Novak Djokovic Closing In On ‘Desired Level’ Ahead Of French Open - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Closing In On ‘Desired Level’ Ahead Of French Open

The 20-time Grand Slam champion gives an assessment of his current form whilst speaking with reporters in Rome on Monday.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Novak Djokovic believes he is heading in the right direction ahead of his title defence at the French Open which will begin later this month.

 

The world No.1 says he now feels ‘physically one hundred percent’ after recently being affected by illness. Djokovic has endured a rollercoaster start to the year after being forced to miss the Australian Open and two Masters 1000 events in America due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19. On the clay he has endured mixed results with a first round loss in Monte Carlo before going on to win his 86th title in his native Belgrade. Last week at the Madrid Open Djokovic reached the semi-finals before losing to teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in a gripping encounter.

Reflecting on his Madrid clash with Alcaraz, Djokovic says there was a silver lining to his loss. The two took part in one of the longest matches to ever take place in the Spanish capital with the youngster prevailing 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5).

“I think it’s closer to the desired level every week,” Djokovic replied when asked about the current level of his game by reporters in Rome on Monday. “(In) Madrid, even though I lost in the semifinals, I still think I played really good tennis. Felt physically hundred percent, even after an almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. I recovered well the next day, was ready to go.’
“That’s a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal which is Paris. I think I’m in the right direction.”

Djokovic is seeking to win his 21st major title at Roland Garros which would once again put him level with Rafael Nadal for the most won by a male player. Last season he won three out of the four Grand Slams with the only exception being the US Open where he finished runner-up to Daniil Medvedev.

“I know I can always play better, and I know that I’m very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now.” He continued.
“Hopefully I can maintain that level throughout this week (in Rome) and build, go deep in this tournament hopefully – that’s the goal – and come to Paris well-prepared.”

Nadal is poised to be one of Djokovic’s biggest threats at the French Open given his dominance in recent years. The Spaniard has won the title a record 13 times. However, he is still on the comeback from a rib injury with this week’s Italian Masters being only his second clay court event of the year.

Eyes will also be on 19-year-old Alcaraz who has become a revelation on the Tour since the Australian Open. He is the first player to win four ATP titles this year and currently boasts a win-loss of 28-3.

“Everything about his game is really impressive. He’s a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He’s the talk of the sport,” Djokovic said of the world No.6.
“Roland Garros, he’s definitely one of the main favourites, no doubt, even though he has never reached the second week of a Grand Slam. With everything recently that he has achieved, he deserves to be one of the favourites.”

Djokovic will start his Rome campaign on Tuesday against Aslan Karatsev. He is currently tied with the Russian in their head-to-head at 1-1.

ATP

Stefanos Tsitsipas Names His Best Personality Trait Ahead of Wimbledon Showdown With Kyrgios

The Greek has named one ‘defining aspect’ of her personality but will it have any relevance for his next match?

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) - Credit: AELTC/Joe Toth

Stefanos Tsitsipas says he is ‘thrilled’ to book a Wimbledon third round meeting with Nick Kyrgios later this week after seeing off Jordan Thompson in straight sets on Thursday.

 

The world No.5 rallied his way to a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, over Thompson to record only his fifth main draw win at the tournament in his career. Despite his accolades on the Tour, Tsitsipas has endured disappointment at The All England Club. In his four previous appearances, he lost in the first round three times.

Nevertheless, the Greek appears to be heading in the right direction on the grass after winning the Mallorca Open less than a week ago. Although he will be truly tested on Saturday when he faces the dangerous Kyrgios who he lost to in Halle earlier this year after winning the first set. Kyrgios produced a clinical performance in his second round match which he said was a message sent to media criticism him.

“Nick has more matches on me in these courts. He claims to like grass. I think his game is good for the grass,” said Tsitsipas.
“I am definitely thrilled to be facing him. I respect him a lot, on the court, what he’s trying to do. Although he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he’s playing good tennis.’
“I’m going to try and concentrate on doing my thing and pay attention to my own game from start to finish. Hopefully I can stay there and do something great, have a great competitive match against him.”

Kyrgios’ talent has never been disputed but it is his mentality which has at times been his downfall. In his first round match, he was aggravated by the crowd, argued with a match official and spat in front of some people in the stands who were ‘disrespecting’ him.

As for Tsitsipas, the 23-year-old believes his mental strength is one of his best personality traits.

“My mentality is pretty strong. If I fall, I’ll always get up and work hard. I never really have these days where I’m saying, I don’t want to practice today,” he said
“I feel like other players would have that a bit more often than I do. If I fall, I always get up, one thing to get stronger.”

It remains to be seen if Tsitsipas will come back stronger against Kyrgios as he seeks revenge for his recent loss. Although he has lost to the Australian on two other occasions with his only victory in their rivalry being at the Laver Cup.

You just go out on the court hoping to have a good match, hoping to be able to get balls back, be precise with your shot selection. That comes with good preparation. The rest will hopefully follow if you’re able to approach that with the right mindset.” Tsitsipas explained.

Tsitsipas is the only seeded player remaining in his section of the draw after two rounds played.

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Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer form dream team for London’s Laver Cup

Build-up to September’s Laver Cup has already begun and some big names are set to feature.

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Andy Murray’s Wimbledon may have come to a disappointing end yesterday, but there is hope on the horizon yet.

