In Triumph Of Consistency, Dominic Thiem’s 2019 French Open Loss Had A Lesson, Too - UBITENNIS
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In Triumph Of Consistency, Dominic Thiem’s 2019 French Open Loss Had A Lesson, Too

There is a lesson to be learned for Dominic Thiem despite another impressive Roland Garros run in 2019.

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Dominic Thiem (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

Dominic Thiem made it count at Roland Garros for the second consecutive year, what was there to know more beyond his winning a set from Rafael Nadal in the final?

 

It has now been twice in two years in a row that Dominic Thiem has had to return emptyhanded from the French Open on the second Sunday. That both of his losses have come against Rafael Nadal make them starker than what they would have been against any other player. However, there are several positives to be taken from this result of the Austrian – even beyond him managing to win a set off the Spaniard in the 2019 final unlike his straight-set defeat in 2018.

Thiem’s biggest success coming off the Major was that he put himself out there as a contender for the title. The 25-year-old’s run was apropos of defying pre-tournament consensus of Nadal vying against Novak Djokovic for the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Thus, even while Nadal’s win kept the Big Three’s dominance’s niche protected from the younger generations thanks to Thiem, cracks in this supremacy have become palpable. Just as unmistakeable it is to see how Thiem has separated himself from the rest of his peers on the circuit – both among his age-group and the younger pros.

With the ‘NextGen’ frenzy mushrooming, and each juvenile millennial’s performance being examined for finesse and fallacies after every match, Thiem’s French Open sojourn was a reality check of its own. In that it reiterated how men’s tennis needed to leave its youngsters alone for them to set their own rhythm and pace when it came to tackling the bigger titles.

“Even though I didn’t win the tournament, still, two years finals in a row, it’s nice. I think that I developed my game,” Thiem acknowledged in his post-final press conference in Paris. “I was also closer than last year in the finals, I have the feeling, I mean, especially in the first two sets. So, I’m on the right way. And I failed today, but my goal and my dream (are) still to win this tournament or to win a Grand Slam tournament. I will try my best next year again.”

But after having said so, in a roundabout way, Thiem admitted it was tougher for him to play against Nadal merely a day after he had beaten Djokovic in Saturday’s semi-final, on 8th June. “That’s a unique and also brutal thing, I guess, in our sport, in tennis, that I won six amazing matches. I beat yesterday one of the biggest legends of our game. Not even 24 hours later, I have to step on court against another amazing legend of our game, against the best clay-court player of all time. That also shows how difficult nowadays it is to win a Grand Slam,” Thiem observed.

Thiem’s comments cannot be perceived as excuses about his inability to carry his momentum from the semi-final to the final. Nonetheless, they also do not fit well for a potential Major champion. This, despite the tournament organisers short-changing the two-time Roland Garros finalist once too many in the course of the tournament.

These occurrences, especially the way his semi-final against Djokovic was truncated partway on Friday, 7th June, should have been Thiem’s catalysts to impose himself – and his stature – as a player whose interests were also prioritised by the event organisers. Thiem succinctly verbalised his irritation in the way his press conference was shifted to a smaller room to accommodate Serena Williams’. He was unable to do the same – with his actions on the court – when they mattered the most in the last couple of days in the tournament.

Inconvenient scheduling notwithstanding, had Thiem found it in himself to either determinedly win his semi-final in four sets, or jostle Nadal in their final in a firmer manner, the learning curve’s scope would have been entirely different. As it would have been demonstrative.

That the Big Three for all their pre-eminence in all these years have let their games be their voice. Not only to speak up for them when their routes in tournaments are easy enough but also when their paths are the toughest, at their worst.

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Old Timers

Experience is the name of the game in Halle on Thursday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

The second match of the day at the Noventi Open featured a couple of old timers. Frenchman, Richard Gasquet is thirty-three and Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut is thirty-one. They’ve both been around since the early part of the twenty-first century. Lest that seem like a short time ago, it is now 2019 and soon we will be slipping into the roaring twenties. (Yes, I know that was a twentieth century tag, but maybe there will be a whole new set of Mousquetaires, i.e. Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. Then again, maybe not.)

