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Denis Istomin Shocks Australian Open With Novak Djokovic Upset Win

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Denis Istomin pulled off what will most likely be the biggest upset of 2017 as he dispatched the six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.

“It’s unreal. It was impossible to think that I can hold it five sets with Novak, physically and mentally. So I did well today,” Istomin said.

Istomin is currently ranked No. 117 in the world after reaching a career high ranking of No. 33 back in 2012. He only managed to get into the main draw at the Australian Open because he won a wild card playoff for players from Asia in December.

In the semifinal of that wild card playoff, Istomin actually faced multiple set points. But now, here he is in the third round of the Australian Open with an upset of Djokovic in his pocket.

In the first game, Djokovic had to play a 24-point game, fighting off six break points along the way. There was an exchange of breaks midway through the set, but the two eventually settled for a tiebreak. It was Djokovic who raced out to a 4-1 lead, but Istomin proved he was up for the fight, as he battled back to win it 10-8 and take the first set.

In set two, Istomin had to fight off one break point in his 2-2 service game, but nothing too exciting happened until the last three games of the set. With Djokovic serving at 4-5, Istomin got out to a 15-40 lead, meaning he had two set points. The No. 2 player in the world showed why he had 12 major titles under his belt, though, as he rattled off four points in a row to hold before breaking Istomin in the next game, eventually taking the second set 7-5.

The third got off to a hectic start, as there were three consecutive breaks early on, allowing Djokovic to get out to a break lead. In the end, Djokovic would break Istomin in three of his service games in a row, taking the set 6-2 and looking like he had finally killed off the fight from Istomin.

The top-ranked player from Uzbekistan didn’t go away easily, as he came right back in the fourth set and got out to an early break lead. Djokovic didn’t let him hold on to that lead for too long, though, and broke to get back on serve midway through the set. Once again, the two men needed a tiebreak to decide things, and once again it was Istomin coming out on top. This one was a little easier for the wild card as he raced out to a 5-1 lead and claimed the set on his third set point.

In the decider, Istomin had a little trouble in his first two service games while Djokovic was cruising. Seemingly out of nowhere, Istomin broke the Serb for a 3-2 lead with a screaming backhand down the line, and that was all he would need. In his last three service games, the wild card dropped just three points, sending Djokovic out of the tournament, and himself into the third round.

“Whenever he needed to, he came up with a big serve, a big play. All I can say is hats off,” said Djokovic, who actually won seven more points than Istomin did in the match. “He’s a well-deserved winner.”

Istomin is into the Australian Open third round for just the third time in his career, and he will get to take on Pablo Carreno Busta. Istomin will be looking to match his best result at a major against Carreno Busta, as Istomin reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2012 and the US Open in 2013.

In Return To Tournament Play, Roger Federer Wins Australian Open Opener

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Roger Federer returned to professional tennis on Monday in Melbourne as he defeated qualifier Jurgen Melzer in four sets, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

The 17-time major champion played the last match on Rod Laver Arena on day one and gave the fans a little scare in the first two sets, but was able to settle down and find his rhythm in the end to get the win.

“I’m happy I was made to work today. It was great to be out there. I really enjoyed myself, even though it wasn’t so simple, Federer said.

Federer, who last played at Wimbledon in July of 2016, was forced to miss the second half of the season due to a back injury. The Suisse wanted to take the rest of the year to rehab and regroup in an attempt to make a run at another major in 2017, and possibly even getting back into the Top 3 or 4 spots of the ATP rankings.

“It was a long road but I’ve made it. I’m in the draw and it’s a beautiful thing. Any match is a good match. Even if I’d lost today, because I’m back on the court,” Federer said.

Melzer is no easy opponent, despite his current ranking of No. 300. The Austrian reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2010 and reached a career high ranking of No. 8 in April of 2011. After a bout with injuries over the last couple years, though, he had seen his ranking drop to outside the Top 500 just last summer.

“To play Jurgen was cool. We know each other since we were 16. We go way back,” Federer said. The two are now both 35-years old.

In Melbourne, Melzer had looked solid as he won three qualifying matches comfortably to earn his spot in the main draw, but was unlucky in getting matched up with Federer, the player who many will say is the greatest of all time.

