US Open Men’s Semifinal Previews: Djokovic Closes In, Nishikori Aims For More Success - UBITENNIS
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US Open Men’s Semifinal Previews: Djokovic Closes In, Nishikori Aims For More Success

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Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their Men’s Singles Quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2016 US Open. (Source: Alex Goodlett/zimbio.com)

The men’s semifinals at the US Open will be a case of the grand slam champions against those who are still chasing their dream of winning a major title.

 

Top seed Novak Djokovic will play his 10th consecutive semifinal in New York against French talent Gael Monfils in what will be their 13th meeting on the ATP Tour. The journey to the last four have been a somewhat different experience for the world No.1 compared to Monfils. Djokovic has spent just six hours and 25 minutes on the court following a trio of retirements by his opponents in the previous rounds. Jiri Vesely withdrew from the second round due to a left forearm injury, then Mikhail Youzhny was struck by a leg injury and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was troubled by his knee in the quarter-finals.

On the other hand, Monfils has spent an extra three hours and 16 minutes on the court. The entertaining and popular Frenchman progressed to his first major final for nine years without dropping a set. On his way to the last four, the 10th seed produced convincing wins over Nicolas Almagro, Marcos Baghdatis and Lucas Pouille.

The upcoming match is expected to be one that both men will enjoy. Djokovic has previously talked about his admiration for Monfils’ enlightening playing style and even admitted that he loves watching the 30-year-old play.

“I love watching Gaël. He’s one of the few players that I will definitely pay a ticket to watch.” Djokovic said.
“He’s very charismatic. Plays with a smile. Enjoys tennis. Enjoys life.”

Regardless of his compliments, Djokovic has a dominating record over Monfils, winning all of their previous encounters. The top seed will be the outstanding favourite to cruise to his 21st grand slam final, despite his roller coaster journey since the Wimbledon Championships. Having the edge in this potentially thrilling encounter, the world No.1 is maintaining a level-headed approach against his increasingly consistent opponent.

“He seems more focused at this time of his career. Especially on the hard court this year, maybe he’s playing the best tennis he ever played.” The world No.1 said about Monfils. “He’s very consistent.”
“I’m definitely expecting a tough battle.”

In the other semifinal, two-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka faces a tricky clash against Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Both men have recovered from the brink of defeat on their way to the semifinals. Wawrinka saved a match point against Great Britain’s Dan Evans during a five-set epic encounter in the third round. He followed up on the successful comeback with wins over Illya Marchenko and Juan Martin del Potro later in the tournament. Meanwhile, Nishikori has dropped at least one set in four out of his previous five matches. The only exception occurred in the fourth round when he defeated Ivo Karlovic. In the last eight, Nishikori knocked out Andy Murray in a marathon clash, despite trailing by two sets and being on the verge of being broken in the fourth.

Friday’s match will be the sixth meeting between the two with Wawrinka leading their head-to-head 3-2. Their previous meeting occurred at the Canadian masters, when the Japanese player downed a below-par Wawrinka in straight sets. The Swiss player will be eager for revenge against Nishikori, who has also previously defeated him at the US Open in 2014, but he is remaining coy about his match tactics.

“It’s going to be interesting for sure. We played many times against each other.” Wawrinka said.
“I saw him play today (Wednesday). He was playing really well.
“It’s going to be a tough match, for sure.”

Wawrinka may be the higher ranked player, however, it is a irrelevant factor in the upcoming match. Nishikori has already displayed his talent in Flushing Meadows, reaching the final in 2014. It will be a tough match between the two players and both are worthy of reaching the final. The showdown will certainly be a battle of the fittest.

Order of play for Friday September 9th

Arthur Ashe Stadium
Starting at 12:00 PM
Coco Vandeweghe (USA)/Rajeev Ram (USA) [7] v Laura Siegemund (GER)/Mate Pavic (CRO)
Not Before 3:00 PM
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] v Gael Monfils (FRA) [10]
Not Before 4:30 PM
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [3] v Kei Nishikori (JPN) [6]

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Why Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Want Novak Djokovic To Win Another Grand Slam

The world No.2 also sheds some light on the WhatsApp group the Big Three have.

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This week Rafael Nadal has a chance to once again return to the top of the rankings if he has a little bit of luck on his side.

 

The 19-time grand slam champion returns to action at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Mexico. A tournament he has won on two previous occasions. Nadal is required to win the event once again if he wishes to rise back to world No.1 on Monday. Even if he does that, the Spaniard also has to hope that his rival doesn’t reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Djokovic started his campaign on Monday with a straight sets win over Malek Jaziri.

“I always have good memories. I come here (to Acapulco) because I love the tournament, the organization, and the public makes me feel at home.” Nadal told reporters on Monday.
“The love of the people is exceptional and that encourages me to be here another year and makes me very happy. I have the illusion of enjoying Acapulco, it is an important week for me personally, after Australia, this is a test to see how I feel. I hope to be prepared.”

