The Young Guns Aiming To Topple The Big Three At Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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The Young Guns Aiming To Topple The Big Three At Wimbledon

Will this year be the time a rising star of the men’s game halts the dominance of Federer and Co?

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In 2019 it is evident that the top level of men’s tennis is dominated by the veterans of the tour. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have shared the Wimbledon trophy between them over the past 16 years. Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem is the only active player under the age of 30 to have won a set in the final of a major. But what about the rising stars of the game?

 

The Next Generation contingent has been highly publicised by the ATP in recent years. A group of players aged 21 or under who has been dubbed as the future stars of the sport. In 2017 the Next Gen finals were created as a platform to showcase their potential. An end of year tournament that uses innovative rules such as electronic line-calling and best-of-four sets.

Whilst group has shown promise on the tour, breaking through in grand slams remains a rarity. Something which has drawn criticism from former world No.1 Boris Becker, who took aim at the lack of mental strength among the younger players.

“As much as I respect Roger, Rafa and Novak, young players should show up,” Becker said earlier this month. “Eventually, they will be too old, but you want to see the passing of the torch while they are still in their prime.
“There’s a certain mentality that they (younger players) don’t have, that the three others do have. It’s not the forehands, it’s not the fittest. It’s mindset (and) attitude that makes the difference between winning and losing.”

One player who has already illustrated their potential in the majors is Stefanos Tsitsipas. A 20-year-old Greek player who is already the highest ranked player from his country in history. In January he stunned Federer on route to the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Since then, Tsitsipas has contested four finals on the tour, winning titles in Marseille and Estoril. He has also defeated every member of the Big Three at least once.

“I want to be honest. I would love to see something different this year,’ Tsitsipas recently commented about who could win Wimbledon.
‘Hopefully, it can be me, but I think it’s good for the sport to have a bit of variety, something different. It’s boring to see all these guys winning all the time. Djokovic is the reigning champion”
‘We are responsible for that as well, the new generation, to work hard and believe in ourselves that we can come up with something new, come up with our best games to beat those guys.”

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One of those to back Tsitsipas to go deep at The All England Club is John McEnroe. Who was only 20 when he won his first grand slam title at the 1979 US Open. The American believes the world No.6 is the most likely youngster to upset the top guns at Wimbledon.

“Tsitsipas, I think he seems ready to make a breakthrough. To me he’d almost be the most likely guy that would do it (at Wimbledon) if it wasn’t one of those guys.” McEnroe stated.

Few can dispute the talent Tsitsipas has. An aggressive baseline player with a one-handed backhand. However, he isn’t the only person tipped to be the next big thing.

Felix Auger-Alissame has enjoyed a remarkable rise in recent times. Aged only 18, he has climbed the rankings from 117th to 21st within the past 12 months. Becoming the youngest player to break into the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt back in 1999. Earlier this year he became the third youngest player in the history of the ATP Masters 1000 series to reach the semi-final stage. Doing so in Miami.

“I think this year is just like the fact that everything added up, all the work that I have done, because I felt like for a year now I have been playing pretty well, but I think this year I just kind of found my rhythm, I just found my beat, and I think I have been on the right track.” Auger-Alissme evaluated about his rapid rise on the tour.

The Canadian will be seeded 19th in what will be his first ever Wimbledon tournament as a professional and second Grand Slam main draw overall. He has contested only eight matches on the grass on the ATP Tour so far in his career.

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Dennis Shapovalov is yet to win back-to-back matches at Wimbledon. However, he did score a win over Novak Djokovic earlier this week at The Boodles tournament. An exhibition tournament located is Stoke Park, London. Shapovalov believes he and his rivals are edging closer to toppling the Big Four.

“We all know it is not easy to beat these guys, but we know it’s possible.” Shapovalov told tennis365.com.
“These legends of the game just don’t want to leave! We are just waiting or either those guys to finish or we step up a bit, but we are all so young still and it will take time for us to develop and we can start beating them.
“Back in the day, the older guys were ending their careers a lot earlier, but now they are sticking around and it is tough for us to get past them.
“They have a lot of experience, they are still healthy and able to compete with his and there is so much competition out there right now.
“We have a lot of young guys coming up that are really fired up and motivated and then at the same time, the old guys are still winning.
“Us guys trying to make the breakthrough just need a little more experience and then we can start to win the big events and I feel we are closer than ever now.”

For others, Wimbledon provides a platform for them to regain their footing. Alex de Mianur enjoyed a strong start to 2019 before osteitis pubis sidelined him. Now on the comeback, he is targeting steady improvement. It was at Wimbledon last year where he lost to Nadal in straight sets.

“Every tournament you go out there with the intention to get higher,” the 20-year-old explained.
“The higher you get in the rankings the better seedings you get.
“So instead of playing Rafa in the third round you may play someone between 16 and 32 which makes a fairly big difference.
“It’s a work in progress but I have to get as many points as I can so I can get draws that go my way.”

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It remains to be seen if the young protagonists of the men’s game can cause a stir at Wimbledon. For the foreseeable future, it appears that the veterans will continue to win the biggest prizes of the sport. However, Tsitsipas is confident that this will soon change.

‘I think it’s all a matter of character and feeling responsible for what we’re doing on the court,” Tsitsipas said. “Some people don’t feel responsible. They don’t want to take that big responsibility of going out and winning and saying: ‘I’m going to overcome all those difficulties and I’m going to beat those guys.’
“I feel like I can beat them. My game will be at its finest if some of the Next Gen players believe that, if the younger generations think positively, I think we can achieve a lot of things. I hope this will happen at Wimbledon.”

The Wimbledon Championships will get underway on Monday.

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Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis

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Janko Tipsarevic has announced that he will retire from professional tennis at the age of 35 next November. The Belgrade native enjoyed his best seasons in 2011, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, and in 2012, when he reached the quarter final at the US Open for the second consecutive year. In 2012 he reached the quarter final or better in 14 tournaments, including the semifinal at Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Toronto.

 

He reached his best ranking of world number 8 in April 2012 after qualifying for the quarter final in Miami. He won four titles in his career and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open.

He returned to action at the Australian Open last January after a long absence of 16 months following two harmstring surgeries. The Serbian player lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Australian Open. Later this year he reached the quarter final in Houston.

Tipsarevic is planning after the Davis Cup finals in Madrid next November.

“It has been a great 16 years. After a lot of sour searching and thinking what is important to me in this stage of my life and what does make make me happy, I have decided to retire from professional tennis. My last competition will be the Davis Cup in Madrid. In the following years my focus will be my family, franchising our Tennis Academy and International coaching for several weeks per year. Thank you for your ongoing support”, announced Tipsarevic via social media.

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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?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

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.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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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.  

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