SECOND SECTION: WHAT REALLY CHANGES BETWEEN THE SURFACES
Now that basics of bounce physics are clear, we can explain furtherly why court speeds also depend on the shots themselves. For years, we believed to the alleged conspiracy of tournaments, which would make all surfaces the same to favour the best players. The reality is a little bit different, and the “blame” (if one can speak of blame) seems to be attributable much more to racquet manufacturers, who have designed tools with which it is much easier to play with heavy topspin, and also to the coaches, who oversaw the advent of the current playing style. If all courts appear to be alike, it is because most players use high levels of rotations. Both computer simulations carried out by the formidable Twitter user @fogmount (take a look here) and the analysis carried out – with a video camera – by the aforementioned Rod Cross team confirm a fairly unspoken truth: there is much more difference between the surfaces if we examine flat shots (with a small angle of impact) as there is by comparing the yield of topspin shots (which have a larger angle of impact). We use the data and diagrams published by @fogmount to present this evidence, but we can confirm that the same conclusions emerge from Rod Cross’s research, which is based on data obtained from real experiments.
Bounce simulation of a flat shot
This is a computer simulation of a shot hit at 80 mph with no topspin on clay and on grass. On the dirt, the ball would reach the baseline about 5,1 mph (-14%) slower, with about 0.05 seconds of delay and one foot higher.
Bounce simulation of a topspin shot
This is instead the simulation of a shot executed with 4000 rpm (rotations per minute, Nadal can even reach 5000), once more hit at about 80 mph. As can be seen, and perhaps against all expectations, the ball reaches the baseline after bouncing at virtually the same speed and after the same amount of time (the difference is just one millisecond). In terms of bounce, however, the difference between the two surfaces remains consistent, being about between 1 and 1,64 feet in height in favour of the clay.
Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Italians Take Center Stage on Monday
For the second week in a row, a combined ATP Masters 1000/WTA 1000 event will be staged. The men’s singles draw features nine of the world’s top 10, with Novak Djokovic returning to competition after skipping last week’s Madrid Open. The women’s singles draw includes eight of the WTA top 10, with Serena Williams making her 2021 clay court debut.
A day after Italian No.1 Matteo Berrettini was the runner-up in Madrid, many of Rome’s most interesting matchups involve Italian men playing in their home country. Italian No.2 Jannik Sinner made his first impression in the sport two years ago at this event, when as a wild card ranked 263rd in the world, he upset Steve Johnson in front of a raucous crowd. Now Sinner is ranked inside the top 20, and on Monday faces France’s Ugo Humbert for the first time. Italian No.3 Fabio Fognini won a Masters event two years ago in Monte-Carlo, and will play a four-time Masters finalist, Kei Nishikori. Also, 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti made a thrilling run at this event when it was held last September, coming through qualifying the defeat both Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka. He’ll take on a newly-anointed Masters champion, Hubert Hurkacz.
On the women’s side, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, and teenage phenom Coco Gauff will all play their first round matches. And the women’s Italian No.1, Camila Giorgi, will do battle with recent Guadalajara champion, Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Monday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.
Fabio Fognini vs. Kei Nishikori – Second on Grand Stand Arena
Nishikori is 2-1 against Fognini, and 1-0 on clay. They haven’t played in over four years, and Kei’s clay victory came at the 2016 Madrid Open. In Rome, Fognini actually has a losing record in his career. Like many players, he struggles under the pressure of competing on home turf. Nishikori has performed well in Rome, reaching the quarterfinals or better four of the last six years. Since the tour restart last summer, both men have extremely similar records: Fognini is 12-14, and Nishikori is 11-13.
But Kei’s form has been consistently improving since missing a full year of action. His last three losses have all come at the hands of top players: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafael Nadal, and Sascha Zverev. Fognini meanwhile has been as unpredictable as ever, even getting defaulted last month in Barcelona for verbal abuse while playing the 147th-ranked player in the world. Based on recent form, and the country this match is being played in, Nishikori should be favored.
