Stan Wawrinka Edges Andy Murray to Set All-Swiss Semi-Final Repeat in London - UBITENNIS
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Stan Wawrinka Edges Andy Murray to Set All-Swiss Semi-Final Repeat in London

Ivan Pasquariello

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Call him WOW-rinka. Stan Wawrinka beats a spirited Andy Murray in straight sets 7-6(4) 6-4 to advance to the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals for the third straight year in a total of three appearances. Murray almost completed a terrific comeback from 2-5 down in the second set. Against Roger Federer, Wawrinka will compete in a repeat of the 2014 semi-final in London, when he lost to his compatriot after holding 4 match points.

 

 

A third straight semi-final in three participations since 2013 is not a common thing to achieve at the ATP World Tour Finals. Stan Wawrinka, has managed to reach the feat. Finding major glimpses of his best tennis, the Swiss has somehow found his way to the last 4 at the O2 Arena, for an impressive triplet not many had saw coming at the start of the tournament. The feat puts Stan very close to players like Novak Djokovic (3 titles in a row and 4th semifinal in 4 years) and Roger Federer (7th semifinal in a row at the O2 since 2009) who have made history for the tournament since it got moved to central London six years ago.

It could be the slower surface at the O2 Arena, which makes the indoor court quite similar to the red clay which brought him his second Grand Slam title this year. It could be the fact that there is no wind to interfere. It could be that the atmosphere at the O2 awakens all motivations and will. Whatever it is that works as a switch to turn on Wawrinka’s tennis at the ATP Finals, has functioned again.

Stan stayed strong until the very end in the match he ended up winning after almost two hours against Andy Murray. Down 2-4 in the tie-break in the first set he won 5 points in a row. Up 5-2 in the second set, he saw a spirited Murray come back to 4-5 and 15-40 on Wawrinka’s serve. Once again, despite the odds and a fully loud British crowd, the French Open champion kept his focus and was brave enough to go for his shots when he needed them the most.

Not a great day on serve for the Swiss, who closed with just 45% of first serves on court, but managing to win 67% of the points played on those first serves. Wawrinka finished the match relying on his second serve, proving to have made a step forward in terms of mental strength and quality. The Swiss collected his 7th win against Murray. Still behind in the all-time Head2Head record by 7-8, Wawrinka has beaten the Brit three times in a row now. The last time Murray has taken a set, and the match, away from the Swiss was in Tokyo in 2012, then Andy won 6-2 3-6 6-2 in the QF.

Now, in the semi-finals, Stan will have a chance to avenge the loss he faced last year in the same arena against friend and compatriot Roger Federer. In the best match of last year’s Finals, Stan lost 6-4 5-7 7-6(6) to Federer after holding 4 match points. Now Stan will have a shot at redemption in a season that saw him find the continuity he never had before on the most important tournaments on tour. With a personal record of 21 victories and 3 defeats in Grand Slam tournaments, and 3 titles (Chennai, Rotterdam and Roland Garros), the Swiss will most likely be closing his second consecutive season among the top 4 ranked players in the world.

With Wawrinka, three of last year’s four semifinalists will be once again in action at the ATP Finals, with runner-up Federer and 3-time champion Djokovic bidding to set a reply of the final that last year wasn’t played in London.

 

MATCH REPORT

(4) Stan Wawrinka (SUI) b. (2) Andy Murray (GBP) 7-6(4) 6-4
Match time: 1 hour and 54 minutes

 

O2 Arena, London
RR Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

 

Head-2-Head = Murray leads 8-6

Last Match: US Open QF 2013 S. Wawrinka b. A. Murray 6-4 6-3 6-2

 

Who wins qualifies as No.2 in the Ilie Nastase group

Group winner: Rafael Nadal

Stan Wawrinka starts the match on serve

 

THE FIRST SET

 

The first game gets to deuce with Wawrinka on serve. The Swiss has his first game points up 40-15, thanks to a forehand drop volley winner. Stan needs to win two extra points at 40-40 to hold serve without facing a break point.

 

Murray starts his service game closing the point at the net with a forehand volley. Wawrinka responds with an attack and a forehand volley himself. The Scot wins the game holding serve to 15.

 

In the third game Andy Murray is the first player to see a break point chance as the Scot wins an incredible point. With Wawrinka at the net attacking on Murray’s forehand, the Brit manages to stretch his arm to the ball and put a passing shot right on the baseline.

 

Here is the shot:

The Scot calls the crowd in for cheering. The O2 responds with the loudest noises of excitement in the match. Wawrinka saves the break point with an ace, but Murray manages to have another chance insisting on the Swiss’s backhand, pushing Wawrinka to hit in the net. Stan saves the second break point with another first serve on Murray’s forehand. Even just putting on court 40% of first serves, Wawrinka survives the scare and holds to lead 2-1.

