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)
Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome
Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.
Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.
Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.
Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.
Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.
After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.
The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.
Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.
Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.
Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.
In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.
Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.
There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.
Rafael Nadal Missing Fan Support Despite Emphatic Win At Italian Open
The 19-time Grand Slam winner reacts to his latest win 200 days after his last.
The absence of a crowd at this year’s Italian Masters has been branded as ‘not beautiful’ by Rafael Nadal following his opening match on Wednesday.
The world No.2 raced to a 6-1, 6-1, triumph over US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in what was his first competitive match of any sort since March 1st. Despite his lengthy break from the Tour, Nadal showed little rust as he dropped only eight points behind his serve and broke the world No.18 five times overall. The latest victory is Nadal’s 62nd in Rome and he has only won more matches at four other tournaments.
“Of course I have to improve things. The things that I have to improve, the only way to improve is to keep practising with the right attitude, the right intensity and to spend hours in competition matches,” he said afterwards.
“Today has been a positive start for me,” Nadal later added.
Choosing to skip the New York bubble due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nadal is still getting used to the concept of playing without the crowds. Something many of his rivals has already had experience of. The Italian Open had originally hoped to allow fans to enter its grounds before the local authorities ruled against it over concerns it could trigger an outbreak of the Coronavirus.
“It’s Not beautiful the feeling of playing without the spectators because the energy of the fans is impossible to describe. But for me, at least, today has been a very positive comeback,” Nadal assessed.
It is a case of wait and see as to how the Spaniard will fare in the coming days given his recent lack of match play compared to his rivals such as Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. Fortunately for Nadal, he is playing on the clay which is a surface which he has won more ATP titles on than any other player in the Open Era. As for the upcoming French Open, will a lack of play in recent weeks be problematic for him?
“I don’t think so, no. If Roland Garros was this week, maybe yes. Roland Garros is two weeks away.” He concluded.
Nadal will next play either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic who will play their second round match on Thursday.
Dominic Thiem And Thomas Muster: A Comparison
They are the only Austrian Slam champions in men’s tennis, but how do they stack up against each other?
The original version of this article was published on loslalom.it.
On October 24, 2011, Dominic Thiem had just turned 18 and was in the very early stages of his professional career, so the organisers of the ATP tournament in Vienna rewarded him with a wild card. On October 24, 2011, Thomas Muster had been 44 for about three weeks and at the sunset of his career, so he was also given the wild card for Vienna tournament. What no one could predict, neither the players nor the tournament organizers, was that the draw would pit them against each other in the first round, for what would be their first encounter, and ultimately the only one – after conceding with a 6-2 6-3 score in an hour and four minutes, Muster retired forever. He was the only Austrian to have won a Grand Slam tournament, in 1995 at Roland Garros, at least until Sunday night, when the then teenager who ended his career equalled him.
In the first decade of his career, Thiem has earned almost twice as much as Munster did in 18 (22 million dollars against 12). Thiem is right-handed, Muster a southpaw. Both sport one-handed backhands. It took 10 years for Muster to win a Major, and by the eleventh he was the world N.1, albeit not for long. He was a bona fide drop-shot chaser. It took nine years as a professional for Thiem to win at Flushing Meadows, but he has not yet risen higher than third in the ATP Ranking. Thiem is two inches taller (6’1’’ versus 5’11’’), he has an edge for the number of aces (5.8 per game on average against 3) and for the effectiveness of his first serve (74.2% vs 69.1%). The two are essentially tied with their second serve (53.2% vs 53.7) and in the break-points-saved department (62.9% vs 63%), but Muster is more dominant in the return games (31.6% break vs 23.5%) and, despite earning a street rep as a marathon runner, his matches were 11 minutes shorter than Thiem’s (an hour and 30 minutes against an hour and 41). His winning points ended on average in 35 seconds, Thiem’s in 37,8 seconds.
In his career Thiem has met stronger opponents, ranked on average at 35 in the world, while Muster’s foes usually hovered around number 52. Despite this, the latter managed to beat opponents better placed than him in the standings in only 9.8% of cases, while Thiem’s percentage is 12.3 %. On the contrary, Thiem was beaten in 21.4% of cases by tennis players ranked worse in the rankings, whereas this happened to Muster in 19% of cases, a percentage that drops to 13% when it comes to clay only. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of 2020, Muster coached Thiem.
The following chart summarises the numbers:
Gianni Clerici, the Italian Hall-of-Famer journalist and writer, gave Thomas Muster the moniker of “Mr Muscolo” (Mr Muscle). This is the portrait he made of him: “He’s not very nice, seven out of ten people say about Muster. A couple of them find him downright unpleasant. The remaining, meagre ten percent all but worships him. It is probably the attitude that does not appeal. His face appears incredibly rapacious, reminding of a bird of prey, or, if not strictly of an eagle or a hawk, at the very least of a possessed personality, those wide-open eyes animated by a blue and sinister light. But, even more than the face, what repels many people is his technique, his relentlessness devoid of human breathing which is fully on display as he gets back bopping on his side of the court a ripe thirty seconds before the established one minute and 25, while the unfortunate opponent is still splayed on his chair, trying to recover some breath and peace in the aftermath of the gruelling races that Muster locked him into. If the style is the man, well, the Austrian’s style does not capture the imagination. His serve is average at best, and he cautiously avoids volleying, but he has some great weapons, like that terrible loopy forehand and, in the last couple years, that no less terrible backhand slap. Come to think of it, even Muster’s ancestors, Borg and Vilas, were no less engulfing, less repetitive. But Borg had more athletic talent, his runs were very fluid, his sense of playing so high that he even managed to adapt to the Wimbledon lawns where he won five times and where Muster instead looks like a wretch. Muster has the athletic pedigree of champions but certainly not the charisma”.
Clerici also had the opportunity to write on Thiem for “la Repubblica” (an Italian daily newspaper), stating that “he was born with tennis in his blood, […] he has a refined hand, as can be seen with his drop shots and with his cross-court volleys,” then adding: “I have seen many times the Austrian go all-out on his backhand, as if he were holding an umbrella wide open, while his forehand is more akin to a machete.” Yesterday morning, he added that Thiem reminds him of “the tennis players of my time during the Fifties, when tennis was different from today, perhaps more beautiful to watch, a spectacles that intellectuals like Giorgio Bassani enjoyed, and that could have taken place in the genteel backyards sketched out in his novels.”
Translation and graphics by Andrea Canella
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