Dominic Thiem Eyes Improvement In Indian Wells Bid - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem Eyes Improvement In Indian Wells Bid

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Dominic Thiem (zimbio.com)

Austria’s Dominic Thiem has established himself as one of the best players on the men’s tour, but admits that he needs to make further improvements when it comes to the hard courts.

 

The 24-year-old has won nine ATP titles so far in his career, but only one of those have occurred on a hard surface at the 2016 Mexican Open. The other triumphs was on clay (seven titles) and the grass (one title). Thiem has a opportunity to improve his record on the surface at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where he is seeded fifth in the draw. An opportunity he is hoping to capitalize on.

“I’m always trying to make some changes to play better on hard courts,” Thiem told atpworldtour.com. “I’ve played three tournaments on hard courts [this year]. Doha was fine, Australia was also fine. Acapulco I lost to del Potro who won the tournament so I think I’m [heading] in the right direction.”

Heading into the first Masters 1000 event of the year with a win-loss record of 16-3, Thiem is taking nothing for granted. He is hoping to better his run at Indian Wells from last year, where he reached the quarterfinals before losing to Stan Wawrinka in three sets. It will be his 34th appearance in the main draw of a Masters event, but he is yet to reach the semifinals of a event played on the hard courts.

“That’s my goal to improve it. To go one step further, but it’s tough.” He said. “Besides some big names, almost everybody is here (in Indian Wells), so it’s not going to be easy from the first round onwards. I have to be careful from the beginning.”

Thiem’s cautious outlook is one with good reason. He will start his campaign against rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Radu Albot in straight sets in the first round. World No.71 Tsitsipas, who lost to Thiem earlier this year, recently reached the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. His second ATP quarter-final of the season.

“I played him in Doha and was quite impressed actually,” Thiem said about the Greek 19-year-old. “I’d never seen him before or practised with him before. I think he definitely has potential for Top 20, for sure. I think it’s also nice to have someone from Greece, I think the first real top player from that country. I think he’s going to be good.”

Should he reach the final this year, Thiem would become the first Austrian player in history to do at Indian Wells.

ATP

Alexander Zverev Going In The Right Direction, Says Becker

The German tennis legend gives his verdict on Zverev’s current form following his grand slam breakthrough.

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Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes Alexander Zverev’s recent run at the Australian Open was confirmation that he belongs at the top of men’s tennis.

 

Last month the 22-year-old achieved his best ever grand slam performance by reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne Park before losing to Dominic Thiem. At the tournament he scored wins over Andrey Rublev, who won two consecutive titles prior to the event, and former champion Stan Wawrinka. Zverev has been tipped as a future world No.1 in recent years and remains the only active player outside of the Big Four to have won three or more Masters trophies. Although he has previously struggled to shine in the biggest events of the sport.

“Alexander Zverev has made a great step forward with his first participation in a grand slam semi-final.” Becker told reporters in Berlin on Sunday. “Although he had difficult weeks before, for which there were reasons.”

At the start of the year it looked as if the world No.7 was in trouble. At the ATP Cup he lost all three of his matches played. A performance Becker blames on his off-season training. During November and December Zverev played a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer across South America and China.

“He didn’t train enough during the winter break and came to Brisbane unprepared.” He said.
“We exchanged some serious words off the court and he took them to heart.’
“Of course I’m happy he had such success. This is also a confirmation for him that he belongs at the top of the world (in tennis).”
“But the competitors never sleep, that’s a never ending story. He has to confirm this again and again.”

So far in his career, Zverev has won 11 ATP titles and has been ranked as high as third in the world. His biggest triumph occurred towards the end of 2018 when he won the ATP Finals in London.

Reflecting on his Melbourne run last month, Zverev believes he managed to achieve the milestone thanks to a new approach he took to the event. Instead of looking at the whole tournament, he narrowed his focus to match-by-match.

“I went here in a different way. I went match by match. Didn’t look very far. I just knew I had opponents in front of me. I had to play well to beat them. That was it.” He said last month. “Whenever I won, I’d sit down in the locker room and somebody told me who I’m playing next.’
“I went step by step, match by match. Usually I [haven’t done] that in Grand Slams.”

Zverev will return to action next week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. A tournament where he finished runner-up 12 months ago. Becker believes his compatriot could do some damage on the hard courts over the coming weeks with two prestigious North American events taking place next month in Indian Wells and Miami.

“The next tournaments are on hard courts in America. He will play there as well. There he can take a lot of points.” Becker concluded.

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Sofia Kenin Out To Prove Australian Open Triumph Wasn’t A One-Off

The world No.7 is out to make a statement in Dubai this week.

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Life has certainly changed for American rising star Sofia Kenin since the start of this year.

