Kevin Anderson Prevails In The Longest Wimbledon Semi-Final Of All Time - UBITENNIS
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Kevin Anderson Prevails In The Longest Wimbledon Semi-Final Of All Time

The South African eighth seed overcame John Isner 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24, in a record-breaking clash at The All England Club.

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Kevin Anderson (zimbio.com)

A match that was supposed to be the “poorer” semifinal, a shooting contest between two 2-meter-plus tall players, turned out to be one of the Wimbledon classics that will be remembered for the years to come. Six hours, 36 minutes of play, 99 games, 569 points, a fifth set that broke more records that can probably remembered, delivered Kevin Anderson to his second Major final in ten months. Backing up the most important win of his career (in the quarterfinals against Federer) in spectacular fashion.

 

Anderson’s’s surprising returns and his superior balance between the strength of his two baseline shots made the difference in the end, together with his fitness that was crucial in that never-ending fifth set.

It was certainly Isner who left starting blocks more swiftly, as he came out all guns blazing, hitting forehand winners at 100 mph and keeping the average speed of his second serve close to 120 mph. The first break points for him arrived quickly in the third game, which lasted 22 points and over 12 minutes, but two forehand unforced errors for the baseline and a not-impossible backhand volley that landed just wide denied him the early advantage in the first set. While six points gone against the serve in the following seven games seemed to be the prologue to an inevitable tie-break, Isner had to face his first break point of the match (and only the eighth in the tournament) after Anderson managed to find two very deep returns on his second serves, but he canceled it with a 129 mph second serve.

The tie-break eventually arrived: Isner took an early 3-1 lead with an inside-out forehand winner, but Anderson promptly equalized the minibreak with a cross court forehand passing shot. On the final straight, Anderson was able to capitalize on Isner’s weakness when he is attacked on his left-hand side, and the set ended with two baseline unforced error by the American.

The 63-minute first set showed that Isner has a better serve and a more powerful forehand that can rival with the best in the game; on the other side Anderson can move better and is more balanced on the two sides during rallies. When Isner is attacked on his backhand and has to play a running passing shot more often than not he resorts to a defensive lob with a one-hand.

In the second set Anderson gave the impression he could edge away: he was the only one to get to “40” on his opponent’s serve (twice) and he also had a break point at 4-4 (erased by Isner with a forehand volley), but more importantly he was returning a lot more serves than his opponent. However, in the second “inevitable” tie-break of the match John Isner produced his best two returns in the set to sprint to a 5-0 lead that allowed him to equalize at one set all.

We had to wait almost two hours and a half to see the first break of the match: it was Anderson who took the first stab to the “service rule” advancing to 5-3 in the third set ending the game with a backhand screamer down the line after an excellent return game. Nonetheless, it was all for nothing, as when he stepped on to serve for the set, the South African got tight, made two unforced errors and eventually got broken back by Isner who quickly rose to the occasion. The following tie-break, the third of the afternoon, was a 15-minute affair jam-packed of great tennis and chances for both players: thundering serves, of course, but also blistering returns, soft volleys and impossible passing shots. Two set-points for each player brought the score to 9-9, after Anderson crucially served his second double fault of the match at 8-7, squandering his real chance to take a 2 sets to 1 lead. Isner closed the set 11-9 when he returned deep on Anderson’s second serve to force a forehand error by Anderson.

A phenomenal sequence of returns by the South African gave him an early break for 3-2 in the fourth set, but like it had happened just a short while earlier, he was not able to consolidate the advantage, this time not through fault of his own, but mainly due to some very good passes by Isner. Nonetheless, Anderson kept increasing the pressure with his returns and realized an 11-2 streak that got him to 5-4 40-0 and eventually closed the set at his fourth set point to bring the match to a decider.