It was a good battle for two sets as Melzer was actually the first player to make a move, breaking Federer for a 4-2 lead in the first set. The Suisse would break right back for 4-3, though, before going on to break again four games later to go up 6-5 and serve out the set at love.

Despite the disappointment of dropping the first set after being up a break, Melzer refused to go away in the second set. He was even broken in the first game of the second set, but he battled back to break Federer in his last two service games of the set to steal it and level up the match at one set each.

“I thought my serve was on and off in the beginning, which surprised me a little bit, because in practice it’s been going pretty well,” Federer said.

After dropping the second set in shocking fashion, Federer, who hit 19 aces in the match, went back to work and gave Melzer little hope of taking another set. He would break Melzer four times in the last two sets without being broken to ease his way to the four set win and into the second round.

Federer will now take on another qualifier in the second round, and this time it will be young American Noah Rubin. He’s made the second round of the Australian Open for the second year in a row. In 2016, he received a wild card and defeated Benoit Paire in straight sets. This year, he made it through qualifying and then knocked out fellow American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo to reach the second round.

Federer, who hit 46 winners in the match and converted on seven of his nine break points against Melzer, admitted he knows little of his next opponent, but did state that the match will be on his racquet. He’ll take on Rubin on Wednesday in Melbourne.

Blake Beats McEnroe To Win 2016 PowerShares Season Finale In Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — James Blake defeated John McEnroe 6-4 to win the PowerShares QQQ Cup at the Barclays Center, the 12th and final event on the 2016 PowerShares Series, the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.

The tournament title was Blake’s third on the PowerShares Series for the 2016 season, also winning the opening event in Chicago in April and in Portland, Oregon in November. The PowerShares QQQ Cup was the first tennis event ever at the Barclays Center, the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and NHL’s New York Islanders. The event was also the first pro tennis event in Brooklyn since Bill Tilden won the 1935 U.S. Open Pro Championships at the Terrace Club in the Flatbush area of the borough.

The final had a hard New York feel as McEnroe has lived in New York City his entire life and Blake being a local favorite having been born in nearby Yonkers and grew up in the tri-state area in nearby Fairfield, Connecticut.

“I don’t think I have ever played more of a New Yorker in New York than myself since I was born here,” said Blake of playing against McEnroe, who had the majority of the crowd behind him, including his students from the nearby John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randall’s Island and his wife Patty and brother Mark among other family members. “It makes sense to cheer for John McEnroe. He has done so much for this city and so much for this sport. If I’m not playing against him, I’m in the stands cheering for him too.”

The turning point in the match came at the third deuce point at 4-4 when the 37-year-old Blake ripped a backhand up the line passing shot off a McEnroe half volley to set up break point. He then hit another down-the-line backhand return-of-serve that forced a McEnroe half-volley error to break serve. Blake then benefited from two missed backhands from the 57-year-old McEnroe while connecting on two forehand winners to close out the win.

“I was just praying that he would miss a few first serves at the end,” said Blake, who was born four months after McEnroe won his first major singles title at the 1979 U.S. Open. “I was trying to get chances early on, but he erased them all with good serves. I pray that I can serve that well at 57 years old, or moving or anything he is doing this well at 57. I am just happy to get through it. I got a little lucky at the end and took advantage of my one chance on his serve.”

To reach the final, Blake defeated former U.S. Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick 6-4 in the first semifinal, while McEnroe defeated Jim Courier 6-3.

Blake earned 400 PowerShares ranking points with the win to finish the season in third place with 1100 ranking points. Both Roddick and Mark Philippoussis finished the 2016 PowerShares Series season with 1600 ranking point totals, using their best four tournament results. However, Philippoussis is declared the season champion winning the tiebreaker with the better head-to-head record between the two, beating Roddick five times during the season, with Roddick only able to beat Philippoussis in the final of Thousand Oaks, California in October.

Each PowerShares Series event features two one-set semifinal matches and a one-set championship match and, for the second straight year, players make their own line calls with assistance of electronic line-calling.

