Dominic Thiem and Lucas Pouille Move Past Tricky Openers - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem and Lucas Pouille Move Past Tricky Openers

6th seed Dominic Thiem opened his Roland Garros campaign on Suzanne Lenglen Court with a 6-4 6-0 6-2 win over Bernard Tomic. Simultaneously on Philippe-Chartier Court, 16th seed Lucas Pouille battled past his fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6(6) 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Jakub Bobro

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Dominic Thiem has been red hot through the clay season, reaching finals in Barcelona and Madrid. This makes the 23 year-old Austrian one of the top contenders for the title in Paris. Thiem’s opening round against Tomic would be very closely followed a couple of years ago, but with Tomic’s performance this year, it was pretty much a forlorn conclusion. Tomic seemed to be really trying in the first set, finding odd angles and pushing Thiem to the edge of his abilities. There is a nice contrast in styles between the two, with Thiem’s power+spin game facing off.  Despite that, Thiem managed to get a break and overcame Tomic 6-4 in the first set. After that, Tomic basically gave up and perhaps “tanked” the rest of the match. Thiem was winning points easily, where Tomic could have pushed him further, but didn’t. Thiem won the match 6-4 6-0 6-2 in just 80 minutes, and will face Simone Bolelli or Nicolas Mahut in the second round.

 

“The confidence is there also. I played a very good clay-court season but everyone starts from zero here.” Said Thiem

In a far more competitive and entertaining match, 16th seed Lucas Pouille faced Julien Benneteau. Pouille arrived in Paris with question marks about his form. Early in the clay season, Pouille made the semifinals in Monte Carlo and won Budapest, but then followed two first round losses in Madrid and Rome, to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Sam Querrey respectively. Pouille was the favorite in both matches, so there were questions about his fitness and form. Julien Benneteau started a comeback at the beginning of 2016 from outside the Top 500 after missing the majority of 2015. In the past two seasons, the 35 year-old veteran clawed his way through Challengers and is now back to Top 100, currently at No. 98. In the lead-up, Benneteau opted to play French challengers instead if qualifying for the European Masters events. The Frenchman lost in quarterfinals of both Aix En Provence and Bordeaux, beating players like Lukas Rosol, Gastao Elias, or Jurgen Melzer. Benneteau retired from the Bordeaux quarterfinal two weeks ago, but definitely seemed ready for this match.

The first set was a great battle which cumulated into a tiebreak won 8-6 by Pouille. Benneteau took advantage of serving first in the second set, putting Pouille under pressure and eventually breaking him. Benneteau took the second set 6-3. The veteran took an early break over Pouille in the third, and despite a strong serve he kept it and won the third set as well, 6-4. When Benneteau got an early break in the 4th set, it seemed to be over for Pouile. Then came a small and expected dip in performace by the 35 year-old after several grueling hours on court in the 31 Celsius heat. Pouille came back into the match, won the 4th set 6-3 and didn’t let go. Pouille dictated the 5th set and was completely in control. At 3-5 0-30 in the final set on Benneteau, one of the spectators in the lower seats close to the court seemed to faint, and the match was shortly suspended. After a couple of minutes play resumed, and Benneteau looked reborn. He won 4 points in a row and went to 4-5. Pouille helped himself by strong, consistent first serves, and won the match 7-6(6) 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 after 3 hours and 21 minutes.

Pouille was quite reliant on his first serve, winning 85% of points that came after it, as Benneteau successfully returned only 54% of serves. The match between these two was very physical, full of grinding rallies. It was mostly Pouille’s serve that made the difference. Benneteau’s big weapon was his net game, weakened by the surface but still very effective. The 2014 Roland Garros Men’s Doubles champion finished 37% of points after his serve at the net, and it is a tactic that worked almost perfectly.

The rolandgarros.com Live Blog posted: For a fleeting moment I had a sinking feeling that Benneteau was going to retire there, but fear not. With tears in his eyes – and speaking in French – he tells the crowd… “I don’t have a choice, I can’t serve 210 kph, 215 kph. The only thing I know how to do is fight, and be physical. I enjoy the pleasure of playing in front of you. Frankly, what you made me experience today makes me want to come back. I’m not promising anything, I’ll do my best to be back here next year. Lucas really deserves the win. I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and my wife”

Lucas Pouille commented: “We had a great time on the court, he’s a great player. He has worked hard to get to the top level. I believed right until the end. I was having trouble letting go but at one point things went my way and I managed to get ahead.  I hope to go as far as possible, I want to win a Grand Slam. I know it’s not easy but I will see where I can get to.”

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Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis

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Janko Tipsarevic has announced that he will retire from professional tennis at the age of 35 next November. The Belgrade native enjoyed his best seasons in 2011, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, and in 2012, when he reached the quarter final at the US Open for the second consecutive year. In 2012 he reached the quarter final or better in 14 tournaments, including the semifinal at Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Toronto.

 

He reached his best ranking of world number 8 in April 2012 after qualifying for the quarter final in Miami. He won four titles in his career and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open.

He returned to action at the Australian Open last January after a long absence of 16 months following two harmstring surgeries. The Serbian player lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Australian Open. Later this year he reached the quarter final in Houston.

Tipsarevic is planning after the Davis Cup finals in Madrid next November.

“It has been a great 16 years. After a lot of sour searching and thinking what is important to me in this stage of my life and what does make make me happy, I have decided to retire from professional tennis. My last competition will be the Davis Cup in Madrid. In the following years my focus will be my family, franchising our Tennis Academy and International coaching for several weeks per year. Thank you for your ongoing support”, announced Tipsarevic via social media.

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Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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