After A Turbulent Season, French Tennis Comes Under Fire At The Paris Masters - UBITENNIS
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After A Turbulent Season, French Tennis Comes Under Fire At The Paris Masters

With all 10 French players failing to progress beyond the second round at their home Masters tournament, concerns are rising about the current state of men’s tennis in the country.

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French tennis has achieved a new milestone at this week’s Rolex Paris Masters, but it is one that nobody wanted.

 

At the start of this week 10 home players were entered into the draw, but after three days of competition they have all crashed out. The first time in history that no French player has reached the third round of the tournament since it was expanded to a 64-player draw back in 1990. The outcome occurs during what has been a difficult season for the men’s elite in the country.

“It is an awful season for most of the French players, but we are certainly capable of winning against the Croatians, even if they’re great players.” Richard Gasquet commented about the issue ahead of France’s Davis Cup clash with Croatia next month.

The highest ranked Frenchman is currently tour veteran Gasquet at 28th. Meaning for the first time since 1996 there will be no French player will be in the season-ending top 20. The outcome has lead to players being placed under scrutiny in a country with high expectations that hosts one of the four grand slam tournaments. The last home player to reach the final at Roland Garros was Henri Leconte in 1988. For the women, it was Mary Pierce in 2005.

“It’s harder than before because it’s tougher. There’s a lot of good players. We still have good French players who can play well.” Said world No.31 Gilles Simon.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve lost forever. I would be more pessimistic for the four or five seasons to come rather.
“But there’s still a lot of good players. We have a draw with 48 players here (at the Paris Masters). We had ten French players in the draw. It’s not that bad. Of course, the level is not as high as we want it, but still we’re here.”

Simon is the only player from his country to win multiple singles titles on the ATP Tour this season. Triumphing at the Maharashtra Open in January and the Moselle Open in September. Furthermore, three of his compatriots has also lifted ATP trophies in 2018. Gasquet (Rosmalen), Gael Monfils (Qatar) and Lucas Pouille (Open Sud de France).

At present, France has 10 players ranked in the top 100, but eight of those are over the age of 27. The two exceptions are Pouille (24) and Ugo Humbert (20).

“There are players that are older than us on the circuit that have better ranks who still win big tournaments. So it’s doable on the years to come.” Simon Commented on a possible French resurgence in 2019.
“I don’t think that Richard (Gasquet) is playing less well than before. I know that he can actually win quite well. He’s missing two good opportunities in the French Open and in Wimbledon to have very good outcomes. When I saw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday, I’m not concerned either.”

Regardless of their difficulties, team France could still end 2018 on a high if they prevail in the Davis Cup final. They will play Croatia in Lille between November 23-25, a country they lost to in the semi-finals of the competition two years ago. Croatian tennis currently boasts two players in the world’s top 20 with Marin Cilic and Borna Coric.

List of French players in the top 100 (men only)

Ranking
Player
Age
28 Richard Gasquet 32
30 Gael Monfils 32
31 Gilles Simon 33
32 Lucas Pouille 24
40 Jeremy Chardy 31
46 Adrian Mannarino 30
56 Benoit Paire 29
57 Pierre-Hugues Herbert 27
72 Julien Benneteau 36
99 Ugo Humbert 20

Note: rankings based on week commencing 29/10/2018

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American No.3 Reilly Opelka Blasts ‘Shocking’ ATP Cup

The new event has been described as unfair and a embarrassment by the American.

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 19: Reilly Opelka of United States during the Group F match between USA and Canada during Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 19, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil / Kosmos Tennis)

With the Davis Cup currently under close scrutiny this week, one player on the tour have turned his criticism to a brand new team event coming to the tour in 2020.

 

Reilly Opelka has launched a verbal attack on the ATP Cup, which will get underway in January. The event features 24 teams playing in three cities across Australia. Unlike the Davis Cup, both prize money and ranking points are available. Many of the world’s top players have already confirmed their intention to play in the event. Although one noticeable absence will be Roger Federer.

“The ATP Cup is pathetic. I think it’s shocking on behalf of the ATP for them to pass that and allow that.” The 22-year-old told reporters in Madrid.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. It’s pretty bad for the sport. It makes it (the tour) more top-heavy than it already is.”

The teams for the ATP Cup are determined by the ranking of the country’s highest ranked player. However, with only two singles players allowed to play in each team some countries find themselves in a tough spot. Once being America, who currently has eight players in the top 100. Opelka argues that due to the rules of the competition, the distribution of ranking points is unfair.

“I’m 35 in the world. I’m not going to play because I’m the second- or third-highest ranked American, and only the top two guys play.” He stated.
“It counts as an additional 19th tournament. So every player gets 18 tournaments on their ranking card. So you have to take your top 18 results, those go for your ranking. Those that play ATP Cup gets a 19th. So it’s unfair, there’s not equal opportunity for everyone.”

