Pennetta edges Kvitova to become the first ever Italian 2-time US Open semifinalist - UBITENNIS
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Pennetta edges Kvitova to become the first ever Italian 2-time US Open semifinalist

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Flavia Pennetta edges Petra Kvitova 4-6 6-4 6-2 to become the first Italian ever to reach the semifinal of the US Open twice.

The histories of Flavia Pennetta and Petra Kvitova at the US Open, and on American hardcourts in general, could not be more different. In these past few years, Flavia Pennetta has been one of the most consistent players in New York, reaching the quarterfinals in six of her last seven appearances in the tournament, with her best result being the semifinal lost against Azarenka two years ago. The United States is where Flavia always gave her very best, collecting ten top 10 wins and her two most important titles, Los Angeles and Indian Wells. Her clean, flat groundstrokes and her regularity well adapt to those courts, where she manages to find her best game even in those seasons when things don’t go brilliantly for her, like in the current year.

 

On the other hand, American hardcourts are probably Kvitova’s worse surface: quite amazingly, indeed, this is her first quarterfinal ever at the US Open. The only tournament she has won in the US is New Haven, which she conquered three times. Apart from that, she only got one disappointment after another, especially considering the level of play she’s been able to produce everywhere else in the world, winning Wimbledon twice and reaching the semifinal in the other two Grand Slams. It’s not that her game is not suited for these courts; it is probably more of a psychological block that is preventing her from showing what her real level is at the US Open. Today’s match presented therefore a series of risks for the fifth seed, also by looking at her head-to-head record against Pennetta: they both have three wins each against each other, with the Italian taking the first three encounters and the Czech winning the last three.

As the two players arrive on court the Arthur Ashe stadium looks empty compared to last night. It is still 11:00 a.m. in New York and people like to take their time before reaching Flushing Meadows. Anyway, it’s not early for them as they both start the match determined to take an early lead. It’s Pennetta who goes up a break 1-0, before handing it back the game after. They both seem to hit the ball pretty cleanly, swiping away any possible doubt on their games coming from pressure or tension. Kvitova has a few advantages on her side: she is taller, more powerful, and she’s lefty, and she uses all of these pros in the very first games, hitting slice serves from left to right and accelerating whenever she has the chance to do so.

After the initial hesitations, she takes control of the game, going up a break in the sixth game and consolidating the lead till five-three. There she plays a horrible game when serving for the set, hitting three double faults and letting Pennetta back into play. Down 4-5, Pennetta goes 40-0 on her serve before losing five points in a row, hitting two double faults and receiving three heavy returns from Kvitova, who pumps herself up with some loud grunts in an attempt to keep her tension high.

In the second set things seems to go even smoother for Kvitova, who gets an early break and goes up 3-1. However, from then on Pennetta cuts down her errors and starts playing at a higher level, breaking back her opponent and going to serve for the set up 5-4. She’s forced to save two breakpoints that would give the chance to Kvitova to level up the score, finally managing to take the set six games to four, committing only four unforced errors in the whole set.

In the decider the two players go toe-to-toe till the 2-all. Then it is a one-woman show: Kvitova looks tired and probably restrained by a leg-injury. Pennetta plays flawlessly, committing no mistakes and going on to win the next four games and the match 4-6 6-4 6-2. 

She’s now in the semis for the second time in her career; the first Italian to do so at the US Open. It will also be the first time ever, women or men, in which there will be two Italian semifinalists in a Slam at the same time.

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Novak Djokovic Backs ‘Strict’ Covid-19 Measures At French Open Amid Concerns of False Results

The world No.1 gives his opinion about the testing procedure at Roland Garros after some players say their positive results were false.

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Novak Djokovic has insisted that he is not bothered by the possibility that he may test positive for COVID-19 at this year’s French Open despite previously having the virus.

 

Leading up to the Grand Slam a series of players has criticised the tournament after being removed from the draw due to what they say was a ‘false positive’ results. The most recent of those is Spain’s Fernando Verdasco who published a statement saying he was ‘frustrated and outraged’ with officials. The 36-year-old said he originally tested positive for the virus, asymptomatically, back in August before doing so again in Paris. He then underwent subsequent tests which came back negative. Although under French Open rules, players are removed from the tournament following any failed tests and are not allowed a retest to see if their result might have been false. Katarzyna Kawa, Bernabé Zapata and the coach of Damir Dzumhur have reportedly been in similar situations.