The two almighty serves took control of the fifth set from the get-go: for the first ten games the returner could barely win one point per game, the first break point arrived at 7-7 for Anderson, but Isner wiped it clean with a 127-mph ace. The American appeared by far the more tired of the two contenders, but he was serving first, so his break points would be match-points. Unfortunately for him break points never came, and as the set would transition from tennis into legend, Anderson would look more and more the only one on court with some energies left. Isner never got to “40” on Anderson’s serve in the final set, and only three times (out of 25) he managed to win two points. He was ‘clutch’ enough to pull off three aces on the four break points he had to save along the way, but he could never be a threat during his return games. The absurdity of a 2 hours, 55 minutes fifth set became even more absurd when, at 24-24, Anderson fell to the ground after his return, just to get himself back up, play a lefthanded forehand and then win that point, for the jubilation of the crowd that was witnessing history being made in the falling lights of the evening.

“I don’t know what to say right now – said Kevin Anderson to the BBC just seconds after stepping off the court, while Isner was still signing autographs – I mean, just playing like that in those sort of conditions is really tough on both of us. At the end you feel like this is a draw between the two of us, but somebody has to win. John is such a great guy. I really feel for him because if I’ve been on the opposite side, I don’t know I would take that, laying for so long and coming up short”.

Now he has to think about the final on Sunday, and how to recover after this kind of marathon: “It’s tough. I really don’t know. I will just try to do the same protocols – Anderson said – I hope this is a sign for Grand Slams to change this format for five sets. […] I really hope we can look at this and address this because at the end you don’t even feel that great out there”. In fact, at the moment the US Open is the only Major adopting the tie-break in all sets, while Wimbledon, the Australian Open and Roland Garros do maintain the “two-game advantage” format in the final set.

 

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Matteo Berrettini beats Mikhail Kukushkin in Budapest

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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini claimed his first win on clay this season with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round of the Hungarian Open.

 

The first set started with four breaks of serve in the first five games, as Berrettini built up a 4-1 lead. Kukushkin pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game for 2-4. Berrettini held his final two games at love to claim the first set 6-4.

Berrettini went up a double break in the first and fifth games to open up a 5-1 lead. The Italian player wasted his first match point. Kukushkin got one break back and saved another match point to hold his service game to win his third consecutive game for 4-5, but Berrettini served out the win at love in the 10th game.

Berrettini set up a second round against Aljaz Bedene, who came back from a double break down in the opening set to beat Bernard Tomic 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

Radu Albot from Moldova broke serve twice in each set to seal a 7-5 6-4 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky on his fourth match point after 1 hour and 41 minutes setting up a second round against Filip Krajnovic, who edged Andreas Seppi 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after wasting four match points in the second set.

Marco Cecchinato has pulled out of the Hungarian Open and will not defend the title he won last year.

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Fernando Verdasco wins all-Spanish clash against Feliciano Lopez in Barcelona first round

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Fernando Verdasco beat Feliciano Lopez 6-4 6-3 in 81 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

 

Former Barcelona champion Verdasco, who won this tournament in 2010, improved his win-loss record against his compatriot to 6-5 in their 11 head-to-head matches.

Verdasco claimed his only break point at love to close out the first set 6-4. Lopez got his first break at deuce in the opening game of the second set. Verdasco won four consecutive breaks from 2-3 down with two breaks to wrap up the second set 6-3. Verdasco will face Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Taylor Fritz won an all-American first round clash against giant Reilly Opelka 6-3 6-4 after just 55 minutes In the match between two US rising stars Fritz never faced a break point and converted one break point in each set from the four chances he created to cruise into the second round.

Fritz earned the only break in the fifth game of the first set at 15 to take a 3-2 lead after Opelka made a volley error in the fifth game. Fritz hit three service winners in the ninth game to seal the opening set 6-3.

Fritz went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set with a forehand winner. He hit a forehand winner to close out the match, as he was serving for the match at 5-4.

Diego Schwartzman came back from one set down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 6-4 6-2.

Nishioka converted his fourth break point in the first game, but Schwartzman broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. After a trade of breaks in the sixth and seventh games Nishioka saved saved three break points to hold his serve in the eighth game. The Japanese player converted his fifth break point after a double fault from Schwartzman in the ninth game. Nishioka served out the first set at love.

Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to drawing level to 4-4. Schwartzman broke serve in the 10th game to close out the second set 6-4. Schwartman reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with two breaks of serve to win the third set.

