Monday at The O2 Arena was an all too familiar situation for former US Open champion Marin Cilic. Taking on Germany’s Alexander Zverev, he lead by 5-3 before eventually losing in straight sets.
At a glimpse, it could be argued that the outcome wasn’t significant considering he was taking on the world No.5 at an event dubbed the fifth grand slam of men’s tennis. However, a closer analysis of Cilic’s last 10 losses on the tour identifies an interesting, as well as worrying, trend developing.
It all started at this year’s Wimbledon championships. Taking on Guido Pella in the second round, Cilic was the overwhelming favourite to win and lead the match by two sets. Winning 12 out of the first 15 games played against the Argentine before rain halted play. Despite the lead, Cilic ended up crashing out in five sets in what was his worst result at the tournament since 2013.
“I was not as accurate. I was just missing some balls, some easy balls, giving him a chance to come back.” He commented after that match.
Since Wimbledon, Cilic has gone on to suffer nine losses on the tour. In most of which he either lead the match or had match points. His opponents have ranged from grand slam champions Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to Jan-Lennard Struff.
“I feel with my game that I need to be more stubborn, a little bit more consistent when having also a lead,” Cilic told reporters in London earlier this week.
“Maybe I drop my focus a bit. That gives an opportunity for the player to come back. It’s not easy for just mentally as well, working for it and creating chances and then dropping them, so its up-and-down with the emotions.”
Cilic’s last 10 losses
- Had a two-set lead against Pella (Wimbledon)
- Lead Nadal by a set (Toronto)
- Took Djokovic to three sets (Cincinnati)
- Lead Kei Nishikori by a set and 4-2 (US Open)
- Lead Struff by 4-2 in the deciding set (Tokyo)
- Had match points against Nicolas Jarry (Shanghai)
- Had set points against Marius Copil (Basel)
- Lead Djokovic by a break in the final set (Paris)
- Had an initial 5-3 lead over Zverev (London)
Nightmares At The O2
The irony in Cilic’s losses is that it leads up to one of his weakest tournaments in terms of wins. This year is his fourth appearance at the ATP Finals. Overall, he has only managed to win one out of 10 matches at the event. That was against Nishikori back in 2016.
“I know the score. Having another match with chances and not taking them. That’s something that I’m not happy about.” Cilic commented about his record following his loss to Zverev. “Also, last year, it happened a couple of times. And the year before that. So, against top guys like this, it hits me back.’
“It’s not the best thing that I’m doing, creating opportunities and having most of the time leads in the match and then I drop them. So, that’s what I need to just get better at.”
Despite the results, the 30-year-old is refusing to let it hinder his motivation. During his career, Cilic has won a total of 18 ATP titles. He is also the highest earning Croatian player in ATP history (in terms of prize money) with more than $25 million. Overall, he is 10th on the all-time list.
“It’s not easy also to come back again and push yourself. But, you know, that’s also part of the game. And looking forward to the next two matches in the group. Hopefully, I can build upon this match and that I can play better.”
So is he the worst in London?
It can be difficult to deem a player the worst in the tournament because it depends on the measure. For example, John Isner might be classed as the strongest server, but not the best returner. One measure that helps to draw a conclusion is the Infosys ranking system that is done in partnership with the ATP. Which oversee the leaderboards of these three categories:-
- Serve leaders (four service metrics percentages + average number of aces per match – average number of double faults per match)
- Return leaders (winning percentage in the four service return categories added together)
- Under pressure leaders (percentage of break points converted and saved + percentage of tie-breaks won + percentage of deciding sets won).
Based on the past 52 weeks, Cilic is the worst player in the Under Pressure category among those participating in this week’s ATP Finals. He is the only player ranked outside of the top 40 at 45th. On the other hand, he fares better in the other two categories. He has a better rating than Isner and Kevin Anderson in Returns (overall rank 39th), and has the fourth highest score when it comes to serving (10th on the tour).
It is easy to blast the former grand slam winner, but awknoledgement should also be given to his achievements in 2018. Including winning The Fever-Tree Championships in London (Queen’s), finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and reaching the semifinals at three other tournaments. He also achieved a career ranking high of third in January.
Cilic will play Isner in his second match at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.
Laver Cup: As Europe’s blue reign, myriad hues peek out in event’s latest iteration
The 2019 Laver Cup showed all over again why it was an opportunity for tennis to be diverse in its offering.
