USTA league tennis has some of the same characteristics as big-time professional tennis. After all, both are real tennis.
Of course, the league tennis players aren’t getting rich while playing on several different teams at the same time. In fact, there are no financial rewards for the league players. Well, the USTA is a different situation. The USTA and different tennis organizations get a tidy sum of money from the millions of players’ registration fees.
SOME OF THE SAME SEMBLANCES
The tennis matches themselves have some of the same semblances. Just because a USTA league team wins the first set of a match doesn’t mean it can take its foot off the gas pedal. There is an avalanche of players/teams who dominate their opponents in the first set, then get dominated in the second set. Then comes the tie-breaker. And anything can happen because the first-set winner has lost much of its confidence and is no longer sharp for the decisive tiebreaker
That’s about what happened to Rafa Nadal in Friday’s French Open semifinals. He looked unbeatable the first five games. Rafa then appeared to take his foot off the pedal, and he was lucky enough to survive Novak Djokovic’s late charge in the first set. But that was about it for Nadal in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss.
NADAL WENT AWAY TOO EARLY
Nadal just wasn’t there for the second set. Serving became a problem and Nadal was broken in three of his four service games in the set. Nadal just simply hit too many first serves into the net. That allowed Djokovic to tee off too many times on Rafa’s second serves.
Then came the tiebreaker. Not the 10-point match tiebreaker the USTA leaguers use to decide matches that split the first two sets.
This one was the one the pros use when a set other than the fifth set goes to 6-6. Rafa put up a good fight in the third set. He even had a set point in the 12th game. But basically the tiebreaker practically sealed the verdict when Djokovic got to Nadal’s drop shot on the 11th point and placed a return where Nadal couldn’t put the ball into play.
RAFA SHOULD HAVE KEPT HIS FOOT ON THE PEDAL
The 35-year-old Spanish legend wasted too much energy in holding off Djokovic late in the first set, playing too loosely in the second set and even while getting to the third-set tiebreaker. Nadal should have kept his foot on the gas pedal the way he normally does in beating everyone he faced in Paris for 13 years.
Rafa wasn’t back on his game in the third set. He had a chance to deadlock the tiebreaker at 4-4, but put an open-face racket on a sitting-duck volley, and the ball went up in the air a bit while sailing off the court. That left Djokovic with a 5-3 advantage.
Nadal didn’t recover. He won only one of the last three points in the tiebreaker, dropping the breaker and set on a 7-4 verdict for Novak. That might as well have been the match.
A TIRED NADAL WORE A HEAVY GRIMACE
Rafa broke Djokovic in the first game of the fourth set and then held service for the last time in the match for a 2-0 lead. The damage was already done.
Nadal wore a heavy grimace on his face the rest of the way when he went to the service line. He appeared to be very tired of chasing Djokovic’s barrage of drop shots. After all, Rafa hasn’t faced many long matches the last couple of years, and maybe he wasn’t prepared to go five sets this time.
Rafa went out meekly, very un-Nadal like as he won a total of only six points in the last six games of the match.
Nadal hasn’t committed so many unforced errors in a long time. Of course, Djokovic played brilliantly the last three sets. He simply forced Nadal to hit too many backhands and chase too many drop shots.
DJOKOVIC MIGHT NOT HAVE A PICNIC ON SUNDAY
Perhaps it was time for Nadal to experience an off day. Of course, he’s still tied with Roger Federer at 20 for the most Grand Slam singles titles, with Djokovic trying to sneak up to No. 18 in Sunday’s final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But that one might not be a picnic for Djokovic. Tsitsipas will apply tremendous depth and power from start to finish, the way the talented Greek did in a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev in Friday’s other men’s semifinal.
Tsitsipas appeared to be fit enough to battle Djokovic for five sets. This final should be another barnburner.
WILL NADAL PLAY WIMBLEDON AND U.S. OPEN?
As for Nadal, hopefully he will play Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He could pick up the title in either event with a little luck, and maybe help from the likes of Tsitsipas, Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, a few of the other young guns and old-timer Roger Federer.
Nadal may have made a major mistake in strategy by not attacking Djokovic relentlessly with sizzling forehands. He played Novak’s cat-and-mouse game too often.
