Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals

Ivan Pasquariello

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Novak Djokovic puts together a similar performance to the one that saw him lose in straight sets against Roger Federer on Thursday at the ATP World Tour Finals. A below par Djokovic is though enough to beat Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 in 1 hour and 29 minutes. The Serb was assured a place in the semis after winning the first set. Four of the top five ranked players on the ATP World Tour will play in the semi-finals.

 

 

He needed one set, one set only to be sure he would still keep his bid to win 4 consecutive championships at the ATP World Tour finals alive. No one has ever done it before, and Novak Djokovic’s run to tennis history is yet to come to a halt. After all, against a player like Tomas Berdych – whom he had beaten 2o times out of 22 – even a below par Djokovic was enough to sail through, securing at least one set.

Analysing the meaning of below par, even a World No.1 capable of only firing one single winner, to 8 unforced errors, was enough to win a set by 6 games to 3 against the World No.6. The truth is that Novak Djokovic was a dull copy of the player seen so far in the season, something much closer in its essence to the player who lost in straight sets to Roger Federer in London on Tuesday.

Unable to dictate the play, hardly moving as fast as we have seen him doing all year long, the first player to miss on a regular basis in 5-shot or more rallies, clearly the Serb is struggling to find his best self in London this year. After a brilliant performance against Nishikori in his debut match at the O2, Novak has hardly been himself again. Passive in his shot making, almost to the point where he doubts his weapons, the same ones that have let him dominate the tour almost unbeaten this year.

The slower surface of the O2 Arena should help the Serb create his “Spider Web” – as Federer likes to call it – but is surprisingly working as a counter-punch to the Serb’s consistency.

That said, even winning just 52% of the points on first serve, and a -7 differential between winners and unforced errors, only firing one single winner on his backhand throughout the entire match, having no baseline winners to his name in the first set, Novak has managed to find a way and win the match in straight sets.

Rather than a disappointing performance then, the Serb can see this victory as a blatant revelation of his superiority on the rest of the field in men’s tennis. Sure Berdych helped, once again falling victim of his nerves and melting like snow in the sun on the most important moments, once again unable to find the extra something he needs to take the lead against the top competitors in the sport.

Djokovic needed one set, and took two. The Serb may have lost his first match since August two days ago, his first indoor match in three years, but he still is in the game. Right after beating the World No.1, Roger Federer said: “I see Novak as the favourite to win still. He is going to do well against Berdych and then in the semis he will be the favourite to win the tournament again to me”.

And that same feeling spreads across tennis experts, fans and competitors. After all, Djokovic has built a mental invulnerability that tells him he can still find a way out even when things don’t look great, even if his tennis is not responding to the Robo-Nole commands.

Now the tournament presents the semis with 4 of the top 5 players competing. The Serb is the favourite, because when tournaments hit the latest stages, he tends to be the one finding that extra sparkle and fire to tore off the competition and finish on top.

It has been a recurring story this year on the tour. Now the Serb has to fight for history.

 

MATCH REPORT

 

Novak Djokovic (SRB) b. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

O2 Arena, London

RR Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

 

Head-2-Head = Djokovic leads 20-2

 

Qualification Outcomes

  • Berdych wins in 2 sets = Berdych advances to the semi-finals
  • Berdych wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 2 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals

 

THE FIRST SET

 

Djokovic breaks in the second game attacking to lead 2-0. In the third game, Berdych breaks back to trail 1-2.

 

The Serb has three chances to take the lead again, when Berdych misses an easy forehand long to go down 0-40. Berdych saves all three break points, one with a first serve and then firing two consecutive aces. The Czech challenges Djokovic’s backhand and surprisingly as the rallies grow longer, it is Tomas who gains the edge. Djokovic so far looks a very close version to the player who lost to Federer in straight sets. With another first serve, Berdych saves the game and holds to set the score tied at 2-2.

