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France and Croatia nominate teams for the Davis Cup final

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French captain Yannick Noah and his counterpart Zeliko Krajan have announced the teams that will fight for the 2018 Davis Cup title at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villenueve d’Asq near Lille.

 

Noah has nominated world number 32 Lucas Pouille, who clinched the fifth decisive match in last year’s final, world number 42 Jeremy Chardy, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who missed this year’s competition due to injury but contributed to the French triumph this year, and Nitto ATP Finals contenders Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues Herbert in the doubles.

France has had a difficult year with no players in the top 20 in the ATP singles Ranking. Tsonga won his first singles match in Antwerp since February, when he retired from the semifinal in Montpellier. The 2008 Australian Open finalist dropped to world number 261 in the world. Richard Gasquet was forced to withdraw from the final due to an injury problem.

Croatia seems to be the favourite according to the form of players on the ATP circuit in the most recent weeks. Zeljko Krajan has confirmed the players, who beat the USA in the semifinal last September.

Marin Cilic, who is now playing in the Nitto ATP Finals in London, helped Croatia reach the Davis Cup Final for the second time in three years by winning both his singles matches. After suffering three early defeats in Tokyo, Shanghai and Basel, he reached the quarter final in Paris Bercy. He reached the final at the Australian Open losing to Roger Federer and won the Queen’s final beating Novak Djokovic last June.

Borna Coric, who is alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, recently beat Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro en route to reaching his maiden Masters 1000 final in Shanghai, where he finished runner-up to Djokovic.

Krajan nominated Franko Skugor, who can play both the singles and the doubles, and a strong doubles team formed by Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic.

Pavic is currently playing in the doubles tournament at the Nitto ATP Finals in London teaming up with Oliver Marach. Pavic is currently ranked world number 3 and won five doubles titles in 2018. He returned to the Croatian team for the first time since 2014 in the semifinal against the USA. Dodig has made 31 Davis Cup appearances. Dodig and Pavic will face Herbert and Mahut in what is expected to be one of the decisive matches.

France has lifted ten Davis Cup titles and would be ranked third in the list of the most successful Davis Cup nations with their second consecutive title at the end of November. Croatia is bidding to win their second Davis Cup title, but the first since 2005. Croatia beat France 3-2 in the 2016 semifinal before losing the final against Argentina. Croatia has won won the last four away Davis Cup ties

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Linda Noskova upsets Garbine Muguruza to reach the second round in Lyon

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Linda Noskova beat former  world number 1 Garbine Muguruza 6-1 6-4 to reach the second round in Lyon. 

 

Noskova broke serve in the second and sixth games to close out the first set 6-1. 

Muguruza started the second set with a break in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead. 

Noskova broke back in the fifth game at deuce and saved fourth break point to draw level to 3-3. Noskova earned her second break in the ninth game to seal the second set 6-4 setting up a second round match against Egypt’s Mayar Sherif. 

Noskova became the youngest woman in the top 100 since Coco Gauff held his distinction in October 2019. 

At this year’s Adelaide International 1 Noskova came through the qualifying round beating Anna Kalinskaya and Anna Kalinskaya to advance to the main draw. Noskova upset Daria Kasatkina in the first round to achieve her first top 10 win. She went to beat Claire Liu to reach her first WTA 500 quarter final. She beat two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in a three-set match in the quarter final, winning the tie-break 8-6 after saving a match point. Noskova beat Ons Jabeur to reach her first WTA final where she lost to fresh Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka. As a result, Noskova moved close to 50 positions to number 56.

Noskova needed to play the qualifying round at the Australian Open to join the main draw, but she lost to world number 192 Katherine Sebov. 

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final

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Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 

 

Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Australian Open: Facing Tsitsipas For World No. 1 Spot May Be Different for Novak Djokovic

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Image via https://twitter.com/atptour/

It probably was a good thing that Novak Djokovic wasn’t facing a top opponent in the Australian Open semifinals. Certainly not one the caliber of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

Of course, Tommy Paul did his best. He just isn’t a top ten caliber player.

The American could rally with Djokovic, but when it came time to win the point or game, he  usually was nowhere to be found on the Rod Laver court.

DJOKOVIC WILL NEED TO BE BETTER

The fact that Tsitsipas is in contention for the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis is enough to ensure that Paul isn’t quite in the league with the Greek superstar.

Djokovic will need to be better than he was against Paul when he steps onto the court to face Tsitsipas on Sunday night in the Australian Open singles final.

There was Djokovic blundering his way through a one-sided 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Paul. The scoreline should have been closer to 3-1-2. But Novak appeared to have all kinds of physical ailments — legs, knees, bandaged hamstring. Or just plain conditioning and breathing hard. You name it.

NIGHT-TIME DUTY ONCE AGAIN

It was just night time in Melbourne. You wonder what might have happened if Novak had been assigned some daytime duty like everyone else in the tournament. Say, like Tsitsipas had been assigned for his closer than the scores reflex in the Greek’s 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov in Friday’s other semifinal.

Tsitsipas is a real threat to claim the world’s top ranking on Sunday night with a victory over the legend from Serbia. Of course, in the 2021 French Open final, Tsitipsas won the first two sets against Djokovic.

It’s possible. Tsitsipas could come through this time.

A SHADOW OF THE OLD NOVAK

Novak was only a shadow of the old Djokovic Friday night. And that was against a player who may never earn a berth in another Grand Slam semifinal.

Of course, Djokovic wasn’t quite as out of it as Rafa Nadal was in the second-round blitzing by Mackenzie McDonald. But Nadal was nursing a hip injury. He may be a different player in Paris in four months.

Djokovic still has all of the big shots and serves he has displayed for much of the last two decades. He just didn’t seem to know where all of those weapons were headed in the semifinals.

IS NOVAK’S BAG OF TRICKS EMPTY?

Of course, if Novak pulls a solid performance out of his bag of tricks and denies Tsitsipas the world’s top ranking, Djokovic likely would stand in Nadal’s path in Paris to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The task won’t be easy. First, Novak has to take care of business on Sunday night. But with a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title up for grabs, Djokovic may actually look like himself. 

As Novak says, he wants to be known as the best player in the world.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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