By Matthew Marolf
In 25 days, Roger Federer will turn 38 years of age. Remarkably, here he is in his 31st Major final, and his 12th at The All England Club. His most recent Slam final came 18 months ago in Australia, where he defeated Marin Cilic in five sets. Playing the French Open last month for the first time since 2015, and advancing to the semi-finals on his worst surface, provided Roger with considerable confidence. After falling to Rafael Nadal in Paris, he avenged that loss here on Friday in a thrilling semi-final. But in order to win his ninth Wimbledon, he’ll need to do something he’s never done before: defeat both Nadal and Djokovic at the same Grand Slam event.
One year ago, Novak Djokovic arrived at SW19 ranked outside the top 20. After holding all four Majors at once, he hadn’t claimed another in over two years. But a semi-final victory over Nadal would propel Djokovic to win three consecutive Slams. He’s now the definitive world No.1, and looks to pull within four Major titles of Federer, and within two of Nadal.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roger Federer (2)
This is their third time playing in the gentlemen’s singles final. In 2014, Djokovic pulled out the win in five sets, a turning point in Novak’s career having lost his last five Major Finals outside of Australia. A year later, Djokovic prevailed in four. Overall Novak has the slight edge in their head-to-head 25-22, and has taken eight of their last 10 meetings. At Majors, Djokovic leads 9-6, and hasn’t lost to Federer at a Slam in seven years, which was their first Wimbledon matchup in the 2012 semi-finals.
Both men needed three sets and about three hours to win their semi-finals, though Federer’s match against Nadal was the tighter and more draining affair. For Roger, coming back less than 48 hours later to play the other GOAT contender, who is also nearly six years younger than Federer, is a huge ask. But if Roger plays with the same energy he did on Friday, he has a shot. He’ll need to serve even better than in the semi-finals, as he faces the best returner in the game.
The crowd could play a critical role here. They’ll undoubtedly be raucously behind Roger, and we saw on Friday against Roberto Bautista Agut how bothered Novak can get by crowds cheering for his opponent. He receives it as disrespect, though he often seems to thrive on it. But Novak would be wise to not outwardly mock the Centre Court audience today, as it will only increase their enthusiasm for Federer. On paper, Djokovic is a solid favourite. There’s no real weakness in his game, and the best-of-five format plays to his advantage, especially if this goes the distance.
However, we saw on Friday the magic Roger is still capable of on Centre Court. He’ll know this may be one of his last chances to win a Major, though will that inspire him or unsettle him? We saw Serena Williams tighten up under similar circumstances yesterday. While I don’t think this will be a blowout like the ladies’ championship match, Djokovic will be too much for Federer to overcome in the end. Novak will be joining Simona Halep at the champions ball on Sunday evening.
Other notable matches on Day 13:
In the ladies’ doubles final re-scheduled for today due to the length of the gentlemen’s doubles final, singles standouts Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (3) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu (4), who upset the defending champion in the semi-finals. Singles semi-finalist Strycova would become the new doubles No.1 with a win today.
In the mixed doubles final, which has unfortunately been bumped to No.1 Court, French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan (8) vs. 42-year-old Roberto Lindstedt and Jelena Ostapenko, who is a former junior champion here, and was a singles semifinalist a year ago.
A new documentary, and the rekindling of Serena Williams’ tryst with 2018 US Open destiny
It’s almost a year since Serena Williams got embroiled in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the 2018 US Open final. The subject is yet to ebb entirely from memory though. The first episode of ESPN’s new documentary series Backstory – featured on the incident involving the 23-time Grand Slam champion – does its bit to ensure that on the eve of the 2019 US Open, attention is centred on what occurred a year ago.
Titled Serena vs the Umpire, the episode is an extrapolation of the match’s progression and what transpired within it. It presents facts through the pros and cons of Williams and Ramos’, and also of Patrick Mouratoglou’s actions that charted the match. Yet, in spite of this, the program makes Williams out as the wronged one.
First, by her coach, Mouratoglou, who displayed his commitment as a mentor by using hand signals to try and guide her. Then, by Ramos who penalised her for the Frenchman’s infraction. Without heeding her vehemence that she was not a party to her coach’s decision-making. The narrative of the program puts it out that regardless of Williams’ behaviour that saw her scream and rant at the umpire and call him a liar and thief, she did not deserve to be termed as the pariah of the match.
The program’s one-sided leaning does not change the problematic aspects of Williams’ and Mouratoglou’s behaviours. Williams, in protesting her innocence about receiving (and accepting) coaching, did cross the line with her aggressiveness. There was – and is – no denying her disrespect towards the authority on the chair officiating the match. And, rationales like the momentousness of the occasion getting to her do not justify her stance at all. Rather, they hinted at her being ill-equipped to handle the scenario in what turned out be the proverbial repeating of history, at the same tournament.
Mouratoglou’s near-immediate (after the end of the match) admission that he tried to help her – and his maintaining to do so, even now – also debilitates Williams’ position. The 49-year-old’s statements about what he thought was Ramos’ inability in letting the match spiral out of bands, is a bemusing segue as well.
