Does Finishing A Match Require The 'Big Three'? - UBITENNIS
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Does Finishing A Match Require The ‘Big Three’?

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on the US Open.

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Dominic Thiem has finally arrived at 27 years old.

 

He’s been good enough for several years to have arrived earlier, but there was always the “Big Three” of  Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic standing in his way, along with a list of others waiting to “arrive.”

Alexander Zverev is still waiting with the “others” after being a part of Thiem’s historic rally from two sets down to win Sunday’s U.S. Open men’s final despite both players winning an equal number of games in Thiem’s 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory.

THIEM TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION

Of course, if Thiem had been playing any of the game’s “Big Three” on Monday, it’s highly unlikely that Thiem would have rallied from two sets down to capture his first Grand Slam title.

Superstars Federer, Nadal and Djokovic obviously know how to finish matches since they are the top three all-time leaders in Grand Slam titles, Federer leading the way with 20 titles, followed by Nadal’s 19 and Djokovic’s 17.

Federer and Nadal skipped New York, and Federer also is not entered in Paris where the red clay event will start in less than two weeks.

But you’ve got to hand it to Thiem. Those forehand passing shots by Thiem against Zverev in critical situations near the end were a thing of beauty, the kind of shots Federer, Nadal and Djokovic might hit in pressure situations.

NADAL MAY BE TOO GOOD IN PARIS

It should be all Nadal in Paris as he chases Federer’s record-setting 20th Grand Slam title, but Djokovic will be there to keep Nadal in check.

But what about Thiem?

The amazing Austrian should be more relaxed this time in Paris — if he is fully recovered from Sunday night’s ordeal in New York. And, of course, Daniil Medvedev and Zverev both are fully capable of  winning their first Grand Slam title.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MEDVEDEV AND ZVEREV?

But what happened to Medvedev and Zverev in New York may haunt them for awhile, Zverev especially after blowing a two-set lead against Thiem.

Zverev is a real puzzle after coming back from two sets down to defeat Carreno Busta in the semifinals and then dominating Thiem in the first two sets on Sunday, only to lose.

Maybe Thiem just lucked up this time, hot having Federer, Nadal or Djokovic on the other side of the net in the U.S. Open final. Someone else had to win.

THE AZARENKA PUZZLE

That’s as puzzling as Victoria Azarenka’s last two rounds in New York, not showing up in a first-set rout by Serena’s Williams before taking the last two sets. Azarenka had the exact opposite result in her loss in Saturday’s women’s final to Naomi Osaka, with Azarenka winning, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, over Serena and then Osaka beating Azarenka by the same score.

So, what’s going on in tennis? It’s almost as unpredictable as the coronavirus.

But “tennis things” may return a little closer to normal in the French Open. It’s highly unlikely that Djokovic will hit another lines person with a ball as he did at the U.S. Open, which led to his ejection. And Nadal is virtually money in the bank in Paris.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

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Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood

The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.

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Image via twitter.com/wta

Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals. 

 

The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.

“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.

Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.

“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said.  “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”

Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name. 

“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”

Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.

However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.

“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”

Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007. 

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Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios Shakes off Injury Trouble During Epic Clash To Reach Quarter-Finals

The Australian is through to the last eight but how will his body fair in the next round?

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Nick Kyrgios has reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final in eight years but fresh concerns have risen over his current health. 

 

The world No.40 ousted America’s Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-1, in a marathon last-16 encounter but at times looked to be in discomfort. Throughout the match, Kyrgios clinched his right shoulder on multiple occasions and required a medical timeout during the third set. The issue comes two days after his dramatic clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas who has since accused the tennis star of bullying. 

Despite the injury scare, Kyrgios still managed to produce a total of 35 aces and dropped serve only three times in the match. Overall, he hit a total of 78 winners against 42 unforced errors. 

“It was a hell of an effort by Brandon. He is a hell of a player. He is 20-years-old and he is going to do some special things (in the future), that’s for sure,” said Kyrgios.
“It wasn’t anywhere near my best performance but I’m super happy to get through. I fought really well today and the crowd was amazing. it was special stepping out here (on center court) once again.”

