By Mark Winters
With all the quarterfinal singles slots filled by the end of the day, one thing is unmistakably clear – upsets have been the theme of the twenty-sixth version of the Gerry Weber Open, taking place in Halle Westfalen, Germany. Alexander Zverev of Germany, Dominic Thiem of Austria, Lucas Pouille of France, Kei Nishikori of Japan and Richard Gasquet of France, the No. 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8 seeds, are not included in the last eight count.
Those five formidable performers didn’t live up to their pre-tournament billing. Neither did “hometown” hero Philipp Kohlschreiber, the No. 6 seed. He was dispatched by Matthew Ebden of Australia, in an early afternoon encounter, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. While the decision over Kohlschreiber was a solid victory, it became even more noteworthy when it is noted that Ebden earned a place in the draw as a Special Exempt.
Many tennis fans, even those with encyclopedic knowledge of the game, are more than likely not familiar with the term. The concept is further complicated by a variety of circumstances that affect whether a player can qualify for a Special Exempt, such as when the qualifying draw for the next tournament he is planning to play is going to be made.
Rather than put readers to sleep with exacting details, generally ATP events have Special Exempt (at most, two) places in the draw that are open for a qualified performer. In the case of the 30-year-old Australian, his success in reaching the semifinals at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (before losing to Jeremy Chardy of France, 6-4, 7-5), made him eligible for a Special Exempt.
Ebden explained, “I have been eligible for a Special Exempt in the past, but it has never worked out. There have been a number of reasons why. In one case, the tournament was on a different surface than I had been playing on. In another, the tournament was on another continent, so it wasn’t practical to try to get there. Last summer, I was a finalist at Newport, and could have received a Special Exempt in Atlanta, but I had qualified for the tournament and I played seven matches, so I decided to use the week to rest. Halle is my first Special Exempt.”
Because of the complexity of the rules, there is more to Ebden’s Special Exempt status. “There were two Special Exempts open, one was at Halle and the other was at Queen’s,” Ebden said. “I was the highest ranked player and had the first choice. Ordinarily, I would go to Queen’s, but Jeremy (Chardy) is a good friend and he lives in London. That’s why I decided to come here and let him play at home.” (Chardy, by the way, is a Queen’s quarterfinalist.)
For an individual who turned pro in 2006, and Ebden is, to use a cliché, a journeyman, But, that doesn’t mean he is ordinary. In truth, he is an extraordinary combination. He is truly affable and a very thoughtful conversationalist. When he was eleven-years-old, his family emigrated from Durban, South Africa to Perth, Australia. As he matured he evidenced skill on the courts as well as in the classroom. He skipped a year of high school and when he departed, scored 98.5 on the exam that qualified him to study for a double – economics/law – degree at the University of Western Australia.
Tennis, though, was his calling, and he has pursued his passion diligently. During his career, he has claimed fourteen Challenger and International Tennis Federation titles and he also has a collection of victories over Top 10 players in ATP tournaments. He has represented Australia in Davis Cup play, and in 2013, he and countrywoman Jarmila Gajdošová received an Australian Open wild card and ended up winning the Mixed Doubles championship.
Following his win today, Ebden discussed his playing style saying, “It is natural for me to play an all-court game. I can change from hitting the ball heavy to taking speed off shots and making them slower. I am able to hit it flat or with spin. I can do a little bit of everything, and I have very good hands.”
The loss gave Kohlschreiber a 31-12 career Halle record. “I thought my opponent just played very well,” the 2011 champion said. “He barely made any mistakes and he read my serve well. He robbed me of my rhythm by changing tempo. He worked very well slicing and keeping the ball deep.”
Rafael Nadal’s terre battue record places him in an unrivaled, “stand alone”, category. Ebden, because he isn’t well known, has quietly become one of the game’s most successful grass court player. “In 2015, I won fifteen matches on grass,” he said. “Novak Djokovic was the Wimbledon champion and won seven matches at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, but he didn’t play Queen’s. Andy Murray won Queen’s then lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. He won a total of eleven matches at the two tournaments.” Prior to Halle, Ebden’s grass court record during his twelve seasons on the tour was 87-44.
Ebden has an affinity for grass court play. “When I was growing up in Australia, I practiced and played on it regularly,” he said. “Once Roland Garros is finished, I head to London to practice on to the grass court and play some of the tournaments that are available. For me, it’s like coming home. I am just so comfortable on grass.”
