MADRID: Stefanos Tsitsipas’ journey to what he described as his ‘maximum potential’ has taken another significant step forward after he outlasted five-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, to reach the final of the Madrid Open.
Tsitsipas, who has won more matches on the tour than anybody else this season so far, produced a masterful display to tame and frustrate the world No.2. The ability of the Greek player to turn defense into offense drew both admiration and shock in Madrid. In total he produced 32 winners, of which 21 was from the forehand side, and saved 11 out of the 16 break points he faced.
“I felt I had more time to defend and attack, which might sound strange, but it felt like much better playing him on clay than on hard,” Tsitsipas commented about his latest match against the Spaniard.
“I served and volleyed pretty often, not that much, but I did come to the net a few times. I was returning much better today than any other day that I have played him.’
“Return games and keeping him in the rally on his service games, being patient, trying to find the height and the depth and opening the court. That was crucial.”
The king of clay headed into the match as the heavy favorite for multiple reasons besides his ranking. In semi-finals matches play at the tournament, Nadal had only lost twice in 10 appearances. Doing so to Andy Murray in 2012 and Gilles Simon in 2008. His head-to-head record against the Greek was 3-0 with him never losing a set against him. Furthermore, he had only been broken once in 27 service games played this week.
Those statistics proved irrelevant in Nadal’s latest match with the 20-year-old. Who is already an Australian Open semi-finalist and the highest ever ranked player from his country. The usually reliable Nadal was masterfully dismantled by Tsitsipas to the amazement of the Madrid crowd. During the opening set, the Greek saw a break advantage come and go twice. However, it was third time lucky for the world no.9. A return of the Nadal serve to the corner of the court rewarded him another break and the opportunity to serve the set out. Closing in on the surprising lead, he sealed the 6-4 lead with the help of a serve down the line followed by a backhand volley at the net.
With the prospect of a shock loss looming, a fiery Nadal responded with interest. Cheered on by his highly animated home crowd, the Spaniard began to display the play that saw him crush Stan Wawrinka on Friday. Winning 12 out of 14 points played during one stage in the second set. The dramatic recovery electrified the Caja Magica as a Tsitsipas backhand flying out enabled the five-time champion to force the match into a decider.
Despite Nadal’s resurgence, it failed to deter his younger rival. Engaged in a royal battle on the court, Tsitsipas rallied to a double break advantage to move a game away from a memorable win. Although Nadal refused to back down as he retrieved one of those breaks to narrow the margin, but it was too little too late. Three times match points came and went before the underdog secured one of the most memorable victories in his career. A Nadal backhand into the net sent him the final to his disbelief.
“It’s not been a good match.” A disappointed Nadal reflected. “I fought and did a couple of good things mentally. I trained around 5pm and it was very hot but it was more windy, colder.”
“I felt the ball better yesterday. It’s not been my best night. My opponent has been better when that happens you lose.’ He added.
The loss continues Nadal’s quest for the first title of 2019. Hampered by injury earlier in the season, it is the first time he hasn’t reached the final in either Monte Carlo or Madrid since 2004 when he missed those tournaments altogether.
“I think that it’s more normal what is happening right now, that what happened in the last 14 years, let’s say,” Nadal explained. “I think I have tennis ahead of me. I have time ahead of me. I’ll be able to try to win this kind of tournament that I was not able to win this year. And what I have to do is to be fit and to play properly and a high tennis level.”
Tsitsipas will play Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday, who he defeated in Canada last year. The world No.1 prevailed in two tiebreakers over Dominic Thiem in his semi-final match. Djokovic is a two-time champion and last won the title back in 2016.
“I have never faced him on clay so I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to try to analyze some things to see the way he tries to play on clay.” The next gen star detailed about his preparation for Sunday’s final.
“I have seen plenty of his matches, but I’m going to try to adapt to the way he is playing on clay as fast as I can because I’m pretty sure he is not easy on clay, as on hard.”
Nadal is the 10th top 10 player Tsitsipas has defeated in his career.
Matteo Berrettini Frustrated By Curfew Delay At French Open
Due to French law Roland Garros had to remove spectators from the venue at 11pm which angered many fans in the crowd.
Italy’s Matteo Berrettini said the pause in his match against Novak Djokovic at the French Open disrupted his momentum and hopes situations like this will ‘end soon.’
The world No.9 was taking on Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final in Paris on Wednesday evening. Trailing by two sets, Berrettini clinched the third in a tiebreaker as he was cheered on by the crowd. However, the atmosphere took a dramatic change during the fourth frame with fans having to be removed from the venue. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France has a 11pm curfew in place which means any tennis matches after this time have to be held behind close doors.
