Jo Wilfred Tsonga overcame Rafa Nadal to reach the final in Shanghai - UBITENNIS
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Jo Wilfred Tsonga overcame Rafa Nadal to reach the final in Shanghai

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Jo Wilfred Tsonga overcame a second-set loss to battle past Rafael Nadal in three sets with 6-4 0-6 7-5 in a spectacular match reaching his first Master 1000 Final since August 2014 when he beat Roger Federer at the Roger’s Cup in Montreal.

 

Nadal had to save two break points in the first game. Tsonga got the first break point of the match on his fourth opportunity in the fifth game of the opening set with a down-the line backhand pass to take a 3-2 lead. Nadal earned two break-back points in the 8th game but Tsonga saved them. The Frenchman served out the first set with 6-4 after 45 minutes.

Nadal bounced back in the second set where he broke serve three times to win with a bagel. Nadal lost just two matches after winning a set with 6-0 in Buenos Aires in 2005 against Gaston Gaudio and in Doha 2010 against Nikolay Davydenko

In the third game of the third set Tsonga brought up three break point chances at 1-1 but Nadal saved them. The third set went on serve but was marked by spectacular rallies. When the match looked to be decided by the tie-break Nadal committed his first bouble fault and faced a break point. Tsonga got the decisive break in the 11th game of the third set with a topspin forehand to take a 6-5 lead. Tsonga earned the match point with a spectacular dive volley and converted it to seal the win after two hours and 15 minutes.

Tsonga and Nadal met for the first time since 2013 when the Spaniard beat the Frenchman on the Monte-Carlo clay. With hi straight set win over Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal Nadal won his 300th match at Master 1000 level (only Roger Federer won more matches in the series with 326). He has not reached a Master 1000 final on hard-court since Miami 2014

Tsonga has moved up to Number 9 in the Race to London gaining groun on Number 9 Ferrer. Nadal has boosted his chance to qualify for the ATP Finals as he overtook Tomas Berdych for fifth place in the ATP Race to London

Tsonga converted two of his 10 break point chances, hit 40 winners and won 17 of his 25 net points.

Tsonga has reached his fourth Master 1000 Final and his 22nd Final. He has a 2-1 record in his three previous finals. He has extended his post-US Open record to 8-1, including his first title of the year in Metz.

Nadal still leads 8-4 in his twelve head-to-head matches against Tsonga who beat the Mallorcan 14-time Grand Slam champion for the last time in 2011 at the ATP World Finals.

“Alla long the season, I worked hard to be able to play these matches. When it happens, I am really happy to have worked hard because I know I can count on my body. It’s something great for me because it was not always like this. I am a lot stronger than I was maybe few years ago. The season was difficult with a lot of ups and downs. The surface is one of my favourites. I know I am able to play good tennis”, said Tsonga

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Ons Jabeur Acknowledges Mental Toughness Ahead Of Charleston Semi-Finals

Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in her mental game as she heads into her fourth WTA semi-final in Charleston.

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Ons Jabeur (@VolvoCarOpen - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in the mental parts of her game after reaching the Charleston semi-finals.

 

The Tunisian comfortably beat Coco Gauff 6-3 6-3 in 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the last four in Charleston.

It was a dominant performance from the world number 28 who broke on six occasions to set up a semi-final against Danka Kovinic.

However yesterday’s win was also evidence that Jabeur’s mental toughness has improved as in 2020, the Tunisian was 0-5 in quarter-final matches and 0-2 against Gauff having lost in Lexington and Rome to the American teenager.

Speaking after the victory, Jabeur admitted that it was nice to settle those demons last night, “Maybe this year is a revenge year for me,” Jabeur told the WTA website.

“Honestly, mentally-wise I’m much better. I’m getting there. I had my opportunities against her last year. She’s a great player. I know exactly what I’m going to face and I was ready for the battle.

“I’m glad that I’m playing good now. I know that clay is amazing and I gotta say, I have been enjoying sliding a lot lately. It’s the best part of the clay. I like the green clay. It’s different than the red clay but I like it. The bounce is not too high, it’s not too low. It’s a good balance for me.

“I’m just trying to play my game. I’m trying to enjoy after a very tough start to the season. A lot of expectations. I’m really glad I got to prove myself this week and I’m in the semi-finals.”

Jabeur will look to continue her good form in 2020 which saw her climb into the world’s top 30 and end the season with a 27-11 win-loss record.

Saturday will be Jabeur’s fourth WTA career semi-final and her first since 2019 where she reached the last four in Tianjin.

The meeting with Kovinic will be the first WTA Tour meeting of their career although Jabeur won their meeting on the ITF circuit in Budapest in 2018 6-2 6-1.

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The Grand Field Has Disappeared In Charleston

Covid 19 has left a large foot print on the landscape of women’s professional tennis known as the WTA Tour.