The full 2016 PowerShares Series list of events and final-round results are as follows;

 

Chicago – James Blake def. John McEnroe 6-4

Charleston, SC – Andy Roddick def. Andre Agassi 6-1

St. Louis – Andy Roddick def. John McEnroe 6-3

Memphis – Mark Philippoussis def. Jim Courier 6-3

Tulsa – Mark Philippoussis def. Jim Courier 6-3

Newport, RI – Mark Philippoussis def. Marat Safin 6-4

Winston-Salem – Mark Philippoussis def. Andy Roddick 6-3

New Haven, CT – Mark Philippoussis def. James Blake 6-2

Portland, OR – James Blake def. Andy Roddick 7-5

Los Angeles – Andy Roddick def. Mark Philippoussis 6-2

Orlando – Andy Roddick def. Jim Courier 6-4

Brooklyn – James Blake def. John McEnroe 6-4

 

The following are pre-event quotes from all four competitors.

 

Jim Courier

Thoughts on professional tennis coming back to Brooklyn for the first time since 1935:

“I think it’s great to have tennis back here. I’ve never had a chance to play a tournament in Brooklyn. I’ve obviously played quite a bit in Queens – all of us have. We get a chance also to be the first in the building, which is really cool. We had that same opportunity two nights ago in Orlando at the Amway Center and I think it’s special to be part of something when you’re introducing it to a venue like this.”

 

John McEnroe

Thoughts on how the players still try to stay competitive in the PowerShares Series:

“Change the format – you know, make it one set so at least I have a prayer. It pushes me. I like to compete, but we obviously want to entertain – you know these guys (Roddick, Blake) are the next guys trying to take over this tour and keep it going, and I think there’s a place in tennis for a champions seniors’ tour – it could work out real well hopefully for the sport. That’s really what it boils down to.”

 

Andy Roddick

Thoughts on what’s been surprising about the PowerShares Series experience:

“For me it’s a lot of fun. John (McEnroe) and Jim (Courier) have put blood, sweat and tears into this tour for a long time, so for James and I to come along and be able to jump in these past couple of seasons has been great. I think it’s great for fans. James (Blake) and I can play as peers, Jim and John as peers, but there’s also that cross-generational match-ups, which are awesome. For me, it’s fun playing against friends of mine, heroes of mine; for me it’s a mix between reality and the surreal every night we play. It’s a lot of fun to be part of.”

 

James Blake

Thoughts on what’s been surprising about the PowerShares Series experience:

“Andy and I have played so many times and we continue that competitive spirit. We obviously don’t train exactly the same as we used to on tour, but we still get competitive when we get out there and it’s a lot of fun to still have that competitive outlet. I just love the opportunity – like he (Andy Roddick) said, John (McEnroe) and Jim (Courier) have put in so much work to make this tour possible. We’re really just piggy backing off of them and getting to enjoy it, and to still enjoy the sport. I’m pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy it and it makes it a lot of fun to go out and compete every day.”

 

John McEnroe

Thoughts on competing with younger players in the PowerShares Series:

“I love to work out – I feel better doing that, for starters, so just the fact that I can get out there and try to conjure up that I can actually do something is nice but I think that’s one of the great things about tennis – it’s a sport you can really play a lot later than the other sports. So that’s hopefully something people will see and appreciate – I certainly do.”

 

In 2015, Andy Roddick won the PowerShares Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Mark Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Champions Series tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

 

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $4 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world.  For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.powersharesseries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA

Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, please visit horizonmedia.com.

 

ABOUT INVESCO POWERSHARES

Invesco PowerShares Capital Management LLC is leading the Intelligent ETF Revolution® through its lineup of more than 140 domestic and international exchange-traded funds, which seek to outperform traditional benchmark indexes while providing advisors and investors access to an innovative array of focused investment opportunities. With franchise assets of nearly $100 billion as of October 2, 2015, PowerShares ETFs trade on both US stock exchanges. For more information, please visit us at invescopowershares.com or follow us on Twitter @PowerShares.

 

ABOUT POWERSHARES QQQ

PowerShares QQQ™, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on the NASDAQ-100 Index®, is one of the largest and most traded ETFs in the world. Under most circumstances, QQQ will consist of all of the stocks in the index which includes 100 of the largest domestic and international nonfinancial companies listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market based on market capitalization.

Five Questions In Men’s Tennis For 2017

by Michael Lemont

Five questions in tennis for 2017.

1- Murray/Djokovic : Who’s gonna take over the leadership? 

