Fired Up Novak Djokovic Defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas in ATP Finals Opener - UBITENNIS
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Fired Up Novak Djokovic Defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas in ATP Finals Opener

The Serb is seeking his first ATP Finals title since 2015

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Novak Djokovic claimed a ninth successive win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening match at the ATP Finals in Turin.

 

The 35-year-old won 6-4 7-6(4) in an absorbing battle on Monday night in front of an electric crowd. Defeat for the Greek ends his hopes of ending the year as World Number One.

Djokovic was flawless in the first set, and broke Tsitsipas’ serve in the opening game of the match.

The Serb was fired up after Tsitsipas looked to orchestrate the crowd midway through the set. He served the set out for 6-4, facing zero break points en route.

Djokovic’s serving continued to impress in set two, as well as some tremendous passing shots which caught Tsitsipas off guard.

After 12 holds of serve in the set, Djokovic found his best level in the tie-break, and hit a wondrous backhand passing shot on his way to winning the match.

The first game was very important to break his serve,” Djokovic said. “Starting with a break of serve is obviously a huge boost in confidence and a relief as well because we both knew it would be a tight match.”

He added ‘it was very important to start off well. I held my serve really well throughout the match. I played a great tie-break, very solid all the way through.’

Djokovic will face Andrey Rublev on Wednesday, after he overcame Daniil Medvedev in the afternoon session. The winner of that match is likely to progress through to the semi-finals.

Tsitsipas next plays Medvedev in a must-win match for both players.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round

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Coco Gauff this week in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.

 

In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva.  And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.   

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve.  She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek.  Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.

Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th.  She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying.  Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week.  The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.

On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff.  Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight.  And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders.  But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.


Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening.  Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches.  Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.

Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay.  All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon. 

So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand?  In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge.  While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major.  Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.


Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu

Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise.  Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories.  She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.

Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half.  She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match.  And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.


Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston.  Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.

Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season.  He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14.  But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.

Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge.  However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021.  Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo.  Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.

Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date.  Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz.  He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.

Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major.  This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther.  They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0.  And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros.  Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Novak Djokovic Survives Resilient Davidovich Fokina To Reach Roland Garros Second Week

Novak Djokovic is into the last 16 after a tough battle with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

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Novak Djokovic’s quest for a 23rd Grand Slam title continues after a tough 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-2 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

 

The Serb won an epic straight sets match which lasted just over three hours and 35 minutes.

Djokovic overcame a physical first two sets which lasted two hours and 47 minutes before racing through the third set.

Next for Djokovic is either Juan Pablo Varillas or 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

The opening two sets saw a battle take shape as both players grinded away from the baseline.

Davidovich Fokina’s clean hitting from the baseline earned him the first break for a 3-2 lead before Djokovic retaliated as he converted his third break point of the game.

There was a mix of long rallies and entertaining shot-making as Davidovich Fokina forced Djokovic into uncomfortable positions on the court.

The Spaniard’s all-court game earned him another break as Djokovic was making too many mistakes in big points.

However Davidovich Fokina once again fell short in the longer rallies when it really mattered as the pressure got to the Spaniard as Davidovich Fokina couldn’t close out the opening set.

Djokovic’s experience paid off as he forced a tiebreak and played his best tennis when it mattered the most as he won seven of the eleven points on offer to take the opening set in 85 minutes.

If that opening set wasn’t brutal enough, the second set was another war of attrition as both competitors pushed each other to its limits.

Djokovic couldn’t convert three break points in the opening game and was ultimately punished as Davidovich Fokina’s consistent all-court game saw him take a 2-0 lead.

Once again the Spaniard couldn’t keep his lead as Djokovic played his best tennis when behind in the score as the Serb took a 3-2 lead.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion was a break twice before Davidovich Fokina played aggressive return games to recover the break back on both occasions.

Another physical set of tennis would be decided by a tiebreak, which Davidovich Fokina originally had control of.

In the end Djokovic won the last three points to pump up the Philippe-Chatrier crowd, ending another 85 minute set.

From then on it was all Djokovic’s as the third set lacked intensity and saw Djokovic storm to victory.

After the match Djokovic told the Parisian crowd that he knew it was going to be a physical match, “I knew it was going to be a difficult match, a physical match,” Djokovic was quoted by the BBC as saying.

“He competed very well, he’s an amazing fighter and an amazing player. There are not many weaknesses in his game and he played a great match. A win is a win. I thought if I lost the second set we would probably play five hours today.

“You have to be ready, that is what Grand Slam tennis is all about. It takes a lot of effort but you have to believe in yourself. I am proud of the performance today for sure.

“Three hours for two sets is obviously a lot. It required a lot of energy and my priority now is to recover. Tomorrow I will have a day off and I’ll be ready to play again.”

Djokovic will now prepare for his last 16 match against Varillas or Hurkacz on Sunday with a spot in the quarter-finals on the line.

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Aryna Sabalenka Rejects ‘Open’ Press Conference Request Citing Mental Health

Aryna Sabalenka is into the last 16 at Roland Garros for the first time but it was happened after the match that made the news.

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Aryna Sabalenka (@RelevantTennis - Twitter)

Aryna Sabalenka rejected a request to do an ‘open’ press conference after her third round win at Roland Garros.

 

The Australian Open cruised into the second week in Paris after a 6-2 6-2 thumping of Kamilla Rakhimova.

It means Sabalenka is into the last 16 at Roland Garros for the first time in her career having not dropped a set this week.

Sabalenka admitted to the small amount of journalists there that this win will give her more belief in Paris, “I don’t know actually. If something happened to you once, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen one more time,” Sabalenka said when talking about her third round barrier at Roland Garros.

“So I prefer to focus on myself, on things I can control. Of course, this win gave me so much belief in myself here in Paris, so I know that on the next match I will go there and do everything I can to win another match. Yeah, definitely this win give me somewhat belief.”

Sabalenka will hope her belief will take her to a second Grand Slam title in Paris this week.

However most of the news surrounding Sabalenka has been off the court with the world number two having an intense confrontation with a journalist in her last press conference.

This is a journalist asked Sabalenka about Belarus’ regime and it’s links to war in Ukraine.

Sabalenka refused to answer the series of questions with the journalist being unable to gain an answer from the press conference.

That latest line of questioning resulted in Sabalenka holding a interview with only a few journalists today rather than an ‘open’ press conference.

Starting the interview Sabalenka admitted she did not feel safe in the press conference room on Wednesday and took the decision to protect her mental health, “Yeah, after my match I spoke with the media like I normally do. I know they still expect some questions that are more about the politics and not so much about my tennis,” Sabalenka opened up by saying.

“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the
media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference.

“I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches. For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision. It hasn’t been an easy few days, and now my focus is
continue to play well here in Paris.”

It will be interesting to see how the situation evolves as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.

As for Sabalenka, she will hope to focus on the tennis on court as she takes on either Sloane Stephens or Yulia Putintseva on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.

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