Novak Djokovic battles past Lorenzo Sonego in epic Rome semifinal - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic battles past Lorenzo Sonego in epic Rome semifinal

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Novak Djokovic claimed a 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 win over Lorenzo Sonego in an epic semifinal to reach his career 10th final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Djokovic went up a set and a break and held match points in the second set, but Sonego won the tie-break to send the match to the third set. Djokovic avenged his defeat against Sonego, who won their only previous head-to-head match in the Vienna semifinal. 

Djokovic set up a 56th clash against Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster final on Sunday.

Earlier today Djokovic came back from a set and a break down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 in the quarter final match, which was interrupted by rain on Friday. 

Djokovic won nine points more than Sonego in the first set. The Serbian player hit a service winner to hold serve at love. Sonego held his serve with a drop-shot winner in the second game before Djokovic held his serve in the third game with a forehand winner. 

Djokovic hit a deep return in the fourth game and earned a break after a forehand error from Sonego. The world number 1 player held serve with a drop-shot to consolidate the break in the fifth game. Sonego held serve in the sixth game at love. 

Djokovic did not face any break point in his next service games and held serve at 15 to seal the first set 6-3 with a forehand down the line winner after 34 minutes. 

Djokovic created eight break points in the 91-minute second set, but the first first ten games went on serve. 

Sonego faced a break point from 40-15 in the third game of the second set and fended it off with a service winner. The Italian 26-year-old player fired another service winner to hold serve for 2-1. 

Djokovic held serve at 15 in the fourth game and earned three break points at 3-3. Sonego saved the first two break points with smash winners and the third chance with a drop-shot. Djokovic hit an ace down the line to hold serve at love in the eighth game. Sonego saved two break points with his forehands to hold after three deuces for 5-4 in 10-minute marathon game. 

Djokovic fended off two set points in the 10th game and held with a service winner to draw level to 5-5 in another 10-minute game. The Serbian star broke serve in the 11th game with two winners at the net earning his chance to serve for the win. 

Sonego saved two match points in the 12th game when Djokovic served for the final at 6-5. and converted his second break point with a service winner to force the second set to the tie-break. 

Djokovic hit a forehand down the line winner to build up a 4-2 lead in the breaker before hitting a double fault. Sonego hit a backhand down the line winner to take a 5-4 lead. Sonego converted his fourth set point with a service winner to win a hard-fought tie-break 7-5 sending the match to the third set. 

Sonego raced to a 0-40 lead in Djokovic’s first service game and earned three break points in the first game of the third set, but he wasted them. Djokovic got the break at 15 in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead and consolidated it with a hold at 15 for 4-1. 

Djokovic created his second match point with a forehand winner at 5-2 and converted it to seal the win after Sonego sent a forehand into the net. 

“I have only myself to blame for not closing the match in two sets. At the end of the day, he is showing why he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinals. He is a quality players. He is a quality player. It is not easy to play against him. Obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere out on there on the court”, said Djokovic. 

Djokovic will meet Nadal for the ninth time in Rome. Nadal and Djokovic have wn 14 of the past 16 editions of the Rome tournament. Nadal leads 5-3 in his previous Rome clashes against Djokovic. 

“I don’t have much time to recover. I played a lot of tennis. Hopefully I will have fresh legs because that’s what I definitely will need. It’s necessary in order to have a chance against Rafa. He also had some tough matches, obviously myself, with rain delays and everything that has happened today. Hopefully I will be fresh and I will give it all”, said Djokovic. 

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Daniil Medvedev Searching For Confidence Boost Ahead Of Wimbledon

The two-time Grand Slam finalist says he is not the same player as he was two years ago when he last played Wimbledon.

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When it comes to playing on the grass this year Daniil Medvedev admits that the biggest issue for him might concern the mental side of the sport as opposed to the physical side.

 

The world No.2 kicked-off his grass swing last week in Halle where he was stunned in the first round by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the Tour in 2020, that was the first time the Russian had played a match on the surface in almost two years. Short on matches, Medvedev is back in action this week in Mallorca after taking a wildcard into the tournament.

“I like to play on grass, I just need to get some confidence in my game on the surface, because we didn’t play [on it] for two years. Two years ago, I was not the same player as I am right now,” Medvedev told atptour.com. “It is tough for me to say where I see myself, but I know I can play very good on this surface. I just need to find the right balance.”

