TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Andy Murray fought back from a set down to Tomas Berdych in four sets with 6-7 (6-8) 6-0 6-3 7-5 to get through to his fourth Australian Open final after finishing runner-up in 2010,2011 and 2013 and to his eighth Grand Slam final. Murray is bidding to clinch his third Grand Slam title after the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon. On both occasions he beat Novak Djokovic, his possible rival in next Sunday’s final if the Serb beats defending champion Stan Wawrinka in this Friday’s semifinal. Diego Sampaolo
 Andy Murray b. Tomas Berdych 6-7(6) 6-0 6-3 7-5
Berdych led 6-4 in the previous 10 head-to-head matches and and won their previous two clashes, but this time Murray prevailed in four sets after losing the first set at the tie-break. It was the first time since the 2012 ATP Finals that Murray beat Berdych. That year the Dunblane star beat his Czech rival in the semifinals of the US Open.
Murray dropped just two sets so far in the tournament winning in four sets against Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round before beating Nick Kyrgios in the quarter final. Berdych, who also reached the semifinals last year, broke a 17-match losing streak against Rafa Nadal in the quarter finals beating the Spanish star for the first time since 2006 and reached the semifinal without dropping a set so far in the tournament. Berdych was looking to become the first Czech player to reach the Australian Open final since 1998 when Petr Korda won the final.
Berdych broke in the eighth game of the opening set for 5-3 with backhand winners and served for the first set but Murray broke straight back at 30-40 when Berdych hit a backhand into the net. Berdych saved a break point in a service hold for a 6-5 lead before the first set came down to the tie-break. Murray raced to a 3-0 lead in the breaker but Berdych reeled off fived of the next six points to go up 5-4. Murray earned his first set point but Berdych saved it at 5-6 with a forehand and a volley winner.The Czech hit his fourth ace to earn his first set point chance before taking a tight first set with 8-6 after a 76-minute battle when Murray hit a forehand into the net. Berdych won his 16th consecutive set in this tournament. Murray converted on just one of his four break point chances in the first set.
Murray reeled off seven consecutive games to turn around the match. Murray broke serve in the second game of the second set with a lob en route to clinching the second set with a bagel win in a thirty-minute second set. At 0-5 Berdych rallied from 0-30 but Murray broke serve converting on his first serve point when Berdych hit his forehand long.
Murray won the seventh game in a row at the start of the third set. At 3-2 for Murray in the sixth game Berdych went up 40-0 but missed a game point after two double faults allowing the Scotsman to convert on his second break point. Murray hit a forehand down the line on break point before clinching the third set with 6-3 with an ace after 44 minutes
Murray fended off two break points in the sixth game with a cross-court forehand and with a serve to draw level to 3-3. Murray earned two break point opportunities at 5-5 15-30 when Berdych made two errors and a double fault. Murray converted the break point as Berdych hit a groundstroke long. Murray earned the chance to serve for the match as Berdych hit a backhand long. The 2012 Olympic champion held serve to love clinching his 140th Grand Slam win win with his 15th ace.
Murray has reached his four Australian Open final and his eighth in a Grand Slam tournament and his first since he started working with Amelie Mauresmo
“I played very well tonight. I am very happy with the way that I played the match. I am happy to be in the final four times here because I am surrounded by guys like Roger, Novak and Rafa. It doesn’t happen that often. I am very proud of that. Making four finals is a very difficult thing to do. It’s not easy to do. I am proud of my record here. I will try my best on Sunday. I will go in with best tactics possible, prepare well. Have a couple of days rest and recoverd as best as I can. If it is enough, it is great. I could not have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday”.
“At the beginning of the match Tomas started out well. I was a little bit tentative at the beginning and I was getting used to his ball. He hits the ball extremely hard and flat. At the start I felt like I was on the back foot a little bit. Towards the end of end of the first set I started to come into it more, be more aggressive. Then in the second set I just picked up from how I was playing at the end of the first. I felt like I could have won the first set. Obviously I had some chances there. I was extremely aggressive in the second set and I managed to run away with it.“
Today’s match has marked the first time that Murray faced Berdych since the Czech played began working with Murray’s friend Dani Vallverdu, who worked for five years with the Scotman until they split last November.
“Guys wanted there to be tension related to Dani. You wanted there to be tension. It’s completely normal for that to happen. I sat in here the other day and got asked more questions about Dani than I did about the match I just played. Because of everything that’s gone on it’s kind of a natural thing to happen. If you learn how the brain works, it’s completely natural for that. It was kind of expected and had planned for that to be the case as well.”
Murray will play against either Djokovic or Wawrinka in Sunday’s final. “I obviously feel good because I thought I played well tonight. The most important thing in tennis matches you need to be able to make adjustments and change when things aren’t going well. That’s one of the things that we didn’t speak about the other day. Everyone can go into a match with game plans and ideas of how they want to play. I felt like tonight I made some big adjustments in the match from how things were going at the start. I will need to do the same thing again on Sunday against Novak or Stan because things that you think will work don’t always work out that way. You need to be able to make adjustments in the middle of the match. That’s where it doesn’t necessarily always come down to the coach. It has to come down to the individual as well because we can’t get coaching during the match. We need to make adjustments ourselves and that’s one of the things I was most pleased about tonight. After that first set I changed the way I was playing and turned the match in my favour.“
Murray credits his coach Amelie Mauresmo on the hard-work during the off-season. “After spending the off-season with Amelie and working on a bunch of things, having a sustained sort of period together, I did a great training block. I worked extremely hard physically in the off-season. I worked well to give myself the opportunity to play like this this. The way that I feel today compared with how I felt after losing in four sets last year, when I could barely move at the end of the match because I was so sore and stiff. Today I felt strong at the end.“
(updates coming soon)
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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