 

The Czech has another chance on Djokvovic’s serve up 15-30 after winning an impressive point at the net with a backhand volley winner. The World No.1 reacts right away to regain the lead in the game and the set, closing the game with a first serve. 3-2 Djokovic.

 

As the match continues in being a baseline battle, it is the Czech who seems more capable of finding aggressive solutions to win the rallies. Berdych is the first player to take control of the court, advances at the net at 40-30 and closes the game with a stunning backhand drop volley to set the score at 3-3.

 

So far in the match, Novak Djokovic has only hit one single winner and 7 unforced errors, compared to Berdyhc’s 10 winners and 10 unforced errors. Clearly the Serb isn’t playing at his best, but is enough to keep the lead in the set at 4-3.

 

As it happens many times, Berdych feels the nerves when the match gets closer to a deciding moment. The Czech from 30-15 hits first a forehand and then a backhand both just wide, to face a break point at 30-40. Tomas uses his first serve yet again to exit trouble. Djokovic however finds a sparkle of brilliance right when he needs it the most. The World No.1 attacks Berdych’s backhand to get another chance to break at 40-A. As a response, Tomas fires an ace, the 4th in the match, to get back to deuce. On the following point, Berdych kills a forehand in the net and Djokovic has his 3rd break point in the game. This time, the Serb breaks thanks to a terrible unforced error committed by the Czech. Berdych fires a strong first serve wide, but then decides to step on court and try to close the point with an airborne forehand which finishes in the net. Djokovic breaks and leads 5-3 to serve for the set.

 

Djokovic has his first set points up 40-15. While on the first the Serb hits a backhand long, on the second Berdych hits a backhand return long. Djokovic wins the set 6-3 in 42 minutes and mathematically secures his access to the semi-finals.

 

Djokovic closed the set with 1 winner and 8 unforced errors. Berdych with 12 winners and 18 unforced errors.

 

With Djokovic qualified, 4 of the first 5 players in the rankings reach the semi-finals in London.

 

THE SECOND SET

 

No matter the score in the set, the semi-finals are already decided in London for the Stan Smith group, with Federer advancing as first and Djokovic as second in the group.

 

The second set starts with 3 break point chances for Djokovic, who breaks at 30 and takes an early lead up 1-0. The Serb soon leads for 2-0 and it seems the match is heading towards the predicted finish.

 

Despite being virtually already out of the tournament, Berdych has a reaction of pure pride as he strikes full swing and breaks back to trail 1-2. The Czech continues to push the Serb and the service games of both players start to go away easyer. With Berdych holding serve to 30 in the 7th game (despite a stunning forehand return winner from Djokovic on 40-0) the Czech now leads 4-3.

 

Knowing there is not much more than pride at stake, the match fails to pull the strings of excitement. Both players manage to stay strong on their serve. Djokovic serves down 4-5, but wins the game with a forehand winner, his 10th winner in the match.

 

At 5-5, the World No.1 has a chance to close the match as he raises to 0-30 on Berdych’s serve. The Serb gets to triple break points at 0-40. On the first chance, Berdych catches the net on a backhand drop volley and the ball barely bounces in Djokovic’s half of the court. On his second chance, Djokovic attacks Berdych on the forehand, the Czech hits long and Novak closes the game to lead 6-5.

 

Djokovic serves for the match in the 12th game after 43 minutes since the start of the second set. The Serb gets to match point attacking with his forehand on Berdych’s backhand to lead 40-15 as Tomas hits a defensive slice wide. Djokovic closes out the contest with a first serve on which Berdych returns a chopped forehand in the net. Djokovic wins 6-3 7-5 after 1 hour and 29 minutes.

He advances to the semi-finals as second in the Stan Smith group, after Roger Federer.

Djokovic closes the second set with 9 winners and 8 unforced errors, finishing the match with 10 winners and 16 unforced errors. Berdych loses with 26 winners and 31 unforced errors to his name. The Czech has dominated the play, but has failed to win the most important points, yet again.