Nadal is fully capable of winning on grass and hard courts as his seven Grand Slam titles on those courts might indicate, including five on hard courts at the U.S. Open and Australian Open. He also has a hard-court title from the Olympics.
If not, it’s been a grand time for tennis fans to follow the exploits of Federer and Nadal for most of the last two decades.
See James Beck’s Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com (search on James Beck column). James Beck can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com
Germany reaches the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time since 2007
Germany came from behind to beat Great Britain 2-1 reaching the semifinals at the Davis Cup by Rakuten for the first time since 2007. Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz beat Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury in the decisive double match to seal the comeback win.
Great Britain got off to a perfect start in their Davis Cup quarter final against Germany, as Dan Evans cruised past Peter Gojowczyk 6-2 6-1 in Innnsbruck. Jan-Lennard Struff beat Cameron Norrie to level the tie.
Evans dropped just six points on serve in a perfect opening set. Gojowzcyk started the match with four double faults in his first two service games and made 14 unforced errors in the opening set. Evans broke serve twice to race out to a 4-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Evans earned an early break at the start of the second set after another double fault from Gojowczyk. The British player sealed the win after just 55 minutes, when Gojowczyk made another double fault in the seventh game.
“That was some of the best tennis I played all year. I did not feel good this morning, so it has been nice to come and get out a win for the team: I didn’t play great the other day and decided to stay cross court a lot of the match and give myself a big opportunity. I worked hard and that was the story of the match, make him take the ball down the line”, said Evans.
Jan Lennard Struff upset this year’s Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-2 in the second singles match to level to 1-1. Struff saved two set points in the first set and broke twice in the third set to force the match to the decisive doubles match.
Struff opened up a 4-1 lead in the opening set with a break in the second game but Norrie broke twice in the seventh and eleventh games and was serving for the first set at 6-5. Norrie took a 6-4 lead in the tie-break, but Struff won the final four points to clinch the first set.
Norrie claimed the second set 6-3 with his only break in the sixth game. Struff reeled off the final four games with two consecutive breaks to close out the third set 6-2.
“It was one of the most important victories of my career. I am very happy the way I played today. Cameron Norrie is a very tough competitor, who is fighting very hard. I started very well, went up 4-1 up, but when you take so many risks, you can expect that more mistakes will come. It’s tough. I had the feeling I had the pressure on him. I made it today”, said Struff.
Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz completed the comeback win to beat Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury 7-6 (12-10) 7-6 (7-5). Both teams went on serve with no breaks of serve. Krawietz dropped the first point on his serve in his first service game.
Puetz and Krawietz fended off four set points to win the first tie-break 12-10.
The German doubles team won seven consecutive points to come back from 0-5 down in the second tie-break setting up a semifinal against either Sweden or Russia. Croatia will face either Serbia or Kazakhstan in the other semifinal.
Germany has won three Davis Cup titles but has not lifted a trophy at this event since 1993. The German team has reached its first semifinal since 2007.
At the inaugural edition held in Madrid two years ago Great Britain beat Germany in the quarter finals before losing to eventual champions Spain in the semifinal.
Great Britain was seeking its fourth semifinal spot in the past six editions.
Craig Tiley Confident Of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Appearance Despite Vaccination Uncertainty
Novak Djokovic will not want to miss the chance of winning a 21st grand slam at the Australian Open, says Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.
Head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, believes Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open despite uncertainty over Djokovic’s vaccination uncertainty.
It was last week where Tiley confirmed that all players must be vaccinated in order to compete in next year’s Australian Open.
Most of the tour is vaccinated however it’s still unclear as to whether world number one Novak Djokovic is double vaccinated.
On one hand the world number one attended an event in New York which required vaccination but on the other hand Djokovic has raised doubts over his concern about revealing medical records in the public domain.
However speaking to radio station SEN on Thursday Tiley seems confident that Djokovic will play in January, “Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I’m sure he wants to get to 10,” the Australian was quoted as saying by The Mirror.
“He’s on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer. One of them is going to surpass the other and I don’t think Novak would want to leave that feat to someone else.
“And so it should be, because there shouldn’t be any preferential treatment coming into the state compared to what the regular community is going through.”
