September 4th, 2015
The modern game requires more mental fortitude than ever, and it is often said that the pressure lies mainly with the one favored to win. This is the case because the underdog have virtually nothing to lose, and thus the ability to swing freely away in a tennis match translates to an advantage. Today was a prime example of such forces at work, which saw the defending champion pushed to the edge over and over again in a roller-coaster marathon match.
Towering over his opponent at 1.98 meters, Marin Cilic’s game is superior to Mikhail Kukushkin’s in every aspect. But one thing they share is very much the same: the human mind. And for both players today their mental game played havoc throughout their 4 hours, 11 minute match, which is the longest for the tournament so far.
It began routine enough, with both men holding serve. Cilic showed his nerves first by giving the break to the #56 ranked player. In true champion’s fashion, the 9th seed immediately broke right back to level the set. He continued the momentum by breaking again for a 5-3 lead. For those watching in Armstrong, it looked like the champion was going to pass his test easily. Instead, the unseeded Kukushkin battled right back to level the set once more at 5-5. Up to this point, Cilic was a mere shadow of his championship form from last year, choosing to hit rally balls and hope for the error instead of making it happen. This was a classic case of playing not to lose. The only element that kept Cilic in close contention was his big serving on several crucial points. The first set tiebreak continued to reveal both player’s nervous play, until the Croat went for a weak drop shot to gift wrap the set away. Immediately, Marin smashed his Head Prestige in one efficient swing on his way back to the chair.
The 2nd set unfolded to more of the same: uninspired tennis from the Croat, a stark contrast to his coach Ivanesevic’s playing style. Kukushikin looked comfortable and cruised to a 5-2 lead. The champ was going to fail his test after all. Then out of nowhere, Cilic began to serve big for easy hold and break back to 5-5. The crowd was treated to a roller-coaster ride. For Cilic, the ride was on its upswing as he dominated the ensuing tiebreak and snatched the set right out of Kukushikin’s hand.
The 3rd set proved to be more routine. Both players still struggled with finding good form, but the more experienced player managed to make it a 2 to 1 set lead. The test was finally close to being over. Or was it?
In the 4th set the two traded leads with each other as if it were an auto racing event. The low percentage of break point conversions told most of the story. Any momentum gathered by either player quickly dissolved into the humid afternoon. For the fans who stuck around, one could say neither player wanted to hold, or break the other’s serve. So the match went to yet another tiebreak. This time, the 27 year old from Kazakstan prevailed. The roller-coaster ride was not over, and for the defending champion himself, the test as well.
With backs to the fence for both men in the final deciding set, it was as if a light bulb finally turned on inside Cilic’s head as he faced the daunting last portion of the test before him. Rising to the challenge, he proceeded to win 5 straight games. Despite the seemingly impossible, Kukushikin secured himself a moral victory by winning the 6th game. The ball back on Cilic’s racket, there remained one game to ace the test, and he did exactly that. The champ passed his 3rd round test.
‘He Needs To Bulk Up’ – Tennis Great Cast Doubt On Alex De Minaur’s French Open Chances
John Newcombe believes it will be a few more years before the world No.27 reaches his peak.
One of Australia’s most decorated Grand Slam champions of all time believes compatriot Alex de Minaur still has a way to go before he poses a threat at the French Open.
Former world No.1 John Newcombe believes the 21-year-old needs to improve on his physicality before reaching his peak on the surface. De Minaur comes into the Grand Slam high in confidence after reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in what was his best performance at a major so far in his career. He was knocked out of the tournament by eventual winner Dominic Thiem.
Although De Minaur’s preparations for the clay took a blow last week after he lost the first round of the Italian Open to German qualifier Dominik Koepfer. The world No.27 had a set and 3-0 lead over Koepfer before losing. He is not playing in any tournament this week leading up to Roland Garros.
“I’d have to see the draw, how it comes out, but it will be hard work for him,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press about de Minaur’s chances in Paris.
“He’s going to have to do a hell of a lot of work. If he got to the quarters, it would be a terrific effort.
“He’s not going to be physically where he needs to be, just bulking up a bit, until he’s 25, 26.
“But he’s got a good all-court game and he understands the game well, so there’s no reason he can’t be a pretty good late maturer (on clay).”
This year’s clay-court major will be the fourth time the Australian has played in the main draw. In his three previous appearances, de Minaur has only won one match which was against Bradley Klahn last year.
During a recent interview with atptour.com, the Next Gen star gave little away about his expectations for the clay this year given the revised schedule. The French Open is taking place just two weeks after New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the sport to a five-month standstill earlier this year.
