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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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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays Carlos Alcaraz for the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz after winning his semifinal on Friday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 14 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in gentlemen’s singles and mixed doubles.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic was on a 34 match Wimbledon win streak, playing for his fifth consecutive title, and had not lost a match on Centre Court in a full decade.  But in a spectacular five-hour five-setter, Carlos Alcaraz upset the all-time great to win his first Wimbledon title.  On Sunday, we get the rematch, as Djokovic looks to avenge that painful loss, and Alcaraz looks to defend a Major title, and win back-to-back Majors, for the first time.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

They followed up last year’s championship match here with another fantastic final just a month later in Cincinnati, where Djokovic saved championship point to eventually win in a third-set tiebreak, and after nearly four hours of play.  Novak would go on three weeks later to win the US Open, while Carlitos was not the same player for some time.  Alcaraz would not reach another final at any event for over six months, until this past March in Indian Wells. 

Despite a few surprising losses, and an injury that disrupted his season, Alcaraz is now a strong 32-6 on the year, and a superb 17-1 at Majors.  Carlitos has been able to quickly rebound from upsets at smaller events, like his loss to Jack Draper a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, and up his level for the big events.  He’s dropped five sets through six matches, most of which have contained some sloppy play at times, yet Carlitos has played his best when it mattered most to reach his fourth Major final.  And he’s 3-0 thus far in Major finals.

2024 has been a surprisingly subpar season in the illustrious career of Djokovic.  Not only has he not won a title to date, he hadn’t advanced to a final until now.  Playing a more limited schedule, he’s just 23-6 this season.  And it was just a month ago that he was forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros quarterfinals after suffering a knee injury, which required surgery and put his Wimbledon status in doubt.  Yet Novak has recovered almost miraculously, dropping only two sets to this stage, though he did receive a quarterfinal walkover of his own from an injured Alex de Minaur.

Overall Djokovic is 3-2 against Alcaraz, and they’ve split two meetings at Majors, both of which took place a year ago.  In the 2023 Roland Garros semifinals, Carlitos started cramping after just two sets of play, and provided little resistance in sets three and four.  That made his five-set victory in this final a month later all the more surprising.

Novak has not appeared to be significantly hampered by his surgically-repaired knee, though there’s no way it can be 100%.  So if another five-setter takes place on Sunday, that has to favor Carlitos, especially since he is an amazing 12-1 when pushed to five sets in his young career.

But the Djokovic CV at this tournament, and at this stage of Majors, is beyond formidable.  Since the start of The Championships in 2014, he is 59-3 at SW19.  And during the same span at all Majors, he is 42-8 in semifinals and finals.  Novak just very rarely loses matches like this, especially on Centre Court.

On a that surface usually favors the aggressor, Djokovic has been able to change that narrative with his stifling defense and court coverage.  However, Alcaraz is one of the only players Djokovic has ever faced who can match him defensively, and at times dictate play against him with his risk-taking style.  We saw here a year ago just how frustrated Novak became by Carlitos’ game, damaging the net post by breaking his racket against it after getting broken in the fifth set.

Yet as many have mentioned these last two weeks, Djokovic “has that look about him,” meaning the steely determination and confidence that he was lacking during the first six months of this year appear to be back.  He is extremely motivated to reassert himself atop the game, in a season where the new generation of Alcaraz and Sinner won the first two Majors. 

If Carlitos gets off to another slow start on Sunday (he’s lost the first set in three of his six matches thus far), or suffer lapses in his level again, Novak will take advantage of that better than any of the defending champion’s previous opponents.  And while he’ll surely do so at some point in his career, until Alcaraz defends a Major title, or wins back-to-back Majors, it’s hard to favor him to do so.  I’m backing Djokovic to win his eighth Wimbledon title, and his historical 25th Major singles title, the most of all-time.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Santiago Gonzalez and Giuliana Olmos vs. Jan Zielinski Su-wei Hsieh (7) – The Mexican team of Gonzalez and Olmos are playing for their first Major title, as Olmos is 0-1 in Major finals, while 41-year-old Gonzalez is 0-4.  Zielinski and Su-wei won this year’s Australian Open as a team, the first Major title of Zielinski’s career, while Su-wei has now won eight between women’s doubles and mixed, and is 8-1 in Major finals.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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(VIDEO) Steve Flink, Ubaldo On The Wimbledon Women’s Final: ‘The Better Player Won But Did Inexperience Play A Part?’

