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Halle Surprise

Kei Nishikori was stunned by Karen Khachanov in the second round of Halle.

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Kei Nishikori (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

One good thing that Kei Nishikori can say after today’s Round of 16 match at the Gerry Weber Open is that he managed to complete the match with no debilitating injuries. The bad thing is that the man from Japan who was seeded number seven here in Halle, lost to Russian player, Karen Khachanov, in an hour and eighteen minutes, 6-2, 6-2.

Nishikori has run into a spate of bad luck in recent years when he has been competing in the spectacular German “grass” tournament that is contested in the small town of Halle. The village is nestled in the countryside that is filled with fields of corn and peppered with small towns that sprout up here and there surrounding the larger town of Bielefeld. It is a university city located near Dortmund in one direction and Hannover in another. Last year, Nishikori met Khachanov in the second round as he did today, and he had to retire due to a left hip injury. His 2015 and ’16 tournaments were impacted by injuries as well. Evidently, he isn’t easily deterred, because he keeps coming back.

Watching the man, who several years ago became the highest ranked Asian player in history when he was ranked number 4 during 2015, was disheartening. He appeared focused on the match, but couldn’t quite keep up with Khachanov. In the first round, he had faced a German Qualifier, Matthias Bachinger. He should have sailed through that match, and even though he prevailed (6-3, 7-6) it shouldn’t have been that tough for him to defeat a player ranked 159.

Nishikori is coached by an Argentine, Dante Bottini who has been with him since 2010. Michael Chang, a former American player who had a miraculous win at Roland Garros when he was a mere 17 years old, works with Bottini and Nishikori, offering advice all year round, but is an “on the scene” coach twenty weeks each year. Chang joined Nishikori 2014. It might be time to take another look at their plans and move in another direction.

Khachanov is ranked thirty-six in the world now. He is a mere twenty-two years old, and he has been a tennis player most of his life, having been introduced to the game when he was three years old. He played steady tennis today. He managed seven aces to Nishikori’s none. He looked like a winner from first ball to last, and it appeared that Nishikori knew that. After the match, Nishikori said, I think I made so many mistakes and I think today, I couldn’t make good serves and also I should have tried to stay a little bit more on the baseline. I think that all the mistakes were from me.” His overview seemed honest and the statistics are all there to back that up.

Khachanov has said that his idols were fellow Russian Marat Safin and Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro. His demeanour on the court isn’t remotely Safin-like. (Long time fans may remember an incident at Roland Garros where he dropped his shorts to the ground and displayed his tight-y whiteys to protest a call that he didn’t like. He was docked a point for the display that was more comical than indiscreet, and left the crowd giggling in response.) Khachanov, on the other hand, is a straight up player who will face Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut in the next round in Halle.

The Russian has shown that his bag isn’t just filled with racquets and balls. His play is solid and he has won two 250 ATP events, along with numerous Challenger and Futures contests. After watching him in Halle last year, it is clear that he is a player to keep an eye on. He’s a man with a name mostly associated with women, but he plays at a pace that should lead him to the top of the heap in Men’s Tennis.

 

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Roger Federer Eyeing Olympic Glory At The Age Of 39 In 2021

The Swiss tennis star isn’t ready to step away from the sport just yet.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has vowed to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.

 

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then he had twice undergone arthroscopic surgeries which is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems with the joints. Federer announced shortly after having the procedure done for a second time that he will not be returning to the Tour again this year.

Despite the setbacks, the 38-year-old has vowed to return to action at the start of 2021 with Olympic glory one of his main targets. He is already a two-time Olympic medallist after winning gold in the men’s doubles back in 2008 followed by silver in the singles draw at the 2012 London Games.

“My goal is to play Tokyo 2021. It’s a wonderful city. I met my wife in my first Olympics in 2000. It’s a special event for me,” Federer said on Monday during the launch of ‘The Roger’ shoe with Swiss brand ON.
“I had two surgeries and I can’t hit at the moment, but I’m very confident I will be totally ready for 2021.
“I do miss playing in front of the fans, no doubt. Now, I think if tennis comes back we know it won’t be in a normal way where we can have full crowds yet.”

Federer will be 39 when he returns to action, but is yet to speculate as to when he may close the curtain on his record-breaking career. He is currently the second oldest man in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 41.

Besides the Olympics, the Swiss Maestro is also setting his eye on Wimbledon where he has claimed the men’s title a record eight times. However, he hasn’t won a major title since the 2018 Australian Open. The Grass-court major has been cancelled this year for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week,” he said.
“Clearly, one of my big goals, and that’s why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I’m preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year.”

