ATP Finals 2019 Day 1 Preview: Djokovic, Federer To Kick-Off Year-End Extravaganza - UBITENNIS
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ATP Finals 2019 Day 1 Preview: Djokovic, Federer To Kick-Off Year-End Extravaganza

The top eight players in the world are in London, with the year-end world No.1 ranking to be decided.

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At each Major tournament this season, the tennis world has kept a close eye on the draw to see which two of “The Big Three” end up on the same side.  This week, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were drawn together into the Bjorn Borg Group, alongside Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini. From 2003-2015, Djokovic and Federer combined to win this event 11 out of those 13 years.  However, the past three years have seen three first-time champions. This year, Djokovic not only vies to tie Federer with six titles at this event, but he’s also just 640 points behind Rafael Nadal in the race for the year-end No.1 ranking.  With up to 1,500 points to be earned over the next eight days, there’s a lot to play for in London.

 

Novak Djokovic (2) vs. Matteo Berrettini (8)

The first singles match of the 2019 ATP Finals will also be the first career meeting between Djokovic and Berrettini.  This is Novak’s 12th time qualifying for this event, while it’s Matteo’s debut.  As per our own Adam Addicott, Berrettini is the third Italian man to qualify for the ATP Finals, but neither of the two previous Italians to qualify have won a match (Panatta and Barazzutti).  A year ago, the 23-year-old Italian was ranked outside the top 50. His ascension to the top eight in the world happened swiftly, as his power game earned him 42 tour-level match wins this season.  And it was only eight months ago that Matteo played and won a challenger event in Phoenix, so joining the game’s elite is extremely new for him. I’m curious to see how the ATP Finals debutant accounts himself on Sunday afternoon against the five-time champion.  Four months ago in this same city, Berrettini only claimed five games and barely lasted over an hour against Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Today he runs into another red-hot, all-time great, as Djokovic is coming off his title run in Paris where he didn’t drop a set.  Berrettini will need a big serving day to compete with the all-around skills of the 16-time Major champion.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)

This is Federer’s 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, and only once has he previously failed to reach the semifinals.  He’s a six-time champion, and owns an astounding 57-15 record at an event where he faces nothing but top 10 opposition.  This is Thiem’s fourth consecutive year qualifying for this tournament, but he’s yet to advance out of the round robin stage, with a 3-6 record overall.  And with Djokovic and Federer both in his group, changing that pattern will be highly challenging. But Thiem should possess more confidence this year on an indoor hard court, as he just won an indoor hard court title a few weeks ago in his home country.  He also surprisingly has a winning record against Federer, with a 4-2 edge in their head-to-head. Dominic has claimed victories over Roger on three different surfaces, and is 2-0 against Federer this year. Both of those matches were thrillers: a three-set win in the championship match of Indian Wells (Thiem’s biggest title to date), and another three-set win in Madrid where Dominic saved two match points.  However, Roger prevailed in their match at this event a year ago, dropping only five games. Despite Thiem’s recent success against Federer, Roger still remains the favorite on an indoor hard court.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gilles Simon and Felix Auger Aliassime reach the the semifinal in Marseille

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Defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Vasek Pospisil 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 17 minutes to reach the semifinal at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Both players stayed neck and neck until 5-5, before Tsitsipas earned his first break, when Pospisil hit a backhand long. The Greek star wrapped up the first set with an ace after 45 minutes.

Tsitsipas claimed his second break at 3-3 with a backhand return and reeled off 10 consecutive points to seal the second set 6-3.

Tsitsipas fired 8 aces and won 26 of his 30 first service points.

“It was not easy. I knew I would have to fight and be dynamic. He plays a very aggressive brand of tennis, so every point has to be treated respectfully. I played with passion and patience, and my fighting spirit, when I am in the right zone. It means good things can happen”, said Tsitsipas.

Gilles Simon cruised through to an upset 6-4 6-0 win over Danil Medvedev to advance to the semifinal. Simon converted five of his six break point chances and lost his serve only once.