Hubert Hurkacz (15) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (WC) – Not before 7:00pm on Grand Stand Arena
It was only five weeks ago when 24-year-old Hurkacz won the biggest tournament of his career, defeating four top 20 players on his way to the Miami Open title. Since leaving Miami and transitioning to clay, he’s just 1-2, and he’s a meager 4-5 on this surface since last season. But it was eight months ago at this event where he earned an impressive win over one of 2020’s best performers, Andrey Rublev.
That was the same week as Musetti’s breakout run in this city. The very next week in Forli, Italy, Lorenzo won a Challenger title on clay. After reaching two further Challenger finals to start 2021, he advanced to the semifinals of Acapulco, upsetting Diego Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe, and Grigor Dimitrov. Unlike his fellow countryman Fognini, Musetti seems to embrace playing in Italy. Considering Hurkacz is suffering from a Miami hangover, and considering Musetti’s formidable one-handed backhand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Italian teenager pull off another upset in Rome.
Other Notable Matches on Monday:
Jannik Sinner vs. Ugo Humbert – Sinner was the runner-up of the Miami Open in March, and reached the semifinals of Barcelona a few weeks ago. Humbert won two ATP titles in 2020, but is only 7-9 in 2021.
Petra Kvitova (11) vs. Magda Linette – Kvitova is a three-time champion in Madrid, yet is 7-7 lifetime in Rome. Linette is just 1-4 this year, as she underwent knee surgery in January. Both of their prior encounters went to Kvitova in straight sets, though they’ve never played on clay.
Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Alison Riske – Swiatek has won nine of her last 10 matches on clay, dating back to her French Open title last fall. The only loss came last week at the hands of world No.1 Ash Barty. This is a rematch from the same round in Madrid, a match where Iga easily prevailed 6-1, 6-1.
Yulia Putintseva vs. Coco Gauff – Putintseva reached the quarterfinals of this event last year, with wins over top 10 seeds Petra Martic and Elena Rybakina. This is only Gauff’s tenth career tour-level match on clay, though she advanced to the quarterfinals in Charleston last month. This is their first head-to-head meeting.
Sara Sorribes Tormo vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is just 4-4 on the year, and her only main draw win at this event came seven years ago. But she did defeat Sorribes Tormo last November on a hard court in Linz. The 24-year-old Spaniard is an impressive 15-6 in 2021.
Alexader Bublik vs. Marin Cilic – Bublik just surpassed Cilic in the rankings with his run to the Madrid quarterfinals, debuting inside the top 40. They met at this same event last September, when Cilic won 6-4 in the third.
Monday’s full Order of Play is here.
Alexander Zverev Fights Back In Thriller To Win Madrid Open
The German battled valiantly to record his third consecutive win over a top 10 player in Madrid and clinch the title for the second time in his career.
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev battled back from two games away from defeat to oust Matteo Berrettini in a marathon clash to win the Madrid Open.
The US Open finalist was pushed to his limits both mentally and physically en route to a 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3, win over the world No.10 after more than two-and-a-half hours of play. Making it the first time in his career he has won a title on the ATP Tour after dropping the opening set. He now leads Berrettini 3-1 in their head-to-head. In their latest encounter the German hit five aces and 16 winners en route to his 15th ATP trophy and fourth in a Masters event.
“It (feels) great, especially after losing in the final of the last three Masters events (I played). This is definitely special and I just want to enjoy this one,” Zverev said during his on-court interview.
“I think his (Berrettini’s) game style showed it all. I hadn’t played anybody this week who can serve 235(KM/H) kick-serve on the clay. It definitely was a different match. I am extremely happy right now.” He added.
The opening set was a roller-coaster 70-minute tussle between the two players with constant changes of momentum occurring throughout. Berrettini, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 final at the age of 25, withstood a 10-minute opening serving game before going on to draw first blood. Tied at 3-3, the Italian capitalised on some lacklustre hitting from Zverev to break for a 4-3 lead. However, his advantage was short lived with the world No.6 breaking back immediately in the following game. The lack of disparity between the two resulted in an opening tiebreak which was just as dramatic.
Berrettini’s plan of using his heavy slice to draw errors from Zverev did wonders for him early on in the tiebreaker as he unexpectedly raced to a 5-0 lead. However, there would be another twist to the match. Some costly mistakes brought his opponent back into contention as his lead rapidly disappeared. Two set points came and went as a result of Berrettini’s unforced errors which was partly triggered by Zverev’s fierce defensive play. The 2018 Madrid champion then had a set point of his own at 8-7 but failed to capitalise. Eventually, it would be a Zverev double fault at 8-8 that proved decisive. Enabling Berrettini to seal the 7-6 lead on the following point with the help of a serve out wide.
