Steve Flink on the men’s US Open: “This is Djokovic’s to lose” - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Steve Flink on the men’s US Open: “This is Djokovic’s to lose”

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The Hall of Famer journalist and writer talks to our website’s director, Ubaldo Scanagatta, and presents his great new book, “Pete Sampras. Greatness Revisited”, available for purchase from September 1. However, the US Open is still very much on his mind: will someone be able to deny Novak Djokovic his fourth Flushing Meadows title as well as his 18th Major title?

Here’s their conversation:

VIDEO SCHEDULE

00:00: “How many editions of the US Open have you reported on, Steve?” The strange feeling of not being there this time…

02:18: Who is Steve’s pick to win? Spoiler alert: it’s not a big surprise…

03:00: “Djokovic doesn’t have the easiest of draws, lots of big servers…”. Does Isner have what it takes to take him down in a five-setter though?

04:30: Is Opelka just an Isner doppelganger? “One thing’s for sure: Tsitsipas must be fed up with playing the two of them plus Anderson and Raonic in a row!”

06:56: Is it fun to watch matches between big servers? “Let’s just start with the tie-breaker!”

08:30: First half of the draw: who’s in to challenge Djokovic? “I think we are in for an exciting Djokovic-Tsitsipas match-up!” What about Sascha Zverev and his serving woes?

10:59: Second half: Medvedev v Thiem coming? “The Austrian was no show in this week, he cannot get away with that in a Slam!” Is Thiem ready to shield himself from the Canadians in his side of the draw? 

13:08: What about last year’s semifinalist Matteo Berrettini? “I can see him get to the first round pretty easily, but then he has a rematch from last year against Rublev…”. Could the Italian beat both Russians, Rublev and Medvedev?

15:24: David Mercer, the Chair Umpire of the 1984 Wimbledon final between Connors and McEnroe has passed away. “He also worked in broadcasting and showed real love for the game. We lost a comrade.”

17:30: The French Open is trying to get more than the currently allowed amount of 5,000 spectators in attendance – are Steve and Ubaldo planning to fly over to Paris for their trademark daily videos?

19:34: On Steve Flink’s new book, “Pete Sampras. Greatness revisited”: “The book will be released on September 1, I’m very excited, so many players have spoken to me other than Sampras himself, from Djokovic to Edberg to Chang to Ivanisevic. There is a lot for readers to enjoy!”

20:45: Did he bother poor Pete Sampras a lot? “I didn’t count the hours, Ubaldo, but he gave a lot of his time!”

21:43: Did the 14-time Slam champion enjoy the walk down Memory Lane? “Some players remember every single point they played, such as Agassi or Navratilova. Sampras doesn’t think that way, but he has a very keen memory for the crucial moments.”

21:47: As a 14-year-old, Sampras transitioned from a double-handed backhand to a one-handed stroke at the behest of his coach, Peter Fischer: “He was already thinking about Wimbledon, and I think that 14 Majors proved him right!”

24:10: That terrible match against Chang in 1989 and Gianni Clerici’s prophecy…

25:30: “One thing that he doesn’t get enough credit for is his mental toughness, especially on his second serves.” Is he the best server of all time?

26:26: Sampras doesn’t appear to miss the game, but is that factual?

Grand Slam

French Open: WTA Made No Push To Schedule Women’s Matches In Prime Time Slot, Says Chief Mauresmo

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The fallout over the decision to schedule only men’s matches in the evening sessions at this year’s French Open has been defended by tournament director Amelie Mauresmo.

In a deal with Amazon Prime, the Grand Slam schedules one match to take place at 7pm on their premier Philippe Chatrier court every day until the quarter-finals. This year was the first time that no women’s matches were played in the slot since the deal was established in 2021. Overall, there have been 43 night sessions in the tournament’s history with 39 of them being awarded to the men’s draw.

Recently the WTA issued a statement to Reuters news agency calling for there to be more balance in the scheduling. A spokesperson said ‘fans want to see the excitement and thrill of women’s tennis on the biggest stages and in the premium time slots.’ However, it has now been claimed that the governing body was involved in the allocation of matches in the tournament. 

Mauresmo, who is a former world No.1 and previously coached Andy Murray, said there was never any ‘push’ for women’s matches to be held in this spot which some players don’t want due to its time. 

“When we do the scheduling, the WTA is in the room as well as the ATP, the Grand Slam supervisor, TV, we are all together,” Mauresmo said on Sunday.
“I did not see any push also to have the women’s match in the evening. I think it’s a very complicated decision. 
“It’s not easy having one match (at night) but again I never say it’s gonna be never (to having women’s matches).”

