Roland Garros Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays for History - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays for History

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Novak Djokovic during Friday’s semifinals (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The men’s singles championship match will be played on Sunday afternoon in Paris.

Novak Djokovic has spent his entire career chasing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  A year ago, he surpassed Federer in the Major title chase, and Roger is now officially retired with 20.  And on Sunday, he has the chance to surpass Nadal with his 23rd Major, on the very court Rafa has owned for the past two decades, and the very court where Nadal has defeated Djokovic on eight separate occasions.  A victory on Sunday would go a long way in ending the men’s GOAT debate, with Novak atop the heap.  And for the second time in three years, he would be halfway to the elusive calendar-year Grand Slam.

Casper Ruud is the only man to reach three of the last five Major finals.  However, he’s yet to win one.  A year ago in Paris, Ruud went down rather meekly to his idol, Nadal, managing only six games.  A few months later in New York, he lost in four sets to Carlos Alcaraz.  Now after a slow start to his 2023, Casper is into his second consecutive Roland Garros final, on what is definitively his best surface.  But can he challenge the all-time great?

Also on Sunday, it’s the women’s doubles championship match, featuring Su-Wei Hsieh and Xinyu Wang vs. Leylah Fernandez and Taylor Townsend (10).  This is only Su-Wei’s fourth tournament since 2021, as she vies for her fifth women’s doubles title at a Slam.  This is 21-year-old Xinyu’s first-ever Major final.  For Fernandez and Townsend, it’s their first Slam final as a team, in just the sixth event of their partnership.


Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 2:30pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Djokovic is 26-4 on the year, and 11-3 on clay.  He’s lost two sets thus far this fortnight: one to Karen Khachanov, and one to Carlos Alcaraz.  Novak is 22-11 in Major finals, and has won 10 of his last 12.  Yet in French Open finals, he’s just 2-4, with three losses to Nadal, and one to Stan Wawrinka.  Amazingly, Djokovic has now reached the championship match in 34 out of 70 appearances at Majors, which is just shy of 50%.

Ruud is 22-11 this season, identical to Novak’s career record in Major finals, which is a bit mind-boggling.  He’s dropped three sets to this stage, and easily dispatched of Sascha Zverev in the last round.  Casper is 10-6 in career ATP-level finals, with nine of his 10 titles coming on this surface.

Djokovic has dominated their head-to-head 4-0, and has claimed all eight sets they’ve played.  That includes two meetings on clay, both in Rome within the past few years. 

Obviously, Djokovic is a significant favorite to win his record-breaking 23rd Major on Sunday.  However, both players are well aware of that.  So much like Saturday’s women’s singles final, the pressure falls squarely on one side of the net.  I fully expect Ruud to play more freely than he did in last year’s final, with more experience and an opponent who he didn’t grow up idolizing.  And the last time Novak played for history of this magnitude, two years ago in New York when he was one match away from the calendar-year Grand Slam, he faltered badly, losing the US Open final in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev.  So while Djokovic remains the favorite, a tight, nervy encounter feels likely.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

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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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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