Monte-Carlo Masters Saturday Preview: Who Will Play for their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday? - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Saturday Preview: Who Will Play for their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday?

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Andrey Rublev on Friday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

With the shocking upsets of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, we are guaranteed to crown a new Masters champion for the second consecutive time this season.  Either Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, or Dan Evans will join Hubert Kurkacz as a newly-minted Masters 1000 titleholder in 2021.  Evans is also still alive in the doubles draw, where he and fellow Brit Neal Skupski are semifinalists alongside three of the top four seeds.

 

Saturday’s play will begin at 11:30am local time with the first doubles semifinal.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Dan Evans

What a surprising story Evans has been this week.  He arrived in Monte-Carlo with only four career wins on clay, but has doubled that number over the past five days.  After surviving a grueling, rain-delayed affair in the opening round against 2019 runner-up Dusan Lajovic, he’s defeated three seeded players: Hubert Hurkacz, David Goffin, and world No.1 Novak Djokovic.  The 30-year-old picked up his first career ATP title this past February, and now looks to reach his first Masters 1000 final.  Prior to this tournament, he had never advanced beyond the second round of a Masters event on any surface.

Tsitsipas now finds himself as the top seed remaining, and a considerable favorite to reach the final.  This is relatively new territory for the 22-year-old, who did not respond well to similar expectations two weeks ago in Miami, where he lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz.  But he’s advanced extremely comfortably this week, having yet to drop a set.  And he’ll certainly be the fresher player on this day.  Tsitsipas received a retirement after one set of quarterfinal play yesterday, and has spent roughly half the amount of time on court as Evans.  The British No.1 played for nearly three hours on Friday alone.  Also, their head-to-head has been completely one-sided, with Tsitsipas claiming both of their 2020 meetings in straight sets.  Last September in Hamburg, Stefanos required only 59 minutes to defeat Evans.  So this should be a straightforward victory for Tsitsipas, as long as he doesn’t allow the pressure of being the favorite to overwhelm him.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Casper Ruud

Rublev’s win yesterday over his idol, Rafael Nadal, was a career highlight for the 23-year-old.  Rafa played some terrible tennis for the first half of the match, yet was twice able to avoid going down a double break in the second set to force a third.  But Andrey’s ability to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping the second set was most impressive, as he soundly put Nadal away in the third, becoming the first man to ever win a third set over Rafa in Monte-Carlo.  Now just 24 hours later, Rublev’s rebounding skills will again be tested.  How will he respond after defeating the King of Clay, as he tries to reach his first Masters 1000 final?  Two weeks ago in Miami, he stalled at the semifinal stage, as just like Tsitsipas, he was upset by Hurkacz.

22-year-old Casper Ruud is now into his second consecutive Masters semifinal on clay.  In fact, all 10 of his wins at this level have come on this surface.  Ruud has excelled on the red dirt since the start of 2020.  He’s gone 22-7, and reached the semifinals or better at five clay court events.  Casper saved two match points to survive on Thursday against Pablo Carreno Busta, and upset defending champion Fabio Fognini on Friday.  But Ruud is 0-3 against Rublev, which includes two encounters on clay.  And while Andrey is yet to establish himself at the Masters level, he’s won five 500-level titles, and reached four quarterfinals at Majors.  Much like the day’s first singles semifinal, the seeded player is the clear favorite.  But this event has seen some strange results of late, and Rublev cannot afford an emotional hangover from his monumental win on Friday.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic (2) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) – Pavic and Mektic are already vying for their fifth title of the season, and lead the tour with 27 match wins.  Granollers and Zeballos were just 3-3 on the year coming into this event.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Dan Evans and Neil Skupski – Cabal and Farah won two Majors in 2019, and were champions in Dubai last month.  Evans and Skupski were finalists two weeks ago in Miami, which was their first tournament as a team.  This will be Dan’s second match of the day, and his ninth in six days.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

 

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

 

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

 

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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