Taylor Fritz edges his friend Liam Caruana in four sets at the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan - UBITENNIS
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Taylor Fritz edges his friend Liam Caruana in four sets at the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan

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Taylor Fritz came back from losing the first set to beat Italian wild card Liam Caruana 1-4 4-1 4-3 (11-9) 4-2 after 1 hour and 21 minutes. Caruana gave Fritz run for his money in a very close tie-break in the third set, but he lost it 11-9.

Fritz wasted a game point in the fourth game of the opening set. Caruana won the killer point with a backhand return winner on the deciding point in the fourth game. The Italian player sealed the first set 4-1 on the deciding point in the fifth game.

Fritz earned the break in the fourth game of the second set on the deciding point to seal the second set 4-1, when Caruana sent his backhand long. Fritz closed out the set with three winners in the fifth game.

Caruana fended off a break point at the start of the third set. Both players went on serve setting up a tie-break. Fritz earned a mini-break on the fourth point for 3-1, when Caruana made a double fault. Caruana got back on serve on the sixth point with an unforced error from Fritz. Caruana made a double fault on the eighth point for 4-4. After a trade of mini-breaks Fritz earned a set point at 6-5, but Caruana saved it with a forehand winner. Caruana did not convert three set points at 7-6, 8-7 and 9-8. Caruana hit a spectacular diving drop volley winner to earn the second of his three set points, but Fritz saved this chance with an ace at 9-9 before winning the final two points to win a dramatic tie-break by 11-9. The fourth set went on serve until the sixth game, when Caruana went down 0-30, as he was serving to stay in the match. He rallied to 30-30 but Fritz broke serve for the second time in the match on the next point to close out the match, when the Italian player hit a forehand long.

Fritz, who lost against Andrey Rublev yesterday, will face Alex De Minaur on Thursday. The US player won 23 matches on the ATP Tour this season and reached the semifinals in Houston and Chengdu.

“I think I was a little worried because he definitely has it in his mind that he can beat me. I lost against Liam lots of times when were juniors. I remember a certain match with him where he beat me 2-0 in the semifinals of a National in Claremont. We are really good friends. I can’t count how many times we must have played each otherwhen were were 12 and 14 years old. That was definitely an interesting thing going into the matchto think about. I stayed in the system of playing in Southern California, sometimes playing nationally. I went to a regular high school. I decided to leave school and go to USTA to train in Florida where all the real good guys are. That’s when I realized that, if I actually wanted to be a pro, I was going to have be better than those guys”,said Fritz.

 Fritz enjoyed playing in Milan with a new format.

“As far as the format goes, I like it a lot. It makes tennis more entertaining and it’s trying something new. I think tennis needs to try to appeal to be more exciting and get younger fans involved. Everyone I have talked to said they find this more exciting. There is certain things I would definitely change. I disagree with coaching. I think tennis is individual and how you analyze yourself should have an important impact on the result”.

Hubert Hurkacz wins five-set match over Jaume Munar

Sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz edged Spain’s Jaume Munar 4-2 4-2 2-4 3-4 (5-7) 4-1 after two hours and 3 minutes to move to 1-1 in Group A keeping his chances of qualifying for the semifinals alive. The Polish player took his first win against Munar, who took beat his Spanish rival in their previous head-to-head clashes at junior level.

Hurkacz won just four points more than Munar in a very close match. The Pole saved six of the nine break points he faced and converted six of his twelve break points.

Hurkacz dropped just three points on serve in the opening set and converted his fourth set point on return with a backhand down the line in the sixth game of the first set on the deciding point to claim the first set 4-2.

The second set went on serve in the first three games before a streak of three consecutive break. Hurkacz broke in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead, when Munar sent a backhand long. Munar broke straight back in the next game. Hurkacz broke again to close out the second set, whne Munar netted a forehand.

The third set started with three consecutive breaks. Munar broke serve at love in the first game of the third set. Hurkacz broke straight back to draw level to 1-1, but Munar broke again in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. The Spanish player won his next two service games to close out the third set 4-2 with a service winner.

Munar won the killer point in the second game of the fourth set and fired a backhand down the line to bring up a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break. He closed out the tie-break 7-5 to force the match to the fifth set after Hurkacz made a backhand error.

Hurkacz converted his second break point in the first game of the fifth set and hit a service winner on the killer point in the second game to back up the break. Munar went up 40-0 on return to earn three chances to pull the break back, but Hurkacz won four consecutive points to save all break points for 3-1. The Pole broke serve on the deciding point with a backhand return to close out the five-set match.

Hurkacz started the year as world number 238, but he won two ATP Challenger tournaments to break into the top 100 for the first time in his career. Hurkacz will face number 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday.

