The French Open will be upon us before the conclusion of the weekend, and there are some early tests for big players. Key matches through the draw (top to bottom)have been selected for
Top seed Andy Murray faces what many might suggest is a difficult first round opponent in Andrey Kuznetsov. Certainly, that may have been the case last year. This year the Russian is struggling. He has won consecutive matches in a main draw ATP event just twice this year. He took Kei Nishikori to five exciting sets in the Australian Open. Nishikori was hurt though through much of the tournament. Therefore though Murray may not have a lot of confidence at present, it likely his opponent does not have much either.
Murray’s potential seeded meeting in the third round is Juan Martin del Potro, a tough task on any surface. However, del Potro has been suffering from a shoulder injury and the other tough player in Murray’s section, Nicolas Almagro, has not played since Rome. The Spaniard was forced to retire with a painful looking knee injury against Rafael Nadal.
Nadal himself has one of the most awkward first round matches. Benoit Paire is amongst the most inconsistent players, capable of stunning tennis that has seen him defeat Stan Wawrinka, or ugly matches where he loses quickly. Nadal’s confidence is likely at its highest point since he last won in Paris, having claimed titles in Madrid and Barcelona. Nadal knows Paire’s strengths and weaknesses and though it should be an enjoyable watch, it should also be a quick one.
Undoubtedly the meeting of the first round is that between ninth seed Alexander Zverev and Fernando Verdasco. Zverev won the most recent clay Masters in Rome. Whilst Verdasco is a former Grand Slam semi-finalist at the 2009 Australian Open, his form has fluctuated since. Yet the Spaniard is known for being one of the few to seriously trouble Nadal on clay on his day. Zverev has proven his ability to win in best of three set matches against the top players, but has yet to seriously prove it in five. This is just the kind of match that a dialled in Verdasco would enjoy. Zverev’s section is tough, with Madrid semi-finalist and clay specialist Pablo Cuevas potentially a hard third-round match.
Looking to the next section, Kei Nishikori has arguably a favourable draw. He starts against Thanasi Kokkinakis on his return from injury. Sam Querrey is his seeded opponent in round three and the American has historically performed poorly on European clay. However, Querrey has displayed a confidence in the last twelve months befitting his younger self that climbed into the top 20, and he was within a whisker of defeating Dominic Thiem in Rome. A tougher potential match than some might expect.
Former winner Stan Wawrinka starts against the qualifier Jozef Kovalik. On paper everything points to a Wawrinka win. But this is Kovalik’s surface, and though the Slovak has struggled on hard courts he does have a win against Marin Cilic this year. Stan does have a history of losing early in events to unlikely players in ATP events. The Swiss is a different story entirely at slams though. Complacency cannot be present though, as an off-key Wawrinka could quickly see things go downhill against Kovalik. A much tougher match than it looks.
Frances Tiafoe is one of the hottest players on the Challenger circuit this season, with two titles at that level on clay this year, including one in Aix-en-Provence. It has seen his ranking surge into the Top 70. Fabio Fognini remains one of the best at being consistently inconsistent. The Italian can perhaps only be rivalled in that department by Benoit Paire, and formerly Ernests Gulbis. As improved and talented as Tiafoe is, this match probably rests on Fognini and his mental state. Fognini on song will leave Tiafoe packing his bags early. Anything else and the American probably wins this one.
Richard Gasquet has another qualifier. Like Wawrinka’s match though, Arthur de Greef is not an easy prospect. A strong showing in Bordeaux and qualifying. Gasquet has only played two events since late February after injuries, and results have not been great. Defeats to Yuichi Sugita and Kevin Anderson on clay suggest the Frenchman is not at his best yet. Also, while Gasquet’s backhand remains a thing of beauty, his forehand is not packing a punch that it once did and the Frenchman has vulnerabilities in his game that certainly did not exist two or three years ago.
