After a lengthy hiatus lasting nearly four years, Roger Federer has marked his return to the French Open with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in the first round.
The 37-year-old has missed the past three editions of the clay-court major due to either injury or wanting to rest in order to prolong his career. It is fitting that Federer opted to return this year in what is the 20th anniversary of his first ever appearance in the main draw of a grand slam. The occasion drew a packed audience on the premier court of Roland Garros with the crowd cheering both Federer and the admirable efforts by his opponent.
“I missed you, thanks very much for the welcome,” Federer said to the crowd after his match. “I was quite tense at the start.”
Taking to the Philippe Chatrier Court, Federer’s test was 24-year-old Sanego. A world No.73 player who reached the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this year. In total, 11 out of his 14 tour level wins have occurred on the clay. Federer hasn’t lost to a player ranked as low as Sonego in a major since Sergiy Stakhovsky at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships.
Despite some impressive heavy hitting from the Italian underdog, experience prevailed as Federer guided himself to the straight sets victory. Whilst it wasn’t his most dominant of performances at Roland Garros, he triumphed with the help of five aces and 36 winners, alongside 15 unforced errors. Federer also won 84% of his first service points.
“Sonego, he’s good, he’s really strong. I saw that he had played a lot of tournaments on clay this year. It’s a relief (to win).” Federer commented about his rival.
The first two sets of the match were nearly identical with the 20-time grand slam champion securing a double break to open up a 4-0 lead in each frame. Awarding him a large enough margin to close out each set. Admirbally in the second, Sonego refused to be blasted off the court as he retrieved one of the breaks, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome.
Closing in on his 343rd win in a grand slam, Federer still had to fight his way to the finish line. Thanks to some audacious play from his opponent, who at times played tennis at a higher level than his ranking suggested. At 4-4 in the third set, a backhand cross-court winner from the Swiss maestro gifted him another break in the match and a chance to serve for a place in the second round. An opportunity he seized with the help on a backhand error from Sonego on his first match point.
“Two breaks in the first set was very important for me and when I was leading 4-0 I could take more risks, be more aggressive,” the third seed reflected afterwards.
“I know that I can play very well on clay and I am very happy to win in straight sets.”
Basking in his 60th first round victory of a grand slam, Federer paid tribute to the multi-million pound redevelopment that tournament has undergone. Including the construction of the brand new Simonne Mathieu court.
“I felt great playing on this court. It looks great and attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.” He said.
“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”
Awaiting the third seed next will be the German lucky loser Oscar Otte. 25-year-old Otte defeated Malek Jaziri in four sets to record his first ever main draw win in a major. He is currently ranked 145th in the world and his only Challenger title dates back to 2017.
Andy Murray To Play Four Tournaments In A Row Following Shanghai Wild Card
It is going to be a busy few week’s for the British player as he continues his comeback to the tour.
The comeback of former world No.1 Andy Murray is gaining momentum after he received a wild card into the most high-profile men’s tournament in China.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has been given entry into the Shanghai Masters, which will get underway on October 5th. Murray is one of only three players to have won the title three or more times. His last triumph was back in 2016 when he defeated Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the final. That was also the last time the Brit played in the tournament after being hampered by a serious hip injury over the past two years.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Shanghai, a tournament I have had success at in the past.” Murray said in a statement.
“Thanks to the tournament for a wild card, it’s great to be able to continue my comeback and play more tennis in China. Shanghai is a great city; I feel comfortable there and the fans are always supportive.”
Murray is continuing his return to the tour after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery earlier this season. The second operation he has had on his hip in as many years. So far in his singles comeback, the 32-year-old has lost his opening matches in Cincinnati (to Richard Gasquet) and Winston-Salem (to Tennys Sandgren). He is currently ranked 415th in the world.
“We are delighted to have Andy return to the tournament where he has been so successful,” Shanghai tournament director Michael Luevano said. “He is incredibly popular with our fans and we are all thrilled to see him back on the courts and heading to Shanghai.’
“He has been through a lot physically in recent times so to see him back doing what he loves is very rewarding for everyone in tennis.”
The addition of Shanghai to his schedule means Murray will play four tournaments in four weeks across two continents. He will also play at events in Zhuhai (ATP 250) and Beijing (ATP 500) prior to the Masters tournament. Then the week after, he will return to Europe to play at the European Open (ATP 250) in Antwerp, Belgium.
Murray is hoping to return back to his top form. So far in his career, he has won 45 titles on the ATP Tour and spent 41 consecutive weeks as world No.1.
Borna Coric Opens Up About Split With Coach
The Croatian No.1 has criticised his ex-mentor for working with Maria Sharapova earlier this year.
Borna Coric has said he had differences of opinion with his former coach ‘for some time’ before they decided to go their separate ways.
The world No.15 has shed light on the reasons behind his decision to part ways with Riccardo Piatti earlier this month. The two have worked together since 2017. Under Piatti’s guidance, Coric won the biggest title of his career in Halle last year. However, he hasn’t won any more silverware since then.
“There have been differences for some time, since the beginning of the year.” Coric said earlier this week.
“They reached the pinnacle at the US Open, after which we all sat around a table and decided to interrupt the collaboration.”
Piatti is a renowned coach in the world of men’s tennis and has worked with many top names. Including Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic. He also has his own academy in Italy, where he spent some time with Maria Sharapova during the summer and supported her during the US Open. Something that has been criticised by Coric.
“We can say that, it certainly did not help to resolve the differences and made the situation worse.” He commented on Piatti’s work with Sharapova.
“This was one of the main reasons. He is following several projects and could no longer focus fully on me. Given this and the previous divergences, we assessed that the separation was the best option.” Coric added.
The 22-year-old is hoping to end the year on a high after another injury setback. At the US Open he was forced to withdraw from the second round due to a back injury. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 23-15. Coric’s best runs so far in 2019 were at Doha and s-Hertogenbosch where he reached the semi-finals of both tournaments.
Coric is set to return to action next week in St. Petersburg, where he will be the fourth seed.
“Regardless of the situation, I have to try to make the most of this season . I am working hard in anticipation of the return to the field in St. Petersburg.” He concluded.
For the rest of the season Coric will be coached by Antonio Veic. Although there is a chance that more members will be added to his team in the near future.
Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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