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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Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Mike Bryan and Jack Sock to secure first spot in Group Knowles/Nestor

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Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut cruised past 2018 Wimbledon and US Open champions Mike Bryan and Jack Sock 6-2 6-2 in just 52 minutes in the night session to qualify for the semifinals as first placer in the Group Knowles/Nestor. The Frenchmen needed a win a set to secure their spot in the semifinal.

Herbert and Mahut broke twice in the fourth and eight games to seal the first set 6-2. They got two more breaks in the fourth and eighth games to claim the second set by the same scoreline. The French Open champions converted four of the eight break points, saved both break points they faced and won 89 % of the first serve points. They avenged their recent defeat against the US pair in Paris Bercy.

Herbert and Mahut have secured the first spot in the Group Knowles and Nestor with a 2-1 record. They have qualified for the first time in four appearances at this tournament.

The French team set up a semifinal against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. In the other semifinal Bryan and Sock will take on Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.

Lukasz Kubot from Poland and Marcelo Melo from Brazil beat doubles world number 1 pair and 2018 Australian Open champions Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 after 1 hour and 40 minutes to score the first win  in the Group Knowles/Nestor at the Nitto ATP Finals. Kubot and Melo have kept their hopes of qualifying for the semifinal.

Kubot and Melo converted three of their five break points and fended off two of the four chances.

The Polish and Brazilian team have won four doubles this year in Sydney, Halle, Beijing and Shanghai and lost the US Open final to Mike Bryan and Jack Sock.

 

Melo got the first break in the first game of the opening set with a backhand return. Marach and Pavic broke back in the fourth game, when Kubot made a double fault. Melo sealed the tie-break on the second set point, when Pavic hit a return long.

 

Marach and Pavic broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead, but Kubot and Melo broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the tenth game Kubot hit a backhand down the middle, when Pavic was serving at 5-4 40-30. Kubot sealed the win, when Pavic netted a forehand volley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Becoming A Father Has Helped John Isner Achieve The Best Season Of His Career

The world No.10 reflects on becoming a father in September and the impact it has had on his life as a professional athlete.

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John Isner at the 2018 ATP Finals (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

John Isner exits the ATP Finals with a mixture of disappointment and pride following his loss to Alexander Zverev on Friday.

Isner, who was playing in the year-end finale for the first time in his career, was knocked out in straight sets by his 21-year-old opponent. Bringing a close to what has been the most successful season of his career. Isner has won two ATP titles, including his first at Masters level in Miami, and reached his first grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon.

“There’s definitely some things I could have done better. Didn’t come into this tournament with that much momentum. I think that maybe showed a little bit.” He commented about his week in London.
“I did have a good year, but I had a lot of losses, as well. I had three really good tournaments. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get inside the top 10, which is what I did this year.” He added.

A player breaking through on the tour in their early thirties is becoming a regular occurrence in the world of men’s tennis. However, in Isner’s case, his rise hasn’t entirely been down to everything he has learned on the court. 2018 also saw him become a father. In September his wife, Madison, gave birth to a baby girl called Hunter Grace.

There is a saying that once somebody becomes a parent their perspective on life changes. Something the American No.1 agrees with. The question is what influence has it had on Isner’s tennis?

“I think it’s definitely a life-changing moment for myself and my wife. For me professionally, I think it can definitely help going forward.” He commented about fatherhood.
“I just think prior to our daughter being born, getting married is another big step. That definitely settles things down personally. We were always dating and together, but we took that next step. It was the perfect timing for all of it.
“Everything has gone pretty fluidly in my personal life, so I think that certainly helps. That’s why I’ve at times this year played remarkably well.”

The perspective is one that mirrors some of his peers. Novak Djokovic said in July that fatherhood was his ‘biggest motivation’ for winning Wimbledon. Meanwhile, Roger Federer once said in 2012 that his twin daughters “helped his game more than anything.’

Finding harmony in his life both on and off the court, Isner believes he can improve further heading into the new year. He ends his season with a win-loss record of 34-22, including his three victories over top 10 players at the Miami Open in March.

“Going forward, I’ll be looking to play well in the big events again. There’s still a lot of room for improvement for me. I started the year off in 2018 in pretty poor form. So I can improve on that. If I can, I can possibly improve my ranking and give myself more momentum early on in the season.”

Isner concludes 2018 inside the year-end top 10 on the ATP rankings for the first time in his career.

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Marin Cilic: “Djokovic is playing very well, but I believe I can play a great match against him”

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This year’s Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic will face Novak Djokovic for the fourth time this year in their third round-robin in the Guga Kuerten Group at the Nitto ATP Open at the O2 Arena in London.

Djokovic has already secured his spot in the semifinal after his two matches against John Isner (6-4 6-3) and Alexander Zverev (6-4 6-1)

Cilic lost to Zverev 7-6 7-6 in the first match, but he took a much-needed 6-7 6-3 6-4 win in three sets over John Isner to keep his chance of qualifying for the semifinals.

Djjokovic leads Cilic 16-2 in their career head-to-head matches. This year Cilic beat Djokovic in the final at Queen’s after saving a match point, but he lost to his Serbian rival in Cincinnati and in the Paris Bercy quarter finals.

Since that defeat against Cilic at Queen’s last summer Djokovic has lost just matches to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov in the Paris Bercy final, but Cilic is still confident that he can beat the world number 1 player.

“The last few meetings between us were really tough at Queen’s, Cincinnati and Paris Bercy. Novak is playing really phenomenally. At the ATP Finals he showed a great form in his first two matches. I will have to maximally prepare for the match. Obviously serving well is going to critical. I am feeling good. I think I have played two quality matches here at the O2 Arena. I had a lot of chances against Zverev, but I didn’t capitalize on them. I believe I can play a great match against Novak. I hope I can win the match”,said Cilic.

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