Wimbledon Day 14 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Singles Championship - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Day 14 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Singles Championship

On the final day of The Championships, Novak Djokovic goes for his 13th Major title, as Kevin Anderson vies for his first.

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Novak Djokovic (zimbio.com)

The first four rounds of the gentlemen’s singles tournament were pretty ordinary, but the last two rounds were rather extraordinary. The six matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals were played over the course of 28 sets, out of a possible 30. The semifinals alone combined for 11 hours and 51 minutes of play, in the two longest Wimbledon semifinals ever contested.

 

Over the last two rounds, Kevin Anderson has played for 10 hours and 50 minutes, in what equates to a mind-boggling 16 sets of tennis. What can he possibly have left for Sunday’s final? But at least he had a full day of rest on Saturday, while Djokovic had to play almost three sets worth of tennis to complete his defeat of Rafael Nadal on Saturday. Djokovic’s semifinal was over an hour shorter than Anderson’s semifinal, but the points he played against Nadal were much more grueling. Both men will be challenged to be physically fit on Sunday afternoon, though they’ll surely give their every last bit of energy as they compete for the most prestigious tennis championship in the world.

Kevin Anderson vs. Novak Djokovic

Two years ago, Novak Djokovic walked into The All England Club as the reigning champion at all four Majors. But that’s where a tumultuous two years of mental, emotional, and physical turmoil began for Novak, who was upset by Sam Querrey in the third round of The Championships. In the last two years, he’s won no Majors, and only three titles overall. Last year at Wimbledon, he retired during his quarterfinal match due to an elbow injury that would keep him off the court for the duration of 2017. He continued to struggle with his elbow in 2018, as just two months ago, he was a meek 5-5 on the year. Just when it appeared he was becoming his old self again last month in Paris, he suffered the biggest upset of his career to Marco Cecchinato, a man who had never before won a singles match at a Major prior to this year’s Roland Garros. But as many have declared, Novak Djokovic is officially back, following his statement victory over Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
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Kevin Anderson has long had the reputation of being a choke artist, to put it bluntly. Coming into this tournament, he was just 2-10 in the fourth round of Majors, and just 1-10 in the quarterfinals of Masters 1,000 events. However, that criticism should now be retired. On Wednesday in the quarterfinals, the 32-year-old South African came back from two sets down against Roger Federer, saving a match point on his way to a 13-11 fifth set victory. Then on Friday in the semifinals, Anderson, outlasted John Isner 26-24 in the fifth. Kevin is now into the second Major final of his career, and his second of the last four Grand Slam events played.

The head-to-head between these two is rather lopsided, as Djokovic leads Anderson 5-1. Novak has won the last five, as Kevin’s only victory came over 10 years ago. Their last meeting was their best and most notable, in the round of 16 at this very tournament three years ago. Anderson won the first two sets in tiebreaks, but Djokovic would come back to win 7-5 in the fifth, in a match played over the course of two days. That match occurred during Novak’s last title run at Wimbledon in 2015. Considering their history, as well as the amount of tennis Anderson has played since Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine Kevin pulling off the upset. That being said, if he can get an early lead and have another excellent serving day, obtaining his first Major title on Sunday is not impossible. And as tired as Anderson is, Djokovic will be plenty sore as well following his two-day battle with Nadal. Let’s also not forget this is the most significant match Novak has played in nearly two years, since he lost the 2016 US Open final to Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic will certainly be nervy on this day, and we’ve seen how frustrated he can become on court, even in victory. We’ve also watched Djokovic blink at the finish line just a few weeks ago, when he had a match point against Marin Cilic in the final at Queen’s Club, yet lost the match. Anderson can find some hope in all of those points, but the fact remains Djokovic is the favorite to win his fourth Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy, which would put him behind only Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and Bjorn Borg in the open era.

ATP

Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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ATP

David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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