Wimbledon 2022 Concludes With Memorable Duel - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

ATP

Wimbledon 2022 Concludes With Memorable Duel

An unbelievable two weeks of Wimbledon concluded with a memorable battle between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.

Published

on

(@Wimbledon - Twitter)

WIMBLEDON—I have been coming to Wimbledon nearly every year for more than half a century. My first time at the shrine was back in 1965, when my father took me out to the All England Club and my life was altered irrevocably by witnessing perhaps the premier sporting event of them all.

I was here for nine years in a row as both a fan and a reporter in training, missed three years (1974-76) after going to work for World Tennis Magazine in New York, and then was present as a reporter for 43 consecutive years (1977-2019) before the tournament was cancelled due to Covid in 2020. I covered Wimbledon from home a year ago, but this time around it was a joy returning to the major I cherish more than any other.

Over the fortnight, there was much to celebrate across the board, including the arrival of a breakthrough major champion in Elena Rybakina. The No. 17 seed upended the universally popular Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, rescuing herself gamely from behind to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 over the No. 3 seed. Many of us believed Jabeur’s time had come and she would take her first of many majors on the Centre Court.

Jabeur won the first set convincingly, taking 16 of 20 points on serve, breaking her big serving adversary twice, setting the tempo throughout. But Jabeur seemed to be too aware of the size of the occasion thereafter, pressing repeatedly, using the drop shot too frequently, advertising her distress periodically. She never broke serve across the last two sets, wasted nine of eleven break point opportunities in the match, and fatally squandered a 0-40 opening with Rybakina serving at 3-2 in the final set. Nonetheless, the champion deserved her honor by virtue of her high voltage serving and her crackling power off the ground. She essentially hit Jabeur off the court.

Meanwhile, the men’s tournament showcased the growing importance of a few prominent players. Jannik Sinner reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a stirring performance against whiz kid Carlos Alcaraz. He won their four set contest without losing his serve, and held his nerve after squandering two match points in the third set tie-break, maintaining his high caliber big hitting and excellent serving to win 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3. Sinner then established a two set lead over the top seeded Djokovic, winning 12 of 15 games from 1-4 and break point down in the first set. His speed and firepower in this stretch were nothing short of stupendous.

But Djokovic refused to be swayed by that onslaught from his gifted opponent. The Serbian took a bathroom break and reemerged with considerably more purpose and authority. Masterful from the backcourt, serving with extraordinary precision, moving with alacrity, Djokovic turned the match upside down with his unique brand of offense and defense, winning 5-7, 2-6, 6-3 6-2, 6-2, rallying from two sets to love down for the seventh time in his estimable career. Djokovic was in another league those last three sets but the fact remains that Sinner took a step in the right direction and left his boosters with the impression that he could well be a factor at the next Grand Slam tournament in New York.

Before I get to the eagerly awaited final round clash between Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios, it is time to address the most arresting player in the field once more in London, and that, of course, was Rafael Nadal. Somehow he had won the Australian Open at the start of this year, claiming that crown for the first time in 13 years by fighting back valiantly from two sets to love down and 2-3, 0-40 in the third set to topple Daniil Medvedev in the final.

At Roland Garros, Nadal secured a 14th crown on the red clay in Paris despite daily injections for an ailing foot. He came into Wimbledon after a procedure for the foot which seemed to work.

But along the way to a quarterfinal collision against No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz, Nadal tore an abdominal muscle rather badly. He was in unmistakable pain during his match with the American but somehow Nadal escaped with a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) triumph despite losing his serve eight times over the course of those five sets.

He had to reduce the speed of his delivery significantly and needed to slice most of his backhands to get through that ordeal, but the Spaniard persevered. Be that as it may, his injury was so serious that he decided to default the semifinal against Kyrgios rather than risk long lasting damage.

That was fortunate for Kyrgios. The world No. 40 had prepared well for Wimbledon and reached the semifinals in two grass court tournaments before defaulting against Roberto Bautista Agut in Mallorca after winning one match in that tournament. Kyrgios departed with an abdominal injury of his own, making certain he did not endanger his chances of making a serious run for the Wimbledon title. Yet he nearly lost to British wildcard Paul Jubb in the opening round, escaping in that harrowing encounter 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5. Kyrgios crushed No. 26 seed Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round before prevailing in a contentious confrontation against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7).

