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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Gael Monfils Targets Spot At Home Olympics Before Retirement 

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Image via ATP Twitter

Gael Monfils may be starting his 2023 season later than usual but he isn’t contemplating stepping away from the sport anytime soon. 

 

The former top 10 star has been absent from the Tour since August due to a foot problem during what has been an injury-stricken year for the Frenchman. Monfils also missed the French Open and Wimbledon due to a heel injury which required surgery. Overall, he has won 14 out of 21 matches played on the Tour in 2022. 

Providing an update on his current fitness during an interview with Canal+, Monfils confirmed that he will not be playing at the Australian Open in January which will be the fourth major tournament in a row he has missed. Whilst his recovery is progressing well, he is targeting a return during the clay season which concludes at the French Open. He is also unable to access his protected ranking at Melbourne Park because the rulebook states that a player must be absent for at least six months to be eligible. 

“I know that there is a protected ranking, when you don’t play for a certain amount of months. I know that if I take it, I have to not play the Australian Open to reach the six months needed and that will be my decision,” Tennis Head quotes Monfils as saying.

However, the 36-year-old isn’t planning to stop playing just yet with aspirations to play at his home Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris in 2024. Monfils is already a three-time Olympian and has reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice before. 

Despite some speculation over his retirement, Monfils hopes to continue playing until the age of 40. Although he admits this depends on his family after he and his wife Elina Svitolina welcomed their first child earlier this year.

“2023 is an important year for me, a year of transition, transition between my injuries and the fact to be competitive to try to qualify for Paris 2024. I would not like to miss the Olympics, it would be my last one,” he added.
“I hope that 2024 would not be my last year but maybe the one after that. Before, I said that I wanted to play until I’m 40 but the more time I spend with my daughter, the more time I’m thinking maybe I’ll play a bit less.”

Monfils has won 11 Tour titles so far in his career, including this year’s Adelaide International. He has reached at least one final every year since 2005. 

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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