Cincinnati Open Final Preview: Will Kuznetsova And Medvedev Achieve Double Glory For Russia? - UBITENNIS
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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.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova – Western & Southern Open (foto via Twitter @CincyTennis)

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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Russia Edge Past Serbia In Doubles Thriller To Reach Davis Cup Semis

Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev lead Russia’s charge to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup Finals after a tense doubles victory over Serbia.

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Karen Khachnov and Andrey Rublev (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Russia edged past Serbia 6-4 4-6 7-6(8) in a doubles thriller to set up a semi-final meeting with Canada at the Davis Cup Finals. 

 

The day started with two comfortable victories in singles for Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic as the second quarter-final was forced into a decisive doubles rubber.

Rublev gave Russia the lead after a 52 minute demolition job of Filip Krajinovic 6-1 6-2 in a match where he served 13 aces.

However Serbia struck back as world number two Novak Djokovic produced a 6-3 6-3 victory over Karen Khachanov to keep the Serbs alive.

As a result the doubles would see who would make the last four as Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki took on Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev.

The Russians were the favourites for the match having reached the final recently at the Masters 1000 event in Paris and it was clear to see why.

Some costly errors from Troicki in particular saw Khachanov and Rublev recover from 3-1 down to seal a run of four games in a row.

Although Djokovic was holding his own, the lack of doubles chemistry between the Serbs saw the Russians deal the crucial blow to take set one 6-4.

In recent days, the Davis Cup Finals has been criticised for its lack of passion or atmosphere but this contest had a lot of drama in it.

Especially with Viktor Troicki aggressively demonstrating to the umpire over a few incorrect calls, with one costing Russia a crucial break.

https://twitter.com/Eurosport_UK/status/1197878711867125760

Not only this but Djokovic was starting to struggle with the same arm injury that haunted him at the ATP Finals last week.

Even though the Russians pulled the break back, the Djokovic returns were causing the Russians problems as they looked to break for the set.

After Rublev double-faulted earlier in the set, Khachanov double-faulted on set point down as this match was going to a deciding set.

Both teams showed great nerve throughout the majority of the deciding set with the Russians being denied the break in the fifth game.

As the final set went to a tiebreak, Russia had the mini-break on two occasions but were denied on both occasions by some good doubles play by Djokovic.

Three match points were created by the Serbians to reach the semi-finals but Viktor Troicki couldn’t hold his mental edge.

Eventually it was the craft and power of the Russians who sealed the tie 10-8 in the deciding tiebreak as they booked a place in the last four.

It wasn’t to be for Novak Djokovic and Serbia, who are denied a dream final with Spain and Rafael Nadal in the final match.

As for Russia they now move into the last four, where they will play Canada tomorrow morning and have secured their place in next year’s Davis Cup Finals.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: The Big Business Of Data Analytics In Tennis

Ubitennis speaks with the founder of Tennis Data company Sportiii, whose company is currently working with Stan Wawrinka’s coach Magnus Norman.

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Mike james with doubles player Ante Pavic and Tomislav Brkic at a Challenger tournament.

As tennis players head into their off-season, it is normally the same routine. A couple of days of rest followed by numerous training blocks to get them ready for the following season. They are guided by their coaches, physios and for a growing number with the help of a computer by their side.

 

With technology continuing to rapidly develop, the use of data statistics is becoming big business in the world of tennis. A method where players analyse the numbers behind their performance. Ranging from their service percentages to the average length of rallies they are playing. The idea being that their training is then customised to take into account those figures.

However, how much of a big deal is it?

Mike James is the founder of Sportiii Analytics. A company that provides detailed information on player’s strategies and patterns. They have a partnership with the prestigious Good To Great Academy in the pipeline and supply information to Stan Wawrinka’s coaching team. British-based James has more than a decade of experience in coaching and has previously travelled on the tour with the likes of doubles specialists Ante Pavic and Tomislav Brkic. At present Sportiii are working with several ATP and WTA players, but are unable to name them due to a confidentiality agreement.

“We are fortunate enough to be able to use Dartfish. Dartfish created a tagging part of their software package around 10 years ago. It allows us to make customized tagging panels or coding as they say in football or rugby. Essentially, we can tag or code whatever the player, coach or federation wants to look for.” James explained during an interview with Ubitennis.
“We are taking 30 KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) of information which allows us to take the data and move that into a strategy for the players and their teams to know what is working and what isn’t.”

Tennis is far from the only sport to be influenced by the rapid rise of technology. Although, is it really a necessity? During the 1980s with the likes of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, they both managed to achieve highly successful careers without detailed statistical information. Some would argue that they most important aspect is a person’s talent on the court and how they mentally cope with different situations. Not how many rallies they win in under five shots.

Although James points out that without services like his, there is a chance that player’s could be training the wrong areas of their games. Therefore hampering their own development in the sport.