Opelka used the example of Moldova playing in the ATP Cup as one of the reasons why he is frustrated. The country has qualified due to the ranking of their top player Radu Albot, who is currently ranked 46th in the world. However, Moldova’s second highest ranked player is outside the top 800.

Fortunately concerning the Davis Cup, the former Wimbledon junior champion has a much more favourable view. This week is the inaugural week-long finals, which has encountered some blips already. The most being the schedule of the event with some ties now finishing until as late as 4am.

“I’m a fan of the new format. Maybe making it every two years or every three years would be I think the next step in the right direction.” Opelka concluded.
“Tennis players are pretty good at that. You don’t really know when you’re going to play matches. You can go really long, or you can go really quick. We’re used to being on standby.” He added.

This week is Opelka’s debut in the Davis Cup.

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Serbia beats France 2-1 to secure spot in Davis Cup quarter final

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Serbia qualified for the quarter finals at the Davis Cup at the Caja Magica in Madrid with wins in both singles matches by Filip Krajinovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire.

 

In the opening match Filip Kajinovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 in 1 hour and 48 minutes to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.

Krajinovic dropped two points on his first serve and earned his first three break point at 3-3 before breaking serve in the 11th game after a loose forehand from Tsonga. The 27-year-old Serbian player sealed the opening set 7-5 with a service winner.

Tsonga fended off three break points in the opening game of the second set. The Frenchman earned his only break point chance on return at 2-1, but Krajinovic saved it to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next eight games to set up a tie-break. Krajinovic earned the crucial mini-break on the 12th point to close out tie-break 7-5.

World number 2 Novak Djokovic cruised past Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3 in 70 minutes to secure the qualifying spot for Serbia in the quarter final.

Djokovic saved two break points in the first match of the opening set. The Serbian player earned a break in the eighth game and sealed the opening set 6-3 on his third set point.

Paire dropped his serve in the third game of the second set after a backhand down the line winner from Djokovic. The Serbian star hit a return winner at 5-3 to set up a quarter final clash against Russia on Friday.

Last week’s ATP Finals champions Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4. Herbert and Mahut broke serve in the fifth game to seal the opening set 6-4. Tipsarevic and Troicki broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Herbert and Mahut got the break back in the fifth game. After saving a break point in the eighth game Herbert and Mahut earned the decisive break in the ninth game and closed out the match on his first set point.

Serbia set up a quarter final against Russia, who qualified as one of the two-best-placed group runners-up by clinching second spot in Group.

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Jack Sock and Sam Querrey take late-night decisive doubles clash over Italy

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The clash between Italy and the USA came down to a decisive doubles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid after Fabio Fognini and Taylor Fritz won their respective singles matches.

 

Fabio Fognini  beat Relly Opelka 6-4 6-7 6-3 after 1 hour and 54 minutes to give Italy a much-needed win to the Italian team.

Fognini earned an early break at 1-1 after two errors from Opelka and dropped just five points in five service games. Fognini did not face a break point to close out the first set 6-4 in 33 minutes.

Both players stayed neck and neck setting up a tie-break. Opelka earned a mini-break to take a 5-3 lead in the tie-break and earned three set points. The US player sealed the first set point, but Opelka converted his second chance 7-4.

Opelka saved the first break point with an ace, but Fognini converted his second chance with a forehand passing shot in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Fognini dropped just three points to build up a 5-2 lead. Fognini served out the win on his first match point to give Italy a 1-0 win.

“I am tired for sure because it was tough. One of the things I did today was my serve, don’t ask me why. I am surprised about that”, said Fognini.

Taylor Fritz came back from one set down to beat Matteo Berrettini 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the second match. Berrettini saved a break point in the second game with a forehand down the line and a service winner. In the fifth game Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Berrettini broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 and sealed the first set on his first set point.

In the third set both players stayed neck and neck til the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the seventh game Fritz saved a break point. Berrettini held his serve at love. Fritz closed out the second set at 6-5 after 51 minutes.

Berrettini saved two consecutive break points in the first game of the third game. Fritz rallied from 0-30 down to hold his serve for 1-1. Fritz broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Berrettini saved a match point and held his serve for 2-5, but Fritz sealed the win on his second match point.

“Playing for my country is all the motivation I need. I just kept digging, kept fighting. It was really close. I lost the first set by close margin, and I told myself to tough out the second set like I know I can do, and my aggressive and fitness carried me through the third”,said Fritz.

Jack Sock and Sam Querrey came back from a set down in the decisive doubles match to take a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to give the USA a 2-1 win. The doubles match ended shortly after 4 am and was one of the latest finishes to a match in tennis history.  The USA finished second in the Group F behind Canada, who secured the first spot with their wins over Italy and the USA earlier this week. Neither team  was able to earn a break in the first two sets. Italy broke serve to take a 3-1 lead. Sock and Querrey broke back immediately before earning the decisive break at 4-4. The US team served out the win after 2 hours and 30 minutes.

“Reilly played a great match and Taylor came out in in a tough position knowing he needed to win. To get the doubles means a lot”, said Querrey.

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