Aslan Karatsev and Andy Murray reach the second round at the Sydney Tennis Classic - UBITENNIS
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Aslan Karatsev and Andy Murray reach the second round at the Sydney Tennis Classic

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World number 20 Aslan Karatsev overcame Lorenzo Sonego 6-2 3-6 6-3 to advance to his fifth semifinal in the past year at the Sydney Tennis Classic. 

 

Karatsev broke five times to beat Sonego in a hard-fought match after 1 hour and 49 minutes. 

Karatsev earned his first break in the opening game and did not face any break points in the next games. He sealed the first set with a double break on his third opportunity in the seventh game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Karatsev converted his seventh break point in a hard-fought first game of the second set. Sonego broke straight back on his second opportunity in the second game. Karatsev saved three break points in the sixth game. Sonego fended off four break points in the seventh game before earning his break on his fourth chance to close out the second set 6-3. 

Sonego saved two break points in the fourth game of the third set. Karatsev converted his second break point chance in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. The Russian player sealed the third set 6-3 on his fifth break point in the ninth game. 

The Russian player reached the semifinal at the Australian Open as a qualifier and was voted the 2021 Most Improved Player of the Year. 

Karatsev set up a semifinal match against either Daniel Evans or US Maxime Cressy, who reached his first ATP Tour final at the Melbourne Summer Set last week. 

Andy Murray advanced to the semifinal when his opponent David Goffin was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-2. The Belgian player received treatment on his knee during the first set. 

Murray has won three consecutive matches for the first time since winning the European Open title in Antwerp in 2019. In the previous round Murray won a hard-fought three-set match against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, who he will face in the opening round at the Australian Open. 

Murray broke serve in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead and saved break points in the fifth game at 3-1 when Goffin overhit a second-serve return. Murray fended off another break point before earning his second break point in the eighth game to seal the second set 6-2. 

Murray has scored wins against Viktor Durasovic and Nikoloz Basilashvili and has extended his lead to 7-0 in his head-to-head matches against Goffin. 

Last year’s Toronto Masters 1000 finalist Reilly Opelka hit 17 aces to edge past Brandon Nakashima 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 after 83 minutes. Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Opelka earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-4. The US player broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the second set 6-2.

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Novak Djokovic Storms Into Wimbledon Third Round For 16th Time

The top seed dealt with the breezy conditions and his Australian opponent with ease in what was largely a one-sided performance.

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Novak Djokovic (SRB) - Credit: AELTC/Joe Toth

Novak Djokovic has sent out a warning to this year’s men’s draw at Wimbledon by producing a clinical win over Thanasi Kokkinakis to reach the third round on Wednesday.

 

The world No.3 dictated proceedings throughout his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, triumph over Kokkinakis. A player who is currently 79th in the world that has been hampered by injury issues throughout a large chunk of his tennis career. Djokovic has now won 307 Grand Slam main draw matches and a staggering 1007 at Tour level. The latest performance saw him produce a total of 29 winners against 14 unforced errors

“I’m very happy with my performance today. I thought I started with well, I was very solid from the back of the court,” said Djokovic.
“I tried to make him work a lot around the court and brought a lot of variety into the game.’
“It was not easy to serve because of the wind but from my side overall it was a really high-quality performance and I’m very pleased.”

In what was their first Tour meeting in seven years the reigning champion got off to a dream start against an erratic Kokkinakis. The Australian struggled to control his unforced error count early on which resulted in him getting broken in his opening service game. Meanwhile, Djokovic settled in instantly as he worked his way to a 3-0 advantage with relative ease. A couple games later the double break was sealed with the use of a delicate drop shot which Kokkinakis failed to return over the net. He went on to close the set out yet another carefully placed drop shot. 

Contending with strong gusts of wind, as well as Kokkinakis’ speedy serve, Djokovic broke once again early in the second frame with a winning volley at the net. Despite glimmers of impressive shot-making from his opponent, it failed to materialize into any momentum as the Serbian eased to a two-set lead. Down 3-5 Kokkinakis valiantly saved four set points to hold serve. However, Djokovic proceeded to seal the two-set lead in the following game.

