The ATP Third Quarter Report Card - UBITENNIS
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The ATP Third Quarter Report Card

An analysis of how the best male players have recently performed on the tour heading into the final part of the 2018 season.

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Examining the performances of the most notable players from the second quarter of the season, as well as their prospects heading into Q4. Who will qualify for London, and who will end the year as world No.1? The following players are listed in order by their year-to-date ranking points.

Rafael Nadal – 7,480 points

Nadal took part in many of the best matches of Q3, yet came away with just one title during this time. He outlasted Juan Martin Del Potro in an epic five-set Wimbledon quarterfinal, only to fall to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals 10-8 in the fifth. Rafa rebounded to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto, but then encountered a grueling fortnight at the US Open. After surviving tough four-set battles with Karen Khachanov and Nikoloz Basilashvili, he defeated Dominic Thiem in the quarters in a match that ended in a fifth-set tiebreak at 2:00am. A knee injury though forced Nadal to retire from his semifinal against Del Potro. Rafa currently holds the top spot in the Race To London rankings, but only has a 1,000 point lead over a surging Novak Djokovic. Nadal has already withdrawn from Beijing and Shanghai as his knee recovers. And considering how many hard court tournaments Nadal has withdrawn or retired from over the past year, it’s easy to imagine Rafa not playing much tennis during the rest of 2018. All this leaves the door open for Djokovic to end the year as world No.1.

Novak Djokovic – 6,445 points

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Q3 of 2018 was when everything changed for Djokovic. He won his first Major in over two years at Wimbledon, and then took the very next Grand Slam event in New York as well. Djokovic also won the Cincinnati Masters, completing his career set of Masters 1,000 titles. Novak was 22-1 in Q3, with his only loss coming at the Rogers Cup to Stefanos Tsitsipas. Of course he also went 0-2 in singles and doubles at the Laver Cup, though those results aren’t officially recognized. Djokovic has always been a strong Q4 performer, often dominating the Asian hard court and European indoor hard court events. Now that he’s re-established himself as the best player in the world, it seems only a matter of time before he’s atop the rankings again.

Juan Martin Del Potro – 4,910 points

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Wimbledon brought Del Potro more Grand Slam heartache with his near five-hour loss to Nadal. But in New York, he returned to a Major final in the same city as his first nine years prior. That effort took a lot out of Juan Martin, who sat out the Laver Cup to rest and celebrate his 30th birthday back home in Argentina. The good news is there’s been no mention of wrist pain by Del Potro since his US Open efforts, as he withdrew from the Rogers Cup in August for that reason. A healthy and well-rested Juan Martin should excel in Q4. Last year during the same period, he went 15-4 and won the title in Stockholm. Currently in third place in the Race To London standings, he’ll easily qualify for the ATP Finals, which would be his first appearance in five years. With just a slight 110-point edge over Roger Federer, they’ll likely battle for the year-end No.3 ranking, which would be the highest year-end ranking of Del Potro’s career.

Roger Federer – 4,800 points

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Q3 must be designated as a disappointment for the 20-time Major champion. Federer arrived at Wimbledon as the defending champion, but let a two-set lead, and a match point, slip through his hands to Kevin Anderson. A seven-time champion in Cincinnati, he was upset in the final by Djokovic. And at the US Open, Roger faded in the hot and humid conditions, falling in the fourth round to John Millman. The highlight of Federer’s Q3 was the Laver Cup, where he saved match points against John Isner, propelling Team Europe to their second straight victory at the event. With the top two places in the rankings likely out of reach in Q4, a realistic goal for Roger would be to remain in the top four, securing him a favorable seeding for the Australian Open, where he is the two-time defending champion. Of course he’s a six-time champion at the ATP Finals, though hasn’t won the event since 2011. And considering the way Djokovic performed in Q3, a seventh title at the year-end championships will be challenging

Alexander Zverev – 4,365 points

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Zverev is less than 500 points behind Federer, and less than 600 behind Del Potro. One or two titles in Q4 could easily bump Sascha ahead of either of those men and back into the top four. Q3 was not the strongest for the 21-year-old. While he won the title in Washington, DC, he didn’t get passed the third round at either Wimbledon or the US Open, and went just 2-2 at the Masters 1,000 events. But like Federer, the Laver Cup may instill some confidence back into Sascha’s game. Even though he and Roger squandered match point against John Isner and Jack Sock in doubles, he came back later that day to clinch the Laver Cup for his team against Kevin Anderson. I foresee Zverev having a strong Q4, where he’ll look to improve upon his 1-2 record from his first ATP Finals appearance last year.

