Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the first ATP player born in the 1990s to win an 18th Tour title after beating a spirited Frances Tiafoe in the final of the Vienna Open.
The world No.4 produced a dominant service display to oust the underdog 7-5, 6-4, after an hour and 36 minutes of play. Against Tiafoe, he won 80% of his first service points and produced 19 aces. Making him only the second player this season to win a fifth ATP trophy after Norway’s Casper Ruud. Earlier this year Zverev won titles in Mexico, Madrid, the Tokyo Olympics and Cincinnati.
“It’s great. I didn’t start the week off very well. I didn’t feel like I was playing well but the last few matches were great,” Zverev told TennisTV afterwards.
Clashing against each other on the Tour for the seventh time in their careers, Zverev has only ever lost to his American opponent on one previous occasion. However, this week Tiafoe had been the man to beat after producing three consecutive wins over a top 20 player. Something the qualifier had never done in a tournament until now.
Fittingly the opening set saw both men produce some of their best tennis to the delight of the animated Vienna crowd. Second seed Zverev was the first to draw blood after breaking for a 3-1 lead. Although his advantage was short-lived with a resilient Tiafoe fighting back by winning seven points in a row. Eventually the two would be separated by just a couple points. As Tiafoe served to stay in contention at 5-6, the German worked his way to his first set point but was denied by an ace. However, Zverev prevailed on his second attempt with the help of a shot from his opponent landing out.
Heading into the second frame Tiafoe tried to get into the mind of the multiple Grand Slam finalist by toying with his standing position on the court and joking with the crowd. However, Zverev’s concentration throughout the final remained unbroken. In a match of fine margins the 24-year-old had multiple break point chances during the second frame but was denied by Tiafoe who produced some emphatic tennis. However, like the opener Zverev triumphed at the most critical time. With Tiafoe serving to stay in the final, he stormed to a 40-0 lead with a trio of championship points in his favour. He prevailed on his fist with a clean backhand winner.
“I won the Olympic Games, that’s the biggest thing you can win in sport. I also won two Masters series and two 500 events (in 2021). It’s very tough to beat that but I still have two more tournaments to come and I hope I do well there as well,” said the Vienna champion.
There is a silver lining for Tiafoe who will rise to 41st in the rankings on Monday which will be his highest position since July 2019. Earlier in the tournament he scored his first ever win over a top three player by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas. He also scored wins over Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman.
“Man, I’m tired,” Tiafoe joked during the trophy ceremony. “I just want to thank the crowd. You guys were unbelievable the whole week, you guys have been getting behind me like crazy. This is the best week I’ve had in my career so far.’
“Sascha I’ve known him for so long since I was ten, eleven years old. We are going to know each other for many more years and hopefully battle many times (on the Tour). I think he’s going to be a hall of famer, he’s going to win a ton of Grand Slams and be number one in the world – this guy is special.” He added.
Returning the praise, Zverev also spoke highly of his longtime friend who hadn’t reached a Tour final for more than three years until this week. The German believes Tiafoe has want it takes to reach the top of the men’s game if he ‘keeps his sh*t together.’
“You’ve been improving every single week and you’re gonna climb up the rankings extreme fast I think, if you keep your sht together,” he said to the 23-year-old. “On a serious note, I’ve told you before that you are one of the most talented young guys on the Tour. I don’t only want to see you in the top 30, top 20. I want to see you in the top 10. I want to battle the biggest finals against you. Right now at the stage where tennis is, tennis needs you so from all of us (the sport) keep you sh*t together and we will see you in the top 10 soon hopefully.”
Zverev has now won 52 matches this season which is the second highest on the ATP Tour after Tsitsipas who leads with 55.
Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match
Following his first round defeat, the Brit spoke about why he believes it is important to speak out in support of the LGBT community.
It is sometimes the small gestures which go a long way and Liam Broady showed that during his first round match at the Australian Open.
Taking to the John Cain Arena for his night-time clash against Nick Kyrgios, the qualifier embarked upon a situation he had never experienced before with a boisterous crowd cheering on their home player. At times the atmosphere resembled that a football match with fans drinking beer and chanting Christiano Roinaldo’s ‘siu’ celebration. The reason as to why they were doing that particular chant was unclear.
Broady ended up falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, to Kyrgios who will next play the formidable Daniil Medvedev. Throughout the match the world No.128 was wearing rainbow laces and he did so for a special reason.
“I just kind of wanted to send the support. I know obviously within men’s tennis — is it a taboo? I don’t think it’s really a taboo, but I’ve seen questions before about why there aren’t any openly gay men on the tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area,” Broady explained during his press conference.
“And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you in my own sort of way.”
The Rainbow Laces initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League before later expanding into other sports. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport.
