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Tsitsipas finds his magic to edge past Rublev

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev will face off in tonight’s second semi-final.

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By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

 

A 4-4 head to head created expectations for a tight match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev. Stefanos led 2-0 on clay and had never conceded a set. The Greek came into the match as the favourite. Both matches however, the final in Monte Carlo and the quarter final of Roland Garros, were played in 2021, a year when the Greek was playing spectacular tennis, and was only halted by Djokovic, just one set away from the finishing line, in the final at Roland Garros. Notwithstanding his second triumph in Monte Carlo this year Stefanos is yet to find that magic.

Tsitsipas got off to an impressive start with 7 points in a row and earned 3 break points but failed to convert them. By attacking Rublev’s weakest point, his second serve, and resolving not to lose any backhand vs backhand wrestle, he eventually broke with his fifth break point.

Rublev appeared even more nervous than usual, throwing his racquet around and repeatedly bashing it on his leg out of frustration.

The next games went with serve, but the Greek, in spite of occasional errors, was constantly in control. He unsettled the Russian with continuous changes of pace and tactics, sometimes dragging him to the net with dropshots and mercilessly transfixing him with millimetric passing shots and lobs.

In the seventh game Rublev posed a slight threat when he reached 30 on his opponent’s serve for the first time. But Tsitsipas waved him off following up a serve with one of his flagship shots, a magnificent backhand down the line and maintained his lead.

Rublev proved his growing consistency with an excellent service game but at 5-3 Tsitsipas was impeccable and finished the set off with his fifth ace.

The first point of the second set saw Rublev charge forward on the first point, showing a different mindset to the match.

The first four games went with serve but momentum was shifting. Rublev was increasingly commanding the rallies whereas Tsitsipas was struggling to stave off aggression, his balls falling shorter. In the fourth game an ace and a wrongfooting however still did him the job, as well as a beautifully sliced backhand, which elicited an overcooked forehand from the Russian.

Rublev then held serve losing only one point and snatched the break in the sixth game after a tentative dropshot by Tsitsipas didn’t crawl over the net. With a 12-2 winning point series he dashed to a 5-2 lead.

Tsitsipas was unable to weather the storm and serving to stay in the set was overwhelmed by the power of Rublev’s groundstrokes, and lost the set 6-2, annihilated by a final backhand along the line.

A new set is often a new story and Tsitsipas from the very start appeared rejuvenated, once more battling away from the baseline and serving proficiently.

In the seventh game he found his best depth and aggression and for the first time in the set Rublev was cornered, facing break point. He saved it valiantly with a serve out wide which set up a flying crosscourt forehand and went on to hold.

Crisis was just deferred, for in the next two games Tsitsipas landed an 8 point winning streak, ripping Rublev’s service to love.

When serving for the match doubts came afloat and errors seeped in once more. Rublev grasped his chance and hit through to earn two break points. The plot seemed about to twist but Tsitsipas saved the first by putting away a sound volley, then two errors by Rublev chauffeured him to his first match point.

The Greek did not hesitate and with a kick service opened up the court for a crosscourt forehand in the corner which sealed victory.    

Zverev defeats Auger Aliassime and his own ghosts

The quarterfinal between Alezander Zverev and Roger Auger Aliassime, second and eighth seed of the ATP Mutua Open, presented manifold variables, which may confound the canniest fortune-teller. First of all, the absolute unpredictability associated with Zverev’s 2022 season, which most unexpectedly followed the absolute consistency he had delighted the pubic with just few months before.  

Highs and lows had marked his clay season too: from the amazing quarter final he won against Sinner in Monte Carlo, to his dejected loss to Rune in Munich. Felix Auger-Aliassime indeed is one of the emerging stars of tennis, with one of the most technically complete games across the Tour, yet he still has to prove his full potential on clay. His emphatic win in the previous round against a much more credited clay-courter, Jannik Sinner, surely boosted his perspectives.