Even though he is not playing for the rest of the year, Federer incredibly still has a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals due to recent changes in the rankings calculations. Due to the pandemic, players are now allowed to use their best results at 18 tournaments based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Something that could enable him to remain inside the top eight until the end of 2020 depending on how his rivals fair.

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Next Gen Star Alexei Popyrin Fears He May Be Forced To Play US Open Despite Health Concerns

Like many other lower ranked players on the Tour, the 20-year-old finds himself in a tough situation.

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One of Australia’s rising stars has said he is worried that he may have to play at the US Open against his will or risk losing a chunk of ranking points.

 

Alexei Popryin has raised his concerns about travelling to the New York major in August amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in some areas of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were 52,228 New Cases of the virus on July 5th compared to 24 hours before. Furthermore, the governor of New York recently announced that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population.

Despite the concerns, the organisers of the US Open have insisted they will be able to hold the tournament in a safe manner and will be implementing various restrictions. Including holding the event without fans for the first time and conducting frequent testing of players. However world No.103 Popryin admits that he still has his concerns about attending.

“There are talks regarding the US Open but I really don’t want to go with the situation in America right now,” Popyrin said at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the weekend.
“But we have to see if we would be forced to go because of ranking points.
“If the ranking points won’t be frozen, then most of us would be forced to go play cause our ranking will drop and we wouldn’t have any say in it.
“But if the rankings are frozen, then I am staying here.
“I will stay in Europe where it’s safe with my family.”

Popryin has a considerable amount of points to defend in New York after reaching the third round there last year. Therefore, if he skips the event he faces dropping further down the rankings. Something which will then impact on his chances of entering the bigger tournaments later in the year. Usually the cut off for Grand Slam tournaments is around 105.

It is still to be announced as to what will happen with the ranking points system at the US Open and if there will be any adjustments made due to the pandemic. Although organisers will likely be against any idea to remove them from the event as it is a key factor to attract players to take part.

Another player to voice their concerns about the US Open is France’s Benoit Paire, who has said he would not attend the event if it was taking place today. Speaking to RMC Sport the world No.22 said he would rather not go to the event if he meant that he would be ‘taking a risk’ with his health.

“Going to the United States would be at risk of catching it. I am a great professional and I am one of those who would always like to play tennis, but your health is the most important thing,” he said.
“If going there is taking the risk of catching the disease and staying quarantined when I return, I prefer not to go, really.’
“It looks like if we play the US Open, we will have to sacrifice not to play the Mutua Madrid Open or the Masters 1000 in Rome.”

Meanwhile, world No.3 Dominic Thiem recently told Austrian media that he believes a final decision regarding the Grand Slam will be made within a week. Something that is yet to be confirmed by officials.

Should it go ahead, the US Open will start on August 31st.

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REPORT: Former Spanish Tennis Star In Talks To Coach Alexander Zverev

A former world No.3 could be returning to the Tour later this year in a new position.

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Tennis sensation Alexander Zverev could soon be mentored by somebody whose career he ended last year at the Madrid Open.

 

Spanish newspaper Marca have reported that the world No.7 is set to enter in a 15-day trial with former French Open finalist David Ferrer where the two will get to know each other better. Ferrer has reportedly travelled to Monte Carlo to start working alongside Germany’s top player. Should everything go well, the two could start a formal partnership in September ahead of the European clay-court swing of the Tour, which has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both men are already fairly familiar with each other after facing off nine times on the ATP Tour, including three times last year. Zverev was the last player Ferrer played against at the Madrid Open before officially retiring from the sport at the age of 37.

“He’s the most respectful guy for me on Tour, and one of the most loved people on the Tour as well,” Zverev told reporters in the Spanish capital following their match.

Whilst never winning a Grand Slam, Ferrer achieved numerous accolades throughout his career. Including spending 4914 consecutive days in the world’s top 50, winning 27 ATP titles and achieving a ranking high of No.3 back in 2013. Overall, he has played 1011 matches on the ATP Tour (including Grand Slams) which is more than John McEnroe.

Should Ferrer receive the green light, Zverev will be the first high-profile player he will be responsible for. The Spaniard had previously hinted at his desire to enter coaching with his long time objective being to captain the Spanish Davis Cup team. He is also currently serving as the tournament director of the Barcelona Open.

“I would be very proud to be able to be (Davis Cup captain),” Ferrer told Marca in April 2019. “I also understand that this is very far away and there are players who are ahead. First, I have to train as a professional in teaching (coaching).”

Neither Ferrer or Zverev has publicly commented on the report. At present Zverev is coached on the Tour by his father who guided him to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January.

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