After three days of pulsating action at the Laver Cup in Geneva, it was the final 10-point tiebreaker that separated team Europe from their opponents.
Lead by Roger Federer and Co, the European contingent was expected to cruise towards victory given their calibre of seven top 20 players compared to only one from team World. They headed into the final day of competition with a 7-5 lead, but a dramatic twist in momentum saw the underdogs claim six consecutive points. Thanks to Jack Sock and John Isner triumphing in the doubles, followed by Taylor Fritz stunning Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-7(3), 10-5. Making it Fritz’s first ever win over a top five player.
“That was a big match for Team World. We really needed that win. To let my team down the first day and contribute to the team today and give them the win means so much to me,” Fritz said during an on-court interview. “This has to be one of the biggest wins of my career. You’re usually just playing for yourself, but it means so much when you’re playing for other people.”
In danger of losing the title for the first time in the history of the Laver Cup, it was up to 20-time grand slam Federer to start the comeback. The Swiss maestro is one of the co-founders of the team tournament. Taking on Isner, Federer delighted his animated home crowd with a resounding 6-4, 7-6(3), triumph. Reducing his teams deficit from 7-11 to 10-11.
“What an atmosphere and what a match. I’m thrilled that I was able to give something back to the team after a tough Match Tie-break (in doubles) earlier today,” Federer said. “Team Europe has been amazing. They’ve fought so hard and played so well.”
Undoubtedly Federer is the player everybody in Geneva wanted to see, however, it was Alexander Zverev, who had the most pressure placed on his shoulders. Not only was he playing the final match of the 2019 tie, he had to win or Eureope’s stronghold on the Laver Cup would come to an end. A situation he was also placed in 12 months ago.
Standing in Zverev’s way was former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic. A player renowned for his blistering serve. Like the 2019 event, it was a turbulent encounter. At one set apiece, the German ousted his rival in a decisive tiebreaker. Working his way to five match points after hitting a deep backhand winner. It was on his first opportunity where Zverev prevailed after hitting a forehand cross-court winner. Claiming the match 6-4, 3-6, 10-4 and prompting the world No.6 to drop onto his knees as an almighty roar erupted around the Palexpo Arena.
“It was an unbelievable weekend. They (team world) were one or two points away from winning it all. Credit to all of you. Every one of you deserved to win.” Zverev said in tribute to his deflated opponents afterwards.
“I played an unbelievable tiebreaker. I am super thankful to Roger, Rafa and the team. Without them on the bench today I would not have done it.” He added.
In the aftermath of the triumph, blue confetti dropped onto the black court in Geneva. Symbolising Europe’s latest triumph in the competition and their third in a row. It was during the trophy ceremony where it confirmed that the 2020 event will return back to America and be held in Boston. The venue will be the 20,000 capacity TD Garden, which is the home ground of NBA team Boston Celtics and NHL team Boston Bruins.
“Congratulations Team World on an unbelievable fight, I can’t wait for the next one in Boston. For us, so many emotions. It’s been an unbelievable roller-coaster.” Federer said in a tribute to close the 2019 competition.
“Bjorn, you’re a great captain, and Rocket (Rod Laver), thanks for being here today. It makes it more special.
“It’s been a dream weekend for me to be playing in Switzerland. Thank you for all the noise you’ve made, I’ve loved every moment.”
The 2020 Laver Cup will take place between September 25-27.
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 22, 2019
Basel 2019 Preview: Roger Federer Targets Record As Rivals Looks To Qualify For ATP Finals
Federer is on a quest for a 10th title in Basel and could play an all-Swiss quarter-final against countryman Stan Wawrinka later this week.
This year in Basel the competition is at its top, with two spots yet to be reserved in the race to the ATP Nitto Finals.
Roger Federer, who could make a 13th final in Basel this year, will commence his campaign against qualifier Peter Gojowczyk in the first quarter. In the second round the 20-time grand slam champion could play either Radu Albot or Dusan Lajovic, whom he has a clean head-to-head profile against.
Meanwhile European Open finalist, who just lost to comeback kid Andy Murray in Antwerp, Stan Wawrinka is facing the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in the first round. Should he take off with a win, he would face either Frances Tiafoe or Daniel Evans before he could set a clash with last year’s Basel champion in quarter-finals.
Generally it could be theoretically an easy contest for Federer, who has a H2H profile of 23 wins to three loses against Wawrinka with 17 of them on hard-courts. However Wawrinka is in good form after making his second final of the year last week after Rotterdam in February.
