A 7 Footer Wins Big At Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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A 7 Footer Wins Big At Wimbledon

Reilly Opelka shines in his Wimbledon debut.

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Reilly Opelka - Australian Open 2019 (foto via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — Stan Wawrinka, a Grand Slam winner, took his tennis defeat by an American with grace. Unlike the way The Sun, the tabloid, took England’s soccer defeat by America.

 

This was the day after, some 24 hours of regret for England’s team, beaten Tuesday night, 2-1 — or as The Sun printed it, 1-2 — by the United States in the semifinal of the Women’s World Cup.

This also was the day of success, Reilly Opelka of Florida upsetting Wawrinka, 7-5. 3-6. 4-6. 6-4, 8-6, Wednesday in a Wimbledon second-round match.

“He went bigger than me,” Wawrinka said, a statement that, since Opelka is 6-foot-11, could be taken literally. “And he deserved to win.”

So did the U.S. women’s team, albeit the way at least one American player, Alex Morgan, celebrated after her goal, America’s second, mimicking someone sipping tea, was unneeded.

In the United Kingdom they call instant replay VAR, or video assistant referee, and it was a replay that showed England was offside when scoring the apparent tying goal with eight minutes remained in regulation time.

Then the low penalty kick by England’s Steph Houghton was grabbed by goalie Alyssa Naeher to preserve the victory.

Or as the headline in The Sun put it, “LIONESSES LOSE TO V.A.R.MERICA”

Some clever people there, if some disenchanted ones. In The Sun, Martin Lipton called Houghton’s penalty kick “awful.” Hey, they did get to the semis, interestingly the same stage the men’s team reached in the 2018 men’s World Cup.

How far Opelka can go in this Wimbledon debut is problematical, especially because in the next round he faces Milos Raonic, who also has a huge serve and was also a finalist here three years ago.

Still, an another American male who actually can win tennis matches — the way American women win soccer matches — is to be appreciated.

Not that you expect to see him on a tennis court instead of a basketball court. And so Opelka, an inch shorter than 7 feet, was asked quickly enough, “Why are you here and not in the NBA?”

Without hesitation, Opelka responded, “Good question.” 

To which the 21-year-old could only answer, “I wish I was. I regret it every day. And yeah, that’s pretty much all I’m going to say.”

Other than basketball is his favorite sport, other than tennis, which now is his profession. “I don’t play (basketball) much anymore,” he said. “When I’m home I shoot every day. I go to the court and play all the time. But like I never played serious or anything.”

The 6-foot-9 John Isner, who’s been on the tennis tour more than a decade, was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year; he’s often said if as a kid he knew how tall he’d become, his choice would have been hoops. Opelka beat Isner in the first round of this year’s Australian Open.

The man has an advantage serving and a disadvantage returning. It was Isner who was locked into that 11-hour, three-day match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, Isner winning 70-68 in the fifth set, when each player hit serves that couldn’t be returned.

Wawrinka, an even 6 feet, who has won the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, was asked if tennis would become the domain of the really big guy, such as the one who whipped him, Opelka.

“Against the big server, you’re not going to have a lot of chances,” said Wawrinka, “but no I don’t think. We’ve been thinking that for 10 years. But no, I don’t think we’re going in that direction.”

Who knows what direction Opelka is going, but beating a Grand Slam champ, even though Wawrinka is now 34, is hardly unimpressive.

“I had to adjust a lot,” said Opelka. “My mind was always thinking, especially after I lost the third set. He was in every return game.

“I played the big points really well on my serve, and that’s what good players do. They find other ways to win that you’re not always comfortable with.” 

Comfortable and uncomfortable, as Opelka pointed out, don’t matter.

As they say in golf, it isn’t how; it’s how many or how much. Opelka had as much as he needed. Just as the night before, the U.S. women soccer team had as much as it needed.

Note: story posted from http://artspander.com with permission from the author. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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