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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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Planning Key For Daniil Medvedev’s Comeback From Hernia Surgery

Daniil Medvedev cruised past Facundo Bagnis in his opening round at Roland Garros.

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Daniil Medvedev (@atptour - Twitter)

Daniil Medvedev has spoke about preparation and planning after his first win since hernia surgery.

 

The second seed was victorious in his opening round at Roland Garros after beating Argentinian Facundo Bagnis 6-2 6-2 6-2.

Medvedev usually hates the clay court season but the Russian, who reached the quarter-finals last year, cruised to victory with the loss of just six games.

This is only Medvedev’s second tournament since hernia surgery which took place after the Miami Open.

Speaking to the press after his win Medvedev said that planning was the key to his comeback, “The thing is that, yeah, for sure when I made surgery, I didn’t know — I thought I’m not going to come back on clay. I thought I’m going to come back for grass,” the Russian admitted.

“But straightaway we made a good plan with my team, with my doctor team and physio team, to try to get me back on track as fast as possible. Because also what is tough is there is no sign of when you can actually start playing tennis. It’s just kind of you start, and if you feel pain, you should stop straightaway.

“So I started after four weeks, which usually it can take up to six weeks, I heard, average. I never had pain, so we are going step by step slowly, first day 30 minutes and then 45. Same, yeah, I went to Geneva to see how my body is. I felt great physically. I managed to put really strong practice hours here before Roland Garros. I feel 100% ready physically, so thanks to my team.”

Medvedev will look to build momentum as he prepares to miss Wimbledon due to Russian and Belarusian athletes being banned.

Now for the world number two the focus is on Roland Garros and on clay and after his match he broke down why he isn’t as effective on clay than he is on hard courts, “I would love to think that it’s not mental, because every time I start playing on clay every year, because you have to, I’m like, Come on, you know, just be better. This year is going to be different, is going to be, for you, the clay, and then I feel like I need a lot of time to adapt,” Medvedev explained.

“It’s about the movement, and I think my strokes are given like in the air because the balls are much heavier, they have dirt on them, so a lot of my balls, not at Roland Garros but other courts, for example, it was the case in Geneva, I feel like I’m doing a good job but it just goes in the net.

“When you don’t know what you can improve, that’s where it’s tough because you’re, like, What do I do next shot? Yeah, it’s not the case here, so I’m happy about it. So I know I’m capable of doing some good things. But, yeah, I need to be 100% focused and ready for what clay has to give to me. Right now I feel ready.”

Medvedev will look to continue his confidence on Thursday when he takes on Laslo Djere in his second round match.

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Denis Shapovalov Left ‘Frustrated’ After Early Roland Garros Exit

Denis Shapovalov has a lot thinking to do after his round one exit to Holger Rune in Paris.

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Denis Shapovalov (@andertennis - Twitter)

Denis Shapovalov left feeling frustrated after he lost 6-1 6-3 7-6(4) to Holger Rune in the first round of Roland Garros.

 

The Canadian headed into the opening round with confidence after reaching the last eight in Rome.

However Shapovalov hit 53 unforced errors in an underwhelming performance as he went to an in-form Holger Rune.

Rune, who won Munich and reached the semi-finals in Lyon, played electric tennis as he moves into the second round to play Henri Laaksonen or Pedro Martinez.

As for Shapovalov he was left frustrated and admitted improvement is needed ahead of the grass court season, “For sure I wasn’t able to bring out my best performance,” Shapovalov said in his post match press conference.

“It’s definitely frustrating. It just shows I have a lot to work on. And just
excited to get back to work. Never think I’m done learning and improving.
So, yeah, it’s difficult moment, but I just keep working. I didn’t really
show up today, so it’s a little bit difficult.

“Holger is playing some great tennis, won his first title, semis last week, I believe, pushing some top guys. So yeah, for sure not taking anything away from him, obviously he’s playing great tennis.

“But I think against most players today I wouldn’t come out the winner. So, yeah, a little bit frustrating on my side and just feel like I need to improve some things. Be sure that I’m ready for the slams.”

It’s another disappointing grand slam performance from Shapovalov who recognises he must do better in the future in order to break into the world’s top 10.

Speaking of the future the grass court season is up next where Shapovalov reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

However due to the ATP’s decision to remove ranking points as a result of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon, whatever happens at SW19 Shapovalov will lose a hefty amount of points.

That is a decision that the Canadian doesn’t necessarily agree with, “I haven’t decided anything yet. Been trying to focus on this tournament,” Shapovalov admitted.

“I think first of all, if you have a pro competition, that everybody should be competing. I completely understand the politics and the situation they’re in. But again, if you have a tennis tournament that’s supposed to have the best athletes in the world, it shouldn’t matter where you’re from, this and that, you know? So everybody should be competing.

“I also don’t agree with the ATP to take out all the points. The most guys it’s affecting are the guys in the top rankings. Obviously Novak, me, Hubi, Berrettini, who is not playing here, we’re going to drop a lot. I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past or some kind of fairness. But even a guy like Fucsovics is going to drop out of the top 100, you know.

“So it’s difficult for the players when you don’t have a chance to defend and especially on a surface like grass where it’s already so short and the players that play well on that surface they don’t have that many opportunities tom make points, so you take a huge chunk of it out, it’s super difficult for players.”

It’s a dilemma many players will face heading into Wimbledon over the next few weeks.

