Comparing Jannik Sinner To Tennis' All-Time Greats Is Unfair, Says Coach Cahill - UBITENNIS
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Comparing Jannik Sinner To Tennis’ All-Time Greats Is Unfair, Says Coach Cahill

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It is without a doubt that Jannik Sinner is currently the most in-form player on the ATP Tour but one of his mentors has warned against generating too much hype. 

The 22-year-old is the only player so far in 2024 to win a trio of ATP titles, which includes the Australian Open. His latest achievement was at the Miami Open where he dismantled Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets to win the tournament. As a result, Sinner has risen to No.2 in the rankings which is the highest-ever position achieved by an Italian man in ATP history. 

Since the start of the season, Sinner has won 22 out of 23 matches played with his only loss being in the semi-finals of Indian Wells to Carlos Alcaraz. He is the first player to win both the Australian Open and Miami titles within the same season since Roger Federer in 2017. Sinner’s surge in recent months has elevated him to the limelight with some speculating that he could go on to become one of the sport’s most dominant players.   

However, coach Darren Cahill has warned against comparing Sinner with other heavyweights of the sport such as the Big Three. A group of players that consists of Novak Djokovic (who Sinner has beaten in three out of their four most recent meetings), Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“I don’t think anybody should be comparing this generation yet to the generation that we have just seen with Novak, Federer and Nadal. What they were able to achieve for so many years is remarkable.” Cahill told reporters on Sunday.
I don’t think we will ever see that domination again no matter what. What you are seeing with the players coming through now is a direct result of their professionalism, of the teams they put together, the way they have tried to inch out every piece of improvement in each of their games.”

Cahill has a wealth of experience in the sport. A former US Open semi-finalist, he has worked with Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Simona Halep. The Australian joined Sinner’s team in 2022 and works alongside his other coach Simone Vagnozzi.

“I wouldn’t start comparing what Carlos or Jannik or Holger (Rune) or these types of players are doing just yet to the generation prior, because I think that’s unfair,” he continued.
“They need time to establish themselves. But the level is right up there, and it’s a good level, but they need to win a lot more before you start comparing them to those boys.”

Dimitrov weighs in on debate

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Cahill’s view is supported by 32-year-old Dimitrov who has played alongside the Big Three throughout his career. The Bulgarian knows what it is like to be compared to some of the sport’s biggest stars with him being famously nicknamed ‘baby Fed’ due to the similarities in his game style with the Swiss maestro. 

“At the moment Jannik is playing outstanding tennis. There is nothing to say to that.” Said Dimitrov.
“You see how focused he is, how determined he is, the way he’s hitting his shots, there is zero doubt, so a lot of that level, it’s extremely high up.
“I don’t feel the need to compare him to any other player for that matter. Can he play any better? I don’t know. He’s the one to show that. But at the moment he’s been able to put so many matches back to back with the same level, so all credit goes to him. And he is the best player right now in the world.”

Dimitrov, who has returned to the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2018, was more precise when asked about who was the toughest player he has ever faced on the Tour. 

“The toughest player that I have played at his absolute prime was Roger (Federer). I remember a few times even at Wimbledon, once I remember it was just — I wanted to dig a hole and disappear. I haven’t had that feeling yet against anyone else. That’s probably going to be the player I suffered the most with.” He replied. 

Dimitrov lost seven out of eight matches against Federer on the Tour with his only victory being in their final meeting at the 2019 US Open. 

Sinner focuses on the present

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As for Sinner himself, his motto continues to be working to improve his game further and not to take his surge in success for granted. His attention now switches to the clay swing which includes his home tournament at the Rome Masters and the French Open. 

He has won 13 ATP titles so far in his career but only one of those was on clay at the 2022 Croatia Open. 

“When you win, you realise that it’s really special, like this [Miami title],” he said. “But it’s a moment. You live this moment, and then you’re happy and then you fly to Cincinnati and the day after you play again.
“So there is not so much time to enjoy this. That’s what I feel like I have improved a lot. After [winning the title in] Australia, I live these moments, three or four days, and then after, I get back to work. It was the same in Rotterdam and it’s the same here because you don’t have time to enjoy.
“So this is also how I am because maybe there are players who enjoy a little bit for longer. Me, I know that I don’t have so much time to prepare for Monaco, so this is now obviously the next goal, trying to get confident with the clay.”

Sinner’s next tournament will be the Monte Carlo Masters. He is currently 1115 points behind Djokovic in the ATP PIF rankings. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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