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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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Caroline Wozniacki’s Father Criticises WTA For Lack Of Help For Mothers On Tour

Caroline Wozniacki was not given a wildcard for Rome or Roland Garros.

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(@WTA - Twitter)

Piotr Wozniacki has labelled the WTA as ‘amateur’ for their treatment of mothers on tour as he claims that Caroline Wozniacki should have had more wildcards.

The former Australian Open champion has played ten events since she announced her comeback last year.

Wozniacki has recovered her ranking to 117 in the world and her comeback has resulted in a fourth round appearance at the US Open as well as a quarter-final result at Indian Wells.

However the Dane has not been successful in gaining wildcards recently with both Rome and Roland Garros not offering Wozniacki one.

It’s a decision that Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, has not been happy with as he explained with Sport.PL, “The WTA believes that it is operating in an amateur fashion in the world of the largest professional women’s sport of all sports in the world. They sign contracts with the players and the players are obliged to do certain things under these contracts. And what do they get? Nothing, really nothing!” Piotr was quoted by tennisuptodate as saying.

“All wild cards, and there were 8 of them, were given to the Italians. I understand promoting their players, but how can you give the right to play in a tournament of this rank to such girls who should not even think that they could play in a Masters yet?

“Caroline was number one in her ranking. She won a Grand Slam tournament, won the Masters, played in almost 60 finals of their tournaments and won 30. So we are talking about a complete tennis player, someone who did a great job, who certainly increased the popularity of tennis, who earned a lot of money herself, but let them earn money. even much more.

“And it turns out that when someone like Caroline Wozniacki comes back as Caroline Wozniacki and family, she is no longer welcome. We can’t even prepare Caroline’s starting plan! We train, we prepare, and it turns out that there is nothing to do.

“This is happening because today in tennis everything is based only on relationships, on acquaintances, and not on clear rules. The thing is that if we know the organizers or tournament directors, we get a chance to play, but if we don’t know someone somewhere, they don’t want us there.

“Naturally, after the maternity break, my daughter had zero points. It takes a lot of time to start from scratch and reach the top, but we would do it patiently, but how can we do it when you don’t let a girl like that work for it? The rules in tennis today are such that there is no longer a mandatory wild card for someone who was once in the top 20, had a long break and came back.

“This card was really helpful for tennis players coming back after having a baby and for those coming back from serious injuries. And now Caroline, Angelique Kerber or Naomi Osaka are dependent only on someone else’s decisions. Since last year, all wild cards are the property of the tournaments, and the WTA washes its hands of them.”

It’s clear the Wozniacki family is disappointed as the Dane could be set to cancel her comeback next year.

However there is optimism that Wozniacki will receive one at Wimbledon as she has had past success on grass courts.

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Iga Swiatek Demolishes Aryna Sabalenka To Seal Third Rome Title

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title after a dominant victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

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Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title by dominating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-3 to send a big message of intent ahead of Roland Garros.

The world number one completed the Madrid and Rome double with a sensational performance.

Now Swiatek is the titleholder for the three biggest clay court titles as she will aim to defend her Roland Garros title.

The contest was a rematch from the Madrid final but this was far from the three hour contest that was produced in Spain.

Swiatek raised her level of play while Sabalenka committed way too many unforced errors throughout the contest.

The Pole broke on two occasions to wrap up a comfortable 37 minute set as her forehand was doing a lot of damage.

There was a comeback in the second set from the Australian Open champion as she produced effortless and consistent power, making the second set very competitive.

The world number one was forced to save break points as she just managed to be more stable on big moments.

A more controlled second set from Swiatek was rewarded towards the end of the set as once again Sabalenka crumbled under pressure when it mattered.

Two late breaks of serve completed the Swiatek surge as the Pole enters the second Grand Slam of the season in dominant form.

As for Sabalenka it’s a disappointing performance that she will look to put right at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros starts on the 26th of May where Swiatek is defending champion.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Nicolas Jarry for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Nicolas Jarry on Friday night in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Sunday features three championship matches: the finals in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles.

On Sunday in Rome, Sascha Zverev will play for his first Masters 1000 title in over two years, while Nicolas Jarry will play in his first-ever final above ATP 250 level.  Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they are tied at 2-2 on clay.  Which man will walk away with the title?


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Nicolas Jarry (21) – Not Before 5:00pm on Center Court

Zverev is 27-9 this season, and lost only one set on his way to this championship match.  That came in the semifinals against another Chilean, Alejandro Tabilo.  This is Sascha’s first ATP final since September of last year, and he’s playing for his first Masters 1000 title since 2021 in Cincinnati.  Zverev will soon go on trial in his home country of Germany, as he faces charges of domestic abuse.

Just like eventual champion Andrey Rublev in Madrid, Jarry arrived in Rome on a four-match losing streak.  And he had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Masters 1000 tournament, so this result is quite surprising.  But 28-year-old Jarry is a tall presence (6’7”) who thumps the ball.  As per Tennis Channel, he was averaging 89 mph on his forehand during his three-set semifinal victory over Tommy Paul.  Nico has claimed a trio of three-setters on the way to the biggest match of his career, most notably upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

Zverev certainly has a huge edge in experience at this level, and in finals.  This is his 33rd ATP final, where he holds a record of 21-11.  And it’s his 11th Masters 1000 final, where he is 5-5.  Jarry has only previously appeared in six finals, all at 250-level, where he is 3-3.  But clay is the Chliean’s specialty, as all seven of his career finals have come on this surface.

Yet sometimes experience has a negative impact, particularly when you have suffered some painful losses.  Zverev has lost four of his last six Masters 1000 finals, and he is infamously 1-6 in Major semifinals.  So he has a lot of recent scar tissue from high-profile matches.

In that way, Jarry may benefit from a lack of experience.  While he’ll certainly be nervous on this big occasion, Nico has displayed plenty of confidence and composure against more experienced players throughout this event.  And he owns two prior victories over Zverev.  But when these two met in another final, five years ago in Geneva, Sascha saved two championship points to prevail.  That’s a result that sticks with both players throughout their rivalry.

However, I’m picking Jarry to pull off the upset and win the biggest title of his career on Sunday.  Zverev has a history of getting tight and playing more defensively in crucial moments.  Jarry’s aggressive mindset can take full advantage of such passive play.  And with so many top ATP players currently battling injuries, Zverev will likely feel a lot of pressure to win this title ahead of Roland Garros, especially as the much higher seed on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic – The top seeds are playing for their sixth Masters 1000 title as a team, and own a record of 5-1 in finals at this level.  Arevalo and Pavic are vying for the first Masters 1000 title of their new partnership for 2024.  Both teams are yet to drop a set this fortnight. 

Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe (3) vs. Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini – This is the first tournament for the team of Gauff and Routliffe, though both have won big doubles titles with other partners.  This is the biggest final to date for the Italian team of Errani and Paolini, though Errani won five WTA 1000 doubles titles alongside Roberta Vinci a decade ago, while Paolini won the WTA 1000 event in Dubai earlier this year in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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