Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert Differ Over Chances Of Shock US Open Winner - UBITENNIS
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Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert Differ Over Chances Of Shock US Open Winner

The two former tennis professionals give their opinions on the upcoming men’s tournament and what to expect.

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Next week will see the first ATP Tour event take place in five months at the Western and Southern Open in its temporary location of New York.

 

Professional men’s tennis has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the lower-level Challenger Tour only managing to resume this week. The lengthy pause in action has led to speculation over how some players will be when they return to the court next week and if there will be any shocks at this year’s US Open, which starts on August 31st. The event will be without either Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the first time since 1999.

Two former players have somewhat contrasting views on what may happen in New York. Patrick McEnroe takes the view that the current best players in the world will still dominate the sport when they return. Prior to the Tour suspension, world No.1 Novak Djokovic was on a 18-match winning streak and won three tournaments in a row. Including a record eighth Australian Open.

“People say, ‘Oh, maybe someone’s going to come through and win the US Open. Maybe someone who is like Thiem or Tsitsipas who’s already there. I don’t see someone coming out of nowhere. That just doesn’t happen. I don’t see that happening,” McEnroe said during an interview with atptour.com. “That’s not saying it’s a lock that Djokovic is going to win. You can certainly make the argument that he might be more susceptible. But I don’t see someone coming out of nowhere and winning the Open.”

54-year-old McEnroe is a former US Open quarter-finalist himself in both the singles and doubles. During his playing career he reached a doubles high of No.3 with his sole Grand Slam triumph occurring at the 1989 French Open. After retiring, he also spent a period as the American Davis Cup captain. In his view this year’s US Open will see ‘the cream will rise to the top’ with the top names dominating.

On the other hand, another former American tennis star has an alternative theory. Brad Gilbert believes the unique circumstances of this year’s event could lead to a surprise run in the men’s draw. Due to the pandemic, the event will be taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history.

“It’s a little bit like the NCAA Tournament in basketball. You might get somebody who is a really low seed to make the semi-finals or a deep run,” Gilbert commented in a separate interview with the ATP. “I just have a feeling that without a crowd, without a couple guys who are always there not being there, the opportunity is there.”

Gilbert, who has coached the likes of Andre Agassi and Andy Murray, believes Djokovic is a ‘huge favourite’ providing he is 100 percent fit. Although he does expect to see some ‘crazy results’ over the coming weeks with the door opening for a player to potentially breakthrough.

“I do think we’re going to see some crazy results,” he said. “But let’s say even if the Big Three was playing after all this time, I just don’t think that after something like this you’d expect it to be business as normal… I do think somebody’s going to make a semi or final who is going to be a real surprise. I do think the biggest surprise is going to be somebody who maybe you don’t think about and doesn’t play that well on a big stadium or a big crowd.”

Over the past 20 years only two players have won the US Open men’s title while being outside the top 10 seedings. They were Pete Sampras in 2002 and Marin Cilic in 2014. Although both of them were still seeded in the draw. The last unseeded player to win was Agassi back in 1994. As for the Big Three, they have won 12 out of the last 16 editions between them.

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Another Grand Slam title for Krejcikova! This time singles!

The Czech player went from being virtually unknown to conquering one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments in a matter of day. Today she will try to clinch the doubles title as well

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Barbora Krejcikova may have felt the pressure in the last two sets. But that’s okay.

 

It was just the French Open’s women’s singles final.

Yes, the 25-year-old Czech is finally a Grand Slam singles champion. That accomplishment alone  tops her total of eight Grand Slam doubles titles, counting juniors.

And she might add another Grand Slam trophy in Sunday’s French Open women’s doubles final.

She already can put the French Open singles trophy above the two Grand Slam doubles championship awards, three Australian Open mixed doubles crowns and three Junior Grand Slam doubles championship trophies

THINGS CHANGED ALMOST OVERNIGHT

Just a few days ago, Krejcikova was just another name that most tennis fans didn’t recognize, even after she scored some significant upsets in the early rounds at Roland Garros. After all, she was ranked only 33rd in the world, that coming after winning a tournament at Strasbourg a week before the French Open.

 Then she upended American junior sensation Cori Gauff in the quarterfinals.

How things have changed almost overnight!

Krejcikova has the game to take her much farther on the WTA Tour. And her world ranking is going to shoot straight up from her current ranking after winning her second straight singles title.

She is joining the elite group of the best tennis players on the planet. No future opponent will  take her lightly.

SOME OF THE BEST STROKES IN WOMEN’S TENNIS

Krejcikova once again demonstrated some of the best strokes in women’s tennis. It’s almost as if her tennis racket is part of her body. She can change the direction of her strokes in a heartbeat, switching from the direction of the open court to a shot behind her opponent in a whip-like backhand or forehand action. She can hit all angles, too.

It hardly matters how close she is to the net as her tremendous spin seldom fails to take the ball over the net on those spinning shots. Opponents are left flat-footed.

KREJCIKOVA TOOK CHARGE AGAIN IN THIRD SET

Anastasia Pavlyuchenjova did a little better in the second and third sets of Saturday’s women’s singles final at Roland Garros by going for broke with her shots. But that came after Krejcikova broke the Russian’s serve three straight times to offset losing her own serve in the first game of the match.

The string of winning six consecutive games to waltz off with the first set was a shocker as it set the stage for a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova over 29-year-old veteran  Pavlyuchenova.

Krejcikova broke service for a 4-3 lead in the third set, then  gained a double-match point at 5-3. But before finally closing out the victory in the 10th game, the 5-10 Czech came up with another double-match point situation with a signature short-ball forehand cross-court for a winner. She double-faulted away match point No. 3, but Pavlyuchenova saved her with a backhand error on match point No. 4  to end the match.