The decision to stop the match at 11pm (when spectators were already breaking curfew) infuriated many with a series of booing coming from the stands. It is unclear as to why organisers didn’t evacuate the arena after the third set, which was 30 minutes before the curfew came into place.
“I’ll tell the truth. I think it’s a shame. It’s something that I didn’t like,” Berrettini commented on the situation afterwards. “But it’s (the law) bigger than us.
“It’s not that you can do something about it. You have to adjust. Hopefully this COVID and these bad situations are going to end soon. It’s not the worst thing that happened in the last year.”
The 25-year-old says the pause to the proceedings had a negative impact on his physicality, but didn’t go into the specifics as to why.
“I was feeling the momentum. I was playing good. Stopping wasn’t the best thing I think for my tennis, but I had to take it,” he continues. “Also physically I think didn’t help me. I got back on court and I wasn’t feeling great.
“But again, tennis players always say they have to adjust to everything. Next time I’m going to try to be better.”
Unlike his rival, Djokovic says the break was a blessing in disguise for him as he sealed a place in his 40th major semi-final. Becoming only the second player in history to reach that milestone after Roger Federer. He ended up winning the match 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 after converting his third match point.
“I didn’t mind actually leaving the court because I felt like I needed a little bit of a break and reset,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for the tournament, for the crowd, to have that curfew. But we knew it before the match.”
Despite losing, Berrettini has still made history at the tournament. He has become the first Italian man in history to have reached the fourth round of all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Curfew Drama Overshadows Novak Djokovic’s French Open Win
After being taken to five sets in his previous match against Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic was in fierce form throughout his latest encounter at Roland Garros.
Top seed Novak Djokovic battled his way into the last four of the French Open after overcoming some stern resistance from Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
The world No.1 produced some emphatic defensive skills throughout his roller-coaster 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5, win on Court Philippe Chatrier. Against the world No.9 he blasted 44 winners and broke four times en route to winning his 79th match at Roland Garros. The latest win has also secured another historic milestone for Djokovic with him being only the second man in the Open Era to have reached a 40th Grand Slam semi-final after Roger Federer.
“He was playing some really powerful tennis. Especially in the third and fourth he served tremendously strong and precise. It was just very difficult to read his serve and play someone like him,” Djokovic commented on Berrettini’s performance.
Although the talking point quarter-final concerned the controversial decision by organisers to start the match at 8pm local time which allowed just a three-hour gap before Paris went into curfew. Five games after Berrettini clinched the third set, fans were left furious after being evicted from the venue with players being taken off the court. Even more baffling was the decision by organisers to halt proceedings at 11pm when those attending had already broke curfew instead of stopping it 30 minutes or so before.
“I didn’t mind actually leaving the court because I felt like I needed a little bit of a break and reset,” said Djokovic. “It’s unfortunate for the tournament and for the crowd to have that curfew. But we knew before the match. Referee came up to us and said, If it comes close to 11:00, we’ll have to empty the stadium. That’s what happened.’
“I’m happy that I had that experience of playing in front of the crowd in the night session.” He added.
The Wednesday night showdown was a historic occasion at the French Open with it being the first time a night session had been played in front of a crowd following a relaxation of national restrictions on the same day. Taking to the court Djokovic looked determined from the onset as Berrettini provided him with plenty of challenges early on. In both of his opening service games the world No.1 fended off break points as he tamed a series of thunderous shots from the Italian with some sublime defensive play. Djokovic secured his first breakthrough four games in after a Berrettini forehand drifted wide which enabled him to break for a 3-1 lead. That single break was enough of a margin for him to close out the set, which he did with a love service game.
Gaining momentum, the 18-time Grand Slam champion continued to apply the pressure in the second frame as he won eight consecutive points behind his serve. Berrettini, who had the support of an animated crowd, was unable to find any answers. The former champion surged to a 5-2 lead with the help of a double break. Serving for a two-set lead, he sealed it with a forehand shot which prompted an unforced error from his rival.
It looked as if Djokovic was on course for a straight sets triumph but a resurgent Berrettini had other ideas. Edged on by an highly animated crowd, the Italian rediscovered the power of his serve as he matched him game-by-game until a nerve-stricken tiebreaker. Djokovic moved to just two points from victory with two serves at his disposal. However, a tight backhand crashed into the net handed Berrettini set point, which he converted with a blistering forehand down the line. Prompting an almighty roar from him.
