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Curious Halle Semifinals

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Gerry Weber Open’s illustrious history is more than having Roger Federer as the face of the tournament. True, he has won more titles in Halle, Germany than any other performer, and his totals – eight championships and three final round appearances – are significant, but the ATP Tour 500 series event is more than the victory numbers of the legendary Swiss talent.

 

Borrowing from Lewis Carroll’s, intriguing fantasy “Alice in Wonderland”, in which she exclaimed, “curiouser and curiouser”, today’s story will provide a look-back sample of the “curious” taken from twenty-four years of semifinal play.

In 1995, Michael Stich of Germany defeated Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands, 7-6, 6-1 in one of the last four contests. Marc Rosset of Switzerland edged Jacco Eltingh, also from the Netherlands, 7-6, 7-5 in the other. Eltingh and Haarhuis, long-time pals and at one time, No. 1 in ATP doubles, were the first and only countrymen to lose in the singles semifinals, but go on to win the doubles. They downed Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Olhovsky of Russia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

Kafelnikov’s debut singles semifinal was a 7-6, 7-6 loss to Magnus Larsson of Sweden, in 1994. Two years later, he slipped past his doubles partner, Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, but for the second straight year the doubles championship evaded his grasp, as he and Vacek were defeated, 6-1, 7-5, by Byron Black of Zimbabwe and Grant Connell of Canada in the trophy round.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

In 1997 and ’98, Kafelnikov continued his Halle roll. He was 6-3, 6-4 better than Boris Becker, who was the face of German tennis in those days. Twelve-months later, he survived a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 encounter with Thomas Johansson of Sweden.

Johansson put a speed bump in his path with a 2001, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 reversal of their previous result. The next year (2002), Kafelnikov responded to the defeat by scoring a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 decision over Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

Though Nicolas Kiefer of Germany surprised Federer, in the 2002 semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, the music was changing.  From 2003 until ’06, the choir was united singing “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger” as he proved to be better than Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2; Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4; Tommy Haas of Germany, 6-4, 7-6; and Haas again, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. He returned to the hit parade with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kiefer in 2008. He stopped Philipp Petzschner of Germany, 7-6, 6-4, in 2010, and scored another victory over Youzhny, 6-1, 6-4 in 2012. Against Haas, in the 2013 event, he won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the next two years, Federer sidelined Kai Nishikori of Japan, 6-3, 7-6 and Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 7-6, 7-6. In 2016, NextGen flag bearer Alexander Zverev of Germany altered the harmony defeating Federer, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

ATP Tour tennis, for the most part, plays to form. But, from time to time, unexpected results have occurred. Usually, a competitor whose game is more suited to clay has an “on” week. Some of Halle’s surprise semifinalists have included: Carlos Moya of Spain who was defeated by Nicklas Kulti of Sweden, 6-3, 6-4 in 1999; Arnaud Clement of France who Kiefer edged 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in 2003; Guillermo Canas of Argentina who Marat Safin of Russia dispatched, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in 2005; and Kristof Vliegen of Belgium who was downed 6-3, 6-2 by Tomáš Berdych of the Czech Republic in 2006.

As things turned out, Saturday’s semifinals were not disrupted by “Curiouser and curiouser” elements. Federer, the No. 1 seed, eliminated Russian Karen Khachanov, who is a member of the NextGen class, 6-4, 7-6. Zverev, the No. 4 seed, eliminated Richard Gasquet of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The results set up a reality fairytale that will be matching Roger Federer, who “is” the Gerry Weber Open, against Alexander Zverev, who “is what Halle will become”. And it is a sure thing that there will be nothing curious about the outcome.

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Svitolina Beats Giorgi to Reach Semis in Tokyo

Elina Svitolina has guaranteed herself a medal match after beating Camila Giorgi in Tokyo.

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Elina Svitolina (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

The world number six booked her spot in the final four after beating Camila Giorgi of Italy.

 

Elina Svitolina is into the semi-finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics almost guaranteeing herself a medal after beating the world number 61 and Italian in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 serving 6 aces and hitting 13 winners in the while Giorgi hit 32 unforced errors in the loss.

The Ukrainian went on the attack from the word play earning two breakpoints in the match’s opening game as the Italian seemed to get off to a slow start and she made her pay by getting the early break.

After consolidating the break the number four seed was hungry for more getting two more chances to break and breaking once more to go up a double break.

At 5-1 the Ukrainian had two set points but failed to convert and the Italian took advantage of it breaking back the very next game with a stunning forehand winner to get one of the breaks back.

The world number six eventually served out the first set and continued to ride the momentum into the second set where just like the beginning of the first set she broke in the first game and cruised from there.

At 3-1, she had three more chances to go up a double break once again and she earned it with a sublime forehand winner up the line before getting broken the very next game.

Despite giving one of the breaks back, Svitolina could serve out the match and will play Marketa Vondrousova in the last four.

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Ugo Humbert Pulls Off Tsitsipas Upset In Tokyo

Ugo Humbert stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the Quarter-Finals at the Olympic Games.

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Ugo Humbert (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

The Frenchman sent the Greek packing in a three-set battle that went over two hours on court.

 

Ugo Humbert booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympic tournament after beating the world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in three sets 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes hitting 34 winners in the win while his opponent hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

After both players held their opening service games it was the Greek with the first chance to break and at the second time of asking he broke to take an early 2-1 lead.

The world number 28 had two chances to break back the very next game but the number three seed saved both and consolidated the break before going up a double break the very next game.

Tsitsipas served out the first set and going into the second set it was a very tight affair with neither player budging on their service games as the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

That’s where the number 14 seed jumped out to an early lead and that lead was enough for him to take the second set and force a deciding third set.

