By Matthew Marolf
In the halves of the singles draws that play on Sunday, 49 Major singles titles are represented by the players that remain.
Day 7 features a nice mix of new faces making big waves, veterans looking to recapture past glory, and two leading contenders for the title of GOAT. The round of 16 begins today, which is when the draw really takes a definitive shape, and favourites become more apparent. With temperatures due to remain cool, we should be in for some more tremendous tennis.
Roger Federer (3) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (14)
It’s the first official meeting between the 37-year-old all-time great, and the flashy 20-year-old newcomer. Though they did unofficially play a few weeks ago at the Hopman Cup, with Roger prevailing in two tiebreakers. Federer has looked exceptionally sharp in his first three rounds this week, having yet to drop a set and having only been broken once. Mary Carillo on Tennis Channel in the US suggested Federer’s current level is more like his superb form of 2017, rather than his slightly lesser form of 2018.
Tsitsipas is the first seeded player Roger will encounter, and it should be a lot of fun to see this clash of generations on Rod Laver Arena. Tsitsipas needed four sets to win each of his first three rounds, and has spent almost three more hours than Federer on court. Taking out the 20-time Major champion in the best-of-five format is a lot to ask of Tsitsipas, in only his second time in the fourth round of a Major, but I’m curious to see how he accounts himself in this occasion.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Tomas Berdych
Nadal holds a 19-4 record over Berdych, and has won an astounding 18 of their last 19 matches. However, Tomas’ sole victory in the past 12 years came at this tournament four years ago, when he won a straight set quarterfinal. The courts in Melbourne are even faster now than in 2015, which should play to Berdych’s advantage, though many have said Rod Laver Arena plays a bit slower this year. These two also met here in 2012, a quarterfinal match which Nadal took in four sets. Of course their most notable match is the 2010 Wimbledon final, Berdych’s only Major final, which Nadal won in straight sets.
Much like Federer two years ago, Berdych arrived in Melbourne after an extended injury layoff looking healthy and refreshed. And he loves playing at the Australian Open, where he’s 7-0 the last seven times he’s advanced to the round of 16. Tomas has already taken out two top 20 seeds during this fortnight, in Kyle Edmund and Diego Schwartzman. The problem for Berdych is Nadal has also looked really good coming off his own injury layoff. With a new service motion, Nadal has only dropped serve twice to this stage. As well as Berdych has been playing in 2018, Nadal remains the favourite. But if Rafa is going to contend for this title, it’s crucial to avoid extended matches. Four or five set affairs could aggravate Nadal’s knees, and Berdych is fully capable of making this a long battle.
Ashleigh Barty (15) vs. Maria Sharapova (30)
The Australian No.1 already has seven match wins in her home country this year, going back to last week in Sydney when she lost a stellar final to Petra Kvitova in a third set tiebreak. Barty has won all six sets she’s played this week, and has matched her best result at a Major by reaching the fourth round, which she also did at last year’s US Open. This will be the biggest match in the career of the athletic yet reserved Australian. Is she ready to overcome against the fierceness of the five-time Major champion?
This week in Melbourne, Sharapova has played some of the best tennis since her return to the sport almost two years ago. Her three-set win over the defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki, was especially impressive on Friday. In recent years though, Sharapova has often struggled to follow up such victories. The only previous time these two stepped onto the court was last year on the clay of Rome, a match Sharapova took in three sets. As talented a ball striker as Barty is, I’m not convinced she’s ready to overcome the will of Sharapova. With speculation she may soon call it a career due to her lack of success, Maria will be keen to prove she’s still a contender to compete for Major titles. It feels like she’s due for a run into the second week at a Slam, and I would not be surprised if Barty is a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.
Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Amanda Anisimova
Wow, how impressive was Anisimova in her shellacking of the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka on Friday? The 17-year-old has everything: power, speed, finesse, and composure. Now that everyone is talking about her as not just a future Major champion, but a contender for this title, will she remain composed under the weight of new expectations? Well she’ll find reassurance in her 1-0 career head-to-head against the eighth seed.
