World No. 8 Dominic Thiem eased into his maiden Roland Garros final after making short work of Novak Djokovic’s slayer Marco Cecchinato in their semifinal on Friday. Thiem was at his absolute best as he raced to his first ever Grand Slam final after completely dominating Cecchinato from start to finish, coasting to a comfortable 7-5, 7-6, 6-1 victory in two hours and 17 minutes. He will meet defending champion Rafael Nadal or 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro in Sunday’s showpiece final in Paris.
Thiem was off to a flyer as he forced a break-point at 30-40 in the opening game of the match. But the Argentine fired a wide serve and a forehand crosscourt winner to save it. Thiem then earned another opportunity with some penetrating hitting before forcing Cecchinato to spray a backhand long for the service break.
Thiem backed up the break with a swift hold to love. He served a massive ace down the T to lay down an early marker of his intent for an early 2-0 lead. A dominant Thiem was employing the one-two punch to great effect as he romped to a 4-2 lead. Big serves and even bigger forehands were simply too good for Cecchinato, who defeated former champ Djokovic in the previous round.
However, the 8th game turned out to be a major disappointment for Thiem as Cecchinato, who barely won a point on the seventh seed’s serve till that stage of the contest brought up three break points. Thiem saved all three, but another missed backhand from him eventually gifted the break back to Cecchinato for 4-4.
The pendulum swung once again in the 11th game as Thiem broke just when he needed to break. Thiem really cranked up the heat as both players traded blows off both wings. Thiem ultimately came out on top as he crunched a forehand winner down the line after dragging Cecchinato from side to side.
In the following game, Thiem served out the opening set to 15. He dominated early on but looked to have allowed Cecchinato back during the concluding stages. However, he responded and raised his level to claim the set in 46 minutes.
Thiem had multiple chances to break his rival early on in the second set. His first opportunity arrived in the first game, but he couldn’t capitalize as Cecchinato produced possibly his best drop shot of the encounter to save it. Thiem had two more chances in game No. 5, but his adversary once again managed to get away as he saved them both – the first with a delicate volley and the next with a serve out wide.
The quality of tennis was simply world class as neither player was giving an inch to the other. In the end, the set went to a tiebreak, which once again witnessed a see-saw battle between the pair. Grueling rallies, massive hitting and deceptive play became the norm as Thiem seized the early momentum to lead 5-2. Thiem then brought up three set points at 6-3, but failed to convert even one of them.
Thiem then found himself in a real spot of bother as Cecchinato had three opportunities to level the proceedings at a set apiece. But, like Thiem he too couldn’t convert those chances and it was Thiem, who finally got the job done on his fifth set point to claim an enthralling tiebreak 12-10.
After winning set No. 2 Thiem went into an overdrive as he found his groove and almost never missed. Within a blink of an eye, he found himself 5-1 up with a double break of serve. Thiem then made no mistake, picking up a free point on serve to bring up match point before sealing the deal at the first time of asking with a scorching forehand winner.
Nikoloz Basilashvili survives scare in Sardinia
The third day of the Italian 250 event saw a trio of seeded players secure their places in the quarter-finals.
A strong Mediterranean wind was not enough to blow away Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Sardegna Open as he came through a tense 3-setter against Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik.
The fourth seed’s typically aggressive style at times threatened to prove his undoing in Cagliari. A topsy-turvy encounter in blustery conditions was ultimately defined by the marathon tenth game in the deciding set, Kovalik missing five match points as his opponent’s serve just about held firm. Basilashvili then immediately broke himself, going on to complete a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory.
He will take on Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals. The fifth seed overpowered Britain’s Liam Broady 6-4 6-2, a much-improved performance from the German after his nervy first-round slugfest with Joao Sousa.
Qualifier Broady, whose strong start to the year has seen him reach a career-high ranking of 152, started well. He broke the fifth seed in the second game, but Struff was able to respond immediately before going on to take the first set 6-4. The Brit faded in the second set, Struff’s superior ranking showing as he overpowered his opponent with some brutal forehands and booming serves. If both men bring their best form, his match-up with Basilashvili on Friday should be an entertaining encounter.
