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Changing Of The Swiss Guards

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Stan Wawrinka (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

The mere mention of Switzerland brings to mind numerous high priced or high altitude items. Chocolate, cheese, watches and money might be high on that list, but in the world of tennis, a couple of guys who began their careers as wee ones in the place that brought the world Swiss Guards in the late fifteenth century, tops the list.

 

Nearly twenty years ago, Roger Federer began to impress the world with his tennis prowess. (Actually, I remember watching him practice before he was “the” Roger Federer. He was fairly new to the scene when I excitedly told fellow journalists that I had seen greatness in the making. They laughed. No one from that alpine country had been a big star. But, a few took a look-see and there was a “maybe” reaction that flashed across their face.) Anyone who follows tennis knows that all of that changed when he took the crown at Wimbledon just a few years later in 2003. That was the starting point of a career that will be remembered as long as there’s tennis. He spent 302 weeks (nearly six years), ranked Number One. He’s won seventeen Grand Slams and more tournaments than almost anyone.

However, there is another tennis guy from Switzerland. He is ranked Number Three in the world. His name was Stanislas Wawrinka. (That “was” is because he had the ATP change his name to Stan and that’s the name to which he will respond.)

Today at Roland Garros, Wawrinka moved to the second round when he defeated Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3. It was a fairly fast three setter that lasted just a tick under two hours. The previous Saturday, Wawrinka took the trophy at Geneva just as he had last year. After today’s match, Wawrinka spoke with the media and reflected a bit on his play.

When asked about that second set where Kovalik had three set balls, he said, “I tried to play more aggressively; put more pressure on him. As long as the set isn’t over there is still room to win it. You know, especially when your opponent is down one set.” He went further, “All in all, I think this was a solid match. I’m very happy about how I managed it. I had good feelings playing.”

Even though it may seem as if he’s moving into the powering down side of tennis, he seems to have found that groove in his career where he can glide from tournament to tournament and finish very well. He’s thirty-two, and appears better than ever, and that’s a truth that can be verified by looking back at his career. He has taken home close to thirty million US dollars. That’s a tidy sum for anyone. He might have remained in Roger Federer’s shadow, but didn’t.

He won here in Paris in 2015 when he defeated Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. That was just a year after he lost in the first round. He won the junior title in 2003, and with his win in 2015, he became the first to accomplish that feat since Mats Wilander achieved the same in 1988. In 2016, he won the US Open when he was 31 years, 167 days old. That unexpected win made him the oldest winner there since Ken Rosewall in 1970.

His win at the Australian Open in 2014 made him the first man to defeat the number one and two seeds on the way to a grand slam title since Sergi Bruguera did it in Roland Garros in 1993.

This time out, he is looking to be the third man in the Open Era to win three or more Grand Slam titles after turning thirty. (Australians Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall chalked up a few of those coveted titles when they were in the senior citizenry of professional sports.)

Five sets can be a very long time to be on the court – just ask John Isner who played for 11 hours and five minutes at Wimbledon in 2010. With a 24 to 19 record in five setters, Wawrinka must feel as if he has a bit of an advantage when playing anyone with a lower ranking. Kovalik’s 152 ranking shouldn’t have been a problem for Wawrinka, but the second set today should have whispered to him – Beware!

Next up, he will face Alexandr Dolgopolov who has been ranked as high as 13 in the world, but now is ranked 89 due to some injuries that kept him away from the courts. Wawrinka has all the moves that should propel him through to the next round. He has one of the strongest one-handed backhands around. He has a wonderfully fast serve that has been clocked at 144 miles per hour. He has taken his previously weak forehand and turned it into an asset. He’s one of the few players who do not consistently bang balls from the baseline and is very skilled at serve and volleying, which to many may seem like a lost art.

His coach of three years, Magnus Norman, (who in the past was a great player himself), has helped him deal with that other part of a game that is often left by the wayside – the mental side. The ups and downs that seemed to be who Stan was in the past has leveled out and he has shown great skill defeating the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and of course, Rafael Nadal, when each was at the top of their game.

In the past, Dolgopolov has been a thorn in his side, having won two of the three matches they have contested. Wawrinka recalled that, “He moves a lot. He has a very fast arm and he moves very quickly. He has a lot of variety in his game. He slices a lot, so he really doesn’t have a steady pace. I guess what’s challenging with him is you never know what to expect. So, when you play him you really have to be focused.” At thirty-two, Wawrinka may now be able to will himself to stay on task. He summed it up when he added, “It’s really important to give him a strong ball every single time, to make it mentally more challenging for him. Otherwise he will take the lead.”

Lately, focus seems to be the name of Wawrinka’s game. He has a plan and sometimes that’s all one needs. Understanding the task at hand is often a winner, no matter what the challenge. Stan has a lot of work ahead of him, but he has a very solid foundation to draw on. Switzerland has given the world of tennis a couple of really good men who have nothing to do with chocolate, watches or snow. Money, however, may be a byproduct of their successes, though.

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Frances Tiafoe Translates Performance Into Results In Cincinnati Opener

Frances Tiafoe is hoping performances translate into results as he reaches the second round in Cincinnati.

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Frances Tiafoe (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

After producing gutsy performances in close defeats, Frances Tiafoe finally translated that into victory with a 7-6(3) 4-6 7-6(5) win over Matteo Berrettini in Cincinnati.

 

The American is one of the most unique players on the tour with his potential clear to see but isn’t always known for deep tournament results.

Tiafoe’s big serve, dangerous groundstrokes and charismatic personality makes him one of the most enjoyable players to watch on tour but that doesn’t get you wins on the tour which the American has found out the hard way.

In recent years though Tiafoe has slowly been improving results and earning some big wins but has often lacked consistency in wins despite performing to his best level.

However that might be about to change as Tiafoe earned a gutsy and huge win over Matteo Berrettini in his Cincinnati opener as he came through a last set tiebreak against the Italian.

The victory may be a surprise to some but for the American it’s been coming as his recent performances have shown, “People don’t understand, obviously results haven’t really shown how well I’ve been playing. I’ve been playing some great tennis, honestly,” Tiafoe told the ATP website.

“I really just needed this. I know it’s a first-round match…. But everyone knew why I needed this against a quality player, so it was big. I know I’ve beaten a lot of these guys, but it hasn’t happened of late. So it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get over the hump. But I’m happy I get another chance to play again.”

Tiafoe will be hoping consistency can be part of his game as the end of the season approaches and there would be nothing better for the American than to make a deep run at his home grand slam at the US Open.

Next for Tiafoe will be fellow American Sebastian Korda, who he has a 3-0 head-to-head record against before potentially facing John Isner or Hubert Hurkacz in the third round.

Tiafoe’s 2022 Season So Far:

Adelaide 1: R2 (l. Kokkinakis)

Adelaide 2: R1 (l. Paul)

Australian Open: R2 (l. Fritz)

Indian Wells: R3 (l. Rublev)

Miami: R4 (l. Francisco Cerundolo)

Houston: Quarter-Finals (l. Isner)

Barcelona: R3 (l. Auger-Aliassime)

Estoril: Final (l. Baez)

Madrid: R1 (l. Garin)

Rome: R1 (l. Krajinovic)

Roland Garros: R2 (l. Goffin)

Queen’s Club: R1 (l. Wawrinka)

Eastbourne: R1 (l. Bublik)

Wimbledon: R4 (l. Goffin)

Atlanta: Semi-Finals (l. Brooksby)

Washington: Quarter-Finals (l. Kyrgios)

Montreal: R2 (l. Fritz)

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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