A TENNIS CHAMPION OR JUST A CLAY-COURT CHAMPION?

Was this just another title for the Czech, who has had so much trouble with her serve? She gets plenty of practice catching her service tosses.

Of course, it’s a dream come true for the new French Open women’s champion.

Was this another berth of a champion primarily due to the red clay? The tennis world is waiting for that answer. Wimbledon’s grass may be calling with the first test and then hopefully the U.S. Open’s hard courts.


See James Beck’s Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com (search on James Beck column). James Beck can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Goes for his 19th Major Title Against Stefanos Tsitsipas

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An airborne Novak Djokovic on Friday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In 2006 at this event, Novak Djokovic reached his first Slam quarterfinal.  15 years and 18 Major titles later, the 34-year-old has become one of the greatest players of all-time.  On Friday, in a fantastic semifinal, he became the only man to ever defeat Rafael Nadal twice at the French Open.  A win today would pull him within one Major title of not only Nadal, but also Roger Federer.  And it would make him the first man to win each Grand Slam tournament twice since Rod Laver in 1969.

 

In 2016 at this event, Stefanos Tsitsipas made his Slam debut.  Five years and four Major semis later, the 22-year-old has reached his first Slam final.  On Friday, he survived a dramatic five-set semifinal against Sascha Zverev.  A win today would make him the youngest man to win a Major since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009.  And it would make him the first man to win in his first Grand Slam final appearance since Marin Cilic in 2014.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship will be decided, with the two most recent French Open women’s singles champions on opposite sides of the net.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Not before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 5-2, and 3-0 on clay.  After winning two of their first three encounters, Tsitsipas has now lost the last four.  Last October in the semifinals of this tournament, Djokvoic was up two-sets-to-love when Tsitsipas came storming back to even the match, yet Novak closed out the fifth set decisively.  They also met just a few weeks ago in Rome, where Djokovic won an extremely-tight three-setter, which took over three hours to decide, and was played over the course of two days.

The last time Djokovic defeated Nadal at Roland Garros, in 2015’s quarterfinals, he was upset in the championship match by Stan Wawrinka.  Will Tsitsipas play the role of Wawrinka on Sunday?  Both men played grueling matches on Friday, but Novak’s ended about five hours later, was over 30 minutes longer, and undoubtedly was more physically and emotionally draining.  And Tsitsipas should fine some confidence in knowing his last two matches against Djokovic on clay have been anything but blowouts.

Novak is 18-10 in Major finals, with four of his losses coming in Paris.  He will fully understand what a huge opportunity this is to win the French Open for a second time, after eliminating Rafa on Friday.  I expect Djokovic to be much more prepared for this moment than he was six years ago against Wawrinka, and than Tsitsipas will be in his first Slam final.  Novak Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his 19th Major title.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (2) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek (14) – Saturday was the biggest day of Krejcikova’s career, winning her first Major in singles.  Less than 24 hours later, she looks to be a double champion.  Her and Siniakova were two-time Slam winners in 2018.  Swiatek was of course the champion here in singles last October, while Mattek-Sands has won all five women’s doubles finals she’s ever played at Majors, and all with her former partner, Lucie Safarova.

Sunday’s full schedule is here.

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Grand Slam

Barbora Krejcikova Wins Her First Major At Roland Garros

Czech Barbora Krejcikova defeats Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets. For her it’s the first Major title and a Top 20 debut

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Barbora Krejcikova - Roland Garros 2021 (photo Twitter @RolandGarros)

At the beginning of the second week the idea that the same player would win both the women’s singles and the women’s doubles title started being floated in tennis circles, but everyone thought that the player to accomplish this remarkable feat would be Polish 20-year-old Iga Swiatek. Not many considered former doubles world no. 1 Barbora Krejcikova to be in the conversation, at least for the singles title. After all, she had never been past the Round of 16 in a Slam, reached only once at Roland Garros in 2020.

 

But as the 25-year-old Czech, n. 33 of the WTA Ranking, raised towards the Parisian sky the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen handed to her by legend Martina Navratilova while still in the double’s final with her long-time partner Katerina Siniakova, the world realized there is a new name in women’s tennis to deal with.

In a nerves-filled final between two debutantes at this level of a Major, Barbora Krajcikova from Ivancice, Czech Republic, defeated Russian 29-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in 1 hour, 58 minutes and brought home her first Grand Slam title, the first for a player from her country since July 2014, when Petra Kvitova won the Wimbledon title defeating Eugenie Bouchard in the final.

The match was full of ups and downs. The first two sets risked being almost symmetrical, as in set one, Krajcikova shook off some initial jitters and an inaugural break before winning six games in a row to win the first set by 6-3 in just 30 minutes. Her backhand was working just like a treat, keeping Pavlyuchenkova at bay and, above all, behind the baseline. However, in the second set things seemed completely reversed, as Pavlyuchenkova seemed to be able to take control of the rallies and unleash her powerful shot to climb to a 5-1 lead, but failed to complete the reversed 6-1 by not converting a set-point in the seventh game, before wrapping up the set just a game later.

Pavlyuchenkova had to request a medical time-out at 2-5 in the second set to get some treatment for her left thigh which ended up heavily strapped until the end of the match.

The decisive moment of the match came on the sixth game of the final set, when Krejcikova went on a 12-points-to-3 streak, taking her to a 5-3 lead and allowing the Czech player to serve out the match despite missing the first match point with a double fault.

This accomplishment not only earns Krejcikova the 1.4 million Euro cheque for the first prize, but also means she will reach her career best ranking next Monday at no. 15, making it into the Top 20 for the first time.

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