Speaking about the current measures on the eve of the French Open main draw starting, Djokovic told reporters that he is not thinking about the same happening to him. The 17-time Grand Slam winner tested positive for the virus shortly after the Adria Tour back in July.

“I am not concerned about the virus being present or not present in me. I’m actually not thinking about it at the moment,” said Djokovic. “I’ve tested negative many times ever since I was positive. So that’s where I am.”
“I think the world is still not yet 100% clear on whether once you have the virus it is going to come back or not. Some countries are saying yes, some are not. There’s quite a lot of confusion out there medically in the advice and in the statements that we’ve been hearing.”
He added.

Nevertheless, there is a sense of discontent among some players on the Tour. Although Djokovic has refused to criticize the testing process as he thanked the French Tennis Federation for making the event happen at all. The French Open was originally set to start at the end of May but got delayed due to the pandemic.

“The rules are as they are here in France. It’s pretty strict. I guess it has to be that way. I am grateful as a tennis player that I have an opportunity to compete and just play in another Grand Slam. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish this tournament with no big consequences,” he states.

Due to COVID-19 the government has stated that no more than 1000 fans are allowed to attend the clay court major each day. A significant drop in original plans for 11,5000 daily spectators over three separate zones. The reduction has been applied due to a surge in cases in France.

The incident

Besides the challenges posed by COVID-19, Djokovic knows all too well that he enters Paris under close scrutiny following his unfortunate disqualification from the US Open after accidentally hitting a ball at a lineswoman. The Serbian is renowned for showing his emotions on the court when he plays, but will he be more cautious following the New York incident?

Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people. But that’s life, that’s sport. These things can happen,” the 33-year-old explained.
“But I don’t think that this will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court.
“I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York. I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way.”

Djokovic admits that it is an inner process with his trying to accept what happened and move on. He has already won five titles this year, including the Italian Open last week, and has a win-loss record of 31-1.

“I try to keep my negative reactions on the court as few as possible. But I guess it happens as well. I’m not going to be down on myself because of that. I also try to kind of accept it and forgive myself for what happened and move on,” he said.
“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in a good way or maybe less good way.”

Djokovic will start his French Open campaign against Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.

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Rafael Nadal At Odds With Rivals Over Change Of Balls At French Open

The king of clay admits the new change will make it ‘tougher’ for him and his quest for a 13th Roland Garros title.

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This year’s French Open will take place with a new ball supplier in a move that has bemused the tournament’s most decorated player of all time.

 

12-time champion Rafael Nadal has lamented the decision to ditch the use of Babolat balls for Wilson. The new balls are said to be slower which has frustrated the world No.2 who faces the prospect of his opponents being able to return his topspin shots more easily than in the past editions in Paris. On top of that, due to the tournament taking place later in the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic the conditions will be cooler and the ball will be heavier to hit.

“In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I think it is not a good ball to play with on clay, honestly. That is my personal opinion,” Nadal told reporters. “It is not the right ball to play on clay court. [And] with these conditions, it makes things tougher, no? But I knew before I arrived here. No problem at all. Just accept the challenge.”

Refusing to hold back in his views, Nadal said he hopes organisers will reconsider the use of Wilson balls after 2020. His argument is that making players hit heavier balls could put more strain on them and therefore elevates the risk of injury.

“I really believe that the organisation needs to take a look at that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players too, because the ball is super heavy. (It) becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.” He stated.

Despite only playing three matches on the clay this season, the 34-year-old remains the bookies favourite to win the French Open once again. Since his debut, the Spaniard has won 93 out of 95 matches played and has only been taken to five sets twice. However, due to the unusual circumstances this year Nadal admits that he is facing ‘the most difficult situation’ when it comes to the conditions.

Whilst the reigning champion is far from happy about the ball swap, others have been more receptive to the move. Dominic Thiem, who finished runner-up at the French Open two years in a row, says the balls are ‘good.’ Although he is another person who is partly unhappy about the change.

I practised two days at home with the ball. Now, of course, here. I’m a little bit sad because the Babolat at Roland Garros, it was my favourite ball, it was perfect,” said Thiem.
“Obviously it was the ball from my racket company. (It) was fast, was taking spin incredibly well. But the Wilson ball is good, as well. It’s just a little bit slower. It gets a little bit bigger after a while.”

Daniil Medvedev is more positive as he hopes to end his dismal run at Roland Garros. The world No.5 is yet to win a main draw match in his career after suffering three consecutive first round losses.