The second quarter sees one player who has guaranteed his debut at the ATP Nitto Finals. Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas regained some of his good tennis during the Asian Swing where he ousted the World No.1 Novak Djokovic in Shanghai to reserve a place at the ATP Nitto Finals. Tsitsipas is taking on Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round. Only one meeting has taken place between the two on the ATP Tour in Barcelona last year with the Greek winning it. Then he could play either qualifier Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis or Pablo Andujar in the second round.
However, there is another player in this quarter, who is still trying to make it to the ATP Nitto Finals. Fabio Fognini had a disappointment last week when he lost in his first match in Stockholm after making the quarter-finals in Shanghai before losing to Daniil Medvedev. The Italian is starting against Alexei Popyrin then he could face either Laslo Djere or Filip Krajinovic, who made it the final in Stockholm before losing to Shapovalov. Fognini is in the 11th position in the race to London, going after countryman Matteo Berrettini, 8th position, with a gap of 290 points.
Should a quarter-final between Tsitsipas and Fognini occur, the Greek leads in their previous confrontations 2-0.
Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut is in the third quarter. He has been in bad form these past couple months, but is only 40 points behind Berrettini in the race to London. Should the Spaniard want to make his debut at the O2 Arena this year, he has to be pretty much on form as he opens against Marius Copil. Who showed a very good form in Antwerp last week and possess a big serve that could be an obstacle to a lot of players. The winner of that match will face either the Frenchman Richard Gasquet or Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round.
Still in the third quarter, another player is in the run for a spot at the ATP Nitto Finals with 90 points behind the Italian Matteo Berrettini. It’s David Goffin, who is taking off in Basel against former US Open champion Marin Cilic in what could be a thrilling match, but the Croatian isn’t in good form recently. Goffin would face either the big serving Reilly Opelka or Chile’s Cristian Garin in the second round, should he get past Cilic.
Second seed Alexander Zverev takes on Taylor Fritz in the opening round in what could be a tricky match in the fourth quarter. Zverev, who has had a very tough season this year and recorded his first top-10 win just days ago in Shanghai against Federer, has gained in momentum significantly after his participation in Laver Cup a few weeks ago. He is now in the 7th position in the race to the O2 Arena after reaching the final in Shanghai, which he lost to Medvedev in straight sets. He has either Alex De Minaur or Hugo Dellien in the second round with possibly Benoit Paire or Germany’s Struff in the quarter-final.
The Frenchman Benoit Paire is opening against the wild card holder Henri Laaksonen, should he cruise to the second round, he would face either Jan-Lennard Struff or Miomir Kecmanovic.
Stefanos Tsitsipas On Why His US Open Early Exit Was ‘The Best Thing To Ever Happen’
The Greek No.1 sees a silver lining to one of his latest losses on the tour.
Losing in the first round of a grand slam isn’t something players are normally happy to talk about. However, for Stefanos Tsitsipas he doesn’t think he would be where he is now if he didn’t suffer an early loss at this year’s US Open.
The Greek player was seeded ninth in the draw at Flushing Meadows. He fell at the first hurdle to Russia’s Anrey Rublev in four sets, who went on to reach the fourth round of the major. Tsitsipas has endured a mixture of results in the grand slams this season. In January he scored his first major breakthrough by defeating Roger Federer on route to the semi-finals of the Australian Open. However, his runs in the majors has got worse as the season progressed. Losing in the fourth round of the French Open, followed by the first round at Wimbledon. Ironically Tsitsipas believes believes it is his US Open misfortunes that has had the biggest impact on him.
”It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Tsitsipas told atptour.com. “I stayed in New York for six or seven days after and it gave me time to discover new things. It was important for me to enjoy and realise what I needed in my life.
”It was my decision to live life how I wanted to, not how others wanted me to. There was a time last summer when I doubted myself, [thought] that I wasn’t interesting as a person. I wanted to be someone else, but now I understand that it’s awesome to be myself.”
During the Asian swing the 21-year-old won seven out of nine matches played (excluding retirements). Reaching the final of the China Open and the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters. It was the first time he has reached the last four at two consecutive tournaments since May (Madrid and Rome).
Tsitsipas is hoping to continue his surge in form this week at the Swiss Indoors in Basel. He will be seeded third in the draw behind nine-time champion Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev. The world No.7 is yet to win an ATP 500 tournament. Something he hopes to change over the coming days.
