TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Kei Nishikori beat David Ferrer 6-3 6-3 6-3 to get through to the quarter finals of the Australian Open for the second time in his career three years after losing to Andy Murray in the 2012 edition. The 2014 US Open runner-up will face last year’s Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarter finals. The defending champion battled past Guillermo Garcia Lopez in four sets with 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8) Nishikori and Wawrinka will meet for the second consecutive Grand Slam after their epic five-set quarter final at the US Open won by the Japanese player. Diego Sampaolo
Before today’s clash at Melbourne Park Nishikori led 6-3 in their previous head-to-head matches against Ferrer but there were 1-1 in Grand Slam matches. The Japanese player beat Ferrer in the third round of the 2008 US Open. Ferrer beat Nishikori in the fourth round at the 2013 Australian Open.
In today’s match Ferrer was probably too tired after his marathon third round match against Giles Simon on Saturday. He committed 44 unforced errors and hit just 14 winners.Nishikori won the 72 percent of his first-serve points, hit 42 winners and converted on six of his 17 break point chances.
Nishikori broke serve in the third game of the opening set. Ferrer saved two break point chances at 2-4 before dropping serve again in the last game of the set for 3-6. Ferrer broke serve for the first time in the match at the third break point opportunity in the very long opening game of the second set which featured 18 points but Nishikori broke straight back in the next game. Nishikori faced a break point at 2-2 but he managed to hold his serve. The second set went on serve until 4-3 when Nishikori broke serve for 5-3. The Japanese star broke serve in the opening game of the second set and sealed the win on his third match point at 5-3 on Ferrer’s serve.
“I played really comfortable on the court. I had a lot of confidence going into the match and I was playing almost 100 percent of tennis, really aggressive, good forehand and serving was also very good”, said Nishikori.
“It’s going to be a really tough match because I have seen him play on TV in a couple of matches. Even today he was playing really well. He can hit balls forehand,backhand, great backhand actually. He can hit from anywhere at the back. It’s going to be a tough match. I am in the quarter finals, so no easy matches coming up. Hopefully I can play another good match. For sure it gives me confidence that I beat him at the US Open. It’s not like I cannot beat him. It’s going to be a tough match for sure”, said Nishikori of his match against Wawrinka
Wawrinka who faced a more difficult task against Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez who upset “Stan the Man” in the first round of the 2014 Roland Garros. They previously met once at Melbourne Park in 2010 in a first round match easily won by Wawrinka. The Swiss player held a 4-3 lead in the previous seven head-to-head matches.
Lopez went up a break twice and served for the first set but Wawrinka broke back on both occasions to draw level to 3-3 and 5-5 before winning the set at the tie-break. Stan broke serve in the third game en route to clinching the second set with 6-4 in 33 minutes.
Stan was looking to be cruising to a easy win at 4-3 in the third set but he dropped serve twice. Lopez won the last three games to clinch the third set with 6-4 to force the match to the fourth set. It was the first dropped serve for the Lausanne player.
The fourth set came down to the tie-break where Garcia Lopez cruised to 5-0 and to 6-2. The Spanish player earned four set points but Wawrinka saved the fifth with a passing shot. After escaping the big scare Wawrinka clinched a hard-fought win on his second match point after three hours and two minutes. Wawrinka hit 70 winners but he committed 61 unforced errors.
“That level, you can change quickly. I did maybe two mistakes, then he started to play a little bit faster, a little bit more flat. I started to be on my defensive a little bit too much. I am happy to get through. It was important to win that match again. It’s great for me to be in quarter finals and get there. I remember the last time I managed to come back in a tie-break was in Shanghai against Lukas Kubot, losing 6-2 also. It was a bad start to the tie-break. At 6-2 I knew it was close to come-back because I had the wind with me. I had to focus on every point. I knew if I was going to come back at 6-5, he was going to get nervous. I did a good passing shot, along line. They always know I go along line. It was a good one. It was nothing special. I was just focused point after point”, reflected Wawrinka of his fourth set tie-break
“I am not focused to win a major. I am taking match after match. I know it’s difficult to do it. It’s amazing I already did one. I am happy to still be there playing great tennis so far. I have the chance to play one more quarter final and see how it’s going to go, Kei is a tough player. He improved a lot last year. I played against him at the US Open. It was a five-set match. I practiced with him before the tournament. He ‘s a great shot maker. He can make winner. It doesn’t matter. He is always taking the ball really early.. It’s always tough to play against him. He doesn’t give you a lot of time. It’s a new year and we start to zero again. Different condition if I have to play him. It will depend a little bit on me and the way I am going to serve, the way I am aggressive from the baseline. If I can play my game, it’s tough for him to always take the ball early. We will see how I am going to deal with that”, said Wawrinka
A lot of players said that surface is faster this year than last year. Wawrinka agreed with that. “It’s quite fast so far. I played only during the day. It’s fast condition and a fast court. We still had some great matches to watch. I think it’s a great Australian Open for people to watch. So far I am happy with the way it goes for me”
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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