Andy Murray Fights Back In Epic To Win First ATP Title Since Surgery In Antwerp - UBITENNIS
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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.

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Stan Wawrinka - US Open 2018 (foto via Twitter, @usopen)

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.

The fightback

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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.”

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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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Nick Kyrgios Slams Thiem Over Defence Of Controversy-Stricken Adria Tour

The world No.40 has accused the Austrian of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to understand his view.

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Australian star Nick Kyrgios has continued his public criticism of the Adria Tour by taking aim at two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

 

The 25-year-old has repeatedly hit out at the exhibition event, which Thiem participated in. Organised by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the event took place in Belgrade and Zadar before it was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19 among both players and coaching staff. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric all got infected. The outbreak came after the Adria Tour was criticised for a lack of social distancing and players attended various public events together. Although at the time, all of their actions were done in accordance with local regulations. Something the Serbian Prime Minister now admits was a mistake.

However, Thiem has called out Kyrgios over his vocal criticism of fellow Adria Tour competitor Alexander Zverev. The German attended a party in southern France less than a week after the COVID-19 outbreak despite issuing a statement saying he would go into self-isolation.

“It was his mistake, but I don’t why a lot of people want to interfere. Kyrgios has done a lot of mistakes. It would be better for him to come clear instead of criticising others,” Thiem told Tiroler Tageszeitung.

Continuing to defend the actions of his fellow players, Thiem also jumped to the defence of Djokovic. Who has been under heavy criticism over the event with some going as far as questioning his position as president of the ATP Players Council.

“He didn’t commit a crime. We all make mistakes, but I don’t understand all the criticism. I’ve been to Nice and also saw pictures from other cities. It’s no different from Belgrade during the tournament. It’s too cheap to shoot at Djokovic.”

The comments have now been blasted by Kyrgios, who stands by his previous criticism of players. Accusing Thiem of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to see his point of view.

“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
“None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.”
“People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake,'” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide and some players have voiced concerns over travelling to America which has recently seen a rise in cases. On Wednesday Alexi Popyrin became the first player to say he won’t play the US Open due to health concerns.

The ATP Tour is set to resume next month but it is unclear as to what events Thiem and Kyrgios will be playing in.

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Roger Federer Eyeing Olympic Glory At The Age Of 39 In 2021

The Swiss tennis star isn’t ready to step away from the sport just yet.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has vowed to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.

 

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then he had twice undergone arthroscopic surgeries which is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems with the joints. Federer announced shortly after having the procedure done for a second time that he will not be returning to the Tour again this year.

Despite the setbacks, the 38-year-old has vowed to return to action at the start of 2021 with Olympic glory one of his main targets. He is already a two-time Olympic medallist after winning gold in the men’s doubles back in 2008 followed by silver in the singles draw at the 2012 London Games.

“My goal is to play Tokyo 2021. It’s a wonderful city. I met my wife in my first Olympics in 2000. It’s a special event for me,” Federer said on Monday during the launch of ‘The Roger’ shoe with Swiss brand ON.
“I had two surgeries and I can’t hit at the moment, but I’m very confident I will be totally ready for 2021.
“I do miss playing in front of the fans, no doubt. Now, I think if tennis comes back we know it won’t be in a normal way where we can have full crowds yet.”

Federer will be 39 when he returns to action, but is yet to speculate as to when he may close the curtain on his record-breaking career. He is currently the second oldest man in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 41.

Besides the Olympics, the Swiss Maestro is also setting his eye on Wimbledon where he has claimed the men’s title a record eight times. However, he hasn’t won a major title since the 2018 Australian Open. The Grass-court major has been cancelled this year for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week,” he said.
“Clearly, one of my big goals, and that’s why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I’m preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year.”

Even though he is not playing for the rest of the year, Federer incredibly still has a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals due to recent changes in the rankings calculations. Due to the pandemic, players are now allowed to use their best results at 18 tournaments based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Something that could enable him to remain inside the top eight until the end of 2020 depending on how his rivals fair.

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ATP Announces 22-Month Ranking System To Support Players Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Parts of the changes have been done to help support those who prefer not to or can not travel to tournaments due to safety concerns.

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The ATP Tour has revised their calculations for this year’s ranking system with the governing body admitting that the new changes could also be applied in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Players on the men’s Tour have been given a wider period where they can select their best tournaments to determine their ranking. Prior to the suspension of competitive tennis, male players were allowed to select their 18 best performances in tournaments within a 52-week period. This has now been expanded to 22 months (March 2019-December 2020). Although they are not allowed to use the same tournament twice.

In a press release the ATP says their new measures allows ‘flexibility and fairness’ with players on the tour. Furthermore, it has been designed with the possibility of the rules continuing into 2021 should the ongoing pandemic continue to disrupt the Tour in some degree. Outlining their objectives, the ATP says one of their goals is to protect those who ‘cannot or prefer not to compete in 2020 due to health & safety.’ A point recently raised by Australian player Alexei Popyrin who has voiced concerns about playing at the US Open.

“There are talks regarding the US Open but I really don’t want to go with the situation in America right now,” Popyrin said at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the weekend.
“But we have to see if we would be forced to go because of ranking points.
“If the ranking points won’t be frozen, then most of us would be forced to go play cause our ranking will drop and we wouldn’t have any say in it.
“But if the rankings are frozen, then I am staying here.
“I will stay in Europe where it’s safe with my family.”

As a result of the changes, it remains to be seen if this will have any effect on other players concerning their decision to play at the New York major which will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history. Some parts of America have reported a surge in COVID-19 cases with 52,228 New Cases being reported on July 5th.

Under the new calculations, no player will have less ranking points than what they currently have at present. The ATP rankings have been frozen since March 16th but will resume on the Monday after the first tournament in the revised calendar concludes.

There are exceptions to the new 22-month ruling. Qualification for the ATP Finals will still be based on 52 weeks because the event is classed as an ‘additional tournament.’ Therefore it doesn’t count as one of the 18 key events to determine a player’s ranking. Points from last year’s tournament will drop off on November 9th after the Paris Masters. The reason for doing so is to make the chances of qualifying more fair. Furthermore Challenger and ITF events will also be based on the 52-week rule because ‘events are scheduled on a one-year basis and do not have consistent spots in the calendar.’

The ATP Tour is set to resume at the Citi Open in Washington during the second week of August.

A full FAQ of the new ranking system can be read here.

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