 

The intensity is high, as both players know the semi-finals at the ATP Finals are at stake. For those questioning Murray’s motivation the answer has already been sent, blatant, by the Scot.

On the stands, Wawrinka has full support today in London, as both his girlfriend Donna Vekic and his ex wife and son are cheering for him:

moglie

Photo credit: OKTennis

In the following game Wawrinka has a chance up 0-30 on Murray’s serve. The Swiss attacks full power with his backhand, and forces Murray to miss first. Putting more spin in the ball and catching Stan off-guard, Murray comes back to 30-30 in the game. Andy insists on hitting on Wawrinka’s forehand, but the choice doesn’t pay off. Stan fires a cross court winner and has his first break point of the match at 30-40. Murray saves the break chance with a deep first serve. Just like Wawrinka in the previous game, Murray uses his first serve to escape the danger zone and holds to tie the score at 2-2.

 

Wawrinka holds to love in the following game and keeps the lead up 3-2. Murray responds holding to love to set the score at 3-3. Murray has won 9 out of 10 points on his first serve. Wawrinka is now more confident on his serve, pushing the percentage of first serves to close to 50% now. The Swiss holds to 15 closing the last point of the game with a volley smash winner. Stan leads 4-3 after 31 minutes. Murray has 6 winners, Wawrinka 9 so far.

 

Murray faces another threat serving in the 8th game. The Brit hits his first double fault in the match to trail back 0-30 in his service game. The Swiss steps onto court in the following point, attacking with his forehand and pushing Murray to hit in the net. Down 0-40 on his serve, Murray faces 3 break points. On the first break point, the Scot hits a winning forehand volley on the attack. On his second chance, Wawrinka stays strong in a long rally played in the middle of the court. Murray misses his backhand first and Wawrinka breaks to lead 5-3 and serve for the set.

 

Wawrinka gets to 30-15 with a serve and volley winner that hits the back of the baseline. Murray responds with a stunning forehand cross court defensive shot that becomes a winner. At 30-30 Stan succumbs to tension, hitting his 3rd double fault in the match to face a break point at 30-40. Wawrinka saves the break point pushing Murray to miss again. Sustained by the crowd, the Scot steps on court on the following point, winning the rally with a backhand drop volley winner to get another break chance, his third in the match. Murray plays an impressive point on defence, scrapping, sending every ball back on a 15-shot rally. In the end, the Scot finishes off with a winning forehand, with Wawrinka left in no man’s land. Murray is back in the set at 4-5, breaking Wawrinka’s serve for the first time on his 4th chance.

 

Here the incredible rally won by the Scot:

 

Serving to stay in the set, Murray holds to 15 and completes comeback. The Scot gets back to 5-5.  Wawrinka regroups in time to stay in the set. The Swiss holds to love to regain the lead at 6-5 after 51 minutes. Murray doesn’t tumble in the following game, holding serve at 15 and sending the set to a deciding tie-break.

 

On the first point Wawrinka gets called a first serve out. The Swiss calls for the Hawk-Eye and is right, turning the call and winning the first point with an ace. With great defensive skills, Murray wins both points on his serve and leads for the first time in the match 2-1 in the tie-break. Murray solidifies the lead with a stunning backhand inside-out return winner for a mini-break and a 3-2 lead. The Scot insists on Wawrinka’s backhand, hitting high balls on the last inches of the court. Wawrinka misses and Murray wins his 11th point out of the 16 played on rallies with 10 or more shots. The Scot misses an easy forehand on the following point, hitting in the net. Wawrinka “breaks” for the first time in the tie-break as Murray leads 4-3. A second serve on Andy’s body sends Stan back in the set. The Swiss completes the comeback and sets the score tied at 4-4. Murray hits a backhand return just wide and Wawrinka regains the lead up 5-4. The home-favourite fails under pressure again. Andy misses an easy forehand wide and Stan is the first player to reach set points at 6-4. Murray misses again, with Wawrinka at the net, the Scot’s tentative of a lob shot finishes both long and wide. After 1 hour and 6 minutes, Wawrinka wins the first set 7-6(4) winning the last 5 points in a row.

 

Murray closes the set with 15 winners and the same number of unforced errors. Wawrinka finishes with 15 winners and 17 unforced errors.

 

The tournament’s supervisor enters the court to speak with Murray during the changeover. The Scot is heard complaining about the noise and “running to the net instead of walking”. Not very clear what bothers the Scot.

 

 

THE SECOND SET

 

The second set starts with a break point chance for Wawrinka on Murray’s serve. The Swiss fires a forehand winner down the line at 30-30. On the break point, Murray hits an easy forehand in the net as Wawrinka breaks in the first game to lead 1-0.

