Sakkari, endless crisis. Is it really a surprise? - UBITENNIS
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Sakkari, endless crisis. Is it really a surprise?



The Greek loses for the third time in a row in the first round in a slam, grabbing a sad record, as never before had anyone in the top 10 lost in the first round for three straight slams. Is it really a surprise though? The story of a tennis player as physically strong as mentally fragile.


By Bianca Mundo

Maria Sakkari cries during her press conference. Twenty-four hours after stating during an ‘interview that she considered herself “serene and regenerated” after several weeks spent in Greece training and “ready to take one match at a time in the slams,” and confident after the final she reached just few weeks earlier in Washington. Once again, she is on the list of “upsets” on the first day of a slam. If, in hindsight, the first round defeat in Paris against the resurgent and very talented Muchova, who would later reach the final, where she forced even the world No. 1 to do overtime, can be accepted, if a bad day at Wimbledon, where the match with Kostuyk was nonetheless exciting and uncertain until the end, can happen, in Monday’s defeat against Masarova, the world number 77 who had never made it beyond the second round in a slam, if two clues make a proof, one can start talking about a real crisis.

The fact that Sakkari is not the female equivalent of Nadal in terms of the temper is no surprise. The 22 lost semifinals and seven lost finals out of eight played in her career are evidence of how this girl from Athens often melts like snow in the sun at major moments. In front of the cameras, including the Netflix ones that followed her in 2022 on the journey that took her from the Indian Wells final to the very painful semifinal loss to Kreijcikova where she started as the favourite, she never concealed her vulnerability and her struggle to handle the pressure: “It’s like there are two little creatures inside my mind in perpetual conflict, I didn’t even feel like I was in me. I got there completely empty of any energy.” However, she seemed to accept defeat with philosophy (which comes as no surprise, given her homeland) declaring “you learn to lose. Unless you are Roger, Rafa or Novak, who are from another planet. All the rest of us, we will always lose more than we can win, considering that you play almost every week.”

If indeed the scheduling of the tour grants an opportunity for redemption almost on a weekly basis, the downside is the frenetic moving often from one country or continent to another that leaves no room for any period of reflection and seems to suck players into a vortex. Snowed under with one, two, three defeats in a row and the surface seems farther and farther to reach.

Sakkari, in last night’s press conference, finally seemed much more honest with herself, after the numerous press conferences and interviews in which she claimed to have gained enough experience to win a major title. That much-coveted major title, or the fact it’s still missing, has been held against her since she entered the top 10, considering that so far she has only once lifted a trophy in a minor event, Rabat 2019.

She tearfully admitted that the two defeats at Roland Garros and Wimbledon have been a constant thought and most importantly for the first time she confirmed that identifying the problem is the biggest hurdle, before any hypothetical solution. Thus, it is not a matter of an injury, a coach to be changed immediately as suggested by the keyboard warriors, the stench of cannabis she complained about to the umpire during the match. The issue appears to be in her own words “I can’t see where the problem is. She is very tall and served well, but if I had played 10/15% better than I did, I would have won the match. These are matches I have to win, and there have been too many this year that I have lost like this. I must do something, but I don’t know what. I’m putting all the effort I can, but I have no idea what I’m going to do next.”

Sakkari is thinking of taking a break from tennis, in the wake of a currently increasing and significant number of athletes like Andreescu, Anisimova, Muguruza and even multiple slam winners like Osaka, who in the last couple of years have expressed the same need, confirming that the muscle to be kept most trained in tennis, is the brain.

Not surprisingly, during the whole match with Masarova, she seemed almost absent. And there comes the echo of the words from her mother Angeliki, who is a tennis player as well and which do sound like a prophecy within the current events “Maria has sacrificed so much since she was a little girl. Only her inner demons or an injury could keep her off a tennis court. Because tennis players do not only lose to their opponents, but also to themselves.”


Hamad Medjedovic earns first place in Red Group at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah



Hamad Medjedovic beat Abdullah Shelbayh 3-4 (6-8) 4-2 4-3 (7-5) 4-2 to earn first place in the Red Group with a perfect 3-0 record at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah. 


Medjedovic needed to win at least one set to reach the semifinals, while Shelbayh needed to win the match in three or four sets. Luca Van Assche qualified as the second-placed player from the Red Group.

Medjedovic will face Dominic Stricker in the semifinal, while Van Assche takes on Arthur Fils.  

Medjedovic fired 18 aces and won 88 % of his first-serve points. He saved all three break points against Shelbayh. 

Medjedovic fired a tournament-leading 45 aces and was broken twice. 

Medjedovic saved three break points to hold serve in the fourth game of the first set. Shelbayh went up a mini-break twice, but Medjedovic pulled back on serve both times. Shelbayh won the final three points to clinch the tie-break 8-6. Both players went on serve in the first five games before Medjedovic earned the break to win the second set 4-2. 