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Image via https://x.com/WTA

Hall of Famer Steve Flink joins Ubitennis to analyse the Wimbledon women’s final after Barbora Krejcikova beat Jasmine Paolini in three sets.

The Czech held her nerve to clinch only her second win over a top 10 player this year and follow in the footsteps of her late mentor Jana Novotna. It is only the second Grand Slam title Krejcikova has won and her first since the 2021 French Open.

Meanwhile, Paolini can still draw positives from what is a stellar season for her. She is projected to rise to a ranking high of No.5 on Monday as a result of her latest run. However, did inexperience cost her in today’s final? 

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Jasmine Paolini Plays Barbora Krejcikova for the Ladies’ Singles Championship

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Jasmine Paolini after winning her semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 13 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and gentlemen’s doubles.

It’s cliché, and usually untrue, to say “No one expected these two finalists.”  But in this case, it is absolutely true.  Prior to this fortnight, Jasmine Paolini had never won a match at The Championships.  And Barbora Krejcikova arrived at SW19 with a losing record on the year.  Yet both will play in their second Major singles final on Saturday, after inspired play during this tournament.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

After failing to advance beyond the second round in her first 16 appearances at Majors, Paolini is now 15-2 in her last three, and is the first WTA player to reach the final of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2016.  Jasmine is 30-12 on the year, and has won 14 of her last 16 matches.  She has been taken to three sets twice during this event, most recently outlasting Donna Vekic in a third-set tiebreak during Thursday’s semifinals.

Krejcikova has also required three sets in two of her six matches to this stage, upsetting 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the semis.  That was the third win in a row for Barbora over a higher-seed, after ousting two other big hitters, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko.  She’s accomplished all this despite being just 7-9 this season before this tournament began.  Injuries have plagued her career since her 2021 Roland Garros singles title, including a back injury earlier this year. 

Paolini is 2-4 lifetime in singles finals at WTA level, while Krejcikova is 7-5.  However, when you consider their appearances in Major finals between singles and doubles, Paolini is 0-2, having lost both the women’s singles and doubles finals last month in Paris, while Krejcikova is an amazing 11-1.  That’s a huge contrast in success at Grand Slam level.

These players also possess contrasting styles.  Paolini has been crushing her forehand, using it to come forward and show off her great hands at the net.  Krejcikova has a good serve, as well as both power and guile on her groundstrokes.  She loves using her slice to keep her opponents off-balance.  However, that will be more difficult to do against such a great mover like Jasmine.  And Barbora’s forehand has become unreliable in some crucial moments during this fortnight, which the Italian can target.

But on this surface, and considering her history in Major finals, I give the edge to Krejcikova to win her second Major singles title.  Plus, Barbora has already won two ladies’ doubles titles on this same court.  And she would surely cherish the chance to honor her late coach and mentor Jana Novotna by holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft on Centre Court, just as Jana did in 1998.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) vs. Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten – This is a fourth Major final in men’s doubles for Purcell, who won this title two years ago alongside another Aussie, Matthew Ebden.  Thompson had never advanced beyond the fourth round of a Major in either men’s singles or doubles until this run.  Patten is also a Major final debutante, while Heliovaara won last year’s US Open in mixed doubles.

Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Siniakova is playing for the ninth Major title in women’s doubles, while Townsend is playing for her first, after going 0-2 in previous finals.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and Routliffe will become the new World No.1 in women’s doubles on Monday, regardless of Saturday’s result.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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