Steve Johnson sets up semi-final meeting with Jack Sock in Auckland after big win over John Isner - UBITENNIS
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Steve Johnson sets up semi-final meeting with Jack Sock in Auckland after big win over John Isner

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Steve Johnson is chasing a second career ATP title after winning in Nottingham last year (Zimbio.com)

Seventh seed Steve Johnson took a big step towards a potential second career title by defeating compatriot John Isner 63 57 76 in the Auckland quarter-finals. 

 

Johnson was in imperious form in the first set, breaking the 6’10 Isner once from four opportunities before closing the door in the set, dropping just two points on his first serve, and five overall in the set for the lead.

Johnson again put pressure on the Isner serve in the second set, though there was a steel in the Isner serve, hitting aces on break points to frustrate Johnson. Meanwhile, Isner was finally gaining some traction in his return games, winning more than half the points against the Johnson serve. Isner was rewarded by stealing the set, breaking in the final game when a tie-break loomed to level affairs.

Johnson’s superb serving of the first set returned in the decider though, dropping just three points, and earning four break points. Time and again Isner’s serve got him out of trouble as the top-ranked American fought to the tie-break. Despite Isner’s strong record in tie-breaks it was Johnson, the stronger player overall who was rewarded winning seven-three.

“Last year I was here and my attitude wasn’t the best, but you live and you learn, you come back and I’m glad I turned it around this year.” – Johnson reflecting his form in Auckland this year versus this time last year.

The win sees Johnson pull with one of Isner in the head-to-head, with Isner’s lead trimmed to four-three, and Johnson has now won their last two meetings after also winning in Washington in 2016.

His opponent in the bottom half of the draw will be Jack Sock, the fourth seed, after he finally got past the veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 57 64 63. Chardy gave a lesson in clutch tennis play in the first set, incredibly saving eleven break points before stealing the only break of the set late on with his only break point.

Sock’s frustration would finally be alleviated in the second, breaking once from six opportunities and saving the single break point on offer in the set.

Chardy’s resolve appeared broken when Sock finally found some consistency in breaking, taking five of the first six games in the decider. Chardy managed to retrieve one of the breaks, but last year’s finalist Sock closed out the win.

The top half of the draw saw the higher ranked players in the two match-ups progress with relative ease.

Eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis took full advantage of the withdrawal of top seed and defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut, beating Jiri Vesely 62 64. The former Australian Open finalist broke twice in the first set and once in the second for a comfortable win that saw Vesely fail to muster even a single break point opportunity.

Joao Sousa ensured that Robin Haase failed to back-up his excellent win over David Ferrer in the second round, comprehensively defeating the Dutchman 63 62 in just under an hour.

Semi-finals: Jack Sock will face Steve Johnson as the favourite. Sock leads the head-to-head two-one and is the higher ranked and seeded player. However, Johnson’s progress so far has been smoother this week, and he won the most recent match between the two, two years ago in Washington DC. My pick – Sock in three sets 

Marcos Baghdatis will be the favourite as the seeded player against Joao Sousa, though there are just eight ranking places between the two. It will be the first tour meeting between the two. My pick – Baghdatis in straight sets.

 

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Wimbledon: Quarter-Finalist Cristian Garin loves The Event But Not So much The Surface

The South American reacts to reaching his first major quarter-final.

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Cristian Garin (CHI) - Credit: AELTC/Ben Solomon

Just over a week ago, Cristian Gain admitted that he was ‘upset’ when he saw his draw for Wimbledon this year. 

 

The world No.43 was set to take on the formidable Matteo Berrettini in the first round who has won two grass-court titles in a row in recent weeks. However, the Italian was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. Instead, his opponent was the much lower-ranked Elias Ymer from Sweden who he defeated in straight sets. Since then, Garin hasn’t looked back.

On Monday at The All England Club, he staged an audacious comeback to defeat Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(10-6). Not only did Garin bounce back from two sets down, he also saved two match points in the process. Becoming the first player from his country to reach the last eight of the tournament since Fernando Gonzalez in 2005 and only the fourth in history to do so. 

“It is something very special for me. Wimbledon is my favorite tournament. Every time that I play this tournament is something special I feel,” said Garin.
“To be in the quarterfinals is a dream. I will try to enjoy it. I will try to give my best in the next round.”

Ironically Garin comes from a country where there are no grass courts. This year is his fifth appearance at Wimbledon and it was at the event where he made his Grand Slam debut back in 2017. However, like many other South Americans, clay is still his preferred surface.

“I said Wimbledon is my favorite tournament, not my favorite surface,” he jokes. 
“I think the grass is very fun for me. I have to change a little bit the way that I play. I think here on this surface you have to be aggressive.

Garin is one of only five ATP players from Chile currently ranked in the world’s top 500. Since April he has been coached by Pepe Vendrell who previously worked as a mentor to Roberto Bautista Agut and served as Spain’s captain in the ATP Cup. 

The next test for Garin will be a showdown against the formidable Nick Kyrgios who defeated Brandon Nakashima in his fourth round match.

“He is for me one of the guys that I like to watch. He’s very good for tennis,” he said of Kyrgios.
“In these rounds, you play the best. For me, Nick is obviously one of the best on grass.”