Schwartman was playing his third match in Barcelona because he had to play the qualifying round. He forgot to sign before the tournament deadline.

Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer battled past Marius Copil 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after two hours and 36 minutes to score his ninth match win of the season.

Mayer earned his first break to race out to a 3-0 lead and saved four break points at 3-1. He held his final two service games to close out the second set 6-3. Both players saved a total of four break points in the second set to hold their service games en route to the tie-break. Copil earned three mini-breaks to claim the tie-break 7-3 forcing the match to the third set. Mayer got the only break at love in the 12th game to seal the third set 7-5.

German Jan-Lennard Struff cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-3 6-1 after just 51 minutes. Struff saved all three break points and dropped 14 points in 8 service games. He broke once in the fourth game of the first set and three times in a row to seal the win.

Jaume Munar came back from one set down to beat Portuguese qualifier Pedro Souza 2-6 6-4 6-0 setting up a second round match against US Frances Tiafoe. Sousa got four of the six breaks to win the first set 6-4. The second set went on serve until the 10th game, when Munar got his first break on his third chance to close out the second set 6-4. The Spaniard broke three times to take a bagel win in the third set.

Mackenzie McDonald saw off Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-2 6-2 in just 57 minutes. Mackenzie converted four of hi sten break points and dropped nine points in eight service games. He won the final four games of the first set from 2-2 with two breaks to close out the first set 6-2. He got two more breaks in the third and eighth games to wrap up the match with with a forehand crosscourt winner.

Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics cruised past Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1. The Hungarian player saved two break points he faced and converted four of his nine break points.

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Rafael Nadal could meet Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter final and Dominic Thiem in the semifinal in Barcelona

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Rafael Nadal is targeting a record 12th title at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, which will be played on the clay court of the Real Club Tenis Barcelona.

 

Nadal has lifted the Barcelona title eleven times on the tennis court which bears his name. The Spanish legend is aiming at writing history in Barcelona. If he wins this tournament for the 12th time, he would equal Martina Navratilova, who won the Chicago tournament twelve times setting an absolute record of victories of a male or female player in the same tournament. Nadal will be looking to avenge his semifinal defeat against Fabio Fognini in Monte-Carlo.

Nadal won the past two editions winning the past two finals against Dominic Thiem in 2017 and Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2018. Nadal, who opens this year’s tournament against either Marius Copil or Leonardo Mayer, will face a very tough path to the final, as he could meet David Ferrer in the second round, Lucas Pouille in the third round, Tsitsipas in the quarter final and 2019 Indian Wells champion Thiem in the semifinal. The Austrian player has been the only player, who was able to beat Nadal twice on clay in Rome 2017 and Madrid 2018.

David Ferrer, who who will play in Barcelona for the last time in his career, will meet Misha Zverev in the opening round. The winner of this match could meet Lucas Pouille in the second round. Ferrer, who ends his professional career at the Madrid Mutua Open, has played 14 times in Barcelona in his career and reached the final four times.

Thiem has been drawn in the same quarter of draw with Karen Khachanov, Frances Tiafoe and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Tsitsipas, who reached the semifinal at the Australian Open and the final in Dubai, leads an impressive list of Next Gen players, which also features this year’s Miami Open semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime, Australian Open quarter finalist Frances Tiafoe and Houston finalist Casper Ruud.

Last year’s Nitto ATP Finals Alexander Zverev, the latest addition to the star-studded field, could face this year’s Monte-Carlo semifinalist Danil Medvedev in the quarter final.

Nishikori, who won the Barcelona twice in a row in 2014 and 2015, will start his campaign against either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka. The Japanese player could face a quarter final against Italian star Fabio Fognini, who became the first Italian player in history to win a Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo. Nishikori’s quarter also features Canadian Nex Gen stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime, who is seeded for the first time in an ATP event for the first time in his career.

One of the most interesting matches in the bottom half of the draw is the Spanish clash between 2010 Barcelona champion Fernando Verdasco and his Spanish fellow veteran Feliciano Lopez. They tied 5-5 in their past 11 head-to-head matches and will meet for the 11th time in their career. Lopez will play in Barcelona for the 19th time in his career.

 

 

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