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The Fans Aren’t Always The Winners

Shapovalov has the tools to trouble Djokovic, while Hurkacz beats Federer and looks born to play on grass

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What’s a tennis fan to do?

 

The fan can’t win on a Wimbledon quarterfinal day that features Roger Federer and bright young budding superstar Denis Shapovalov playing at the same time. Not against each other, but on different show courts at Wimbledon.

Shapovalov is in the final game of a five-set victory over Karen Khachanov that sent the blond-haired Canadian into a semifinal showdown with Novak Djokovic. Federer is in the fourth game of one of the most humiliating losses of his storied tennis career.

Even fans in the stadiums watching these two matches couldn’t fully enjoy both of them.

There has to be a better alternative than this.

A GREAT DAY GOES HAYWIRE

Of course, ESPN and ESPN2 had the matches covered. A fan could sit in front of a TV and watch both matches in their entirety with this wonderful modern technology named “record” by DIRECTV and other cable providers.

It’s a great day to watch the whole show, all four quarterfinals. You can go back and forth on the recordings a few times to avoid getting too far behind the other match.

Of course, you want to be sure to keep track of Federer since he is trying to keep his hopes alive for a record 21th Grand Slam title. So, you start out watching Roger and a previously obscure Polish 24-year-old. You think this one won’t take long. Fed’s just too good, you reason.

THERE’S NO SECRET: ESPN BREAKS THE NEWS

So, what happens? The ESPN crew, led by Chris Fowler, alerts viewers: “On the No. 1 court Denis Shapovalov is trying to close out Khachanov, up a break in the fifth . . . two points away from a semifinal date with Djokovic.”

All of your planning is shot. You rush to switch to the live version of the Shapovalov match. And there it is: Shapovalov is up 30-15.

The explosive left-hander goes to 40-15 and a double match point with a forehand winner, followed by another sizzling forehand that forces a netted backhand by Khachanov. That sends Shapovalov on a backward celebrative dive to the turf and a sprawl-out.

He’s there, ready for a shot at Djokovic, who is seeking a tie with Federer and Rafa Nadal at 20 Grand Slam titles.

SHAPOVALOV IS CAPABLE OF TAKING IT ALL

It would be a big upset, but I think Shapovalov has the tools to halt Djokovic’s drive to 20. The Canadian left-hander with the one-hand backhand has some of the biggest ground strokes in pro tennis, a sizzling forehand and a picture-book backhand that he can whip in either direction.

Shapovalov is all power, everything from ground strokes to serve and overheads, along with great volleys due to his quickness and athletic ability. Yes, he can run with Novak. Shapovalov just needs to be a little more deliberate in choosing when to go for his shots.

The net is about the only thing that can prevent Shapovalov’s missiles from hitting his opponent’s grass. He does net a few forehands and backhands when he’s rushing his decision and shots.

But don’t go betting against Novak yet. It might be safe when Shapovalov serves ahead 40-15 and a break in a decisive game in the fifth set.

If not this time, the 22-year-old Tel Aviv native has plenty of time. Tennis fans around the world witnessed the so-often effects of age a little after Shapovalov finished off a 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Khachanov.

WHO IS HUBERT?

It’s a little unfortunate for Federer and his fans that he had to go down so easily in straight sets and a love third.

To Hubert Hurkacz?

Who?

It just happens that the almost awkward-looking and moving 6-4 Polish player has beaten most of the top players in the game this year, with the exception of Djokovic and Nadal and a couple others.

Now that Federer and No. 2 ranked Daniil Medvedev have fallen prey to Hurkacz, he has had a solid year. He also owns wins in 2021 over the likes of hotshots Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Jannik Sinner and Shapovalov along with Milos Raonic while winning the big Masters Miami Open.

HURKACZ VS. BERRETTINI

Can Hurkacz take out strong-hitting Matteo Berrettini in Friday’s Wimbledon semifinals? Hurkacz defeated Berrettini in 2019 in Miami in their only official tour tournament meeting, but lost to the Italian a year earlier in qualifying for the Australian Open.

Berrettini will come at Hurkacz with power. But Hurkacz is becoming quite the tamer of big hitters such as Medvedev and even silky smooth hitters like Federer.

