Novak Djokovic Tackles Donald Young Test To Reach The Semifinals In Eastbourne - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Tackles Donald Young Test To Reach The Semifinals In Eastbourne

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic advanced to the semifinals at the Aegon International in Eastbourne after coming through a tough test against Donald Young 6-2, 7-6(9) as his preparations for Wimbledon continue.

The top seed looked back to his best and perfectly at home on the grass in the opening set, racing through it only dropping three points on serve to take it 6-2. The second set was a rather different story as Young grew in confidence and earned the chance to serve for the second set at 5-4. The American had a set point then and a couple more in the tiebreak, but Djokovic held his nerve and finally got over the line on his fourth match point to extend his time by the seaside in his first trip to Eastbourne.

Prior to this match on Centre Court, second seed Gael Monfils completed his second round match with a 6-3, 6-2 win over British wildcard Cameron Norrie. The two players managed 45 minutes court time on Wednesday evening and returned Thursday morning with the Frenchman leading by a set and a break 6-3, 2-1. Norrie had half a chance to break back immediately at 15-30 on his opponent’s serve, but the second seed responded to hold to stay in front. The 21-year-old Brit secured his first ever ATP World Tour level win a few days ago with victory over Horacio Zeballos, but was outhit by the second seed in this match. Monfils secured a second break in the seventh game on his third opportunity and served it out with an ace on his second match point to seal a quarterfinal place.

Monfils will now face former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic later on Thursday after the Australian ran out a comfortable winner over sixth seed Mischa Zverev 6-3, 6-2 in just 50 minutes. Seventh seed Richard Gasquet also booked his place in the last eight with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson and will now meet third seed John Isner, who came through a tough battle against Dusan Lajovic 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4). In the other matches held over from yesterday, defending champion Steve Johnson saw off qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in three sets 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Daniil Medvedev, who recovered from a set down to defeat Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

In the first men’s quarterfinal match of the day in front of a sell out crowd, top seed Djokovic started out strongly on serve and had three break point opportunities in the fourth game at 0-40. An ace, followed by an unreturned second serve, followed by an unreturned first serve kept Young in the game. The American did extremely well to raise his level and make it five points in a row to stay with the world number four early on.

Young could not hold off the 12-time Grand Slam champion for long as the Serb secured the first break of serve in the sixth game after his opponent went well wide with an aggressive forehand. After an encouraging start Young struggled to stay with the top seed from the back of the court and soon faced two set points on his own serve. Djokovic only needed one, securing the set 6-2 after 26 minutes with a forehand winner which landed on the baseline. The former world number one was growing in confidence all the time playing in his first Wimbledon warm-up event since 2010, only losing two points behind his first serve and one behind his second over the course of the opening set.

A lapse in concentration in the third game of the second set left Djokovic facing a first break point in the match, but the Serb refocused, hitting an unreturned first serve before holding to stay in front. With that rare opportunity passing the American by, his standard of play dropped on serve, with a double fault leaving Young having to save two break points against him. Young, also a quarterfinalist at Queen’s last week, responded very well under pressure, serving his way out of trouble to win the next two points and save a third break point before holding to level at two games all.

After a series of service holds it was the top seed who next faced adversity on serve in the ninth game, facing two break points. Agonisingly for Young, sensing the importance of the moment in the match, he tentatively struck backhands into the net on both points to squander the chance. A double fault from the Serb gifted the American a third bite at the cherry and this time he took it after Djokovic went long with a backhand slice.

Serving to level at one set all, a double fault left Young down 15-30, but the American responded to move to set point. Djokovic held firm and prevented his opponent from taking them into a final set before converting on his second break point in the game to restore parity and level at five games all.

A hold to love from the top seed made it six points in a row, but a strong response from Young, finishing with a 93mph forehand winner took the players into a tiebreak.

A double fault from Djokovic instantly handed the mini break to his opponent, but the world number four swiftly levelled the scores. Young pushed in front again to take a 5-3 advantage before the world number four came back once again to level at 5-5. A well executed backhand cross court winner brought up a second set point for the American, which the top seed duly saved with an unreturned serve.

After the second change of ends Djokovic earned his first match point but missed a backhand to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats in the tiebreak. A backhand down the line winner brought a second match point, this time on the top seed’s own serve, but once again he could not get over the line. A third match point also went begging as the players changed ends once again at nine points apiece. The most untimely of double faults from Young gave Djokovic a fourth chance and this time he took with an unreturned first serve to secure a place in the semifinals against either Johnson or Medvedev.

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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