Zverev’s recent hardships seemed to have been left behind, the way he stormed into the match. Though he conceded two points in his first service game, he was pounding down groundstrokes off both wings. His superb backhands down the line reaped points. He broke Aliassime in the third game, also helped by a double fault of the Canadian.

He cruised through his next service games, losing just one point. In the ninth game Aliassime, overpowered from the baseline, ventured out into one of his tentative forays to the net, which cost him a 15-30 lag.  Zverev clutched the opportunity and sealed the first set with a second break, playing the powerful, meticulous, overflowing tennis which had flown him to the stars in his second ATP Finals triumph in November 2021.

Zverev showed no signs of relenting pressure in the first service game of the second set, not even bothered by two double faults.  

Auger Aliassime, unable to cope with the greater power of the German, was constantly succumbing after few shots and lost his service again in the second game.

Game 3 was the longest of the match and could have been a turning point. Alternating winners and double faults, Zverev faced a break point, but saved it winning the longest rally of the match so far, 13 strokes. A third double fault brought in a second break point but again he saved it eliciting an error form his opponent with a powerful crosscourt forehand. He finally held serve.

The match was about to swing definitively in favour of Zverev in the fifth game. Serving 1-4 down, not supported by any encouraging percentage of first serves, overpowered from the baseline, Aliassime faced 4 break points. On the brink of defeat, he put up some fight and succeeded in holding a service game which lasted 16 minutes and which saw him win his first long rally of the match, 26 shots. 

This time Zverev appeared shaken. His first serve percentage slumped in the following game, in which he served his sixth and seventh double, and a second quivering serve at 120 kmph which Roger pounced on to chisel his way back in the match.

Aliassime then held serve, surfacing at 4 games all. Winning the first point off Zverev’s following service game, he and moved ahead for the first time in the set. The German didn’t falter and led 40-15. But another double fault and unforced errors poured in and Zverev faced a break point. He saved it with a brave angled crosscourt backhand. And in the next two points hit two serves at 214 km which tugged him to 5-4.

In the tenth game a rash foray to the net and unforced errors off the forehand by Aliassime gifted Zverev a first match point, but the Canadian erased it with a powerful first serve. Roger didn’t finish a smash off and Zverev earned his second match point with a backhand down the line. Auger played three aggressive points and was back even, 5-5.

When Zverev held serve comfortably and Aliassime was 30-0, this rollercoaster set appeared to be heading toward a decisive tiebreak.

Aliassime seemed to be cruising to a comfortable service hold after rising to 30 love then incredibly fell back into a swamp of unforced errors and Zverev closed out the match at 7-5.

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ATP Rankings Update: Novak Djokovic Consolidates His Supremacy

How has events at last week’s Italian Masters impacted on the standings?

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ATP NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

by Roberto Ferri, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

The ATP Masters 1000 Rome, aka the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, haven’t significantly impacted the ATP Rankings.

 

Thanks to his first final in Rome, Stefanos Tsitsipas overtakes Rafael Nadal; Casper Ruud is back in 8th place while Matteo Berrettini loses two positions and now is No. 10. The most striking news is that Novak Djokovic, while conquering his sixth crown in Rome, appeared close to his best tennis and has once more opened up quite a gap between himself and his chasers. 

TOP 20

PositionPlayerCountryPts+/-
1DjokovicSerbia8660 
2MedvedevRussia7980 
3ZverevGermany7200 
4TsitsipasGreece61701
5NadalSpain5525-1
6AlcarazSpain4770 
7RublevRussia3945 
8RuudNorway39402
9Auger-AliassimeCanada3850 
10BerrettiniItalia3805-2
11NorrieGB3355 
12SinnerItaly31951
13HurkaczPoland3095-1
14FritzUSA2920 
15ShapovalovCanada26711
16SchwartzmanArgentina2505-1
17Carreno BustaSpain21351
18OpelkaUSA2090-1
19Bautista AgutSpain1903 
20DimitrovBulgaria1785 

NITTO ATP FINALS RACE TO TURIN

I came, I saw, I conquered.” Considering the geographic context, the Julius Ceasar quote seems most appropriate for commenting on Novak Djokovic’s triumph in Rome: thanks to the 1000 points earned in Rome, the world number 1 has whizzed up to 10th position in the ranking of the best players in 2022 with 1610 points.