Hurkacz’ most effective weapon is his serve. It’s among the best in pro tennis. He can hit the outside line like clockwork at a high speed. His backhands and forehands look a little awkward. But they are highly effective, especially when he knows he can back them up with nifty drop shots and amazingly accurate shots at the smallest opening.

A GAME BREAKER

Even though he doesn’t look like he can run, Hurkacz is very quick. He also has long arms that seem to reach halfway across the court, and he can sky straight skyward at the net if an opponent happens to throw up a lob off his drop shots. He used that ability in one key point that appeared to discourage Medvedev late in the fifth set of their round of 16 match.

Hurkacz  is also an effective volleyer. He even beat Federer in at least one exchange of multiple volleys at the net.

Wimbledon’s grass suits Hurkacz perfectly.

He practically took the racket out of Medvedev’s and Federer’s hands.

And he does it all with a straight face, or what might be called a “game face”. Even when he is doing serious damage to the image of a legend like Federer.


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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Ash Barty Reveals ‘Excitement’ After Mixed Doubles Medal In Tokyo

Ash Barty has revealed her excitement after her and John Peers won Australia’s first Olympic tennis medal for 17 years.

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Ash Barty and John Peers (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Ash Barty revealed her excitement at winning Bronze in the mixed doubles in Tokyo with John Peers.

 

The world number one along with doubles specialist John Peers claimed Australia’s first tennis medal at the Olympics since 2004.

Despite benefiting from a bronze medal match withdrawal from Novak Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic, that hasn’t taken away the happiness of claiming an Olympic medal.

Speaking to the Channel 7 programmes Sunrise Barty proudly spoke about the achievement, “It’s been an amazing week for both John and I,” Barty was quoted as saying by Tennis Australia.

“We’ve played some great tennis, probably the best we’ve ever played together. To walk away with a medal and contribute to the team total here in Australia has been incredible.

“Johnny and I, we put ourselves in a position all week to play good tennis and I feel like we really deserve this one. We were so close to being in that gold medal play-off and I think for both of us, it’s been awesome. We’ve played great. I felt like we really deserved this one for Australia.

“No, I think for us it’s excitement. I just hope as athletes, as a whole Australian team that’s here – all 480 odd of us – we can bring a smile to people’s faces at home when they’re sitting on the couch enjoying watching us trying (to) go out there and do Australia proud.”

As for John Peers it was an achievement of a lifetime, inspired by the traditional Olympic spirit, “Any chance you get to represent your country and to do it alongside Ash, to be able to say we’re the first mixed doubles medallists at an Olympics for Australia is something really special,” the 33 year-old commented.

“There was so much uncertainty leading into the Games and to be able to see the way the Australian team’s come together and sort of really bonded has really shown the Australian spirit, the way that all the athletes get behind each other.

“To be able to show the Olympics is going on in uncertain times is just something really special and unique and hopefully it can be the turning point for the world, and Australia, to come out the other side.”

Both will be hoping that this week will be the start of something special for Australian tennis as they will look to capitalise on this success in three years time in Paris.

Next for John Peers will be Washington next week where he and Filip Polasek are the top seeds.

While Ash Barty will be starting her preparations for the US Open in Cincinnati which starts on the 16th of August.

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Czech Republican Trailblazers Inspire Krejcikova and Siniakova To Olympic Gold In Tokyo

Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova reflect on Czech Republic’s Olympic past after Olympic gold.

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Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova admit that former Czech Republican trailblazers inspired them to win doubles gold in Tokyo.

 

The top seeds claimed gold with a 7-5 6-1 win over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.

After edging a tight opening set, the Czech Republican duo eased to victory to claim gold in Tokyo.

It was a historic gold as the pair went one better than trailblazers Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova who won silver in Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1992.

After the victory today Krejcikova paid tribute to those before them and said that they were inspired by those who came before them, “The motivation we got from the previous medallists is really big,” the Roland Garros champion told the ITF website.

“I think we got really inspired by them. I think we really need to thank them because without them we just wouldn’t have the motivation and the inspiration.

“It’s really big. We’re really happy and really grateful that we could be here. We did such a great job during these 10 days and we have this beautiful gold medal. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

While Katerina Siniakova also outlined how special it is to win the gold medal as the top seeds remain the team to beat in the Women’s doubles game, “It’s really special this one,” Siniakova admitted.