It was Anisimova’s straight set victory over Kvitova at Indian Wells last year that first put the tennis world on notice. Much like her previous round with Sabalenka, this match will be almost all offense, from two of the WTA’s biggest sluggers. Kvitova comes into this match on an eight-match win streak, fresh off her title last week in Sydney. That run also saw Kvitova defeat Sabalenka, as well as Kerber and Barty. Kvitova has only twice advanced farther than the fourth round in her last 16 Majors, though Anisimova had never won a match at a Slam prior to this week. I have no idea who will prevail here, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Marin Cilic (6) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Cilic is fortunate to find himself back in the round of 16 in Melbourne. He was down two match points in his last match, but luckily he was facing a player who is even more prone to choking leads away than he is, that being Fernando Verdasco. His opponent today has been anything but a choke artist. Bautista Agut already has two five-set wins in this tournament, including his dramatic match on Day 1 against Andy Murray. Roberto also impressively defeated the 10th seed, Karen Khachanov, in straight sets. Just like Kvitova, Bautista Agut is on an eight-match win streak. He started 2019 by taking the title in Doha, which included a massive win over the world No.1, Novak Djokovic.
Cilic is 4-1 lifetime against Bautista Agut, though Roberto’s only victory also came in their only meeting at the Australian Open. The 30-Year-Old Spaniard prevailed in straight sets here three years ago. As tight as Cilic has played in pressure situations of late, I think Friday’s comeback win over Verdasco will free him up a bit. And Bautista Agut will surely be feeling nerves considering he is 0-9 at this stage of Grand Slam events, having never been to a Major quarterfinal. Is Roberto ready to finally breakthrough? The winner here will play the winner of Federer/Tsitsipas on Tuesday.
Other notable matches on Day 7:
Angelique Kerber (2) vs. Danielle Collins, who had never won a match at a Major prior to this week.
Sloane Stephens (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Grigor Dimitrov (20), with Andre Agassi in his coaching box, vs. 20-year-Old Frances Tiafoe, in his first Major round of 16.
Marcos Baghdatis Announces Retirement After Wimbledon
Marcos Baghdatis has announced that he will retire after this year’s Wimbledon.
Marcos Baghdatis has announced that he will retire from tennis after competing at this year’s Wimbledon.
The 34 year-old Cypriot has been playing on the tour 16 years now and has had a stellar career which has seen him be a grand slam finalist as well as reach a career high ranking of eight in the world.
However, his ranking has dipped to 138 in the world having only won three matches on the ATP World Tour this year.
Therefore it was surprising to say the least when he received a wildcard for Wimbledon this year as his last ATP tournament was in Dubai in February.
But now the reason for the wildcard is that Baghdatis is retiring from tennis after the last tournament of his career at SW19 in a couple of weeks time.
The Cypriot took to Facebook and his website to address his fans and explain the reason for his decision to retire:
“I wanted to take the time to write to you all and let you know that this upcoming Wimbledon will be my last tournament as a tennis professional,” Baghdatis explained in his statement.
“I am extremely grateful to the AELTC for granting me a Main Draw Wild-Card at the All England Club, and giving me a chance to say goodbye to the sport that I love so much and has been such a big part of my life for the last 30+ years.
“This decision was not an easy one. It has proven tough for me, especially physically, to come back to where I feel like I belong. Even though my mind wants to do it, the limits of my body have prevented me to maintain and play at a consistent high level as I expect from myself. Especially the last two years have been very difficult for me with recurring injuries and pain.
“Besides that, I have a beautiful wife, two young daughters, and a third child on the way and I could not be more excited to spend more time with all of them at home. Although I am sad to say goodbye to the sport as an active player, I am very excited for the next chapter of my life – I am going to be staying heavily involved in tennis in a number of capacities, so you will continue to see me on the tour.
“Lastly, there are so many people to thank who have been a part of this incredible journey with me, starting with my family first and for all. To all the people that have helped me become the person and tennis player I am today, I say thank you, especially to my Mum and Dad who supported me since the age of 3 to play tennis.
