Whew… Federer in Three – 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 - UBITENNIS
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Whew… Federer in Three – 6-3, 3-6, 7-6

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Roger Federer (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

 

Nine time Gerry Weber Open winner Roger Federer saved his best tennis of the day for the Tie-Break in a three set thriller. The match should have been an easy win for him against Frenchman, Benoit Paire. The two had faced each other five times, with Federer the victor in each of the other matches, but none of them were contested on grass.

The World Number One player, who at 36, is the oldest man to ever lay claim that ranking in the Open Era, looked tentative in the second set. His steady play in the first set took a mere twenty-seven minutes. It looked as if he had another win to add to his long list of grass court wins. Today, he was on a seventeen-match grass-court win streak that dates back to his ninth title in Halle last year. (Paire had played thirty-six matches on the surface, with 18 wins and 18 losses.)

The Swiss Maestro chalked up a 6-3 first set that left him with a lead that could have propelled him to finish the match more quickly – but it didn’t. The first set was really a romp, leaving Paire frustrated and quite agitated, even though he seemed to be playing solid tennis. He gave his racquet a beating on the grass, and the Umpire gave him a warning that he would be docked a point if he kept up the racquet abuse. On his next toss of the racquet, he was careful to keep it off the grass, just skimming the surface that actually maintained its level condition.

In the after-match interview, I asked Federer if the histrionics of opponents affected the way he played the match after seeing an outburst from frustrated rivals. He said that basically he didn’t pay much attention to what the other players did on changeovers, unless they damaged the court surface. He heard the rumblings of the crowd when the racquet smashing was happening, but that rumbling was only temporary because Paire’s Babolat racquet managed to maintain its shape and there was no need for a pause in the play to replace the offensive piece of equipment.

The second set was virtually all Paire. He broke Federer’s service in the second and fourth games, and smoothly finished up with a mirror image of the first set at 6-3 in his favour. (Not bad for someone ranked 48 and more than seven years younger than the virtuoso player from Switzerland.) He had never been very successful against top players, having a 6 win and 30 loss record against top ten opponents. He was 0 and 3 against Number One and Number Two seeds. It looked as if he could pull out an unexpected win and the crowd was restless, but thrilled to be able to see a third set.

The third set was a teeter-totter kind of contest, with the lead trading sides often. When the score reached 6-6, it was time for a Tie-Break that became a give and take kind of affair as well. (There couldn’t be another Isner versus Mahut contest in the making, even ardent fans couldn’t turn the stadium into a virtual sleep over arena. There was another match scheduled for later today.)

The edge of your seat match seemed to have taken much longer than it actually did. The hour and fifty-eight minute contest was over at 7-6 and a relieved Roger Federer had recorded yet another victory in the stadium that must seem like home to the man from Basel, Switzerland who has been chalking up victory after victory on the grass courts here and in Wimbledon.

After today, he has a 170-24 grass court win count. He is creeping up on the record now held by Jimmy Connors – 174-34. Even a win at this year’s Gerry Weber Open will leave him a couple of wins short of that record, but Wimbledon is next on his dance card and if he continues to play as he has in the past, the record should be his after the third round.

It’s unlikely that he has spent much time contemplating this latest approachable accomplishment because he insists that he concentrates on the match at hand and not what could occur in the future. He will face Matthew Ebden of Australia tomorrow afternoon in the Quarterfinals and if all the shots go where he plans to place them, he will move on to the Semi-final match on Saturday and winning that will propel him into the final that will be on the docket for Sunday afternoon.

 

ATP

Loss Meaningless To Dominic Thiem In Hunt For ‘Most Difficult’ Title At ATP Finals

The world No.5 explains why the key to his latest match was keeping it short, but not necessarily winning.

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LONDON: Dominic Thiem isn’t going to be losing any sleep over his latest loss at the ATP Finals with the ultimate prize still in his sight.

 

Thiem, who qualified for the semi-finals of the tournament of Tuesday, was far from his best as he slumped to a straight-sets loss to Matteo Berrettini. Who has become the first Italian in history to win a match at the event. It is hard to read too much into Thiem’s latest performance with him openly admitting that his focus was on his upcoming semi-final clash. Highlighting one of the drawbacks of having a round-robin tournament with some matches providing irrelevant to the overall standings.

“Of course I was still trying to win that match, but also, at the same time, I knew in my head that I have to take care (of my body) for Saturday because obviously, it’s the way more important match,” Thiem explained during his press conference.
“I’m really trying to get the body going 100% for Saturday, and it wouldn’t be that smart if I would have another three-hour match today.”

The comments do not mean that Berrettini just had a walkover win and he was made to work for the victory. Which levels the head-to-head between the two players to 2-2. However, both would admit that with not much on the line there was a lack of intensity.

“I think that today was maybe even the weakest compared to those three (matches).” Thiem states.
“We had a great one in Shanghai. We had a great one in Vienna and also here. Of course, it affected a little bit that both of us, we couldn’t do anything about the standings in the group anymore.”

