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Federer Can Have Fun, Too

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Roger Federer (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

 

Today could have been better for Roger Federer in his early match at the Gerry Weber Open. He did eke out a win, but it was almost an “eek” moment for the Swiss gentleman who has wowed the crowds here in Halle for more than the past fifteen years. American, Denis Kudla, who had managed to make it through the qualifying and the talented draw of the GWO to compete in today’s Semi-finals without dropping a set was Federer’s opponent. The final score was exactly the same as Federer’s yesterday results – 7-6, 7-5.

Kudla was the first American to make it to the semi-final round since James Blake in 2008. Even though the ATP rankings have him standing in at 109, he played with a confidence that belied his lowly ranking. Earlier in 2018 he had come to Melbourne for the Australian Open and qualified then lost a tedious five-setter to Austrian sensation Dominic Thiem in the second round. Today, he was neck and neck with the Number One player in the rankings.

Even though Kudla lost the match, he will most definitely remember today’s encounter. The first set was a dead heat with the two players exchanging shots that often seemed to bounce away from the turf in unexpected angles that defied the rules of trigonometry, geometry and billiards. One such bounce was so frustrating to Federer that in uncharacteristic fashion, he slammed a ball through the open roof of the stadium. (That brought a warning for the usually well-controlled Swiss player, but in the long run, it didn’t matter a whit.)

After the match, when he was asked about the moment of quasi-anger, Federer laughed and said, “So this doesn’t happen very much on live TV, but I actually think it’s quite funny and quite comical and it makes me smile on the inside and it gives us something else to talk about as well rather than only talking about break points and stuff. No, but it’s a tough court. There are a lot of bad bounces here. So you cannot be frustrated but I think in the second set, I was able to shake that off and just tell myself, ‘just don’t get too mad’. You know it’s going to happen, it happened to him, too. The last game at 0-15, I hit a return to the baseline, he can’t move to it because the ball basically bounced, I don’t know, sideways and he’s then down 0-30 instead of maybe going 15 all.” He finished up with, “I had a great run, couldn’t be happier right now. So, everything’s good really.”  

And Federer was correct, in the end, everything was good. He will move on to the Final tomorrow. Of course, there was another semi-final match. Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain faced Croatian, Borna Coric. It was a short affair, with Bautista Agut in the lead after five games, 3-2. Suddenly everything changed for the Spaniard when he slipped and injured his hip. It was an awkward situation for all concerned as it was apparent from his impact with the ground that it wasn’t a stumble, but a match-ending fall. It was unfortunate for the crowd that had been anxiously awaiting another exciting match. Instead, the two men shook hands and Bautista Agut retired and Coric was the victor.

Federer and Coric have faced each other twice in the past, and the Swiss player has come out on top each time. Sunday’s match could be competitive, but it is unlikely that the Croat will give the much more experienced Federer anything to fret about in his mental preparation for tomorrows contest. Before the stumble that left Coric the winner, Federer had already said that he had very little planned for the remainder of his Saturday except a well-deserved rest.

After his win in Stuttgart last weekend, Federer has been ready to add yet another notch in his win column, with his tenth victory in Halle. As with his other wins here, he has his usual plans to make a statement at Wimbledon. Why not? He has followed the Gerry Weber Open with wins in London in 2003, ’04, ’05, ’06 and 2017. He has chalked up eight wins at The Championships to his nine wins in the GWO.

It’s nice to have lofty goals, but as Federer has repeatedly said, “I only look at the match I’m playing and not an amorphous future match.” That’s easy for him to say, but difficult to imagine when watching the man I believe is the greatest tennis player ever to grace the courts anywhere or any time.

Grace is the name of his game. Tomorrow his “grace” will be put to a test, but as always, he will rise to the occasion and the throngs will flock to the stadium hidden in the countryside in Westfalen to pay homage to the man who will provide more than entertaining tennis. It will be a memorable occasion for all concerned, Federer and Coric too.

 

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‘I Love Tennis Because Of Him’ – Argentine Football Sensation Praises Roger Federer

The forward for Juventus F.C. Speaks out about the 20-time Grand Slam champion as well as other topics concerning the world of tennis.

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Roger Federer is used to various public figures praising him for his record-breaking career with his latest compliment coming from a star of Argentinian football.

 

Paulo Dybala, who has played for Serie A club Juventus since 2015, says he always tries to watch tennis because of him. The 26-year-old spoke out about the Swiss Maestro during a video Q and A session with the Tennis Channel for whom he is currently an ‘athlete analyst’ for. When asked ‘who was the player that made you fall in love with the game?’ he replied with Federer.

“Well at home, we used to watch a lot of sports, the TV was always on, and the sport we watched the most was football, followed by tennis,” Dybala said. “I always had a lot of admiration and respect. I liked Roger Federer’s style… I believe that I and many people have him as a tennis reference. We try to watch his matches, he has a style and elegance that makes everyone want to be like him. I always tried to watch him play so I love tennis because of him.”

Although Federer isn’t the only tennis player to have drawn praise from Dybala, who was part of his country’s national football team for the 2018 World Cup. He also speaks about his ‘great relationship’ with Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman recently broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career after reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.

“I have a great relationship with Diego, I have known him for years,” he said. “We always talk and I am very happy with what he is achieving.’
“I text him after some of his matches to congratulate him for what he has done.”

It was at the French Open this year where Rafael Nadal won the tournament for a historic 13th time in his career after defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Dybala says that there are ‘no words’ to describe the latest achievement by the world No.2.