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Andre Agassi’s Failed Doping Tests Covered Up By ATP, Claims Former Rival

A former world No.1 has made a bold claim about the American tennis legend.

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Andre Agassi attending Roland Garros in 2017 (photo by Roberto Dell Olivo)

Marcelo Rios has launched an attack on the ATP during an interview with Chilean publication La Tercera when talking about anti-doping measures in the sport.

 

Rios, who reached a ranking high of No.1 back in 1998, has claimed that he was only tested three times by anti-doping officials throughout his entire career. However, he states that he never consumed any banned substances. He said measures during his playing days were poor and difficult for many players to understand. Rios won 18 ATP titles between 1995-2001 and reached the final of the 1998 Australian Open.

“They give you a sheet that I didn’t understand anything it said. The ATP does it wrong in that area. They give you a list where there are millions of things you never saw in your life. They got too drastic. One thing is personal life and another thing is to dope to take advantage.” He said.
“I never doped in my tennis time. I drank alcohol, yes, but weed or another strong drug no, because of doping and because I was not interested in getting into things like that. I had three anti-doping tests done throughout my career.”

During the 1990s and early 2000s Andre Agassi was one of the stars of the men’s tour. He was the fifth man in history to complete a career grand slam and spent a total of 101 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings. In his autobiography he admitted to taking crystal meth back in 1997 and failing a drugs test which he escaped punishment for after saying he inadvertently consumed the illegal substance. The revelation prompted numerous condemnation on the tour and placed the ATP under scrutiny by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Agassi received no punishment following his admission.

However, a blunt speaking Rios has alleged that the governing body of men’s tennis was deliberately involved in hiding Agassi’s failed drugs test. Doping controls are managed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), but in the past it was the responsibility of each tour, the ATP and WTA.

“They caught him four times and the ATP covered him because he was Agassi and the tennis was going to shit. I found the biggest shit that exists at the ATP.“ Rios said.

During their careers, Rios played his American rival three times on the tour. He defeated Agassi in the finals of the Grand Slam Cup and Miami Masters during 1998.

The 44-year-old has also spoken out about the provisional suspension of one of his compatriots, Nicolas Jarry. Jarry tested positive for ligandrol and stanozolol during the Davis Cup Finals last November, but insists that he has never intentionally took any illegal drugs.

“When I competed, they analysed only urine samples. Now it’s also with blood samples, so trying to hide something is very difficult and nowadays you get caught whatever you want to do.” Rios commented on the matter.
“Nico was very fed up and I told him: “You will continue to be Nico Jarry if you are suspended for four years or whatever. I love you as a friend, I love you as a player and if I never play again, you will continue to be my friend.’”

Rios is set to play an exhibition match with former player Alex Corretja at the Gran Arena Monticello in Santiago on June 26th.

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16-Year-Old Tennis Prodigy Who Compares His Tennis To Federer Shines At Rio Open

Becoming the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP Match, Carlos Alcaraz is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal.

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The opening day of the Rio Open in Brazil was dominated by a marathon night-time classic involving the youngest player currently ranked inside the top 500 on the ATP Tour.

 

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz made his ATP main draw debut in the Brazilian capital on Monday at the age of 16. Taking on veteran player and seventh seed Albert Ramos Viñolas, who is 15 years older than him, the teenager battled to an epic 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2) victory. The roller coaster match lasted more than three-and-a-half hours and didn’t finish until 3am. The showdown was a stern test of Alcaraz’s mentality as he trailed 0-3 in the decider and then failed to convert two match points when leading 5-3 before prevailing in the tiebreaker.

“I will remember Rio forever,” atptour.com quoted Alcaraz as saying. “I am very happy to win my first ATP Tour match. This has been the longest and most intense match I’ve played so far. There were quite difficult conditions, but if you have the right attitude, the conditions don’t matter. You can achieve anything.”

Coached on the tour by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz started to turn heads on the tour last year. At the Murcia Challenger, which was only his fourth senior tournament, he scored a win over the then ranked No.140 Pedro Martínez. Becoming the first Spanish male player to defeat a top 200 player since Rafael Nadal back in 2002.