The match today was over in just two minutes more than an hour. Bautista Agut came out on top 6-1, 6-4. It was a match that seemed to hover over the baseline with Gasquet moving toward the net more often than Bautista Agut, but not much. There was a good deal of hit and miss going on from both players, with lengthy rallies tending to be non-existent. The grass seems much more amenable to the tennis this year. The bounces seemed slow but steady – even if the serving speed of this match was toned down a bit from today’s earlier match between two Italians – Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi. (Berrettini sent many serves over the net at speeds, well over 125 miles per hour [200 kilometers per hour]. He won in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

Gasquet became a professional tennis player in 2002. That’s a lot of days to spend on the court – more than 6,200 actually. (If years are more easily visualized, then that’s seventeen.) Over all those years, his winnings have averaged about a million American dollars for each of them. (That amount may seem like a good deal of money for batting a little ball across a net, but, there are coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and all the other folks who work to keep a player in the best shape possible that need to be paid for. Then one must add to that, the airfare, the transportation, the hotel rooms and all the other sundries that can total more than one can calculate in a day or two.)

To say that Gasquet’s career is pedestrian is a misnomer. He began playing as a youngster. At nine, he was touted as the “next” future champion in February 1996 on the cover of French Tennis Magazine. He was nine. In 2007 he reached his highest ranking of 7. He has slipped to number 54 today, which is his lowest since 2010. He’s always been a competitor. He has spent all of his adult life on the tennis court, always expecting a win. Seventeen years is a long time to stay in top form. It is apparent he still loves tennis, and amazingly his one-handed backhand is a sight to behold. It flows like a feather in the wind.

He could be thinking of moving over to allow the younger players a space in the rankings, or like many other competitors today, he may feel there’s another win waiting for him. This one could be just around the corner at Wimbledon. His hopes for the future are likely simple and to the point – London may be calling.

Bautista Agut has been a professional player since 2005. As of today, he has been ranked in the top 30 of the ATP rankings for 267 consecutive weeks. That’s a smidge over five years. He began playing tennis at five. He scampers about the court like a youngster, to this day. Actually, he enjoys horseback riding and owns seven horses, which I assume he leaves at home in Spain.

Earlier this year, in the first round of the Australian Open, he managed a win over Andy Murray in a trying five set match. He then moved on to the second round and defeated John Millman in yet another five setter. In the third round, he mowed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. He continued his winning ways by defeating Marin Cilic (last year’s Gerry Weber Open champ). But, then he met the up and coming Greek player, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was on a real high after defeating Roger Federer. Stefanos showed him the door. He then re-entered the top 20 and now he stands at 20 today.

With all that historic momentum stored in his memory banks, he might just have a chance at defeating nine time champ, at the Noventi Open, Roger Federer whom he will face in his next match here in Halle. Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a nail biter – 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. This is Federer’s charmed tournament, and Bautista Agut will need all the luck and skill he can conjure to manage a win in the last match on Friday.

 

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Berrettini Stops Seppi In A “Mat” Versus “Andy” Battle

Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi played a Noventi Open second-round match that was truly scintillating.

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Matteo Berrettini (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

It was the first Thursday match on the Noventi Open Stadion court, but it could have easily been played at Foro Italico in Rome. Matteo Berrettini took on Andreas Seppi in a second round contest at the ATP 500 championship played in Halle, Germany.

 

As is always the case with matches between countrymen, there were a collection of appealing back stories to tell. Starting from the top, it was a classic “young player versus veteran” battle as the 23-year-old Berrettini faced Seppi, who turned 35 in February. It featured two individuals who are basketball player tall, given that Berrettini is 6’5” and Seppi is 6’3”. The similarities continued, as both are right-handed, hit two-handed backhands and absolutely pummel their ground strokes.

They did exactly that for an hour and 44-minutes until the youngster, nicknamed “Mat” downed the oldster, known as “Andy”, (who was a tournament qualifier), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

They put on a dazzling show, taking full advantage of a court that provided “sit up and hit it” playability on shots that were attempted from the middle of the lawn. Those that travelled close to the sidelines slowed, then skidded. The overall conditions resulted in an array of exchanges that were often quick, and pulsating. A sprinkle of occasional, deft and feathery dropshots were tossed into the mix (shots that just cleared the net before abruptly coming to a stop near one of the alleys)

“ATP Matchfacts” once again becomes the bible story for the match, but the stats really do little to enlighten anyone who didn’t actually watch what took place. Seppi put together workable service numbers notching four aces, along with three double faults. Berrettini, who regularly clocked serves in the plus 125 MPH range, blazed twelve aces against one double fault. More important, he converted three of five break point opportunities that came his way, while his opponent enjoyed a one for three success rate. In the final count, Berrettini earned 88 of the 157 points played (56%). Seppi claimed 69 points which equalled 44%.

