Marin Cilic Fights Back Against Isner As Djokovic Qualifies For Semis At ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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Marin Cilic Fights Back Against Isner As Djokovic Qualifies For Semis At ATP Finals

The Croat has claimed only his second ever win in at the season-ending tournament.

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Former US Open champion Marin Cilic has scored a rare win at The ATP Finals after fighting back to defeat John Isner 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4, at The O2 Arena.

 

Cilic, who is making his fourth appearance in the tournament, withstood 17 aces that were fired by his opponent during what was a roller coaster match. Featuring a total of 30 winners to 23 unforced errors from the Croat.

“It was very difficult. The first set was extremely tough.” Said Cilic.
“I had to stay patient, stayed focused and I felt I played really great tennis from the second set, and the third set as well.”
“I’m really pleased with the win.” He added.

Heading into the match it was inevitable that the service would be a prominent feature. Isner is ranked first of Infosys Serve Leaders Leaderboard based on the past 52 weeks. A calculation that is worked out based on the four service metrics percentages plus the average number of aces per match before the average number of double faults per match is subtracted. Meanwhile, Cilic is 10th.

It was the fine margins that were the telling factor at the start of the match. During the opener, both players had their opportunities to break. Cilic was first to work his way to a break point, but failed to find a formula consistent enough to break down Isner’s serve. Later on in the match, it was Isner’s turn as he saw three set point chances come and go whilst leading 5-4.

Ultimately the tiebreaker separated the two. Cilic, who had only ever won one match in the history of the tournament, swiftly feel behind after slamming a backhand into the net to trail 0-2. Allowing Isner to storm to a 5-2 lead with relative ease. Continuing his momentum, the 32-year-old closed the tiebreaker out with the help of a 134 mph serve followed by a forehand down the line.

Cilic, who boasted a 7-3 head-to-head record against his opponent heading into the match, managed to find a way to come back into the match. A failing to convert four break points throughout the second set, it was fifth time lucky for the Croat. An Isner double fault elevated him to a 5-3 lead before forcing the match into a decider with the help of back-to-back aces.

With all to play for in the decider, ironically the serve became a liability for both player as they traded breaks before Cilic worked his way to a 3-1 advantage. Continuing to weather the storm, the world No.7 overcame his recent demons to seal the victory. Doing so with a love service game.

“I just felt like I got momentum towards the end of the season set and I started to feel the ball really well,” Cilic explained about how he managed to close out the match.

Besides the triumph for Croatian tennis fans, top seed Novak Djokovic is also relishing in the effects of the win. Isner was required to take at least one set against Cilic to send the Serbian into the semis. Djokovic defeated Alexander Zverev in straight sets earlier in the day. It will be his eighth appearance in the last four of the tournament.

Cilic will play Djokovic next in the round-robin tournament on Friday.

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Borna Coric Admits He Was Difficult To Work With As He Targets Top 10 Milestone

The Croatian No.1 believes ‘controlled aggression’ is key to rising back up the rankings.

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Croatian tennis star Borna Coric says he has become more ‘easy-going’ in recent years after working under a variety of different coaches.

 

The 23-year-old has been guided on the Tour by no fewer than eight coaches since 2014 which includes the likes of Thomas Johansson (2015) and Riccardo Piatti (2017-2019). At present, he is now working with Martin Stepanek. A former Czech player who has worked with the likes of Thomas Berdych and Ivan Dodig.

“I am not going to deny it, I was difficult to work with before, high-maintenance if you like, and now I am more easy-going. But I really have never been the type of guy that fires a coach after two first-round losses,” Coric told tennismajors.com.
“Actually, looking back at all my coaches, only with one it was entirely up to me, where I felt we weren’t working well and I decided to end it. With everyone else there were different issues – personal problems on their side, or inability to reach an agreement in regard to finances, or that the coach wasn’t able to travel enough weeks with me, things like that.”

Coric’s various changes in his team can be partly attributed to his roller-coaster journey. Growing up he was portrayed as the next big thing in the sport following a series of high-profile wins during his teenage years. At the age of 17 he defeated Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors followed by Andy Murray in Dubai the year after.

Despite his early promise, Coric is yet to scale the top of men’s tennis with his best ranking being 12th which was first achieved back in 2018. He looked on course to rise further last season but another coaching split combined with back injury problems resulted in him falling down the rankings again.

Given that the average age of professional tennis players peaking is on the rise, there is still time for Coric to get the breakthrough many have predicted for him. He is once again showing signs of a resurgence during what has been a limited 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the US Open, which was his 22nd appearance in a main draw of a Grand Slam, he reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in his career. More recently at the St. Petersburg Open the Croat reached the final before losing to the in-form Andrey Rublev.

As to what the key has been to Coric’s recent resurgence, he explains that it is due to what he describes as ‘controlled aggression.’