Admitting that he had only watched the Gerry Weber Open on television, he added, “We (his coach) looked at the acceptance list and decided after I had been successful at ‘s-Hertogenbosch that Halle was nearby, and we should have a new experience.”
Many tennis insiders are very direct when evaluating Ebden, the regular response is – Far too intelligent. When told about the “word on the street”, he smiled and said, “For many years, I thought too much. I tried to be too analytical. I’ve spent years developing my game and always believed I had many options. Now, I am simplifying things and I know that my best tennis is ahead.”
Having reached a career high No. 60 ranking this week, Matthew Ebden has defined what it means to be Special Exempt.
‘Why Don’t You Like Him?’ – Stefanos Tsitsipas Quizzed Over Rivalry With Fellow Player
It can be safe to say that these two players will not be teaming up to play in the doubles any time soon.
LONDON: ‘We would not go to dinner together’ was a phrase used by Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas when addressing his rivalry with Daniil Medvedev on Monday.
The 21-year-old scored his first win over the Russian on his sixth attempt. A historic occasion for Tsitsipas, who is the first Greek to qualify for the ATP Finals. However, the talk after wasn’t so much about the match. It was about his somewhat fiery relationship with Medvedev that is highlighted by one particular incident.
During the 2018 Miami Open, the umpire had to step in after the conclusion of their match. Both were frustrated with each other for taking long toilet breaks. Medvedev took his at the end of the second set and Tsitsipas took his midway through the decider. On top of that, there was also a dispute over a net point. At the end of their match, Medvedev called his rival ‘a small kid who doesn’t know how to fight.’
“I did get pissed and said what I said, which I do regret, but at the time I was very frustrated that things happened this way.” Tsitsipas recounted.
“I completely forgot about the past. I mean, our chemistry definitely isn’t the best that you can find on the tour. It just happens with people that it’s not that you can just like everyone.”
Since then there has been little improvement in relations. During the Shanghai Masters in October, Tsitsipas took a swipe at what he described as a ‘boring’ style of play from his opponent. Prompting another jibe from Medvedev.
Based on the comments, it appears that neither players are fond of each other. But can it be described as hatred between the two? If you ask Tsitsipas, his answer is a resounding no.
“It’s not that I hate him. I guess as he said, we will not go to dinner together, so…” The Greek explained.
“I respect him, for sure. That’s because he had a long way to come where he is right now. He’s a Grand Slam finalist, so that takes a lot of respect from me to him.”
Despite the diplomatic response, there is no doubt that the camp of the world No.6 is delighted with his latest victory in what had been a one-sided rivalry until now.
“It means more than extra. It’s a victory that I craved for a long time now, and it’s great that I came in at this moment.” Tsitsipas concludes.
“He’s a tough player. He’s a very difficult player to face. He’s not giving you an easy time when you’re out on the court. So it definitely means a lot.”
It is not impossible that the two could face each other again later this week if they both reach the final. Although that will be a tough task given both Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev are also in their group.
ATP Finals 2019 Day 2 Preview: Rafael Nadal Begins Hunt For Elusive Title
Rafael Nadal competes to win this event for the first time, as well as secure the year-end No.1 ranking.
It was just one week ago that Nadal regained the No.1 ranking from Novak Djokovic for the first time since 2018. But with only a 640-point lead over Novak in the year-end race, he’ll likely need at least a few wins this week to still be holding that crown seven days from now. Djokovic is certainly favored to reach the semifinals, and each round robin match win is worth 200 points, with a semifinal win worth 400 and a final win worth 500. Rafa is joined in the Andre Agassi Group by three players who are 23-years-old or younger. Two of those players are making their ATP Finals debuts, while the other is the defending champion.
Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6)
These are the two debuting players in the Andre Agassi Group, and they aren’t exactly best friends. Their first match was last year in Miami, when Medvedev had some heated comments for Tsitsipas after a testy match which consisted of a few extended toilet breaks and a let cord Tsitsipas winner for which Daniil said he received no apology. But Medvedev has completely owned this rivalry, with a 5-0 record. Although, all their matches have been tight, with Tsitsipas claiming a set in four of the five. Since the end of the grass court season, Medvedev has been the best player in the world. From July to October, he reached six straight hard court tournament finals, with three titles. During that 11-week span, he went 29-3. He leads the tour this season with 59 match wins. But all that tennis has taken a toll on Daniil, as he withdrew from his home tournament in Moscow due to exhaustion, and lost his opening round in Paris to Jeremy Chardy. Tsitsipas had a great first half of the year, highlighted by reaching his first Major semifinal in Australia and winning two titles. But the second half wasn’t as impressive, with losses in the first round of both Wimbledon and the US Open. However, he’s improved his form since the Laver Cup, having not lost to a player outside the top 5 since that event. Stefanos will be hoping to catch Medvedev at less than his best today considering their head-to-head, though I expect Medvedev to be refreshed after playing only one match in the past month. And he’ll surely be motivated in his ATP Finals debut against a player he’s clashed with in the past. Daniil should be favored to be victorious on Monday afternoon.
