US Open Men’s Preview: Federer and Nadal Fight For No.1 As Young Guns Aim To Shine - UBITENNIS
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US Open Men’s Preview: Federer and Nadal Fight For No.1 As Young Guns Aim To Shine

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Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

Following the absence of some of the tour’s biggest names, it has been left for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to headline this year’s US Open.

A total of five top 11 players will be absent from the draw due to injury. Sidelined from action is Novak Djokovic (elbow), Stan Wawrinka (knee), Kei Nishikori (wrist), Milos Raonic (wrist) and Andy Murray (hip). As a consequence, Nadal and Federer will be the top two seeds in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010.

Top seed Nadal, who hasn’t won a hard court title since January 2014, has been given a fair draw. In his section, the Spaniard is guaranteed to face no player ranked higher than 15th seed Tomas Berdych in the first four rounds. He will open up against Dusan Lajovic, a player he hasn’t played since the 2014 French Open. Lajovic is yet to win a main draw match at the US Open, but did manage to reach the fourth round at Indian Wells this year. Further on in the draw, Nadal could play Richard Gasquet in the third round. Earlier this month, the world No.1 defeated the Frenchman for the 15th consecutive time at the Cincinnati Masters. Later on in the draw, he could play either Fabio Fognini or Berdych in the last 16.

“I’m here at the US Open, and doesn’t matter if I’m No. 1 or not. Today, (the) only thing that matters is to try to work well and try to be ready for the first match and try to play a good US Open. That’s my goal.” Nadal commented on Saturday.

Following Murray’s withdrawal, 36-year-old Federer is the second seed and is drawn in the same section as Nadal. Aiming to win a record 20th grand slam title in New York, the Swiss player starts against Frances Tiafoe. A 19-year-old American who tested Federer during their previous clash in Miami earlier this year. During the first week he could play either Blaz Kavcic or Mikhail Youzhny in the second round. Followed potentially by 31st feed Fernando Verdasco and then rising star Nick Kyrgios.

“I think it’s an interesting first round, you know. Clearly he has nothing to lose but everything to gain. It’s a tough one.” Federer said about his meeting with Tiafoe.
“He’s aggressive baseliner like so many of the Americans. Thankfully I played him in Miami this year so I have a little bit of an idea of how he plays, and his patterns and what he prefers to do and whatnot.”

If all goes to plan, there will be a mouthwatering clash between the two players in the semifinals of the tournament. They have played against each other 37 times over a 13-year period, but they are yet to meet in Flushing Meadows.

“I’d be happy to play him (Nadal) here.” Said Federer. “We never played here in New York, so I think that would be fun for everybody involved. I mean, there is, like, I don’t know, 60-plus players in between us that don’t agree in our section that we should make it to the semis. We have our work cut out there.”

The new kids on the block

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With so many top players out of action, the younger generation has their best opportunity yet to make a mark in one of the biggest tournaments of the sport. 20-year-old Alexander Zverev has already won five ATP titles on three different surfaces this season. He will be the highest seeded German male in a US Open draw since Tommy Haas back in 2002.

“I felt like I could compete and beat anyone during this period of time.” Zverev commented about his form this year. “I feel quite welcoming into this Open. I feel different about this Grand Slam than I have felt before about the Grand Slams.”

Zverev will kick-off his campaign against Darian King, who will be making his debut in a grand slam main draw at the age of 25. His section is filled by players known for their fast serves. Former quarter-finalist Kevin Anderson could be a third round opponent if Ernests Gulbis doesn’t make another out of blue surge in the draw. Meanwhile, Gilles Muller and Jack Sock are potential fourth round opponents.

Dominic Thiem is yet to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows. Since Wimbledon, he has only managed to achieve a win-loss of 3-3 on the tour. Still, there is hope for the talented Austrian player. The first two rounds will see him play against teenager Alex de Minaur followed by either Taylor Fritz or Marcos Baghdatis. The biggest test lies in the second part of the first week. An unseeded Ivo Karlovic is a potential third round opponent. Then Winston-Salem champion Roberto Bautista Agut or Juan Martin del Potro could await him in the last 16.

The other guys

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Due to the supremacy of the ‘big four,’ some players have had to settle for second best on the tour. Could one of them spring a surprise?

