High Expectations For Those Aiming To Topple The Big Three In 2020 - UBITENNIS
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High Expectations For Those Aiming To Topple The Big Three In 2020

Will the reign of Rafael Nadal and Co at grand slams finally come to an end this year?

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There seems to be a sense of hope that 2020 will be the year where there will be a substantial changing of the guard on the men’s tour.

One again the new tennis season starts with three headline acts – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Known as the Big Three, they are regarded as some of the greatest players in history. Between them, they have they won 51 out of the last 59 grand slam tournaments and at least one of them have featured in the final in 57 out of the last 59 majors. They remain the leaders of the tour, but the question is how much longer for?

“I think we challenged them already a lot. We also beat them especially on Masters 1000 stages and the ATP Finals,” two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem said on Thursday.
“I think the last stage we have to conquer is the Grand Slam stage, and I really think we’ll see a new Grand Slam champion in 2020.”

26-year-old Thiem is a member of the contingent aiming to replace the illustrious Big Three in the future. The Austrian made steady waves in 2019 by claiming his first Masters title in Indian Wells and reaching the final of the ATP Finals in November. Overall, he claimed five titles during the last season. Something that was only matched by rival Djokovic.

“I really hope that it’s me, but you cannot guarantee anything. There are also many other very strong guys who can achieve that.” Thiem commented about the perspective of grand slam glory.
“Maybe it’s also not happening and Big Three are taking all four,” he added.
“But we are trying everything to achieve top position, to achieve the biggest titles, Grand Slam titles.”

Thiem’s record against the Big Three (ATP only)
– Djokovic: 4-6
– Nadal: 4-9
– Federer: 5-2

It isn’t the first time at the start of the season there has been talk about a new name breaking through in grand slam tennis. Over the past decade, only two players outside of the Big Three have managed to win multiple major trophies. They were Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.

For some of the challengers, the new year will be as much as a mental battle as a physical one. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is the youngest player in the top 10, is hoping to continue his momentum from winning the ATP Finals. The upcoming weeks will be crucial for him. He will be defending 720 ranking points at the Australian Open following his run to the semi-finals almost 12 months ago.

“For me, it’s very challenging to go out there and compete against them (the Big Three).” Said Tsitsipas.
“I feel like there’s something extra to chase after when I play against them, plus I get to learn a lot when I play against them.
“I feel more of a complete player,” he added.
“I kind of compare them to me to see what works for them and what should I work on more, and they’re just superhumans in a way.
“But I’m trying to get there myself and I’m going to keep trying to do my best because I feel like I can surpass them, I can be better.
“It’s just a matter of time, patience, and dedication on what I do.”

Tsitsipas recently experienced once again what it is like to be on the losing end against the trio. In Abu Dhabi he lost a marathon clash against Nadal in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Losing in the final set tiebreak.

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Another challenger comes in the form of Daniil Medvedev. Who shot to the limelight last year by reaching six consecutive finals, including the US Open. It was the consistency displayed by the Russian that excited many. Despite his dip in form towards the end of last year, one former doubles star believes he has what it takes to go one better at the Australian Open.

“I’m going with Medvedev,” 16-time grand slam champion Woodbridge said.
“That run he had through the US Open was just phenomenal. I think he believes, I reckon he thinks he can get into a final and take those guys out.
“He’s also the most dynamic of that group. He’s going to run all day long, he’s going to keep that ball going.”

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Other contenders aiming for a breakthrough include Alexander Zverev. Somebody previously billed as a future world No.1, but is yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals of major. The Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger Aliassime hope to continue their country’s rapid rise in the sport. Meanwhile, Italy is enjoying a rise in the tennis calibre of their younger players thanks to the Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.

“I don’t think that the Big Three are going to win all four (grand slams in 2020),” Nadal told French newspaper L’Equipe.“A young player is going to arrive next year.”

Since 2005, only two men outside of the Big Three have managed to win the Australian Open title. One of those was Marat Safin, who will be shortly marking the 15th anniversary of his triumph. Safin, who is the captain of the Russian team at the ATP Cup, is hopeful that a change will come soon.

“This group of three – Roger, Rafa, and Djokovic – is something unique in tennis that has never happened,” Safin said.
“They are incredible, especially Roger. I wish them to play a little bit longer, but I also wish to the young ones to retire them earlier.”

The Australian Open will start on January 20th.

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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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