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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Mikael Ymer overcomes Richard Gasquet to advance to the second round in Marseille

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Swedish 21-year-old Next Gen player Mikael Ymer edged past Richard Gasquet 6-3 3-6 7-5 after 2 hours and 22 minutes to reach the second round at the Open 13 in Marseille.

 

Ymer fended off 7 of the 10  break points he faced and broke serve in the third match point in a marathon third game setting up a second round clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Ymer raced out to a 4-0 lead with two consecutive breaks. Gasquet pulled back one break in the seventh game to close the gap to 2-5, but Ymer served out the first set in the ninth game with an ace.

Ymer saved three break points in the sixth game, but Gasquet earned the break on his third chance in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3.

Ymer got an early break in the second game of the third set to open up a 3-0 lead. Gasquet broke back in the ninth game and held serve to draw level to 5-5. Ymer converted his third break point at deuce to seal the third set 7-5 in the 12th game.

Benoit Paire beat Gregoire Barrere 6-4 7-6 (7-1) in the all-French match. Paire earned his only break of the match in the third game of the opening set. He saved two break points in the fourth game of the second set. Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break, where Paire cruised through to a 7-1 win.

Ilya Ivashka overcame Alexei Popyrin 6-1 3-6 6-4. Ivashka broke twice in the second and sixth games to win the first set 6-1. Popyrin earned one break in the fourth game to clinch the second set 6-3. Popyrin got an early break at deuce in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Ivashka broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Both players went on serve until the 10th game when Ivashka sealed the win with a break.

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Alexander Zverev Going In The Right Direction, Says Becker

The German tennis legend gives his verdict on Zverev’s current form following his grand slam breakthrough.

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Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes Alexander Zverev’s recent run at the Australian Open was confirmation that he belongs at the top of men’s tennis.

 

Last month the 22-year-old achieved his best ever grand slam performance by reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne Park before losing to Dominic Thiem. At the tournament he scored wins over Andrey Rublev, who won two consecutive titles prior to the event, and former champion Stan Wawrinka. Zverev has been tipped as a future world No.1 in recent years and remains the only active player outside of the Big Four to have won three or more Masters trophies. Although he has previously struggled to shine in the biggest events of the sport.

“Alexander Zverev has made a great step forward with his first participation in a grand slam semi-final.” Becker told reporters in Berlin on Sunday. “Although he had difficult weeks before, for which there were reasons.”

At the start of the year it looked as if the world No.7 was in trouble. At the ATP Cup he lost all three of his matches played. A performance Becker blames on his off-season training. During November and December Zverev played a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer across South America and China.

“He didn’t train enough during the winter break and came to Brisbane unprepared.” He said.
“We exchanged some serious words off the court and he took them to heart.’
“Of course I’m happy he had such success. This is also a confirmation for him that he belongs at the top of the world (in tennis).”
“But the competitors never sleep, that’s a never ending story. He has to confirm this again and again.”

So far in his career, Zverev has won 11 ATP titles and has been ranked as high as third in the world. His biggest triumph occurred towards the end of 2018 when he won the ATP Finals in London.

Reflecting on his Melbourne run last month, Zverev believes he managed to achieve the milestone thanks to a new approach he took to the event. Instead of looking at the whole tournament, he narrowed his focus to match-by-match.

“I went here in a different way. I went match by match. Didn’t look very far. I just knew I had opponents in front of me. I had to play well to beat them. That was it.” He said last month. “Whenever I won, I’d sit down in the locker room and somebody told me who I’m playing next.’
“I went step by step, match by match. Usually I [haven’t done] that in Grand Slams.”

Zverev will return to action next week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. A tournament where he finished runner-up 12 months ago. Becker believes his compatriot could do some damage on the hard courts over the coming weeks with two prestigious North American events taking place next month in Indian Wells and Miami.

“The next tournaments are on hard courts in America. He will play there as well. There he can take a lot of points.” Becker concluded.

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New York Open Sunday Recap: Kyle Edmund Wins His Second Career ATP Title

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Kyle Edmund raising the trophy at the New York Open (newyorkopen.com)

And in an exclusive interview with UbiTennis, runner-up Andreas Seppi of Italy reveals he is pulling out of Delray Beach next week due to an injury suffered in the final.

 

In Sunday’s championship match, neither player faced a break point until 6-5 in the first set.  In that twelfth game, Seppi struggled to make first serves, with Edmund hitting winners off both sides to break and secure the first set 7-5.

Kyle would break again to open the second, as Seppi played another loose game with neutral ball errors and a double fault. Up a set and a break, Edmund began to swing freely. Despite that, Seppi was able to survive a barrage of Edmund groundstroke winners to save multiple break points at 0-3. Edmund would then hold at love to make it 4-1, when Seppi left the court for a medical timeout. When Andreas returned, Edmund broke again by outlasting Seppi in the longest rally of the match. Kyle then closed out the match 7-5, 6-1 to win the second ATP title of his career.

When I spoke with Andreas after the match, he told me he felt something in his left hamstring as he was running for a drop shot in the fifth game of the second set.  Seppi shared he will be skipping the Delray Beach event next week due to the injury, and will head home a week earlier than expected to rest and await the arrival of his first child.

“I just felt like I could really never put him under pressure today,” Seppi told me, when asked about how difficult it was to get into Edmund’s service games.

Edmund had a great serving day, striking 11 aces and facing no break points.  He won 94% of first serve points in the match (31/33), against a player in Seppi who had won 36% of his return games this week prior to today’s final.  I asked Kyle about how crucial his serving was in Sunday’s victory.

“When I got my first serve in I lost a couple points on it, so it really worked well for me. When you get that first strike in- I mean that big first serve in- when I can get on my forehand, that’s where I want to be, and I was winning a lot of points like that this week,” said Edmund.

Kyle also spoke about how important this title is to him.

“When you’re young and training, or playing tennis, these are the sort of things you imagine: wanting to win professional titles,” said Edmund.

In the doubles final, Dominic Inglot and Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi won their first title as a team, defeating Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson 7-6(5), 7-6(6). Inglot and Qureshi initially served for the championship at 5-4 in the second, yet failed to close out the match. In the eventual second set tiebreak, Johnson narrowly missed a forehand down the line at 6-6. On the next point, an unreturned Inglot serve ended the American team’s quest for a title on home soil. Inglot and Qureshi were also finalists last week in Montpellier.

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