Can Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka Succeed to Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters? - UBITENNIS
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Can Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka Succeed to Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters?

Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters were last to complete the Indian Wells-Miami double at the same time for the men’s and women’s circuit on the same year. 11 years after, can Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka follow in their footsteps?

Ivan Pasquariello

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The Indian Wells-Miami double, the ability to win back-to-back titles in the Californian desert and in Florida, has been achieved by only 7 men and 2 women in tennis’ history. It has to be considered one of the hardest possible achievements in tennis, considering how the two tournaments run for a total of 4 weeks, with 6 or 7 matches to be won consecutively for each event, depending on the player’s status, being seeded or not. It is as close of a feat as winning two consecutive Grand Slam titles in the same month.

 

Here are the players who achieved the feat in history:

Men (10 times in total)

1991 – Jim Courier

1992 – Michael Chang

1994 – Pete Sampras

1998 – Marcelo Rios

2001 – Andre Agassi

2005, 2006 – Roger Federer

2011, 2014, 2015 – Novak Djokovic

 

Women (3 times in total)

1994, 1996 – Steffi Graf

2005 – Kim Clijsters

 

As these numbers show, only twice in tennis’ history it has happened that in the same year an Indian Wells-Miami double has been achieved both on the men’s and women’s side. The first time it was in 1994, when Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf won both titles back-to-back at the same time. The second time has happened exactly 11 years ago, when a returning Kim Clijsters won in California and in Florida consecutively, all while Roger Federer continued his domination over tennis achieving the double at the same time.

Can Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka succeed to Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters?

After a convincing performance in the first round for both Indian Wells winners, it seems there is a strong chance in Miami history could be made yet again next week. Clearly the player with the highest chance of competing the Indian Wells-Miami double for a record 4th time is Novak Djokovic. The Serb started his Indian Wells campaign a little rusty, but has managed to win the title increasing his level as the tournament progressed. Considering how Roger Federer is out of the picture, Rafael Nadal has shown progresses but keeps on losing to the Serb and that both of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka aren’t exactly shining in form at the moment, it is hard to predict the Serb could be stopped.

Novak started his campaign in Miami with a straight-set win over British promise Kyle Edmund (6-3 6-3).

On the women’s side a lot will depend on Serena Williams, who is chasing a 9th crown in Miami. The American has lost to Azarenka in the final of Indian Wells, not really looking sharp. Victoria has meanwhile climbed back in the top 10 showcasing the tennis abilities that have brought her atop of the women’s rankings just four years ago. Clearly the Belarusian has a shot at achieving the feat and follow the win in California with a third career triumph in Miami.

Vika has started her Miami campaign dominating in straight sets Monica Puig by 6-2 6-4, showing she has no intention of following the win at the BNP Paribas Open with a moment of lack of focus. Victoria is back after many injuries and she has no intention of letting her good form go to waste.

When Clijsters and Federer completed the Indian Wells-Miami double in 2005 they ended up dominating the great majority of the rest of the season, with Roger winning titles at Wimbledon and the US Open and Kim outplaying her competition in the American summer, going on to win her first major title at the US Open.

Clearly, if Novak and Victoria will complete the feat, we will have a better idea of what to expect for the rest of the season on hard courts.

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Laver Cup: As Europe’s blue reign, myriad hues peek out in event’s latest iteration

The 2019 Laver Cup showed all over again why it was an opportunity for tennis to be diverse in its offering.

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2019 Laver Cup, Team Europe, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal
Photo Credit: Laver Cup

Twelve matches spread over a three-day weekend later, Laver Cup has modified the proverbial face and scope of men’s tennis. It is still viewed sceptically as a disruptor to routine, individual-focused tennis matches in certain pockets. Yet, the singularity it has brought into the midst of the prevalent concept of individuality is irrevocable.

 

In the third year of the event’s emergence, these aspects are repetitive. However, Laver Cup’s display re-lit the theme of a team before a player. It also elevated it to heights not seen in its previous two editions. This showed in the players’ camaraderie with each other. As it did in the numerous coaching tips that came from the bench from Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and even Nick Kyrgios towards their fellow squad members.

