What happens now?
All of my U.S. Open men’s favorites have been eliminated.
Rafa Nadal wasn’t ready to tackle Frances Tiafoe’s all-out attack.
Jannik Sinner had his one chance and blew it against the amazing talents of teen-ager Carlos Alcaraz.
Top-ranked Daniil Medvedev couldn’t handle Nick Kyrgios’ casual shot-making.
And then Kyrgios couldn’t match Karen Khachanov’s sizzling power and consistency.
Lastly, Andy Murray was just himself, pretty good for his age but not good enough to turn back Matteo Berrettini and his big game.
IS RUUD’S DULL GAME THE BEST?
Now, it gets really interesting. Is Khachanov finally ready to live up to his potential in the semifinals? Otherwise, Casper Ruud will simply win doing what he usually does: Playing near-errorless tennis. That game has given Ruud a shot at being the No. 1 player in the men’s game by the time next week’s world rankings are released.
Ruud is too consistent. So consistent with his good, but not great serve and matching ground strokes that he may be the dullest top player to watch. Of course, like most players with eyes on the crown, he is a terrific fighter.
The 23-year-old Norwegian always seems to leave himself a little room just in case he misses his target just inside a line, and instead hits a line.
Yes, it’s really tough to make the 6-0 Ruud commit an unforced error and go outside the line.
CAN KHACHANOV TAKE NEXT STEP?
Of course, Khachanov is the odd one and the most surprising to make Friday’s semifinals.
The mighty Kyrgios simply came down a notch from his perch as possibly the most talented player in the game, just enough to give the 26-year-old Khachanov a chance.
Maybe Kyrgios got tight and underestimated the wrong Russian.
Poor Daniil. So ready for a second straight U.S. Open title. Now, top Russian Medvedev seems to have the whole world to worry about taking his spot.
IT’S ALCARAZ: LEARN TO SPELL THE NAME
You might as well learn to spell it. Alcaraz appears to be for real.
Wonder Boy Alcaraz doesn’t seem to let his collisions with the court surface to injure his body and legs or his game. If that aspect (falls) of his game continues, the young Spaniard’s stay at No. 1 probably won’t come near Nadal’s longtime success story. Of course, that’s if Alcaraz wins it all in New York.
Give Alcaraz a few years to play like the wild man that took back Sinner’s potential victory in Wednesday night’s marathon five-setter, and the 19-year-old might discover that a hard-court tennis court isn’t always a good place to land his body.
But right now, almost everyone outside of Norway expects Alcaraz to win this U.S. Open.
A DANGEROUS BRIDGE FOR ALCARAZ TO CROSS
Before that championship celebration can happen, Alcaraz has a potentially dangerous bridge to cross in the semifinals.
Tiafoe no longer can be overlooked when it comes to Grand Slam tournament time. The 24-year-old American is much taller and muscular than he looks on TV. He’s 6-2, all muscle and quickness.
Yes, baring a yield to pressure, Tiafoe has the game to take Alcaraz down.
Tiafoe compares physically, except Alcaraz is three inches shorter. And for the records, a 15-year-old Tiafoe was the youngest-ever boys singles champion in the prestigious Orange Bowl junior tournament.
CAN TIAFOE REALLY TAME ALCARAZ?
How could Tiafoe possibly tame Alcaraz?
Not easily, but Tiafoe has a tendency to hit only lines when he goes for winners. Against Nadal, it seemed as if every forehand Tiafoe hit went for a winner when Nadal pulled him far off the court.
Tiafoe’s forehand winners from well outside of the sideline spelled doom for Rafa’s hopes of making the quarterfinals for a 17th straight time in a Grand Slam. Rafa could not overcome that one part of Tiafoe’s game.
TIAFOE NEUTRALIED RAFA’S FOREHAND
The go-for-broke forehands by Taifoe took the left-handed Nadal out of his game. They neutralized Rafa’s famous reverse forehand to what so often has been an open court on his opponents’ forehand side.
Nadal appeared to be unable to solve that situation, and it cost him his first Grand Slam loss of 2022.
Tiafoe may not flash as many acrobatic moves as Alcaraz, but he probably could if he tried real hard. Although maybe not of the behind-the-back winners variety that Alcaraz demonstrated against Sinner. Between the legs, yes, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a behind-the-back winner. At least not in a major.
It’s a coin flip for me between Alcaraz and Tiafoe, with the survivor capturing a Grand Slam title on Sunday.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman
The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.
Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired.
The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona.
Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori.
“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”
The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas.
Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33.
“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said.
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”
The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match.
Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup
Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar. Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup. Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first.
Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time. And each match on Sunday is worth three points.
Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm
Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles. So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday. Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday. Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist. If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.
Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)
Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles. While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever. Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.
Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay. It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1). And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday. Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary
Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games. He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts. However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.
Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary
Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday. If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.
The full Laver Cup schedule is here.
Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday
In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2. And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit. With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup?
Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day. Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm. And each match on Saturday is worth two points.
Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm
These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions. Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event. Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati. Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup. Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.
Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session
Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play. Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive. Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17. Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon. They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets. Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.
Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm
Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday? He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock. Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios. The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.
Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5. Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York. Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets. Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day. But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.
Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session
Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here. This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals. Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2. De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.
The full Laver Cup schedule is here.
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Roger Federer To Make Last-Minute Decision Over Laver Cup Participation, Says Coach
Juan Martin Del Potro Reveals Physical And Mental Trauma From Tennis Retirement
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Andy Murray Calls For Earlier Start To Davis Cup Ties After Great Britain Loses Late-Night Thriller
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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) ITF President David Haggerty ’Satisfied’ With Davis Cup Format Despite Issues
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