“If we know the 70% of the returns are going back into the court in the men’s game, then we know the first ball after the serve is extremely important. Also, if we know that 70% of the match is between zero and four, the serve and return is vitally important.” He said.
“Players hitting 20, 30, or 40 balls in a row before they have a break. They are not training the game, they might be training the technical aspects of their game but they cannot train tactically playing this many balls without a break.”

A method for the many, not the few

There are still a few stigmas when it comes to companies such as Sportiii. Many would think this service would be something mainly of interest to coaches and nobody else. However, James reveals that this isn’t always the case.

“Of course, some coaches want to know the information, but we have players we deal with without their coaches because they are the ones interested. If it’s going to work best with statistics, numbers and strategy, you’re going to want both the player and coach fully buying in to this way of thinking. That’s going to get the best result for sure.”

Novak Djokovic has previously worked alongside Craig O’Shannessy, who is the founder of Brain Game Tennis and writes numerous statistical articles for atpworldtour.com. Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev once said ‘all the big guys are using data analysis, they just don’t like to talk about it.’ There is clearly a market, but is it only for those who can afford it?

Despite the rise of prize money earnings, the disparity on the tour remains substantial. Rafael Nadal was the highest earner of 2019 on the ATP Tour with $12.8 million in winnings. In contrast, the 300th highest earner, Federico Coria, made just over $81,000. Less than 1% of Nadal’s tally. According to one report from The Telegraph, leading agencies in the tennis data industry are selling their top packages in the region of £80,000 ($103,000) per year.

“We look to do individual tailor made packages depending on a player’s ranking, age, experience, support team, if they are funded by their federation or if they are funded by private sponsors.” James commented on how Sportiii handles the situation.
“But at the end of the day, of course the first part of a player’s budget is for their coach and then maybe the Physio. But I think having an analyst or strategy consultant is becoming higher in the pecking order for players going into 2020.” He added.

The future

James pictured with Magnus Norman (left) and Jonas Arnesen (middle)

Next year Sportiii will officially begin their work with Swedish tennis academy Good To Great, which is located to the north of Stockholm. Regarded as one of the top academies in the country, it was founded by Magnus Norman, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillström. Their role will be providing information to those who use the facility.

“We’re really looking to steepen the learning curve and support their academy pro team. But also help develop their junior players they have coming through.” James explained about the collaboration.
“We support their team with educational workshops and I think this is the next phrase for data analytics. That will be going into junior tennis and not just looking at the top of the game.”

The desire to focus more on the younger generation of athletes emulates that of the ATP with their Next Gen Finals in Milan. An end-of-season event that features the eight best players under the age of 21. At the tournament, they use a series of new innovative methods. Including electronic line calling, the use of a handset to speak with coaches during changeovers and wearable technology.

There is no doubt that the new generation of players is more comfortable with the use of technology. But what does that mean for the future of coaching? Would it be possible that one day the profession could be replaced by a computer instead? This could appeal to those looking to save costs, however James isn’t convinced the complete removal of the human element will happen.

“If players are more certain and confident in knowing what they need to do, in my opinion the level goes up.” He states. “Then, if the level goes up, maybe we are not at the pinnacle of the sport seeing Rafa, Roger, Stan and Novak playing video game tennis. I think we are still going to get another level of tennis in 5-10 years, which is very exciting for the sport.”

It is inevitable that technology will have a greater presence in tennis over the coming years in some shape or form. The only question is where do you draw a line?

To find out more information about Sportiii you can visit www.sportiiianalytics.com or check out their social media pages.

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Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov secure Canada the spot in Davis Cup semifinal

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Canada reach their third Davis Cup semifinals after Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov won the decisive doubles match.

 

Vasek Pospisil opened the quarter final clash between Canada and Australia with a 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 over John Millman.

Millman broke his serve in the second game of the match. Pospisil broke back to draw level to 4-4 and saved two set points to force the first set to a tie-break. Pospisil won a tight tie-break at 9-7. The second set went on serve until the 10th game when Pospisil broke serve at 5-4 to close out the match.

“I have been playing really well this week and trying to keep the momentum going. I am playing pretty relaxed, which is good. I am enjoying my time on the court after being injured, which has changed my perspective a bit, and maybe that’s helped me for the last couple of months”, said Pospisil.

Alex De Minaur rallied from a set down to beat Denis Shapovalov 3-6 6-3 7-5 drawing the tie level to 1-1.  Shapovalov converted his second break point in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and held on his next service games to win the first set 6-3. De Minaur earned the only break point in the second game to win the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the decider. De Minaur broke Shapovalov to take a 6-5 lead and sealed the match on his second match point.

Pospisil won both his second match of the day when he teamed up with Shapovalov in the doubles match. The Canadian team beat John Peers and Jordan Thompson 6-4 6-4.

“This is unbelievable. We have a great team and we had the potential to get this far, but the guys put their hearts on the line this week. They are playing unbelievable tennis, and they wanted so bad to play unbelievable tennis. I am so proud of them”, said Canadian captain Frank Dancevic.

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