Tsitsipas finds his magic to edge past Rublev - UBITENNIS
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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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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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