Djokovic’s relentless hitting overwhelmed his opponent who looked growingly lost on the court. The start of set three saw a 12-minute Kokkinakis service game where the Australian buckled once again whilst under intense pressure. Strolling to a game from victory, Djokovic closed out the match with a serve out wide that Kokkinakis returned out.

It is the 16th time in Djokovic’s career he has reached the last 32 at SW19 and his 13th in a row. Only Jimmy Conors has achieved a longer run of 14 between 1972-1985. In total, he has won 81 matches at Wimbledon which is the third-highest tally for a male player in history. 

“I’m quite pleased with the way I have raised my level within two days,” said Djokovic who defeated Kwon Soon-woo in the first round. 
“Hopefully I can keep that trajectory and keep getting better as the tournament progresses.”

Djokovic will play compatriot Miomir Kecmanović in the third round. He leads their head-to-head 2-0. 

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(EXCLUSIVE) Ricardas Berankis’ Coach On Wimbledon Showdown With Rafael Nadal

Dirk Hordorff speaks to UbiTennis about the world No.106 and his chances against the second seed.

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Ricarcas Berankis at Wimbledon (image via http://www.yonex.co.uk/_assets/)

Ricardas Berankis is no stranger to Wimbledon as he marks the 12th anniversary of his first-ever main draw win at the tournament after coming through three rounds of qualifying.

 

A stand-out player in his younger years, the Lithuanian topped the world junior rankings and won the US Open boys title back in 2007 when he defeated Jerzy Janowicz in the final. Transitioning to the pro level was never straightforward for Berankis who is now 32-year-old. Nevertheless, he has made his impression on the Tour with runs to two ATP Tour finals in 2012 (Los Angeles) and 2017 (Moscow). He also won the 2015 US Men’s Clay Court doubles title in Houston alongside Teymuraz Gabashvili.

Today Berankis is ranked 106th in the world, which is 56 places below his career-high. His best performance on the ATP Tour so far this season was in Abu Dubai when he came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Denis Shapovalov. He also reached the final of a Challenger event in Lille.

At Wimbledon this year he started his campaign with a straight-sets win over former semifinalist Sam Querrey. Making it only the fourth time in his career he has won a main draw match at the tournament. His reward is a showdown on Thursday with the formidable Rafael Nadal who is seeking a historic 23rd major title and his third in a row. Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.

So can Berankis trouble Nadal on the grass?

The best person to ask is Germany’s Dirk Hordorff who coaches Berankis. The veteran coach has also previously collaborated with the likes of Rainer Schuettler, Lars Burgsmüller, Yen-Hsun Lu, Kristian Pless, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Vasek Pospisil.

During an email exchange with UbiTennis, Hordorff shared his thoughts about Berankis’ upcoming clash with Nadal.

UBITENNIS: It wasn’t until Melbourne this year that Ricardas played Nadal on the Tour for the first time. He lost the match 6-2, 7-5. What did his team learn from that experience?

HIRDORFF: I was not in Melbourne, but I coached unsuccessfully in a lot of matches against Rafa. He is next to Novak (Djokovic) over so many years as a true champion and a great person outside the court. You learn every match against him and Ricardas is ready for this match.

UBITENNIS: When it comes to playing a member of the Big Three, how do you as a coach go about dealing with Berankis’ mentality?

HIRDORFF: Ricardas played a good first round against Sam Querrey. Nevertheless, to play Rafa is a different issue. You need to concentrate on your abilities and not worry about history.

UBITENNIS: Nadal was sternly tested during his opening match. Does this in any way give a confidence boost towards Berankis or do you think it is irrelevant?

HIRDORFF: Every match starts at zero. What Rafa played yesterday doesn’t affect Ricardas’ match. Anyway, Rafa won his first round quite solidly against a good upcoming player.

UBITENNIS: Whilst the odds might be against Ricardas, it isn’t impossible that he could defeat Nadal. What will the key areas be for him to focus on during their match? (e.g. return position, use of slice etc).

HIRDORFF: Ricardas needs to focus on his abilities and take his fine form from the first round in this match. Rafa is a complete player, so you need to perform well in all aspects of the game.

UBITENNIS: What is the most difficult thing about playing Nadal on the tour?

HORDORFF: He is a complete player with a lot of special strengths. Strong serve, good backhand, fast, perfect coordinate and no weak parts in his game.

