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The ATP Q2 Report Card

A review of how the biggest names on the men’s tour have faired on the tour within recent months.

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Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

Ubitennis examines the performances of the most notable players on the men’s tour during the second quarter of this season, as well as their prospects heading into the third.

 

Rafael Nadal

Q2 of 2018 was eerily similar to that of 2017 for Nadal. Rafa won his eleventh title at three different clay tournaments: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and of course Roland Garros. He went 27-1 on the clay, with his only loss coming at the hands of Dominic Thiem in Madrid. Just as in Q1, he traded the number one ranking with Roger Federer, but heads into Q2 with a slight 50 point edge. A strong Wimbledon would extend that lead, as Rafa is only defending fourth round points. However, Nadal hasn’t been farther than the fourth round there since 2011. That was also the last time Rafa appeared in the final at The Championships, and he is just 8-5 since. The two-time Wimbledon champion has been unsuccessful of late in making the quick transition from clay to grass. He’s spoken of how his knees have bothered him on the surface, and he was the only top player to not play a grass court warm-up event. Considering all this, it’s hard to expect much of Nadal at Wimbledon. Looking ahead to the summer hard courts, Rafa is the defending US Open champion, but he’s never won that event in consecutive years. Nadal’s Q3 results will be driven by how his body holds up. Let’s not forget he withdrew or retired from every event he entered in the six months prior to the clay court season.

Roger Federer

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After sitting out the clay season for the second year in a row, Federer returned on German grass to reclaim the number one ranking with a title in Stuttgart. Just one week later in Halle, his loss to Borna Coric in the final would see the ranking crown passed back to Nadal. Roger has looked awfully cranky on court of late, dating all the way back to March in Indian Wells. He’s also now won just one of his last four tournaments entered. Roger has less momentum heading into Wimbledon this year than last year, when Federer had won three of his previous four tournaments. While he’s still a favorite at the All England Club, he should not be considered a prohibitive favorite. Last year on the summer hard courts, Federer’s results were hampered by a back injury. He didn’t win in Montreal, Cincinnati, or New York. With Nadal defending his US Open title from last year, August and September could be a good opportunity for Federer to put some distance between himself and Nadal in the rankings.

Dominic Thiem

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It was another strong clay court season for Thiem, who took one more step toward winning his first major title by making the French Open final. While Thiem was schooled by Nadal in that final, there’s no shame in that: in recent years Nadal has schooled everyone on clay in the best-of-five format. Can Thiem turn around his troubling trend of struggling throughout the rest of the season when the clay tournaments conclude? He didn’t get off to a great start in Halle, losing in his second match to Yuichi Sugita. Thiem is yet to be passed the fourth round at any major not played in Paris, having stalled at that stage in the last five non-clay majors. Grass is Dominic’s weakest surface, so his best chance for success will likely be in New York. There’s no good reason for Thiem’s poor results outside of clay to continue, except for fatigue due to overplaying during the first two quarters of the year.

Alexander Zverev

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Following a lackluster start to the year, Zverev began to turn his season around in Miami with a run to the final. On the clay, he went on a 13-match winning streak. This included back-to-back titles in Munich and Madrid, and a loss in the final of Rome to Nadal. And it may have taken three consecutive five-set victories, in which he came back from two-sets-to-one down in all three, but Sascha finally reached his first quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Zverev then lost in his opening round of Halle to Borna Coric, though perhaps some rest to end Q2 is what’s best for Sascha heading into Wimbledon. Zverev is now a solid number three in the world, but still 3,000 points behind Nadal and Federer. That being said, it’s not unfathomable that Zverev could approach their point totals if those two GOAT contenders falter in Q3. Now that Sascha has broken through to his first major quarterfinal, I would not be surprised to see him progress further at a Q3 major. The key will be for Zverev to avoid prolonged five-set battles in early rounds.

Juan Martin Del Potro

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Del Potro ended Q1 by going 15-1 with two titles and a final. After taking the month of April off to rest, his French Open prospects looked dim as he went just 2-2 in Madrid and Rome. He injured his groin at the Rome Masters, and no one was sure if he’d even play in Paris. But Juan Martin played his way into form at Roland Garros, reaching the semifinals there for the first time in nine years. While Del Potro is not thought of as a grass court specialist, he can be a threat on the surface. At the 2012 London Olympics, played at the All-England Club, he was outlasted by Federer in a three-set semifinal that went on for almost four-and-a-half hours, but bounced back to win the bronze medal match against Novak Djokovic. And one year later at The Championships, he played the longest men’s semifinal in Wimbledon history: an almost five-hour loss to Djokovic. And considering the big man’s hard court prowess, and his past success on the summer hard courts, Q3 is full of opportunities if Del Potro can remain healthy.

Novak Djokovic

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The curious case of Novak Djokovic continued in Q2 of 2018. He ended Q1 by splitting with relatively new coaches in Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, and re-hired most of his former coaching and training team members. Djokovic was just 6-6 on the year heading into Rome, where he finally made a nice run to the semifinals and played well against Rafael Nadal. At Roland Garros, despite appearing extremely frustrated at many times, he played rather well until the quarterfinals, where he was shocked by the unseeded Marco Cecchinato in the match and upset of the tournament. Djokovic again looked strong at Queen’s Club, but again wilted under pressure and lost in the final to Marin Cilic despite having a championship point. While Novak’s form continues to improve, he has yet to regain his competitive composure at crucial moments. Can the three-time Wimbledon champion be a factor for a fourth title? I’m not convinced Djokovic is quite ready yet to win a major, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t excel on the North American hard courts.

Marin Cilic

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Cilic may be the player heading into Wimbledon with the most confidence. Coming off his second straight French Open quarterfinal on his weakest surface, he won his first title of the year on the grass of Queen’s Club. And the only player to defeat Cilic at Wimbledon in the past two years is Roger Federer. I’m sure Marin will be motivated to erase the memory of last year’s loss in the Wimbledon final to Federer, where he broke down sobbing mid-match out of frustration. Blisters on his feet prevented him from giving his best effort in one of the biggest matches of his career. The biggest issue Cilic continues to face though is tightening up during tense moments. This has been a recurring theme throughout the past year, most notably winning just one game in the fifth set of the Australian Open final. Perhaps saving championship point and going on to defeat Djokovic at Queen’s Club last week will help turn that trend around. Cilic should be a big threat at both Wimbledon and the US Open in Q3.

Borna Coric

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Here’s another Croat with a lot of momentum heading into Wimbledon. Following strong Q1 results, Coric went just 5-5 on the clay. But the 21-year-old bounced back on the grass, upsetting Sascha Zverev and Roger Federer to take the biggest title of his career in Halle. Coric has yet to go farther than the third round at a major, though I expect that will change pretty soon. With a new team surrounding him this season, he’s added muscle and power to his game. Borna now sits in ninth place in the year-to-date rankings. He now owns victories over not only Federer, but also Nadal and Andy Murray. While I don’t expect him to win a major just yet, he’s shown he’s fully capable of competing against, and defeating, the top names in the sport.

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Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel

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Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.

 

Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.

Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

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Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo

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The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.

 

The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.

“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.

The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.

 

“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.

World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.

“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.   

 

 

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