 

Staying strong on serve, Wawrinka manages to solidify the lead and is up 2-0. The match at this point seems very much over. Murray however, refuses to give up easily. The Scot holds serve in the third game and manages to get to deuce with Wawrinka serving at 2-1. Despite the unexpected comeback turns the 02 Arena back in full-loudness mode, the sparkle fades soon. Wawrinka stay strong on serve, finds his first service when he needs it the most and closes the game to lead 3-1. Murray responds with a service hold to love. The match will be played on Wawrinka’s serve now.

 

Wawrinka holds serve easily in the 6th game and has a chance to close the match in advance with Murray serving down 2-4, firing a stunning backhand down the line passing shot to get to 0-30. The Scot survives thanks to a progression that hits the baseline and an incredible central second serve on which Wawrinka doesn’t return on court. The Swiss has another chance at 30-40. Facing his 5th break point in the match, Murray seems exhausted as he hits a forehand in the middle of the net to get broken for the third time. Wawrinka leads 5-2 and goes on to serve for the match.

Serving for the match, Wawrinka faces three consecutive break points down 0-40. The Swiss saves the first two serving well. Murray’s lack of brilliance makes the Scot miss also his third chance. Wawrinka keeps the match alive, hitting a tired forehand in the middle of the net to face the 4th break point in the match. Murray wins an incredible point, closing with a winning smash after an impressive defence from Wawrinka. The Scot breaks and trails back 3-5.

Wawrinka seems momentarily lost, as he hits a backhand easy volley in the net with Murray serving in the 9th game. The Scot goes on supported by the crowd and holds serve to love to send Wawrinka serving for the match a second time.

Murray uses the crowd to find extra energy in his tank. The Scot has incredibly another chance, with Wawrinka hitting a backhand wide to fall behind 0-30. Wawrinka pushes with his shots despite the tension, forces with his forehand to push Murray to hit in the net. At 15-30 Murray hits a backhand return down the line, on which Wawrinka hits a defensive forehand in the net. The Swiss is down 15-40 and can’t find his first serve. Stan finds courage to attack with his forehand and force Murray to hit in the net. The Brit touches his back in pain after missing the last shot.

Andy misses a forehand just long on his second break point chance and sets Wawrinka two points away from the match. Wawrinka attacks on the following point, comes to the net and closes the point with a winning smash. Murray smashes and destroys his racket in frustration as Stan has his first match point.

Murray’s racket smash:

Wawrinka attacks with his forehand again, but misses inches long wasting his first chance of closing the match. The drama goes on, as Wawrinka hits a second serve called out, which happens to be in as revealed by Hawk-Eye. On the following point, Murray kills a backhand in the net.

Wawrinka has a second match point. The Swiss fails to put the first serve on court, but wins the point as Murray hits a backhand wide. After 1 hour and 54 minutes Stan Wawrinka reaches his third consecutive semi-final at the O2 Arena.

The match stats:

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 22.24.39

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American No.3 Reilly Opelka Blasts ‘Shocking’ ATP Cup

The new event has been described as unfair and a embarrassment by the American.

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 19: Reilly Opelka of United States during the Group F match between USA and Canada during Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 19, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil / Kosmos Tennis)

With the Davis Cup currently under close scrutiny this week, one player on the tour have turned his criticism to a brand new team event coming to the tour in 2020.

 

Reilly Opelka has launched a verbal attack on the ATP Cup, which will get underway in January. The event features 24 teams playing in three cities across Australia. Unlike the Davis Cup, both prize money and ranking points are available. Many of the world’s top players have already confirmed their intention to play in the event. Although one noticeable absence will be Roger Federer.

“The ATP Cup is pathetic. I think it’s shocking on behalf of the ATP for them to pass that and allow that.” The 22-year-old told reporters in Madrid.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. It’s pretty bad for the sport. It makes it (the tour) more top-heavy than it already is.”

The teams for the ATP Cup are determined by the ranking of the country’s highest ranked player. However, with only two singles players allowed to play in each team some countries find themselves in a tough spot. Once being America, who currently has eight players in the top 100. Opelka argues that due to the rules of the competition, the distribution of ranking points is unfair.

“I’m 35 in the world. I’m not going to play because I’m the second- or third-highest ranked American, and only the top two guys play.” He stated.
“It counts as an additional 19th tournament. So every player gets 18 tournaments on their ranking card. So you have to take your top 18 results, those go for your ranking. Those that play ATP Cup gets a 19th. So it’s unfair, there’s not equal opportunity for everyone.”

Opelka used the example of Moldova playing in the ATP Cup as one of the reasons why he is frustrated. The country has qualified due to the ranking of their top player Radu Albot, who is currently ranked 46th in the world. However, Moldova’s second highest ranked player is outside the top 800.

