Carlos Alcaraz Sweeps Away Korda At French Open - UBITENNIS
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Carlos Alcaraz Sweeps Away Korda At French Open

Carlos Alcaraz avenges his loss to the American in Montecarlo by prevailing in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 6-2, and displaying an impressive repertoire of shots and tactical choices

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Carlos Alcaraz - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

When Sebastian Korda stunned Carlos Alcaraz in the first round of the Montecarlo Open, just six weeks ago, the Spaniard’s rise was even hinted to have come to a slowdown and some eyebrows and doubts were raised on his effective proficiency on clay.

A very short time elapsed before Alcaraz brushed them away with his back-to-back victories in Barcelona and Madrid, beating along his way Nadal; Djokovic, and Tsitsipas, the most dominant players on clay over the last two seasons.    

In his rematch with the only player who had defeated him on clay this year Carlos Alcaraz showed no hesitation from the start, breaking in the third game, holding serve comfortably, earning and missing a second break point for a 4-1 lead. Though Alcaraz gave the impression of being dominating, pounding winners from any position and with any shot, Korda didn’t lose further ground, stayed within reach, and from the eighth game he moved to a more aggressive position for returning serve and started threatening, despite still missing. First set destiny was unaltered: the Spaniard took it 6-4. 

In the second set players were battling point to point. Korda, ever more aggressive on the Spaniards serve, clasped two break points in the fourth game, but wasn’t able to convert. He squandered his second break point with an avoidable unforced error and Alcaraz rushed on to hold. 

Alcaraz seemed capable of coping with any situation. Accepting the duel with Korda’s aggressive returns, he was looking to take over the rallies from the third or fifth shot. But his opponent was not retreating an inch. The quality of the match was rising and peaked in a blissful top quality fifth game. Alcaraz sliced a sublime backhand passing shot into the feet of a net-blitzing Korda, which won him the point; soon after he placed a millimetric lob.  The American responded with a swinging backhand down the line, a backhand overhead, a winning forehand down the other line. In turn, a counter dropshot by Alcaraz which fell a few inches after the net, was a final prelude to the break, which he grabbed with an aggressive forehand down the line. Like in the first set, Korda didn’t let him widen the gap, but neither could he recover. 

At 5-3, When Korda missed a forehand drop shot and conceded set point on his serve, it all seemed over. But he battled on. saving not one but five set points. With excellent serves and baseline variations he succeeded in making up for the unforced errors which were coming mainly off his forehand, elicited by Alcaraz suddenly choosing to hit deep and lifted balls.

Serving for the set, Alcaraz chose to charge into the net, preventing any aggressive move by Korda. And it was some panache: he dug a stop volley out of a mole hole, served and volleyed from both sides, closed the set 6-4 on his second set point when Korda overhit a frustrated return on second serve almost into the stands. 

In the first game of the third, Korda saved two break points and held. Still clenching his fist, still hitting his flowing backhands down the line. An opportunity even opened up for him in the third game, when Alcaraz suddenly fell into a few too many unforced errors and the American earned break points. On the first, he attempted a dropshot, a brave and right tactical choice, with Alcaraz far behind the baseline. But the ball didn’t crawl over the net. The Spaniard assertively saw to erasing the other two break points. Disappointment crept in this time and Korda lowered his shields and lost his next two service games. 

Alcaraz was cruising away, impressive in his capacity to execute any shot. Able to turn defence into aggression, to get back into rallies with interlocutory creations, to compel his opponent to face increasing complexities. Serving for the match he delighted the public with a sliced back hand winner which whizzed down the line. A cracking backhand down the line on the stretch was his final flourish.

“It’s amazing to play in such a great atmosphere. I think the people enjoyed the match and I’m glad to play in front of such a good crowd,” Alcaraz said afterwards. “In the early matches, I’m trying to have fun out there. I love playing tennis and playing on these courts, so I’m enjoying every second.”

The nineteen-year old from Murcia is the youngest player to reach the fourth round in Roland Garros since Djokovic in 2006. On Wednesday, he survived a match point against countryman Ramos-Vinolas.

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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