Novak Djokovic Survives Australian Open Roller-Coaster - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Survives Australian Open Roller-Coaster

It was a tough day at the office for the world No.1 who suffered a scare enduring his second round encounter at Melbourne Park.

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Novak Djokovic required three-and-a-half hours to book a place in the third round of the Australian Open after battling to a four-set win over Frances Tiafoe. 

The world No.1 was pushed to his limits throughout his 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3, win in what was only his second Tour match of the season. Tiafoe’s inspired play was reminiscent of his run to the quarter-finals of the tournament back in 2019 but still it wasn’t enough to prevent Djokovic from grabbing the victory. Overall he hit 26 aces and 56 winners but could only convert five out of his 14 break point opportunities.

“It was a very tough match with very difficult conditions. We had sun on the court and it was very warm. There were a lot of rallies,” said Djokovic.
“I want to give a hand to Frances for a great fight. It was a fantastic match on his part.”

The cat and mouse chase between the two started during the opener as they exchanged breaks of serve before the eight-time champion broke once again for a 5-3 lead. Allowing the Serbian to close out the first set with relative ease after hitting a clean backhand winner.

Unlike his one-sided first round win over Jeremy Chardy, Djokovic was unable to continue to dictate the proceedings due to some fiery play coming from across the court. Tiafoe utilized the crowd to his advantage as he matched the top seed game-by-game in the second frame. Then in the tiebreaker a four-point streak in Tiafoe’s favour saw him level the match.

Djokovic continued to be troubled by the American who has only ever beaten a top 10 opponent three times in 23 attempts prior to this week. He looked to be gaining momentum in the third set after racing to a 3-0 lead before Tiafoe clawed his way back once again. Then to add to Djokovic’s frustration he failed to convert two set points against the Tiafoe serve whilst leading 5-4. Nevertheless, he scored his breakthrough in the second tiebreak thanks to two costly unforced errors from his rival which help guide him to a 6-2 lead. Enabling Djokovic to go on and closed the third set out with a forehand winner.

Nearing the finish line there was still a lot of work to do for the 17-time Grand Slam champion on the Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic broke once more midway through the fourth set as Tiafoe started to get irate. At 3-3, 30-30, the American got a time violation which he disputed with the umpire before losing the following two points to hand Djokovic the break.

“Why are you disturbing the match? It’s an unreal match! Why are you disturbing the match? It’s bullshit! The point’s massive and I’m going for the fucking towel!” Tiafoe fumed.

After that minor incident Djokovic finally took control as he closed the match out with a three-game winning run. In what was a high-quality encounter the clash ended in anticlimactic fashion with Tiafoe producing a double fault.

“If I had to choose I would like to have these kinds of matches in the opening week (of a Grand Slam) but they are only going to get tougher with higher seeds and opponents,” Djokovic commented on his latest performance.
“It is not the first time I have been in this kind of situation. I know how to handle these circumstances but at the same time I was very fortunate to get through the third set. Frances played great.”

The 33-year-old has now won 77 main draw matches at the Australian Open since his 2205 debut. He has won the title more times than any other male player in history but admits there is something different about this year’s tournament.

“There are various things that affect my positive performance at the Rod Laver Arena. I guess when you win a lot on a certain court over the years you feel more comfortable and confident. This court feels like my living room, I feel very comfortable,” he said.
“The surface has also changed and I think the speed of the court (this year) is the quickest I have ever played on in the past 15 years. You need a big serve.”

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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