Novak Djokovic Overcomes An Inconsistent Gael Monfils At The US Open - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Overcomes An Inconsistent Gael Monfils At The US Open

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Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Gael Monfils during their Men’s Singles Semifinal Match on Day Twelve of the 2016 US Open. (Source: Mike Hewitt/zimbio.com)

Confusing is perhaps the best word to use when describing Novak Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, win over France’s Gael Monfils in the semi-final of the US Open.

 

The match consisted of more ups and downs than your average Hollywood blockbuster with Monfils’ occasional dismal tennis, Djokovic’s unexpected shirt rip and health problems striking both players in the humid conditions in New York.

Djokovic seemed certain for a crushing straight sets victory after racing to a two-sets lead in just over an hour against an ailing Monfils, who produced a series of poor play and appeared at one moment to be giving up on the match. It was a bizarre scenario for the Frenchman, who was playing in his first major semi-final for nine years. At one point the shocking situation resulted in the Crowd booing Monfils, who normally is one of the most popular players on the tour.

After benefiting from his opponents 27 unforced errors during the first two sets, Djokovic finally encountered some stern resistance from his opponent. Suddenly Monfils’ lackluster play had gone as he dictated play throughout the third set, recovering from a 0-2 deficit by winning six out of the following seven games. Unlike the start of the match, Monfils’ athletic Movement and aggressive play justified why he deserved a place in the last four to begin with. The French comeback was one that frustrated Djokovic, who was troubled by a shoulder issue throughout the match, prompting him to rip his shirt in frustration.

Suffering a blip in the third set, Djokovic restored his dominance in the fourth as his increasingly fatigued opponent struggled to cope with the conditions. Closing in on his 21st grand slam final, the world No.1 carefully moved his way to a 5-2 lead, leaving Monfils tasked with serving to stay in the match. It was a task that was too much for the Frenchman as Djokovic raced to three match points, converting his first with a powerful forehand return winner.

After enduring a roller coaster experience on the Arthur Ashe stadium, Djokovic admitted that the hot weather in New York contributed towards the somewhat unorthodox match.

“Human,” Djokovic described the match during his on-court interview. “I think that was all we were thinking that and feeling in the last couple of sets. The conditions were different from most of the day’s during this tournament. Again, it was the same for both of us, we had to respect it.”

Struggling with a shoulder issue during the match, Djokovic cleverly sidestepped the question when asked about it in front of the crowd. On the other hand, he did explain his shirt ripping tricks.

“Sometimes it just happens.” The defending champion said. “We’re all people, in the heat of the moment you tend to do things like that.”

Friday’s encounter will not make Djokovic’s list of best grand slam performances with the below-par play demonstrated by both players throughout the match. Nevertheless, the top seed found a way to grab the win to justify why he is a champion of the sport. The match wasn’t pretty, but the significance of the win is no less.

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More Recovery Required For Dominic Thiem As Grand Slam Hangover Continues

The world No.4 reflects on his lacklustre performance at the Rio Open this week.

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Dominic Thiem - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

As the only top 20 participant in this week’s Rio Open Dominic Thiem had his sight set on both the title and a milestone ranking position. However, the South American clay proved to be too problematic for the world No.4.

 

Playing his first tournament since reaching the final of the Australian Open last month, Thiem struggled from the onset. During his first two matches he was taken to three sets by world No.341 Felipe Meligeni Alves and world No.99 Jaume Munar. Two players who certainly played some of their best tennis to expose some uncomfortable weaknesses in his current game.

On Saturday Thiem’s Rio campaign was ended by Italian underdog Gianluca Mager, who is yet to crack the top 100. 25-year-old Mager is yet to play a grand slam main draw match, but did win a trio of titles on the lower tier Challenger tour last year.

“Everything is basically fine, but of course it is always very tough to have an exhausting grand slam tournament and then the body comes down.” Thiem explained following his exit from the tournament.
“Trying to get things going again on a different surface in a completely different country on the other side of the world is not easy. Of course I was not playing my best tennis this week (in Rio).’
“A lot of times my tennis gets better as the week goes, but unfortunately it didn’t happen this week.”

Thiem is only the second top-five player to return to the tour following the Australian Open. After Daniil Medvedev, who has suffered early exits in Rotterdam and Marseille. The top two players – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – will return to action next week in Dubai and Monterey. Meanwhile, Roger Federer is sidelined until at least June with injury.

“There is not a lot of time between Australia and here, and it is a really big challenge to get 100% again.” He commented about the short turnaround.
“I’m only home home for a week and then I’m flying (to Rio) again.”

Whilst not feeling his best on the court, there was an incentive for the Austrian to do well this week. If he made the semi-finals, he would break into the world’s top three for the first time in his career. Becoming the first male tennis player from his country to do so since Thomas Muster. Fortunately for Thiem his place in the top three is inevitable thanks to the absence of one of his rivals in the coming weeks.