The 26-year-old has certainly illustrated his worthy candidacy to lift the title on Sunday in London following his previous triumphs. Earlier this week he scored back-to-back wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Should he end up playing Nadal over the weekend and win, he would become the first player to defeat all members of the Big Three in the same tournament since David Nalbandian at the 2007 Madrid Masters.

There is still a way to go for Thiem to clinch the biggest title of his career to date. The Austrian believes he if he does manage to win the tournament, any other title is not off-limits for him.

“I think that maybe this tournament is the most difficult to win because you have to beat five top 10 guys in a row. Okay, you can afford to lose one match maybe, but still, I’m 100% sure that if you win this title you can win, as well, any other title.” He explains.
“I haven’t done it yet, but I think that if you win this title, it gives you a lot of confidence for Australia (Open) because it’s the closest, but for the full next year as well.”

Few can dispute the fighting spirit of the Austrian on the court in London. However, after a long season, he admits that he isn’t fully healthy. A situation his rivals also find themselves in. Although some are struggling more than others at present.

“I’m not 100%, but it didn’t affect me in these three matches,” Thiem admits. “That’s why I also really need to be careful because I really hope I have two more matches so I can give all that I have and my own 100% in the remaining two matches.”

Thiem could play one of three players in the semi-finals depending on the outcome of Friday’s matches. Awaiting him will be either Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev or Daniil Medvedev. The only way he can play Nadal is if they both progress to the final.

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Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo secure their semifinal spot in the ATP Finals in London

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Former ATP Finals runners-up Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled past Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 10-7 after 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish the Group Jonas Bjorkman with a 2-1 round robin record.

 

Kubot and Melo came back from an early break down and fended off four set points before Ram and Salisbury converted their fifth chance to win the opening set 6-4.

Kubot and Melo fended off a break point in the seventh game with a great serve, before they converted their first break point in the 10th game.

Kubot and Melo won five consecutive points in the Match Tie-Break to open up a 6-2 lead. The Polish and Brazilian players converted their fourth match point to secure their spot in the semifinal.

 

 

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Matteo Berrettini Scores Historic Win Before Exit From ATP Finals

The 23-year-old ends his breakthrough season on the ATP Tour with another milestone in his career.

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LONDON: Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to win a match at the ATP Finals after defeating Dominic Thiem on Thursday afternoon.

 

The world No.8 managed to dismantle the game of his rival, who was far from his best at times, with the help of his blistering serve to seal the 7-6(3), 6-3, victory. Ending Thiem’s streak of four consecutive wins over top 10 players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer earlier this week. In total Berrettini hit 30 winners to 21 unforced errors and converted both of his break point opportunities.

“I’ve always had great fights against him. I was able to stay mentally focused, especially in the first set when I lost my serve because I didn’t play a great game.” Berrettini said afterward.
“I’m really happy with my performance because I am not feeling great physically.” He added.

The downside to the round-robin format of the event is that some matches end up being irrelevant with this being one of them. Regardless of the outcome, Thiem has already qualified for the semi-finals and Berrettini is on his way out. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Italian was playing for pride at The O2 Arena.

A close start to the match saw neither playing managing to gain any momentum during the first eight games. Then inconsistencies in Thiem’s game started to haunt him. Berrettini’s ability to hit the ball deep into the court forced his rival to make a series of errors as he broke for a 5-4 lead. However, it was his turn to stumble behind his serve as Thiem broke back to level with relative ease.

Despite neither player capitalizing on their advantages, the tiebreaker was a one-sided encounter. Three Thiem unforced errors, as well as a winning Berrettini slice, saw him go behind 0-4 in the blink of an eye. Creating enough of a margin for Berrettini to seal the first set with the help of a 134 mph ace.

Thiem clearly looked flat on the court compared to two days ago when he downed Djokovic, however, nothing should be taken away from Berrettini. Who kept focus and stuck to his game plan throughout the match. A backhand passing shot, followed by a crosscourt winner enabled him to break once again midway through the second set. Easing towards victory after just 76 minutes play, Berrettini closed the match out with a delicate drop shot.

“I’m really proud of myself, but also for my team, my family and my friends. It’s been an unbelievable season.” He reflected on his year.
“I didn’t expect at the beginning of the season to be here (in London). I hope to come back next year, but now I just want to say thanks to those guys (his team). Without them, it couldn’t be possible.”
“I’m happy to finish with a win.“

Despite the loss, Thiem will finish at the top of the Bjorg Born Group. He will play the runner-up of the other group in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Whilst Berrettini’s ATP season is over, he can’t rest yet. Next week he will be in Madrid playing for his country in the Davis Cup along with many other of his fellow players.

“There is one more event. I have to rest a little bit and then I think I deserve a holiday.” He declared.

Berrettini ends 2019 with 43 wins on the ATP Tour in what is a career best. He started the year ranked 54th in the world and didn’t make his top 10 debut until last month.

Italian men in the ATP Finals

-C. Barazzutti in 1978 – 0 wins and 3 loses
-A. Panatta in 1975 – 0 wins and 3 losses
-M. Barrettini in 2019 – 1 win and 2 losses

 

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