Djokovic's New Breath For Tennis Led Him To Two Major Titles in 2018 - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic’s New Breath For Tennis Led Him To Two Major Titles in 2018

Hiking in the French Mountains has given Djokovic a new inspiration to play tennis. Del Potro sheds many tears, but is thankful for his revived career

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Novak Djokovic at the 2018 US Open (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

The three hours and 16 minutes of play that Novak Djokovic needed to win this US Open final took a lot out of Juan Martin del Potro, physically and emotionally. “I have been crying till now – said the Argentinian as he started his press conference, with red eyes, full of tears and a face of someone who would like to be a thousand miles from notepads and microphones – this could be the worst part of the day, talk with you at this moment”.

I’m very sad for being a loser today. But Novak deserved to take the trophy. He played a great match, very smart game. I had my opportunities during second and third set. But I was playing almost at the limit all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it because Novak were there every time. I take the risk with my forehands. I’ve been doing that all the match. Sometimes it goes in, and sometimes I miss it. But it’s the only way to beat these kinds of players. You have to be a perfect game during more than three hours. Sometimes you couldn’t make it. But my mistakes were because the level of Novak. He plays really well. I’m glad for him”.

Juan Martin has always been considered one of the very few players who could get in the way of the three “greats” of these times (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic), one who may have won more titles had they not been around, or at least not all at the same time: “It is a big challenge to take these kinds of tournaments to them. But also I think we are proud to be close to these legends. I’ve been during all my career learning with Novak, Roger, Rafa, seeing them winning these events very often. It’s amazing. I don’t feel sad that I couldn’t win Grand Slams because of them. I am just one of the guys that have lucky to be in the same era as them, and it’s great”.

But this tournament has also marked del Potro’s return to the top after four wrist surgeries: “I’m feeling good – Juan Martin confirmed – My wrist is responding good, because I’ve been playing a lot of matches in these two weeks. I feel good with my two-handed backhands, as well. I will keep playing tennis for a few more years. I don’t know when will be my last tournament in this career, but I’m excited to keep surprising myself doing things like this. I’m very motivated to keep trying to win these titles”.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium was clearly cheering for him on Sunday evening, to the point that Djokovic appeared quite rattled by that during the second set and started swearing to some rowdy spectators. Del Potro, both on stage during the award ceremony and during the press conference, thanked his supporters likening their love to the Championship trophy: “What I say on the stage, you can lose or win a trophy, but the love from the crowd, it’s could be even bigger than the tournament. That’s what I got from them. It will be in the heart for the rest of [my] life”.

With his latest shiny trophy in his hands, Novak Djokovic sat down in the press room approximately two hours after the end of the match and started looking back at his last two amazing months: “I feel like kind of my mindset always was not to compare myself to any other year or season because my life has turned upside down in the last couple years with so many different things, changes that happened: becoming a father twice, being away from the tour six months, getting surgery, all these different things. If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I’ll win Wimbledon, US Open, and Cincinnati, would be hard to believe. But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back on the desired level of tennis very soon.  I expected, to be honest, quite frank, after surgery that I’ll be back on a high level quite fast. But, you know, it took me actually three, four months really. In that process, I learned a lot about myself, learned to be patient, which was never really a stronger side of me”.

“But at the same time, you know, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can center yourself, balance yourself and thrive. The last two months have been terrific”.

Novak’s incredible run that led him to win two straight Major titles started that day in Paris when he lost in the quarterfinals to Marco Cecchinato: “I was so close to desired level, and then I just completely underplayed that match. I had to kind of disconnect a little bit. I went hiking with my wife for five days in the French mountains. We just isolated ourselves and took things from a different perspective. I remember one moment particularly when we climbed that mountain. It was pretty high. We reached the top after three hours. Credit to my wife. Amazing. She’s so fit. I can’t believe she managed to get all the way up. We sat down and we just looked at the world from that perspective, just kind of breathed in the new inspiration, new motivation. I thought of tennis, thought of the emotion that tennis provokes in me in a way. It was all positives. I just felt like I had a new breath for this sport. Ever since then, the tennis is completely different for me. In terms of results, I played finals of Queen’s, won Wimbledon, won Cincinnati, and won US Open. I guess we’ll be hiking some more very soon”.

Of course, it was impossible for him to escape a question about the controversies of the women’s final. Although he tried to be as diplomatic as possible, he eventually conceded that in his opinion “the chair umpire should not have pushed Serena to the limit, especially in a Grand Slam final” and that his actions may have “changed the course of the match”. However, he denied that men and women are being treated differently in tennis.

 

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Kei Nishikori battles past Nikoloz Basilashvili to advance to the semifinals in Metz

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This year’s US Open semifinalist and Monte-Carlo finalist Kei Nishikori edged past fifth seed and this year’s Hamburg champion Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 4-6 6-4 after 2 hours and seven minutes in the quarter final at the Moselle Open in Metz. Nishikori rallied from 1-3 down in the third set by winning five of the next six games to secure his spot in the semifinal.