The French veteran will take on Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Egor Gerasimov 7-5 6-2. The young Canadian star broke serve four times and and won 83 % of his first serve points.

Gerasimov earned an early break in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead, but Auger Aliassime came back by winning two consecutive games to win the opening set 7-5. Auger Aliassime converted his fourth break point in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead and sealed the second set with another break in the eighth game.

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Alexander Bublik reaches his third career semifinal with win over Denis Shapovalov in Marseille

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Alexander Bublik reached the third ATP Tour semifinal of his career after beating Canadian Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov 7-5 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Bublik fended off a total of four break points in the first set, including three chances from 0-40, got the break in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5, when Shapovalov hit a forehand volley wide at 30-40 after 45 minutes.

Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Bublik did not convert three break points at 3-2, when he hit a forehand into the net on his first break point chance. Shapovalov broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead with a drop shot and wrapped up the second set with his third ace.

Bublik opened up a 2-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Shapovalov broke straight back in the third game. Bublik got another break lead in the eighth lead at 15, when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide. Bublik sealed the win with a hold at love.

“He is a great player and serve. It was our first match, but I have known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I am very happy”,said Bublik.

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Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe and Ugo Humbert reach the quarter final in Delray Beach

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Milos Raonic hit 11 aces and saved the three break points he faced to beat German Cedrik Marcel Stebe 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 36 minutes reaching the quarter final at the Delray Beach, an ATP Tour 250 tournament.

 

Raonic earned a break in each set. Stebe earned a break point in the ninth game with a forehand down the line, but Raonic saved it with a forehand. Raonic faced two more break points in the 11th game, but Raonic saved them with service winners. Raonic earned a break with a forehand down the line winner in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5. Raonicwon four consecutive points on return to earn a break and closed out the match 6-3 with a hold of serve.

“I got lucky through that first set and then I tried to be a bit more aggressive, create more things and that put a bit more pressure on him. It opened up the match for me a bit more”, said Raonic.

Raonic set up a quarter final against Steve Johnson, who edged past his compatriot Jack Sock 6-4 5-7 6-1 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach his first quarter final at ATP Tour level in six months. Johnson came back from losing the second set by racing out to a 5-0 lead.

“This is just one of those tournaments where you feel comfortable coming back every year. It’s great to see Sock back. I thought he played a really good second set and I just got bit of a momentum in the third set”, said Johnson.

French Next Gen player Ugo Humbert edged Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 42 minutes to reach his third quarter final in 2020. Humbert fended off eight of the ten break points he faced and earned three breaks to win the last four games of the first set from 2-4 down. Humbert broke Kecmanovic, as the Serbian player was serving for the second set at 6-5. The Frenchman saved a set point and came back from 5-6 down by winning the final three points of the tie-break to clinch the win after 1 hour and 43 minutes. Humbert has improved his win-loss record this year to 8-3.

“It’s always tough to play against Miomir, because he is a great player. He always plays at a high level. I lost to him last week and I was a little bit stressed before the match, so I am very happy to get the win today. You have to enjoy the victory because it’s not easy every week. Winning in Auckland gave me a lot of confidence. I beat some great players, but I have to continue my improvement every day”,said Humbert.

Humbert will face US player Frances Tiafoe, who battled past Tommy Paul 7-5 7-6 (7-4). Both players stayed neck and neck in the first set until the 11th game when Tiafoe earned a break with a return winner. He served out the set 7-5 with a service winner in the 12th game.

Paul earned a break in the sixth game, but he dropped his serve, while he serving for the set at 5-3. Tiafoe closed out the match with a backhand crosscourt winner at 6-4 in the tie-break.

“It’s never easy playing a good friend. It’s awkward, but I thought it was a pretty good match overall. My forehand was definitely on, so that helped. I am starting to play good tennis again and just competing hard in every match”,said Tiafoe.  

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