Twelve matches spread over a three-day weekend later, Laver Cup has modified the proverbial face and scope of men’s tennis. It is still viewed sceptically as a disruptor to routine, individual-focused tennis matches in certain pockets. Yet, the singularity it has brought into the midst of the prevalent concept of individuality is irrevocable.
In the third year of the event’s emergence, these aspects are repetitive. However, Laver Cup’s display re-lit the theme of a team before a player. It also elevated it to heights not seen in its previous two editions. This showed in the players’ camaraderie with each other. As it did in the numerous coaching tips that came from the bench from Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and even Nick Kyrgios towards their fellow squad members.
Broadly, it was laid out in how the Laver Cup changed the subject from who would win the most Slams to which part of the globe would be victorious. For once, the conversation did not focus on 20 Slams versus 19, as it had come to be after Nadal’s win at the US Open. It was riveted on how two sportsmen with 39 Slams between them could set aside their competitiveness towards a common goal for a still-mushrooming tourney.
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 22, 2019
“Winning (as) teams is just amazing because you celebrate together. It’s a very special thing. Honestly, I really hope that this new and young generation keeps supporting this event because this event is special,” Nadal said after Team Europe’s three-peat on Sunday. “We need to make this event stronger and stronger because the atmosphere that we leave here is difficult to find in other places.”
The 33-year-old’s statements, aside from setting aside any cynicism about his involvement in the event this year, emphasised the growth Laver Cup has had in its three years. Nadal’s participation in Laver Cup’s inaugural year was seen as a novelty, a continuation of his and Federer’s triumphant return to the Tour after an injury-troubled 2016. Novak Djokovic’s inclusion in Europe’s 2018 squad was viewed as a reiteration that the event was a fad, where top-ranked players would make a one-off appearance, before stepping away.
In 2019, the 12-time French Open champion’s return contradicted this previously-held supposition. This shifting of perceptions is why Laver Cup has turned problematic to the Tour’s other mainstay events.
If Laver Cup were to be regarded as merely an exhibition, a tournament with no relevance to how the ATP tour progressed year-on-year with its usual clanking schedule, all of the players’ emotiveness and reactions would have been on par with the idea of livening it up for its sake.
On the other hand, when two former world no. 1s were heard sternly telling their touted successor not to be negative for the rest of his match, it was hard to convince that the whole atmosphere was made-up.
Though, it does bear noting that not being put-on and the ease with which it has been assimilated in tennis’ mainstay have been the catalysts for Laver Cup’s disparaging mooting in certain circles.
The past weekend it coincided with a couple of ATP tournaments, in St. Petersburg and Metz. Both events had several interesting match-ups of their own. Followers deeply vested in the sport knew the happenings across all tournaments held last week. But for casual viewers, it would have come down to picking one event over the rest.
The factoring in of this unnecessary chasm added to the enervation around tennis by making one take sides in a sport that is already at crossroads, without Laver Cup even being mentioned.
Yet, if it were about inclusivity, selectivity in audiences’ preferences is the other side of tennis’ coin. These choices cannot always remain aligned, even in accepting or discarding the tri-day tournament as a consequential pursuit. As Nadal opined, when asked to compare between his other title wins and his Laver Cup team win, “…every single thing is different and is important by itself.”
Nothing Tops Star Power At U.S. Open
Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on this year’s US Open.
NEW YORK — Tennis is still all about who’s playing the game.
Parents watch their kids grow up through their junior tennis days. Then maybe college tennis.
But when it comes to watching big-time tennis such as at the U.S. Open, nothing tops star power. That was never more evident than Friday and Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
NEW YORK CROWD UNSURE ABOUT MEDVEDEV
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is red hot this summer, first on the U.S. Open series where he lost in two finals before winning in Cincinnati. And then he made the U.S. Open final.
But the New York crowd doesn’t get very excited about the 6’6″ wonder. Empty seats were plentiful Friday afternoon when Medvedev knocked off Grigor Dimitrov in the first men’s semifinal. Even if the crowds weren’t excited about Medvedev, they should have been thrilled to see Dimitrov. Obviously, the fans weren’t too happy that Dimitrov had taken down Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
But, suddenly, when Rafa Nadal took center court for the second semifinal, fans were everywhere. That was for a match against a relative newcomer to big-time tennis. Matteo Berrettini could play, but he was no equal for Nadal.