“The new format is different. It’s funny because you get on the court and do everything quick. You need to the racket in the hand and sprint to the center and do the coin toss. For the warmup it actually works out. If there would maybe one minute after, it might be good. You can get used to it, but for the first time it’s different”, said Hurkacz.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas: “I am happy that I reached my goal, but that’s just the starting point to go deeper”

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Stefanos Tsitsipas was surprised with the level of his performance during his quarter final match against Roberto Bautista Agut following his sensational win over Roger Federer in the fourth round on Sunday.

“I was a little surprised. You have a bigger picture of your opponent when he is going to come out. You think that he is going to do some extraordinary things. Roberto was playing great today. He played some good tennis the entire week”, said Tsitsipas in the press conference after his win over Roberto Bautista Agut.

 The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion admitted that it was difficult to sink in what he achieved against defending champion Federer.

“It was really tough. The first night was tough to process. In the beginning it was tough to fall asleep to be honest with you. I had pain in my toe which kept me awake. In general, I felt a bit of pain in my body and tension. The first night was tough. I slept less than six hours. I was worried about my next match, if I am going to be able to get some good sleep the day before. I wanted to concentrate on my next match. I knew that win against Federer was important, played a huge role in my image, like I am. I knew that the biggest challenge was today’s match, that I can prove myself once again. I am happy that I reached my goal, but that’s like the starting point to go deeper. That’s like the minimum. I would call it”.

Tsitsipas admitted that he was not aware of the dramatic impact of his recent results on the number of subscribers to his personal Youtube channel, which has doubled.

“Oh, my God, really ? I did not know it was going to have such a big impact. I didn’t check yet. I am not sure. I think I am going to be more careful what I am going to post on my next video. I am going to continue doing it. It does not change anything as a person. I am going to try to remain the same. It’s nice to be having those nice results, but it’s important to stay who you are, not think too much of yourself. I am going to continue making those videos. There is no pressure, not all all. I have no clue of what the reaction has been back home in Greece. The only thing I have seen is some posts, some magazine photos. I really want to know what it is back there, how it is back there. I received a lot of messages of support from home, which I have not replied to yet, otherwise it would take too much time. People seem to care. That’s a nice feeling”.

 Posting videos on Youtube helped his professional tennis life and gives him satisfaction away from the court.

“I started posting my videos on Youtube. When I am desperate sometimes, when I feel down, I do these videos. I actually feel better. It makes me realize that tennis is not the most important thing in life, that we all have some other talents that we don’t know about. It makes me more relaxed. Film making and photography give me a better understanding and idea of life. There is a lot of things you can learn from that. It relaxes me. I see it as a hobby. Actually it’s a good hobby, because I can carry this stuff to all these locations that I visita round the world, create things.”.

Tsitsipas booked his spot in his first Grand Slam semifinal, where he will face 2009 Melbourne champion Rafael Nadal, who beat Frances Tiafoe in straight sets. Nadal beat Tsitsipas in both their head-to-head matches in two finals played last season in Barcelona and in Toronto.

“I played against Nadal once on clay in Barcelona and once on hard-court in Toronto. On clay it was a different story. I felt like I had no chance after losing 6-1 6-2 in Barcelona. I felt like he was on completely another level on clay that on hard court. I felt very close of beating himin Toronto, though the score was 6-2 7-6. I remember coming back to the locker room and promising to myself I am going to do much better against him next time. I felt like I understood a bit better what he was doing on the court after that match, and especially on hard court”

 Tsitsipas grew up in a sports family and started playing tennis inspired by his parents Apostolos Tsitsipas and his mother Julia Salnikova, who was a tennis player. His grandfather Sergei Salnikov (father of Julia) won the Olympic gold medal in football in Melbourne 1956. Stefanos could follow in the footsteps of his grandfather by writing a new chapter in his family’s history in the Australian city.

“It’s very important to have both parents involved in tennis from a very young age. It’s good to have a family that’s so well connected with tennis, he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Many parents have no clue of what they should do for their kids. I feel lucky that I have such parents that know a lot about this game.

 Tsitsipas frequently trains in France at the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice.

“Patrick brings me a lot of confidence in my game. He actually is not talking much, but whatever he says is so right and so on point that if I do that, most of the time he is actually right and it’s working. That’s kind of a skill, I would say, from people to be so direct and so right on what they are saying one time, not talking too much here and there, making you feel confused. That’s what I appreciate and admire about him”, said Tsitsipas.

 

 

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Lucas Pouille Roars His Way To First Grand Slam Semi-Final At Australian Open

The Frenchman praised new coach, Amelie Mauresmo, following his milestone win over Milos Raonic.

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France’s Lucas Pouille has continued his dream run at the Australian Open after hitting his way past Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4, in the quarter-finals.

The 26th seed entered Melbourne Park with little expectation of going deep. Prior to the tournament, the Frenchman had only won one out of eight singles matches played since October (including the Hopman Cup). Despite his lack of wins in recent time, Pouille illustrated his potential with a dominant display against Raonic, a player who he had never took a set off in their three previous meetings on the tour.

