US Open 2015 Men: Looking Ahead - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2015 Men: Looking Ahead

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Roger Federer (image via thesocre.com)

September 6th, 2015
By: MJ

 

The tournament has been in full swing since Qualifying Day on August 25, and we are on the verge of embarking on week 2 of the magnificent Grand Slam here in the Big Apple. Before we look ahead to the dramatic matches sure to come, let’s take a quick look back at all the exciting events that have led us up to this point.

One disappointment for the fans this year at the Open is the record number of first round retirements, which in turn has opened up the draw in unexpected ways. For those who aren’t keeping track, here is the rather long list. First there was Pablo Andujar who sent Gabashvili into the 2nd round. This was good news for the Russian, erasing all chance of an upset as happened to him in Washington D.C. weeks prior to Berankis, who takes the ball very early. Next was the veteran Stepanek, who is always a threat, but no longer this year. Sam Groth vs Dolgopolov would have been an interesting match up as well, but the Ukrainian succumbed to the New York heat next. A shame for the tournament as the amateur rapper’s quick serves and fast feet is always a pleasure to witness around the grounds, and he could have been a threat deeper in the draw. Another big shame is Monfils, who is always unpredictable in his play, but a guarantee in high entertainment value. Yen-Hsun Lu, who had a huge upset against Roddick at Wimbledon years ago, is yet another victim. Florian Mayer, whose ranking has dropped significantly now down to #216 did himself no favors when he bowed out early against Klizan. Finally, the vastly talented but inconsistent Gulbis retired in his match against Bedene.

As Day 7 gets underway in less than an hour local time, the road to the Quarterfinals and beyond is paved with numerous challenges for many. In the top half of the draw, Lopez is up against the Nadal slayer Fognini. The lefty Lopez has a big booming serve and very calm demeanor on court, plus a very low biting slice, but he hasn’t been truly tested this week so far, having had the pleasure of sending Mardy Fish to retirement, permanently. Foginini on the other hand is much more animated on court in his flashy red Adidas gear, and often plays with no fear. If he continues to rein in his nerves (as he did against Rafa), expect to see punishing groundstrokes unload off both sides going down the line for winners. I predict Fognini to move on.

Paire and Tsonga would normally be fairly boring, but the way the unseeded Frenchman have played this week, Tsonga would be wise to stay focused and play relaxed. Indeed, Tsonga is arguably among the best players in the world when he doesn’t play with nerves, even able to hit one hand backhands as he did to upset Federer at Wimbledon from 2 sets down no less! His serve is key. The author still favors the seeded Frenchman.

Cilic is up against another Frenchman in his next match, although Chardy is much less a threat than Tsonga. He had a tough match against Kukushikin, but mainly due to his own serves. To advance, he absolutely needs to keep them in check so he can swing through freely with more pace. The pressure and mental state is a crucial factor here. Nevertheless, I will put faith in the defending champ.

Wawrinka is quite lucky to be in the tournament still, as his match against the up and coming Korean Chung could easily have gone either way. Much like Cilic, he let nerves get the better of him for the majority of the match, hitting without conviction and playing even safer on serve returns. He must step it up this deep in the draw if he is to continue his campaign. On the other hand is the American Donald Young, who is having a break out year here on his home turf. Despite his constant switch of sponsors (he is with Boast now), his game has remained steady this week as he prevailed over and over again in marathon 5 set upsets. Can he refuel for yet another big upset against the French Open champ? Or will he run out of gas? The author is going for the big upset here! Or a complete blow out.

We find yet another Frenchman in the bottom half this time, as Gasquet takes on Tomas Berdych. This would be one of the closer matches I believe. Both players are very talented. Berdych tends to take the ball a little earlier than Gasquet, but Richard has a viscious backhand that rivals Stan’s, and his game lacks any glaring weaknesses. I think fitness is key here. Whoever takes the first set should prevail. Too close to call here. May the better player win today! Ok, the author hopes for Gasquet. Allez!

Other matches not mentioned here include Novak’s as he faces Agut. Should be an easy one here for the world #1. Murray is up against Anderson, which could be close, but expect Andy to continue into week 2. Perhaps a 5 setter here. Finally, we have Federer. How can we forget him? He faces the American Isner, who has been playing well this summer, including reaching the finals in D.C. To win, Federer must neutralize the big serve and stay aggressive, as John is known to play 5 set matches with tons of tiebreaks tossed in. Strike first, Roger! As for prediction, I have Roger capturing #18. You know what I am talking about!

