The “Who Will Face Roger” Non-Semifinal In Halle - UBITENNIS
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The “Who Will Face Roger” Non-Semifinal In Halle

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Borna Coric (zimbio.com)

By Mark Winters

Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain confronted Borna Coric of Croatia in the second semi-final on Saturday at the Gerry Weber Open. Bautista Agut, the No. 4 seed, had a 21-10 career record on grass, along with one title on the surface at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2014. The unseeded Coric was 2-7 playing on the lawns. The two had faced off six times (three contests on clay and the same number on hard court) and Bautista Agut had a 4-2 lead in the series.

Both were looking for a place in the record book. A player from Spain or Croatia had never reached the final at the ATP 500 event taking place at Halle Westfalen, Germany. Carlos Moya, the only other Spaniard to make a semi-final showing, lost in 1999 to Nicklas Kulti of Sweden, 6-3, 6-4 (Nicolas Kiefer of Germany defeated Kulti, 6-3, 6-4 in the final). In 2015, Ivo Karlovic became the only Croatian to earn a spot in the semi-finals and he was “Tie-Broken” by Roger Federer, 7-6, 7-6. Federer went on to down Andreas Seppi of Italy, 7-6, 6-4 for the singles title.

Thanks to the time dictates of television football (aka soccer) coverage, the first semi-final between Federer and Denis Kudla of the US began at 11:30 a.m. earlier than the usual start-time in Halle. (Last year, the first semi-final started at 1:15 p.m.) The second 2018 semi-final kicked-off at 2:09 p.m. (in 2017, play began at 4:00 p.m.) and ended dramatically in a meager twenty-three minutes.

The score was 2-2, (both players having held serve) and Bautista Agut was serving in the fifth game of the first set. In a baseline exchange, he ran to his left and hit a backhand then, while trying to return to the center of the court, he slipped behind the baseline while attempting to move back to his right. He went down, and initially grabbed his right hip then rolled on his side to grasp his left hip. He took a medical timeout and was treated off-court. He returned to finish serving and held then walked to the net and told Coric he couldn’t continue. The official (but, in reality “unofficial” because in truth no information was provided) reason for his retirement was an injury to his left hip.

Only twenty-six points had been played and Bautista Agut was ahead by four (15-11). He had two opportunities to break serve, but Coric saved both, and he also served two more aces than his opponent – 4-2 was the statistical tally.

Following the almost “non-victory” victory, Coric admitted, “Today, I was a little bit lucky. I’m sorry for Roberto, but I can rest a little bit now, which is good.”

The 21- year-old who was born in Zagreb, Croatia, but lives in Dubai, United Arab Republic has appeared in three tour finals. He was the Marrakech champion (on terre battue) in 2017 defeating Phillip Kohlschreiber of Germany 5-7, 7-6, 7-5. A year earlier, he was a 6-3, 7-5 finalist at Chennai (on hard court) to Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland. Federico Delbonis of Argentina defeated him 6-2, 6-4 at Marrakech in 2016.

Tomorrow, the 21-year-old takes on the Gerry Weber Open “legend” Roger Federer. The 36-year-old has defeated Coric in both of their meetings. The first was in Dubai, in 2015, and the score was 6-2, 6-1. This spring their BNP Paribas Master 1000 confrontation, at Indian Wells was more of a test for Federer. The defending champion, who will be looking for his record setting tenth Gerry Weber Open title on Sunday, scored a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the Southern California desert.

“I think our last match (Indian Wells), I played almost perfect,” Coric said. “I think it was a great match. I was really playing well, and at the end, I was maybe a little bit unlucky, but he showed why he is No. 1 in the World. I don’t think I need to change anything. I must play on that level which is not going to be easy for sure. I think that was my best match of the season, and I’m going to try to play on the same level again.”

And, of course, Roger Federer will be…Roger Federer.

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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