COMMENT: Karolina Pliskova Never Fully Recovered Against Barty At Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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COMMENT: Karolina Pliskova Never Fully Recovered Against Barty At Wimbledon

James Beck reflects on the roller-coaster women’s final which saw Barty become the first Australian to win the women’s title since 1980.

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s hopes for winning her first Grand Slam title were virtually doomed from the start of Saturday’s Wimbledon women’s singles final.

 

She literally didn’t show up for the first 14 points of the match. It wasn’t that Ashleigh Barty was doing anything real special, except play perfect tennis.

Basically, Pliskova didn’t play competitive tennis in the first four games of the match. She didn’t look like a former world’s No. 1 player. Even Chrissie Evert said, “This is a little disappointing.”

With Pliskova appearing to play half-heartedly, Barty unofficially hit four winners, two aces and four unreturnable serves before committing her first error on the 15th point when she netted a backhand. The good-natured Australian isn’t perfect after all.

MORE PLISKOVA GIFTS

Pliskova wasn’t finished with charity. Just when it appeared she might actually win the match after taking the second set, she gave away four of the five points in her first service game in the third set en route to a love-3 start.

The sandwich set between the first and third sets really didn’t matter in the end, although both players played reasonably well and hit some great shots. However, Pliskova never seriously threatened to win the match.

Barty is the Wimbledon women’s singles champion for the first time. The two-time Grand Slam champion is now widely acknowledged as the best player in the women’s game.

WINNING TITLE A BIG DEAL

Getting this one out of the way with a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 victory, of course, was a big deal for the always likable 5-5 Australian. She showed a few nervous moments of her own, enough that she allowed Pliskova to take the second set and almost enough to let Pliskova recover from the service break in the second game of the third set.

By the way, the service break that decided the third set was a true gift from Pliskova. It went like this for the Czech: backhand error, double fault and forehand error for 0-40, then a forehand winner before netting a novice-looking forehand volley from nearly on top of the net.

EVERYTHING CAN’T BE PERFECT

Things like Pliskova’s gifts to Barty occur often in sports.

Remember the great Roger Federer’s relative give-me swinging volley error and slip two points later on a simple overhead put-away at the net in the tiebreaker that likely cost him the second set in his straight-set loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the Wimbledon men’s quarterfinals?

Who knows what might have happened if Federer hadn’t had those two unlucky mishaps that put the Swiss great in a 4-2 hole in the tiebreaker. He might even have made it to the final against Novak Djokovic. 

FAN-PLEASING MOMENTS

Barty and Pliskova both had their own wildly fan-pleasing moments.

As it turned out, the 6-1 Pliskova is actually a lot quicker and mobile than it sometimes appears.

On one spectacular display of talent in the second-set tiebreaker, Barty came up with what looked like a winning drop shot and charged the net after it, but Pliskova got a racket on the ball and lobbed it over Barty’s head only to see Barty chase the ball down and put up another shot.

 Pliskova was waiting in the middle of the net to smash Barty’s shot away. That one was much more exciting than my description makes it sound.

THE MATCHUP WAS NEARLY EVEN

Barty’s most exciting play may have been the one on the first point of the match’s last game when Pliskova ran down a ball on the baseline with Barty heading to the net. Quickly retreating from the net with her back to the net, the athletic Barty leaped high into the air and stretched out fully to put away a backhand volley.

Other than those games and instances that went completely bad for Pliskova, the 29-year-old Czech pretty much matched Barty off the ground and serving. Pliskova’s big strokes kept Barty off the net much of the match.

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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. 

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The ATP reveals the nominees for the 2021 Awards

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The ATP has revealed the nominees for the 2021 Awards for all players categories: Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship of the Year and for the Coach of the Year. 

 

Casper Ruud and his father Christian (a former world number 39 player) have picked up a total of three nominees. Ruud won five ATP Tour titles in Geneva, Baastad, Gstaad, Kitzbuhel and San Diego and is a candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. Christian is one of five nominees for the Coach of the Year Award together with Craig Broyntom (Hubert Hurkacz), Gilles Cervara (Danil Medvedev), Juan Carlos Ferrero (Carlos Alcaraz) and Facundo Lugones (Cameron Norrie). 

Carlos Alcaraz, Aslan Karatsev and Cameron Norrie are the nominees for the Most Improved Player Award. 

Felix Auger Aliassime, 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe and Ruud are the candidates for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. Nadal won the Sportsmanship Award. 

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Mackenzie McDonald, Andy Murray and Jack Sock have been shortlisted for the Comeback player of the Year Award. 

The shortlist for the Newcomer of the Year Award includes Sebastian Baez, Jenson Brooksby, Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Hugo Gaston and Brandon Nakashima. 