How could matches be previewed and not include Dustin Brown vs Gael Monfils? The most entertaining match for pure shotmaking at least is sure to be the German’s match with a home favourite. This surface does no good for Brown, whose amazing reflexes and turns are suited for fast grass not slow clay. Monfils can work this surface and will likely have enough firepower and defensive flexibility to make this a quick, if exciting encounter.
It has been a slow year for Philipp Kohlschreiber. A final appearance in a weak draw in Morocco has helped the veteran German flatter to deceive for the most part in 2017. He gave the tennis world one of the most exciting matches of the year to date when he nearly took out World No.1 Andy Murray in Dubai. Kohlschreiber has a tendency to falter later in matches though. He has a chance against Nick Kyrgios, who has been discussing injury issues. If Kohlschreiber can use his wide-sweeping backhand to good effect and keep Kyrgios from his attacking game then the veteran German can do well. A tough draw for Kyrgios.
Feliciano Lopez is unseeded in a slam for the first time in years. The veteran Spaniard’s age is finally catching up with him, and he faces a tough qualifier in Bjorn Fratangelo. Like his famous namesake Fratangelo is most at home on clay and is a former Roland Garros Junior winner. These two met in Houston. However, the faster American clay suited Lopez, whereas the slower French clay suits Fratangelo.
Other potential seeded shocks include Gilles Simon’s match with Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Frenchman seems on a slow decent from a ranking that has stayed inside the Top 30 for much of the last decade. Ivo Karlovic typically has short runs in Paris, and he faces a young Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas who will fancy his chances.
The 2019 ATP Tour Review
Ubitennis.net reviews a great ATP season highlighted by Rafael Nadal’s Roland Garros and US Open titles, Novak Djokovic’s win over Roger Federer in an epic Wimbledon final, Daniil Medvedev’s great hard-court season, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ breakthrough into the top 10 and the rise of Italian players Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.
The best ATP player of the season
Rafael Nadal celebrated his 200th week at world number 1 in the ATP Rankings. Only five players since 1973 have been ranked at the top for more weeks: Roger Federer (310 weeks), Pete Sampras (286), Novak Djokovic (275), Ivan Lendl (270), and Jimmy Connors (268 weeks).
Nadal enjoyed another great season in 2019 by winning four titles, including two Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros and US Open) and two Masters 1000 titles (Rome and Montreal). He also finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final.
He won his 12th Roland Garros title with a victory over Dominic Thiem in the final, confirming his reputation as the King of Clay. Becoming player (male or female ) to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times.
Overall, he recorded 58 wins to 7 defeats and finished the season as the year-end number 1 player for the fifth time in his career. The 33-year-old Spanish player is the oldest player to finish year-end number 1 in the history.
The most consistent player: Danil Medvedev
Danil Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in 2019 with a record of 59 match wins, including 46 victories on a hard court. He reached six straight finals since Wimbledon. Winning four titles in Sofia, St. Petersburg and two consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He also finished runner-up in three more finals in Brisbane, Barcelona and the US Open.
Medvedev rallied from two sets down before losing to Nadal after 4 hours and 51 minutes in his first Grand Slam final. He is the first Russian player to reach a Grand Slam final since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Novak Djokovic.
The most improved player of the year: Stefanos Tsitsipas:
One year after clinching the ATP Next Gen Finals trophy in Milan, Stefanos Tsitsipas won the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London after beating Dominic Thiem. The young Greek star won two more titles in Marseille on indoor hard court and Estoril on clay and finished runner-up in two more finals in Dubai to Roger Federer and in Beijing to Dominic Thiem.
At the age of 20 Tsitsipas became the youngest Australian Open semifinalist since Andy Roddick in 2003. He is the first Greek player to break into Top 5 and the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. At the Australian Open Tsitsipas saved 12 break points against Roger Federer in the fourth round.
Tsitsipas earned 54 match wins this year and beat Rafael Nadal to reach the Madrid Masters 1000 Final before losing to Novak Djokovic in the title match.