“Ramos’ job is also to keep the match under control. He totally lost control of the match, completely, because he reacted with emotions. And he’s not supposed to — he’s a chair umpire, he’s not a player,” Mouratoglou said. Ironically, had Ramos lashed out emotionally instead of abiding the rules, the repercussions would have been far serious for Williams for name-calling him and for continuously challenging his authority.
Mouratoglou’s comments are revealing of how the program does not consider the ramifications of that fracas for Ramos.
Since the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) rules do not permit Ramos from speaking to the media – including to ESPN for this program – the 48-year-old has been short-changed as he cannot present his point-of-view countering the acclaimed coach. Also, in the year that has almost gone by, the veteran official’s on-court calls have been scrutinised and compared with his umpiring of that match. Moreover, Ramos will not be umpiring any of Williams’ matches at Flushing Meadows in 2019. All of these are indicative of how Ramos’ professionalism has been denigrated.
Players have the right to request to not have certain umpires officiate their matches and many have done so for reasons of their own. The avoidance of the tension between such a player and umpire is undeniably a positive to come out of the move. Yet, what does it leave the umpire with, since, irrespective of how a player behaves with the official, the latter does not have the same means to put forth his officiating preference.
Speaking of preferences, proffering his concluding thoughts on the match, Mouratoglou opined, “It was horrible for us. It was horrible for Serena. It’s fantastic for tennis. It was unbelievable, that was the best moment in tennis of the past 10 years. Tennis was everywhere. You don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all the other sports, but not tennis. People should be allowed to be herself and show emotion. You want passion, that’s why people watch sport. They want things to happen. They want to feel emotion, they want to root for someone, they want to be shocked, they want to be happy, they want to be sad. That’s what they want and everybody felt something that day.”
Indeed, the match prompted reactions from everybody who watched it. Nonetheless, its proceedings overshadowed the game of tennis so much so that the bigger picture was not that of the sport but that of egoism.
Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis
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.
Cincinnati Open Final Preview: Will Kuznetsova And Medvedev Achieve Double Glory For Russia?
It’s Championship Sunday in Cincy, with two unlikely yet intriguing singles finals.
Both world No.1’s were upset on Saturday by Russian opposition, opening up a golden opportunity for today’s singles finalists. For three of the four, it’s a chance to win the biggest titles of their careers to date. And for the fourth, it’s a chance to win their biggest title in a decade.
Madison Keys (16) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (WC)
15 years ago, Kuznetsova was a teenage who shocked the tennis world by winning the US Open. Five years and three Major finals later, she’d win a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. But recent times haven’t been as kind to Svetlana, who has struggled with injuries, coaching changes, and visa issues. As per the WTA’s Courtney Nguyen, Sveta missed the beginning of the US hard court swing due to those visa issues, and contemplated retirement with her ranking at risk of dropping outside the top 200 due to her inability to travel. But just a few weeks later, she’s into her biggest final in over two years, thanks to four victories this week over players ranked 11th or higher. But in today’s final, she faces a competitor she’s never beaten. Keys owns a 3-0 record in their head-to-head, with all three of those matches played on hard courts. Madison is yet to drop a set to Svetlana. And just like Kuznetsova, Keys has looked really strong this week. She’s been just clubbing the ball, and taking the match completely out of her opponents’ hands. But as a player who has choked in big matches before, can Madison maintain her form in this final? Based on how well she’s fought this week and made slight adjustments when needed, and with a boisterous American crowd behind her, I think Keys will be ready for this moment.
Daniil Medvedev (9) v. David Goffin (16)
After a set-and-a-half against Novak Djokovic yesterday, it appeared the world No.1 would be cruising to a straight set victory. Novak had been dominating opponents all week, and Daniil was receiving treatment on his right arm, which looked quite painful. But it seemed the 23-year-old Russian decided if he was going down, he was going down swinging. Medvedev started going for his second serves, striking some just as hard if not harder than his first serves. He’d hit a total of 16 aces in the match. That, combined with his strong ground game which suddenly wouldn’t miss, infuriated Djokovic to the point where it seemed the world No.1 just wanted off the court before the final game had even been decided. Danill is now into his third final in as many weeks, but lost in the final of his last two tournaments. His opponent today capitalized on an extremely open half of the draw. But the tennis gods definitely owe Goffin some luck after the bizarre injuries that have recently sidetracked his career. He injured his eye when a ball glanced off his racket, and injured his ankle when he slipped on the tarp at the back of the court at the French Open. These two have met twice before, with both matches occurring earlier this year. Medvedev prevailed in straight sets at the Australian Open, while Goffin outlasted Daniil 7-5 in the fifth at Wimbledon. This will be Medvedev’s 16th singles match within the past 20 days, which is a ton of tennis no matter your age or your level of fitness. And coming back less than 24 hours after a thrilling victory over the world No.1 is never easy. But against an opponent that hasn’t been playing with much confidence, and who is also vying for the biggest title of their career, I suspect Daniil will power his way to the winner’s circle again today.
Other notable matches on Sunday:
In the men’s doubles final, Wimbledon champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek, who were Wimbledon semifinalists.
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