Ranked No. 1 for almost three years, Novak Djokovic has lost his throne a couple of weeks before the end of the season. After a perfect first half of the year with a sixth win at the Australian Open, another double Indian Wells/Miami, the Serb finally won the French Open, the last major missing to his trophies, achieving a Grand Slam astride two seasons. He probably needed to release some pressure afterwards and during the second half of the season, he just won one title (Toronto) while Andy Murray became almost invincible with eight titles including Wimbledon, the Olympics and the year-end ATP World Tour Finals, 78 wins in total and 24 in a row to finish the season. And no doubt that his success over Djokovic in the Masters Cup final at home in London was the best conclusion for him, knowing that he lost 13 of their last 15 meetings before that ultimate one. So what’s gonna be Novak’s reaction in 2017? Will he be able to come back to the top? Can Murray stay number one for a little while?
2- Federer/Nadal : Can the Big Four be reunited?

The Big Four fell apart this year. After two semis at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Roger Federer withdrew for the rest of the season due to his back injury. He also had to retire from the French Open earlier one, first time since 1999 that he missed a major. And for the first time since 2002, he finished a season out of the Top 10 (16th).  Rafael Nadal was not luckier in 2016. He was victim of a wrist injury in spring and he had to retire from Roland Garros, for the first time, after the second round. He came back for the Olympics (gold in double, semi in single) but it was too premature and after a disappointing US Open, he withdrew for the rest of the season. Ranked No. 9, it is his worst ranking since 2005. It’s also the first time that none of them is in the Top 4 since 2003. However, they both claimed that they will come back stronger for the opening season. They will turn 36 and 31 years old in 2017. Will they reach the top 4 again? Will they be able to be consistent enough all over the season?

 

3- Del Potro : Can he come back to the top again ?

After 4 wrist surgery and few years off-court since his first and last success in a major (US Open 2009), Juan Martin del Potro is trying another come back. Ranked No. 1,042 in February, he finished the season No. 38. With some astonishing wins this year over some top players (Wawrinka in Wimbledon, Djokovic and Nadal at the Olympics, Murray in the Davis Cup), he proved himself that without any injuries he will be able to reach the Top 10 again and much more. Beside the Big Four, he is the only player with Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic to have won a Grand Slam in the last 12 years. Silver medalist in Rio, he just led the Argentina team to his first Davis Cup trophy, becoming a hero in his country. No doubt that he will be one the players to follow during the upcoming season.
4- The “teen generation” … What’s next?

Because the tennis becomes more and more powerful and physical, it is hard today for the players to break through at an early age. The last teenagers to be part of the Top 10 were  Rafael Nadal in 2005 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2000. Players play longer and reach their best level later than before. The top 100 and top 10 had never been so old in the last few years. But after the 85-86 generation, the 95-96 one is now ready to reverse the trend. For the first time since 2008, the Top 10 is getting younger again (mostly because Roger Federer left it in 2016). The leader of that new generation is Nick Kyrgios, 21 years old and already ranked No. 13 at the ATP. He is one of the only six players that has beaten at least six Top 10 players during the season. He might need to become more mature and professional in order to claim big victories in a very close future. Alexander Zverev (19yo, 24th, one title in St-Petersburg), Borna Coric (20yo, 48th, 2 finals in Chennai and Marrakech) and Taylor Fritz (19yo, 77th, one final in Memphis) are at least as promising. Around the Top 100, Yoshihito Nishioka,  Hyeon Chung, Jared Donaldson, Frances Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev are other names to focus on and to follow for the next seasons.
5 – What about the others?

With three wins in three different majors in the last three years, Stanislas Wawrinka will be one of the most serious contenders to the Big Four once again. However, his lack of consistency will not make him a pretender to the No. 1 status. Alongside  him, the old generation will still be there with Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Marin Cilic and the Frenchmen. Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet will try to become the first french players to win a Major since Yannick Noah in 1983. In the meantime the middle generation never seemed to be that strong. Milos Raonic (3rd), Key Nishikori (5th), Dominic Thiem (8th) and David Goffin (11th) looked mature enough to compete with the Big Four. Grigor Dimitrov, Bernard Tomic and Lucas Pouille can also have ambitious goals for 2017.
Hopefully all those players are gonna make this upcoming season a great one, full of records, emotions and suspense.

djokovic2016usopen

 

Andy Murray Could Overtake Djokovic To Become No. 1

Who would have thought that Andy Murray would get this close to becoming the Number one Tennis Player in the world? The online tennis odds of Murray reaching the summit were never high.