The drama kept unfolding. Facing the soft-spoken and congenial American Brandon Nakashima in the fourth round, Kyrgios was troubled by a sore shoulder which prevented him from serving at full force through various stages of the match. Yet Kyrgios prevailed in the end 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2, surviving a second five set skirmish. Seemingly back in better physical shape in the quarterfinals, Kyrgios accounted for Chile’s Christian Garin with sheer efficiency 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

And so, despite not having to step on court to defeat Nadal, Kyrgios has done his share of hard work prior to the appointment against Djokovic. The fact remained that this was brand new territory for the mercurial 27-year-old Australian. He had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament before, way back in 2014 at Wimbledon and again at the 2015 Australian Open.

Across his entire career, Kyrgios has won only six tournaments. He has never been victorious at a prestigious Masters 1000 event, only once reaching a final at Cincinnati in 2017. Kyrgios had established himself as one of the vast under-achievers in the world of sports and one of its most exasperating performers. And yet, here he was in a fight for supremacy against one of the all time great players in tennis history.

Djokovic was appearing in his eighth Wimbledon final of the last eleven played. This was his 32nd career final at a major, more than any man has ever played. He was chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, and attempting to move within one title of Nadal for the most men’s major singles crowns ever. History was driving Djokovic in this captivating meeting with Kyrgios, inspiring him to perform majestically yet simultaneously making the Serbian feel the immense weight of pressure.

The last major he had garnered was at Wimbledon a year ago, and he had fallen upon some tough times ever since, losing to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final when he was only three sets away from a Grand Slam.

Djokovic ultimately was not able to play the Australian Open this year as an unvaccinated player, and was thus deprived of a likely tenth title run in Melbourne. At the French Open he underperformed in a four set quarterfinal loss to Nadal.

All of those setbacks made Djokovic highly motivated to succeed once more on the Centre Court and add to his legacy, but he also realized that a bid for a fourth U.S. Open title almost surely will not be possible later this summer because he is not vaccinated. That fundamental and inescapable fact surely made Djokovic even more determined to win Wimbledon this year. He was a man on the deepest of missions, treating this tournament as a critical moment in his career, utterly unwavering in his pursuit of the crown.

In the final against Kyrgios, Djokovic was well aware from the outset that Kyrgios was not intimidated by either his resume or his reputation. They had met only twice before and Kyrgios had prevailed in both clashes— at Acapulco and Indian Wells five years ago.

In those two matches combined, Kyrgios did not lose his serve. I watched these two battles and they were well played on both sides of the net, but this was amidst one of Djokovic’s worst years. Only a few months earlier he had lost to Denis Istomin at the Australian Open.

In the early stages of this gripping Wimbledon final, Kyrgios was striking the ball beautifully. He was hardly missing in the fast paced backcourt exchanges, driving his forehand potently, guiding his two-hander safely to avoid senseless mistakes. He broke Djokovic on a double fault at 2-2 in the first set as the Serbian gambled on a 111 MPH second serve and sent it into the net. Kyrgios rolled through his service games until 5-4 but then sealed the set after a deuce game with an ace measured at 131 MPH down the T. In 31 minutes, the 6’4” Australian powerhouse had secured the opening set.

Djokovic was concerned but largely undismayed. He won a critical game on his serve at 1-1 in the second set by prevailing in a hard fought 23 stroke exchange at 30-30 and then executing a backhand drop shot winner immaculately on the following point. Djokovic looked up pridefully at his entourage as he went to the changeover. Buoyed by his commendable hold, Djokovic broke at love in the fourth game to move ahead 3-1. At 5-3, he served for the set, opening with a double fault in that ninth game, soon falling behind 0-40.

But, in a spirited stand, he rallied to deuce before saving a fourth break point with a gusty backhand drop shot down the line that was unmanageable for Kyrgios. Soon a fiercely determined Djokovic held to make it one set all.

The complexion of the encounter had changed. Djokovic was now getting more and more returns back into play and challenging the Australian in almost every service game. But Kyrgios fended off two break points in the first game of the third set, held from deuce for 2-1 and survived another deuce game for 3-2, closing it with a pair of aces.

They went to 4-4 and Kyrgios seemed poised for a comfortable hold when he took a 40-0 lead. But Djokovic produced forehand winners on two of the next three points on his way back to deuce before a beleaguered Kyrgios double faulted. At break point down, Kyrgios netted a routine backhand. Djokovic had opportunistically collected five points in a row to establish a 5-4 lead in the most pivotal game of the match. He held on in the following game to build a two sets to one lead.

