By Cheryl Jones
As Robert Burns warned centuries ago in a poem, “The best laid plans of mice and men – often go askew”. That happened in Halle today when Philipp Kohlschreiber had to pull out of the Gerry Weber Open.
Yesterday, against Ivo Karlovic, he looked strong. Today, a hasty press conference was called and alas, no more for him here. He will travel to his home and have an MRI on his left hip to make certain that the treatment he is seeking will be all that is necessary to give that hip a rest before heading to Wimbledon.
He said that he had suffered a strain in the Stuttgart tournament where he eventually finished as runner-up. He had faced Dominic Thiem, (who oddly enough was supposed to be his opponent this Friday afternoon), in a two-day final that wrapped up on Monday of this week. It surely left him tired and likely numb as he waded into the fray here in Halle. He said that in the match against Karlovic he felt the strain, but with his win, hoped that it was merely something that would disappear after a good night’s sleep. That didn’t happen. Today, his personal physio, and the Physio (a physical therapist employed by the GWO) for the tournament agreed that the injury was serious enough to require some down time in order to give the hip a time to mend itself.
When he was asked about his plans for Wimbledon, he said, “It is my goal to play, but moving on the lawn is full of intense rallies and right now, I just had to make the decision to withdraw.”
Thiem moved into the semis with a Walkover. He is ranked seventh in the world and seems to be the hottest young professional in today’s game.
Today was Fitness Day at the tournament. While Kohlschreiber’s fitness isn’t an issue, after having performed on a tennis court for the past ten days, others’ fitness has to be questioned. Cramping and complaints have often been the bugaboo that has ended many a career prematurely. Today’s game requires more than a modicum of preparation to compete day after day.
A prime example of that necessity is thirty-four year-old Roger Federer. He has spent many years going far into tournament after tournament. He will be moving to the semi-final round after a match that ended with a 6-1, 7-6 score today. The match had its ups and downs after the first set seemed to point to an easy skate into the next round for the Swiss maestro. He faced David Goffin in the Match of the Day on center court. It was interesting to watch the player from Belgium skillfully dance away from any ball coming at what would have been his backhand. Goffin uses two hands in a motion that seems awkward and definitely not a natural response to balls that fly away from his forehand. However, in the Tie-Break in the second set, he utilized both his hands as he managed many a winner with those hands gripping the racquet handle. But the skill of Federer, who has a more fluid backhand, forehand and virtually every other feint, bob or weave that has led him to a career that has many pundits saying he is one of the best ever to play the game.
Tomorrow will be a showdown that begins at noon. Federer will face Alexander Zverev of Germany who has a game that has made it to the “You’ve got to see this young man play” stage and Dominic Thiem, the Austrian whiz kid, will face Florian Mayer, another German who defeated Andreas Seppi late today 7-6, 6-3.
Even though Kohlschreiber had to withdraw to nurse his aching hip, Germany will be well represented in tomorrow’s contests. Perhaps there will even be one in the final on Sunday.
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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