Broadly, it was laid out in how the Laver Cup changed the subject from who would win the most Slams to which part of the globe would be victorious. For once, the conversation did not focus on 20 Slams versus 19, as it had come to be after Nadal’s win at the US Open. It was riveted on how two sportsmen with 39 Slams between them could set aside their competitiveness towards a common goal for a still-mushrooming tourney.

“Winning (as) teams is just amazing because you celebrate together. It’s a very special thing. Honestly, I really hope that this new and young generation keeps supporting this event because this event is special,” Nadal said after Team Europe’s three-peat on Sunday. “We need to make this event stronger and stronger because the atmosphere that we leave here is difficult to find in other places.”

The 33-year-old’s statements, aside from setting aside any cynicism about his involvement in the event this year, emphasised the growth Laver Cup has had in its three years. Nadal’s participation in Laver Cup’s inaugural year was seen as a novelty, a continuation of his and Federer’s triumphant return to the Tour after an injury-troubled 2016. Novak Djokovic’s inclusion in Europe’s 2018 squad was viewed as a reiteration that the event was a fad, where top-ranked players would make a one-off appearance, before stepping away.

In 2019, the 12-time French Open champion’s return contradicted this previously-held supposition. This shifting of perceptions is why Laver Cup has turned problematic to the Tour’s other mainstay events.

If Laver Cup were to be regarded as merely an exhibition, a tournament with no relevance to how the ATP tour progressed year-on-year with its usual clanking schedule, all of the players’ emotiveness and reactions would have been on par with the idea of livening it up for its sake.

https://twitter.com/rogerfederer/status/1176258686269952000

On the other hand, when two former world no. 1s were heard sternly telling their touted successor not to be negative for the rest of his match, it was hard to convince that the whole atmosphere was made-up.

Though, it does bear noting that not being put-on and the ease with which it has been assimilated in tennis’ mainstay have been the catalysts for Laver Cup’s disparaging mooting in certain circles.

The past weekend it coincided with a couple of ATP tournaments, in St. Petersburg and Metz. Both events had several interesting match-ups of their own. Followers deeply vested in the sport knew the happenings across all tournaments held last week. But for casual viewers, it would have come down to picking one event over the rest.

The factoring in of this unnecessary chasm added to the enervation around tennis by making one take sides in a sport that is already at crossroads, without Laver Cup even being mentioned.

Yet, if it were about inclusivity, selectivity in audiences’ preferences is the other side of tennis’ coin. These choices cannot always remain aligned, even in accepting or discarding the tri-day tournament as a consequential pursuit. As Nadal opined, when asked to compare between his other title wins and his Laver Cup team win, “…every single thing is different and is important by itself.”

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Editorial

Nothing Tops Star Power At U.S. Open

Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on this year’s US Open.

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The Arthur Ashe Stadium (via Twitter, @usopen)

NEW YORK — Tennis is still all about who’s playing the game.

 

Parents watch their kids grow up through their junior tennis days. Then maybe college tennis.

But when it comes to watching big-time tennis such as at the U.S. Open, nothing tops star power. That was never more evident than Friday and Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

NEW YORK CROWD UNSURE ABOUT MEDVEDEV

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is red hot this summer, first on the U.S. Open series where he lost in two finals before winning in Cincinnati. And then he made the U.S. Open final.

But the New York crowd doesn’t get very excited about the 6’6″ wonder. Empty seats were plentiful Friday afternoon when Medvedev knocked off Grigor Dimitrov in the first men’s semifinal. Even if the crowds weren’t excited about Medvedev, they should have been thrilled to see Dimitrov. Obviously, the fans weren’t too happy that Dimitrov had taken down Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.

But, suddenly, when Rafa Nadal took center court for the second semifinal, fans were everywhere. That was for a match against a relative newcomer to big-time tennis. Matteo Berrettini could play, but he was no equal for Nadal.

NADAL MAKES EMPTY SEATS DISAPPEAR

Yet, it was time to be sure you were in the correct seat. The empty seats had disappeared.