“Thank you for always believing in me and pushing me to become better. My team, my close friends, but especially the fans around the world. You made me feel welcome in each and every city and country I have ever been to, and your love, support, and energy is something I will truly miss.”
After winning four career ATP titles and reaching a grand slam final, the Cypriot has obviously reached a decision to retire and have one final moment in the headlines at Wimbledon.
The 34 year-old will hope for a good draw as Wimbledon starts on Monday the 1st of July.
The Future Is Bright…
The Gerry Weber Open was until it wasn’t any longer, then Noventi stepped in….
By Mark Winters
For twenty-six years, the Gerry Weber Open was one of the foremost grass court tournaments in the world. It is played two weeks before The Championships, as Wimbledon is known, and it put Halle, Germany on the tennis map. It has epitomized a small town’s commitment to the game, and has, justifiably, earned the nickname “The People’s Tournament”. Because of the local attitude, almost everyone in region has sacrificed in order to make the ATP 500 a significant tennis championships.
That was then, and this is now…
On June 7, the Noventi Group, a company which provides a variety of health care services, stepped in to rescue Halle, as the GWO is known. Noventi, taking a page from its health care proforma, offered needed financial resuscitation.
Having covered Halle since its inception, I have a fondness for the tournament, (as does my wife, Cheryl Jones, who is a regular Ubitennis contributor). In 1993, when Gerry Weber, the millionaire clothing manufacturer turned tournament sponsor, and his partner Udo Hardieck decided to stage a grass court tournament in Germany as preparation for Wimbledon, it seemed to be a very risky move. As things turned out, it was a decision that defined why the duo, Weber and Hardieck, were such successful businessmen.
But they didn’t do it alone. They were assisted by the “must visit” travel poster-like location of the tournament. The quaint setting is lights-out different from the crushing congestion that exists at the Fever Tree Open (formerly Queen’s), which takes place in London at the same time. The serenity found in the Westfalen countryside is special. Its appeal has been added to by the number of “name players” who regularly performed at the event. Topping the list is Roger Federer. After winning Halle for the tenth time today, it would seem appropriate , in time, to name the championships in his honor. Federer’s dominance aside, the June week on grass in Germany has, justifiably, earned praised from players and tennis fans, alike.
The transition from the Gerry Weber Open to the Noventi Open made a number of impressions. Here are a few thoughts:
Perhaps, after spending twenty-six years, under the same title banner, the Noventi Open just didn’t seem to have the same “ring”…
Walking around the site, it was almost as if those working at tournament were “anxious”, waiting to see what would take place…
Though one could not “see it or taste it”, there seemed to be a different “feel”…
One thing was very perceivable – Prices – had risen. It didn’t matter if it was tickets, pretzels or charming “take one home” teddy bears, there was an increase. (As an example, pretzels, which used to be three for five Euros were three for six Euros, fifty. Parked, or so it seemed, for years, teddy bears jumped from ten Euros to twelve. While on the subject of parking, the cost of leaving one’s car in one of the tournament’s lot was also “bumped” up.)
But, it would probably be more accurate to say the increases were simply the result of doing business in 2019…
As a result of Phil Thorn’s craftmanship, the courts played very true. There was nary a bad bounce. Once again, he lived up to the title – “Keeper of the Lawns” (a position he has held since the beginning of the tournament)…
For some time, the Noventi Group had been looking for a business involvement that would provide a sensible way to expand its healthcare focus. When the company learned that the Gerry Weber Open was searching for a title sponsor, a new platform was found.
Michael Silvio Kusche, CMO Marketing at Noventi said, the company was really fascinated by the tournament, sometimes even speechless about the quality of the event. They had been looking for quite a while for a tennis event they could support. The background has two aspects: making the name Noventi known in Germany and coming next – promoting the App “callmyApo” where the public can order medicine and drugs online.
Studies have conclusively proven that those who play the game recreationally on a regular basis have longer lives. Becoming immersed in the “The Sport of a Lifetime” is a savvy move for Noventi.