Since he last played at Wimbledon, Medvedev surged on the ATP Tour by winning six titles with all of them being on a hardcourt. Furthermore, he also reached the final of the US Open in 2019 and the Australian Open this year. He is the first player outside of the Big Four to be ranked in the world’s top two since July 2005.

Despite his previous success on the grass, Medvedev admits he remains wary about playing on the surface and the conditions he may face.

“When I started playing on grass, I played in Challengers and even in [ATP] Tour tournaments on the outside courts, not on the central courts, and I can tell that the central courts are quite slow,” he said. “Especially the match I played with Gilles Simon at Queen’s [Club], we had rallies of 40 shots every second point. That is what makes it a little bit tougher.
“When I practise on practice courts, I feel like I am playing so good as the ball is so fast. Then I come onto the centre court to play the match, and the ball just stops after the bounce, and you have to adapt your game, so it can be tough. But I know I can play really well on grass.”

In Mallorca Medvedev has a bye in the first round. His opening match will be against either South Africa’s Lloyd Harris or France’s Corentin Moutet.

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Samsonova Battles Past Bencic To Win Maiden Title In Berlin, Gets Wimbledon Wild Card

The Russian qualifier has stunned the tournament with a run that also seen her defeat Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

Liudmila Samsonova is the 2021 Bett1 Open champion after pulling off another upset by beating number five seed Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a capacity crowd on Steffi Graff Stadion under hot and humid conditions.

 

The 22-year-old underdog caps off what has been a fairytale run in Germany for the qualifier. Prior to the tournament Samsonova had never beaten a top 20 player in her career or reached a Tour final. Against Bencic she hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors and won 66% of her service points.

” I was so nervous today even before the match and during the first set so after the first set I took a toilet break and told myself to play a more aggressive game and it worked,” Samsonova said following her triumph.

It was world No.12 Bencic who got off to a fast start by holding serve comfortably and than the following game setting up the first break chance with a return forehand winner before the Russian would double fault twice in a row to give the early break. At 3-0 the Swiss found herself again at double breakpoint and managed to seal the it en route to taking the first set in just 28 minutes.

However, the second set was the total opposite with underdog Samsonova holding serve and breaking the very next game with a powerful forehand winner. Like Bencic in the first set, she turned her lead into a double break and served out the second set.

The Russian carried the momentum into the third and deciding set earning a chance to break in the first game and the world No.12 would double fault to give the break. At 4-2 the world No.106 had a chance to go up a double break but Bencic managed to save it and hold serve before going on the offensive. The Swiss had two chances of her own to go back on serve but the Russian saved all three breakpoints she faced.

At 5-3 the Samsonova had two chances to seal the match and the title on her opponents serve. Bencic saved the first one but the world number 106 would seal the win on the second.

In her post match press conference Samsonova explained how once she levelled the match was able to close it out.

” I was trying to keep my game going and try to be aggressive on my first shot and my serve and on the return and that is what I was focusing on”.

The young Russian now has her sights sets on Wimbledon as she awarded a main draw wild card after the match.

“They just told me that I’m going to have the wildcard for the main draw, so I’m so happy,” she said.

Samsonova is the 10th first-time WTA champion this season.

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Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka To Team Up For Olympic Bid

The two players say their main focus is on playing singles but a ‘great opportunity’ has presented itself.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

The two highest ranked WTA players from Belarus are being considered as strong contenders to win an Olympic medal later this year after they recently confirmed plans to join forces.

 

Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are set to play in the women’s doubles tournament despite only playing together five times before on the WTA Tour. The duo has illustrated their potential at the Bett1 Open in Berlin, where they clinched the title on Sunday. In the final the pair upset top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, to claim their first ever trophy together.

We both brought a different level, mindset than a few years ago. It was important to play together to feel each other’s game, see what we can try, apply what works, what we can work on. Our priority is singles but it’s a great opportunity at the Olympics to team up,” WTA Insider quoted Azarenka as saying following the final on Sunday.

Whilst they are both best known for their singles game, they have also had previous success in the doubles. Sabalenka won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open alongside Elise Mertens, as well as three Premier titles.

“We’ll play at the Olympics. To win a title, it gives us a lot of confidence and we feel each other better and players will know that we are playing good with each other and it’s more confidence for us and more pressure for other players,” the world No.4 commented.

Azarenka has already enjoyed success at the Olympics in her career. In 2012 she defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in straight sets to win a bronze medal. During the same year she won gold in the mixed doubles alongside Max Mirnyi. Making her the only Belarusian tennis player in history to have won multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park and will get underway on July 24th.

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