“I’m currently in the best state of my life,” he declared. “It doesn’t have to do with results or playing good tennis or bad tennis. I’ve been feeling very happy and very well. I’ve been enjoying life more in general and that reflects in my game. It makes me happy and makes me want to live better.”
Already qualified for the ATP Finals, Tsitsipas is hoping to end what has been a roller coaster season on a high. He has achieved a win-loss record of 49-22 so far this year (including Davis Cup), but has also lost his opening match at eight tournaments.
“I think it’s normal to have ups and downs and I learned a lot this year.” He told reporters on Sunday during a press conference. “I’m looking forward to playing in Basel, Paris and London and hope to go as far as possible.”
In Basel, Tsitsipas will open up his campaign on Tuesday against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Viñolas. A player he beat in straight sets during last year’s Barcelona Open.
Andy Murray Fights Back In Epic To Win First ATP Title Since Surgery In Antwerp
The injury-stricken Brit has capped off a dream week in Belgium.
Former world No.1 Andy Murray has ended his two-year wait for an ATP title after battling back from a set and a break down to defeat Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a pulsating encounter at the European Open in Antwerp.
The clash was a battle of the comebacks. Earlier this year, Murray said he may have to retire from the sport due to a persistent hip injury and even had a special video ceremony in his honour at the Australian Open. Then he underwent career-saving hip resurfacing surgery in what was the start of his latest comeback. Meanwhile, Wawrinka has also endured his fair share of physical issues and recently missed the Asian swing of the tour due to his knee.
“It means a lot. The last few years have been extremely difficult. Both me and Stan has had a lot of injury problems in the past couple of years.” Murray said during his on-court interview.
“It’s amazing to be back playing against him in a final like that. I think it was a great match.”
Sunday’s encounter saw Murray hit nine aces as he won 59% of his service points. Making the world No.243 the lowest ranked player to win an ATP tournament since Pablo Andujar at the 2018 Marrakech Open in Morocco. However, he didn’t have it all his own way.
A clinical start to the match from the Swiss fourth seed aided him to clinch the opening set with ease. Capitalising on Murray’s tentative first service rate, which was 54% during the opener, Wawrinka broke two games in. On his third break point opportunity, a backhand passing shot enabled him to break en route to a 3-0 lead. Providing plenty of food for thought for Murray, who eventually got on the scoreboard after 21 minutes of play. Both players continued to engage is a series of world-class rallies, however, Murray was unable to find a way to break back. Resulting in Wawrinka sealing the opener with the help of a 201 km/h serve down the centre of the court which his opponent returned out.
Continuing his offensive, Wawrinka continued to dominate with glimmers of his best tennis. Hitting numerous angel shots that painted the lines of the Antwerp court. Three games into the second set, he sealed his second break of a match by hitting a blistering backhand down the line.
It looked like Wawrinka was on course for a one-sided triumph, however, Murray refused to go away. Fighting his way back to draw level at 3-3, which prompted an almighty roar from the animated Brit. Against the odds, the former world No.1 continued to turn his fortunes around. Leading 5-4, Murray worked his way to set point after blasting a forehand passing shot. He went on to convert with the help of an error from his rival to take the match into a decider.
The cat and mouse chase continued with numerous changes in momentum on both sides of the court. Four consecutive breaks of serve took place before Murray managed to hold and move ahead 4-3 in the final set. Continuing his remarkable comeback, Murray fended off the threats to nudge ahead 5-4 and within touching distance of the finish line. In what was a match of fine margins, it would be two consecutive forehand mistakes from Wawrinka that guided Murray to a memorable victory.
“Stan was playing unbelievable. Hitting winners from all over the court and I just managed to hand in at the end of the second set. The third set was close again.” Said Murray. “It’s amazing. I didn’t expect to be in this place at all. I’m very happy.”
Three-time grand slam champion Murray didn’t start his return to singles competition until two months ago at the Winston-Salem Open. This week was only his sixth appearance in an ATP Tournament. He has now won eight out of his last 10 matches since the China Open earlier this month.
“This is one of the biggest wins after everything. I’m very proud with my win this week and I’ve always enjoyed my time here.”
The title is Murray’s 46th on the ATP Tour and first since January 2017 when he won the Doha Open. He exits Antwerp with 250 ranking points and €109,590 in prize money. Meaning that he will return back into the world’s top 150 on Monday for the first time since May 2018.
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