His rivals were simply too good; however, it looks like Murray has overcome all obstacles to finally come within striking distance of the top spot. A long time ago, seven years ago to be exact, Andy Murray reached the No.2 spot in the rankings.

And that lit a fire in him, a desire to climb over opponents like Roger Federer to finally make it to the top. And the fact that he has come so close is nothing to scoff at; because Murray can literally touch his objective considering just how close he is to the top.

And with rivals like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it says a lot about Murray that he has climbed so far up the rankings. The only thing standing in his way is the Paris Masters. If Murray can win there and Djokovic fails to reach the final, then Murray will become the top-ranked Tennis player in the World for the first time in his career.

Of course, with the sort of pressure such a prospect can attract, Murray cannot afford to dwell on it, and he said as much in a recent interview. He cannot think about it too much, not when he has matches to prepare for in the immediate future.

Murray is right in thinking that he has no control over whether or not he becomes the Top-Ranked player. As things stand, Murray could win all his matches and still fail to become No.1.

Novak still holds all the cards; he can still waylay Murray’s journey to the top. Luckily for Murray, he hasn’t made becoming No.1 an obsession, which can happen sometimes. He has simply focused on doing his best in each and every game. He has no intention of acting any different from what he has done for the last couple of weeks.

That isn’t to say that Murray is completely brushing aside the idea of actually becoming No.1. Even if Andy were to strive to become the Top-Ranked player in the world, he doesn’t think he can achieve that goal before early 2017 at best. The prospect of reaching that goal this week seems unlikely for Murray.

This season has been good to Murray, allowing him to exceed many of his own records by winning seven titles; however, Novak has also performed astoundingly in 2016. If Murray does become Number one, he would be the oldest person to do so (at age 29) since John Newcombe who took the spot in 1974 when he was 30.

Murray is confident in his abilities and definitely, believes that he deserves the top spot. The last few months have seen Murray perform at his absolute best.

Last year’s Paris Masters didn’t end well for Murray who lost to Novak in the final; now, Murray will face Fernando Verdasco in the second round. Even with his victories at the Olympics and in Vienna, there is no way of telling whether or not Murray will end 2016 as the top-ranked player in tennis.

Two Uzbek Tennis Umpires Banned Due To Illegal Betting Practices

 

Tennis betting is gaining popularity, making it one of the top sports on which people choose to bet. Betting on tennis, either for a winner, or predicting the score, is incredibly fun and something that many tennis fans enjoy to do. It allows fans to bet on their favorite athletes and test their predictions in an entertaining and thrilling environment. But what happens when people play dirty?

Two tennis umpires from Uzbekistan have recently been banned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for betting-related offenses. The umpires used their position of power to profit through betting, thus leaving all other tennis fans and punters at a very real disadvantage. Sherzod Hasanov and Arkhip Molotyagin, the two umpires from Uzbekistan in question have received a life ban for their unethical and illegal actions.

Hasanov and Molotyagin were officials at an ITF Futures event that was hosted in Tiberias in Israel. The two umpires used their mobile phones to illegally communicate information regarding the scores of matches to a third party. This third party placed bets on these games, based on the inside information. In addition, the pair of umpires was found to have manipulated the scores of matches in a fraudulent manner; choosing to enter false deuce games in their PDA devices while they were officiating other tennis events. The ITF has stated that its Futures tour has now been recognized as a big problem with regards to corruption, as it is their lowest competition level.

It is very disappointing to see tennis officials abuse their power in such a manner, in order to make some extra money. But thankfully the ITF has been vigilant and astute at weeding out officials who act in unethical ways so that the rest of us can continue to place bets without being unfairly disadvantaged by cheaters. Now that these two umpires have been banned for life, you can rest easy! Sky bet mobile is an incredible online betting service that caters to all of your tennis and general sports betting needs. With only a five Pound minimum deposit, Sky bet gives you a total of twenty Pounds in free bets. If you become a member of their Sky Jet Club, you benefit even further due to the weekly five Pound free bet that club members are gifted.

But the best thing about Sky bet mobile is that it is a mobile service that can be used whenever you want. This marks a departure from previous means of betting, where you either had to visit a bookmaker personally, or access one through a computer. Now, with a mobile app that allows you to place bets easily and efficiently, your life is made significantly better. The Skybet mobile app is compatible not only with your mobile phone, but with your tablet too! It is a streamlined app where you can access and manage your Skybet Sportsbook for betting, as well as your Skycasino or Skybingo mobile accounts.

