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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Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios

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Serena Williams on Monday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay.  With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

 

In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios

Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday.  Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.


Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event.  But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career.  He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon.  And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings.  Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks.  But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four.  Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka.  On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess.  And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.


Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto

These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history.  Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time.  In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist.  Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US.  She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston.  Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old.  Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches.  But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day.  Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami).  Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month.  Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.

Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third.  On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle. 

Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe.  Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros.  Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final.  Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone.  Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets.  Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.

Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev.  Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches.  Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.

Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon.  20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?

Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths

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CARLOS ALCARAZ OF SPAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.

 

And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.  

In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.

There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.    

Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.

No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.

Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.

In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.

His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.

Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?

Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.

Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian. 

The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.

At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled. 

And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.      

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Canada Daily Preview: Andreescu, Osaka, Raducanu Face Formidable Opposition

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Canada’s Bianca Andreescu won this title in 2019 (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

Tuesday’s schedule in Toronto features several Major singles champions taking on recent tournament finalists.  2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu faces San Jose champ Daria Kasatkina.  Four-time Slam champ Naomi Osaka plays Washington runner-up Kaia Kanepi.  US Open champ Emma Raducanu faces defending champion Camila Giorgi.  And another US Open champ, Sloane Stephens, plays Indian Wells runner-up Maria Sakkari.

 

In Montreal, many matches have been carried over from Monday due to rain, including Andy Murray against Taylor Fritz, which was previewed here.  Also on Tuesday, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes on Pablo Carreno Busta.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both cities.


Camila Giorgi vs. Emma Raducanu (9) – Second on Centre Court in Toronto

Giorgi was a surprising champion of this event a year ago, as she was ranked outside the top 70 at the time.  And she has failed to follow-up on that title run.  Camila promptly lost her next four matches, and in 2022, she’s just 13-13.  Of course Raducanu also won the biggest title of her career last summer, and has similarly struggled ever since, with a record of 11-13 on the year.  In their first career meeting, the pressure will be on Giorgi, as she’s never before defended a title of this caliber. That makes Raducanu the favorite to advance in her Canadian debut.


Daria Kasatkina (11) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Not Before 7pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Kasatkina is having.  She is now 32-14, and is No.3 in the year-to-date rankings.  Last week in San Jose, she defeated two top six players en route to the title (Badosa, Sabalenka).  And at the same time, she’s influencing social change, as the Russian recently came out as gay, and spoke out against that subject remaining “taboo” in her home country.  In her own home country, Andreescu achieved great success three years ago, winning this title just weeks before becoming a US Open champion.  But the last few years have thoroughly tested Andreescu, as she’s battled injuries, COVID, and mental health issues.  Just a week ago in San Jose, she retired mid-match due to back pain.  In her first match in Toronto since her title run, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be fully healthy.  A confident, happy, and in-form Kasatkina is a strong favorite to continue her winning streak despite their history.  Bianca leads their head-to-head 2-0, which includes a three-set victory three years ago at this same event.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Matteo Berrettini (11) – This will be Berrettini’s debut at this event, while Carreno Busta is only 2-2 lifetime here.  Their only previous meeting occurred at this year’s Australian Open, which Matteo claimed in straight sets.

Kaia Kanepi vs. Naomi Osaka – Kanepi lost the final of Washington on Sunday to Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 in the third.  This will only be Osaka’s third match since May, and she’s coming off a straight-set loss last week in San Jose to Coco Gauff.  When they played five years ago at the US Open, Kanepi prevailed 7-5 in the third.

Maria Sakkari (3) vs. Sloane Stephens – Stephens was up a set and 5-2 over Sofia Kenin on Monday before eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third on her sixth match point in a highly-dramatic affair.  Sakkari was decisively defeated last week in San Jose by Shelby Rogers.  This is their first career encounter.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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