Elaborating further on the topic, Mauresmo argues that men’s matches usually last longer due to their best-of-five format. Making these more valuable for fans attending in terms of duration. The idea of playing two matches at night has been dismissed because it would ‘create other problems’ such as extremely late finishes. Novak Djokovic didn’t end his third round match until after 3am.

“It’s not a matter of how interesting the matches can be or could be. For us, it’s a matter of the length of the matches.”She said.
“In terms of the people that are coming to watch the match, the 15,000 people that are coming. It’s complicated for us to think that maybe it’s going to be very, very short. So we try our best, and it’s not easy.”

This year’s Olympic tennis tournament will be held at Roland Garros. That event will also have a night session but two matches will take place as they will all be best-of-three sets. 

More than 650,000 spectators came to the French Open over the past three weeks. A review of the event will start in a couple of weeks.

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Focus

Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz Plays Sascha Zverev in the Men’s Final

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Carlos Alcaraz on Friday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The championship matches in men’s singles and women’s doubles will be played on Sunday.

19 years ago, a young Spaniard named Rafael Nadal started a legendary relationship with Roland Garros, winning his first of a record-breaking 14 titles at this event.  Now in the same year that Nadal seemingly bid farewell to the French Open, another young Spaniard looks to begin his own Parisian legacy.  On Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz plays for his third Major title, and his first on the surface he grew up on.

Four years ago, Sascha Zverev reached his only other Major final, in an empty stadium during the 2020 US Open.  Despite holding a two-set lead, Zverev lost that championship match to Dominic Thiem in a fifth-set tiebreak, after some extremely nervous play.  On Sunday, a confident and self-described more mature version of Sascha returns to the last round of a Major, this time in a sold out stadium, and looking for a different result.

Also on Day 15, in the women’s doubles championship match at 11:30am local time, it will be Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini (11) vs. Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova (5).  After losing the women’s singles final on Saturday, Paolini vies for Grand Slam glory alongside Errani, who is a five-time Major champion in women’s doubles.  Between singles and doubles, Gauff is 0-3 in Slam finals, which includes a runner-up appearance here two years ago in both disciplines.  Siniakova owns seven Major titles in women’s doubles, all of which came with Barbora Krejcikova.


Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz has only played 29 matches this year, with a record of 24-5, as he missed several big events due to a right arm injury.  That included absences at two of the ATP’s biggest European clay court events, Monte Carlo and Rome.  Yet despite the injury and lack of match play, Carlitos has advanced to his third Major final with the loss of just three sets, two of which came against Jannik Sinner in Friday’s semifinals. 

By contrast, Zverev has been the healthiest of the top seven ATP players during this clay court season.  He is 34-9 in 2024, and comes into this match on a 12-match winning streak, after taking the Masters 1000 title in Rome three weeks ago.  Sascha endured a complicated path to this championship match, which included a pair of five-setters.  And he surely values his bodily health after the awful ankle injury he suffered in the semifinals of this event two years ago.  He would love to continue creating more positive memories on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Zverev holds a narrow 5-4 edge in their head-to-head, though on clay, Alcaraz leads 2-1.  However, Sascha’s sole victory on clay came in their only previous meeting at this event, in the 2022 quarterfinals.  And the German is 2-1 against the Spaniard at Majors.

Alcaraz has a definitive edge in speed as well as on the forehand side, while Zverev will look to use his serve to dictate play, and possesses a more formidable backhand.  But the biggest difference between these two is how they play in big matches.  Carlitos is 7-1 in finals at Majors and Masters 1000 tournaments, with his only loss coming in an epic championship match last summer in Cincinnati against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is just 6-6 in finals at those same levels, and his record of 2-6 in Major semifinals speaks to how passively he often plays in big matches.

And if the match goes the distance, that is a distinct advantage for Alcaraz, who is 10-1 lifetime in five-setters.  While Zverev’s mark of 23-11 is actually pretty strong, many of those wins came against players ranked outside the top 100, and in matches where Sascha arguably should have won without going five.

Plus, trying to accomplish the sport’s biggest feat, winning a Major title, when you have not only never done so before, but actually choked when you were so close to doing so, is a lot to overcome.  While I don’t expect Zverev to play as nervously in his second Major final as his first, Alcaraz remains the freer swinger at crucial moments.  Carlitos should be favored to win his third Major title on Sunday in Paris.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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