Gerry Weber Open Showcase: Mikhail Youzhny - UBITENNIS
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Gerry Weber Open Showcase: Mikhail Youzhny

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Mikhail Youzhny (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

Mikhail Youzhny is still in competition on the professional tour nearly 19 years after he joined the ranks of “for pay” athletes that have of late found grass court tournaments that should help make their game ready for competition at Wimbledon. That stateliest of Grand Slams begins on July third.

 

In the past, Youzhny has had good luck at the Gerry Weber Open – not every year, but in what some may call his salad days. (Salad days are a reference to youthful inexperience and fearlessness. Shakespeare had Cleopatra regretting her “affair” with Julius Caesar by saying, “My salad days, When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” That was penned in 1606. A bit later it came to mean that youth could be raw and unbounded by experience.)

Youzhny who is Russian began playing with his brother, Andrei when he was just six years old. He said that they used to scrounge equipment to learn the game and soon it was apparent that he was good. There was a problem though. He was temperamental. His frustration was not just a pout and then sullen demeanor. He broke racquets and cried – a lot. His coach, Boris Sobkin noted that it was difficult finding anyone to deal with the headstrong lad, but he has been with Youzhny since 2000 and that may be nearing a record for coaching longevity, given the frequency of changes many other players make.

Presently, he is ranked 88 – still in the top 100, but definitely far from his top ranking of number 8 in the world in January of 2008 and October of 2010. Even though it may seem to some that those days are not long ago, it’s nearly seven years since his last career high ranking. Still, the best of the best have fluctuations in their game and standing. He will be thirty-five on Sunday, the 25th of June, (coincidentally the final day of the Gerry Weber Open), and he must be tired. Today, he lost to a very young Russian player who is 19 and a member of the Next Generation of ATP players to watch. The three set match that ended with a rather lopsided, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 tally allowed fans to catch glimpses of the right-hander’s phenomenal backhand that can twist the ball exactly where he wants it to twist. But, it wasn’t enough to overcome the youth and fearlessness of his opponent who has been showing promise since he was named the number one junior player in the world in 2014.

But, tennis isn’t Youzhny’s only forte. He received a PhD in Philosophy in December of 2010. His thesis was titled, “Professional Tennis Players on the Court”, a subject he may not only have observed, but been a part of. He said, “You find out about other players and try to compare them with you. You look at what you have to do against them or what changes they may make before matches.” He went on to explain that it took time, which at that point in his life had meant spending over ten years being a part of a loosely directed caravan of migrant workers who play tennis for money. (Actually those workers are tennis professionals, but they do migrate to places where their kind of labor is highly valued and amply compensated.)

Youzhny is one of the eleven active players who have reached the quarterfinals of each of the grand slams. (FYI – The others are – Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, JoWilfried Tsonga, and Stan Wawrinka.) After defeating World Number 2, Nadal in the quarterfinals, World Number 9, Andy Roddick took away his hopes of being a contender in the US Open final in 2006. But, now, it’s more than ten and a-half years later, and still he competes.

Today wasn’t his day. After nearly twenty years on the job, he may want to reflect on how to best use his time, energy and love of tennis. The Gerry Weber Open has been good to him over the years. In 2013, he reached the final, but was vanquished by Roger Federer 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 who is the all-time champ here in Halle.

Maybe he will spend a little time before Wimbledon evaluating his game. There isn’t a magic spell that can change the aging process, but a few have defied the inevitable and eked out a few more years. Actually Federer comes to mind, and today, he was on the court as the last match of the day. The Swiss Maestro will be thirty-seven this coming August, and on a very hot and humid evening in Halle, he faced Mischa Zverev, (brother of Alexander, who will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals, tomorrow). Federer was victorious in his good luck charm arena at Halle. He defeated Mischa Zverev 7-6, 6-4, to move into the quarterfinals where he will face last years champ, German Florian Mayer who defeated Lucas Pouille of France, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 early this afternoon.

Will it be another notch on the oldster racquet handle when Sunday’s matches are complete? That conundrum will be solved in a matter of days. Maybe it is as some folks say though, “age is merely a state of mind”. And right now, Federer’s outlook is definitely not searching out retirement.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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Brandon Nakashima shocks John Isner to reach first ATP final in Los Cabos

Brandon Nakashima stunned John Isner to reach the final in Los Cabos.

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Brandon Nakashima (@AbiertoLosCabos - Twitter)

The American became the youngest American to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

 

Brandon Nakashima booked his spot in the final beating an out of sorts John Isner 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 28 minutes firing 12 aces and winning 82% points with his first serve.

“It’s always going to be tough playing against him, It’s always so hard to return his serve and try to get into the rallies with him but I tried to get back as many returns as I could and there was blocking or chipping the return or hitting over it and just try to mix it up a lot while getting different looks and I knew when I had the opportunities and when I got close in games I knew I had to take advantage of that as much as possible so luckily I was able to do it and of course taking care of my service games was important as well”.

For the first six games of the opening set, neither player had an issue holding serve but at 3-3, it was the San Diego native with the first chance to break but was denied by the world number 39’s big serve.

At 5-4, the world number 134 had two more chances to break and he got the crucial break and served out the first set.

Winning the first set seemed to invigorate the 19-year-old and he earned an early chance to break in the first game of the second set and broke to take a 1-0 lead. Once again that one break was enough to serve out the match and seal the victory.

After the match, Nakashima spoke about becoming the first American player to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

“It feels great and it’s a big accomplishment for me and of course all the Americans, we like to play in the US but it’s nice to see that I am playing well outside the US and luckily it’s not too far from my home here so I have been enjoying it here a lot both on and off the court and really looking forward to playing tomorrow again”.

Nakashima will face the number one seed Cameron Norrie in the final and can feel confident as the last time these two players met, the American beat him.

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