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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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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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