From Rafael Nadal’s 11th Roland Garros title to Simona Halep’s first, here are ten storylines from the French Open that deserves more discussion.
1) “Undecima” for Rafael Nadal, unfathomable. 86-2 at Roland Garros, with a 22-0 record in semifinals and finals. His ability to win the pressure matches and pressure points on this surface is unprecedented in this sport, and some would suggest in any sport. As Dominic Thiem’s own coach, Gunter Bresnik, told Christopher Clarey of The New York Times even before Sunday’s final, “He is, for me, the best competitor I ever saw in any sport.” His last two matches were perfect examples. Nadal saved all six break points he faced against Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday, then broke to win the first set and ran away with the match. Similarly on Sunday, he broke Dominic Thiem at love to win the first set, and broke Thiem’s will in the process. Rafa’s enduring success in big moments on clay should be marveled at.
Halep’s triumph at last
2) Simona Halep didn’t achieve success as the majors as quickly as Nadal, but her story is more relatable and inspiring. She lost in the final at the French Open last year despite being up a set and break against an unproven player. How does she respond? She reaches the quarters at Wimbledon just one month later on her weakest surface. She loses that quarter-final in a tight three-setter, when a win would have made her the new number one in the world. How does she respond? She makes the semis and finals just one month later in Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. She loses an emotional first round against Maria Sharapova at the US Open. How does she respond? She earns the number one ranking just one month later with a run to the final in Beijing. She loses her third major final in Melbourne after saving match points in two earlier rounds. How does she respond? She wins the very next major, despite being down a set and a break in the final. Simona’s ability to continually pick herself back up so soon after each crushing loss should also be marveled at.
3) Some are hailing Novak Djokovic’s run to the quarters as another step forward in his comeback. But I disagree: if anything, this fortnight was a step backward for him. Losing a major quarterfinal to a man who had never before won a match at any Grand Slam event will stun for some time to come, and will rattle his confidence on such occasions going forward. Most disturbing for Djokovic during this tournament was his attitude. Novak’s frustration level during many of his matches was startling, especially considering it often came out at times where he was ahead. Rafael Nadal has talked about the need to enjoy the suffering when on court. Djokovic appears far removed from enjoying competition on the tennis court, and far removed from the player who two years ago held all four major titles.
4) Serena Williams not being seeded at Roland Garros was quite absurd. Does anyone believe she was not one of the 32 most likely players in the draw to win the tournament? I get that she came in with few matches and few wins, but she’s still a 23-time major champion. Even so, she advanced to the fourth round, with two victories over top 20 seeds. She may have gone much farther had she not gotten injured. And as many have pointed out, I’m sure the seeded players themselves would also agree Serena should be seeded, so they’re guaranteed to not face her before the third round. Just ask Ashleigh Barty. It’s time the majors exercise some discretion, and some common sense, when it comes to seedings. Serena will not be ranked high enough for an automatic seeding at Wimbledon. Your move, All-England Club.
The best-of-five debate
5) Lots of heated debate these past two weeks on twitter as to whether the men should continue to play best-of-five at the majors. I would suggest a compromise (a foreign concept nowadays, I know). Both the men and women play best-of-five at ALL tournaments (majors and non-majors), but sets are played to five with a tiebreak at 4-4 of every set (including the final set). Ad scoring remains, as no-ad eliminates too many pivotal and dynamic points from the match. This would address many issues without losing what makes the sport great. You would still get the drama of five-set tennis, but you speed up play and make each point within a set more meaningful. Match times would be close to the current best-of three-format, with approximately the same number of games required to play out a match (in both the minimum and maximum possibilities). It seems archaic that men and women have different scoring systems and play for different lengths – does any other sport do that? Women should be fully treated as equals beyond equal pay (which they deserve regardless of the scoring systems used), and be given the same amount of court and TV time.
The 25-second rule
6) I’m more curious than ever to see how the introduction of the service clock in the main draw of this year’s US Open will play out. Too many players have abused the rule regarding time allowed between points for too long. The men seem to be the worst offenders here. Nadal regularly goes beyond the 25 seconds allotted from the time the score is announced to the time the serve is struck. And the number of times Djokovic and Cilic bounce the ball before serving has become comical. While I’m all for speeding up the sport, I don’t see these players making any drastic changes to their pre-serve rituals, especially Nadal. Are officials ready to penalize them beyond warnings, and beyond the loss of a first serve, for such infractions? And will a visible clock on court just create more controversy? If umpires are liberal as to when they call the score, such as not immediately calling it after a prolonged point, that doesn’t remove discretion from this issue. And if fans are still making noise when the clock gets to zero, will the server be penalized? I still have more questions than answers, but let’s either consistently and transparently enforce the rule, or get rid of the rule altogether.
Where is hawk-eye?
7) In the year 2018, there’s still too many instances where umpires and players stare down at marks on the court and argue over whether a ball was in or out. If hawk-eye is not exact enough to be utilized on the clay, can’t the technology be further advanced with the proper investment? And even if hawkeye is not perfectly precise on clay, perhaps it should still be utilized. At least it would be a definitive ruling. And even if players argue the mark on the court doesn’t agree with hawkeye, it’s harder to fight with a computer than a human. It’s been reported that the use of hawkeye on clay is an agenda item at the upcoming ATP Player Council meeting prior to Wimbledon, so let’s see what comes out of that.
Umpire should have the ultimate say
8) Why are players allowed so much say as to when a match is stopped due to rain or darkness? This call should be made by the chair umpire and tournament officials, and decisively so. Rafael Nadal should not be able to pack his bag and effectively decide himself that it’s raining too hard to play. Caroline Wozniacki should not be able to stop play for several minutes while arguing it’s too dark to continue. Officials need to take the power back here. If a player doesn’t want to continue, start the service clock and penalize them if they’re not at the service line in time. Players won’t like it, but they’ll oblige accordingly.