 

In the first week of January the Russian-born player was ranked 14th in the world and had only reached the fourth round of a grand slam tournament on one occasion. Then at the Australian Open she stunned the field by winning the title after defeating the more experienced Garbine Muguruza in the final. Not only did the milestone gift Kenin her maiden major title, it propelled her inside the world’s top 10. Becoming the youngest player from her country to do so since her idol Serena Williams back in 1999.

Now ranked seventh in the world, Kenin is looking to continue her momentum at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships. Where she will be seeded fifth in the draw. It will be her first WTA event since Melbourne. Although she did feature in America’s Fed Cup play-off tie with Latvia earlier this month where she won two out of three matches played.

“I think it was better I played Fed Cup instead of taking a few days off,” Kenin told reporters in Dubai on Sunday. “I feel like I have more rhythm and I kept the momentum going. Hopefully, it’s going to help me here.”

The surge in expectation and interest in Kenin places her in uncharted territory. Young players in the past have struggled to live up to their grand slam achievements due to various reasons. Naomi Osaka has spoken openly about her struggles of coping in the media limelight. Meanwhile Jelena Ostapenko, who is now 22, has struggled to maintain her consistency on the tour since lifting the 2017 French Open crown.

“It’s a different pressure: you have more expectations from other people from the outside,” Kenin explained. “For me, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well, so it’s nothing really different.
“The other expectations are a little bit different. I’ve got to somehow figure out how to manage it. We’ll see.”

At present the 21-year-old appears to be unfazed by the surge of interest in her as she vows to work even harder on the court. Kenin has in recent years been one of the tour’s most promising young players. A former world No.2 junior player, she won her first three WTA trophies last year. During 2019 she scored five wins over top 10 players such as Williams, Osaka and Ash Barty.

“It’s just more stuff to do. Everything is about the same. I’m still practicing, still working hard. Just going to keep grinding it and hopefully have more of those good results,” she said.
“It’s different, obviously. It’s a different pressure. You have more expectations from other people from the outside. For myself, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well. So it’s nothing really different.”

In Dubai Kenin will start her campaign against Elena Rybakina later this week.

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ATP

New York Open Sunday Recap: Kyle Edmund Wins His Second Career ATP Title

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Kyle Edmund raising the trophy at the New York Open (newyorkopen.com)

And in an exclusive interview with UbiTennis, runner-up Andreas Seppi of Italy reveals he is pulling out of Delray Beach next week due to an injury suffered in the final.

 

In Sunday’s championship match, neither player faced a break point until 6-5 in the first set.  In that twelfth game, Seppi struggled to make first serves, with Edmund hitting winners off both sides to break and secure the first set 7-5.

Kyle would break again to open the second, as Seppi played another loose game with neutral ball errors and a double fault. Up a set and a break, Edmund began to swing freely. Despite that, Seppi was able to survive a barrage of Edmund groundstroke winners to save multiple break points at 0-3. Edmund would then hold at love to make it 4-1, when Seppi left the court for a medical timeout. When Andreas returned, Edmund broke again by outlasting Seppi in the longest rally of the match. Kyle then closed out the match 7-5, 6-1 to win the second ATP title of his career.

When I spoke with Andreas after the match, he told me he felt something in his left hamstring as he was running for a drop shot in the fifth game of the second set.  Seppi shared he will be skipping the Delray Beach event next week due to the injury, and will head home a week earlier than expected to rest and await the arrival of his first child.

“I just felt like I could really never put him under pressure today,” Seppi told me, when asked about how difficult it was to get into Edmund’s service games.

Edmund had a great serving day, striking 11 aces and facing no break points.  He won 94% of first serve points in the match (31/33), against a player in Seppi who had won 36% of his return games this week prior to today’s final.  I asked Kyle about how crucial his serving was in Sunday’s victory.

“When I got my first serve in I lost a couple points on it, so it really worked well for me. When you get that first strike in- I mean that big first serve in- when I can get on my forehand, that’s where I want to be, and I was winning a lot of points like that this week,” said Edmund.

Kyle also spoke about how important this title is to him.

“When you’re young and training, or playing tennis, these are the sort of things you imagine: wanting to win professional titles,” said Edmund.

In the doubles final, Dominic Inglot and Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi won their first title as a team, defeating Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson 7-6(5), 7-6(6). Inglot and Qureshi initially served for the championship at 5-4 in the second, yet failed to close out the match. In the eventual second set tiebreak, Johnson narrowly missed a forehand down the line at 6-6. On the next point, an unreturned Inglot serve ended the American team’s quest for a title on home soil. Inglot and Qureshi were also finalists last week in Montpellier.

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