Roger Federer Inspired Shapovalov Growing Up And Now The Two Will Lock Horns In Miami - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer Inspired Shapovalov Growing Up And Now The Two Will Lock Horns In Miami

It will be a clash between the veteran and the rising star in the semi-finals of the Miami Open.

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Roger Federer (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

On a day where the rain wrecked havoc, Roger Federer kept his momentum going with a straightforward 6-4, 6-0, win over Kevin Anderson.

 

The 20-time grand slam champion took to the court much later than expected due to mother nature, but experienced little difficulty throughout his quarter-final match. Taking on Anderson, who recently missed nine weeks of the tour due to an elbow injury, Federer broke his opponent five times as he claimed 80% of his first service points. Avenging his loss to the South African at last year’s Wimbledon Championships.

“I played a really solid first set and got a good read on his serve,” said Federer.
“It was tough because I know he keeps going and if you get passive you need to come up with a good passing shot.
“Maybe I got a bit lucky at the end, but I am just pleased to get through.”

Federer has progressed to the semi-finals of a Masters tournament for the 65th time in his career. Awaiting him will be rising star Denis Shapovalov, who was born six months after Federer scored his first win on the ATP Tour at the 1998 Grand Prix de Tennis de Toulouse. Shapovalov battled back from a set down to defeat Frances Tiafoe 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2. Reaching the last four of a Masters event for only the third time in his career.

The upcoming match will be the clash of the generations. Federer is 18 years older than Shapovalov and have played in 68 more grand slam tournaments. Despite the disparity, the seemingly ageless world No.5 is relishing the challenge.

“It doesn’t feel that different to when I played Rafa when he was super young, or anybody. Any teenager you play, once I think you’re 23, feels different to playing anybody else, because you know they come out there and they might not know all the plays down to the T yet, but they don’t have to, because they just free-swing sometimes, and that makes it particularly dangerous.” Federer explained during his post-match press conference.

Whilst the two are yet to lock horns on the court, Federer is already fully aware of the Canadian’s potential. The two have previously practised together with Shapovalov leaving a good impression on the former world No.1.

“I think he warmed me up for a match in Toronto,” he recounted. “He might have been 16, 17, and similar to today, he was just hitting big. I was, like, ‘Wow, it’s unbelievable. How old is he? How good is he gonna get?’”
“He was very impressive. Same with the serve. He has that beautiful swinger going. It just felt like he belonged there.”

The Federer effect

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Shapovalov is currently ranked 23rd in the world, but he is set to crack the top 20 next week following his run in Miami. The 19-year-old is yet to win an ATP title, but he is the second youngest top 100 player after compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime. Auger-Aliassime will play John Isner in the other Miami semi-final.

“In terms of playing Roger, it’s definitely a matchup I have been looking forward to, I think, my whole life” Shapovalov said. “It’s going to be a dream come true to play him in such a big event over here, and the stakes are so high, semifinal match of a Masters 1000 against your idol. It’s just a dream come true.”

Growing up, Shapovalov said the 37-year-old was one of the players that he would mould his tennis after. Citing the one-handed backhand of the Swiss player as one of his biggest inspirations.

“I was always looking at his backhand, the way he hits it. I always tried to kind of copy him. Really just build my game and play like he does.” The world No.23 explained.
“Aggressive, coming in. He was always not afraid to kind of go for his shots and close the point at the net. I feel like that, just watching him do that so much kind of built my personality on the court, and I try to do the same.”

Federer isn’t the only one who inspired the rising star. Shapovalov also said he used to study Novak Djokovic’s return game and Rafael Nadal’s ‘fighting spirit.’

“I feel like those three guys have helped me learn so much in the game. It’s three great guys to kind of look up to when you’re young.” He concluded.

Federer will play Shapovalov in Miami on Friday.

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final

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Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 

 

Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Facing Tsitsipas For World No. 1 Spot May Be Different for Novak Djokovic

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Image via https://twitter.com/atptour/

It probably was a good thing that Novak Djokovic wasn’t facing a top opponent in the Australian Open semifinals. Certainly not one the caliber of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

Of course, Tommy Paul did his best. He just isn’t a top ten caliber player.

The American could rally with Djokovic, but when it came time to win the point or game, he  usually was nowhere to be found on the Rod Laver court.

DJOKOVIC WILL NEED TO BE BETTER

The fact that Tsitsipas is in contention for the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis is enough to ensure that Paul isn’t quite in the league with the Greek superstar.

Djokovic will need to be better than he was against Paul when he steps onto the court to face Tsitsipas on Sunday night in the Australian Open singles final.

There was Djokovic blundering his way through a one-sided 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Paul. The scoreline should have been closer to 3-1-2. But Novak appeared to have all kinds of physical ailments — legs, knees, bandaged hamstring. Or just plain conditioning and breathing hard. You name it.

NIGHT-TIME DUTY ONCE AGAIN

It was just night time in Melbourne. You wonder what might have happened if Novak had been assigned some daytime duty like everyone else in the tournament. Say, like Tsitsipas had been assigned for his closer than the scores reflex in the Greek’s 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov in Friday’s other semifinal.

Tsitsipas is a real threat to claim the world’s top ranking on Sunday night with a victory over the legend from Serbia. Of course, in the 2021 French Open final, Tsitipsas won the first two sets against Djokovic.

It’s possible. Tsitsipas could come through this time.

A SHADOW OF THE OLD NOVAK

Novak was only a shadow of the old Djokovic Friday night. And that was against a player who may never earn a berth in another Grand Slam semifinal.

Of course, Djokovic wasn’t quite as out of it as Rafa Nadal was in the second-round blitzing by Mackenzie McDonald. But Nadal was nursing a hip injury. He may be a different player in Paris in four months.

Djokovic still has all of the big shots and serves he has displayed for much of the last two decades. He just didn’t seem to know where all of those weapons were headed in the semifinals.

IS NOVAK’S BAG OF TRICKS EMPTY?

Of course, if Novak pulls a solid performance out of his bag of tricks and denies Tsitsipas the world’s top ranking, Djokovic likely would stand in Nadal’s path in Paris to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The task won’t be easy. First, Novak has to take care of business on Sunday night. But with a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title up for grabs, Djokovic may actually look like himself. 

As Novak says, he wants to be known as the best player in the world.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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