 

It was announced shortly before his second-round encounter with John Isner, that the three-time Grand Slam champion has signed up to play in September’s Laver Cup.

This would mark Murray’s first appearance in the competition.

Being a home tournament for the Brit, fans will be hoping and praying he stays fit for September’s showpiece at the O2 Arena.

Team Europe assembles dream team

With the confirmation of tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, the addition of Murray adds more stellar firepower and history to Europe’s cast.

With three of six confirmed, who could the other three names be?

Surely, teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz should be given a place at the table.

The Spaniard has taken the ATP Tour by storm this season, winning not one but TWO Masters 1000’s in Miami and Madrid.

He also became the youngest member of the top ten since you guessed it, his idol Nadal.

Another strong contender would be Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

Having spent three months out with a hand injury, he stormed to titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s proving to be the season’s standout player on grass.

He unfortunately had to pull out of Wimbledon on the eve of his first-round match after contracting Coronavirus.

If fit, he would be a worthy addition after debuting at the event last year.

The romantics would love for another big name in Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss is well and truly in the twilight of his career.

Like Andy, he has won three Grand Slam’s and would be warmly welcomed by close friend Roger, who he won the 2008 Beijing Olympics doubles gold alongside.

And then there’s Marin Cilic who was in fine form to reach the semi-finals of the French Open, making him only one of five active players to reach all four Grand Slam semi-finals.

The former US Open champion played in the inaugural Laver Cup back in 2017.

Team World – Diego Schwartzman, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger Aliassime confirmed

The challenge of Team Captain John McEnroe is that his counterpart, Bjorn Borg has a wealth of talent at his disposal.

Whilst, the American doesn’t quite have the same luxury.

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Indian Wells winner Taylor Fritz were the first two confirmed names.

Canadian talents Felix Auger Aliassime (confirmed) and Denis Shapovalov (not yet confirmed), are the standout names that Team World will bolster their ranks with.

That would then leave two places left with McEnroe likely to call on past stalwarts from previous editions.

This could be 37-year-old Isner, who was highly impressive in defeating Murray yesterday at Wimbledon.

Meanwhile, the seven-time Grand Slam champion is a known fan and admirer of the feisty Nick Kyrgios.

The two big servers could therefore be the final names.

Other possibilities would be American’s Frances Tiafoe, who has played the Laver Cup before, and the talented Sebastian Korda.

Following the announcement of Murray, more confirmations cannot be far away.

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Erratic Iga Swiatek Struggles Past Lucky Loser To Reach Wimbledon Third Round

In what was a roller-coaster encounter, the top seed was far from her best but still managed to maintain her unbeaten streak.

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World No.1 Iga Swiatek heads into the last 32 at Wimbledon with plenty to think about producing a mixed performance during her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win over Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.

The reigning French Open champion endured patchy periods of play throughout her latest match at The All England Club. Prompting her to shake her head and make occasional glares towards her teams in the stands. Her winner count of 31 was almost canceled out by 30 unforced errors as she broke four times in the match.

 

“I think she used all the advantages that she could. I feel that she was using the wind better than me,” said Swiatek. “She played a really great match.’
“I’m pretty happy that I could fight back and have another chance to play here (at Wimbledon).”

Seeking her 37th win in a row, Swiatek found it tough going ealy on against Kerkhove. A Dutch world No.138 who only managed to enter the main draw with the help of a lucky loser position and was yet to play a top 10 player in his career. The Pole struggled to find her footing on the surface as she leaked a series of costly unforced errors. That resulted in her getting broken twice in a row and falling behind 2-4. 

Visibly rattled on the court, Swiatek’s consistency level was far from that which has taken her to winning six consecutive titles within the past four months. Part of that explanation is the fact that she had only ever played nine Tour-level grass-court matches in her career heading into the second round at SW19.

Fortunately for the world No.1 she was let back into the set at the expense of a lackluster service game from her rival which featured two doubles faults. A four-game winning streak saw her turn the match round. On her first set point she prevailed after a Kerkhove backhand crashed into the net.

Swiatek continued to have difficulty pulling away from her rival in the second frame. Kerkhove has only managed to win two Tour-level matches this year with one of those being in the first round of Wimbledon. The underdog continued to exceed expectations by breaking midway through to nudge ahead 4-3. Doing so with a return that brushed the top of the net before landing on the other side. That was enough for Kerkhove to unexpectedly take the match into a decider.

Facing the prospect of losing to a player outside the top 100 for the first time since April 2021, Switek regained some much needed momentum with a clean forehand winner down the line which enabled her to break for a 3-1 lead. Battling her way towards the finish line she sealed victory with a the help of a forehand error from Kerkhove.

“It’s really special to me but what I’m out there I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to play my best tennis possible on the grass.,” she said of her winning streak.
“I’m happy it’s 37 and I’m going to do my best to get even more.

The next test for Swiatek will be a clash with France’s Alize cornet who beat Claire Lu 6-3, 6-3. It is only the second time she has made the last 32 in 12 appearances at the Grand Slam.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be really exciting,” Swiatek commented. “The third round, the people who are there deserved to be there. I hope it is going to be a really good fight.”

Swiatek is only the second woman to win 37 matches in a row since 1990 after Martina Hingis.

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