Tennis is renowned for having some of the most formidable LGBT athletes over the years with the likes of pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who were among some of the first to speak openly about their sexuality. However, on the men’s Tour it is somewhat different. There are currently no openly gay players and only a small handful in the past. Although most of those players, such as Brian Vahaly, came out after retiring from the sport.
“I saw that the first openly gay footballer just came out in Australia (Josh Cavallo) a month or two ago. And it’s difficult, right? I mean, it’s a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it’s pretty rubbish that people don’t feel like they can be openly gay. It’s quite sad, really,” Broady continued.
“Hopefully I will help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and you kind of, you don’t want to force them to come out, you know, especially if they don’t want to. It’s their choice.’
“So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything’s okay.”
It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out about LGBT rights. In 2018 he criticized Margaret Court who likened gay-rights activists to Adolf Hitlef in terms of what she claims is ‘propaganda.’ Court has a history of making anti-LGBT remarks despite insisting that she has nothing against gay people.
Broady says he doesn’t personally know of any gay player on the Tour. Although if there was, he assumed that it would be known because the sport is a ‘pretty leaky ship’ when it comes to having private details revealed online.
On Monday the Australian Open will launch their first ever Pride Day at the tournament.
Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned
Busta has booked his place in the second round at Melbourne Park for the sixth year in a row.
On day one of the Australian Open, Spanish ace Pablo Carreno Busta sealed an efficient straight-sets win to take his place in the second round.
The Spaniard was no match for Argentinian qualifier Tomas Etcheverry coming through 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
The 30-year-old from Giron sailed through the opening set that included two breaks in the fourth and sixth game.
Etcheverry, who won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, improved in the second set.
However, it wasn’t enough as Carreno-Busta flicked through the gears breaking his younger opponent in the third and seventh game to seal the set.
In the third, the 2017 and 2020 US Open semi-finalist took an early break of serve, only to be pegged back by Etcheverry who forced a tie-break.
It wasn’t to be for the 22-year-old though as Carreno-Busta turned up the heat with some big groundstrokes to move into round two.
Next up for the world number 21 is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor who thrashed a poor Fabio Fognini in straight sets.
The out of sorts Italian was beaten 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Having lost in the first round of the US Open in September, the former world number world number is nine is in danger of slipping outside the top 40.
Having shown much promise to win a first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo back in 2019, the husband of former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, looks desperately short of motivation and confidence.
Fognini is yet to go beyond the fourth-round of a major, and at 34 time is running out for him to mine the potential that made him one of the sports best juniors growing up alongside Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Elsewhere, former Australian Open star Lucas Pouille, was knocked out in round one by fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet.
Wildcard Pouille has endured a glut of injuries since making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago.
The 27-year-old has now fallen to 159 in the world.
Pouille made a bright start to take the opening set 6-3, but his lack of fitness and confidence soon showed, as he lost the following sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Czech Jiri Vesley, also slumped out to American wildcard Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
He will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini next.
Cameron Norrie Puzzled By Australian Open Defeat
It was a bad day at the office for the British number one.
Cameron Norrie is finding it hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for him in his first round match at the Australian Open.
The 12th seed could only win seven games against Sebastian Korda as he crashed out 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, after just over 100 minutes of play. It is the third time in four appearances that Norrie has fallen in the first round at Melbourne Park but last year he did manage to reach the third round. Against his American rival, he hit 29 unforced errors compared to 23 winners and was broken five times.
“I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and I was just slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.’
“Any time I had a chance to kind of come back, he (Korda) served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in any big points today.”
It has been a far from smooth start to 2022 for the 26-year-old who also suffered disappointment at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In the team tournament he lost all three of his singles matches to Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Zverev is the only one of the trio currently ranked higher than him.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Norrie’s latest defeat is the fact he seemed perplexed about why he played the way he did. Asked by one journalist if he was possibly suffering any lingering affects from catching COVID-19 during the festive period he replied ‘No, I think I prepared as well as I can, and I felt fine physically, fine mentally.’
Norrie was one of the breakthrough stars last year on the ATP Tour when he raced up the world rankings. He featured in six Tour finals across three different surfaces and won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The stellar season earned him a place at the ATP Finals as a reserve and he even played two matches following the withdrawal of Stefanos Tsitsipas due to injury.
“I don’t know why I played the way I did today. I was feeling good physically,” he said. “Yeah, I played a lot of matches (last year) but this is what we (tennis players) are paid to do and just not good enough. I just need to raise my standards, practice, matches, and execute a lot better.”
Of course, credit has to be given to Korda, who is making his debut at Melbourne Park. The American had a far from ideal preparation for the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 which forced him to withdraw from two warm-up events.
21-year-old Korda has now beaten a top 20 player on six separate occasions. He will play France’s Corentin Moutet in the second round.
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