How Novak Djokovic Not Only Overcame Roger Federer, But Also the U.S. Fans - UBITENNIS
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How Novak Djokovic Not Only Overcame Roger Federer, But Also the U.S. Fans

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By James Beck,

 

 

NEW YORK – The last U.S. Open without a complete roof was an overwhelming success. The rain started as soon as the women’s final ended, and then again just before the men’s final was to begin.

No harm done on Sunday evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Some fans in one end zone’s upper deck even benefitted from a partial roof while waiting out the two-hour delay before the start of the Roger Federer-Novak Djokovic men’s final.

RAIN DELAY MADE THE FINAL BETTER

The delay just made the main event that much better, as it should have been: the match of the tournament. Yes, Djokovic’s four-set win over Federer was much more thrilling and better played than Flavia Pennetta’s easy victory over old friend Roberta Vinci in the women’s final or Vinci’s upset of Serena Williams.

Federer gave the impression all week that Arthur Ashe Stadium now belonged in his arsenal of weapons as a result of the partial roof that reduced the effects of the wind. The TV commentators, mainly Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe, ate it up. It was perfect for his game, Federer made viewers think.

It was like Djokovic’s game was sour, not suitable for such a perfect Federer condition. When asked a couple of days before the finish what all of the upsets meant, a beaming McEnroe answered something like: “What this means is that Federer’s gonna win another major.”

POOR NOVAK JUST HAD TO TAKE THE FAN ABUSE

No wonder the fans treated Djokovic so rudely Sunday night. If the ESPN gang could be so outrageously supportive of Federer, why not the crowd, too. Poor Novak just had to take all of the abuse from the fans.

Even the court announcer introduced Federer “as arguably the greatest player ever.”

Wow, and here’s little Novak going for his third major of the year, playing in his fourth major final of 2015. He was only going for Grand Slam No. 10.

FEDERER OVERWHELMED IN RECENT YEARS BY COMPETITION

Lost in all of this was the fact that many of Federer’s Grand Slam conquests came in the age of “no real challengers” to his superb talent, the time before Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray came into their own.

And for Djokovic, it’s been war after war, fighting off Nadal, Federer and Murray to win his share of Grand Slam titles. All of the competition just made Novak better, while it seemed to overwhelm Federer in recent years.

Federer was back this year in the spotlight in New York as the men’s tour seemed to go flat late in the year, except for Djokovic and Federer. Nadal wasn’t his old tenacious self and Murray looked kind of tired.

FANS TRIED TO CARRY ROGER PAST NOVAK

The fans thought they could carry Federer on their shoulders past a player who is quietly and quickly putting his own stamp on being one of the greatest players ever, maybe right there with Rod Laver and the others.

“Double (fault),” someone would yell as Djokovic started his service motion on a critical point late in the match. The fan outbursts were always timed perfectly for the big moments when Djokovic faced a huge break point or break points, or when it appeared that Novak was just about ready to send Federer to the showers.

Federer had unbridled fan support all night, while Djokovic caught the wrath of the fans. Djokovic would just stand on the service line, look up into the eyes of his real enemy – the fans – and come up with a huge serve or brilliant shot. The bigger the moment, the more determined Djokovic appeared.

MOST MEMORABLE POINT OF MATCH

The most memorable point of the entire match was as Djokovic served with a 3-2, ad-in advantage in the fourth set. This was the killer point that could put Federer away. So, a fan tries to help Federer by yelling “Double” just as Novak went into his service motion. Djokovic stopped, looked up for a second, then responded emphatically with an ace.

That pretty much sealed the deal as Djokovic then broke Federer in the next game for a 5-2 lead. Of course, it wasn’t over as Federer broke right back and then held service before gaining double break point in the 10th game.

The fans went wild, thinking their man was going to even the set, but Djokovic got back to deuce twice before coming up with two strong serves that Federer couldn’t return into play. Roger Federer is a great player who gave a brilliant performance, but at the current time in their careers

Novak Djokovic is the better player.

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James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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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?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

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.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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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.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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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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