The tussle between the two caused a headache for officials. The fourth frame started 30 minutes before the curfew was imposed, meaning fans would have to evacuate the venue before the match finished. Eventually the match was halted amid booing and jeering from fans angry they had to leave in what was one of the most unusual situations to ever occur at the tournament.
Returning to the court in almost silence after a 20-minute delay, both players continued to valiantly battle. A nasty fall failed to deter the Serbian as he edged closer towards the finish line. Leading 6-5 he had his first match point but failed to convert due to a Berrettini serve out wide. Then on his second failed attempt a furious Djokovic screamed at his team out of frustration and then kicked one of the boards at the side of the court. Two points after that mini meltdown he prevailed with the help of a Berrettini shot going into the net.
Djokovic will next lock horns with nemesis Rafael Nadal for a place in the final. The Spaniard has won more matches at Roland Garros than any other player in history and is bidding to win the men’s title for a record 14th time. He narrowly leads their head-to-head 29-28 but lost their most recent clash at the Italian Open earlier this year.
“The quality and the level of tennis that I’ve been playing in the last three, four weeks on clay – Rome, Belgrade and here – is giving me good sensations and feelings ahead of that match. I’m confident. I believe I can win, otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
It is the 11th time in Djokovic’s career that he has reached the semi-finals of the French Open.
Updated Entry Lists For Queen’s, Halle
Two ATP 500 tournaments will be played in London at the Queen’s Club and in Halle (Germany), as the grass-court season is set to continue.
Two of the most prestigious grass-court events on the ATP Tour will take place from the 14th to the 20th of June: the Cinch Championships in London (Queen’s Club) and the Noventi Open in Halle are going to be the crucial steps of the Wimbledon warm-up.
Matteo Berrettini, Diego Schwartzman, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Jannik Sinner will be some of the seeds at the Queen’s Club, where Andy Murray plans to come back with a Wild-Card. Spain’s Feliciano Lopez is the defending champion.
Four top-ten players are committed to play Halle: Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and the defending champion Roger Federer will start their grass-court season in Germany. Roberto Bautista-Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Kei Nishikori have entered the tournament as well, while the promising Swiss teenager Dominic Stephan Stricker has received a Wild-Card for the qualifying draw.
NEWS: Diego Schwartzman has withdrawn from Queen’s, he’s been replaced by Alexei Popyrin.
NEWS: Stefanos Tsitsipas has been awarded Wild-Card entry into Halle.
NEWS: Milos Raonic has pulled out from Queen’s, Frances Tiafoe takes his place.
ATP 500 Queen’s (GBR, Grass), entry list:
Berrettini, Matteo (ITA)
OUT Schwartzman, Diego (ARG)
Shapovalov, Denis (CAN)
OUT Raonic, Milos (CAN)
Sinner, Jannik (ITA)
OUT Wawrinka, Stan (SUI)
De Minaur, Alex (AUS)
Karatsev, Aslan (RUS)
Evans, Daniel (GBR)
Sonego, Lorenzo (ITA)
Fognini, Fabio (ITA)
Opelka, Reilly (USA)
Mannarino, Adrian (FRA)
Bublik, Alexander (KAZ)
Ramos-Vinolas, Albert (ESP)
Paire, Benoit (FRA)
Krajinovic, Filip (SRB)
Millman, John (AUS)
OUT Davidovich Fokina, Alejandro (ESP)
Norrie, Cameron (GBR)
Cilic, Marin (CRO)
Djere, Laslo (SRB)
Bedene, Aljaz (SLO)
WC Murray, Andy (GBR)
WC Broady, Liam (GBR)
WC Draper, Jack (GBR)
