Casper Ruud Overcomes Rune To Reach His First Major Semi-Final At French Open - UBITENNIS
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Casper Ruud Overcomes Rune To Reach His First Major Semi-Final At French Open

Though often overwhelmed, the Norwegian withstands Rune’s sparkling brilliancy and prevailled 6-1 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3

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

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Can we not say that the last night session of Roland Garros 2022 staging the 19-year old Dane Holger Rune up against the 23-year old Norwegian Casper Ruud evoked the perfect script for a last episode of a Netflix series: a duel for the throne between two Vikings, the younger and the older, the bolder and the wiser, the extrovert and the quiet guy; both brandishing metal-alloy swords forged in dungeons, watched over in the boxes by their ambitious mentors, a mother and a father, in a nightly arena lit by dragons spitting fire.

As it often happens, it was the most experienced who ended up prevailing over the budding champion, at least in this early confrontation on the grand stage of a Major. The consistency of Ruud’s forehand, and his determination to run miles so as to fire it from any position yielded that extra margin, which may have appeared slighter on court than on the score, 6-1 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3. Rune displayed a wonderous backhand down the line, already one of the crackers on the tour, and proved to be endowed with a rare unpredictability. He has the capability of overturning a point at any moment, even when stretched to the utmost, thanks to his talent for generating speed when striking a ball just after rebound, like a table tennis shot.      

The first set flew away, Rune was betrayed by nerves and emotions. He lost his first two service games and wasn’t hitting through his shots. Rune pocketed it 6-1 in 33 minutes.

“I started great but then Holger fought back and raised his level. It became a really tough match. He’s become much more dangerous, much more unpredictable. He plays fearless, he goes for big shots and makes a lot of them. He makes It challenging for you.” Said Ruud. 

In the second set Rune was close to falling behind again when he faced two break points in the third game. He saved the first with an excellent serve and the second one with a low drop volley. He kept that service but lost the following one. When Ruud was up 40-0 with three chances for a 4-2 lead the match seemed to be taking an irrevocable twist. But suddenly Rune was striking with power and Ruud was cornered, his shots no longer hurting and landing just after the  service line. The Dane broke back and began to deploy more and more his fearless and often unpredictable game, striking Ruud’s balls while still rising and taking the driver’s seat in the rally. At 5-4 one of his gorgeous backhands down the line earned him three break and set points. He grabbed the first and equalized the set count.

The third set was the closest. It went with serve for the first six games. Both players chose to position far behind the baseline to return, which often resulted in hitting too short and allowing the server to come in and reap points with his forehand.

The first break point was for Ruud, who changed pace and lift to entice an unforced error and then took the break for a 4-3 lead, moving out wide on return and hitting an inside-in spinning forehand, deep and unretrievable.

But Rune didn’t give up and responded immediately by setting up breakpoints in the next game after playing crosscourt forehands which caught Ruud off balance. Ruud netted a backhand down the line and the Dane bounced back into the set.

Rune was well anticipating with his backhand down the line every time Ruud’s shots landed too short. But in the eleventh game he committed three unforced errors and had to save a break point with a serve and volley to hold on. 

The set fairly strode on to a deciding tiebreak. Rune missed a fatal dropshot and conceded a minibreak at 3-2. Ruud won a straining rally to lead 5-2 and with a backhand down and on the line he secured 4 set points. And grabbed the set with his favourite inside-out forehand.

In the fourth set it was Rune who ran the greater risks. In the fourth game he faced two break points, but scored four winners in a row and dug himself out of a first dangerous hole.

Though still constantly seeking creative aggression Rune’s game was oozing errors. Ruud had three further break points at 4-3. Rune didn’t flinch and hit 4 winners off his forehand. But a missed dropshot volley let Ruud back in and the Norwegian, less spectacular but consistent, engraved the break into his scoreboard.

At 5-3, serving for the match he was impeccable, resisting pressure and cunningly waiting for his chance to take over rallies. He deserved three match points and on the second he carried on pounding inside-out forehands till he closed with an inside-in on the line to reach his first semi-final at Roland Garros and in a Major. He will take on Marin Cilic.

“These are the matches you dream about playing,” he said. “Marin has been great all week and it’s going to be another tough match.”

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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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