Marin Cilic – 3,815 points

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For Cilic, Q3 started and ended with what can only be described as choking under pressure. At Wimbledon, Marin gave away a two-set lead to Guido Pella, an unproven player on grass. He made the quarters in Toronto and the semis in Cincinnati, losing to Nadal and Djokovic, respectively. There’s certainly no shame in those two losses. In New York, he survived a massive challenge from Alex de Minaur, despite failing on seven previous match points in a match that went late into the night. He would eventually succumb to Kei Nishikori in a five-set quarterfinal. The most painful loss of his year may have come in the David Cup semifinals in his home country of Croatia, where he was up a set and had a 6-1 lead in the second set tiebreak, before a plethora of errors handed the match to Sam Querrey. Losses like that often have a lasting impact on a player, so I would not be surprised to see Cilic underperform in Q4. And Marin has a 1-8 career record at the ATP Finals.

Dominic Thiem – 3,525 points

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Historically a player who’s had just as many wins as losses in the second half of the year, Thiem is turning that around in 2018. Despite going 2-4 in the first half of Q3, Theim found his game again in New York. His straight-set victory over Kevin Anderson, and his five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal, consisted of the best hard court tennis we’ve ever seen out of Thiem. He followed that up with two Davis Cup wins, and a hard court title in St. Petersburg. He now leads the ATP with 48 match wins on the year. Thiem is in prime position to qualify for London, where he’d try to get out of the round robin phase for the first time.

Kevin Anderson – 3,450 points

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Anderson currently sits in eighth place in the Race To London, but has a 500-point lead over the ninth place player, John Isner. Both of these men are looking to qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time. Last year in Q4, Anderson went just 3-5, coming off his first-ever Major final in New York. He comes into this Q4 off some strong Q3 results, highlighted by his second appearance in a Major final at Wimbledon. Kevin then made his second Masters 1,000 semifinal in Toronto. At the US Open, he survived two early-round five-setters before losing to Thiem on the slower New York courts this year. To end Q3, he upset Djokovic at the Laver Cup, but lost to Zverev in the deciding match. Still, Anderson should find inspiration in gaining a victory over the winner of the last two Majors. I like Kevin’s chances to make his ATP Finals debut.

John Isner – 2,930 points

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2018 has been the best year of Isner’s career, and Q3 was quite a highlight. In 2011, Isner made his first Major quarterfinal, yet had not repeated that effort until he got to the semis at Wimbledon this year. Of course he lost that semifinal to Kevin Anderson 26-24 in the fifth, in a near seven-hour marathon. Isner though bounced back quickly, winning his fifth Atlanta Open title, and reaching another Major quarterfinal in New York. At the Laver Cup, he had match points against both Zverev and Federer, yet lost both of those encounters. However, he did win a thrilling doubles match with Jack Sock over those same two players. Can he make his first ATP Finals? That will be an uphill climb based on the current point accumulations. And with his wife just recently giving birth to their first child, I could see Isner lacking motivation to spend a lot of time away from home, especially since John has often spoke of not enjoying long periods on the road. He’s already withdrawn from the tournament this week in Beijing.

Kei Nishikori – 2,565 points

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Q3 saw Nishikori reclaim his place as a top contender in the sport. Finally back to 100% after last year’s wrist injury, he reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal. Kei then went just 3-3 in the US Open Series, but returned to the US Open semifinals for the third time in his last four appearances. Q4 though has never been the strongest part of the year for Nishikori. With almost 1,000 points separating Kei from a qualifying spot, it’s hard to see Nishikori returning to the ATP Finals unless some players above him withdraw from the event, where he’s twice been a semifinalist in three appearances.

No other players above 2,000 points as of now?

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WTA Finals Draw: Kerber And Wozniacki Lead Unpredictable Field In Singapore

Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki lead a red-hot Singapore field that provides unpredictability and intrigue.

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The WTA Finals line-up

The WTA Finals draw has been made with Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki leading the field in Singapore in what could be the most unpredictable WTA Finals yet. 