“I really enjoyed my whole time here. It was really tough and I’m so glad we kept fighting and in the end we have this one, this gold medal. It’s really amazing. I feel so honoured I got to represent my country.”

The Czech Republican will be favourites to win their fourth grand slam at the US Open in late August.

As for Bencic and Golubic, it has been a successful tournament especially for Bencic who won Olympic gold yesterday.

After the match Bencic admitted it’s not just about Olympic medals and that its about the memories created, “It’s not just about the medals or the titles, it’s about the memories you create that will last forever,” Bencic claimed.

“To share this with Viki is unbelievable. The whole week I never felt like I was in a normal tournament or playing alone. She was alongside me the entire way. I always tell her we won this gold medal together as well.

“When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that.”

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold

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Karen Khachanov celebrating victory earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

48 hours after ending Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam, a feat only achieved by German Steffi Graf, Sascha Zverev looks to win another gold medal for Germany.  But a big-hitting Russian stands in his way, one who owns a winning record against Zverev on hard courts.

 

The last day of tennis in Tokyo will also host two gold medal matches in doubles.  In women’s doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have won three Majors, and now go for a gold medal against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  For Bencic, it’s an opportunity to win a second gold medal in as many days.  

In addition, a pair of teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee will face off for gold in mixed doubles.  Will Elena Vesnina be able to recover from a devastating loss in Saturday’s women’s doubles bronze medal match?  Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova held four match points, only to lose the last six points of the match and fail to reach the podium.

Sunday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.

Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – Second on Centre Court

Overall they have split four previous encounters, but Khachanov leads 2-1 on this surface, which includes their two most recent meetings.  And neither of those have been close.  At the 2018 Paris Masters, it was 6-1, 6-2.  At the 2019 Rogers Cup, it was 6-3, 6-3.  The event in Paris was the biggest title run of the Russian’s career, and a week where he also defeated Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.  However, he hasn’t won a title, or even reached a final, ever since.  And prior to his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, Khachanov was only 16-14 on the year.  But it is worth noting he’s 4-0 lifetime in ATP finals, with his other three victories coming at 250-level events.

Zverev is certainly the far more accomplished player.  He owns 15 career titles, which includes four Masters events, as well as the 2018 ATP Finals.  And he’s reached the semifinals or better at Majors three times, something Khachanov is yet to achieve.   Though I do wonder just how much scar tissue was created by his loss in the final of last year’s US Open, where he was up two sets before eventually losing in a fifth-set tiebreak.  Both he and Dominic Thiem played a considerably nervy match, and this will be Zverev’s first best-of-five final since that painful loss.

And that could be a significant factor on this day: the men’s singles gold medal final is the only match at the Olympics that is best-of-five.  Zverev possesses a much stronger record in best-of-five, and a far superior record in five-setters.  As per Tennis Abstract, Sascha is 16-9 in fifth sets, compared to Karen’s record of 6-7.  And Khachanov’s two most recent five-set wins were not pretty.  A few weeks ago in the fourth round of Wimbledon, against Sebastian Korda, 13 out of the 18 games in the fifth set were breaks of serve.  And last summer at the US Open, he was only able to come back from two sets down thanks to the cramping of Jannik Sinner. 

So who is the favorite to win gold?  Their head-to-head favors Khachanov, while recent form and best-of-five experience favors Zverev.  And the German has been serving excellently throughout this tournament, striking 40 aces and only three doubles, especially impressive for a player who has suffered from double fault issues in the recent past.  However, Zverev had a much easier road to this final than Khachanov.  Other than Djokovic, Sascha faced no one ranked inside the top 40, while Karen beat three top 30 players.  The Olympics are an event which often produces surprising tennis results.  And these are two men who are known to get tight in big matches.  But considering the way Zverev has been serving, and the confidence boost his upset of Djokovic should provide, I give Sascha the slight edge to become an Olympic champion.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] – Vesnina not only lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, she and Kudermetova also served for the championship a few weeks ago at Wimbledon, before losing 9-7 in the third.  And Vesnina and Karatsev were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, the same event where Pavlyuchenkvoa lost in the women’s singles final.  Who will realize redemption on Sunday?

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic – The Czechs are of course the favorites, with three Major titles as a team.  The Swiss are a new team formed exclusively for this event.  But don’t count them out, especially with Bencic coming off a gold medal victory in singles on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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