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Charleston, S.C., started off with a grand field for its $500,000 Volvo Car Open. Former Grand Slam champions and current top 20 players were numerous. Even world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was in the field.

 

But now the tournament has reached its semifinals with four players all ranked outside the world’s top 20. This group of survivors isn’t really accustomed to playing in the later rounds of WTA Tour tournaments.

UNKNOWN TOUR VETS TAKE OVER CHARLESTON

No, these four are not newcomers to the tour. You might call them tour veterans. They’ve been around for awhile. They just haven’t experienced a great deal of success.

Where did the likes of recent Grand Slam champions Barty and Sofia Kenin, and multi-Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza go so quickly? Maybe they needed more time to tour the world-renown seaside city of Charleston.

They left a bunch of unknowns for the job of determining the winner of the Volvo Car Open. The two finalists are guaranteed to be a 23-year-old and a 26-year-old. All four are right-handers, and three of them pound the ball from the baseline.

KEEP AN EYE ON JABEUR

Not that Ons Jabeur hits only moon balls from the baseline, but the 26-year-old Tunisian has the most diverse game of the semifinalists. She must practice drop shots in her sleep. She can drop-shot with anyone.

Just ask young Cori Gauff, who fell victim to Jabeur’s mix of delicate touch and raw power in a 6-3, 6-3 loss to Jabeur in the Volvo quarterfinals on Friday.

At No. 28, Jabeur is the highest ranked of the semifinalists. She’s only 5-6, but she can play this game. At first glance, she might look like she’s incapable of covering the court. But don’t be fooled. She’s a rocket that can turn delicate at any time.

SUNDAY’S FINAL MIGHT HOLD THE SECRET

Look for big things from Jabeur the next few years, just maybe starting with Sunday’s final of the Volvo Car Open. 

First, Jabeur has to get by another 26-year-old, Danka Kovinic of Montenegro who is ranked just 91st in the world. The 5-7 Kovinic got some good practice in her three-set quarterfinal win over gritty 5-4 Yulia Putintseva.

The 23-year-olds in the other semifinal are go-for-brokers Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Paula Badosa of Spain. They’ll hit outrageous winners, yet unthinkable wild shots, the way they did in surprising straight-set upsets of former Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Barty on Friday, Badosa taking care of the suddenly erratic Barty.

Badosa has several interesting features: she’s a striking 5-11 and wants to follow in Maria Sharapova’s style, she was born in New York City and she won the 2015 Junior French Open.

You may never hear from these four young women again, or Charleston might make them stars the way it has so many other WTA Tour players.

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James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com and search for James Beck.

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Lorenzo Musetti’s Run Ended By Djere In Cagliari

Sonego, Fritz, Basilashvili, join Serb in semi-final line-up.

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Laslo Djere (@TickTockTennis - Twitter)

Italian teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti’s run at the Sardegna Open was ended by Laslo Djere in an error-strewn match played out in tricky conditions.

 

The 19-year-old, who has looked in supreme form this week and ousted top seed Dan Evans in a second round thriller on Thursday, appeared to run out of steam in the deciding set as the Serb ran out a 6-4 4-6 6-2 winner.

The strong gusts that have blown across the centre court all week at the Cagliari Tennis Club appeared to have saved their best efforts for this encounter, as both men seemed to be affected by the tricky conditions. Djere particularly struggled on his serve, offering up 8 double faults, but he was still able to take control of the final set as his young opponent faded.

Musetti will no doubt still be pleased with his work in Sardinia. He will be one to watch next week as a Wild Card at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he has been drawn against Aslan Karatsev in the first round, with a potential second round clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Meanwhile, third seed Lorenzo Sonego ensured there would still be an Italian representative in the last four as he came through against Yannick Hanfmann 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3. The German started impressively and had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was unable to convert. Sonego then recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the ensuing tie break to level proceedings, before going on to seal the win.

In the semi-finals Sonego will have the chance to gain revenge for his defeat in Doha last month to Taylor Fritz. The American second seed came through 6-3 6-4 against an out-of-sorts Aljaz Bedene.

Fritz appeared to be cruising at a set and a break up, with his opponent struggling to make an impact on the gangly American. It left Bedene somewhat uncharacteristically venting his frustration, but this seemed to work for the Slovenian as he was able to break back. It was Bedene’s serve that let him down at a crucial moment, two double faults at 3-3 helping to hand Fritz another crucial, and ultimately decisive, break.

The final semi-final spot was claimed by Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 7-5 4-6 6-3 under the floodlights in the final action of the day. Struff has struggled for form so far in 2021 but had looked solid so far this week, and the match-up led to some predictably entertaining rallies. After a tight first two sets, Doha champion Basilashvili was able to take advantage of some Struff errors early in the third, surging to a 3-0 lead. Despite a mini-fightback from the German, Basilashvili clung on to book a Saturday meeting with the unseeded Djere.

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