ATP Finals Day 1 Preview: Roger Federer Seeks A Dream Start - UBITENNIS
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ATP Finals Day 1 Preview: Roger Federer Seeks A Dream Start

The best players of 2018 will battle it out in a round-robin format for the year’s biggest title outside of a Major.

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Unfortunately, two of this season’s best performers will not play in London due to injury. Rafael Nadal has been dealing with multiple injuries, and has not played since the US Open. Subsequently, he just dropped the No.1 ranking to Novak Djokovic, who will now end the year as the top-ranked player for a fifth time. Also absent from the ATP Finals will be Juan Martin Del Potro, who fractured his right patella in Shanghai last month and has not played since. Kei Nishikori and John Isner will take their places in the London draw. Also notably absent are the last two winners of this tournament. 2017 Champion Grigor Dimitrov did not even qualify this year, nor did last year’s runner-up, David Goffin. And 2016 Champion Andy Murray is currently ranked 263rd in the world, having only played twelve matches this year following hip surgery in 2017.

The only former champions at this year’s ATP Finals are Five-Time Champion Novak Djokovic, and Six-Time Champion Roger Federer. Djokovic is heavily favored to tie Federer’s record of six titles at the ATP Finals considering his results during the second half of this season. Rounding out the 2018 field are Sascha Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic, and Dominic Thiem. Overall it is the tallest field in ATP Finals history, thanks to the 6’8” Anderson and 6’10” Isner making their debuts. With many big servers in the field, and considering the indoor conditions, we should be in for many tights contests over the next eight days.

On Sunday, the Lleyton Hewitt group will open play in the singles event.

Kevin Anderson vs. Dominic Thiem

In his ATP Finals debut, Anderson is actually the fourth seed in the absence of Nadal and Del Potro. For Thiem, it’s his third straight appearance in London, though he’s yet to advance out of the round robin stage. Historically a poor performer in the second half of the year, Thiem has changed that narrative in 2018. Dominic made the semis just last week in Paris, won the St. Petersburg title in September, and advanced to his first non-clay Major quarterfinal in New York. That run was highlighted by his straight-set fourth round victory over Anderson, with what many called the best hard court tennis Thiem has ever played. Overall Anderson is 6-2 against Thiem, but Dominic won both of their 2018 meetings. Kevin arrives with a bit of confidence as well, having won the biggest title of his career just a few weeks ago in Vienna. This should be a close battle, but it feels like Thiem is playing the better hard court tennis over the past few months. He’ll also be boosted by his US Open win over Anderson, while I could easily see Anderson being nervous in his firth match at the O2. I give the slight edge to Thiem in the first singles match of the tournament.

Roger Federer vs. Kei Nishikori

These two have played twice this fall, with Federer winning in straights sets in the quarterfinals of both Shanghai and Paris. Federer is 7-2 lifetime versus Nishikori, with Kei’s only victories coming over four years ago. Their best match came at the 2017 Australian Open, when Roger defeated Kei in five sets on the way to his first Major title since 2012. As mentioned, Federer has won this event six times, though not since 2011. He’s also a four-time finalist, and has only once failed to advance out of the round robin stage in fifteen appearances. Nishikori meanwhile has qualified three previous times, and has twice been a semifinalist. Kei’s 4-7 record at the ATP Finals pales in comparison to Roger’s 55-13 record at this event. Federer is coming off his over three-hour semifinal loss to Djokovic in Paris last weekend, though he’s had a full week to recover and should be at his best this week in London. There’s no reason to believe the result here will be different than their previous two matches this year.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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