The empty seats
9) Something should be done about the amount of empty seats on the lower levels of the show courts in Paris at the start of play. This happens not only on days with 11:00am starts, but even days with 2:00pm starts. I understand how important lunch time is to the French, but if they’re not going to arrive on time, move the VIP seats a bit higher so the empty seats will be less visible on TV. Or alternatively, start play at a later time on the show courts, and only schedule two or three matches per day. The players scheduled first on are robbed of a good atmosphere for their matches. Wimbledon doesn’t have this problem. The US Open is adjusting their show court starting times this year for this very reason. The French should follow their lead.
The troublesome tarp’s
10) Last year at Roland Garros, David Goffin slipped on the rolled-up tarp at the back of the court while chasing down a ball. The injury Goffin suffered to his ankle caused him to miss six weeks of his season, including Wimbledon. A year later, the tarps still sit at the back of the court. Why? This is an incident that could easily happen again, and could easily be prevented if the tarp is moved off the court and instead stored nearby. And for that matter, why do we still have the signs that stand at the feet of the line judges? How many times have we seen players trip on them during the clay court season? In Monte Carlo this year, Thanasi Kokkinakis was on crutches after tripping over one of these signs. The answer as to why they haven’t been removed is, of course, money: advertising space is sold on them. But why continue to unnecessarily put the players at risk of injury? Stick a few extra crocodiles on the walls behind the courts and prioritize the players’ health.
Dominic Stricker cruises past Luca Nardi at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah
Third seed Dominic Stricker cruised past Luca Nardi 4-1 4-1 4-2 in 54 minutes in the fastest match in the history of the Next Gen Finals at the Next Gen ATP Finals at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah bouncing back from his defeat in the first match against Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday.
Stricker converted four of his six break points and hit 13 winners, including 3 aces.
Stricker came back from 15-40 down in the first game after two double faults from Nardi and broke serve with a return winner on the deciding point to take a 1-0 lead. The world number 94 saved three break-back-back points in the second game from 15-40 down before breaking for the second time in the fifth game to win the first set 4-1.
Stricker broke serve at 30 in the second game of the second set and held serve at love in the third game to race out to a 3-0 lead. Stricker served it out on his second set point.
Stricker earned an early break in the first game of the third set on the deciding point and held his next service games. Nardi saved the first match point but he hit his backhand into the net on the second match point after the longest rally of the match.
“We had a long discussion yesterday evening about how to do it today. I think it was really good that we talked a lot after what maybe was not my best performance. Now to come out today like that, I think nobody expected that. I am just happy that I did it and now I am going to try my best to recover for the third group match”, said Stricker. Stricker is now 1-1 in Green Group. The Swiss player is aiming to reach his second consecutive semifinal at the Next Gen Finals. He is looking to crown a good year after reaching the fourth round at the US Open.
Jannik Sinner, Arnaldi End Italy’s 47-Year Wait For Davis Cup Title
An in-form Jannik Sinner has secured Italy’s first Davis Cup title in almost half a century after crushing Alex de Minaur in straight sets.
The world No.4 headed into the crucial match with his country boasting a 1-0 lead over Australia after Matteo Arnaldi won his clash against Alexi Popryin in three sets. Taking on a fiery de Minaur, a composed Sinner surged to a 6-3, 6-0, victory in Malaga to hand his country an unassailable lead and the title. The dominant performance saw Sinner produce a total of 25 winners with 18 of them coming from his forehand side. It is the sixth time he has beaten de Minaur on the Tour and he is yet to lose against him.
“It helps a lot to play for the whole team,” Sinner said of his latest win. “It has been an incredible thing for all of us and we are really happy.”
Sinner first broke three games into his encounter with de Minaur after the Australian hit a lob shot that landed out. In control of proceedings, he rallied his way to 5-3 before opening up a 40-0 lead against his opponent’s serve. With three set points at his disposal, Sinner converted his second with the help of another unforced error coming from across the court.
Closing in on the historic victory, the 22-year-old was in clinical form throughout the second frame as he raced to a 5-0 lead in under 30 minutes. Destroying whatever hopes Australia had of a shock comeback. Sinner closed out the match on his third attempt after a De Minaur backhand drifted wide, prompting an almighty smile on his face.
“Thanks to Australia. I know with the new format it is a little bit different to have to all come to one place. it means a lot.” Said Sinner.
In the first match of the day, Arnaldi ousted Popryin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, in a two-and-a-half-hour marathon. The world No.44, who made his Davis Cup debut in September, held his nerve throughout a tense deciding set where he saved all eight break points he faced. Overall, he hit a total of 40 winners past Popryin and was visibly emotional afterward.
“This match was very important and emotional for a few reasons,” Arnaldi told reporters.
“This year for me was the first time playing for my country. I played when I was junior, but Davis Cup is just different.’
“And three weeks ago, an important person passed away. I think he gave me the power to try to stay there (in the match). It wasn’t easy to play, but they gave me the power at the end to try to win.”
It is the second time in history Italy has won the Davis Cup and the first since 1976. The triumph caps off what has been a memorable week for the team who 24 hours earlier beat Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in the semi-finals with Sinner saving three match points against the world No.1 in the singles.
“I’m really thankful and proud to have these guys,” Italian captain Filippo Volandri commented.
“We have had to manage with a lot of emergencies during these past two years but we did it and we did it like a family.” He added.
Italy, who has become the 11th country in history to win Multiple Davis Cup titles, currently has six players in the ATP top 100 with four of those being in the top 50.
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
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