Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Gentlemen’s Singles Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Gentlemen’s Singles Semifinals

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Novak Djokovic is 29-11 in Major semifinals (wimbledon.com/AELTC/Ben Solomon)

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from history: his 20th Major title, which would tie him with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  And his stats compared to the remainder of the field are astounding.  19 Majors to none.  29 Major finals to none.  41 Major semifinals to four.  36 Masters 1000 titles to one.  84 titles to nine.  10-0 Djokovic in their combined head-to-heads.

 

However, the other three semifinalists all possess the firepower necessary to threaten to world No.1, especially on this surface.  And with his 20th Major title in sight, as well as the first calendar Grand Slam in the men’s game since 1969, I would expect Novak to display some nerves sooner rather than later.

Friday’s juniors action will begin at 11:00am local time on the outer courts.  The ladies’ doubles semifinals will start at 1:00pm on No.1 Court.  The gentlemen’s singles semifinals commence at 1:30pm on Centre Court, followed by the first mixed doubles semifinal.

Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (14) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Their only previous tour-level meeting came at 2019’s Miami Open, with Hurkacz prevailing in straight sets.  That’s the same event the 24-year-old from Poland won earlier this year, the biggest title of his career.  Hubi would go on to lose his next six matches, and as recently reported by Christopher Clarey of The New York Times, he suffered from COVID-19 shortly after his Miami title run.  But since arriving at SW19, he’s been a different player, capping off a five-match win streak with his best win yet: a straight-set upset of his childhood idol, Roger Federer.

Berrettini’s biggest title to date came just a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, part of the 25-year-old’s 10-0 run on grass this season, during which he’s claimed 25 of 28 sets contested.  Other than Djokovic, Matteo is the only semifinalist to have a previous appearance at this level, which occurred two years ago in New York.  And his record of 31-6 on the year is far superior to that of Hurkacz, who outside of this event and Miami actually has a losing record this season.

Breaks of serve against either man have been infrequent this fortnight, with four breaks against Hurkacz, and five against Berrettini.  Matteo has struck 30 more aces than Hubi, and only two more double faults.  And as ESPN highlighted, the Italian has been averaging 80% of returns in play, which could be a deciding factor in a match where breaks of serve will be so pivotal.  If Berrettini can maintain service and return stats at those levels, he’s a considerable favorite to reach his first Major final.  However, his lack of match play on Centre Court this fortnight is concerning, as compared to Hurkacz who dazzled Centre Court on both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Matteo’s last Centre Court appearance came two years ago on Manic Monday, when he was demolished by Roger Federer.  But his experience edge over Hubi in big matches, especially in Slam semifinals, may prove crucial.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (10) – Second on Centre Court

Of Novak’s 10 victories against the other semifinalists, six of them have come against Denis.  In those six meetings between January of 2019 and February of 2021, the 22-year-old Canadian has managed only two of 15 sets.  But their two most recent encounters, which took place at the two most recent ATP Cups, were both tight, high-quality affairs. 

Since losing his first set of the tournament to Jack Draper, Djokovic has rattled off 15 straight, with only one going to a tiebreak.  Shapovalov has achieved up-and-down results over the last 12 months, but has looked plenty comfortable and confident on the grass of The All England Club.  His straight-set wins over Andy Murray and Roberto Bautista Agut were convincing, yet most impressive was his five-set victory over a formidable Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals.

So does Denis have a shot to pull off the upset?  If Shapovalov plays his best, and as if he has nothing to lose, yes.  And even moreso if Djokovic plays as if he has to a lot to lose, which he certainly does.  Denis’s groundstrokes off both sides rival the speed of any player in the draw, and he’s struck more winners than unforced errors in all his matches thus far.  But Djokovic is better than anyone at making his opponents hit extra shots, and uncomfortable ones at that.  Novak has claimed his last five semifinals at this event, and 15 of his last 16 at all four Majors.  While I expect Shapovalov to make this competitive, Djokovic remains the favorite to reach his seventh Wimbledon final.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Elise Mertens and Su-Wei Hsieh (3) vs. Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama (5) – Hsieh and Mertens are both accomplished doubles players with other partners, but are yet to reach the final of any event as a team.  Shibahara and Aoyama are on an eight-match win streak after winning the grass court title in Eastbourne, though this is the farthest their partnership has ever advanced at a Major. 

Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina vs. Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders – The Russian team took out top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova on Wednesday 9-7 in the third.  This is only Dolehide and Sanders’ second event as a team, after reaching the final of Birmingham last month in their debut.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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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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