Even before this year the French Open has been a place of fond memories for 22-year-old rising star Christian Garin.
It was six years ago at the tournament where he reached the final of both the singles and doubles competition in the juniors. His run to the singles title was by no means a walk in the park. Players he defeated on route included Cameron Norrie, Laslo Djere, Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev. He became only the second player from his country to win the boys title after Fernando Gonzalez back in 1998.
It was fitting that Garin’s first main draw win at a grand slam would also happen at Roland Garros. On Tuesday he defeated American player Reilly Opelka 7-6(0), 7-5, 7-6(7), in the first round. It was a far from easy match for Garin, who only managed to convert one out of eight break point opportunities. Nevertheless, he managed to prevail over his lacklustre opponent, who produced a costly 61 unforced errors.
“I’m really happy. Reilly’s a great player, of course. It was a really tough match. The third set had many chances, and he couldn’t break. And the tiebreak was also really tough.” He said.
“I’m really happy. This year has been an amazing year for me, so I’m really happy to be in the second round of Roland Garros.”
The victory is Garin’s 20th on a clay court during what has been a breakthrough season. Since January he has cut his ranking in half from 86th to 37th. He peaked at 33rd earlier this month. To put the rise into perspective, Garin only made his top 100 debut in October. He has won clay titles in Houston and Munich. Ending Chile’s 10-year wait for a champion on the ATP Tour. It was in Munich, where he recorded his first top 10 win over Zverev.
“It’s true that for the past few months I have been playing well.” He reflected whilst speaking to Spanish media on Tuesday.
“Honestly, having the opportunity to continue in such a tournament in such an important week is great. I have a lot to continue improving, but it’s probably one of the best moments in my career.
Lately, I have only had positive moments, so I’ll try to continue in this way.”
The rise of the 6”1’ right-hander hasn’t gone unnoticed by his rivals. He is currently in 23rd place in the ATP Race to London. Furthermore, he is yet to lose a match when it has gone the full distance in 2019. He is coached by Andres Schneiter, who once worked alongside the controversial Mariano Puerta.
“I really like him as a player. He’s really good and talented backhand, and the forehand with a lot of spin. I think he serves well.” Dominic Thiem said of Garin.
“I have never played him in a match, we just practiced Barcelona and here (Roland Garros).”
“He has won two titles already and played a very solid clay court season. I think he has the potential for a lot, and I like him. He’s a very nice guy. I hope to see him on the top.” He added.
During Garin’s career, he spent time training at the Rafa Nadal academy in Mallorca, which was created by the 11-time French Open champion. In recent years an array of tennis stars has travelled to the facility to tune up their game.
“He’s a very dangerous opponent, one of the most dangerous opponents on clay, especially, and he has a good potential.” Nadal commented about the Chilean.
“He decided another way (to leave the academy), and things are going well for him. I wish him all the best.”
Garin’s next challenge will be three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss player won the French Open junior title exactly 10 years before Garin did. It will be the first meeting between the two. Despite the disparity in experience between the two, Wawrinka is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s a beautiful match to play. He’s an excellent player. He’s won a lot of matches this year on clay.” Wawrinka previewed.
Garin is one of two Chilean men to feature in the French Open draw this year. The other is Nicolas Jarry.
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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