By defeating Karen Khachanov 76 62 57 62 Casper Ruud keeps all his dreams alive.
By Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Is Casper Ruud going to follow in the steps of Dominic Thiem, the Austrian who, after losing two Roland Garros finals to Rafa Nadal, went on to triumph at the US Open 2020?
“I’m just so happy. After Roland Garros I was of course extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that that could be my only final in a grand slam in my career. That doesn’t come so easy. And here I am a couple of months later and it feels beyond words to describe,” Ruud said in his after match interview.
As the match took off, an unexpected array of unforced errors coming from both sides disappointed those who were expecting lengthy, breath-catching rallies from two players who are renowned for their consistency. Khachanov was far from his serving standards of his previous match, when he had fired just one ace less than Kyrgios, 30. Ruud and Khachanov traded breaks twice, then quite flatly trudged on to a tiebreak.
A netted forehand cost the Russian a minibreak. Ruud maintained his lead and took the tiebreak finishing off a 55 shot rally with a backhand down the line.
“We were both a bit nervous at the beginning. This match is probably the biggest match for both of our careers and of course there will always be some nerves. I was fortunate to win in that first set, which calmed my nerves a little bit.“
Khachanov came back from 0-40 in the first game of the second set, but in the third game his forehand started letting him down. He lost 4 straight games. Ruud played with due diligence and closed the set 62, never dropping a point on serve.
Khachanov deserves full credit for putting up a battle in the third set. He even earned a break point in the fourth game, but Ruud saved it with a blazing forehand.
The set seemed to be heading toward a tiebreak, when Ruud suddenly blacked out in the 12th game: A double fault, a netted backhand, a forehand sprayed wide and a routinary inside out forehand entrapped halfway up the net: the Russian took the set 75.
On the spur of the momentum Khachanov tried a few hazardous shots in the first game of the fourth set and risked being broken. He got away with it. But he lost his next game on serve, Ruud well pressuring with his forehand and conquering the most spectacular rally of the match with a smashing forehand down the line on the run, which evoked memories of Ivan Lendl.
Ruud broke again in the fifth game. Few minutes later he had match point and ended with a flourish: an elegant dropshot after forcing Khachanov further and further back with a succession of inside out forehands.
In the final set Ruud was definitely playing his best tennis. But he did go through a few tough moments in which his level slumped. Yet, on court he never appeared in low spirits or frustrated. What’s his secret?
“Tennis is a psychological game as well as physical. Sometimes we are trying to act like we have good posture. On the inside we probably feel different so there is a bit of acting as well in sports. I don’t know how I’m able to do it. I take some deep breaths and think that of course it is an important match but there will hopefully be hundreds of more matches in my career so it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go my way. Of course, you want to take care of the opportunities you have and I was able to do that today.“
His next opponent will be either Carlos Alcaraz or Frances Tiafoe, two players who do not refrain from showing their emotions on court. This contrast will add extra spice to the show.
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development
Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.
Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.
The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.
Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.
Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.
“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”
It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.
One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.
Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.
“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.
“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.
“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”
Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
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