The most surprising player of the year: Matteo Berrettini:
The Italian 23-year-old player broke into the top 10 of the ATP Ranking on 28 October and reached the career-high at world number 8 on 4 November. In his breakthrough season Berrettini became the first ATP Finals singles qualifier from Italy since former number 8 player and current Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti in 1978.
Berrettini won two titles in Budapest on clay and Stuttgart on grass and reached ATP 500 semifinals at Halle, Vienna. He became the first Italian player in history to reach a Masters 1000 semifinal in Shanghai. This season he has achieved a series of milestones for Italian tennis. Including becoming the second Italian player in history to reach a US Open semifinal and the fourth overall. Following in the footsteps of Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barazzutti and Marco Cecchinato. Berrettini also reached the Wimbledon fourth round by defeating Diego Schwartzman after saving three match points.
Kiki Bertens Believes In Stability And Trust Ahead Of 2020 Season
Kiki Bertens looks for stability in hope of grand slam success in 2020.
Kiki Bertens believes stability and trust is the key to success ahead of the 2020 season despite a time of change for the Dutchwoman.
A time of change is approaching for Kiki Bertens as she recently just got married to her physical trainer Remko De Rijke.
It’s not only off the court, change is approaching for the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist as her and coach Raemon Sluiter parted ways during the off-season.
After the split it would have been easy for Bertens to make a radical change to her coaching team but that is not her style as she has promoted Elise Tamaela to a main coaching role.
Even through a time of change, Bertens believes stability is crucial to success, “It takes me a while to be able to trust someone,” she admitted to Dutch website De Telegraaf.
“And I don’t want to spend that time on something like that. We’re going to continue in the same way for next year. The results were not as expected in the Grand Slams but I had other good weeks. It’s really not that I felt different playing in the Slams than in other weeks in which I could win titles.”
Although the formula to winning a grand slam has yet to be solved, the world number nine has achieved great consistency having won 55 matches in 2019, which also included the biggest title of her career in Madrid.
A new era await for Bertens with her new coach and plenty of praise was given to Elise Tamaela ahead of the new season, “For me the most important thing is that that person knows a lot about tennis. I have to be able to fully trust her,” Bertens said.
“To be able to laugh with that person, eat with her. I prefer to keep the equipment to the minimum possible and be able to feel comfortable in terms of confidence. Sometimes more people in the team only bring more opinions. And that style is not mine.”
This simplistic formula has worked for Bertens in the past and as the 2020 season approaches, she’s not looking to change it.
However will inexperience lead to the same results at grand slams, with the level of the Women’s game rising, Bertens may find that breaking the boundaries of stability is needed.
The former world number four will start her march towards more glory in Brisbane on the 6th of January.
Caroline Wozniacki Announces Retirement After Australian Open
Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open in January.
Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open as a new chapter in her life approaches.
The Dane won 30 WTA singles titles in her career and spent 71 weeks as world number one although a grand slam had haunted her for most of her career.
However that changed in 2018 after an epic win over Simona Halep sealed a dream come true as she won her first grand slam at the Australian Open.
Since winning her maiden slam though, it has been an uphill struggle on the court for Wozniacki as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Some days the former world number one and on some days, it is a constant battle for her to even wake up in the morning.
Now with other priorities taking over having been married to former NBA player David Lee since June and already studying Business at Harvard, Wozniacki today took the decision to retire from tennis after the Australian Open.
In a statement on Instagram, Woznaicki told her followers that she had accomplished everything she wanted to and looks forward to the future, “I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she said.
“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.
“Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward.
“This has nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye, I look forward to sharing my exciting journey ahead with all of you!
“Finally, I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support! Without all of you I could have never have done this!”
Although this retirement may have been coming, not many people would have predicted it would come at the scene of her grand slam breakthrough.
Now in the last stretch of her career, the Dane will want to finish on a high as she looks to celebrate a career that has lasted nearly 15 years.
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