Evaluating The London Hopefuls: John Isner And Kei Nishikori - UBITENNIS
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Evaluating The London Hopefuls: John Isner And Kei Nishikori

In this four-part series we will be evaluating the season’s of next week’s ATP Finals contenders. In this part we look at John Isner and Kei Nishikori.

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John Isner (zimbio.com)

As the ATP World Tour Finals are only four days, UbiTennis evaluates the hopefuls looking at London glory next week. We start with John Isner and Kei Nishikori. 

 

John Isner 

The eighth seed at this year’s season-ending championships is American John Isner, who is making his debut at 33 years old. The world number 10 didn’t have the best start to the season after only winning one match heading into the Miami Open.

However the American’s season was boosted in Florida, where he won his maiden masters 1000 event, beating an in-form Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev en route. He would use Miami as a platform to build on as he would reach the quarter-finals in Madrid and reach the second week at Roland Garros in Paris.

A test of Isner’s confidence would be Wimbledon, which is a slam he has surprisingly done bad at despite grass being his strongest surface. The American would save match points against Ruben Bemelmans before reaching his first ever grand slam semi-final as he would lose in a Wimbledon epic to Kevin Anderson.

An Atlanta title as well as a US Open quarter-final would seal his breakthrough season as he aims to finish the year strong. One particular reason for Isner’s great season is his serving and as we can see below his kick serve out wide has won him a lot of free points.

Via ATPWorldTour.com

His serve on the Deuce side has been the main reason why he is in the ATP World Tour Finals next week and world number one Novak Djokovic will have to look out for that serve on Monday.

So at 33, John Isner has had a great season but can he live with the best, we will find out on Monday night in his first match.

John Isner’s Best Five Tournaments:

Miami Open Champion – 1000 pts

Wimbledon Semi-Finals – 720 pts

US Open quarter-finals – 360 pts

Atlanta Champion – 250 pts

Roland Garros Fourth Round – 180 pts

 

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori (zimbio.com)

As for Japan’s Kei Nishikori, 2018 has been a rough ride with many ups and downs but ends with a place at next week’s ATP Finals. The season started with a couple of challenger events before a couple of 250 events in America.

His first successful tournament was in Monte-Carlo where he reached the final before losing to a certain Rafael Nadal. A Rome quarter-final loss to Djokovic before reaching the second week in Paris saw a good spell from Nishikori.

After another Wimbledon quarter-final, Nishikori stepped his play up a gear with a very good semi-final run at the US Open, where he beat Marin Cilic and Diego Schwartzman on his way. A couple of finals losses in Tokyo and Vienna have seen the Japanese star qualify for London once again.

Potential Weakness?

Via ATPWorldTour.com

A potential weakness of Nishikori’s though is his ability to return down the tee and how short he gets the return. To beat the best players in the world, he needs to get the ball a lot deeper especially on the forehand side. This is something Roger Federer will look to exploit in their first match on Sunday.

The Deuce side returning game is something that Nishikori will need to focus on next season if he wants to aim for a spot in the top five of the world rankings.

Overall it is good to see Nishikori back to good form and will be interesting to see if he can get out of a fairly average Lleyton Hewitt Group.

Nishikori’s five best tournaments

US Open semi-finals – 720 pts

Monte-Carlo final – 600 pts

Wimbledon quarter-finals – 360 pts

Vienna Final – 300 pts

Tokyo Final – 300 pts

 

ATP

Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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ATP

David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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