champion Stan Wawrinka cruised past US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in straight sets with 6-3 6-4 7-6 (8-6) to get through to his second consecutive semifinal at the Australian Open. Wawrinka set up a blockbuster semifinal against Novak Djokovic who beat Milos Raonic in three sets with 7-6 6-4 6-2. Diego Sampaolo

AO2015: Interviews, Results, Order of Play, Draws

Stan the Man has showed impressive form so far this year winning the Chennai for the second year in a row before advancing to the semifinal of the Australian Open dropping just a set in the whole tournament. Nishikori was looking to improve the result achieved in 2012 when he was beaten by Andy Murray in the quarter final.

Nishikori overcame Wawrinka in a five-set quarter final at last year’s US Open with 3-6 7-5 7-6 6-7 6-4. Today’s match was expected to another thrilling match but this time around Wawrinka was too strong in the first two sets.

Wawrinka broke serve for the first time in the match in the fourth game of the opening set before pulling away to 5-3. In the ninth game Nishikori drew level to 30-30 but Wawrinka sealed the first set with 6-3 after a forehand winner and a backhand unforced error from Nishikori

Nishikori saved a break point opportunity in the third game of the second set but Wawrinka got the break in the fifth game. At 4-2 Wawrinka brought up three break point chances which Nishikori saved them.

Nishikori earned a break point chance for the first time in the match in the 10th game of the second set but Wawrinka saved it by hitting a first serve at 222 km/h and clinched the second set with 6-4.

Nishikori broke serve in the second time of the third set but was broken back immediately to love. The third set went on serve until the tie-break.

Wawrinka hit three aces to go up 6-1 in the third-set tie-break but he faced trouble when Nishikori rallied from 1-6 by saving five match points to draw level to 6-6. However, the Japanese player sent his forehand drop-shot into the net to earn Wawrinka the sixth match point. Wawrinka hit his 20th ace at 209 km/h to clinch the win after two hours and four minutes. Wawrinka won 86 percent of his first serve points and hit 46 winners.

I was really happy to see the dropshot hit the net because I was not going to get to that ball. I had the wind with me, so it was not easy to make a drop-shot, especially at that moment. It was a crazy tie-break, but it was a good tie-break. It was good to finish in three sets. Today I was serving really well. I am happy with that part of my game. It’s never easy to break Kei because he playing so well. You need to be focused on what you need to do. You need to change the speed. You need to change where you serve also. I think it was one of my best matches if I look about that”

Wawrinka is 5-0 in the tie-breaks he played at the Australian Open this year.

It’s just the beginning of the season. We’ll see at the end of the year. Two days ago I was lucky. I was down 6-2 and I won the tie-break with some luck. Today I was 6-1 up, but I started on the side with the wind, so that helped me a lot. He started with serve and volley. When he came back from 6-1 to 6-all, he was playing good, aggressive. I was a little bit hesitating. I didn’t put first serve. It’s never easy when you have so many match points to focus after. But at 6-all I had the wind again. I was trying to be aggressive. Luckily he missed the drop-shot. I am happy to make an ace after”

I am just happy to be back in the semifinals so far. It was important match for me today. It’s never easy against Nishikori. I had to be ready for that. I had to fight with myself to stay with him, to play really aggressive, to stay on my line not give him the opportunity to put me in a defensive play. I am really happy that I did that really well today. I think it was a great match in general”

Wawrinka feels that he is playing even better than last year when he won his first Grand Slam title and is confident that he can repeat the achievement this year.

I think I am playing better. I think we all improve every year. I am more aggressive. I have more confidence wit my game when I come to the net. It’s a Grand Slam. You play every two days. Today was a great match. I am now going to enjoy a little bit, watch who is going to win tonight and get ready for the semifinal. I know that now I have a Grand Slam at home. I have the Grand Slam trophy. I won the Davis Cup also. I have the confidence from that. I know I can make it. I trust my game. I trust myself on the court even when we start to play the semifinal or the final in Grand Slam. Apart from that, it’s a new year. It’s going to be a new semifinal. We’ll see whom I am going to play”

Wawrinka said that winning the Davis Cup at the end of last year game him the confidence.