UBITENNIS: Ricardas might be 32 but he has shown some good results on the Tour (runner-up at a Challenger event in Lille and QF in Dubai). Given the trend of players playing later into their careers, is his best yet to come?

HIRDORFF: Ricardas had to deal with a lot of health problems. I am sure that the best part of his career is yet to come for him.

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Serena Williams Loses Late-Night Wimbledon Thriller To Tan

In what could possibly be her final appearance in singles at The All England Club, Williams was edged out by a French qualifier.

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The eagerly awaited return of Serena Williams to professional tennis has ended in defeat after she crashed out of the first round at Wimbledon. 

 

Until this week, it has been 12 months since the 40-year-old last played a Tour-level match in singles. Taking on French qualifier Harmony Tan, the American bowed out 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7), after more than three hours of play. Making it the first time she has suffered back-to-back losses in the opening round at Wimbledon after being forced to retire in 2021 due to an ankle injury. 

Williams had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the decider but failed to seize the opportunity. Paving the way for Tan to go on and narrowly prevail in the tiebreaker during what was a sensational encounter with plenty of twists and turns.

“It was really tough. I had some chances in the first set. It didn’t work out, it was just totally different to me.” Williams said during her press conference.
“It was definitely a long battle and fight. It was better than last year.”

Playing in her 21st Wimbledon main draw, Williams got off to a rollercoaster start that saw her fall behind 0-2 before she valiantly battled back with the help of a four-game winning streak. It was visible that she still had tremendous power in her shotmaking despite her lengthy absence from the sport but the inevitable signs of rust were also on display. 

It was for this reason that the opener featured various changes of momentum with 24-year-old Tan drawing level. A player who was playing in the Wimbledon main draw for the first time and briefly broke into the world’s top 100 earlier this year. Tan continued applying the pressure with the clever use of slice shots as she benefited from a series of mistakes from the Tour veteran. Back-to-back mistakes from Williams and then a winning forehand from the Frenchwoman on the next point enabled her to break for a chance to serve the first set out at 6-5. A mission she accomplished with a winning forehand passing shot on set point.  

Williams briefly left the court whilst there was a delay to the match for the roof to come on. Upon her return, she found herself in a mammoth Tan service game which lasted around 20 minutes. A total of 12 deuces were featured before the American converted her sixth break point opportunity by hitting a shot that painted the baseline. That breakthrough would prove to be a turning point in the match as Williams went on to level at one set apiece. 

Exchanging breaks early on in the decider, fatigue began to settle in for both players during what was one of the most dramatic encounters to take place in the women’s draw in recent times. Williams looked to be on the verge of sealing victory after a Tan backhand into the net enabled her to break for a chance to serve the match out at 5-4. It was evident how much the match meant to Williams who threw her hands in the air out of pure relief. However, she failed to capitalize on the opportunity. It would be a gutsy Tan who would go on to prevail in the tiebreaker. Ending Williams’ Wimbledon campaign this year and potentially permanently. 

“I don’t know what to say because I am so emotional but she is a superstar and for my first Wimbledon but it is just … wow,” Tan said in her post-match interview with the BBC. “When I saw the draw I was really scared. It’s Serena Williams. She’s a legend and I was like ‘Oh my God, how can I play?’. I thought if I could win one or two games it would be really good for me.”

The question now is where does Williams go from here? After already establishing herself as one of the all-time greats with 73 Tour titles and more than $94M in prize money earnings, she can easily walk away from the sport with her head held high. Furthermore, she has plenty of other interests to keep her busy. One of which is her multi-million-pound investment fund named Serena Ventures.

“That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. Who knows where I’ll pop up.” She replied when asked about her future in the sport.
“I gave all I could. Maybe tomorrow I could have given more. Maybe a week ago I could have given more. At some point you have to be able to be okay with that. And that’s all I can do. I can’t change time or anything.”
She added.

It would be foolish to write Williams off right away with her home Grand Slam, the US Open, later this year. After her defeat to Tan, Williams said it made her want to return to the practice courts. A sign that she isn’t done with tennis just yet. 

“When you’re at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam, is something that’s always super special. Your first time is always special.” She said.
“There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”

As for Tan, she faces 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round.

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