Novak Djokovic Beats Old Foe Wawrinka To Join Zverev And Tsitsipas In Rome Quarters - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Beats Old Foe Wawrinka To Join Zverev And Tsitsipas In Rome Quarters

It was a good day at the office for the top seeds in the men’s draw.

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Image via Roberto Dell’Olivo

Top seed Novak Djokovic breezed into the last eight of the Italian Open for a 16th consecutive time after disposing of Stan Wawrinka in straight sets.

In what was the 26th Tour meeting between the two Grand Slam champions, Djokovic dominated proceedings to clinch a 6-2, 6-2, win over his 37-year-old opponent in just 66 minutes. During the clash, the world No.1 won 75% of his first service points and broke Wawrinka five times in total. Making it the 20th time he has defeated the Swiss veteran compared to just six losses.

It’s great to see a big champion like Stan back, winning two matches after a long time. We all know how important he has been for our sport in the last 10 years, winning three slams, being an established top-five, top-10 player for many years,” said Djokovic.

This week is the first time Wawrinka has managed to win back-to-back matches for 15 months after missing a year of the Tour due to two foot surgeries. Rome is only the third event he has played since beginning his comeback. As a result of his lengthy absence, he has dropped down the rankings to 361st in the world.

Djokovic admits Wawrinka still has work to do in order to reach his desired level but is hopeful that he will be able to do so in the future. Reiterating the same words which Wawrinka has said about his own form earlier in the tournament.

“Only he knows how difficult it was with all the surgeries and injuries he had to deal with. So of course you can see on the court that he’s slower than he was when he was playing at his best. I’m sure with his team he’s doing his best to get himself in the best shape, but it takes time. It’s also match play versus practice sessions, completely different,” Djokovic said of Wawrinka.
“I felt I played solid with a lot of discipline from the beginning, made him move. On the other hand, I wish that Stan comes back to the desired level, for sure. At the moment I think movement is different. You can see he’s slower.” He added.

Seeking his second Tour title of the season after Belgrade, Djokovic will take on Felix Auger-Aliassime next in what will be the first ever meeting between the two. Auger-Aliassime, who is seeded eighth in the draw, dropped just five games during his 6-3, 6-2, win over Marcos Giron.

Tsitsipas, Zverev overcome tougher tests

World No.5 Stefanos Tsitsipas dropped the first set before winning 12 out of the next 15 games to defeat Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. The encounter was a match of two halves for the Greek who dropped serve twice during the opener. Then he conducted a massive momentum change by breaking Khachanov four times in a row.

“Tennis is the most difficult sport that exists. If you make a few mistakes, you can find yourself really on the back foot. One break in our sport, in men’s tennis, could mean a lot. You find yourself chasing all the time,” Tsitsipas reflected during his press conference.
Once I established a clear picture and focused on time, then it was a lot different in terms of being able to make the right decisions at the right time. He played good. He returned well. He seemed to be swinging through the shots freely which gave me more to work with.” He added.

Alexander Zverev was on the court for nearly two hours before defeating Australia’s Alex de Minaur 6-3, 7-6(5). After taking the opener with relative ease thanks to a clinical start, he experienced some blips during the second frame after losing a break advantage twice. Nevertheless, he managed to hold his nerve in the tiebreaker to prevail in straight sets.

I felt good. Obviously it’s not easy coming from Madrid to here with high altitude and the ball’s flying. Here it’s quite slow,” said Zverev, who lost in the final of the Madrid Masters to Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday.
“The first match you need sometimes to get used to it. I think today was quite a good level from me.”

Zverev’s win extends Minaur’s disappointing record when it comes to taking on top players. He is now 0-18 when it comes to playing a member of the top five.

Tsitsipas and Zverev could face each other in Rome this week, providing they both win their quarter-final encounters. Tsitsipas will next play home favourite Jannik Sinner and Zverev will take on unseeded Cristian Garin.

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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