'I Feel A Bit Embarrassed' - Novak Djokovic On French Open Expectations - UBITENNIS
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‘I Feel A Bit Embarrassed’ – Novak Djokovic On French Open Expectations

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Novak Djokovic says he has ‘low expectations, but high hopes’ heading into the French Open after what has been a turbulent season so far. 

The 24-time Grand Slam champion is yet to claim a title in 2024 with his best results on the Tour being runs to the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Monte Carlo Masters and Geneva Open. His most recent defeat occurred last week in Switzerland where he was sick during his loss to Tomas Machac, who is currently ranked outside the top 40. Before that, in Rome, he suffered a blow to the head in a freak accident when a fan dropped their bottle from the stand. 

It has been far from ideal preparation for Djokovic, who is the reigning champion in Paris and is bidding to extend his record major title tally. 

“It’s tough to talk about. It’s very subjective,” Djokovic said during his pre-tournament press conference on Sunday about managing his expectations. 
“I almost feel a bit embarrassed to say what my expectations are. Anything but a title for me is not satisfactory. It always has been like that. I know it might sound arrogant to a lot of people, but I think I have a career that backs it up. 
“So that’s why my hopes and goals are always the same, but I have to lower the expectations. When I say that I mean maybe not thinking too much ahead in advance in terms of the tournament and who I might face in the later rounds, but really taking it day by day, step by step, and really building my game. Because that’s what I have really been struggling with, not playing at a consistently good level.”

Djokovic, who recently turned 37, has stated on numerous occasions that his priority is peaking at the big events. The last time he failed to reach at least the quarter-final of a Grand Slam was back in 2020 at the US Open when he got disqualified from his match after inadvertently hitting a lines judge with a ball. 

However, his recent struggles on the Tour have opened the door for others to contest for the title at Roland Garros with some saying the draw is the most open it has been for years.

“I know what I’m capable of, and particularly in the Grand Slams I normally play the best tennis, at least I aim always to play the best tennis, and I was most of my career able to do that, so that’s the goal.” A defiant Djokovic stated.
“I have been saying for quite a while that in terms of clay, I want to peak in Roland Garros. Last year I had an amazing year particularly here in Roland Garros, and hopefully, I can have a great tournament. 
“Of course it does affect me, the five months that I had so far in the year haven’t been great in terms of my tennis. That’s why I have a kind of an approach that is focused on a daily basis more trying to build the form and momentum so that I can have a better chance to reach further in the tournament.”

So what has been misfiring for Djokovic who has made substantial changes to his team in recent months? He is no longer working with Goran Ivanisevic and has changed his fitness trainer. He is currently being trained by Gebhard Gritsch who has worked with him in the past. 

Such changes may have contributed to Djokovic’s recent results but the Serbian refused to pinpoint the reasons. 

“it’s various things that were happening in the last couple of months, but I don’t want to get into it.” He said.
“I don’t want to open Pandora’s Box and talk about things. 
“What has happened, happened, and it’s in the past. It’s something that I can’t (let) affect anymore, but I can kind of learn to rectify certain things and right the certain things that are wrong and really not serving the purpose of my highest performance level. 
“That’s what we have been working on as a team, and hopefully it will give us good results here.”

Djokovic faces local player Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his opening match on Tuesday. 

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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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