Kyrgios’ use of unorthodox antics was on display from the start. Besides a series of heavy-hitting, his first use of the underarm serve occurred just three games into the match. Although it was canceled out by a let call. It was soon after that when the alarm bells first began to ring with the Australian showing visible discomfort with his right shoulder. Appearing to clutch it after almost every point. At 5-4, Nakashima was the first to draw blood after a forehand shot from his rival landed beyond the baseline to hand him the break to clinch the opener.

Whilst Kyrgios initially looked to be far from his best, he was handed a lifeline at the start of the second frame. 20-year-old Nakashima produced a double fault followed by a forehand shank to hand Kyrgios an early break. The American was making his second main draw appearance at the tournament and sixth overall in a major.  Seizing the moment, Kyrgios consistently served around the 130 mph mark to close in on leveling the match. Doing so with a serve down the middle of the court his rival returned into the net. 

However, the shoulder still proved problematic for the 26-year-old who had to take a medical time out for treatment half-way through the third frame. Visibly bothered by the issue and shaking his head, he continued playing on Center Court and somehow managed to go ahead. During the third set tiebreak, a Nakashima double fault handed Kyrgios an early break as he worked his way to a 6-2 lead. He then sealed the set with a blistering forehand return.

The roller-coaster continued into the fourth frame with Kyrgios buckling after hitting back-to-back errors to go down a break. It was at this point that he fumed at a comment made by somebody in the crowd.

“It’s the same sh*t over and over again. I’m trying to obviously make my first serve. Stop saying that. Obviously, I’m trying to f**king make my first serve.” He was heard saying during the changeover.

Nakashima continued the momentum with a three-game winning run to force the encounter into a decider. 

Despite the blip, Kyrgios managed to find another level by storming through the decider by winning six out of the last eight games played.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last month-and-a-half. I’m just proud of how I managed to steady the ship,” Kyrgios replied when asked about his shoulder. “He came out firing in the fourth set. My five-set record is pretty good and that is what I was thinking about.’
“I was like ‘I’ve been here before, I’ve done it before and I can come through again.’”

Kyrgios is the sixth Australian man in the Open Era to reach the last eight of Wimbledon on multiple occasions after also doing so in 2014. The run continues his fine form on the grass this season where he has already reached back-to-back semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle.

In the next round, he will play Chilean underdog Christian Garin who edged out Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 in an epic clash to become only the fourth man from his country to ever reach the quarter-final stage. Garin saved two match points en route to victory after four hours and 34 minutes of play. 

“I was really excited to play de Minaur, to be honest. He has been flying the Aussie flag for so long. I came on the court when he was two sets to love up and I was expecting to play him but I’m not going to think about that,” said Kyrgios.
“I need a glass of wine for sure tonight.”

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Nadal, Halep Headline Monday’s Play

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Simona Halep after her first round victory (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are both currently on 10-match win streaks.  Nadal has won his last 10 matches overall, going back to his 22nd Major title run in Paris.  Halep has won her last 10 matches at Wimbledon, going back to her title run in 2019.  On Monday, both face seeded opposition on Centre Court.  Rafa takes on one of the sport’s fastest-rising players of the last 12 months, Botic van de Zandschulp, while Simona faces the No.4 seed Paula Badosa.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Nick Kyrgios vs. Brandon Nakashima – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Kyrgios helped create yet another circus during his four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last round, in a match where both players behaved quite terribly.  But Nakashima is a player who will not fall for Nick’s theatrics, as he is extremely composed on court.  The 20-year-old American was ranked outside the top 100 a year ago, yet is projected to debut inside the top 50 with this result, his deepest run at a Major.  Brandon collected 45 match wins at all levels last season, with two Challenger titles and two ATP-level finals.  Nakashima is a consistent player, with strong groundstrokes off both sides.  But he does not possess the serving prowess of Kyrgios, nor the experience on big stages.  And there’s no bigger stage than Centre Court, Wimbledon.  Nick has fond memories on this court, as it’s where he made his Major breakthrough eight years ago with an upset over Rafael Nadal.  That remains only one of two Slam quarterfinals Kyrgios has achieved.  But in his first career meeting against Nakashima, he’s the favorite to reach that stage at a Major for the first time in over seven years.