Elsewhere, Aljaz Bedene defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 7-6(5). Fresh from an impressive win over Guido Pella in round one, qualifier Gerasimov would have had high hopes to progress further, facing an opponent ranked only 22 places higher. It looked good for the Belarussian as he edged a break ahead early on, but the ever-reliable Bedene reeled off three games in a row to take the first set. A similarly tight second set looked to be going Gerasimov’s way when he stormed to a 4-0 lead in the tie break, but Bedene once again took charge, winning 7 of the next 8 points to book a spot in the next round.
His opponent there will be second seed Taylor Fritz, who enjoyed a relatively easy ride in the final match of the day. He breezed through the opening set against Andrej Martin 6-2, looking strong in his first outing on clay in 2021. The players traded two breaks each in the second set before Fritz took the tie break 7-4. This week is the first tournament Fritz is playing as American No.1 after recently overtaking John Isner.
Roger Federer Set To Start Clay Campaign In Madrid
The world No.7 will be back on the Tour shortly as he seeks his first title since the 2019 Swiss Indoors.
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is set to return to competitive tennis later this month after being included in the entry list for a key Masters 1000 tournament.
The former world No.1 is currently down to play the Madrid Open which will start on April 30th and takes place over 10 days. Federer returned to the Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships last month in what was his first tournament in over a year due to a knee injury which required two operations. In Dubai he reached the quarter-finals before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili who went on to win the title.
Since then the Swiss maestro has returned to the practice courts to “work his way back out on tour,” according to his agent Tony Godsick. Federer has already confirmed that he will play on the clay this season but admits that it is because he has little choice. The 39-year-old has already stated that his goal is to be in top shape in time for the grass-court swing which starts after the French Open.
“What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts,” Federer told reporters on March 11th. “So I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches.
“The clay could be good or bad for me. I will only know in practice, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. I assume I will play some clay.”
It isn’t the first time Federer has started his return to the clay in Madrid. In 2019 he played his first match on the surface in almost three years at the tournament after skipping the clay-court season the two previous years.
Also on the Madrid entry list is Federer’s rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who both missed the Miami Open. Dominic Thiem is also set to play in the tournament after he recently announced a delay to his return to professional tennis because he isn’t ready to compete yet.
The Madrid Open has been largely dominated by the Big Four (including Andy Murray) for more than a decade. Since 2008 only one player outside of the quartet has won the title which was Alexander Zverev back in 2018. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rafael Nadal Will Be Ready For Start Of Clay Season, Says Doctor
A member of Nadal’s team has issued some encouraging news.
It appears that Rafael Nadal’s recent woes are behind him as he looks to get back on track at next week’s Monte Carlo Masters.
The 34-year-old hasn’t played a tournament since his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Throughout the first quarter of the season Nadal has been troubled by a back problem which he first picked up in Melbourne. The injury forced him to pull out of both the Rotterdam Open and Miami Masters. Overall, he has played just five matches so far in 2021.
Nadal will be looking to regain momentum on his beloved clay. A surface which he has won 60 ATP titles on, including a record 13 French Open trophies. According to his doctor, Ángel Ruiz-Cotorro, the world No.3 is ‘training well’ at present.
“He is training well, he is training hard. His goal is clay. First is Monte Carlo and his final goal is Roland Garros. It is clear,” Cotorro told RTVE.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion will be seeking his 12th title in Monte Carlo in what is a tournament record. He has won three out of the four past editions with the only exception being Fabio Fognini who won the title in 2019. Last year’s tournament was axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking further on in the calendar, Nadal is expected to play tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before the French Open which is set to start in May. Although it is possible that his commitments could change. A member of the French government has also admitted that it is possible that Roland Garros could be delayed for a second year in a row due to the pandemic but no such change has been formally announced.
So far in his career Nadal has won 86 ATP titles and earned more then $123 million in prize money. He is only the fourth player in the Open Era to have won 1000 or more matches on the men’s Tour.
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