“I’m very happy. I knew it would be a tough match. I did really good on my returns and I held my serve throughout almost all of the match.“ Pouille said during his on-court interview.
“I didn’t win a match before coming into Melbourne. Now here I am in the semi-finals, I’m just very, very happy.”

Taking on a player who is known as one of the biggest servers in the game, it was the French world No.31 who was the more dominant. Pouille claimed an impressive 84% of the points behind his first serve as he hit 62 winners past his Canadian rival. He also has the chance to break the Raonic serve 14 times during the clash, but could only convert three of them.

“I really wanted to return as best as possible to put a lot of balls into the court, make him play.” The 24-year-old commented about the tactics he used.
“I just enjoyed the moment and that’s what I did.”

Pouille experienced a scare early in the match when he got broken to fall behind 0-3. Enabling Raonic to gradually work his way to 5-2 in the opener. Despite the blip, Pouille hit back with interest as he impressively didn’t face another break point for the remainder of the match. Frustrating his rival with a series of stunning passing shots.

Boasting a two sets lead, it looked as if Pouille would cruise towards the victory as he continued to apply pressure onto the Raonic serve. However, during the closing stages of set three, a call made against Raonic fired the Canadian up. The umpire said he wasn’t able to reward him the point because he didn’t see when the Frenchman hit the ball, prompting the world No.17 to reply ‘because you don’t watch. And you’re incapable.’ Following the argument, Raonic raced through the tiebreaker by claiming six points in a row before clinching it to revive his chances.

With neither player buckling behind their serve during the fourth frame, Pouille battled towards the milestone win. Leading 5-4, he once again troubled the Raonic serve as he worked his way to two match point opportunities. He failed to convert his first due to a fine volley from his opponent. Then on his second, a clean forehand winner from Raonic denied him. Eventually, it was third time lucky for Pouille at the expense of an unforced error from across the court. Sending him into the semi-final of a major for the first time in his career.

The milestone has been achieved under the watchful eye on new coach Amelie Mauresmo. A former world No.1 women’s player who has previously worked alongside Andy Murray. Pouille remains in the minority when it comes to an ATP player have a female coach, but he insists that gender plays no part.

“She (Mauresmo) has the right state of mind, she knows everything about tennis. It’s not about being a woman or man.” He said. “You just have to know what you’re doing and she does.”
“We kept working hard. Even after all of the matches that I lost. I went on the court straight after (my loses), decided to take it step-by-step. Give all I have on every single point and here I am.” He later added.

Pouille will play either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals.

The last Frenchman to win the men’s title in Melbourne was Jean Borotra back in 1928.

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Rafael Nadal storms into semi-final with dominant win over Tiafoe

Rafael Nadal progressed to his fifth Australian Open semi-final with a comprehensive win over rising star Frances Tiafoe.

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Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Rafael Nadal produced an impressive performance to see off Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 6-2 and advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the fifth time.

The emphatic scoreline means that the Spaniard, 32, is still yet to drop a set in the event this year. And it sets him up perfectly to push on and try and claim his second title in Melbourne.

It was a disappointing end to the American’s run. However, he can be justifiably proud of his efforts, especially during his wins over Kevin Anderson and Gregor Dimitrov, and it was clear to see today that his previous matches had taken a lot out of him.

Nadal raced through his opening service game to win it to love. He then immediately attacked Tiafoe’s serve and gained an immediate break.

That was all the Spaniard needed. He dominated on serve throughout the set and won 20 of the 23 points behind it, which enabled him to wrap it up 6-3 in just 31 minutes.

Tiafoe fights hard in the second set

The American made the worst possible start to the second set. He played a poor game on serve and lost it to love.

To his credit, Tiafoe responded well and fought for everything in the next few games. He earned his first break point of the match in game four after he won a 20-shot rally. However, he sent his next return just long.

The American then got another chance immediately when Nadal pulled a forehand wide. But again Tiafoe was unable to take advantage as he hit a backhand long.

Those turned out to be Tiafoe’s only opportunities in the set, as the World No.2 eventually held after three more deuces and went on to take it 6-4 without facing any more alarms on his serve.

Nadal ends Tiafoe’s challenge with early break

When Nadal broke the American in the opening of the third set, as he had done in the first two sets, the match already seemed as good as over.

Tiafoe hung in for a few more games to keep it to one break. However, his resistance ended when he made some tired errors and dropped his serve in game seven.

Fittingly, Nadal closed out the match with another commanding game on serve, which included a trademark forehand winner down the line.

“For me it’s very emotional to be back in the semi-finals here in Melbourne,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “I’ve had some dramas at this event during my career so to be back in the semi-final after a while means everything to me.”

The Spaniard continued, “I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things that have happened. To keep competing at this level is why I wake up every morning to go on court or go to the gym with the goal to be a better player.”

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