NADAL MAKES EMPTY SEATS DISAPPEAR
Yet, it was time to be sure you were in the correct seat. The empty seats had disappeared.
The U.S. Open had switched gears. It had gone from the frenzied atmosphere of young
Americans Coco Gaulf, Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend to a different reality.
The old-timers, better known as all-timers, might be nearing the end of the road in big-time tennis. Yes, the list includes even Serena Williams.
Nadal took care of his end of the bargain with the fans by turning away Berrettini in sraight sets to secure his day, and a spot in the final against Medvedev.
Serena couldn’t save her day in Saturday’s women’s final, despite the efforts of a packed stadium of wildly cheering supporters. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu simply was better on this day.
ANDREESCU MIGHT BE FOR REAL
Of course, Andreescu has plenty of time to set records and win fans. Serena rallied from 5-1 down in the second set, and appeared headed for another possible magical win when she tied the set at 5-5.
In the end, Serena failed again in her attempt to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Andreescu.
Serena might have made 2018 champion Naomi Osaka’s career a year earlier when Serena couldn’t notch Grand Slam title No. 24 then, either. Now, Andreescu may be ready to make her mark on the game. Getting by Serena was a big step. Andreescu might join the all-timers one day.
When another Grand Slam season gets underway in January in Australia, the tennis world really might be turned upside down. Novak Djokovic’s early departure along with the 38-year-old Federer’s and Stan Wawrinka’s losses in the next round were shocking, along with the early collapse of all of the super women’s stars except Serena.
SERENA, FEDERER AND NADAL IN A DIFFERENT WORLD
The young women’s stars such as Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Simona Halep and Ashleigh Barty, along with Medvedev, Berrettini, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime among the men aren’t likely to evolve into all-time stars the way Serena, Federer and Nadal have.
That’s just the reality of big-time tennis. Serena, Federer and Nadal are players for the ages, just like Rod Laver was. Their fan bases are in for a major change, or they can switch to the sometimes unpredictability of this new group.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
2019 US Open: A common road led by contrasting routes for Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung
Amid the huddle of early-round exits and some scattered withdrawals, a couple of players made the most of opportunities they received at the 2019 US Open. Dominik Koepfer and Hyeon Chung came through the qualifying rounds to win their initial couple of rounds with conviction and make their way forward even as rest of the playing field blew open around them.
Being qualifiers is the denominator common to them this week. Yet, in a way, the 23-year-old Chung is trudging a familiar route as compared with the 25-year-old Koepfer who is a relative newer face to watch at the Slams.
In 2018, Chung had made it to his first semi-final at a Major – at the Australian Open – taking down then six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals’ titlist reached a career-high of 19 in the world after his Australian Open jaunt in 2018. Koepfer, on the other hand, is yet to break into the top-100 – with a career-high of no. 113 attained in the second-week of August. His best result at the Majors – before his fourth-round appearance at the US Open – was reaching the second round at Wimbledon this year.
None of these differences in the respective roads they have travelled on the Tour mattered as they tried to make it to the main draw. Chung’s injuries that kept him away from the circuit (for almost five months this year) meant he had to start from scratch, at the Challenger level. Koepfer’s being a mainstay on the Challenger circuit – for now – meant he, too, would start from the same position.
In doing so, the sport has made levellers out of them. Their past results do not matter. It is how they do against the opponent of the day that matters. Three qualifying rounds followed by the sterner main-draw test that also comes by way of lengthier matches. In this regard, Chung has already faced two such difficult matches in his first two rounds this week against Ernesto Escobedo and Fernando Verdasco in which he had to play five-setters to extricate himself.
The draw’s narrowing has also meant the task ahead of them has gotten harder. This is also where their paths diverge once again. If Tulane University alumnus in Koepfer is the equivalent of a dark horse, Chung’s previous experience makes him a dangerous floater.
If the two end up being truthful to this tag of theirs, the chaos component at this year’s US Open will be the accentuation separating itself from the monotonous.
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Juan Martin Del Potro Hits Back At Claim Made By Pique Over Davis Cup Involvement
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‘I Was Just Trying To Fight’ – Andy Murray Clinches Biggest Win Of 2019 At China Open
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(VIDEO) Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev Guide Europe To Laver Cup Glory
(VIDEO) US Open Day 14: Rafael Nadal Ends The Tournament With An Extraordinary Win
(VIDEO) US Open Day 12: Bianca Andreescu Is The Queen Of New York
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