The showpiece event may be without world number one Simona Halep, after her back injury, but this year’s line-up in Singapore is just as compelling and unpredictable.

The field is being lead by Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki as eight of the world’s battle it out to become the year-end champion.

In this unique round-robin format, anyone of the eight could claim the title with the WTA tour always lacking in predictability and consistency.

In the Red Group, which starts on Monday, top seed Angelique Kerber leads proceedings after claiming her third grand slam title and playing some of the best tennis of her career. Although she has parted ways with coach Wim Fissette she will look to end the year strong and build momentum towards 2019.

Joining Kerber is US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who is making her WTA Finals debut, fifth seed Sloane Stephens as well as Cincinnati champion Kiki Bertens.

In the red group, only Sloane Stephens has a winning head-to-head record against her group rivals in what certainly should be an intriguing and balanced group.

The other group sees Australian Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki lead proceedings as the Dane will look to defend the title that she won last year.

Joining the second seed sees fourth seed Petra Kvitová, who is making her first appaearance at the WTA Finals since 2015. The Czech is the leading titles winner on the tour in 2018 having won five titles this year.

Completing the white group are 6th seed Elina Svitolina and 7th seed Karolina Pliskova, who have both had average seasons this year.

The white group is full of opportunity although you would have to pick Petra Kvitová as favourite given her form in 2018 as well as having an 18-6 record against her group rivals.

So action begins in Singapore on Sunday, with the WTA Finals moving to Shenzhen next year expect a lot of high-quality tennis as Singapore looks to end its WTA Finals stint with a bang. Here is Sunday and Monday’s schedule:

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Federer introduces Barilla to tennis in the USA

After sponsoring many tennis tournaments around the world, Barilla makes its debut at a US event. Their agenda for 2019 could see them present at Flushing Meadows

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Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

The big tennis “bonanza” that took place in Chicago during the last Laver Cup saw the debut of Italian pasta brand Barilla as a sponsor of an important tennis event in the United Stated. The company, whose American headquarter is situated a mere half an hour North of Chicago in Nortbrook, Illinois, followed the lead of its Global Brand Ambassador Roger Federer and set up a large activation point in the commercial area outside the United Center to introduce American tennis fans to pasta cooked “the Barilla way”.

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

We caught up with Prita Wadhwani, Barilla’s marketing director for the Americas, to discuss the pasta-maker’s involvement in tennis and their future plans for the US market.

How long did it take to organize the activation point for the Laver Cup? How many people have been involved?

It’s been a wonderful experience for us. We started talking about Laver Cup back in March. We like the concept of sportsmanship, it’s really fun to see the camaraderie the players have together with them being really competitive. So about eight months beginning to end to bring our Barilla experience to tennis fans.

Is your team based in Chicago?

Yes, our American headquarter is just outside of the Chicago area, about 30 miles north in a town called Northbrook and it is responsible for the operations in North and South America.

How did the involvement of Barilla’s Global Ambassador Roger Federer?

We truly admire Federer and what he has achieved in his field of expertise. And we believe that Barilla is to the culinary art world what Federer is to the tennis world. Furthermore, Roger lives his life in a very simple way and our core product is simple as well, flour plus water. That’s where we found a great fit.

Barilla is active in a number of tennis events around the world: we have seen you in Canada at the Rogers Cup, at the Australian Open… were you at the US Open?

No, not this year…

Not this year?… Are there surprises in the works for 2019? I see you are smiling, so I guess we have our answer… Moving on, what is the difference in preparing the activation during events that last 2 weeks and have 600-700,000 people coming through the doors and a much more concentrated event like the Laver Cup, lasting only three days?

There isn’t a big difference really: the hardest part is to build our activation point. Once that is done, we have such an amazing culinary crew with our own on-site kitchen that allows us to prepare our pasta the way we want it. We are completely self-sufficient: we have our own generators, our own water tanks, so we can prepare up to 3,000 servings of pasta per day.

So do you have a full-time “culinary crew” that travels all the time to all the events you participate?

We have chef Lorenzo Boni, who is our executive chef. He has two people working for him who are full-time Barilla employees, and they have identified a number of chefs throughout the USA who have already been vetted and are already trained in how to cook “the Barilla way” and they are brought in for specific events as needed. We are obviously very dedicated to the quality, the taste and the flavor of every single meal we serve.