“Rafael Nadal won Roland Garros in a match in which he gave no chance to Novak Djokovic,” Dybala reflected. “I think it was more than well-deserved to win his 13th Roland Garros in his career. Something amazing. He matched Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slams. There are no words for this player, no words.”

Dybala is currently dating Oriana Sabatini who is the niece of 1990 US Open champion Gabriela Sabatini.

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Dan Evans On The Look Out For New Coach

The 30-year-old has come to a surprise decision to end his current coaching agreement despite achieving a career ranking high earlier this year.

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British No.1 Dan Evans is making a big change to his team after confirming that he will part ways with coach Mark Hilton at the end of the season.

 

The world No.35 reunited with Hilton just last year after also previously working with him prior to his drugs ban in 2017. Under his guidance Evans has achieved several wins over top 10 players, reached his first ever semi-final of an ATP 500 event in Dubai and peaked at a ranking best of 28th in March.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his work and efforts over the past 12 months and we are both excited for what is next for each of our respective careers,” Evans said.

Evans’ announcement came on the same day he ended his five-match losing streak on the Tour. In the first round of the European Open on Tuesday he defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso in three sets. Making it his first win since the US Open when he defeated Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild.

Hilton will now return to working for the British LTA. A former player himself he reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Wimbledon boys doubles championships and peaked at a ranking high of 202 on the ATP Tour in singles. His best performance at a Grand Slam occurred at Wimbledon when as a wild card he stunned Spain’s Albert Costa in the first round of the 2004 tournament. Besides Evans, he has also previously worked with the likes of Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund.

“After discussing our plans for 2021, Dan and I have made the mutual decision to part ways at the end of November,” Hilton said in a statement.
“Both of us are very proud of our collaboration this year, helping Dan achieve a career-high ranking of number 28, seven wins over top-20 players and reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final.
“I’m looking forward to taking the experience I have gained over the last three years at the highest levels of the ATP Tour and re-investing that back into the LTA’s Performance Team for the benefit of our British players and coaches.”

It is unclear as to who may step in as Evans’ next coach. The Brit will return to action on Wednesday when he plays Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Evans’ win-loss for 2020 currently stands at 14-11 on the ATP Tour.

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Borna Coric Admits He Was Difficult To Work With As He Targets Top 10 Milestone

The Croatian No.1 believes ‘controlled aggression’ is key to rising back up the rankings.

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Croatian tennis star Borna Coric says he has become more ‘easy-going’ in recent years after working under a variety of different coaches.

 

The 23-year-old has been guided on the Tour by no fewer than eight coaches since 2014 which includes the likes of Thomas Johansson (2015) and Riccardo Piatti (2017-2019). At present, he is now working with Martin Stepanek. A former Czech player who has worked with the likes of Thomas Berdych and Ivan Dodig.

“I am not going to deny it, I was difficult to work with before, high-maintenance if you like, and now I am more easy-going. But I really have never been the type of guy that fires a coach after two first-round losses,” Coric told tennismajors.com.
“Actually, looking back at all my coaches, only with one it was entirely up to me, where I felt we weren’t working well and I decided to end it. With everyone else there were different issues – personal problems on their side, or inability to reach an agreement in regard to finances, or that the coach wasn’t able to travel enough weeks with me, things like that.”

Coric’s various changes in his team can be partly attributed to his roller-coaster journey. Growing up he was portrayed as the next big thing in the sport following a series of high-profile wins during his teenage years. At the age of 17 he defeated Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors followed by Andy Murray in Dubai the year after.

Despite his early promise, Coric is yet to scale the top of men’s tennis with his best ranking being 12th which was first achieved back in 2018. He looked on course to rise further last season but another coaching split combined with back injury problems resulted in him falling down the rankings again.

Given that the average age of professional tennis players peaking is on the rise, there is still time for Coric to get the breakthrough many have predicted for him. He is once again showing signs of a resurgence during what has been a limited 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the US Open, which was his 22nd appearance in a main draw of a Grand Slam, he reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in his career. More recently at the St. Petersburg Open the Croat reached the final before losing to the in-form Andrey Rublev.

As to what the key has been to Coric’s recent resurgence, he explains that it is due to what he describes as ‘controlled aggression.’

“It depends on numerous factors (whether he’ll be aggressive). The surface, my gut feeling, am I confident or not, if I am moving well and feeling fresh, have I got the right feel for the ball, the opponent’s style of play… A lot comes into it, but generally speaking, I am a far better player when I am being aggressive, not just retrieving, even though I am perhaps making a bit more errors,” he explains.
“You could see that on display in New York and me being aggressive, along with further improvement of my serve, are two of the biggest emphasis of my work with Martin. I am not there yet, but if I am healthy and able to maintain the level I had at the US Open, then I can get close to Top 10. But it’s still a long way to go.”

Coric is currently ranked 24th in what is his best ranking so far this season and has achieved a win-loss of 14-10. Out of those 14 wins, two were over top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Coric’s 2020 season summary

  • ATP Cup – one win and two losses
  • Australian Open – lost in first round to Sam Querrey
  • Buenos Aires – granted a bye in the first round, lost in the second to Thiago Monterio
  • Rio de Janeiro – reached the semi-finals before losing to Christian Garin
  • Western and Souther Open – in first ATP tournament following a five-month break due to COVID-19, Coric reached the second round before going out to David Goffin
  • US Open: Achieved his best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals. He was knocked out of the tournament by Alexander Zverev
  • Rome – lost in round two to Stefano Travaglia
  • French Open – upset in the first round by Norbert Gombos
  • St. Petersburg – achieved best result of the season so far by reaching the final.

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