“Realistically, you never know until you step out and play matches. It’s a very quick turnaround, something that has never happened to play such an important event after a slam. I’m taking it all in, doing as best as I can and we will have to see,” he said.
De Minaur has won three ATP titles and has scored four wins over top 10 players so far in his career. He is currently the only player from his country ranked in the world’s top 40 on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic claims his 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome
Novak Djokovic came back from 0-3 down in the first set to beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 53 minutes in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Djokovic claimed his fifth title in the Eternal City and his 36th Masters 1000 trophy and his 81st career title. Djokovic has become the oldest Rome champion.
The World number 1 player extended his record in 2020 to an impressive record of 31 wins in 32 matches, including four titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, the Western and Southern Open in New York and Rome.
Djokovic dropped his serve three times and earned five breaks of serve.
Djokovic wasted a game point and dropped his serve, when he netted his backhand. Schwartzman hit four service winners in the second game to consolidate the break for 2-0.
Djokovic made a backhand error to face a break point in the third game. Schwartzman earned his second break to open up a 3-0 after 18 minutes, as Djokovic netted another backhand. Djokovic earned a break point chance and conveted it after a double fault from Schwartzman.
Djokovic held serve at 15 with an ace in the fifth game to claw his way back to 2-3. The Serbian star forced an error from Schwarzman to earn a breka point in the sixth game and got the break, when the Argentine netted a forehand. Djokovic held serve at 15 to take a 4-3 in the seventh game. Schwartzman hit a forehand down the line winner at 30-15 in the eighth game and held serve with a service winner to draw level to 4-4.
Djokovic saved a break point in the ninth game with a volley winner and held serve to take a 5-4 lead. Schwartzman saved a set point with a forehand winner and drew level to 5-5 after two deuces with a backhand the line winner.
Djokovic held serve after a deuce to take a 6-5 lead forcing Schwartzman to serve to stay in the set for the second time. Djokovic converted his third set point to win the opening set 7-5 after 70 minutes.
Schwartzman earned an early break at the start of the second set. Djokovic got the break back to draw level to 1-1 when Schwartzman sent a forehand wide.
Djokovic hit a winner at the net to hold serve in the third game. Schwartzman hit four winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2.
Djokovic saved two break points in the fifth game and held serve with a service winner to take a 3-2 lead. Schwartman held serve with a drop shot. Djokovic won his service game at love to take a 4-3 lead and broke serve at love in the eighth game with a backhand down the line winner. Djokovic held serve at love to close out the final.
“”It was a great week. A very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most in the decisive moments today, yesterday and in every match. That definitely makes me very satisfied and proud that I managed to find that fifth gear when it was most needed. Turning to Paris, I could not ask for a better tournament here in Rome. Another big title and i super pleased with it”, said Djokovic.
Stan Wawrinka Parts Way With Long-Time Coach Norman
Stan the man is on the look out for a new coach for the first time in almost a decade.
It is the end of an era for three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka after he announced his split from coach Magnus Norman.
The former world No.3 confirmed on Monday that the two have decided to end their collaboration with ‘mutual consent’ following eight years working together on the Tour. Norman was last with Wawrinka at the Italian Open last week where the Swiss player lost his opening match to rising star Lorenzo Musetti. It is unclear as to exactly when the decision was made.
“After 8 great years together Magnus Norman and I have decided to part ways by mutual consent. We have had an amazingly strong, enjoyable and hugely successful partnership. We reached the height of this sport together and I want to thank him for helping me win everything that I could ever dream of winning,” Wawrinka said in a statement posted on Instagram.
44-year-old Norman is a former world No.2 player himself who reached the final of the French Open back in 2000. During his coaching career, he guided Wawrinka to various milestones in his career that includes 13 ATP titles with three of those being at Grand Slam level. The Swede has also been recognized by the ATP for his work with Wawrinka after winning the inaugural Coach of the Year award back in 2016.
“He’s been a great coach, friend and mentor and will always be a dear friend,” Wawrinka said in a tribute.
“I want to publicly thank him for all his hard work, dedication and commitment in making me a better player over the years. Winning three grand slams have been a life changing experience for me and I could not have done that without him. I wish him all the best in his next chapter in his life.”
The announcement from the world No.17 comes a week before the French Open starts. Wawrinka has been training on the clay for the past few weeks after deciding against travelling to North America to play in the US Open. Instead, he played in a couple Challenger events and won a trophy in Prague last month. Overall, he has achieved a win-loss record of 15-3 so far in 2020.
It is unclear as to who will be replacing Norman in Wawrinka’s team.
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