From all indications, the new partnership was a success. This year, more spectators attended the tournament than ever before. More important, they were not on hand to see “only the names.” The Stadion, as well as Courts 1 and 2, were filled whenever a match took place. This was a first and a wonderful prelude for 2020.
True, this was the first year of the NO replacing the GWO, but “The Future Is Bright…”
Number Ten For Federer In Halle
In just under an hour and a half, Roger Federer claimed the trophy at the Noventi Open.
By Cheryl Jones
Roger Federer won his tenth title in Halle this afternoon. The inaugural Noventi Open crowned its first singles winner. I have seen every one of his victories. I’ve seen his two losses in the final showdown, as well. (In 2012, German, Tommy Haas came out on top. Last year, Borna Coric defeated him in a tight match.) His first win was in 2003. He has won nine more. He became a professional in 1998, and to quote Sonny Bono, “the beat goes on” – especially for Federer.
Today was Federer’s big day in the sun. Belgian, David Goffin began the match with a valiant effort to try and dethrone the all-time champ. After Goffin lost the first set in a Tie-Break his confidence seemed to wane. The fifty-three minute first set was merely a speed bump in the on-ramp to Federer’s highway toward his especially successful run here in Halle. The second set took thirty minutes to complete. After several double-faults by Goffin, Federer’s tenth win was in the history books.
After the match, I asked him about the surface of the courts that to me appeared to be the best of the nineteen finals I have witnessed here in Halle. He was very thoughtful in his response and said that clearly the Belgian had out played him in the first ten games. The rhythm of the game had been swayed by the Tie-Break, or so it seemed. It was a pleasure to watch the two players move freely around a court that had predictable bounces and rallies that weren’t cut short by bad rebounds that often happen on grass.
Goffin began with a valiant effort to dethrone Halle’s long-standing champ. The match was quick. An hour and twenty-three minutes had ticked away on the courtside clock when it was all over but the shouting.
A very partisan crowd went ballistic, leaping to their feet as one. It was a beautiful day and the match was begun soon after one-o’clock. The sky was blue, and the retractable roof had stayed open most of the time during the week-long tournament. There were no rain delays. I am sure the players appreciated the pause free schedule. (I have always wondered just how relaxed anyone could be waiting and waiting and waiting some more, for the words that begin play after a rain delay. Listening to a favourite CD must even lose its calming ability after the tenth loop.)
On paper the match appeared to show an evenly matched pair of competitors. Before the final, Federer had twenty-six aces and Goffin had twenty-eight. (After the match, each of them had tallied 7 more.) Most every other statistic seemed to favour Federer. But then again, in the long run, Federer held up the winner’s trophy. The crowd was happy, and it showed by their patient wait for the presentation after the match.
My fellow University of Oregon alum, Phil Knight saw something special in a kid from Switzerland in 1994. He signed him to a contract that included footwear and apparel. He wore the Nike brand until March of 2018. He then moved to a Japanese corporation’s clothing, but stuck with Nike shoes, sans contract. His deal with Uniqlo is dazzling – thirty million dollars a year. It may seem excessive, but with an athlete the calibre of Federer, it may be a bargain. He is listed as one of the highest earning athletes in the world – a wonderful representative for the sport of tennis.
Lest one believe that Goffin went away with only a whimper. That was not the case. He did perform exceptionally well in the first set, but as he said, “I didn’t miss a lot. I made him run. I was really aggressive. I was serving great, but Roger is there.” Yes, he was. Then a couple of double faults appeared in Goffin’s column and voila, the match was in the bag for the Swiss man who has wowed the tennis world since his first win here in 2003. Back then, he moved on to Wimbledon where he started a precedent in London with a win at Wimbledon that year, too.
Goffin praised his opponent on many occasions in his after match interview. He said that, “I think the way he is playing now he wants to play more aggressive, his serve is even better than before and then he tries to go to the net to be aggressive to cut the point as soon as he can. And, then in two or three shots, he is still very fast, very explosive, great footwork. So, he’s still in good shape.”
I agree. Wimbledon, Watch out for Roger Federer. He may be nearing thirty-eight, but from what I saw today, he still has it!
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