Should Djokovic play he would be going for a record 10th Australian Open crown and a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.
That would put him ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on grand slam numbers.
Speaking on vaccination topics Tiley also gave positive figures on the amount of tennis players fully vaccinated and is aiming for a bigger number come the end of December, “Today more than 85% are [vaccinated],” Tiley said.
“And we take a lot of credit for that because we put a vaccination requirement on it. We think by the time we get to January it will be between 90-95% vaccinated because if you’re not, you cannot play.”
The Australian Open will be the first grand slam of the year and will take place on the 17th of January.
The 10 Highest-Earning ATP Players of 2021
37 men on the ATP Tour have earned more than $1M in prize money this year but who has made it into the top 10?
If the 10 highest paid players on the ATP Tour put their 2021 earnings together it would exceed more than $40M and that doesn’t take into account what they have made away from the court via endorsements or other business activities.
A total of 37 men has crossed the $1M mark in prize money winnings this year which is nine more than the women’s WTA Tour who operate their own financial structure. Out of that group only one man has managed to make more money in doubles than singles to reach the milestone. That was France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert who made $619,550 against $449,421.
11 men surpassed the $2M mark with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10 by $89,907. So who has made the most this year and how have they done it?
UbiTennis looks at the on-court earnings of the world’s best players based on data from the ATP. The figures are in US$ and don’t take into account other factors such as endorsements.
10) Jannik Sinner
Total earnings: $2,233,199
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,159,534 DOUBLES $73,665
ATP Matches won: 46
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 10
Italy’s Jannik Sinner is the youngest player on the list at the age of 20. His earnings this season equates to almost two thirds of what he has earned during his entire professional career ($3,623,450). In 2021 the rising star won three ATP 250 titles and one 500 event in Washington. He also reached his first-ever Masters 1000 final in Miami which he lost to Hurkacz. On the other hand, he has experienced mixed results in the Grand Slams with two first round losses and two fourth round runs.
Sinner is the youngest player to finish a season inside the world’s top 10 since Juan Martin del Potro back in 2008.
9) Hubert Hurkacz
Total earnings: $2,313,289
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,173,247 DOUBLES – $140,042
ATP Matches won: 36
ATP titles won: 3
Year-end ranking: 9
Poland’s Hurkacz has achieved a series of firsts in his career this year. Prior to 2021, the 24-year-old had only ever won one ATP 250 title and never reached the second week of a major tournament. This changed in April when he stunned the field to win the Miami Masters whilst seeded 26th in the draw. Scoring back-to-back wins over top 10 players for the first time. A couple months later Hurkacz became the first male player from his country to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since 2013. He also won hard court titles in Delray Beach and Metz.
Hurkacz is the first Polish man in ATP rankings history to finish a season inside the top 10.
8) Casper Ruud
Total earnings: $2,314,629
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,230,592 DOUBLES – $84,037
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 8
Norway’s own king of clay Casper Ruud has blossomed on the Tour this season. During the summer he became the first player since Andy Murray in 2011 to win three ATP titles within as many weeks. The trio of titles during July came a couple months after he won another clay-court event in Geneva, Switzerland.
Clearly Ruud is at his most comfortable on the dirt but he has also produced some strong results on the hard courts. In February he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open which is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. More recently, he won his first ATP title on the surface at the San Diego Open. Another sign of Ruud’s consistency this season is the fact he has reached the quarter-finals or better in five out of six Masters 1000 tournaments he has played in this year.
He is the first Norwegian to finish in the year-end top 10 on the ATP Tour.
7) Cameron Norrie
Total earnings: $2,623,881
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,518,782 DOUBLES – $105,099
ATP Matches won: 50
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 12
British talent Norrie started the year ranked outside the top 70 but has surged up the rankings since then. He has featured in the final of no fewer than six tournaments this year across three different surfaces. It was in the Mexican city of Los Cabos where he won his maiden trophy. However, that achievement was later surpassed by his unexpected run to the title in Indian Wells which is one of the biggest tournaments outside of the majors.
Norrie has recorded a career-best 50 wins this season and has recorded two wins over top 10 players – Dominic Thiem in Nice and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.
