Wimbledon: Kyrgios’ Issue With Doubles, Tsitsipas Aims To Silence Critics And Alcaraz Is Eager To Learn - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon: Kyrgios’ Issue With Doubles, Tsitsipas Aims To Silence Critics And Alcaraz Is Eager To Learn

On the eve of the grass-court major getting underway, the three tennis stars spoke openly about this year’s tournament.

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) in the third round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

WIMBLEDON: There are two things top players can’t get out of doing on the weekend before Wimbledon. The first is to practice on the pristine grass courts at The All England Club. The second is to face the media for the first time.

 

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has never been a person to hold back when it comes to expressing his opinion about certain matters when asked to. It was at Wimbledon eight years ago when he achieved his first breakthrough in the Grand Slams by reaching the quarter-finals as a teenager. Since then, he has established himself as a controversial but formidable force on the Tour who can beat almost anybody when he is in top form. Best illustrated by the fact he has beaten a top 10 player 24 times, including every member of the Big Three.

Set to play Paul Jubb in his first round match on Tuesday, Kyrgios will also be playing in the doubles tournament alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis. The duo demonstrated their talents back in January by lifting the Australian Open title. Unlike Melbourne, Wimbledon has a different format when it comes to doubles matches with them being the best-of-five sets.

“I think it’s the stupidest thing ever, to be brutally honest. I don’t know why it’s best-of-five sets. No one wants to play best-of-five sets doubles. No one wants to watch best-of-five sets doubles,” Kyrgios said of the format.
“I’m excited, but I’m also dreading the fact that if it’s one set all, I’m going to have to be playing three more sets of doubles. So I don’t know. That’s why I haven’t played it before. It doesn’t make sense.”

The 27-year-old is currently ranked 45th in the world and has already produced promising results on the grass with back-to-back semi-final runs at tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle. In Halle, he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.

Besides his criticism of the doubles, Kyrgios joins a growing list of players critical of the decision to ban Russian and Belarussian players from Wimbledon this year. A move made in response to the Ukraine War. Until now those players had been allowed to play at tournaments under a neutral status. The controversial ban has resulted in the removal of ranking points from the event for the first time in the Open Era.

“I don’t think it was a good idea to ban the Russian players from playing. I think Medvedev is the best we have in our sport right now,” Kyrgios commented. “You look at some of their other players – Rublev, Khachanov – they’re important young players for our sport to continue to grow.’
“I think whenever we have cameras on and a lot of people tuning in, you want our best players to be a showcase for the sport to grow.’
“Me personally as a competitor and someone that wants to go up against them, I’m disappointed they’re not here. It’s weird not seeing Medvedev here. We all know what he’s capable of.”

Tsitsipas is out to prove a point

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

Similar to Kyrgios, Greek star Tsitsipas also enters Wimbledon in high spirits after recently lifting his maiden grass-court trophy at the Mallorca Open. Until that tournament, the world No.6 was yet to play a Tour final on the surface in his career.

“People have kind of doubted that I can play on grass, I think it’s fair to say. I never doubted myself. I said – I insisted, in fact – that I can play on this surface, and it remains one of my favourite surfaces that tennis has to offer. I was pretty confident about it.” He states.

In the past, it has been tough for Tsitsipas at Wimbledon where he has only managed to win three matches in four appearances. He has lost in the first round three times, including last year against Frances Tiafoe. Reflecting on that loss, he admits that two factors affected his performance. Something Tsitsipas says he has corrected this year.

“Last year was difficult for me. I didn’t play a single match before Wimbledon on grass. I was trying to play on grass like I did on clay, which was a huge mistake. Technique-wise, tactic-wise, it all fell apart.” He explains.
“For me, it’s a new start here at Wimbledon. I see myself a little bit different in terms of how I perceive this surface in particular.”

The question is how far can he go in a tournament which has been dominated by the big four since 2003?

“I got to start small first. The last two appearances I had at Wimbledon were not great. I just want to see something different. Let’s just start from that. Maybe in week two we can reevaluate things, recalibrate the focus.” Tsitsipas concludes.

Tsitsipas will play Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard in his opening match.

Alcaraz learning as he goes

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) – Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Carlos Alcaraz has been one of the standout players so far in 2022 with him already claiming a quartet of trophies, including the Miami and Madrid Masters. At the age of 19, he has already cracked the top 10, scored back-to-back wins over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and earned nearly $6M in prize money alone. On The Tour this season he has impressively won 32 out of 36 matches played.

Leading up to SW16, Alcaraz’s preparation was hampered by an elbow injury that forced him out of Queen’s. He did recently play two matches at an exhibition event held at the Hurlingham Club. On Sunday at Wimbledon, he took part in a hitting session with Dan Evans. One of the players he hopes to gain useful tips from for his own development.

I am trying to see the training (sessions) of the best players. I think he plays very well on grass. I’m trying to copy some things from the best ones,” he replied when asked about hitting with Evans.
“I always watch videos of Federer, Djokovic, Rafa, Andy as well, trying to copy the moves and stuff from them.”

Alcaraz has only played eight full Tour matches on the grass. Six of those were in 2019 when he played on the ITF junior circuit. He played two as a pro last year at Wimbledon.

“I would say I have a game that adapts well on grass, trying to go to the net, playing aggressive. I would say I’m able to play well on grass.” The Spaniard states.
“I couldn’t prepare well for Wimbledon this year, but I always come to every tournament thinking that I’m able to do a good results or even be able to win the tournament.”

In the first round, Alcaraz will play Jan-Lennard Struff.

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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