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 Nadal has already withdrawn from Beijing and Shanghai as his knee recovers. And considering how many hard court tournaments Nadal has withdrawn or retired from over the past year, it’s easy to imagine Rafa not playing much tennis during the rest of 2018.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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Alexander Zverev Continues To Struggle After Jarry Defeat In Barcelona

Alexander Zverev’s poor recent form continues as he goes out in Barcelona in three sets to Nicolas Jarry.

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Alexander Zverev (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev continues his poor 2019 season after losing 3-6 7-5 7-6(5) in Barcelona to Nicolas Jarry.

 

The German battled back from a double break down in the final set however after wasting a match point, couldn’t beat the powerful Chilean.

It means that Zverev has only won three matches in five tournaments since reaching the Acapulco final, where he lost to Nick Kyrgios.

It was a positive start for the recently turned 22 year-old after he played fairly aggressively and took the first set 6-3 with some great play.

After a consistent first set, the German failed to control the match to his tempo as Jarry rallied back in the second set with some aggressive play of his own.

The Chilean brings an aggressive game to the court and has the confidence to beat anyone on his day although he is yet to win an ATP title.

A run of five games saw Zverev’s confidence get knocked as Jarry levelled the match and stormed into a double break lead in the decider.

If there is a positive to take from the ATP Finals champion’s play today, it’s the fight he showed to rally back and show some much-needed energy.

After breaking in three consecutive games it was a controlled match from both as this was a big match for both in their respective seasons.

A simple backhand miss on match point didn’t help Zverev as the world number 81 forced a final set tiebreak to settle the match.

In the end after a nervy 12 points, it was Jarry who kept his cool to earn one of the biggest wins of his career as Zverev continued his bad run of form.

Since falling ill in Acapulco, the German has only won three matches in five tournaments and admits he is in a dilemma, “I’m in a hole and I don’t know how to get out of it,” the German explained.

“I just play bad, it’s not a secret. I’m missing backhands all over the places, which is my best shot. I cannot make one impressive shot. I’m double faulting.”

The German now has titles in Munich and Madrid to defend before final points in Rome as he goes through the toughest time of his career.

As for Jarry he will now play Grigor Dimitrov or Fernando Verdasco in the third round.

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Tough draws for Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep at the Porsche Indoor Grand Prix in Stuttgart

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Reigning US Open and Australian champion and world number 1 Naomi Osaka has been drawn in the same quarter as two-time champion Angelique Kerber and Hsieh Su Wei at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, which features six of the top 10 players of the WTA Ranking. The tournament takes place on indoor clay at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

 

Osaka will make her second appreance in the star-studded Stuttgart tournament after losing to Great Britain’s Johanna Konta in the opening round in 2017. The Japanese player, who is receiving a bye from the opening round, is on a collision course for a possible second round match against Hsieh Su Wei, who will make her debut in the Stuttgart tournament against Qiang Wang in the first round.

Last year’s Roland Garros champion Simona Halep could face crowd favourite Andrea Petkovic in the second round. The Romanian player could meet either Kiki Bertens or this year’s Dubai champion Belinda Bencic.

Defending champion and this year’s Miami champion Karolina Pliskova will take on the winner of the blockbuster match between Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka. In this section Caroline Garcia has been drawn with Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who reached the semifinal in Stuttgart last year and in Miami in 2019. Garcia contributed to the win in the decisive doubles match alongside her teammate Kristina Mladenovic in the Fed Cup semifinal against Romania in Rouen.

In the bottom half of the draw this year’s Australian Open finalist and Sydney champion Petra Kvitova could meet the winner of an all-Latvian first round clash between 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasjia Sevastova.

 

 

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Fabio Fognini lifts his maiden Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo

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Fabio Fognini beat Dusan Lajovic 6-3 6-4 in the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to win the maiden Masters 1000 title of his career. Fognini has become the first Italian to win in the Monte-Carlo Country Club since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968.

 

Fognini, the first Italian player to reach the final in the Principality since Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti lost to Bjorn Borg in 1977, is the lowest player to win the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title since Gustavo Kuerten in 1999. Fognini was on the verge of defeat in the first round when he trailed 4-6 1-4 during the second set against Andrey Rublev.

In the next rounds Fognini went on to beat 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the third round, Borna Coric in the quarter final in another three-set match after trailing 1-6 0-2. 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinal and Dusan Lajovic in the final.

Fognini is the first Italian champion in the Masters series since 1990. Since 2005 the only three other champions in the Monte-Carlo champions have been Rafael Nadal (eleven times from 2005 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2018), Novak Djokovic (twice in 2013 and 2015) and Stan Wawrinka (2014)

In his first head-to-head match against Lajovic Fognini saved two of the four break points he faced and broke serve four times. The Italian player hit 19 winners to 23 unforced errors, while Lajovic produced a ratio of 16 winners to 36 mistakes.

Lajovic earned the first break of the match in the third game to take a 2-1 lead, but Fognini broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to win five of the next six games.

Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the second set. Fognini earned the decisive break to take a 3-2 lead, when Lajovic sent a forehand long. Fognini received a medical time-out to treat his ankle, but he held his next three service games to close out the match with a service winner on his second match point.

Fognini will reach his career high of world number 12 just 5 points behind Marin Cilic. He is just 250 points away from the top 10.

“I was born near Monte-Carlo and it’s awesome to win this tournament. Congratulations to Dusan. You have a great team. your coach José Perlas trained me in the past. Continue to work hard. It will be your time soon. I thank my team. This year I started badly. Thanks to my wife Flavia for her support. Thank to my town Arma di Taggia. I want to thank the Tournament Director Zeliko Franulovic. I dedcate this trophy to my mother, who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow”, said a delighted Fognini during the award ceremony.

 

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