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 Nadal has already withdrawn from Beijing and Shanghai as his knee recovers. And considering how many hard court tournaments Nadal has withdrawn or retired from over the past year, it’s easy to imagine Rafa not playing much tennis during the rest of 2018.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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Kei Nishikori completes his third came-back win to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open

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Kei Nishikori won his third five-set match at this year’s edition of the Australian Open by completing his third come-back from two sets down with a 6-7 (8-10) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (10-8) win over Pablo Carreno Busta after a 5-hour and 5-minute battle.

Kei Nishikori lived up to his reputation as a marathon man, when he completed his third come-from-behind win at the 2019 Australian Open following up his previous two five-set wins over Kamil Majchrzak and Ivo Karlovic.

Carreno Busta went down a break twice in the early stages of the opening set, but he managed to pull back both breaks in the fourth and sixth games to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori got an early mini-break to take a 2-0 lead, but Carreno Busta won three consecutive points for 3-2 after three errors from Nishikori. The Spaniard did not convert three set points at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7, but he converted his fourth chance for 10-8 with a forehand winner.

Carreno Busta went up a set and a break with two forehand winners in the third game before saving two break points at 2-1. The Spanish player did not convert two set points at 5-3, when he made two forehand errors as Nishikori was serving at 15-40, but he closed out the second set at love in the 10th game.

Nishikori went down a break in the fifth game of the third set, but he broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori won the tie-break 7-4 to keep his hopes alive Nishikori broke serve in the first game of the fourth set at 30, but Carreno Busta broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Nishikori broke for the second time in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and earned three break points for 5-2 in the seventh game, but Carreno Busta held his serve. Nishikori held his next three service games at love to seal the fourth set 6-4.

Nishikori converted his third break point chance in the third game of the fifth set to take a 2-1 lead. The Japanese player came back from 15-40 down in the sixth game to hold his serve at deuce for 4-2, but he dropped his serve while he was serving for the match in the 10th game at 5-4. Carreno Busta built up a 8-5 lead in the decisive super tie-break, but Nishikori reeled off the final five points to seal a thrilling five-set match.

“I don’t know what to say. That was the toughest match. I have no idea how I broke back and I fough my way through. It was a great match. I feel like I have not played enough. It hasn’t been easy of course, especially not today. It was hard against Karlovic with a super tie-break, but today had longer rallies”, said Nishikori.

The Japanese star will face Novak Djokovic, who beat Danil Medvedev 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-2 in his fourth round match. Djokovic leads 15-2 in his 17 head-to-head matches against Nishikori.

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Novak Djokovic Outlasts Medvedev To Reach 10th Australian Open Quarter-Final

Novak Djokovic is into his 10th Australian Open quarter-final with a four set physical win over Daniil Medvedev.

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is into his 10th Australian Open quarter-final after a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev. 

The six time champion was less than convincing but dug deep to seal his place in the last eight with a four set win over Medvedev.

In the quarter-finals he will now play Kei Nishikori who battled past Pablo Carreno Busta in five hours and five sets.

The Serb was looking to play better than his previous round against an in-form and crafty Medvedev, who won the most matches on hard courts in 2018.

After a decent start from the Russian, a few loose errors gave the Djokovic key break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. The 15th seed continued to work the angles throughout the contest and punished Djokovic’s lack of focus as he gained the break back in the ninth game.

Eventually though the top seed refocused and broke straight back as he sealed the first set 6-4 in 40 minutes as he looked to build on his lead.

It was more of the same from Djokovic as he controlled the points from the baseline. Despite not converting any of his six break points in the third game he eventually raced to a 4-1 lead.

However there is a reason why Medvedev won 38 matches on hard courts last season and he immediately found a response by breaking back and making the match into a physically exhausting battle.

As a tiebreak loomed the Russian produced his best tennis moving the Serb from side to side as he powered through his shots.

After overcoming some nerves, the world number 16 converted his third set point to take the second set in a brutal 71 minutes.

The match continued to get more physical as rallies between 30 and 40 shots occurred as Medvedev’s craft was earning some good points.

However the Russian started to fade out as Djokovic proved to be the stronger competitor in the third and four sets despite some heavy stretching from the world number one.

Two breaks of serve was enough for Djokovic to take a two sets to one lead with a tactically good match saving his chances of reaching the last eight.

In another late finish in Melbourne park, Djokovic broke twice more in set four as Medvedev vented his frustrations as the Serb came through a tough match in four sets.

The win means it’s the tenth time Djokovic has reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and after the match explained how difficult the match was, “It was difficult to go through him. I had to find a different way,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

“I was fortunate to save a couple of break points. In this kind of matches you have to hang in there and wait for your opportunities.”

Next up on Wednesday is Kei Nishikori after he won a five set epic with Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(10-8).

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Lucas Pouille beats Borna Coric in four sets to set up a quarter final against Milos Raonic in Melbourne

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Lucas Pouille upset Borna Coric in four sets by the scoreline of 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7-2) after 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Pouille set up a quarter final against Canadian player Milos Raonic, who beat Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-1 7-6 (7-5). The Frenchman has not won a single set in his three head-to-head matches against Raonic.

Coric broke serve in the first game of the opening set, but Pouille pulled back the break in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next games to set up a tie-break. Coric converted the first of his two set points at 6-4 in the tie-break with his ninth ace to close out the first set.

Pouille got the only break in the seventh game of the second set to draw level to 1 set apiece after Coric made his fourth double fault the match and a forehand error.

Both players held their serve in the first ten games of the third set. Coric went down 0-40 on serve in the 11th game, but he managed to saved the first two break points. Pouille converted his third opportunity with a forehand winner to seal the third set 7-5.

Pouille got an immediate break in the first game of the fourth set. Coric converted his fourth break-back point chance at deuce to draw level to 4-4 setting up a second tie-break. Pouille sealed the win on his first match point, when Coric made his 55th unforced error of the match.

Pouille fired 57 winners and won 66 % of his second serve points.

Lucas Pouille has become the 13th French player to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open and the first since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2017. The Frenchman reached the third quarter final at Grand Slam level in his career after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2016.

Pouille lost in the first round for the fifth consecutive year at the 2018 edition of the Australian Open and won his fifth title in Montpellier against his compatriot Richard Gasquet after saving two match points in the semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Pouille reached a career-high of world number 10 after advancing to his third ATP Tour level final in Dubai, where he lost against Roberto Bautista Agut. After a difficult second half of the season Pouille hired Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.

“It feels great. It has been a tough match against Borna. He is one of the best players in the world. The last time we played I lost 6-4 in the third set, so I knew what to expect. A few points here and there. In the first tie-break I had 5-4 and made two lets and the ball went out. It was just a few details that made the difference. I am now very happy to be in the quarter final. The atmosphere is great here. In the previous round I played against Popyrin, an Australian guy, and the atmosphere was just electric”,said Pouille.

Pouille has not won a set in his three head-to-head matches against his next rival Milos Raonic and lost in straight sets against the Canadian player in their previous head-to-head match at the 2016 Australian Open.

“He is playing well. I watched the match against Alexander Zverev. I am going to be ready for it and try to reach my first semifinal”,said Pouille.

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