To the surprise of many seasoned observers in the cognoscenti, Kyrgios did not fold in the fourth set. In fact, he fought on ferociously. Both combatants were unstoppable on serve across that set. Kyrgios won 24 of 33 points in his service games on his delivery leading up to the tie-break, while Djokovic was even more convincing, taking 24 of his 29 service points. To be sure, the 35-year-old Serbian was two points away from being forced into a fifth set when he served at 5-6, 30-30, but he calmly claimed the next two points to make it 6-6.

Djokovic was nearly letter perfect in that tie-break, knowing unequivocally that he wanted to end the skirmish right then and there, realizing that a fifth set might have brought out the best in Kyrgios. Kyrgios opened that sequence by double faulting. Djokovic led 2-0 but made his only unforced error of that tie-break.

And yet, despite two first serves from Kyrgios on the next two points, Djokovic won them both with solid returning and heads-up play. He moved swiftly to 6-1 before Kyrgios saved two match points on his own serve, but on his third match point Djokovic succeeded handsomely, eliciting a netted backhand pass from Kyrgios on the run to prevail seven points to three.

Victory went to Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) as he emerged victorious for the seventh time in eight Wimbledon finals. Djokovic is now the only man in the history of tennis to win two of the four majors at least seventh times. In addition to his seven titles at the All England Club, he has amassed nine more in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

Kyrgios had sent out a barrage of blockbuster serves all through that final, releasing 30 aces and countless service winners. But he lost his serve twice in the four sets while Djokovic—astonishing in getting his racket on so many searing serves and blocking them back with depth— was broken only once before holding in his last 18 service games. Most remarkably, Kyrgios connected with 73% of his first serves, averaging 123.6 MPH on his first serve and 110.6 on his second delivery.

Be that as it may, the Australian won only 70% of his first serve points (a decidedly low number for him) and 53% on the second serve. Djokovic, meanwhile, won 83% of his first serve points and 61% on second serve. Djokovic made only 17 unforced errors in the match, 16 fewer than Kyrgios.

Djokovic has raised his record to 21-11 in major finals and has now moved past Roger Federer into sole possession of second place on the all time men’s list, standing only one behind Nadal. It was a very important title for Djokovic in a multitude of ways, and immensely gratifying as well. He has not lost a Centre Court match since falling in the 2013 final against Andy Murray, winning 39 in a row. Moreover, Djokovic has captured four Wimbledon titles in succession.

And yet, the Serbian drops in the ATP Rankings this week from No. 3 to No. 7. How can that be? The ATP and WTA elected to take away all ranking points from the players at Wimbledon this year. Thus, Djokovic, despite defending the title, lost his 2000 ranking points from 2021. Strictly in terms of the rankings, it was as if he and everyone else never played.

That was a ludicrous decision by the associations to harm their players in this manner. Wimbledon is the sport’s centerpiece event, the most prestigious tournament in the game of tennis, the one all sports fans look forward to the most. This year was no exception. But Djokovic and many other players were done a terrible injustice. It is not only regrettable but it cuts into the credibility of those rankings.

Djokovic stands to lose another 1200 points that he earned at the U.S. Open last year as a finalist if he does not play this year, which is exceedingly likely. It is Djokovic’s choice if he does not go to New York because he could have taken the vaccine. Along with his many ardent admirers and observers who believe Djokovic is one of the most extraordinary craftsmen the game has ever seen, I wish he felt differently and had changed his mind about the vaccine, which the vast majority of authorities believe is very safe.

Having said that, it must be reiterated that Djokovic is not refusing to be vaccinated out of egocentricity. To the contrary, he is standing up for his own principles. Whether misguided or not, he may miss two of the four majors this year. He is making a substantial sacrifice without asking for any sympathy, and that must not be forgotten by those who question his motives.

Where the Covid Crisis goes from here is anybody’s guess. But this much is certain: Djokovic has tied both his idol Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with his seven titles at the All England Club. Next year, he will seek to tie Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight championships. Incidentally, the iconic trio of Sampras, Federer and Djokovic have won 22 of the last 29 Wimbledon titles collectively. Djokovic will be surely return as the favorite. The feeling grows that Djokovic will remain in the forefront of the game for at least three more years, and some of his very best tennis might well be ahead of him.

In all of my happy years at Wimbledon, I have witnessed very few players on the preeminent stage of the sport who have given me as much pleasure as Novak Djokovic.

ATP

Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

Published

on

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

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

Continue Reading

ATP

Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

Published

on

Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

Continue Reading

ATP

Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

Published

on

Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending