Serena tested by fellow American Mattek-Sands - UBITENNIS
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Serena tested by fellow American Mattek-Sands

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US Open – Few predicted the high drama that unfolded on Arthur Ashe in the Serena Williams (1) v fellow American wildcard entrant Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Mattek-Sands came out on court in what could only be described as “on fire” as she seized control of the match and near looked ready to upset history in the making. However, the Serena legacy is nothing without the epic comeback matches. This match on the night, might not be the best one of the many Serena has played but it might be the most important one. Serena took the last 8 games of the match to win it 3-6 7-5 6-0 and move into the Round of 16 on Sunday.  [S]he’s a great closer. She always has been. I think she gains momentum and gets pumped up, pumps herself up, and I think that’s why she’s able to close matches out really well,” said Mattek-Sands after the match.

 

Mattek-Sands raced out to a 3-0 lead. Serena was missing by a country-mile as errors poured off her racquets. She held serve and broke to get back on serve at 2-3 but Mattek-Sands was relentless. She remained focused and error-free as she broke again for a 4-2 lead and consolidated the break for 5-2. What was most surprising in this opening set was the number of break point chances Serena missed. She had break point chances in nearly all of Mattek-Sands games including the pivotal 8th game when Mattek-Sands was serving for the set. Mattek-Sands did not so much win these crucial points as opposed to Serena gave them away. She was rushing on her shots, hitting wide of the mark and taking up poor court positions in light of the shots she was going for. She was 1/7 on break points in the set whereas Mattek-Sands converted on the two chances that she had. Thus in just 37 minutes, Mattek-Sands was up a set and Serena was a set away from losing. Mattek-Sands had a single unforced error in the set compared to 14 from Serena.

Serena down a set was not usually reason to panic but the problem was that Serena’s game was not improving. She again squandered 5 more break points. Mattek-Sands looked poised for the upset and then in the 8th game, the unseeded American blinked. Serena broke for 5-3 and served for the set. However, it seemed that the pressure of the moment got too much for Serena as she too took this moment to blink and was broken. Mattek-Sands leveled the set at 5-5 and it looked like this was going to be an upset of the 21-time major champion. The crowd was aghast of this possibility. The tension both inside and outside the stadium.

Serena sensing the urgency of the matter responded in her classic manner. She raised her level to “unplayable”. “I knew that I could play better, so with that in the back of my mind — because I made a lot of errors, but I knew, like, this wasn’t the best game, my best game,” Serena said after the match. Mattek-Sands could not keep pace with her compatriot and soon it became clear that the danger of Serena losing was not about to happen on the day. Serena held serve for 6-5 and broke her opponent to take the set 7-5. In the 3rd set, Mattek-Sands became a mere spectator in the match winning only 9 of the 34 points played. Serena bageled her compatriot to take the match 3-6 7-5 6-0 in an hour and 49 minutes. After the match, Mattek-Sands said this of Serena, “[W]hen she’s really confident in her shots. Obviously she starts ripping the ball really hard and timing it well and taking balls on the rise. I think you can feel the pressure.”

 

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FEATURE: A New Era Of Russian Tennis Heads To The US Open With High Hopes

Ubitennis looks at the surge in success of Russian male players with one of the country’s top tennis journalists.

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The times are changing in Russian tennis. For years the focus has been on the rise of WTA players such as Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Myskina. However, at this year’s US Open all the attention will be on a trio of rising stars in the men’s game.

 

For the first time since grand slam tournaments introduced 32 seeds in 2001, there will be no seeded player from Russia in the women’s draw at Flushing Meadows. Something that last happened in the tournament back in 1998. The highest ranked player at present is Daria Kasatkina at 42nd. A somewhat different situation compared to that of the ATP Tour.

Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov are ranked inside the top 10 during what has been a breakthrough season for both players. 23-year-old Medvedev has become one of the most successful players since Wimbledon. Reaching three finals within as many weeks in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati. It was in Cincinnati, where he stunned world No.1 Novak Djokovic en route to his maiden Masters title. Meanwhile, Khachanov has amassed a win-loss of 22-19 so far this year and broke into the top 10 for the first time in June.

“I hope big, but you never know. Two guys from the same country in the top 10, it’s great, of course.” Khachanov commented about the impact the duo are having on Russian tennis.
“On the other side, maybe we used to have higher standards in Russia. They are expecting maybe once you start doing it more consistently, you go deeper in Grand Slams.”

Further down the rankings lies Andrey Rublev at 47th. The 21-year-old has scored two wins over top five players in recent weeks, including Roger Federer at Cincinnati. Despite being the youngest of the trio, he is the only one to have previously reached the quarter-finals of the US Open back in 2017. Since then, his journey on the tour has been marred by injury. However, he recently reached the final of the German Open.

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There is no doubt that the Russia men are on the rise in the world of tennis. Giving a boost to their country’s Davis Cup team, who last won the trophy back in 2006. But how significant is this surge in reality?

Maria Nikulashkina is an editor for Russian sports newspaper Sport Express with an extensive knowledge of the tennis circuit in her country. Speaking with Ubitennis, she believes the trio has provided a new sense of hope.

“Nikolay Davydenko retired. Mikhail Youzhny had played until last autumn, Andrey Kuznetsov had not bad results from time to time and even Evgeny Donskoy once beat Roger Federer. In general, there weren’t a lot of reasons to talk about Russian men’s tennis in positive ways.” She explained.
“Now everything’s changed. Medvedev, Khachanov and Rublev are pushing each other to the best results. After few years of silence Russian men’s tennis is on top. It even seems like things are going too fast sometimes. But it is great and a reason to be proud of these guys.”

There is no doubt in her mind that during the remainder of the season Russia’s focus will be on the men. Although that isn’t to suggest that Russian women’s tennis are in a crisis with 11 players currently inside the top 100.

“Though I do believe Dasha (Kasatkina) will bring her best tennis back, Svetlana Kuznetsova is flying high and Veronika Kuderetova can improve, the Russian young men are the ones Who’ll make best results in 2019.” Said Nikulashkina.

US Open dreams

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With the Big Three maintaining a strong hold on the ATP Tour, it would still require an exceptional performance for somebody such as Khachanov, Medvedev or Rublev to triumph at the big events. In fact, in the Open Era only one Russian man has ever contested a final at the US Open. That was Marat Safin, who claimed the title back in 2000.

Perhaps the best chance lies with Medvedev given his recent surge in form and his at times kamikaze-like serving where he blasts his second serve no matter what.

“I’m sure I can win a Masters because I just did it, but winning a Grand Slam is different. At this moment I haven’t been in the quarter-final yet.” The world No.5 recently admitted.
“I will try to do my best to win everything, but at this moment I need to take it step by step and just become better player every day.” He added.

According to Nikulashkina Medvedev has a history of peaking too early before a grand slam. Citing 12 months ago as an example when he won the Winston-Salem Open before losing in the US Open third round to Borna Coric. So far in his career, Medvedev has played in 11 grand slam main draws. He has only managed to win back-to-back matches in four of those with his best run being to the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

“Last year Daniil won Winston Salem before US Open and was absolutely out of gas in round three match against Coric.” She points out.
“He had good results on clay this spring (Monte-Carlo SF, Barcelona F) and lost in 5 in French Open first round.’
“I hope one week will be enough for him to recharge physically and mentally, but I have some concerns he’ll not be able to go that far. But I’ll be glad to be mistaken.”

Living in the shadows

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It remains to be seen what the future careers of Medvedev, Khachanov and Rublev will bring. Some are hopeful that they can match or even potentially excel the achievements of previous stars from their country. Including Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who are the only Russian men to win a major title in singles during the Open Era.

These comparisons are inevitable and occur around the world. One example being those tipping Coco Gauff to become the next Serena Williams. It is always an honour to be compared with a legend of the sport, but it also has it drawbacks.

