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The 2019 ATP Tour Review

Ubitennis.net reviews a great ATP season highlighted by Rafael Nadal’s Roland Garros and US Open titles, Novak Djokovic’s win over Roger Federer in an epic Wimbledon final, Daniil Medvedev’s great hard-court season, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ breakthrough into the top 10 and the rise of Italian players Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.

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Rafael Nadal (image via Kosmos Tennis)
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The best ATP player of the season

Rafael Nadal celebrated his 200th week at world number 1 in the ATP Rankings. Only five players since 1973 have been ranked at the top for more weeks: Roger Federer (310 weeks), Pete Sampras (286), Novak Djokovic (275), Ivan Lendl (270), and Jimmy Connors (268 weeks).

 

Nadal enjoyed another great season in 2019 by winning four titles, including two Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros and US Open) and two Masters 1000 titles (Rome and Montreal). He also finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final.

He won his 12th Roland Garros title with a victory over Dominic Thiem in the final, confirming his reputation as the King of Clay. Becoming player (male or female ) to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times.

Overall, he recorded 58 wins to 7 defeats and finished the season as the year-end number 1 player for the fifth time in his career. The 33-year-old Spanish player is the oldest player to finish year-end number 1 in the history.

The most consistent player: Danil Medvedev

Danil Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in 2019 with a record of 59 match wins, including 46 victories on a hard court. He reached six straight finals since Wimbledon. Winning four titles in Sofia, St. Petersburg and two consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He also finished runner-up in three more finals in Brisbane, Barcelona and the US Open.

Medvedev rallied from two sets down before losing to Nadal after 4 hours and 51 minutes in his first Grand Slam final. He is the first Russian player to reach a Grand Slam final since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Novak Djokovic.

The most improved player of the year: Stefanos Tsitsipas:

One year after clinching the ATP Next Gen Finals trophy in Milan, Stefanos Tsitsipas won the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London after beating Dominic Thiem. The young Greek star won two more titles in Marseille on indoor hard court and Estoril on clay and finished runner-up in two more finals in Dubai to Roger Federer and in Beijing to Dominic Thiem.

At the age of 20 Tsitsipas became the youngest Australian Open semifinalist since Andy Roddick in 2003. He is the first Greek player to break into Top 5 and the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. At the Australian Open Tsitsipas saved 12 break points against Roger Federer in the fourth round.

Tsitsipas earned 54 match wins this year and beat Rafael Nadal to reach the Madrid Masters 1000 Final before losing to Novak Djokovic in the title match.

The most surprising player of the year: Matteo Berrettini:

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The Italian 23-year-old player broke into the top 10 of the ATP Ranking on 28 October and reached the career-high at world number 8 on 4 November. In his breakthrough season Berrettini became the first ATP Finals singles qualifier from Italy since former number 8 player and current Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti in 1978.

Berrettini won two titles in Budapest on clay and Stuttgart on grass and reached ATP 500 semifinals at Halle, Vienna. He became the first Italian player in history to reach a Masters 1000 semifinal in Shanghai. This season he has achieved a series of milestones for Italian tennis. Including becoming the second Italian player in history to reach a US Open semifinal and the fourth overall. Following in the footsteps of Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barazzutti and Marco Cecchinato. Berrettini also reached the Wimbledon fourth round by defeating Diego Schwartzman after saving three match points.

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Living In The Moment Pays Off For Garbine Muguruza At The Australian Open

The former world No.1 speaks out about the factors behind her winning run at the Australian Open.

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Garbine Muguruza - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

Tennis can be a very technical sport with a lot of planning and preparation needed at times. Although for Garbine Muguruza the less she thinks the better she performs at the Australian Open.

 

It is hard to argue with the approach taken by the two-time grand slam champion given her resurgence at the tournament. On Wednesday Muguruza disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3, to reach her first major semi-final since the 2018 French Open. It is also the first time she has ever reached the last four in Melbourne Park. Although the Spaniard admits that there is room for improvement after hitting 21 winners along with 21 unforced errors in her latest encounter.

“At the beginning of the match I wasn’t feeling so good and said to myself that I had to find a solution.” Muguruza said during an interview with Eurosport Spain.
“I felt better, used my mind and my mentality to stay focused. Even if you’re feeling bad, it doesn’t matter.”

The breakthrough comes after what was a roller-coaster 2019 season for the former world No.1. During that year she split with long-term coach Sam Sumyk, exited the world’s top 20 for the first time in four years and at one stage won just one match in six tournaments played. So what has triggered the revival of Muguruza?

Besides a reunion with Conchita Martinez, who was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week, it is her mental approach to the tournament. It is no longer a case of looking ahead, but just taking it day-by-day. The Australian Open is the first major she has been unseeded in since 2014.

“I came not feeling great. I wasn’t really thinking, How far will I go? I had enough already thinking, How will I go practice today?” She said.
“I took every day at a time. Like that, each day I was gaining a better feeling instead of getting frustrated thinking in the future.”

One journalist during her press conference described Muguruza’s revival as ‘coming back from a coma two years ago.’ A phrase the Spaniard didn’t completely agree with. Between 2016-2018 the 26-year-old won four out of her seven WTA titles. Including both the French Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2017).