“It depends on numerous factors (whether he’ll be aggressive). The surface, my gut feeling, am I confident or not, if I am moving well and feeling fresh, have I got the right feel for the ball, the opponent’s style of play… A lot comes into it, but generally speaking, I am a far better player when I am being aggressive, not just retrieving, even though I am perhaps making a bit more errors,” he explains.
“You could see that on display in New York and me being aggressive, along with further improvement of my serve, are two of the biggest emphasis of my work with Martin. I am not there yet, but if I am healthy and able to maintain the level I had at the US Open, then I can get close to Top 10. But it’s still a long way to go.”

Coric is currently ranked 24th in what is his best ranking so far this season and has achieved a win-loss of 14-10. Out of those 14 wins, two were over top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Coric’s 2020 season summary

  • ATP Cup – one win and two losses
  • Australian Open – lost in first round to Sam Querrey
  • Buenos Aires – granted a bye in the first round, lost in the second to Thiago Monterio
  • Rio de Janeiro – reached the semi-finals before losing to Christian Garin
  • Western and Souther Open – in first ATP tournament following a five-month break due to COVID-19, Coric reached the second round before going out to David Goffin
  • US Open: Achieved his best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals. He was knocked out of the tournament by Alexander Zverev
  • Rome – lost in round two to Stefano Travaglia
  • French Open – upset in the first round by Norbert Gombos
  • St. Petersburg – achieved best result of the season so far by reaching the final.

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Alexander Zverev Confident ATP Finals Will Be Safe To Attend

The US Open finalist speaks out about travelling to the British capital during the pandemic.

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Alexander Zverev at the US Open 2020 (photo Twitter @usopen)

Germany’s Alexander Zverev believes the ATP Finals will be one of the safest places to be amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The world No.7 will head to London next month to play in the season-ending event which features the eight best players in the world of men’s tennis. London has recently been moved from level one to level two on the British Government’s COVID-19 tier system following a rise in cases of the virus towards 100 per 100,000. People from different households are now no longer allowed to mix inside under the new rules. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, recently said that the number of infection cases is doubling every 10 days.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Zverev says he is confident that the event will be safe to attend. For the first time this year it is taking place behind closed doors in accordance with government rules. In 2019 242,883 fans attended the tournament over an eight-day period.

“We will stay in a hotel next to the stadium, which will be bolted. I think this will be the last place, where people are vulnerable to the coronavirus disease,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.

US Open runner-up Zverev is hoping for a strong end to what has been a testing season for the sport which was halted for five months due to the pandemic. On Sunday he added to his title collection by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to win the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne. The tournament was also held without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Although we didn’t have any fans inside the arena, I felt the support from home. I had the feeling playing on home soil and I hope that many fans watched the final on TV,” Zverev commented.
“It is different and more difficult this year, as we played less tournaments than usual. I hope that I can keep it up like this.” He added.

At present six players have already qualified for the ATP Finals. Besides Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are all set to play. World No.4 Roger Federer has also qualified but will not be playing after deciding to pull the plug on his season due to a knee injury.

The O2 Arena has been home to The ATP Finals since 2009 and has welcomed more than 2.8 million fans to the event over that period. However, the event will be moved to Italy from next year.

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Andrey Rublev On Why He Believes Rafael Nadal Is The ‘Best Ever Athlete’

The world No.8 comments on Nadal’s latest achievement at the French Open earlier this month.

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The mental strength of world No.2 Rafael Nadal has been hailed by one of his rivals on the Tour following their win at the St. Petersburg Open.

 

Andrey Rublev has paid tribute to the Spaniard following his historic triumph at the French Open. In Paris Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, to win the Grand Slam for the 13th time in his career to become the first player – male or female – to have won the same major event that amount of times. He has also drawn level with Roger Federer for most Grand Slam trophies won at 20 on the men’s tour.

“I can’t imagine not only how it is possible to win so many Slams but also how it is possible to achieve what he has done and how it is possible to be as mentally strong during the whole career,” Rublev told reporters on Sunday.
“Even Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have bad days through their career but Rafa is the only one who no matter how he is feeling himself emotionally he always finds the way to win. And even if he loses, he is fighting in three-five set for many hours.”

The two tennis figures have only played against each other on the Tour once before which was three years ago in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Nadal eased to victory by dropping just five games in the process. Rublev is 11 years younger than his opponent.

“All the athletes have bad days, but in team sports your partners help you, so the team can win at the end if all the other players are good enough. It is very difficult to compete in any match no matter what is going on in your off-court life. He is not just the best tennis player he is the best athlete ever,” Rublev added.

As a result of his latest win, Rublev has risen to a ranking high of eighth in the world this week. So far this year he has achieved a win-loss of 34-7 and made more than $1.6 million in prize money. At the age of 22 he is currently the youngest player in the world’s top 10. Stefanos Tsitsipas is also the same age as the Russian but was born two months before him.

“Every position in the ranking means a lot now. The most important thing for me is to keep working. I still have a lot of elements that I need to improve. I want to believe that I will have the opportunity to become better for the next season,” he said.

The rise of Rublev has placed him on good footing to clinch a spot at the season-ending ATP Finals next month where the top eight players will play. He has withdrawn from the European Open this week but is planning to play events in Vienna, Paris and Sofia before the season ends. Then, if he qualifies, he will travel to London for the ATP Finals.

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