Alize Cornet vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Second on No.2 Court

Cornet became the player to end Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak, and she did so with a comprehensive straight-set win.  This is the Frenchwoman’s 18th season of Grand Slam play, and she finally achieved her first Major quarterfinal six months ago in Australia, where she took out both Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.  Tomljanovic achieved the same milestone a year ago at this event, when she defeated Emma Raducanu, Jelena Ostapenko, and Cornet.  On that day, Ajla prevailed over Alize 6-3 in the third.  Overall they have split four previous meetings.  Neither player was having a stellar season prior to this tournament, with both owning losing records on the year.  But on this surface, and in a highly-important matchup, I give the spunky competitive spirit of Cornet the slight edge.


Paula Badosa (4) vs. Simona Halep (16) – Second on Centre Court

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this season in Madrid, where Halep was easily victorious by a score of 6-3, 6-1.  And while Badosa possesses the better ranking at this time, Halep actually has a better record on the year.  And Simona is now 9-1 on grass in 2022, which was the same record she had on grass in 2019, when she last played on this surface.  The two-time Major champion missed this event last year, as well Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympics, due to a calf injury.  Neither player has dropped a set this fortnight, with Badosa taking out another two-time Slam champ, Petra Kvitova, in the last round.  That was a high-quality affair, with both Paula and Petra effectively applying their aggressive nature on this surface.  While Halep is the much more accomplished grass court player, I favor Badosa’s strong baseline game to again be rewarded on Monday, and to even her head-to-head with Halep.


Amanda Anisimova (20) vs. Harmony Tan – Third on No.1 Court

Both of these players already achieved phenomenal wins during the first week.  Anisimova came back from a set down to defeat Coco Gauff, while Tan prevailed over Serena Williams after over three hours of play.  Tan had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major, but followed up the biggest win of her career with two straight-set victories.  Anisimova is vying for her best result at a Slam since her 2019 run to the Roland Garros semifinals.  And it was during that run when her only previous matchup with Tan took place, with Amanda prevailing 6-3, 6-1.  Anisimova is in the midst of a strong season, with a record of 28-10.  Her outstanding backhand should allow her to dictate play and earn another win over Tan, despite Harmony’s diverse game filled with guile, drop shots, and tweeners.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp (21) – Third on Centre Court

This is a rematch from the third round of the last Major, when Nadal won in straight sets at his beloved Roland Garros.  Rafa did not look his best during his first two rounds here, but upped his level significantly in a comfortable victory over Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday.  Van de Zandschulp’s rise the last 12 months in his mid-20’s has been remarkable.  He reached the US Open quarterfinals as a qualifier, and has now advanced to the third round or better at the last four Slams.  And just a few weeks ago on grass at Queen’s Club, Botic was a semifinalist.  He may provide Nadal with his sternest test of this tournament yet, but defeating the 22-time Major champion, and ending Rafa’s bid for the calendar-year Grand Slam, would be extremely surprising.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Cristian Garin – De Minaur has only dropped one set to this stage, though he’s yet to face opposition ranked higher than 80th in the world.  Garin is into the fourth here for the second straight year, and also has only lost one set.  Alex leads their head-to-head 3-0, which includes a grass court contest right before this event in Eastbourne.

Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Petra Martic – Every set Rybakina has played in these Championships has been a tight one, but she’s yet to lose one.  Martic has also claimed all her sets thus far, which includes a victory over the eighth seed, Jessica Pegula.  Both players are vying for their second Major quarterfinal.  Elena is 1-0 against Petra, as she prevailed in two tiebreak sets a couple years ago in Dubai.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Jason Kubler (Q) – Fritz is on a seven-matchwin streak, dating back to his title run a week ago in Eastbourne.  Across the last two weeks, his serve has only been broken four times.  Kubler is a 29-year-old Australian who has been plagued by a heredity knee condition throughout his career.  He was 2-6 in the main draws of Slams prior to this fortnight.  At the 2018 US Open, Fritz was up two-sets-to-one over Kubler when Jason was forced to retire.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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