6) Matteo Berrettini
Total earnings: $3,231,908
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,201,126 DOUBLES – $30,782
ATP Matches won: 41
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 7
Berrettini’s season came to a heartbreaking conclusion after he was forced to pull out of the ATP Finals in his home country due to injury. However, prior to that the Italian can take comfort in what has been another breakthrough season for him. It was on the Grass where Berrettini achieved his biggest success by winning the Queen’s title before going on to reach his first major final at Wimbledon.
Known for his thunderous forehand, the 25-year-old also achieved new milestones on the clay by reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid. A couple weeks after Madrid, he won the Belgrade Open. Overall, he reached the quarter-final or better in three out of the four Grand Slam events.
Berrettini is the first Italian man in history to finish a season inside the top 10 on three separate occasions.
5) Andrey Rublev
Total earnings: $3,331,378
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,131,467 DOUBLES – $199,911
ATP Matches won: 49
ATP titles won: 1
Year-end ranking: 5
Rublev is the only player on the list to not win multiple titles this season. His sole triumph took place back in March when he won the Rotterdam Open. Although since then he has also reached the final of two Masters 1000 events as well as a 500 tournament in Halle. In the majors he achieved a win-loss record of 9-4 which his best result being a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Among the 10 highest earners this year, Rublev has won the most when it comes to playing doubles ($199,911). Alongside compatriot Aslan Karatsev they won the Qatar Open and reached the final in Indian Wells. Rublev also won gold in the mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Tokyo Olympics but prize money isn’t awarded at that event.
4) Stefanos Tsitsipas
Total earnings: $3,579,155
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,503,608 DOUBLES – $75,547
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 4
Prior to being forced to pull out of his last tournament of the year due an elbow injury, Tsitsipas has enjoyed a mainly successful season on the Tour. The Greek has reached the semi-final stage or better in nine tournaments he has played in, including both the Australian Open and French Open. It was at Roland Garros where he played in first major final and led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five.
Overall, Tsitsipas has reached five ATP finals, winning titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Lyon Open. However, all of his final appearances took place during the first half of 2021 and he hasn’t defeated a top 10 player during the second half.
Nevertheless, he closes out 2021 with a year-end best ranking of fourth.
3) Alexander Zverev
Total earnings: $6,420,344
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $6,361,173 DOUBLES – $59,171
ATP Matches won: 59
ATP titles won: 6
Year-end ranking: 3
Zverev tops the 2021 leaderboard when it comes to most matches won (59) and most titles (six). However, he still hasn’t been able to rise to the top of the highest-earning players. The German saw a surge in his prize money last week where he won the ATP Finals which earned him an impressive $2,143,000.
This season Zverev has triumphed at two ATP 500 events, two Masters tournaments, won a gold medal at the Olympics and claimed the ATP Finals trophy. These achievements enabled him to become the first German player since Boris Becker back in 1994 to finish a season inside the world’s top three.
Against top 10 opposition, the 24-year-old had a winning record of 12-8.
2) Daniil Medvedev
Total earnings: $7,481,271
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES -$7,466,284 DOUBLES -$14,987
ATP Matches won: 58
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 2
More than a third of Medvedev’s earnings this year is from just one tournament. His triumph over Novak Djokovic at the US Open earned the Russian a $2.5M payout. To put that into perspective, only six other ATP players have managed to earn more than this amount throughout the entire season.
Medvedev also won two 250 titles, as well as the Canadian Open. He finished runner-up at the Australian Open, Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Against top 10 opposition, he won 10 out of 15 matches played.
As a result of his success, Medvedev is the first Russian man since 2000 to finish a season ranked inside the world’s top two.
1) Novak Djokovic
Total earnings: $9,100,547
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $9,069,225 DOUBLES – $31,322
ATP Matches won: 51
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 1
Djokovic has played in 12 just tournaments this season but it is his success at the majors which has elevated him to the honour of the highest-earning player in men’s tennis this year. By winning three out of the four Grand Slams he made roughly $6M alone. On top of that, Djokovic also won the second Belgrade Open and the Paris Masters.
The world No.1’s surge this year further cements his position as the highest-earning tennis player in history when it comes to prize money. His tally now stands at $154,756,726 which is over $24M more than his nearest rival (Roger Federer has made $130.5M).
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