Nadal and Djokovic are members of the prestigious Big Three, who have won the past 13 majors between them. Also in the group is Roger Federer. In their head-to-head Nadal trails 26-29 to the Serbian and has lost three out of their four most recent meetings on the tour. Both men have praised each other on numerous occasions throughout their careers, but do they also secretly want the other to fall?

In Nadal’s case the answer is yes. Reflecting on the recent Australian Open final, the 33-year-old admitted that he wanted Dominic Thiem to win. Thiem had a two-set lead over Djokovic, but lost in a thriller.

“In this world we sometimes live with a bit of hypocrisy.” Nadal explained.
“I have a very good relationship with Dominic, as I also have with Djokovic, but if you ask me if I prefer Djokovic to have more Grand Slams that me, my answer is no.’
“It is a purely professional issue, I do not hide to say that, as if you ask Novak about whether he prefers me to win or Dominic in Roland Garros, Dominic will probably be the answer.’
“This is the reality of the competition, it is not going against anyone or any strange reason. If Djokovic wins, I congratulate him and I go to the next tournament, but if you ask who I wanted to win (the Australian Open), I prefer Dominic. “

At present Nadal is second on the all-time list for most grand slam titles won at 19. One behind record holder Federer and two ahead of Djokovic.

One example of the good working relationship between the Big Three is a Whatsapp group they have. Which was recently revealed to the public by Djokovic, who said he has ‘tremendous respect’ for his two other rivals.

Naturally tennis fans are wondering what is said on that chat and if there are any revelations made. However, it appears that the group isn’t as unique as first through with Nadal shedding further light on it.

“We are not just the three of us in a group. Yes, we are in groups with more people, groups with all of us in the Players Council to be informed of all the news that is happening and that is transmitted there, some other group that we are all three … but not alone.” The Spaniard said.
“We do not have frequent communication, that is, daily, between us, but when there are things that we need to know about each other, congratulations, concerns … no longer in the group, but on a personal level, we usually have no problem writing to us privately. The group is more for professional work issues than for personal issues.”

Nadal will start his Mexican campaign against Pablo Andujar in the first round. He will be hoping to fair better in the tournament than 12 months ago, when he was knocked out in the second round by Nick Kyrgios. Who went on to win the title. Despite the disappointment, the top seed said he doesn’t have a ‘feeling of revenge.’

“I’ve never had a feeling of revenge before a tournament, I don’t think that feeling helps you win more games, but quite the opposite. Revenge makes you not think clearly. Wth serenity, and when it comes to competing, the important thing is to have a cool enough head to give my best level. “ He concluded.

The last tournament Nadal won on the tour was the US Open in September.

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Novak Djokovic Says ‘Working Smart’ Is The Key To His Unbeaten Start To 2020 As He Gets Off To A Flyer In Dubai

The Serbian tennis star has now won 14 matches in a row since the start of this year.

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World No.1 Novak Djokovic has continued his unbeaten start to 2020 with a comprehensive win in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

 

The 17-time grand slam champion experienced little difficulty throughout his 6-1, 6-2, win over wild card Malek Jaziri. A player who he has previously defeated in straight sets at the same tournament back in 2016. During their latest clash, Djokovic dictated proceedings from the onset with the help of an impressive service display. In total he won 83% of his first serves and converted four out of eight break point opportunities. Hitting 22 winners to 17 unforced errors.

“It was a great atmosphere with the Tunisian and Serbian fans.” Djokovic said during his on-court interview.
“I haven’t played in Dubai for three years and honestly, I have missed it. I love this court and this city. I have been coming to Dubai traditionally in the off-season to prepare for Australia.”

Playing in his first match since winning a record eighth title at the Australian Open last month, Djokovic went off guns blazing by claiming five games in a row. A total of 26 minutes passed before Jaziri managed to get himself onto the scoreboard. Despite a trio of double faults during the opening set, the Serbian experienced little trouble. Hitting a series of angle shots to dictate the rallies, Djokovic sealed the 6-1 lead on his first set point with the help of an ace down the centre of the court.

Despite his clinical start to the match, Djokovic faced more stern resistance at the start of the second frame. It wasn’t until the fifth game when he got his next break after a Jaziri produced a double fault whilst facing a break point to elevated the top seed to a set and 3-2 lead. From then on, Djokovic cruised towards the finish line with the help of yet another break in his favour. Tasked with serving out the match, he prevailed on his first match point with the help of another ace.

Djokovic extends his winning run in 2020 to 14 matches. Besides the Australian Open, he also guided his country to victory in the ATP Cup. So what is the secret to his successful start to the year?

“I just practice well, I guess.” Djokovic joked. “Obviously I work as hard as anybody else, but I think more importantly for me is working smart. Understanding what suits me the best in terms of routines, training and recovery in order to improve myself on and off the court.’
“At this stage of my career grand slams are my biggest priority, but I treat every tournament equally important and try to give my best.” He added.

