US Open: Tiafoe, Alcaraz And Ruud Take Over For Rafa - UBITENNIS
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US Open: Tiafoe, Alcaraz And Ruud Take Over For Rafa

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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. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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