Nishikori won 83 % of his first service points and converted five of his eight break points to book his spot in the quarter finals where he will face either German Matthias Bashinger or Yannick Maden.

Nishikori broke serve in the third game with a backhand down the line winner. He dropped two points in four service games. He went up a double break in the ninth game, when Basilashvili sent a backhand long.

Nishikori went up a break in the second game of the second set with a return winner. Basilashvili pulled the break back in the second game of the second set. Basilashvili got another break, when Nishikori made a double fault. The Georgian player fired an ace to wrap up the second set 6-4 setting up a deciding set.

The Georgian player broke Nishikori in the third game of the decisive set and held serve with an ace to take a 3-1 lead. Nishikori broke back in the sixth gme with a smash winner and in the 10th game to wrap up the match.

“It was a tough match today, but I fought through and I am happy to be in the semifinals tomorrow. He was playing better in the second set. I thought I played almost perfect game in the first set and I almost had it, but he came back. It was tough. He was up 3-1 in the third, and I had to refocus and rebuild my confidence and play a little bit better in the end. It wasn’t an easy game”,said Nishikori.

Twice Metz champion Gilles Simon beat his compatriot Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in one hour and 34 minutes.

Radu Albot edged Ricardas Berankis 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes.

 

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Stan Wawrinka beats Damir Dzumhur in St. Petersburg to advance to his first semifinal since February

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World Number 88 Stan Wawrinka has advanced to his first semifinal since Sofia in February with a 6-2 6-4 win over Damir Dzumhur in one hour and 12 minutes.

Wawrinka dropped just 12 points in 10 service games and saved three of the four break points he faced. Stan the Man converted three of the eight break points.

Dzumhur, who beat Wawrinka in their only head-to-head match in Dubai last year, went up an early break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead, when Wawrinka sent a forehand long.

Wawrinka broke back in the next game with a forehand down the line. He earned his second consecutive break in the sixth game with a volley. The Lausanne player hit three winners to clinch the opening set 6-2 in 32 minutes.

Wawrinka converted his third break point at deuce in the third game to clinch the second set 6-4. Dzumhur earned two break points in the next game, but he failed to convert them. The Bosnian player fended off a match point at 3-5 with a volley winner, but Wawrinka closed out the match with a service winner in the next game.

Wawrinka set up a match against Martin Klizan, who came back from one set and 3-5 down to beat Canadian Next Gen star Denis Shapovalov 3-6 7-5 6-3.

Shapovalov won the first set 6-4 with his only break in the sixth game. The young Canadian went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Klizan broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5 and sealed the second set 7-5 with another break in the 12th game. Klizan sealed the match with his only break at deuce on his second opportunity.

Klizan won all his the six finals he played in his career and will be bidding to win his seventh title against Wawrinka.

Dominic Thiem battled past Danil Medvedev 6-2 3-6 7-6 (7-2). Thiem got an immediate break in the first game. Medvedev saved three break points to hold his serve in the fifth game. Thiem saved a break point before breaking for the second time in the seventh game to close out the first set 6-2. Medvedev saved four break points (three in the first game and one in the third game) to win the second set. The third set went on serve in the first five games before a trade of breaks in the sixth and seventh games. The third set was decided by the tie-break where Thiem cruised through to a 7-2 win.

Thiem will face Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato 7-6 (7-0) 6-3. Bautista Agut saved the only two break point of the first set, which went on serve until the tie-break. Bautista Agut won the breaker by a bagel. Cecchinato saved four break points to hold his serve at deuce in the second game but dropped his serve at love in the fourth game to trail 1-3. Cecchinato saved a break point at deuce in the sixth game to hold his serve for 2-4. Bautista Agut won his final two service games to close out the match.

 

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Ricardas Berankis rallies from one set down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in Metz

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Ricardas Berankis came back from one set down to upset second seed and this year’s Barcelona finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 after two hours and 36 minutes reaching his first quarter final since Moscow in 2017. Tsitsipas hit 17 aces but he dropped his serve three times from the 13 break points he faced. Berankis saved six of the seven break points.

Both players saved all five break points they faced in the first set, which came down to the tie-break. Tsitispas hit two service winners to cruise through to a 5-0 lead in the tie-break, but Berankis reeled off five of the next six games to claw his was back to 5-6. The Greek Next Gen player converted his fourth set point at 6-5 when Berankis netted a forehand.

Tsitsipas fended off three break points in the second game of the second set. Both players held their service games with no breaks setting up a second tie-break. Tsitsipas raced out to a 5-1 lead in the tie-break. Berankis reeled four consecutive points to draw level to 5-5. Tsitsipas earned a match point at 6-5, but Berankis won three consecutive points to take the tie-break 8-6 forcing the match to the third set.

Berankis went up a double break to race out to a 3-0 lead. Tsitsipas saved three break points  in the fifth game to hold his serve at deuce before pulling one break back with a forehand winner to claw his way back to 2-4.

Berankis saved three break points to hold his serve at deuce in the eighth game before converting his second break point in the ninth game to win the decider 6-3.

 

 

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