“I think a ‘coma’ is a pretty strong comment.” She replied.
“I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That’s how I see it. I don’t see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don’t go your way.’
“You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.”

Patience, as well as discipline, could be key in her upcoming semi-final clash with Simona Halep, who reached the final of the Australian Open two years ago. She leads their head-to-head 3-2, but lost their only grand slam encounter at the 2018 French Open in straight sets.

“I think it will be a tough match. I think that no matter when you play top five, it’s always deep in a tournament. It’s a semifinal, so of course I’m expecting a big player.” Muguruza previewed.
“I think she’s (Halep) a very solid player. She plays very consistency through all these years.” She added.

Muguruza’s upcoming semi-final clash with Halep will take place on Thursday. The last Spanish woman to reach the title match in Melbourne Park was her coach Martinez back in 1998.

The head-to-head between Muguruza and Halep

  • 2018 French Open, clay, SF, Halep 6-1 6-4
  • 2017 Cincinnati, hard, F, Muguruza 6-1 6-0
  • 2015 Stuttgart, clay, R16, Halep 3-6 6-1 6-3
  • 2015 Fed Cup Week 1, hard, R1, Muguruza 6-4 6-3
  • 2014 Wuhan, hard, R2, Muguruza 2-6 6-2 6-3

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(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win

The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.

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Novak Djokovic posing for a photo ahead of his quarter-final match with Milos Raonic at the Australian Open (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

 

The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.

“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’

Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.

Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’

“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.”

Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)

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Novak Djokovic Books 50th Meeting With Federer At Australian Open

The world No.2 is closing in on a record eighth title at Melbourne Park.

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Defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood 18 aces from Milos Raonic to set up a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

 

Besides an issue with his contact lenses the 16-time grand slam champion was in solid form throughout his 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1), win over the world No.35. Who was contesting a grand slam quarter-final match for the first time since Wimbledon 2018. Despite Raonic’s renowned thunderous serve, Djokovic’s defensive abilities enabled him to thwart the threat posed in convincing manner. In total, the world No.2 fire 29 winners to 14 unforced errors. Although it wasn’t entirely straight forward with the him only being able to convert two out of 16 break point opportunities.

“I felt great on the court. I was very focused.  The first couple of sets went the way I wanted them to go. One break was good enough. I was comfortable serving, which is very encouraging.” Djokovic evaluated of his latest performance.
“Playing against Milos I knew that two key elements in the game would be the return and how efficiently I hit my spots with my serve.’
“I was fortunate to get out of trouble in the third (set) and played a perfect tiebreak. It was a great performance.” He added.

Heading into the match Djokovic said there was one thing which separates Raonic from fellow fast servers John Isner and Ivo Karlovic. That was that he found it easier to read the serve of the Canadian. This was evident during the opening set with the Serbian having numerous chances to break his rival, who had only faced seven break points in his four previous matches in Melbourne.

In Djokovic’s case eight break points came and went for him before he secured a breakthrough at the best possible time. Leading 5-4, back-to-back forehand errors from Raonic enabled the second seed to break for the first time and subsequently take the 6-4 lead after 54 minutes of action.

Gaining in momentum, the former world No.1 struck again four games into the second frame. This time it was a winning forehand pass from Djokovic that granted him yet another break for a set and 3-1 lead. Raonic continued to battle hard, but he was unable to find a way to break down the solid game of his rival. A 190km/h serve out wide forced the Canadian to return the ball into the net and grant Djokovic the two-set lead.

Closing in on the victory, he continued to face resistance from Raonic. Who mixed up his tactics to pose more of a threat. However, proceedings were then halted at 4-4 in the third set after Djokovic encountered an issue with his contact lenses. Unexpectedly triggering a medical time-out.

“I was to apologise to Milos because it was definitely not something you see very often.” Said Djokovic. “It was not intentional or tactical. It was just something I had to do because during those games I couldn’t see much. And I had to change my lenses. “

Returning to the court, Djokovic continued to weather the storm in what turned out to be a one-sided end to the match. A faltering Raonic resulted in him valiantly winning 11 out of the last 12 points played. Storming through the third set tiebreaker, he clinched victory after a backhand shot from his rival crashed into the net.

Djokovic’s win means that he will take on Federer next. The Swiss star suffered an injury scare during his marathon five-set encounter with Tennys Sandgren, which lasted just over three-and-a-half hours. Something he later described as ‘pain and problems’ but not an injury in his press conference. Despite questions over Federer’s current form, Djokovic is taking nothing for granted.

“I have tremendous respect for Roger and everything he achieved in this sport. He’s one of the all-time greats and has been one of my two biggest rivals.” He said.
“I’ve been saying this many times, but I will say this again: The match-ups against Roger and Rafa (Nadal) has made me the player I am today. I am very grateful for many great matches against those guys.”

Djokovic leads Federer 26-23 in their head-to-head and has won all four of their grand slam meetings since 2015. It will also be the fifth time the two have locked horns in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Out of those encounters, Djokovic has won four of them.

-2016 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 61 62 36 63
-2011 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 763 75 64
-2008 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 75 63 765
-2007 Australian Open SF: Federer won 62 75 63

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