Ahead of him (until when?) there are:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1NadalSpain3620
2TsitsipasGreece3490
3AlcarazSpain3460
4Auger AliassimeCanada2025
5ZverevGermany1980
6RublevRussia1920
7MedvedevRussia1900
8FritzUSA1765
9RuudNorway1615

NEXT GEN RACE TO MILAN

No changes have occurred in the ranking of the best under 21s:

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB
1AlcarazSpain34602003
2SinnerItaly12502001
3RuneDenmark5582003
4MusettiItalia4862002
5LeheckaCzech Rep.4832001
6DraperGB4492001
7TsengTaipei4202001
8NardiItaly2312003
9CobolliItaly2222002
10NakashimaUSA2002001

BEST RANKING

Eleven players in the top 100 reach their career best:

PlayerPositionCountry
Van de Zandshulp29Netherlands
Brooksby34USA
Rune40Denmark
Cerundolo44Argentina
Giron49USA
Bonzi53France
Altmaier54Germany
Lehecka77Czech Rep.
Tabito78Chile
Halys86France
Taberner88Spain

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Iga Swiatek on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Iga Swiatek has won her last 27 matches.  Ons Jabeur has won her last 11 matches.  They are easily the two best WTA players of the year thus far.  On Sunday, in their first meeting of the season, only one of them can continue their winning streak.

 

Novak Djokovic is a five-time champion in Rome, and a six-time runner-up.  This is his seventh final out the last eight years.  He faces Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a rematch of their dramatic championship match nearly a year ago at Roland Garros.

Also on Sunday, the men’s and women’s doubles finals will be played.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (9) – 1:00pm on Center Court

This should be an excellent championship match, featuring the WTA’s two hottest performers, and two of the sport’s most eclectic and likeable players.  Swiatek claimed their first meeting three years ago in Washington, but Jabeur took their last two (Wimbledon, Cincinnati).  Their Wimbledon encounter was easily their most prominent, where Ons came from a set down on Manic Monday, winning both of the last two sets 6-1.  The differences on that day were Jabeur’s superior play on break points, converting 7-of-7, compared to only 3-of-15 by Swiatek.  And Ons was +7 in winners to unforced errors, while Iga was -7. 

But nearly a year later, Swiatek has evolved into an even smarter, ultra-confident competitor.  She is 36-3 this season, with 27 straight victories.  And 22 of those 27 consecutive wins have been in straight sets.  Jabeur’s 11-match win streak is quite impressive as well, though she’s required two dramatic comebacks within the last 48 hours.  On Friday, she was down 6-1, 5-2 to Maria Sakkari, and two points from defeat.  On Saturday, she saved match point against Daria Kasatkina, eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third. 

As per the WTA, Jabeur is 21-0 this year when she wins the first set, making that set on Sunday all the more crucial.  But considering how draining Jabeur’s last two matches have been, Swiatek is the favorite to defend her title, and extend her win streak to 28-0 heading into Roland Garros.  That’s especially true on this surface, as these players are yet to meet on clay, which is Iga’s best surface.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) – Not Before 4:00pm on Center Court

Their last meeting was the aforementioned French Open final, where Tsitsipas could not close out the match out despite winning the first two sets.  That was Novak’s fifth consecutive victory over Stefanos, and third straight on clay.  They also played last year in the quarterfinals of this event, when Djokovic won 7-5 in the third.  And at Roland Garros two years ago, they also went the distance, with Novak winning in five.  The Greek’s only two victories over Djokovic have come on hard courts: four years ago in Canada, and three years ago in Shanghai. 

Tsitsipas leads the ATP this year with 31 match wins, and an impressive 14-2 record on clay.  By contrast, this is only the unvaccinated Novak’s fifth tournament of the season, and he hasn’t won a title.  Yet Djokovic has been the more in-form player this week, advancing to this final without dropping a set.  Tsitsipas has been pushed to a decider three times this week.