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov illustrated what kind of form he is in by winning his maiden Masters 1000 title at the Cincinnati Open. The 26-year-old has never reached the quarter-finals of the US Open, but remains a danger to all with the absence of some of his rivals. In his section, the other seeds has endured a poor lead into the final grand slam of the year. David Goffin hasn’t won back-to-back matches since injuring his ankle at the French Open and Pablo Cuevas is currently experiencing more downs than ups. Last year’s semifinalist Gael Monfils is also in Dimitrov’s quarter and should be his biggest threat.

“Going to the Open, it’s for sure a lot of positivity with it, but the most important thing now is just to stay grounded, keep on doing the same work, believe in myself, and just prepare the best way that I can for the Open,” Dimitrov recently said.

Marin Cilic knows what it like to win a major as the underdog. The Croat hasn’t played on the tour since losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final due to injury. He has taken Murray’s place in the draw and will be hungry for redemption after coming so near to his second grand slam trophy at SW19.

The full list of seeds

1. Rafael Nadal
2. Andy Murray (Withdrew due to a hip injury)
3. Roger Federer
4. Alexander Zverev
5. Marin Čilić
6. Dominic Thiem
7. Grigor Dimitrov
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
9. David Goffin
10. John Isner
11. Roberto Bautista Agut
12. Pablo Carreño Busta
13. Jack Sock
14. Nick Kyrgios
15. Tomáš Berdych
16. Lucas Pouille
17. Sam Querrey
18. Gaël Monfils
19. Gilles Müller
20. Albert Ramos Viñolas
21. David Ferrer
22. Fabio Fognini
23. Mischa Zverev
24. Juan Martín del Potro
25. Karen Khachanov
26. Richard Gasquet
27. Pablo Cuevas
28. Kevin Anderson
29. Diego Schwartzman
30. Adrian Mannarino
31. Feliciano López
32. Robin Haase
33. Philipp Kohlschreiber

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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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Perspective And Fatigue: The Two Sides Of Iga Swiatek’s Dubai Defeat

Iga Swiatek spoke about perspective and fatigue after her semi-final exit in Dubai.

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Iga Swiatek showed two sides to her defeat in Dubai as the world number one surprisingly failed to win the title despite being the favourite in the semi-finals.

Heading into her semi-final in Dubai, Swiatek was heavy favourite to win her second consecutive WTA title after claiming the title in Doha the week before.

However Swiatek was unsuccessful in her bid to reach the final as she lost to Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Swiatek who missed a golden opportunity to establish even more dominance ahead of Indian Wells.

As all champions do Swiatek offered perspective to her defeat as she looks ahead to the rest of the season, “I mean, I’m angry but on the other hand, there aren’t many players that actually survive these kinds of tournaments so I just kind of have to let it go and accept it,” Swiatek was quoted by Tennis Majors.

There was not only perspective offered but also fatigue as expectations and pressure can force simple mistakes from the best players in the world.

The world number one acknowledged Kalinskaya’s performance but did admit her own performance contributed to the defeat, “Today I would say, I mean she [Kalinskaya] played well and for sure she deserves to be in the final, but I feel like it was more about me and my level,” Swiatek told Tennis Majors.

“I wanted to be focused on myself and I wasn’t really able to implement any tactics that I had. Usually, when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game but today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t. Day by day, it was a little bit worse.”

Swiatek will hope to re-energize herself ahead of the sunshine double in America.

Last year Swiatek lost to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals at Indian Wells before withdrawing from Miami.

The Pole will look to improve last year’s performance when she plays Indian Wells, which starts on the 6th of March.

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‘Speechless’ Mensik Reaches Maiden ATP Final In Doha

Jakub Mensik is into his first ATP final in Doha.

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Jakub Mensik admitted he was left speechless after reaching his first ATP final in Doha.

The 18 year-old continued his remarkable week with a 6-4 1-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Gael Monfils.

The Czech Republican produced clinical tennis as he beat the 2018 champion to reach his maiden ATP final.

After the match Mensik admitted he was left ‘speechless’ and spoke about the influence Monfils had on his career, “It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far,” Mensik told the ATP website.

“Today again with Gael, he played unbelievable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

“I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.

“I told him when I was young I watched him a lot on the TV. One of the biggest showman on court. He is a great guy, so hopefully in the future we will meet once again. The rallies were so fun with him.”

Mensik has so far beaten three former champions this week as he also defeated Andy Murray and Andrey Rublev this week.

Now Mensik will aim to win his first ATP title as he takes on Karen Khachanov in Saturday’s final.

Should Mensik win the title he could climb to 75 in the world as he started the week at 116 in the world.

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