OUT (WC) OUT (SE)
OUT Kyrgios, Nick (AUS)
IN Chardy, Jeremy (FRA)
IN Lopez, Feliciano (ESP)
IN Popyrin, Alexei (AUS)
OUT Moutet, Corentin (FRA)
IN Lu, Yen-Hsun (TPE)
IN Tiafoe, Frances (USA)
IN Travaglia, Stefano (ITA)
Alt.1 Albot, Radu (MDA)
Alt.2 Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
ATP 500 Queen’s (GBR, Grass), qualifying:
OUT Popyrin, Alexei (AUS) OUT Moutet, Corentin (FRA) OUT Tiafoe, Frances (USA)
OUT Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA)
OUT Herbert, Pierre-Hugues (FRA)
Pouille, Lucas (FRA)
Zapata Miralles, Bernabe (ESP)
OUT Broady, Liam (GBR)
Van de Zandschulp, Botic (NED)
Huesler, Marc-Andrea (SUI)
Jung, Jason (TPE)
Marchenko, Illya (UKR)
Tabilo, Alejandro (CHI)
WC Peniston, Ryan (GBR)
WC Parker, Stuart (GBR)
WC Ward, James (GBR)
IN Ofner, Sebastian (AUT)
OUT Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) OUT Safiullin, Roman (RUS)
IN Rosol, Lukas (CZE)
OUT Gulbis, Ernests (LAT)
OUT Muller, Alexandre (FRA)
IN Marcora, Roberto (ITA)
IN Bemelmans, Ruben (BEL)
OUT Ito, Tatsuma (PR, JPN)
IN Troicki, Viktor (SRB)
OUT Krueger, Mitchell (USA)
IN Vukic, Aleksandar (AUS)
OUT Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR)
OUT Tomic, Bernard (AUS)
OUT Kwiatkowski, Thai-Son (USA)
OUT Ito, Tatsuma (JPN)
Alt.1 Copil, Marius (ROU)
Alt.2 Ebden, Matthew (AUS)
Alt.3 Gojo, Borna (CRO)
ATP 500 Halle (GER, Grass), entry list:
Medvedev, Daniil (RUS)
Zverev, Alexander (GER)
Rublev, Andrey (RUS)
Federer, Roger (SUI)
Bautista Agut, Roberto (ESP)
OUT Carreno Busta, Pablo (ESP)
Goffin, David (BEL)
OUT Ruud, Casper (NOR)
Hurkacz, Hubert (POL)
Auger-Aliassime, Felix (CAN)
OUT Garin, Cristian (CHI)
Khachanov, Karen (RUS)
Humbert, Ugo (FRA)
Struff, Jan-Lennard (GER)
Nishikori, Kei (JPN)
Korda, Sebastian (USA)
Harris, Lloyd (RSA)
Koepfer, Dominik (GER)
Pella, Guido (ARG)
Thompson, Jordan (AUS)
Pospisil, Vasek (CAN)
WC Kohlschreiber, Philipp (GER)
WC Altmaier, Daniel (GER)
WC Monfils, Gael (FRA)
WC Tsitsipas, Stefanos (GRE)
IN Querrey, Sam (USA)
IN Simon, Gilles (FRA)
IN Moutet, Corentin (FRA)
OUT Lu, Yen-Hsun (TPE)
OUT Travaglia, Stefano (ITA)
Alt.1 Albot, Radu (MDA)
Alt.2 Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
Alt.3 Giron, Marcos (USA)
ATP 500 Halle (GER, Grass), qualifying:
Basilashvili, Nikoloz (GEO)
OUT Travaglia, Stefano (ITA)
Gerasimov, Egor (BLR)
OUT Gombos, Norbert (SVK) OUT Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
Giron, Marcos (USA)
Albot, Radu (MDA)
Ivashka, Ilya (BLR)
Hanfmann, Yannick (GER)
OUT Alcaraz, Carlos (ESP)
Duckworth, James (AUS)
Galan, Daniel Elahi (COL)
Novak, Dennis (AUT)
Sousa, Joao (POR)
Rinderknech, Arthur (FRA)
Barrere, Gregoire (FRA)
O’Connell, Christopher (AUS)
OUT Gojowczyk, Peter (GER)
Stebe, Cedrik-Marcel (GER)
OUT Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) OUT (RA)
WC Molleker, Rudolf (GER)
WC Stricker, Dominic Stephan (SUI)
IN Rodionov, Jurij (AUT)
IN Gulbis, Ernests (LAT)
IN Muller, Alexandre (FRA)
OUT Torpegaard, Mikael (DEN)
OUT Marcora, Roberto (ITA)
OUT Bemelmans, Ruben (BEL)
IN Maden, Yannick (GER)
IN Lacko, Lukas (PR, SVK)
IN Ito, Tatsuma (JPN)
OUT Krueger, Mitchell (USA)
IN Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR)
Alt.1 Masur, Daniel (GER)
OUT Kwiatkowski, Thai-Son (USA)
OUT Copil, Marius (ROU)
OUT Ebden, Matthew (AUS)
OUT Gojo, Borna (CRO)
Alt.2 Celikbilek, Altug (TUR)
Alt.3 Kuhn, Nicola (ESP)
Alt.4 Blanch, Ulises (USA)
OUT Kopriva, Vit (CZE)
Alt.5 Molleker, Rudolf (GER)
Alt.6 Choinski, Jan (GER)
Alt.7 Brown, Dustin (GER)
Alt.8 Sakamoto, Pedro (BRA)
Alt.9 King, Darian (BAR)
Alt.10 Vavassori, Andrea (ITA)
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