Next up will be a meeting with Germany’s Phillip Kohlschriber in the second round. The world No.80 began his campaign with a roller coaster 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, win over Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat. Safwat struggled with a leg issue as the match progressed.

“I think I missed too many opportunities in the first set,” said Kohlschreiber “Well, he won the big points, served quite well on the breakpoints. I think I gave him too many easy mistakes. I was in quite a good position many times, but I missed quite easy shots.”

Djokovic leads Kohlschreiber 11-2 in their head-to-head. However, one of his losses to the 36-year-old occurred last year at the Indian Wells Masters. It will be their first meeting in Dubai.

“We have played (each other) many times and go back many years. We know each other pretty well.” The world No.1 commented on his next rival.
“I’ve seen him play today. He’s a very talented player and has an all-round game. I lost to him in Indian Wells last year, so he can deliver his best game on the centre court in big tournaments against the biggest players in the world.’
“I know what he is capable of and I will try to play my best tennis.”

This week Djokovic’s No.1 position is under threat from rival Rafael Nadal, who is playing at the Mexican Open. Should he fail to reach at least the semi-finals in Dubai, he could be knocked off the top spot if the Spaniard wins his tournament.

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Christian Garin Clinches Milestone Win In Rio As Opelka Does The Double In Delray Beach

The two players have shot up the ATP rankings on Monday following their successes.

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Cristian Garin and Gustavo Kuerten (photo Twitter @RioOpenOficial)

Chilean No.1 Christian Garin has continued his unbeaten run on the clay this season by lifting the Rio Open title on Sunday.

 

The 23-year-old held his nerve to defeat Italian underdog Gianluca Mager 7-6(3), 7-5. A player who knocked Dominic Thiem out of the tournament earlier this week and was playing in his first ATP Final at the age of 25. During the final Garin lost a break advantage in the first set before battling back to prevail in the tiebreak. Then in the second, he claimed four straight games whilst trailing 3-5 to lift the title. His first ever at ATP 500 level.

“I’m really emotional and winning the Rio Open means a lot to me. It’s hard to describe this past week. I slept only four or five hours and woke up nervous this morning and it ended up being one of the best days of my life”, Garin told rioopen.com.
“Winning an event of this magnitude motivates me even more. I will never forget this week. And receiving the trophy from Gustavo Kuerten’s hand means so much to me… It’s for moments like this that I play tennis and make daily sacrifices. This means so so much to me and I’m still really emotional. Now it’s time to enjoy a bit and tomorrow I’m back to work.”

It is the second consecutive tournament Garin has won on the ATP Tour. Tour weeks ago, he won the Córdoba Open in Argentina, where he defeated Diego Schwzrtman in the final. He has now won nine matches in a row since the Australian Open.

As a result of his surge on the tour, the former French Open boy’s champion has broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time this week. Making him the first player from his country to do so since Fernando Gonzalez back in 2010. He is now the second highest ranked player from South America after Schwartzman, who is ranked five places ahead of him in 13th spot.

“I’m happy with my ranking and I also know I have a lot of things to get better, so that’s a good a thing. It means I still have a long way to go.” He said.

Garin has now played five finals on the ATP Tour within the past 12 months with all of them occurring on the clay.

Opelka dominates Delray

Reilly Opelka and Yoshihito Nishioka (photo Twitter) @delraybeachopen)

Another winner on the ATP Tour on Sunday was America’s Reilly Opelka, who was forced to play two matches within one day en route to the title due to poor weather earlier in the week.

Opelka kicked-off proceedings with a hard fought 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, win over former world No.3 Milos Raonic. A stern encounter that lasted just over two hours. A couple hours later, Opelka returned to the court for his title clash against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, who was contesting his first ATP final outside of Asia. Nishioka defeated Opelka two weeks ago at the New York Open.

Engaged in another lengthy battle, the home favourite fired 27 aces and won 87% of his first service points to down Nishioka 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2. Making it the fourth time an American man has won the title within the past five years. The only exception was Radu Albot, who was triumphant in 2019.

“It was important for me to get that second break in the third, especially against Yoshi, who scraps and fights,” Opelka said of his opponent. “Yoshi’s a nightmare. He’s not a guy you want to play when you’re already fatigued and tired. So physically it was really a big test for me. I think that was right around my limit, playing six sets like that. Almost feels like playing a grand slam. I’ve played a lot of tennis (lately), so it was a test of my fitness. Hard part for me is warming up my body every day. I didn’t have much time to recover.”

The victory comes after what has been a slow start to the season for Opelka. In his first three tournaments played, he has only managed to win one match. Doing so against Jason Jung in New York.

Despite falling short, there is still a reason for Nishioka to celebrate. The 24-year-old has climbed 15 places in the rankings to a career high of 48th in the world.

“It’s very tough to break his service game,” Nishioka said of facing Opelka. “I don’t have a big serve. (But) I made a final this time, which is not bad I think, so next time maybe a trophy.”

Opelka has also risen 15 places in the rankings to 39th in the world. Eight spot before his career best.

 

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