“To be honest I’m not very worried about that right now because I’ll be number three in a couple of weeks anyway. I’m sad because I lost this match. It makes no difference to be at the Top 3 this Monday or next week”, he said.

Thiem is next heading off to Los Angeles for some rest before resuming training once again. He will be eager to regain his form from earlier this year ahead of his next tournament in Indian Wells. It will be there where he will be defending a Masters 1000 title for the first time in his career. Last year he defeated Federer in the final.

“I will try to do the same as last year which worked out perfectly as I played great tennis in Indian Wells.” Thiem outlined.
“I arrived 10 days prior to the tournament and I am going to do the same again in Indian Wells. Get used to the conditions which are unique. I’ll try to do something similar to last year which worked out amazing and I hope to be at the back at the top of my game.”

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Epic Dubai Triumph Fuels Belief And Motivation For Simona Halep

The world No.2 reacts to the latest milestone achieved in her career.

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On Saturday Simona Halep survived a marathon encounter at the Dubai Tennis Championships to become only the sixth active player to win 20 on more WTA titles on the tour.

 

The two-time grand slam champion, who was the top seed in the tournament, required almost two-and-a-half hours to see off the in-form Elena Rybakina 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). A player who has reached the final in four out of her five tournaments played so far in 2020. The clash was far from easy for the Romanian, who trailed 1-3 in the decider and failed to serve the match out when leading 6-5 before eventually prevailing in the tiebreak. Earning her first WTA trophy since lifting the Wimbledon trophy last July.

“It feels great that I could win it,” Halep said. “Actually, it was amazing. She fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I wanted it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.”

Besides Rybakina, the 28-year-old also scored wins over Jennifer Brady, Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur in the tournament. Out of those matches, Halep’s only straight sets win was over Brady in the semi-finals.

It is the second time Halep has won the Dubai crown after 2015. She believes her latest triumph reiterates why she still belongs at the top of the women’s game. Prior to this week, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and quarter-finals in Adelaide.

“I’ve done a lot of results, many results these six, seven years,” said Halep. “I’m staying here in the top 5, top 10, which is not easy. I’m proud of my job. Also, this tournament gives me confidence that I’m still there.”

Whilst she has only won two titles over the past 16 months, it is the consistency of the former world No.1 that has enabled her to be in the world’s top 10 for so long. To date she has spent 317 weeks consecutive weeks in the top 10 since January 2014. The 10th longest streak in the history of the WTA Tour.

“I always had in my mind that I had to be consistent. I didn’t like the way you win a tournament and then don’t do anything for a few months. I like to build my power and consistency every week.” She explained.
“Since I met Darren (Cahill) I was told that we had to look at the big picture and not just this week.’
“This makes me more proud than winning titles because if you’re able to be there means that you have everything power, strong mental, physical also, very strong.” She added.

There will be no Middle East double for Halep this year after she withdrew from the upcoming Doha Open. A Premier 5 event that will feature six top 10 players in the draw this year. Halep was runner-up in the tournament last year to Elise Mertens.

“It’s a decision I took before the match … I started this tournament a little bit injured with my foot.” Halep stated.

The only active players to have won more WTA titles than Halep are Serena and Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

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Novak Djokovic Faces Jaziri Test As Familiar Face Waits For Tsitsipas In Dubai

Novak Djokovic will play his first tournament since capturing his eighth Australian Open title in Dubai this week.

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Novak Djokovic (@usopen - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic will face Malek Jaziri in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships this week. 

 

The Serb enters the tournament in Dubai having edged his way to the Australian Open title last month at Melbourne Park.

Full of confidence and energy, Djokovic will play Malek Jaziri in the opening round in Dubai with the Tunisian being a former quarter-finalist here.

Speaking at the draw ceremony, Jaziri feels at home playing in the middle-east, “I feel like I’m playing at home here,” the Tunisian told the Khaleej Times.

“That run a couple years back and I’ve also made the quarters a couple of times, it’s perfect to be back competing here.”

Should Djokovic get through Jaziri in the opening round then Philipp Kohlschreiber or Mohammed Safwat will await in the second round. A last eight showdown with Karen Khachanov could also be on the cards for the Serb.

Not only is Djokovic in singles action this week but he is also teaming up with Marin Cilic in doubles as they face top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.

As for the second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he could face a rematch with Hubert Hurkacz from last year’s event where the Greek won.

Before that match happens in the second round, Stefanos Tsitsipas will have to get past Pablo Carreno Busta while Hurkacz faces the unpredictable Alexander Bublik.

In other headline first round matches, Dan Evans will face 4th seed Fabio Fognini while Marin Cilic will face eighth seed Benoit Paire.

Here is the full draw with play getting under way on Monday:

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