“I like the balls because, yeah, tennis is a funny and interesting sport,” he said.
“It’s normal that when one player doesn’t like something, second one maybe is going to like it. So far I like it. I think it suits me not bad.”

Nadal will start his French Open campaign against Egor Gerasimov.

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Seven Extraordinary Facts About Rafael Nadal’s French Open Career

UbiTennis takes a closer look at the King of clay and his remarkable run of success at the clay court Grand Slam.

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Despite only being able to play three competitive matches on the clay heading into this year’s French Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic Rafael Nadal remains the heavy favourite and with good reason.

 

The world No.2 is the most successful player of all time to have ever played at the event which dates back to 1891. He holds an array of records at the major and has incredibly won 23 more matches than any other player on the ATP Tour. His current tally stands at 93 wins compared to second place Roger Federer who is on 70.

It’s Nadal. Even though he lost (at the Italian Open), I still think a lot of people will agree, he’s the No. 1 favourite. The record that he has there and the history of his results you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” Djokovic said of his rival last week.

To put into perspective Nadal’s remarkable run at the clay-court major, here are seven things to know about his French Open career so far.

He won on his very first attempt

Nadal’s love affair at Roland Garros started back in 2005 when he was only 18. Yet to contest a major final, the Spaniard was seeded fourth in the men’s draw and impressively dropped only three sets en route to the title. Scoring consecutive wins over David Ferrer, Federer and Mariano Pueta to become only the sixth Spanish man to win the tournament in the Open Era.

When I arrived at Roland Garros for the first time in 2005, as always, I took it match-by-match, but I was aware that if I could play as well as I had played in the previous tournaments I had a chance,” Nadal reflected on the milestone.
“I was brimming with energy, the lack of awareness of someone so young and clearly I was capable of reaching important balls, that were very difficult, returning them with power, with intensity and playing with enormous passion.”

Nadal is one of only two men to have won the French Open title on their debut in the Open Era. The other was Mats Wilander who triumphed back in 1982.

Most decorated of all time

15 years on from when he lifted his first trophy, Nadal has won Roland Garros a record 12 times. Something that hasn’t been achieved by any other player since the Open Era began. Within that period the only time he didn’t win the tournament was in 2009, 2015 and 2016. Although in 2016 he withdrew during the tournament due to injury.

Prior to Nadal, the record for most men’s titles won belong to Frenchman Max Decugis who won the tournament eight times between 1903 and 1914.

Nadal’s tournament record
Champion – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019
Quarter-finals – 2015
Fourth round – 2009
Third round – 2016 (retired injured before the match)

Only twice has he been beaten

The 34-year-old has an incredible 97.9% winning rate at the tournament after winning 93 out of 95 matches played. The only players to have beaten him are Robin Söderling and Novak Djokovic. Söderling, who was the 23rd seed in the 2009 tournament, stunned Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, in the fourth round. Then in 2015 Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 6-3, 6-1, in the quarter-finals. Both of them went on to reach the final but failed to win the title that year.

Three of his title triumphs saw him go 21-0 in sets played

In 2008, 2010 and 2017 Nadal roared his way to the title without dropping a single set. Other players to have achieved the milestone in Paris include Ilie Nastase in 1973 and Bjorn Borg in both 1978 and 1980.

It was in 2008 when Nadal recorded his most one-sided win in a final at the French Open after crushing Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Only twice has he been taken to the full distance

What does Djokovic and John Isner have in common? They are the only players to have taken Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros. Isner was the first to do so during the first round of the 2011 Championships and had a two-set lead at one point before the Spaniard battled back to prevail 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Two years later in the semi-finals Djokovic battled on court for more than four-and-a-half hours before falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 9-7.

Overall Nadal has played 304 sets in his French Open career and has won 277 of them. Working out as a 91% winning rate.

The prize money

So far in his career Nadal has earned $22,051,715 in prize money due to his success in the French capital. To put the figure in perspective, only 21 players in ATP history have earned more than that throughout their entire careers.

In comparison, Federer has made $18,719,106 at Wimbledon where he has won the title a record eight times. Meanwhile, Djokovic has claimed $19,885,780 in winnings at the Australian Open which he has also won eight times.

Overall Nadal’s career earnings stands at 121,044,734 which is the third highest of all-time. Almost a fifth (18.2%) of that is from Roland Garros alone.

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