“Five-Setters Are Tough For The Body” Says Marathon Man Medvedev - UBITENNIS
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“Five-Setters Are Tough For The Body” Says Marathon Man Medvedev

Russian third seed spends a record 24 hours on court and admits “I will be dead for a week”

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Daniil Medvedev claimed an unwanted record of becoming the first player to lose a Grand Slam final twice having won the first two sets, after going down to Italian superstar Jannik Sinner 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in a thrilling five set epic approaching four hours. 

Before today’s title match Medvedev had already spent six hours more on court than his opponent, having had comeback wins in the quarter finals against Hubert Hurkacz and also with Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals, as well as four other gruelling wins. By going the distance in the fifth set, it meant he had now played 31 sets in this year’s tournament – a record in the Men’s Open era for any player across all Slams.

As Medvedev reflected further on his latest Grand Slam loss, he admitted that playing four five-setters in the tournament was simply too much even for the so-called Marathon Man to handle. He spent a mind-boggling total exceeding 24 hours on court in his seven matches including going to sleep at 5am after his semi-final win. Today he realised it was simply not sustainable:

“Five-setters are tough for the body. It’s crazy, but I would say the worst I felt was the day after the Hurkacz match, and the day after Zverev’s match. Yesterday when I was in practice, I was like, ‘Damn, how I’m going to play the final, how I’m going to move’. We really worked hard with my physio especially, he did a tremendous job every time when I stepped on court, I was ready again. During the match, after two sets, my energy level was dropping because I didn’t have a perfect sleep, I was playing long before. So, let’s call it my fault because I needed to win easier matches, but sometimes it’s tough.”

This was the first time Medvedev faced an opponent other than Nadal or Djokovic in a Slam final and he started off bravely by playing high risk tennis from closer to the baseline, hitting winners from both sides and breaking serve four times. Shortening the points clearly paid dividends. The bold tactics paid off as he stormed to a two-set lead in under ninety minutes. However, it was almost inevitable that the exertions of previous matches would catch up on the 27-year-old. From 5-1 ahead in the second set, things slowly began to change.

“I think what happened is he started to play better, a little bit different tactically, because I proposed to him something different in the beginning of the match, which was very aggressive. I knew there was still going to be long points but I needed to make the points as short as possible. I didn’t really do bad mistakes. In the fifth set I was, like every other match, trying to be proud of myself, and I was fighting, I was running. [I told myself]: if tomorrow I don’t feel my legs it doesn’t matter, I’m going to try everything I can today until the last point, and I did. I got a little tired physically, but Jannik didn’t really. He didn’t seem as tired as my opponents before. He started playing better. I got a little bit tired. Serve went a little bit worse. So, the momentum changed and I really tried in my mind to change it back again, because that’s what tennis is about. But I didn’t manage to do it, and that’s why he’s the winner and has the trophy.”

Medvedev did not believe his painful loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2022 final – where he was two sets and a break up – played on his mind during today’s match. “I didn’t think much about the Rafa match, because I really tried to leave it behind, so I don’t think it had any issues. Otherwise there would be many, many matches during the season where I would lose. And today, I didn’t feel like suddenly when I was two sets to love up, I stopped playing and went behind the baseline and started doing lobs.”

Although having played each other nine times already, Sinner had won the past three including title wins in Vienna and Beijing. This was their first Grand Slam encounter and coming into the final, Sinner had only dropped serve twice and owned a 27-2 record since the US Open. One statistic which clearly highlighted improvements in his all-round game since working with renowned coach Darren Cahill was that he only missed 20% of returns against Djokovic in the semi-final – proving he was getting many balls back in play and not giving away cheap points. 

As Sinner’s blistering match-point winner made him the first ever Italian champion of the Australian Open, his victory sparked the enticing prospect for tennis fans globally of a new young rivalry between him and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz who has already won two Slams. When asked about Sinner’s chances, Medvedev replied:

“Right now, he’s No. 1 in the race. He continues playing like this, continues winning tournaments like this, he’s going to be No. 1 in the world. But we never know what can happen. Many, many things can happen in the tennis career. That’s why I think tennis is a beautiful sport because you cannot look in the future.”

Despite his defeat, Medvedev appreciated the massive support and sympathy he received after the match and vowed to carry on dreaming, firmly believing he can add to his grand slam tally.

“My volley was pretty impressive this tournament, and I’m happy about it, so yeah, I think I can do it more often. I still think the main core of my game is going to stay, try to put as many balls in the court, make my opponent work. Now I’m dreaming more than ever, probably not today, but in general in life. It’s not anymore as a kid who is dreaming: it’s me myself right now, a 27-year-old who is dreaming, and who’s doing everything that is possible for my future and for my present. I love it. That’s why I made it to the final.”

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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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