The U.S. Open had switched gears. It had gone from the frenzied atmosphere of young

Americans Coco Gaulf, Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend to a different reality.

The old-timers, better known as all-timers, might be nearing the end of the road in big-time tennis. Yes, the list includes even Serena Williams.

Nadal took care of his end of the bargain with the fans by turning away Berrettini in sraight sets to secure his day, and a spot in the final against Medvedev.

Serena couldn’t save her day in Saturday’s women’s final, despite the efforts of a packed stadium of wildly cheering supporters. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu simply was better on this day.

ANDREESCU MIGHT BE FOR REAL

Of course, Andreescu has plenty of time to set records and win fans. Serena rallied from 5-1 down in the second set, and appeared headed for another possible magical win when she tied the set at 5-5.

In the end, Serena failed again in her attempt to win a record-tying 24th  Grand Slam title in a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Andreescu.

Serena might have made 2018 champion Naomi Osaka’s career a year earlier when Serena couldn’t notch Grand Slam title No. 24 then, either. Now, Andreescu may be ready to make her mark on the game. Getting by Serena was a big step. Andreescu might join the all-timers one day.

When another Grand Slam season gets underway in January in Australia, the tennis world really might be turned upside down. Novak Djokovic’s early departure along with the 38-year-old Federer’s and Stan Wawrinka’s losses in the next round were shocking, along with the early collapse of all of  the super women’s stars except Serena.

SERENA, FEDERER AND NADAL IN A DIFFERENT WORLD

The young women’s stars such as Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Simona Halep and Ashleigh Barty, along with Medvedev, Berrettini, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime among the men aren’t likely to evolve into all-time stars the way Serena,  Federer and Nadal have.

That’s just the reality of big-time tennis. Serena, Federer and Nadal are players for the ages, just like Rod Laver was. Their fan bases are in for a major change, or they can switch to the sometimes unpredictability of this new group.

James Beck is 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 

http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

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2019 US Open: A common road led by contrasting routes for Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung

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Hyeon Chung, 2019 US Open
Photo Credit: Tata Open Maharashtra/Twitter

Amid the huddle of early-round exits and some scattered withdrawals, a couple of players made the most of opportunities they received at the 2019 US Open. Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung came through the qualifying rounds to win their initial couple of rounds with conviction and make their way forward even as rest of the playing field blew open around them.

 

Being qualifiers is the denominator common to them this week. Yet, in a way, the 23-year-old Chung is trudging a familiar route as compared with the 25-year-old Koepfer who is a relative newer face to watch at the Slams.

In 2018, Chung had made it to his first semi-final at a Major – at the Australian Open – taking down then six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals’ titlist reached a career-high of 19 in the world after his Australian Open jaunt in 2018. Koepfer, on the other hand, is yet to break into the top-100 – with a career-high of no. 113 attained in the second-week of August. His best result at the Majors – before his fourth-round appearance at the US Open – was reaching the second round at Wimbledon this year.

None of these differences in the respective roads they have travelled on the Tour mattered as they tried to make it to the main draw. Chung’s injuries that kept him away from the circuit (for almost five months this year) meant he had to start from scratch, at the Challenger level. Koepfer’s being a mainstay on the Challenger circuit – for now – meant he, too, would start from the same position.

In doing so, the sport has made levellers out of them. Their past results do not matter. It is how they do against the opponent of the day that matters. Three qualifying rounds followed by the sterner main-draw test that also comes by way of lengthier matches. In this regard, Chung has already faced two such difficult matches in his first two rounds this week against Ernesto Escobedo and Fernando Verdasco in which he had to play five-setters to extricate himself.

The draw’s narrowing has also meant the task ahead of them has gotten harder. This is also where their paths diverge once again. If Tulane University alumnus in Koepfer is the equivalent of a dark horse, Chung’s previous experience makes him a dangerous floater.

If the two end up being truthful to this tag of theirs, the chaos component at this year’s US Open will be the accentuation separating itself from the monotonous.

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