Historically winning the opener has proven critical to the outcome of a match in the final of a Masters 1000 tournament on the clay. In fact, the past 17 Masters finals on the surface have gone the way of the player who clinched the first set.
However, Zverev continued his perseverance and pounced at the best possible time during the second frame. As Berrettini nudged to two games from victory, he fell victim to his own nerves. At 4-4 a series of loose shots guided Zverev to break for a chance to serve out the set and forced proceedings into a decider. A task he passed with flying colours with the help of a nifty pick-up near the net which forced an error from across the court on set point.
With a Masters title at stake, Zverev continued his comeback with the help of some more fierce defensive play. Locked at 2-2 in the decider, two more costly Berrettini unforced errors enabled him to break and lead the match once again. Prompting an almighty roar from Zverev. In pole position he rallied towards the finish line against his rapidly tiring opponent. On his second match point Zverev prevailed after a Berrettini backhand drifted wide.
“I want to congratulate Matteo on an amazing week. I think you deserve this title just as much as I did,” the new champion said to his rival.
“I know this moment is not the greatest. I’ve been there. Trust me, I felt one hundred times worse after the US Open final.’
“When you win a title like this it will feel even better and special. I’m sure you will. Next week is Rome and if you’re playing like you’re playing here (in Madrid), I’ll be cheering for you as well.”
It is only the second time in his career that the 24-year-old has managed to defeat three top 10 players within a tournament. He also beat Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem earlier in the week.
There will be little time for celebration with the main draw of the Italian Open already underway. Zverev has a bye in the first round.
“It is difficult but Rome is also an event which I like and enjoy. I hope I can perform the same way as I did here (in Madrid). We will see how it goes,” he concluded.
Matteo Berrettini Says Words From Federer’s Coach Ljubicic Aided Belief In His Game
The Italian is currently on an eight-match winning streak after what has been a bumpy start to the year.
Matteo Berrettini is a win away from his maiden Masters 1000 title at the Madrid Open during what has been a roller-coaster journey on the Tour this season.
The world No.10 started 2020 in good form with high-profile wins over Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut at the ATP Cup. Then at the Australian Open he reached the fourth round for the first time in his career before disaster struck. An abdominal injury forced him to pull out of the Grand Slam and would eventually result in Berrettini being sidelined from the Tour for almost two months.
However, since returning to competitive tennis last month the 25-year-old has managed to win eight out of nine matches played on the clay prior to the title match in Madrid. His only loss was in Monte Carlo to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
“I worked really hard in my pre-season, but I wasn’t feeling like really, really good on the court. But I knew that the work that I’ve done eventually would have paid off somehow,” Berrettini told reporters on Saturday.
“I have to say that since I went to Australia and I started quarantine, the practice and stuff, with my coach we said, ‘Okay, I’m playing good, I’m good.’
“Sometimes it is a matter of mental performance or just that your confidence is building up.”
Berrettini, who reached the semi-finals of the 2019 US Open, credits his team for aiding a growth in his confidence. One particular member he has high praise for is his manager Ivan Ljubicic. A former world No.3 player from Croatia who is a coach for Roger Federer. The Croat has his own management, sponsorship and consulting agency called LJ Sports Group which Berrettini is a member of.
“My manager, Ivan Ljubicic. He helped me in a way. He just told me he really believes in me. That kind of stuff helps, especially because it’s coming from someone who had an unbelievable career. It really helped me in that way,” he said.
Standing in Berrettini’s way of his first Masters 1000 title is former champion Alexander Zverev who is yet to drop a set in the tournament. He is 7-9 against top 10 opposition so far in his career and his first win over a top-10 opponent was Zverev on the clay back in 2019 (in Rome). However, he has lost his two other meetings against the German.
“It’s going to be a challenging match, but I’m in the finals. I guess the best two guys are going to play each other,” he concluded.
Berrettini is only the third Italian man to reach a Masters final since the series was created after Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner.
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