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Serbia tops Kazakhstan to set up Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia

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Serbia set up a semifinal against Croatia in the Davis Cup by Rakuten as world number 1 Novak Djokovic led his team to a comeback win over Kazakhstan. 

 

Mikhail Kukushkin gave Kazakhstan a 1-0 lead with a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 7-6 (13-11) win over Miomir Kecmanovic in the first singles match.  

Djokovic sent the Davis Cup quarter final match into a deciding doubles match after cruising past Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-4. The Serbian star scored his 17th consecutive singles win in a Davis Cup match. 

The Wimbledon champion returned to the court to team up with Nikola Cacic in their 6-2 2-6 6-3 win over Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov. 

Kukushkin beats Kecmanovic 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (13-11)

World number 182 Michail Kukushkin saved four match points to beat Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (13-11) in 3 hours and 16 minutes after an entertaining quarter final match at the Davis Cup by Rakuten in Madrid to give Kazakhstan a 1-0 lead over Serbia. Kukushkin fought back from 2-5 down in the deciding set and saved four match points before converting his fifth match point to win the tie-break of the third set 13-11. 

Kecmanovic earned an early break in the first game to take a 2-0 lead. Kukushkin pulled back on serve immediately to draw level to 2-2. Both players went on serve in their next service games en route to the tie-break. Kukushkin earned a mini-break to take a 2-1 lead. Kecmanovic pulled back on serve for 4-5, but Kukushkin earned his second mini-break to claim the tie-break 7-5. 

Kukushkin took an early 3-1 lead with a break in the fourth game of the second set. Kecmanovic pulled back on serve in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. The Serbian player converted his fifth set point on Kukushkin’s serve in the tenth game to seal the second set 6-4. 

Kecmanovic opened up a 3-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Kukushkin saved five five break points in the fourth game to avoid falling down 0-4. When Kecmanovic was serving for the match at 5-3, he dropped serve after wasting two match points. 

Kecmanovic was the first to earn match point in the tie-break but he hit a forehand long at 6-5. The Serbian player fended off four match points but Kukushkin converted his fifth match point to seal the breaker 13-11. 

Djokovic beats Bublik 6-3 6-4

Djokovic earned two break points with a forehand at 2-1. Bublik saved the first chance with an ace. Djokovic converted his second break point after Bublik made a drop shot error. Djokovic held his next service games to close out the first set 6-3. 

Djokovic went up a 2-1 lead with a break in the third game of the second set. The 20-time Grand Slam champion won close to 90% of his first service points to open up a 4-2 lead. He held his service game to love to take a 5-3 lead. Bublik held his serve fo 4-5 in the ninth game, but Djokovic served out the win on his second match point. 

“The Davis Cup is a team competition. It’s completely diffferent than any other competition”, said Djokovic. 

Serbia beats Kazakhstan 6-2 2-6 6-3

Djokovic and Cacic broke twice in the fifth and seventh games to win the opening set 6-2. 

Golubev and Nedovyesov converted their fourth break point in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. The Kazakh team sealed the second set 6-2 with a double break in the eighth game. 

Djokovic and Cacic earned two breaks in the fifth and ninth games to win the third set 6-3. 

“I am proud of the fighting spirit. We dropped off in the second set, but we bounced back and held our nerves. I am proud of Nikola and of my team”, said Djokovic. 

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Rafael Nadal To Skip ATP Cup Ahead Of Australian Open

Where will the former world No.1 play his first tournament of 2022?

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WASHINGTON, USA - August 4: Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Citi Open Tennis Tournament at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center on August 4, 2021 in Washington, USA (Photo by Peter Staples)

20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will not be starting his season at the ATP Cup in Australia, according to a leading sports newspaper.

 

Marca has reported that the former world No.1 has opted to not play in the team event which is set to get underway on January 1st. Nadal is currently on the comeback from a foot injury and hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since August. Next month he will return to action in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship which is an exhibition event.

“I am very happy to be back at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi,” Nadal said in a video released earlier this week. “I hope to see you soon there.”

It is understood that due to his off-season schedule Nadal has chosen to pass on the team event but it is unclear as to what or if he will play in any other events leading up to the Australian Open which will begin on January 17th. Besides the ATP Cup, four ATP 250 events will be staged in the lead up to the Grand Slam.

The 35-year-old isn’t the only top Spanish name set to miss the ATP Cup. It has also been reported that rising star Carlos Alcaraz and Marcel Granollerswill not be playing as they intend to arrive in Australia at a later date. Instead the team will be headed by Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta. Unlike the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup offers both ranking points and prize money to players.

Nadal has won 24 out of 29 matches played on the Tour this year before ending his season due to injury. He won the Italian Masters and Barcelona Open to increase his career ATP title tally to 88. In the majors he reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semi-finals of the French Open.

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