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final

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Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 

 

Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Novak Djokovic Topples Tsitsipas To Clinch Historic Australian Open Title

Djokovic has become the first man in history to win the title at Melbourne Park for the 10th time and only the second to win the same Grand Slam 10 or more times.

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Image via ATP Twitter

Novak Djokovic has drawn level with nemesis Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles won by a male tennis player after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets to win the Australian Open.

 

Playing in front of a highly animated crowd on the Rod Laver Arena, Djokovic rallied to a 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5), win over Tsitsipas to become only the fifth player – male or female – to have won a 22nd major title. The triumph has also secured his return to world No.1 on Monday for the first time since June. Djokovic is the third-oldest man to win the Australian Open title and the first to do so for the 10th time in their career.

Taking on third seed Tsitsipas in what was a tense encounter on Sunday, the Serbian claimed victory with the help of 36 winners compared to 22 unforced errors. Winning 75% of his service points and converting two out of five of his break point chances. He has now beaten Tsitsipas in nine out of their 11 Tour meetings.

“What a journey it has been for me and my family. You guys, I don’t know if you will ever forgive me for what I have done to you over the years. This trophy is as much for you as it is for me,” Djokovic said afterwards. 
“This has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year, coming back this year. There is a reason I have played my best tennis here – in front of legends like Rod Laver.
“Only my team and my family know what I have been through over the last four or five weeks. I think this has to be the biggest victory of my life, given the circumstances.”

The showdown featuring 35-year-old Djokovic and 24-year-old Tsitsipas represented the largest age gap between two players contesting an Australian Open men’s final in the Open Era. From the onset, it was Djokovic who dictated proceedings with the use of some of his best tennis. Taking the ball early and applying pressure directly onto his opponent’s backhand, the Serbian broke for the first time in the fourth game of the match with the help of a Tsitsipas double fault to move ahead 3-1. Djokovic, who won 20 out of his 25 service points during the opener, then eased his way to a 5-3 lead before sealing the first set with a serve out wide that forced an unforced error from across the court. 

Heading into the second frame, the tension between the two was rising. Both players remained firm behind their serve with Djokovic for the first time showing a glimpse of frustration with gestures towards his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, in the crowd. Then down 4-5, he saved a set point by prevailing in a 15-shot rally against Tsitsipas with a forehand winner. 

With little to distinguish between the two, it was a roller-coaster tiebreaker which separated them where seven out of the 11 points played saw the server lose the point. Djokovic eased to a 4-1 lead at the expense of some lacklustre shot-making from Tsitsipas which saw him hit a duo of forehand errors. Then it was his turn to succumb to the pressure after producing a backhand error followed by a double fault to allow the Greek to come back and draw level. Despite the blip, the world No.5 weathered the storm to clinch a two-set lead. 

Another mishap would take place at the start of the third set. After taking a five-minute toilet break, Djokovic was broken immediately when he returned to the court before breaking back immediately in the following game. Although he soon regained momentum in the match with the help of a clinical service display where he won 17 points in a row en route to yet another tiebreaker. 

In what was a case of deja vu, Tsitsipas’ unforced errors were his undoing as he fell behind 0-5 before managing to claw his way back into contention. Meanwhile, Djokovic had to contend with a rowdy crowd as well as his opponent. Two Championship points came and went before he prevailed on his third. Bringing the 10-time champion to tears as he celebrated with his team in the crowd just after the match. 

Djokovic’s sheer emotion comes as no surprise considering his recent history in Australia. 12 months ago he was deported from the country following a legal battle over the validity of his visa and then received an automatic three-year ban from returning. A penalty that wasn’t waived by the government until last November. Then in this year’s tournament, he had to contend with a hamstring injury with some accusing him of saying the problem was more severe than it was. 

Yet few can dispute Djokovic’s achievements in the sport which was hailed by runner-up Tsitsipas during the trophy ceremony. It is the second time Tsitsipas has lost to him in a Grand Slam final after the 2021 French Open. 

“Novak, I don’t know what to say, the numbers say it all,” Tsitsipas said of Djokovic. “It’s been an unbelievable journey for you and I admire what you have done for our sport.
“He’s one of the greatest in our sport – the greatest to have ever held a tennis racket. I’d like to thank you for pushing our sport so far.
“It’s not easy to be here again in the final of a grand slam. But thank you to my team, we are getting there.”

Djokovic has now won 28 consecutive matches at the Australian Open and is 12-0 so far this season. 

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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