I think I got a lot of confidence from first winning the Davis Cup at the end of the year. I think since Shanghai I have been playing great tennis. I am focused on what I am doing every day. I am trying to practice really hard, trying to improve my game. I had a really good Masters in London, playing one of my best tournaments indoors, losing the semifinal against Roger. Then I had the important Davis Cup final. It was important mentally to get there, to play well. That’s what I did. I had a short pre-season. I am trying to work hard. I am trying to improve my game. I have the chance to have a great team around me with Magnus Norman and Pierre Paganini who are really behind me trying to push me every day. I got a lot of confidence by winning Chennai, the first tournament. My game is there and I am happy to play here in Melbourne, to have a chance to play the semifinal again. As I said before the tournament, I do not feel pressure by defending the title because I don’t come here to defend it. I come here as a new challenge, a new Grand Slam. That’s how I start the tournament. I am really happy to be already in the semifinal, to play that well so far. This match was really important for me especially the way I deal with the pressure to play Nishikori. It’s never easy for me for my game.

Nishikori felt more aggressive in his game in the third set and he might have changed the match if he he had won the breaker. “I started to feel more comfortable in the third set, especially after I found out a couple of points that I could go little more aggressive than in the first and in the second sets. I was mixing up serve and volleys. My serve was much better than in the first couple of sets because I was making more first serve. I was struggling my serve. That’s why I couldn’t get good rhythm in the first and in the second set. The tie-break was really close. If I could get that one, I might change the whole thing. But he was serving really well until the end of the set. I have to give him credit. He obviously played really aggressive and played great tennis. I didn’t play really bad. Congratulations to him”, said Nishikori

Wawrinka will face Novak Djokovic for the third consecutive year at Melbourne Park.In 2013 Djokovic edged Wawrinka in the fourth round with an epic 12-10 in the fifth set. Last year Wawrinka overcame Djokovic with 9-7 in another dramatic five-set battle in the quarter final.

Djokovic beat Raonic 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-2

Djokovic beat Raonic in straight sets with 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-2. The match was expected to be a battle between the biggest returner (Djokovic) and the biggest server (Raonic) but only in the first set Djokovic faced stiff resistance from Raonic who kept pace with the World Number 1 with his big serve. Djokovic earned four break points in the first set. Predictably the opening set went on serve until the inevitable tie-break. In the previous matches Djokovic had a record of three tie-break wins in four against Raonic. The Canadian had already won 8 out of 10 tie-break this year.

Djokovic took advantage of a costly forehand unforced error from Raonic at 5-6 in the breaker allowed Djokovic to clinch the opening set.

Djokovic broke the resistance of Raonic and went from strength to strength holding serve with ease. He dropped just two points on serve and broke serve in the remaining two sets.

The Serb finally managed to break with his cross-court backhand at the start of the second set and won the second set in 33 minutes. Raonic did not earn a single break point in the match. Djokovic broke serve twice in the third set and sealed the win with a backhand volley on his first match point after 119 minutes to get through to his fifth Australian Open semifinal and to his 25th Grand Slam semifinal.

Djokovic extended his winning streak to 5-0 in his head-to-head matches against Raonic. He has not dropped a single set in the whole tournament so far.

Djokovic is looking to win his fifth title in Melbourne and equal Roy Emerson at the top of the ranking of players with more titles at the Australian Open.

I played my best tennis in the tournament so far. Tonight I played the way I wanted. It’s great to see Stan doing good three years. He didn’t believe he could win Slams. This has changed now. Stan is playing very confident and is one of the guys to beat in this tournament. I am ready for the battle.We get to play on a high level against each other. I am a very good friend but when we get on the court we wanna beat each other”

It was a close first set but I thought I had I had more chances in the first set than him. I managed to stay tough in the right moments and win the crucial first set. Obviously winning it in a tie-break and making the break of serve in the first game in the first game of the second set was definitely huge for me. I could start swinging through a little bit more, be more aggressive into the court. Since that first game of the second set I played a great match. I take a lot of confidence out of the last two matches that were very tricky, where I didn’t lose a set. I try to carry that in every next match, next challenge. I am going to play Stan, who Is the defending champion here. We played five-set matches in the 2013 and 2014 Australian Open. I am going to be ready for a fight. Knowing that I have raised the level of performance tonight, and probably playing the best match of the tournament so far is affecting my confidence in a positive way. Hopefully I can carry that into next one. I try to take the positives out of every match. Tonight there was not much I could complain about. From the first game till the last I played the way I wanted. I created a lot of breakpoint opportunities. The key of tonight’s match was to get an many balls back in play, returns back in play. I thought from the back of the court I had more more chances than him to win the points. I executed very well. It’s easier said than done, but I feel very good about my game in this moment”, said Djokovic.

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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