Barilla at the Laver Cup 2018 in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

Aside from Laver Cup and tennis, how is Barilla perceived in the American market and what is Barilla’s vision in America?

Pietro Barilla, the father of Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla, the current generation at the helm of the company, had a motto: “Go forward with courage”. That is still instilled in our culture, that drive for innovation is still very present in Barilla’s culture. Our culture also states that “what is good for you should be good for the planet”: we support the sustainability of the ingredients that we put in our food. These are the principles that have inspired out growth: I was lucky enough to have been for the company for over 20 years, and I remember that when I first joined we has a roughly 9% market share in the US, while nowadays we have over one-third of the market. Our success is strictly link to the innovation that we still strive to maintain, from the products that we have to the way we communicated to our consumers. From a product standpoint we always try to offer our consumers what they want: we have recently introduced “legumes pasta”, a pasta made entirely of legumes, where we try not to sacrifice taste for the experience of eating good food. We also try to educate our consumer that it is not necessary to sacrifice taste to eat something that it’s good for you and good for the planet.

What are the challenges that you face in the US with the way that your consumer prepares your products? How do you “educate” the American pasta eater on how to properly cook and eat your products?

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

It is a journey, it’s not something that happens overnight. When I first joined Barilla we run a “store check” and all consumers knew about pasta were spaghetti and elbows, that is the macaroni for the “mac and cheese”. Now the average consumer is much more educated about the various shapes of pasta, and we like to believe that we had a role in this journey. We have also made some research using the NHANES data (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) which is the dietary gold standard for data in the USA, and we have found out that people eating pasta in the Mediterranean way, with healthy oils, vegetables, lean meats and proteins, have better body metrics than those consuming pasta in a more luxurious fashion. This is very important for us because we try to promote “eating well” rather than “eating a lot”. In our activations we have a pasta recipes-holder to promote the good way of eating pasta in a fun way. A portion of pasta should be two ounces (approximately 60 grams), which needs to be combined with vegetables and lean proteins, and it can create a filling, satiating meal for less than 500 calories, without sacrificing taste.

How is the market for sauces?

Americans are very used to having pasta with red sauces, so we are trying to introduce something different like the “pasta al pesto”. Boredom is one of the big enemies of the frequency of pasta consumption, so we are offering alternatives that may be unknown to the American public and as such need a longer education process. Americans are accustomed to using a jar of sauce for every dish of pasta: pesto isn’t like that, but it allows to add flavor to pasta without adding to many calories. Again, in our philosophy “less is more”, so we try to encourage the use of less sugar.

What other events does Barilla include in its promotional activities in the USA?

Food and wine festivals are very popular in the USA, so we are present at quite a few of those. Our 2019 schedule is still in the works and we hope to be at many more tennis events next year.

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal Recieve Caution Over Saudi Arabia Exhibition

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been cautioned by Amnesty International UK over playing in an exhibition match in Saudi Arabia.

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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

The two best players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have received a caution by Amnesty International about their participation in an exhibition in Saudi Arabia. 

The duo will compete in Jeddah on the 22nd of December in an exhibition match, where they will both receive at least one million dollars.

However the event has caused a lot of controversy and Amnesty International have called on the duo to use their global popularity to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.

When announcing the event both Djokovic and Nadal received a negative response from their fans after the event was announced a day after the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The event is being used by the Saudi government to enhance its regime through sport and protect its reputation. There are other events which have been held in Saudi Arabia to do this, including Brazil v Argentina in a friendly a few days ago as well as the WWE Wrestling event.

Speaking to The Times, Allan Hogarth of Amnesty International offered a caution to Djokovic and Nadal, “It’s not for us to say which countries should and shouldn’t be hosting sporting competitions, but it’s also clear that countries like Saudi Arabia are well aware of the potential for sport to subtly ‘rebrand’ a country,” Hogarth said.

“It’s up to Nadal and Djokovic where they play their lucrative exhibition matches, but if they go to Jeddah we’d like to see them using their profiles to raise human rights issues. Tweeting support for Saudi Arabia’s brave human rights defenders would be a start.”

Since announcing the event, both Djokovic and Nadal have refused to comment further on the event as they face a battle against each other for the year-end world number one spot.

The next tournament for Nadal and Djokovic will be at the final masters 1000 event of the season in Paris in two weeks time.

 

 

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