Last week, Berrettini was on his game taking the Stuttgart title without losing a set. In April, he won Budapest. Adding to the home country flavour, he played Halle for the first time in 2018 and lost to, none other, than Seppi, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round.

Seppi was born in Bolzano, Italy but now resides in a city with a magically lyrical name – Caldaro sulla Strada del Vino – which is in Italy’s South Tyrol. An individual who appreciates contrasts, his favourites surfaces are clay and grass. His last choice speaks to the success he has had playing on it. Prior to meeting Berrettini, his career grass court record was 58-43. In Halle, he was 12-8, including a final round appearance in 2015 where he dropped a 7-6, 6-4 decision to Federer.

Berrettini comes from Rome, but now calls Monte Carlo home. Hard court is his favorite surface, but he was 7-3 on grass before meeting Seppi. Adding to his profile, he has a younger brother, Jacopo, who is a 20-year-old touring professional, who stands Seppi height (6’3”).

In the quarterfinals, Berrettini will face Karen Khachanov, the No. 3 seed. The Russian is the same age as the Italian and an inch taller (6’6”). They have played twice, both in 2019. On indoor hard court, in February at the Sofia Open, in Bulgaria, Berrettini was 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 better. A week ago, in Stuttgart, he triumphed again, 6-4, 6-2. Both victories took place in the round of 16.

In a repeat of Thursday’s scheduling, Berrettini will return to first match Noventi Open Stadion status against Khachanov…and it promises to be quite an exhibition as was today’s.

 

 

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Stefanos Tsitsias Draws Positives From Huge Scare At Queen’s

It was a difficult day at the office for the world No.6.

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London: Stefanos Tsitsipas narrowly avoided a shock exit from the Fever-Tree championships after coming through a marathon second-round encounter.

 

Gracing his presence on the grass courts in London for the second time on Thursday after finishing his first round match earlier, he faced France’s Jeremy Chardy. A semi-finalist at the tournament 12 months ago, who has lost his last seven matches against top 10 opposition. On paper, the Greek was the heavy favorite to triumph, but in reality, it was a more closely contested encounter with Tsitsipas coming out on top to win 4-6, 7-6(0), 7-6(4). Hitting 40 winners to 26 unforced errors, and saving seven out of the 11 break points he faced.

“I didn’t play very well at the beginning of the match. I found my rhythm for some reason when he (Chardy) was serving for the match.” Tsitsipas said afterward.
“Everything was working, positive and good. I managed to win the tiebreak in the second set, kept the momentum going.’
“I didn’t play my best, but somehow I survived.”

The roller coaster encounter saw the Greek struggle with his consistency early on against Chardy, whose use of slice came in handy for him. Down a set, it looked as if it was over for Tsitsipas after he got broken at 4-4 in the second. Handing the Frenchman a chance to serve the match out. Nevertheless, the top seed battled back to force the proceedings into a tiebreaker. Which he emphatically dominated with a seven-point winning streak.

All to play for, a marathon Chardy service game lasting almost 15 minutes opened up the decider. Fighting hard, Tsitsipas secured his breakthrough two games later as he broke for only the second time in the entire match. Closing in on the victory, the seesaw continued with an exchange of breaks occurring twice. With little disparity between the two, it was only fitting that a tiebreaker should separate the two. Which Tsitsipas managed to prevail in after spending two hours and 38 minutes on the court.

“In my first round match, I didn’t feel very good on the court. Now I feel a little bit better. Like I am advancing and proceeding with my play.” The world No.6 evaluated.
“It’s a very short period that you play on the grass. You kind of forget when you leave the grass season. You mentally forget how it is because there are certain thoughts on the grass that takes time to digest.”

Next up for the Australian Open semi-finalist will be Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime. The world No.21 toppled the controversial Nick Kyrgios 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-5. The match ended with Kyrgios allegedly tanking on match point before throwing his racket outside of the court.

“I’ve never beaten Felix in the singles. He has a big game and big potential. He can play really well, really aggressive and can be unpredictable.” Tsitsipas previewed.

Earlier in the day, a duo of seeds crashed out of the tournament. Kevin Anderson, who was playing in his first tournament since Miami, lost 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, to Gilles Simon. Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka was stunned by Nicolas Mahut. Wawrinka was leading the decider 5-3, but failed to serve the match out and ended up losing 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(2).

“I just kept fighting and I came back at the end of the second set.” Said 2007 finalist Mahut.
“I kept playing better and better. I’m so happy to play on this court. It is one of the best courts I have ever played on. It’s a great win for me, I have so much respect for Stan.”

Mahut and Simon will play each other in the quarter-finals.

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