There was a bit of a scary moment for the world number three when on set point he seemed to roll his ankle and took a medical timeout to get it treated.

It was clear the injury was affecting him during the third and final set as after both players again held their opening service games it was the Frenchman with three breakpoints and got the early break.

In the next game, the number three seed had a chance to break back on go back on serve but the world number 28 did a good job saving it and consolidating the break.

After consolidating the break the Frenchman smelled blood and sensed the match was his for the taking and broke the Greek for a second time to love and at 5-2 there was a long back and forth game that lasted over 10 minutes.

Humbert finally converted on his fourth match point to book his spot in the quarterfinals and a date with the Russian Karen Khachanov.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Djokovic, Barty, Nishikori Among Players Pulling Double Duty

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Ash Barty practicing in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Wednesday’s schedule provides one of the best days of tennis you’ll see all year.  And as far as doubles is concerned, the best you’ll likely see until the next Olympic Games.  The mixed doubles event begins on Wednesday, featuring many players still alive in other disciplines.  Mixed doubles and men’s singles will play their round of 16 matches on Wednesday, while women’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles will play their quarterfinals.  With all remaining players in all five draws competing, the 28th of July boasts 28 critical matchups throughout the day, just 48 hours before medals will begin to be rewarded.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Fabio Fognini (15) [ITL] – 11:00am on Centre Court

Despite their lopsided Australian Open final earlier this year, Medvedev may be the player most likely to prevent Djokovic from winning the gold medal in men’s singles.  But they would not meet in the draw until the gold or bronze medal match.  And Medvedev first needs to deal with Fognini, who has plenty of experience upsetting top players.  As per Tennis Abstract, Fabio owns 15 top 10 victories in his career, with four of them notably over Rafael Nadal.  However, he’s now lost 12 of his last 13 matches against the top 10, dating back to over two years ago.  And unlike clay and grass, Medvedev is fully comfortable on a hard court.  Since November of last year, Daniil is a formidable 27-3 on this surface.  And he is yet to drop a set through two rounds.  All four of their prior meetings occurred on hard courts.  The Italian took their first encounter, four years ago in Cincinnati.  However, the Russian has claimed their last three, though two of them went to a deciding set.  Representing one’s country can often yield unexpected results, as we’ve already seen in this event.  But on a hard court, Medvedev is a solid favorite to reach the quarterfinals.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Ash Barty and Storm Sanders – 1:00pm on Court 6

This is a women’s doubles quarterfinal featuring the last two women’s singles Major champions.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are also three-time Slam champs in doubles, most recently winning Roland Garros.  Barty has actually reached six Major finals in doubles, though she’s only prevailed in one: the 2018 US Open, with partner CoCo Vandeweghe.  In the semifinals of that event, Barty and Vandewedge dismissed Krejickova and Siniakova in straight sets.  That was one of three victories in 2018 for Ash and CoCo over the Czech team.  A year later, the team of Barty and Victoria Azarenka went 2-1 against them.  In singles, Ash and Barbora just met a few weeks ago in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, with the Australian prevailing in straight sets.  Before Tuesday, that was Krejcikova’s only singles loss since the second week of May.  Barty and Sanders are good friends, but they are not an established team, as they regularly play with other partners.  The experience edge is decidedly with Krejcikova and Siniakova, who are 27-6 this year alone, with three titles.  As motivated as Barty is to win a medal for Australia, especially after her loss in singles, the top seeds in women’s doubles remain the favorites.  Regardless, Barty still has another chance for a medal, as she’s also in the mixed doubles draw with John Peers.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13) [ROC] – It was Bencic who took out Krejcikova in singles on Tuesday.  Now she faces this year’s other French Open finalist, who has only allowed opponents seven games through six sets thus far.  Bencic leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they’re 2-2 on hard courts, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing most recently, a year ago in Dubai.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (16) [ESP] – Djokovic is now 36-3 on the year, and 11-0 on hard courts.  The 22-year-old Spaniard reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last month, but when he played Djokovic a month earlier in Rome, earned only three games.  Djokovic will also play mixed doubles later in the day, with partner Nina Stojanovic.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) [CRO] vs. Ben McLachlan and Kei Nishikori [JPN] – Mektic and Pavic are now an absurd 50-5 this season, with eight titles.  McLachlan and Nishikori lost their only previous match this year as a team, though they didn’t drop a set in their first two rounds.  Kei will also play Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in singles earlier in the day.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) [GRE] vs. Ugo Humbert (14) [FRA] – Last year at the Paris Masters, their match was decided by three tiebreaks, with the final and decisive one going to the Frenchman.  Humbert has now won three titles over the past 18 months, though all on faster surfaces than this.  Also on Wednesday, Tsitsipas will team with Maria Sakkari against Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Garbine Muguruza (7) [ESP] vs. Elena Rybakina (15) [KAZ] – This will be a slugfest between two of the WTA’s hardest hitters.  Last month on the grass of Berlin, Muguruza defeated Rybakina in straight sets.

Diego Schwartzman (8) [ARG] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – This could be one of the most competitive and compelling matches on the day.  Schwartzman has nabbed two of their three prior matches, all on hard courts. 

Paula Badosa [ESP] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Both players upset favorites to win this event: Badosa took out Iga Swiatek, while Vondrousova ousted Naomi Osaka.  Swiatek will get a rematch with Badosa in mixed doubles, as she teams with Lukasz Kubot against Badosa and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig [CRO] vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury [GBR] – The Brits have played excellently, winning four straight sets over four accomplished doubles players.  Dodig is a five-time Major champion between men’s and mixed doubles.  He and Filip Polasek defeated Salisbury and Rajeev Ram to win February’s Australian Open.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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