Federer and Wawrinka cruise on Day 1 at the French 2015 - UBITENNIS
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Federer and Wawrinka cruise on Day 1 at the French 2015

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TENNIS – Roger Federer made a winning start to his Roland Garros campaign with a 6-3 6-3 6-4 win over Alejandro Falla in one hour and 49 minutes on the Philippe Chatrier court in Paris. The other top-ranked Swiss player, Stan Wawrinka, also had a comfortable start beating Marsel Ihlan with 6-3 6-2 6-3 Diego Sampaolo

 

Falla, who in past has posed a very tough challenge for the World’s No.2 Federer despite the fact that the Colombian has never beaten the Swiss legend in their 7 previous meetings. There most notable encounter was at Wimbledon 2010 when Falla led 2 sets to love and served for the match in the fourth set. He was a mere 4 points away from sending the then defending champion Federer packing in the 1st round. However, Federer pulled through in that match as he did again in last year’s Halle final where Falla again presented himself as a formidable opponent.

This match would be no different as Falla started well earning an early break point chance but Federer saved it to stay ahead at 2-1. The 2009 Roland Garros champion held his serve at love for 4-3 before earning break point chances on the Falla serve. Falla saved the first three but Federer finally able to convert as the Colombian made two unforced errors allowing Federer to serve out the opening set 6-3. The momentum carried over into the 2nd set for the Swiss as broke Falla early in the third game for 2-1 before sealing the second set breaking Falla again to take it 6-3.

In the 3rd set, Falla was once again under pressure when he had to save three break points before holding his serve in the early part of the set. Federer faced a single break point but he held serve to maintain his lead at 3-2. Things remained on serve until Falla was serving to stay in the match down 4-5. Federer broke him for a fourth time to take the match 6-3 6-3 6-4.

Federer had 42 winners, including 8 aces and converted on four of his 15 break point chances. Federer extended his winning streak to 8-0 over Falla who was a Lucky Loser into the main draw this year as he lost in the last round of qualification on Friday. In the next round, Federer will face Marcel Granollers who beat Matthias Bachinger 6-4 6-3 7-6(7) to advance.

Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka (8) beat Marsel Ihlan 6-3 6-2 6-3. Wawrinka held his serve after a tough opening game. Ilhan had four early break points but failed to convert any of them as they remained on serve until Wawrinka edged ahead 3-2. The Swiss No. 2 got his first break point in the 6th game. He converted and consolidated the break by holding serve for 5-2. Ilhan was able to hold serve in the next game but was unable to recover the break as Wawrinka closed out the set at 6-3.

Wawrinka got the early break in the first game of the second set and earned the double break in the 5th game for 4-1. Wawrinka earned another break point up 5-1 but Ilhan saved it. Wawrinka had no problems taking a 2-0 sets lead over Ilhan 6-3 6-2.  Last year, Wawrinka lost in the first round to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in 4 sets. This year, his French Open campaign opener was far easier as he raced out to a 3-1 lead in the 3rd set. Ilhan earned himself a 6th break point in the 8th game but as with the other 5, he was unable to convert as Wawrinka held serve for 5-3. Wawrinka then broke Ilhan again to take the match 6-3 6-2 6-3.

Kei Nishikori (5) beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3 7-5 6-1 already improving on last year’s result when he was knocked out in the 1st round by Martin Klizan. The Japanese player converted 7 of his 15 break point chances. After two tight games to open the match, Nishikori got the first break of the match in the 1st set en route to winning it 6-3. Nishikori went up an early break in the 2nd set but Mathieu reeled off three consecutive games to level it. However, Nishikori would not be denied the set and quickly took back the momentum by taking the set 7-5 and a commanding lead up 2-0 sets. In the 3rd set, both Mathieu and his home crowd were deflated as Nishikori cruised through it 6-1 to take the match in straight sets.

It was not all disappointment for the Frenchmen on this day as both wildcard Nicolas Mahut and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14) won their matches in relative ease. Mahut took out Kimmer Coppejans 6-3 6-4 7-6 and Tsonga beat Christian Lindell 6-1 6-2 6-2. Ernests Gulbis (24) who is having a most dismal year is looking to defend the semifinal points he earned here last year and is 4 matches away from doing so as he won over Igor Sijsling 6-4 6-4 7-6 to get to the next round.

Other winners on the day include Roberto Bautista Agut (19) beat Florian Mayer 6-3 6-1 6-3 setting up a second round encounter against Lukas Rosol who beat Swedish rising star qualifier Elias Yimer 6-2 7-6(7) 6-3. Philipp Kohlschreiber (22), who last year lost a marathon 3rd round match 12-10 in the 5th set against Andy Murray, eased past Go Soeda of Japan 6-1 6-0 6-2. Dudi Sela, Dusan Lajovic and Pablo Andujar also moved through to the 2nd round. Damir Dzumhur was able to get to the next round when after being up 2-0 sets, Mikhail Youzhny retired from the match.

There were two minor upsets on the day, American Steve Johnson taking out the 26th seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 6-3 and Marcos Baghdatis knocked out Ivo Karlovic (25) 7-6 6-4 6-4.

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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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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

 

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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