As for Shapovalov his next tournament will be in Stuttgart which starts on the 6th of June.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Two Veteran Frenchmen Play Their Last Roland Garros

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga practicing last week in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

A pair of 37-year-old Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, have announced this will be their last Roland Garros.  Simon will retire at the end of this season, while this will be Tsonga’s last tournament.  With both drawing formidable, seeded players in the first round, Tuesday may be the last French Open match of their long careers.

 

With 12 matches postponed from Monday due to rain, Tuesday will be an extra busy day in Paris.  And Tuesday night’s matchup is a meeting of two men who were up two-sets-to-none last year over eventual champion Novak Djokovic: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Musetti

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Denis Shapovalov (14) vs. Holger Rune – 11:00am on Court 12

Shapovalov has reached the quarterfinals or better at every other Major, but he is 2-3 lifetime at Roland Garros, and is yet to get out of the second round.  However, he has some significant results on this surface, including two Masters 1000 semifinals, and a victory two weeks ago over Rafael Nadal.  It would seem only a matter of time before Denis makes a deep run at this event, though that may not happen this year, as his opponent on Tuesday is on a steep upward trajectory.  Rune is a 19-year-old from Denmark who impressed in 2021 by taking a set off Novak Djokovic at the US Open, as well as winning four Challenger titles.  He has carried that momentum into 2022, by winning another Challenger title, and then his first ATP title, both on clay.  In his Munich title run, Holger upset Sascha Zverv.  And just last week, he was a semifinalist in Lyon.  So this is a very dangerous opening round draw for Shapovalov, especially considering his lackluster history at this event. 


Casper Ruud (8) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (WC) – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier

This match may mark the end of an illustrious career for Tsonga.  The Frenchman was a Major finalist in 2008, and has won 18 ATP titles, including two at the Masters 1000 level.  But injuries have severely impacted his last several seasons.  Since the start of 2020, Jo is only 4-19 at all levels, and is currently ranked 297th in the world.  In what will be his last tournament, he has drawn one of the ATP’s best clay court players.  Ruud has accumulated seven titles on this surface, six of which have come since last May.  Just a few days ago in Geneva, Casper defended his title.  It would be shocking is Tsonga could pull off the upset, but hopefully Jo can at least provide the Parisian crowd with some of his signature flair and shot-making in what will likely be his swan song.


Paula Badosa (3) vs. Fiona Ferro (WC) – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier

Badosa is the third seed, and the second-highest seed remaining following Barbora Krejickova’s exit on Monday.  But is she a top contender for this title?  She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and went 17-3 on clay last season.  Yet in 2022, she’s only 6-4 on this surface.  Ferro made a run to the fourth round of this tournament two years ago, though she’s spent much of the past year injured, and is currently ranked outside the top 100.  It would be surprising if the Frenchwoman can truly test Badosa, but Paula’s performance level could be a good indicator of just how serious her title chances are.


Pablo Carreno Busta (16) vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Fifth on Court Simonne Mathieu

Like his friend and fellow countryman Tsonga, Simon has achieved a lot: 14 ATP Titles, and a career-high ranking of No.6.  But he’s also had a rough few seasons.  Gilles went 6-24 at all levels last season, and only has one tour-level win in 2022.  And he also received a tough draw in the sixteenth seed, as Carreno Busta is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist, and was the runner-up last month in Barcelona on clay, where he earned impressive victories over Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman.  Pablo is 4-2 lifetime against Gilles, and has taken their last three meetings in straight sets.  All evidence indicates this will be the last match for another accomplished French player at his home Slam.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Last year in the fourth round, Musetti won the first two sets against Djokovic in tiebreaks.  But in the last three sets, the Italian mustered only one game, eventually retiring down 4-0 in the fifth.  That was a disappointing end to a breakthrough run for the 20-year-old, as it was his first appearance in the second week of a Major.  And Musetti has struggled ever since.  He has failed to win three consecutive main draw matches in the past year.  Meanwhile, Tsitsipas has his own demons at this event.  Not only did he also fail to capitalize on a two-set lead over Djokovic last year, but he also lost a heartbreaker in 2019 to Stan Wawrinka, in a five-set, five-hour epic.  But Stefanos leads the ATP with 31 wins this season, 14 of which have come on clay.  And he’s 2-0 against Musetti, which includes a victory last May on clay.  The Greek is a heavy favorite to advance on Tuesday evening.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Facundo Bagnis – Medvedev is 0-1 on clay this season, having missed nearly two months of action due to hernia surgery.  Bagnis is a 32-year-old from Argentina who won a Challenger event on clay two months ago.

Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Lucia Bronzetti – Ostapenko went on a nine-match win streak in February, but the 2017 champion is 0-5 since.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who is 9-3 this year on clay at all levels.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Soonwoo Kwon – Rublev won a clay title last month in Belgrade, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.  He’s 2-0 against Kwon, with both of those contests occurring in February of this year.

Simona Halep (19) vs. Nastasja Schunk (LL) – Halep is a modest 4-2 on clay this season, as her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is yet to pay dividends.  Schunk is a 18-year-old German who has reached two ITF finals this season.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Chloe Paquet – Sabalenka is only 13-11 on the year, and this is the only Major where she’s yet to reach the second week.  Paquet is a 27-year-old from France who achieved five finals at ITF events in 2021.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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