|2019|| ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai
|Outdoor Hard||SF||Daniil Medvedev||
|2019|| ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo
|Outdoor Clay||R16||Daniil Medvedev||
62 16 64
|Indoor Hard||QF||Daniil Medvedev||
64 36 63
|2018|| US Open
|Outdoor Hard||R64||Daniil Medvedev||
64 63 46 63
|2018|| ATP Masters 1000 Miami
|Outdoor Hard||R128||Daniil Medvedev||
26 64 62
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (7)
After pulling out of Paris just over a week ago with an abdominal injury he suffered during practice, Nadal’s participation at this tournament was in question, which has been a theme over the years. This is Rafa’s 15th consecutive year qualifying for this tournament, yet this is only his ninth time playing. The good news is if he’s healthy enough to play all three of his round robin matches this week, he won’t need to face Djokovic or Federer, as they were drawn in the other round robin group. And just like Monday’s other singles matchup, this is a rivalry where one player owns a 5-0 record. Fortunately for Nadal, that head-to-head against Zverev is in his favor. Their first match was at Indian Wells in 2016, when Zverev had an easy volley on match point, but hit it into the net. He wouldn’t win another game in that match, and still hasn’t gotten a win over Nadal. And though he was the champion here a year ago, 2019 has been a challenging year for Sascha. He’s experienced turmoil off the court within his team, and has failed to take his career to the next level. If Rafa is close to 100%, that should be enough to overcome a defending champion who is lacking confidence.
|2018|| ATP Masters 1000 Rome
|Outdoor Clay||F||Rafael Nadal||
61 16 63
|2018|| ESP vs. GER WG QF
|Outdoor Clay||RR||Rafael Nadal||
61 64 64
|2017|| ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo
|Outdoor Clay||R16||Rafael Nadal||
|2017|| Australian Open
|Outdoor Hard||R32||Rafael Nadal||
46 63 675 63 62
|2016|| ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells
|Outdoor Hard||R16||Rafael Nadal||
678 60 75
Lukas Kubot and Marcelo Melo come back from one set down to beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo came back from one set down to beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 4-6 6-4 10-5 in one hour and 40 minutes at the Nitto ATP Finals at the O2 Finals in London. Kubot and Melo moved to 1-0 in the Group Jonas Bjorkman.
The Polish and Brazilian team join Michael Venus and and Raven Klaasen at the top of the Group Bjorkman with a 1-0 lead.
Dodig and Polasek rallied from 3-4 down by winning three consecutive games to claim the opening set 6-4. Kubot and Melo saved a break point in the fourth game before getting the first break three games later to take a 4-3 lead.
Dodig and Polasek did not convert a break point before dropping serve, but they earned two consecutive breaks to claim the first set 6-4. Dodig and Polasek were broken in the first game of the second set and did not convert any of their two break points in the next game.
Kubot and Melo wasted four consecutive set points in the ninth game, but they served out the second set at love with a backhand passing shot down the line to force the match to the third set.
Kubot and Melo got two mini-breaks in the Match Tie-Break 10-5. Kubot hit an ace to seal the tie-break 10-5.
“It feels great to get the win. I think we played a very good match today. I think the level was high. We are very happy to play such a great set and a Match Tie-Break”,said Melo.
In the first match of the afternoon match Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus saved four break points in his 6-3 6-4 win over Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3 6-4 in 64 minutes. Klaasen and Venus saved two break points in the opening game before breaking serve in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. Klaasen claimed the break with a backhand volley after a forehand return from Venus. Klaasen and Venus sealed the opening set after 30 minutes.
Both players held serve in the first six games before Klaasen and Venus claimed the decisive break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead after a double fault from Salisbury.
“To be the first match of the Finals is a bit nerve racking and to get off to a good start certainly puts our minds at ease for the rest of the tournament”, said Klaasen.
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