“I actually feel sorry for young players sometimes because every time they are named the “second Safin” and “new Kafelnikov”. Nikulashkina told Ubitennis.
”No doubt that Evgeniy and Marat had wonderful and successful careers and no one could repeat the results since, but young players are not allowed to be themselves – just Rublev, Khachanov and Medvedev. I know the guys are working very hard to have the results they have. And all of them are very dedicated. And they are very talented and have potential to win big things, but I actually I don’t see any of them winning a Grand Slam right now.’
“Maybe in the next few years with hard work and the same dedication to tennis and improving their game and mentality it could be possible.”

Should Russia get a male grand slam champion in the coming years, it will be a test for the popularity of the sport. The country has an extensive and highly respected reputation in tennis, but is by far not the most popular sport. When Simona Halep won the Wimbledon Championships, she returned back to Romania and had a special stadium event in her honour. Was that to happen in Russia, Nikulashkina believes the outcome would be somewhat different.

“The interest in tennis is growing but maybe not as fast as all of us want. Football, MMA fighting, figure skating even in off-season and even volleyball national teams matches attract more attention than tennis. I do not see the situation of Halep/Romania can be repeated in Russia right now. If one the guys win a Grand Slam 30000 people will not come to congratulate him.”

The US Open will get underway on Monday. Medvedev will be seeded fifth and Khachanov ninth. Rublev will not be seeded.

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Mats Wilander Questions Federer’s US Open Hopes, Serena’s Consistency And Kyrgios’ Antics

The former world No.1 has spoken out about a variety of top tennis stars ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

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With less than a week to go until the start of the US Open, a candidly speaking Mats Wilander has shared his opinion on a series of topics set to take place during this year’s tournament.

 

The 54-year-old former tennis pro has cast doubts on Roger Federer’s chances in Flushing Meadows. The Swiss player has won more grand slam singles titles than any other player on the men’s tour, however, he hasn’t triumphed at the US Open since 2008. Federer suffered a shock loss to John Millman in the fourth round last year.

The 38-year-old will be seeded third in this year’s draw and could potentially play both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic if he wants to win the title. Should he play world No.1 Djokovic, Wilander believes the Swiss maestro will struggle. However, he is more positive about Nadal’s chances. The Spaniard is the only one of the trio to have won a hard court title within the past two months.

“I think the biggest obstacle for someone like Federer is that he is going to play seven hard games,” Wilander told Eurosport.
“No matter what the style is, you may have a problem against a great server or a bottom player.
“Rafael Nadal is the only player who can beat Novak Djokovic in a five-set Grand Slam game.
“We need to have two boys in the semi-finals who don’t call themselves Roger, Rafa or Stan or Novak.”

Federer last played Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon, which he lost in five sets after having two championship points. Making it the fourth consecutive time he has lost to the Serbian in their head-to-head. On the other hand, Federer has a more promising record against Nadal. Winning six out of their seven meetings on the tour since 2015.

‘Slowly disappearing’ Serena

In the women’s draw eyes will be on Serena Williams as she once again bids to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam titles. The American is yet to win a title of any sort since becoming a mother. Settling for runner-up at three out of the past five grand slam tournaments. Including Wimbledon, where she suffered a comprehensive straight sets loss to Simona Halep.

The lack of silverware in recent time has been one debated by those following Williams’ career. However, Wilander believes the problem is that she no longer intimidates her rivals on the court.

“Her intimidation factor is slowly disappearing, compared to the youngest ones,” he said.
“She has not been consistent in the last four or five years on the regular tour and has not played enough tournaments and won enough victories.
“The dressing room probably thinks that there is a small chance that they can win because the consistency – both physical and in their tennis – has not been there.
“The intimidation factor is not as strong with Serena, as it is with someone like Roger or Rafa.”

Williams will be seeking redemption in New York following her high-profile outburst in last year’s final. She clashed with umpire Carlos Ramos after being issued with a warning for coaching. Prompting her to call the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘cheat.’ She was then issued with two additional penalties that amounted to a game penalty. In a recent interview Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has praised the incident.

