The ATP Q2 Report Card - UBITENNIS
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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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Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Iga Swiatek doing her best Hulk Hogan impression on Wednesday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Are we just one round away from World No.1 Iga Swiatek facing World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in a humungous women’s final?

 

On Thursday in Paris, Swiatek and Sabalenka are both favorites to win their semifinals.  But Beatriz Haddad Maia and Karolina Muchova both provide challenging styles of play, and their chances should not be overlooked.

Also, the mixed doubles championship match will be staged, featuring an inspiring redemption story, and the 2019 US Open women’s singles champion.


Karolina Muchova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Sabalenka is 34-5 this season, and is vying for her sixth final of the year, and her 13th consecutive win at a Major.  After losing her first three Slam semifinals, all by the score of 6-4 in the third, she broke through this past January in Melbourne with a straight-set victory over Magda Linette.  Aryna has claimed all 10 sets she’s played this fortnight.

Muchova is 22-7 on the year, and is into the second Major semifinal of her career.  She first achieved this feat two years ago at the Australian Open, when she lost a three-set semifinal to Jennifer Brady.  Karolina has dropped one set to this stage, and notably upset another Roland Garros semifinalist, Maria Sakkari, in the first round.

They’ve only played once before, four years ago on a hard court in Zhuhai, with Sabalenka prevailing in a tight two-setter.  Muchova’s variety is often quite effective in disrupting her opponents.  But based on the confidence Aryna has been playing with, her huge game makes her the favorite to reach a second consecutive Major final.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – Last on Court Philippe Chatrier

Swiatek is 33-6 in 2023, and is looking for her fifth final of the season.  She is 17-2 on clay this year, and 26-2 lifetime at Roland Garros.  And Iga has been completely dominant this fortnight, losing only 17 games across nine sets.  She holds a 3-1 record in Major semifinals.

This is entirely new territory for Haddad Maia.  Prior to this tournament, she was 0-7 in the second round of Slams.  But she’s now 22-11 this year, after winning four consecutive three-setters at this event, and upsetting Ons Jabeur on Wednesday.

Beatriz is actually 1-0 against Iga, having defeated her 7-5 in the third last summer in Toronto.  She utilizes her lefty-ness well, and was intelligently aggressive during pivotal times of her match against Jabeur.  But on this surface, and in a match of this magnitude, Swiatek is a considerable favorite to reach her third Roland Garros final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Miyu Kato and Tim Puetz vs. Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus – Kato was defaulted from the women’s doubles draw after hitting a ball girl with a ball, but has owned that error and earned a lot of goodwill in the process.  This is a first Major final in any discipline for Kati and Puetz, while Venus won the men’s doubles title at this event six years ago, and Andreescu’s resume is well-documented.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ons Jabeur Admits Rushing Back From Injury After Roland Garros Exit

Ons Jabeur has admitted she rushed back from injury just to play Roland Garros as she exited the tournament in the quarter-finals.

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Ons Jabeur (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur admitted to rushing back from injury during the clay court season after exiting Roland Garros.

 

The Tunisian is out of the second Grand Slam of the season after a three set defeat to Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Jabeur had control of the majority of the first two sets but a third set capitulation saw her clay court season end in disappointing fashion.

After the match Jabeur admitted it was disappointing to lose but is proud of her tournament in Paris, “We always want to do better, unless we win the title, you know,” Jabeur said in her post-match press conference.

“Yeah, I mean, I think it is a great tournament. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be in the quarterfinals. Especially this is kind of my first tournament after being injured.

“I think it was good. I was trying to push myself until the end, but I think pretty satisfied with the results. You always want to push for more, but I mean hopefully next time will be better, and no more quarterfinal here at the French Open.”

Despite the result Jabeur can be proud of her efforts as she looks to build on a positive week and a half in Paris ahead of the grass court season.

Jabeur also commented on her physical state after a gruelling tournament in Paris.

The Tunisian said nothing is hurting but admitted she wanted to rush back from her injury in order to be back for Roland Garros, “Yeah, thank God, there is nothing hurting. I didn’t have much time to prepare for especially clay season because it’s more physical than any other surface,” Jabeur admitted.