But has Djokovic fully rediscovered his top form?  Can he earn his first victory over a top five player since November?  This will be a huge test for Novak, and will reveal just how ready he is for his French Open title defense, which begins in just a week’s time.  He’s yet to be fully tested this week, and I fully expect Tsitsipas to do so.  Winning this title would be a huge boost for either player heading into Paris, as it will either be Novak’s first title in six months, or Stefanos’ second Masters 1000 title on clay this season.  Based on recent results, and Djokovic’s lack of play this season, I give the slight edge to the more match-tough Tsitsipas to win on Sunday.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Madrid Open champions Dabrowski and Olmos are playing for their second WTA 1000 title in as many weeks.  This is Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova’s first tournament as a team.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (3) vs. John Isner and Diego Schwartzman – Mektic and Pavic were easily the best men’s doubles team of 2021, with nine titles.  But they’re yet to win a tournament this season.  Isner has already won two Masters 1000 doubles title this season with two other partners (Sock, Hurkacz).


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Conquering the world: Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to cement Barcelona-Madrid titles (Part Two)

Carlos Alcaraz will now look to translate his success from the ATP Tour to Roland Garros.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@MutuaMadridOpen)

In part one, I assessed how Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the tennis world by storm after his victory in Barcelona.

 

Now I turn my attentions to his success in another famous Spanish city.

Madrid Masters victory

Alcaraz again began his Madrid Masters campaign in style, beating the dangerous Georgian Nicoloz Basilashvili in straight sets.

A stern test came in the form of Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who pushed the birthday boy that day to three sets.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdMSI6uKJZB/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Alcaraz moving through 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with his idol Rafa Nadal.

Now, some context is needed that the 21-time Grand Slam was appearing in his first tournament back since recovering from a rib injury.

An opening round win against Serbian Miomir Kecmanović was backed up with a tight three-set triumph over Belgian David Goffin, with the veteran Spaniard saving four match points.

To his credit, Nadal pushed his young apprentice all the way, before going down 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, with the second set showing his obvious quality, despite being partially fit.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdOP5Jtg2Pn/

If this moment was a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis, then Alcaraz’s impressive win over Novak Djokovic could point to the man who may dominant the future of tennis.

The world number one was fortunate to play a match less, after the shock withdrawal of old rival Murray in the third-round.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CdRFDuFgIHv/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

But he was no match for the imperious Alcaraz who triumphed at front of the delighted home support, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

The first player ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on a clay court in the history of tennis.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

And Alcaraz made it a highly commendable 5-0 in finals, destroying Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, with little challenge unlike the previous encounters with Norrie, Nadal and Djokovic.

James Spencer (Twitter: @jspencer28) – Alcaraz Verdict

In truth, I had a sneaky feeling that Alcaraz would triumph in Barcelona.

The way he is playing with such finesse and confidence, particularly against the Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was incredible to see.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Saving match points against Alex de Minaur, also showed his mettle.

He also has an unbelievable shot selection and fitness levels.

Beating Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back is no easy feat.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRGhGyq64J/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Often just one win knocks the stuffing out of you, mentally and physically, but not for this kid.

Alcaraz doesn’t get carried away. And this has been shown consistently this season.

Winning the Miami Masters could have led to a drop in motivation, yet he has looked even more motivated if anything.

He’s performed on hard-court and clay court surfaces with an assuring dominance.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRDN0Hq_zY/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

In fact, he is unbeaten on clay this season, losing three times in total all season.

Matteo Berrettini in five at the Australian Open.

Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells in a tight three sets, that ultimately injured the elder Spaniard, which could have ramifications on his entire fitness this season, and the destination of the French Open trophy.

And a close three-set defeat to up and coming youngster Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdTpZI6o1kX/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

The new world number six must surely be the new favourite to WIN the French Open later this month.

Skipping the Italian Open should help the 19-year-old heal any niggling injuries.

If he does win in Paris, he will be the youngest Grand Slam champion since you guessed it, Nadal.

Only time will tell.

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