Fortunately concerning the Davis Cup, the former Wimbledon junior champion has a much more favourable view. This week is the inaugural week-long finals, which has encountered some blips already. The most being the schedule of the event with some ties now finishing until as late as 4am.

“I’m a fan of the new format. Maybe making it every two years or every three years would be I think the next step in the right direction.” Opelka concluded.
“Tennis players are pretty good at that. You don’t really know when you’re going to play matches. You can go really long, or you can go really quick. We’re used to being on standby.” He added.

This week is Opelka’s debut in the Davis Cup.

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Serbia beats France 2-1 to secure spot in Davis Cup quarter final

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Serbia qualified for the quarter finals at the Davis Cup at the Caja Magica in Madrid with wins in both singles matches by Filip Krajinovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire.

 

In the opening match Filip Kajinovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 in 1 hour and 48 minutes to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.

Krajinovic dropped two points on his first serve and earned his first three break point at 3-3 before breaking serve in the 11th game after a loose forehand from Tsonga. The 27-year-old Serbian player sealed the opening set 7-5 with a service winner.

Tsonga fended off three break points in the opening game of the second set. The Frenchman earned his only break point chance on return at 2-1, but Krajinovic saved it to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next eight games to set up a tie-break. Krajinovic earned the crucial mini-break on the 12th point to close out tie-break 7-5.

World number 2 Novak Djokovic cruised past Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3 in 70 minutes to secure the qualifying spot for Serbia in the quarter final.

Djokovic saved two break points in the first match of the opening set. The Serbian player earned a break in the eighth game and sealed the opening set 6-3 on his third set point.

Paire dropped his serve in the third game of the second set after a backhand down the line winner from Djokovic. The Serbian star hit a return winner at 5-3 to set up a quarter final clash against Russia on Friday.

Last week’s ATP Finals champions Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4. Herbert and Mahut broke serve in the fifth game to seal the opening set 6-4. Tipsarevic and Troicki broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Herbert and Mahut got the break back in the fifth game. After saving a break point in the eighth game Herbert and Mahut earned the decisive break in the ninth game and closed out the match on his first set point.

Serbia set up a quarter final against Russia, who qualified as one of the two-best-placed group runners-up by clinching second spot in Group.

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Jack Sock and Sam Querrey take late-night decisive doubles clash over Italy

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The clash between Italy and the USA came down to a decisive doubles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid after Fabio Fognini and Taylor Fritz won their respective singles matches.

 

Fabio Fognini  beat Relly Opelka 6-4 6-7 6-3 after 1 hour and 54 minutes to give Italy a much-needed win to the Italian team.

Fognini earned an early break at 1-1 after two errors from Opelka and dropped just five points in five service games. Fognini did not face a break point to close out the first set 6-4 in 33 minutes.

Both players stayed neck and neck setting up a tie-break. Opelka earned a mini-break to take a 5-3 lead in the tie-break and earned three set points. The US player sealed the first set point, but Opelka converted his second chance 7-4.

Opelka saved the first break point with an ace, but Fognini converted his second chance with a forehand passing shot in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Fognini dropped just three points to build up a 5-2 lead. Fognini served out the win on his first match point to give Italy a 1-0 win.

“I am tired for sure because it was tough. One of the things I did today was my serve, don’t ask me why. I am surprised about that”, said Fognini.

Taylor Fritz came back from one set down to beat Matteo Berrettini 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the second match. Berrettini saved a break point in the second game with a forehand down the line and a service winner. In the fifth game Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Berrettini broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 and sealed the first set on his first set point.

In the third set both players stayed neck and neck til the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the seventh game Fritz saved a break point. Berrettini held his serve at love. Fritz closed out the second set at 6-5 after 51 minutes.

Berrettini saved two consecutive break points in the first game of the third game. Fritz rallied from 0-30 down to hold his serve for 1-1. Fritz broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Berrettini saved a match point and held his serve for 2-5, but Fritz sealed the win on his second match point.

“Playing for my country is all the motivation I need. I just kept digging, kept fighting. It was really close. I lost the first set by close margin, and I told myself to tough out the second set like I know I can do, and my aggressive and fitness carried me through the third”,said Fritz.

Jack Sock and Sam Querrey came back from a set down in the decisive doubles match to take a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to give the USA a 2-1 win. The doubles match ended shortly after 4 am and was one of the latest finishes to a match in tennis history.  The USA finished second in the Group F behind Canada, who secured the first spot with their wins over Italy and the USA earlier this week. Neither team  was able to earn a break in the first two sets. Italy broke serve to take a 3-1 lead. Sock and Querrey broke back immediately before earning the decisive break at 4-4. The US team served out the win after 2 hours and 30 minutes.

“Reilly played a great match and Taylor came out in in a tough position knowing he needed to win. To get the doubles means a lot”, said Querrey.

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