Novak Djokovic Topples Tsitsipas To Clinch Historic Australian Open Title - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Topples Tsitsipas To Clinch Historic Australian Open Title

Djokovic has become the first man in history to win the title at Melbourne Park for the 10th time and only the second to win the same Grand Slam 10 or more times.

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Novak Djokovic has drawn level with nemesis Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles won by a male tennis player after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets to win the Australian Open.

Playing in front of a highly animated crowd on the Rod Laver Arena, Djokovic rallied to a 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5), win over Tsitsipas to become only the fifth player – male or female – to have won a 22nd major title. The triumph has also secured his return to world No.1 on Monday for the first time since June. Djokovic is the third-oldest man to win the Australian Open title and the first to do so for the 10th time in their career.

Taking on third seed Tsitsipas in what was a tense encounter on Sunday, the Serbian claimed victory with the help of 36 winners compared to 22 unforced errors. Winning 75% of his service points and converting two out of five of his break point chances. He has now beaten Tsitsipas in nine out of their 11 Tour meetings.

“What a journey it has been for me and my family. You guys, I don’t know if you will ever forgive me for what I have done to you over the years. This trophy is as much for you as it is for me,” Djokovic said afterwards. 
“This has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year, coming back this year. There is a reason I have played my best tennis here – in front of legends like Rod Laver.
“Only my team and my family know what I have been through over the last four or five weeks. I think this has to be the biggest victory of my life, given the circumstances.”

The showdown featuring 35-year-old Djokovic and 24-year-old Tsitsipas represented the largest age gap between two players contesting an Australian Open men’s final in the Open Era. From the onset, it was Djokovic who dictated proceedings with the use of some of his best tennis. Taking the ball early and applying pressure directly onto his opponent’s backhand, the Serbian broke for the first time in the fourth game of the match with the help of a Tsitsipas double fault to move ahead 3-1. Djokovic, who won 20 out of his 25 service points during the opener, then eased his way to a 5-3 lead before sealing the first set with a serve out wide that forced an unforced error from across the court. 

Heading into the second frame, the tension between the two was rising. Both players remained firm behind their serve with Djokovic for the first time showing a glimpse of frustration with gestures towards his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, in the crowd. Then down 4-5, he saved a set point by prevailing in a 15-shot rally against Tsitsipas with a forehand winner. 

With little to distinguish between the two, it was a roller-coaster tiebreaker which separated them where seven out of the 11 points played saw the server lose the point. Djokovic eased to a 4-1 lead at the expense of some lacklustre shot-making from Tsitsipas which saw him hit a duo of forehand errors. Then it was his turn to succumb to the pressure after producing a backhand error followed by a double fault to allow the Greek to come back and draw level. Despite the blip, the world No.5 weathered the storm to clinch a two-set lead. 

Another mishap would take place at the start of the third set. After taking a five-minute toilet break, Djokovic was broken immediately when he returned to the court before breaking back immediately in the following game. Although he soon regained momentum in the match with the help of a clinical service display where he won 17 points in a row en route to yet another tiebreaker. 

In what was a case of deja vu, Tsitsipas’ unforced errors were his undoing as he fell behind 0-5 before managing to claw his way back into contention. Meanwhile, Djokovic had to contend with a rowdy crowd as well as his opponent. Two Championship points came and went before he prevailed on his third. Bringing the 10-time champion to tears as he celebrated with his team in the crowd just after the match. 

Djokovic’s sheer emotion comes as no surprise considering his recent history in Australia. 12 months ago he was deported from the country following a legal battle over the validity of his visa and then received an automatic three-year ban from returning. A penalty that wasn’t waived by the government until last November. Then in this year’s tournament, he had to contend with a hamstring injury with some accusing him of saying the problem was more severe than it was. 

Yet few can dispute Djokovic’s achievements in the sport which was hailed by runner-up Tsitsipas during the trophy ceremony. It is the second time Tsitsipas has lost to him in a Grand Slam final after the 2021 French Open. 

“Novak, I don’t know what to say, the numbers say it all,” Tsitsipas said of Djokovic. “It’s been an unbelievable journey for you and I admire what you have done for our sport.
“He’s one of the greatest in our sport – the greatest to have ever held a tennis racket. I’d like to thank you for pushing our sport so far.
“It’s not easy to be here again in the final of a grand slam. But thank you to my team, we are getting there.”

Djokovic has now won 28 consecutive matches at the Australian Open and is 12-0 so far this season. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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

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