“I always have positive thoughts. I always think I can win, no matter who the opponent is,” he said. “If you don’t think you can win, you shouldn’t go on the court.”

The belief that he has what it takes to one day rise to the top of the sport is there for the Spaniard. In an interview with Trans World Sport earlier this year (see video below), he said his goal was ‘to become world No.1 and win as many grand slams as possible.’

Hailing from the same homeland as tennis legend Rafael Nadal, the teenager is obviously inspired by him. However, Alcaraz believes his tennis is more similar to that of another member of the Big Three – Roger Federer.

”I like to play very aggressively, with a lot of winners. My style is more or less like Roger Federer’s, aggressively coming to the net and playing a lot of drop shots,” the Spaniard explained.
”When I spend time with tennis greats like Rafa or Ferrero or any other player, I don’t say anything. I listen to everything they say because it is very valuable to me,” he later added.
“In each tournament I go to, I try to do my best. If that happens, then I will gradually go up.”

Prior to Rio, the rising star has already enjoyed success on the ITF tour this year. In Manacor he won back-to-back $15,000 tournaments last month by dropping only two sets in total. Following that, he was also runner-up at another $15,000 event in Turkey to Zsombor Piros. Piros is currently the only player to defeat him in 2020.

Alcaraz is the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP Tour match. He will play Argentine qualifier Federico Coria in the second round.

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Kim Clijsters Exits Dubai With Confidence Boost And Extra Motivation

The multiple grand slam winner speaks out about her comeback match and the support she has received from her family.

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Kim Clijsters (Twitter, @WTA_insider)

Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters has said she needs to remain patient with her tennis after losing in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.

 

The four-time grand slam champion was in impressive form on the court despite falling in straight sets to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.Who reached the final of the Australian Open last month. The encounter was Clijsters’ first competitive match on the tour since the 2012 US Open, where Muguruza coincidentally made her grand slam debut.

Whilst it wasn’t a fairy-tale return to the tour for the 36-year-old, she insisted that she had a ‘good feeling’ whilst playing on the court. Hitting 15 winners to 23 unforced errors and winning a total of 67 points against Muguruza.

“I had a good feeling out there, I felt a pace I can handle. I felt like I was able to go toe-to-toe with her from the baseline,” Clijsters told reporters.
“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have that belief somehow. It might take 10 matches to get the way I played in the second set, might take me 10 matches to get that from start to finish.
“I have patience. I’m going to work my way into it and fight. We’ll see what happens.”

The return of the 36-year-old has earned her praise from many stars of the sport on social media. Serena Williams, who has played her on the tour nine times in the past, said she was ‘inspired’ by her rival. Meanwhile Conchita Martinez, who is the coach of Muguruza, said Clijsters were already playing at an ‘amazing level.’

It was the support of her family that aided Clijsters’ decision to return to the tour after almost eight years away. She is married to Brian Lynch, who himself is a former professional basketball player and coach. Together they have three children called Jada, Jack and Blake.

“Jada is like, mum, do it. If you feel like doing it, just do it.She commented on her family’s support.
“Jack, our middle child, he was like, mum, I hope you lose your first match, then you can come home quicker.’
“It’s just different feelings. My youngest is really too young to understand, but the support is there. They see me practice and they play some tennis at the academy as well.”

For the foreseeable future, the Belgian doesn’t have any goals when it comes to results in tournaments or trying to win a title yet. However, that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t set a high standard for herself to follow. Following their match, Muguruza was asked about Clijsters’ level. The Spaniard replied ‘a player who has played incredible can play incredible again.’

“I have expectations. They’re not result related or ranking related. They’re more individually for myself.” Clijsters recently stated.
“It’s getting a feeling of how I want to play out there. That’s the expectation or the goal I’m trying to get to.”

The next tournament for Clijsters will be the Monterrey Open in Mexico, which will get underway on March 2nd.

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