The Five Most Important Things Tennis Has Learned From The Rio Olympics - UBITENNIS
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The Five Most Important Things Tennis Has Learned From The Rio Olympics

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Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s doubles competition with Larc Lopez (image via zimbio.com).

 

Proceedings at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio de Janeiro has been an emotional roller coaster for many players. The tournament has seen the mighty fallen, and the underdogs rise. It has certainly been a memorable event, but there is still one question remaining. How much of an impact will events in Rio have on the tennis circuit?

The superiority of the top seeds is no more

There were hints earlier this season that the two best players in the world were showing signs of weakening and the Rio Olympics was the venue where we saw them both crash out. First, it was an emotional Novak Djokovic, who went out in the first round to Juan Martin del Potro. Then defending champion Serena Williams was knocked out by Elina Svitolina after producing an error-stricken performance.

It could be argued that it was just a coincidence that both suffered disappointment at the same tournament, however, this momentum shift has been coming for a while. In the women’s game, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza have already demonstrated that they have the power and variety to defeat Williams this year. Meanwhile, Andy Murray is currently the man to beat on the ATP Tour after winning three consecutive events (Queen’s, Wimbledon and the Olympics).

Rio provided players with a platform to display their best tennis and the lower ranked players succeeded. Times are changing and it appears that tennis will see a new world No.1 sooner rather than later. In the women’s tour, this could be as soon as next week.

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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal Hail Return Of Fans To Italian Open

The top two players on the ATP Tour give their reactions to the return of a crowd in Rome.

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Tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have welcomed a government decision allowing fans to attend the Italian Open during its final two days.

 

On Friday Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed that 1000 people will be allowed to attend the event on both the semi-final and final days. A move the government minister describes as a ‘first but significant, step toward the return of normalcy in sports.’ Until now the tournament had been held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears that allowing a crowd to attend the event may trigger an outbreak of the virus. As part of the conditions there will be rules in force concerning mask wearing, social distancing and reserve seating.

“If we are going to have 1,000 people, it’s better than no people for sure because we all miss the fans, and part of our professional careers in sport is playing in front of them,” Djokovic said following his third round win over Filip Krajinović.
“I’m really glad that that’s going to happen.” He added.

The Italian Open will be the first major tennis tournament on the men’s Tour to welcome fans since resuming after its five-month break due to the pandemic. Both the Western and Southern Open, as well as the US Open, were held behind closed doors. Meanwhile, at the upcoming French Open plans for 11,500 fans to attend the event daily has been more than halved to 5000 following a ruling from French officials.

“The situation is how it is. Very difficult and very unpredictable, so it is normal that things are changing quickly,” Nadal commented on the changes surrounding crowd capacities.
“It is normal that the people who have to make decisions, they do with the best precaution possible. I don’t expect easy decisions and I don’t expect things are prepared in advance because it’s difficult to know how the pandemic evolves during day situations.’
“Changes can change a lot. So if the situation is good enough, fantastic.”

When it comes to where the semi-finals and finals of the tournament could be played due to the admission of fans, world No.1 Djokovic is hoping officials will stick to the premier court. Arguing that it is ‘much better quality’ than the other courts at the Foro Italico.

“I heard also they are considering to use Pietrangeli or NextGen court for semi-finals and finals,” he said.
“I hope it’s not the case, because the quality of the clay and quality of the centre court is, in my opinion, much better than the other courts.”

In order for both Djokovic and Nadal to play in front of Italian fans they must both come through their quarter-final matches. Djokovic will play German qualifier Dominik Koepfer and Nadal locks horns with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

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Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome

Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@ATPTour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.

 

Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.

Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.

Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.

After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.

The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.

Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.

Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.

In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.

Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.

There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.

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Internazionali d’Italia Day 4 Preview: The Men’s & Women’s Match of the Day

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Court Pietrangeli at Foro Italico (internazionalibnlditalia.com)

On Thursday in Rome, the prevailing theme will be established veterans taking on the new generation.

 

A trio of two-time Major champions will face three of the WTA’s most impressive young talents: an American teenager who was tennis’ breakout star last summer, a 24-year-old who already has 23 wins in this abbreviated season, and a 21-year-old who was the shocking winner of this year’s Australian Open.  On the men’s side, 30-somethings Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils, and Fabio Fognini will all battle opposition approximately a decade their junior.  What will win out on Thursday: experience, or youth?

Sofia Kenin (3) vs. Victoria Azarenka (SE)

In their only prior encounter, youth prevailed.  18 months ago in Acapulco, Kenin pulled out one of the most significant wins of her burgeoning career, 7-5 in the third.  But this is a very different Azarenka that Kenin faces today.  After years of injuries, personal setbacks, and tough draws, Vika is back in a big way.  Following four consecutive losses prior to last month’s Western & Southern Open, Azarenka is now on a 12-1 run.  Once she got a few wins under her sails, the floodgates have opened.  While Kenin is rarely an easy out, she also doesn’t possess any significant weapons to contain a reborn Azarenka, who remains one of the game’s best returners.  The two-time Australian Open champion should be favored to overcome Melbourne’s most recent victor.

Kei Nishikori vs. Lorenzo Musetti (Q)

Musetti has a lot of the tennis world talking after his startling upset of Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday night.  Lorenzo, the 249th-ranked player in the world, was the junior champion of the Australian in 2019.  Two evenings ago, he dominantly took the first set from Wawrinka 6-0.  But even more impressively, he did not fold after donating a second-set lead, persevering to complete the win in straights.  His one-handed backhand is a thing of beauty, and his composure is noteworthy.  Is Italy’s new star ready to dismiss another top name?  Kei Nishikori missed a year of action due to an elbow injury and the pandemic, and is 1-1 since returning.  Nishikori certainly has a solid clay resume, but he’s currently far from his best.  In a week where Italian men have exceled, another Roman conquering is not out of the question.

Other Notable Matches on Day 4:

Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Coco Gauff.  Coco routed an in-form One Jabeur in the last round, while Muguruza comfortably excused another American, Sloane Stephens.

Anett Kontaveit (14) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Their only previous meeting occurred in Rome two years ago, with Kontaveit winning after two tight sets.

In his first match since February, Gael Monfils (5) vs. Dominik Koepfer (Q), who upset Alex de Minaur in a third set tiebreak on Tuesday.

Fabio Fognini (7) vs. Ugo Humbert.  The 22-year-old Frenchman won his first ATP title earlier this year in Auckland.  Fognini has only once reached the quarterfinals in twelve past appearances at his country’s biggest tournament.

In a rematch of a dramatic fourth round match from 11 days ago at the US Open, Petra Martic (8) vs. Yulia Putintseva.

And in a battle between two rising ATP prospects, Andrey Rublev (9) vs. Hubert Hurkacz.

Full order of play is here.

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