“I’m feeling okay. I think I rushed my way back on tour, but that’s because I wanted to be ready for the French Open. You know, like all the training and the physical training, maybe I didn’t have enough time to prepare for that, but I did my maximum. I did what I could do in a short time period.

“But, yeah, she probably played longer than me, but she’s a beast, and I wish her all the best. I mean, honestly, what she’s doing for — I feel like my story and her story are a little bit similar. I’m very happy for her and for Brazil, and hopefully she can do much more for her country.

“But, yeah, for me now I’m going to try to rest a little bit and be ready, but I’m good for now.”

Jabeur will look to be physically fit ready for the grass court season where she looks to defend her performance from last year where she reached the final.

The Tunisian outlined her grass court season towards the end of the press conference and admitted she’s hoping to play doubles with Venus Williams having played with Serena Williams last year, “Yeah, for now I think I’m going to have the same schedule. Berlin, Eastbourne,” Jabeur said.

“Maybe Venus wants to play doubles there. I’m not sure. She didn’t ask me yet. Then Wimbledon. Just trying to play as much matches as I can. To be honest with you, I want to enjoy playing on grass because I do enjoy a lot. I have my brother’s wedding before, so I’m going to party for a bit and just be ready.

“I’m hoping to go and get the title really in Wimbledon. I’m dreaming about it. It’s something that I always wanted. Last year was unfortunate because I was very close. When I put something in my mind, I know I can do it, so it’s definitely here.”

Jabeur will look to achieve her dream when Wimbledon takes place on the 3rd of July.

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Iga Swiatek Downs Gauff To Set Haddad Maia Semi-Final At Roland Garros

Iga Swiatek reaches her third Roland Garros semi-final with a straight sets win over Coco Gauff.

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Iga Swiatek (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

World number one Iga Swiatek is into the semi-finals at Roland Garros for a third time after defeating Coco Gauff 6-4 6-2.

 

The Pole extended her head-to-head over the American to 7-0 and 14-0 in sets as her title defence will continue into the final four.

It was a valiant effort by the American but ultimately fell short of reaching the semi-finals for a second consecutive year.

Next for Swiatek is Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, who defeated Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals.

It was a positive start from Gauff as she played aggressive, smart tennis from the beginning to test Swiatek from the baseline.

However the Pole edged to a couple of service holds and would break to love in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead as her returning quality showed.

Gauff provided an immediate response in the next game to break back as she tested Swiatek’s rally tolerance and tested the Pole’s defensive rustiness.

The American was holding onto her service games despite producing below 40% of her first serves.

Swiatek continued to find big points in pressure moments as Gauff was producing some big shots on pressure points.

In the end the Pole’s returning presence and quality showed as she broke for the set with Gauff producing a number of errors.

There was a slight moment of hope for the American at the start of the second set as she overcame the poor end to the first set with some effective point construction.

Last year’s finalist set up three break points but made some fairly erratic errors as any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out.

Swiatek remained aggressive, proactive and produced world-class depth to take advantage of Gauff’s error-prone game.

The Pole’s level of play intensified and improved as she sealed too late breaks of serve in impressive fashion as she claimed victory in 90 minutes.

Speaking after the match Swiatek said the match wasn’t easy but was happy to get through, “For sure, it wasn’t easy – the first set, especially, was really tight and Coco was really using the conditions here,” Swiatek was quoted by the BBC as saying.

“I’m pretty happy I was able to work on it and win this match because quarter-finals are sometimes the toughest matches. Even though Coco is young, she is experienced so I’m pretty happy to be in the semi-final.

“We play many tournaments in the year where we have to play day after day but I’m pretty fresh because, as you saw in previous matches. I didn’t really spend too much time on court so I’m actually happy today was a tighter match.

“I will be ready no matter what and not having a day off was something that I knew since the beginning of the tournament so I am ready for this situation.”

Another tough loss for Gauff to take as Swiatek seals her place in the semi-finals in Paris for a third time.

Next for Swiatek will be Beatriz Haddad Maia tomorrow.

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