Dominic Thiem First Through To ATP Finals Semis After Epic Win Over Djokovic - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem First Through To ATP Finals Semis After Epic Win Over Djokovic

For the second time in his career, Thiem has battled back from a set down to upset the former world No.1.

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LONDON: Dominic Thiem has become the first Austrian player in history to reach the semi-final stage at the ATP Finals after fighting back against world No.2 Novak Djokovic in a classic encounter.

In what was an enthralling nighttime clash, the world No.4 produced some of his best play to recover from a set down to prevail 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4), over the second seed after more than two-and-a-half hours of pulsating play. A turnaround from three years ago in the same tournament when it was Djokovic who won after losing the opening tiebreaker. This time around Thiem prevailed with the help of 50 winners. 32 of those coming from his forehand side.

“This was one of the most special matches. It is what I have practiced all of my life for.” Thiem said during his on-court interview. “It’s a really big one (win) in front of an amazing atmosphere against a real legend of our game. So I couldn’t be happier. Also, I qualified for the semifinals which is the best.”

Thiem has been a player of nightmares for the world No.2 in recent months. Despite trailing their head-to-head (3-6), the Austrian had won three out of their four most recent meetings. Including a clash at a windy French Open back in June. Once again Djokovic struggled to tame his rival during what was a rollercoaster opener at The O2 Arena

It was the six-time champion who struck first after breaking for a 3-1 lead. However, that advantage swiftly disappeared due to an emphatic response from Thiem in the following game as he fought back to draw level. The cat and mouse chase between the two continued as both players refused to buckle as they each won their mini battles on the court. Paving way for a tiebreak.

In an encounter of fine margins, it would be one single shot that proved fatal to Thiem. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, a forehand sailed long to hand his Serbian nemesis set point. An opportunity Djokovic seized with the help of a 123 mph serve to end what was 65 minutes of pulsating play from the two. Handing him his ninth consecutive tiebreak win on the ATP Tour since Wimbledon.

The comeback

Dominc Thiem (Aut)

Despite the blunder, Thiem continued to antagonize Djokovic in the match. Breaking straight away in the second set en route to a 3-0 advantage. Much to the bemusement of the 16-time grand slam champion, who made numerous glares of frustration towards his camp. There was no let-up in the Thiem comeback as he rallied to level the match a set apiece.

The fightback continued to draw admiration from the London crowd. In the decider, it was another blistering forehand from Thiem that broke the Djokovic serve right away. As cries of anger continued to erupt from the five-time champion, the exchanges of breaks continued. Thiem’s first chance of serving the match out at 6-5 ended in disaster after he hit an array of errors. Nevertheless, he refused to go away. Fighting back from a 1-4 deficit in the decisive tiebreaker to stun Djokovic. Prompting the 26-year-old to drop to the floor out of sheer jubilation and exhaustion.

“I was in the zone from the first point on. Even when I served for the match, 6-5 in the third set, I was playing obviously the best returner in the game.” Assessed Thiem. “I didn’t worry too much and I was focusing on the tiebreak. Coming back from 1-4 was also a little bit of luck but in general, it was unbelievable. A match I would never forget.” He added.

Djokovic now faces a showdown against Roger Federer if he wishes to reach the last four of the tournament. The last time he failed to progress beyond the round-robin stages was back in 2011. Excluding the 2016 edition, he missed due to injury. Visibly disappointed with the outcome of his match afterward, he still paid tribute to his rival.

“He was unbelievable, and in some stages, it was just incredible that he was just literally smacking the ball as hard as he can and he was going in.” He said of Thiem.
“This today was unbelievable. But whether he can keep that up every match, if he does, chapeau There is not much you can say. For sure, he’s playing great tennis.”

As a result of the latest match, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini cannot progress beyond the round-robin stage and will finish bottom in the group.

Standings after two matches

MATCHES SETS GAMES
[1] THIEM W W 4-1 33-16
[2] DJOKOVIC W L 3-2 28-22
[3] FEDERER L W 2-2 23-23
[4] BERRETTINI L L 0-4 12-25

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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