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Last Brit Standing Cameron Norrie Urges Fans ‘To Get Behind Him’ At Wimbledon

The Brit says he is feeling more comfortable on the Tour.

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Cameron Norrie (GBR) - Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Cameron Norrie had the pressure of being the British No.1 at Wimbledon this year and now even more eyes will be on him following his milestone win. 

 

The world No.12 defeated Tommy Paul 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, in his fourth round match on Sunday to reach the last eight of a major for the first time at the age of 26. In doing so he remains the only home player left in the singles draw of either men’s or women’s draws. Heather Watson lost her last 16 match earlier in the day to Jule Niemeier 6-2, 6-4.

“To play the way I did and to handle the occasion, I felt really comfortable the way I was hitting the ball this morning. Definitely more comfortable than my other matches.” Said Norrie.
“It was good to get through that one in the fashion that I did. I was up the whole match, which definitely helped.”

Norrie’s run is the best by a British man at The All England Club since Andy Murray back in 2017. He is coached on the Tour by Facundo Lugones who first got acquainted with him at college in America. The two were teammates with Lugones being a senior and Norrie a freshman. Last year he achieved a win-loss record of 52-25 and won the biggest title of his career in Indian Wells.

A solid top 20 player on the Tour, Norrie’s popularity back home is steadily increasing. Even more so in recent days due to Wimbledon. Now he is the last Brit standing there is added pressure but he is taking it all in his stride.

“I’m the last one standing. But I think it’s even more reason for everyone to get behind me,” he said. “Even the atmosphere was great today and definitely helped me get over the line there. Especially on that last game, I was obviously pretty nervous. I was serving for my first quarterfinal of a slam. I wanted to get it done there. They definitely helped me a lot.”

Norrie will be hoping the crowd will out in full force for his upcoming clash with former top 10 player David Goffin who defeated Francis Tiafoe in five sets. Goffin has reached the quarter-finals of a major on three previous occasions, including Wimbledon three years ago.

“He’s a very experienced player. He really likes the grass. He’s played a lot of big matches. It’s going to be tough,” Norrie previewed.
“He’s a great competitor, a really good athlete. He’s got a very complete game. He must be playing very well, so it’s going to be a tricky one.’
“One thing for sure, I know that I’m going to get into a lot of rallies with him. He’s not going to come and serve me off the court, which is good. It’s going to be another physical match, which is great for me.”
“I’m looking forward to competing. It’s going to be another huge challenge.”

The only time Norrie played Goffin was last year in Barcelona when Goffin was forced to retire from their match in the second set. 

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Roger Federer Hopes To Play One Last Wimbledon As Icons Mark Center Court Anniversary

The Swiss Maestro said it is ‘great to be back’ after attending a special centenary event alongside other greats of the sport.

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Image via https://twitter.com/Wimbledon/

On the 100th anniversary of Center Court, a special celebration took place on Sunday that saw the return of Roger Federer.

Past and present champions congregated on the premier court during a special 30-minute presentation with a couple of notable absences. Nine-time winner Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras were absent. Each walking on one by one, the biggest cheer occurred when it was Federer’s turn to take to the stage.

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a professional match since his quarter-final loss at SW19 12 months ago due to knee surgery. He has already outlined his plans to return to action later this season at the Laver Cup and Swiss indoors. Speaking on court, Federer said he hopes to play at Wimbledon again as he unexpectedly hints at retiring in the near future. 

 

“I’ve been lucky to play a lot of matches here. Different type of role, but it’s great to be here. This court has given me my biggest moments,” said Federer.
“I hope I can come back one more time.”
“I’ve missed it here. I knew walking out here last year, it was going to be a tough year ahead. I maybe didn’t think it was going to take this long to come back – the knee has been rough on me.
“It’s been a good year regardless of tennis. We’re happy at home. I didn’t know if I should make the trip but I’m happy standing here right now.”


Federer is the only man in history to have ever won the Wimbledon title eight times and was undefeated between 2003-2007. 

One player closing in on that record is Novak Djokovic who is seeking to win his seventh title this year. Speaking about Center Court, the Serbian said the venue has a special place in his heart that dates back to his childhood.

“This court has been truly special from my childhood and the first image of tennis I’ve seen when I was four or five-years-old I saw Pete Sampras winning his first Wimbledon,” said Djokovic.
“This is where dreams come true and I was blessed in 2011, probably the highlight of my career, to win the tournament and so when I step out on this court I relive these memories. Truly an honor.”

As for the female champions of the tournament, Venus Williams, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Margaret Court were all in attendance. So was Billie Jean King who is the co-founder of the WTA Tour and has won all three Wimbledon events on multiple occasions (singles – 6, doubles – 10, and mixed doubles – 4). 

“I played my very first match at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old. We started late so I had two days on this court. It was magical and wonderful and I knew I belonged here,” said King.
“I love history and I love the fact we have so many people here. Martina [Navratilova] could not be with us and she won nine women’s singles so I’d just like to say I’m sorry she can’t be here.”

In 1922 Center court was officially opened for the first time after taking just nine months to construct. At the time it was the largest-ever reinforced concrete structure. The addition of a roof didn’t occur until 2009.

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