Six-time champion Williams will be seeded eighth in this year’s tournament.

The Kyrgios problem

On the topic of Nick Kyrgios, Wilander has urged the Australian to become more professional on the tour. Kyrgios splits opinion in the world of sport due to his controversial behaviour. The most recent incident took place last week at the Cincinnati Masters where he was knocked out by Karen Khachanov in the second round. During that match, he engaged in a heated confrontation with the umpire and committed a series of code violations. Including walking off the court when he wasn’t allowed to and calling the official a “F***ing tool.” Kyrgios was subsequently fined $113,000 for eight separate incidents.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom for the 24-year-old, who recently won the Citi Open in Washington. The way he conducted himself during that tournament is what Wilander hopes to see at the US Open next week.

“I hope he doesn’t behave like he did in Cincinnati,” he said.
“I think that every week that passes is showing more and more interest in wanting to win tennis matches and wanting to improve everything around him.
“I think when he did what he did in Cincinnati, of course it looks bad and, of course, there are children in the stands and the language is bad, but at least the way he is now in the last weeks, he is showing that he cares.
“Nick wants to win, he hates losing and he wants to play well, he wants to entertain and he simply hasn’t been able to deal with it in a professional way.”

Kyrgios hasn’t reached the quarter-final of a grand slam since January 2015.

The draw for the US Open will will be made on Thursday with the main draw starting next Monday.

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Roger Federer On Idols, Achievements and What Advice He Would Give To Others

The 20-time grand slam champion spoke about a variety of topics during a special media engagement in New York.

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NFL superstar Tom Brady has been named as one of the people who have inspired the career of world No.3 Roger Federer.

 

Federer, who will be bidding to extend his record grand slam tally at the upcoming US Open, spoke about his idols during special question and answer session. The Swiss maestro made an appearance at the UNIQLO Global Flagship store in New York on Tuesday. He currently has a 10-year contract with the Japanese company in a deal estimated to be worth in the region of $300 million.

During his visit, the 37-year-old answered a series of questions that was pre-selected before the engagement. Speaking about his inspiration, Federer said he is motivated by other athletes who has experienced success over a long period of time. Naming Brady, who is four years older than him, as one example. Brady is the oldest quarterback to have ever won the prestigious Super Bowl.

“Other athletes and their longevity. Tom Brady or others who do great things for a long, long time.” Federer said of his idols.

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It isn’t just the world of sport that has had an impact on the Swiss player. Another is former South African president Nelson Mandela, who was an instrumental figure in the anti-apartheid movement. Where black and white people were treated differently and separated. Mandela passed away in 2013 at the age of 95.

“Nelson Mandela did great things for other people around the world.” Said Federer. “I would have loved to met Nelson Mandela, but it never happened.’
“That was a pity because I guess I would have had the opportunity with my mum being South African. I regret that in a big way.”

Having a career than has lasted over two decades, Federer has achieved numerous records and milestones. Including spending a record 310 weeks as world No.1, winning 102 ATP titles as well as two Olympic medals. Next week’s US Open will be his 78th appearance in a grand slam main draw.

Giving all of those accomplishments, what ones does Federer think are the most special?

“I’m very proud of my foundation that’s been running for 15 years and we’ve had an impact on one million children. Giving them a better quality of education.” He said.
“On the tennis court, my biggest accomplishment has been winning eight Wimbledon’s.”

As one of the most recognized athletes in the world, Federer says he has abided by one motto throughout his career. According to Forbes magazine, he is the fifth highest paid athlete in the world. However, in the top 100 list he has made more endorsements than anybody else at $86 million.

“When I was a young boy I was once asked in an interview if there was a motto I live after (follow). I said ‘It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.’ Because a lot of people take themselves too seriously or think they are on top of the world but achieve nothing. So I think it is important to stay humble, work hard and be kind to people.” He concluded.

Federer will return to action at the US Open where he will be aiming to win the tournament for the first time since 2008. Last year he lost in the fourth round to John Millman.

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