The third set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Shelbayh earned the first mini-break to take a 3-2 lead. Medjedovic pulled back on serve to draw level to 3-3. The Serbian player earned a second mini-break to close out the tie-break 7-5. 

Medjedovic started the fourth set with an early break in the first game. He held on his next service games and sealed the win on his first match point. 

Medjedovic set up a semifinal match against Dominic Stricker. Luc Van Assche will face Arthur Fils in an all-French semifinal.“It was a great match. I played really good after the first set He is a very good friend of mine. He is a very good player and obviously the crowd here loves him and I respect that. It was a pleasure to play in front of the crowd”, said Medjedovic. 

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Dominic Stricker cruises past Luca Nardi at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah



Third seed Dominic Stricker cruised past Luca Nardi 4-1 4-1 4-2 in 54 minutes in the fastest match in the history of the Next Gen Finals at the Next Gen ATP Finals at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah bouncing back from his defeat in the first match against Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday. 


Stricker converted four of his six break points and hit 13 winners, including 3 aces. 

Stricker came back from 15-40 down in the first game after two double faults from Nardi and broke serve with a return winner on the deciding point to take a 1-0 lead. The world number 94 saved three break-back-back points in the second game from 15-40 down before breaking for the second time in the fifth game to win the first set 4-1. 

Stricker broke serve at 30 in the second game of the second set and held serve at love in the third game to race out to a 3-0 lead. Stricker served it out on his second set point. 

Stricker earned an early break in the first game of the third set on the deciding point and held his next service games. Nardi saved the first match point but he hit his backhand into the net on the second match point after the longest rally of the match. 

“We had a long discussion yesterday evening about how to do it today. I think it was really good that we talked a lot after what maybe was not my best performance. Now to come out today like that, I think nobody expected that. I am just happy that I did it and now I am going to try my best to recover for the third group match”, said Stricker. Stricker is now 1-1 in Green Group. The Swiss player is aiming to reach his second consecutive semifinal at the Next Gen Finals. He is looking to crown a good year after reaching the fourth round at the US Open. 

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Jannik Sinner, Arnaldi End Italy’s 47-Year Wait For Davis Cup Title



An in-form Jannik Sinner has secured Italy’s first Davis Cup title in almost half a century after crushing Alex de Minaur in straight sets. 


The world No.4 headed into the crucial match with his country boasting a 1-0 lead over Australia after Matteo Arnaldi won his clash against Alexi Popryin in three sets. Taking on a fiery de Minaur, a composed Sinner surged to a 6-3, 6-0, victory in Malaga to hand his country an unassailable lead and the title. The dominant performance saw Sinner produce a total of 25 winners with 18 of them coming from his forehand side. It is the sixth time he has beaten de Minaur on the Tour and he is yet to lose against him. 

“It helps a lot to play for the whole team,” Sinner said of his latest win. “It has been an incredible thing for all of us and we are really happy.”

Sinner first broke three games into his encounter with de Minaur after the Australian hit a lob shot that landed out. In control of proceedings, he rallied his way to 5-3 before opening up a 40-0 lead against his opponent’s serve. With three set points at his disposal, Sinner converted his second with the help of another unforced error coming from across the court. 

Closing in on the historic victory, the 22-year-old was in clinical form throughout the second frame as he raced to a 5-0 lead in under 30 minutes. Destroying whatever hopes Australia had of a shock comeback. Sinner closed out the match on his third attempt after a De Minaur backhand drifted wide, prompting an almighty smile on his face. 

Thanks to Australia. I know with the new format it is a little bit different to have to all come to one place. it means a lot.” Said Sinner.

In the first match of the day, Arnaldi ousted Popryin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, in a two-and-a-half-hour marathon. The world No.44, who made his Davis Cup debut in September, held his nerve throughout a tense deciding set where he saved all eight break points he faced. Overall, he hit a total of 40 winners past Popryin and was visibly emotional afterward. 

“This match was very important and emotional for a few reasons,” Arnaldi told reporters. 
“This year for me was the first time playing for my country. I played when I was junior, but Davis Cup is just different.’
“And three weeks ago, an important person passed away. I think he gave me the power to try to stay there (in the match). It wasn’t easy to play, but they gave me the power at the end to try to win.”

It is the second time in history Italy has won the Davis Cup and the first since 1976. The triumph caps off what has been a memorable week for the team who 24 hours earlier beat Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in the semi-finals with Sinner saving three match points against the world No.1 in the singles. 

“I’m really thankful and proud to have these guys,” Italian captain Filippo Volandri commented.
“We have had to manage with a lot of emergencies during these past two years but we did it and we did it like a family.” He added.

Italy, who has become the 11th country in history to win Multiple Davis Cup titles, currently has six players in the ATP top 100 with four of those being in the top 50. 

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