 

Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka Advance Into U.S. Open Men’s Final

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka set up an epic matchup in the final of the US Open that will take place on Sunday as they both won their semifinals on Friday in four sets.

Djokovic and Wawrinka have had many great battles throughout the course of their career, including the 2015 French Open final which Wawrinka won in four sets.

Djokovic, who will play in his seventh US Open final after winning the first semifinal of the day, took out Gael Monfils in what was one of the stranger matches of 2016.

“It was a tough one to be part of…I’m just very glad to overcome that,” said Djokovic. “I think he actually played the best tennis of his life on hard courts this season…so it was a good win for me today.”

Monfils, who had come into the semifinal stage without dropping a set, looked to be completely out of sorts in the opening set against the No. 1 player in the world.

After quickly finding himself down 5-0 after 16 minutes, Monfils appeared to try to change up his strategy to a method that looked like complete indifference. The Frenchman began to give minimal effort in the majority of points at the end of the first set, but the crazy part is that it actually worked. Monfils was able to roll off three games in a row before Djokovic finally closed out the set.

“I tried to get in his head…I’m just embracing the fact the guy is too good for me, and I try to switch strategy…Is not academic, but I try to win. I think I’m gutsy to try that, you know, against the world No. 1,” said Monfils, who hit 11 aces, but also 11 double faults.

The No. 10 seed looked to keep that same strategy going in the second set, but it stopped working. Djokovic figured out how to work around the listless Monfils and breezed to a two-sets lead, but not before boos aimed at the Frenchman rang out around Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The jeers started as Monfils, who faced 20 break points in the match, prepared to serve down set point. He proceeded to ask the crowd to get louder, sarcastically, before hitting double fault to give Djokovic the second set. That was followed by louder jeers, and Monfils looked like he may have received the wake-up call he needed.

After dropping serve to open up the third set, Monfils would roar back and look like he was the one who had been in charge of the entire match, breaking Djokovic twice before fighting back from a 0-40 hole while serving for the set to hold.

“I should not have allowed him to come back into the match after two sets to love up and 2-0 in the third, that was the momentum shift,” said Djokovic. “He started believing in himself and the crowd…was behind him. They wanted to see the long match.”

Monfils appeared to have returned to the form that got him to the semifinals, but more importantly he was able to get the crowd back on his side. The fourth set, though, would once again be controlled by Djokovic.

After an early exchange of breaks, the Serb would break Monfils twice more to close out the win and earn his spot in the final.

“It was a strange match, as it always is when you play Gael, who is very unpredictable player,” said Djokovic. “I was completely caught off guard when he just stood there and chipped the ball back and didn’t do much.”

While Djokovic was able to start scouting his next opponent and prepare for the final, Monfils had to answer to criticism from the press, namely John McEnroe, who was not shy in calling out the Frenchman for his performance in the first two sets.

“I’m very sad to learn that such a legend criticize me, because…I want to be the best. It’s tough. I try my best,” said Monfils, who hit 52 unforced errors. “I’m sorry if you think I’m unprofessional, but I’m working. I’m learning. I think I’m failing, for sure, a lot, but I try to stand up…because when he calls me unprofessional, he calls…all my team, actually, unprofessional.”

In what was a much tighter and more entertaining second semifinal, Wawrinka was able to defeat Kei Nishikori in four sets after being down a set and a break.

“I knew it would be really tough…I’m really happy. It was an amazing atmosphere again. To tell myself that I’m going to be in the final, it’s something crazy,” said Wawrinka.

The Suisse will now play in his third major final and he is looking to keep his record in major finals perfect. He has won the only two that he has played in as he defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, as well as the aforementioned triumph over Djokovic at the 2015 French Open.

“I’m really excited. I’m really happy. I want to enjoy that moment. I’ve watched the final so many times here,” said Wawrinka, who will finally get to play in the US Open final for the first time.

After a straightforward first set in which Nishikori controlled and took advantage of the only break point of the set, Wawrinka was able to battle back from a break down in the second.

The Suisse lost his serve in the opening game of the set before breaking back a couple games later. The pressure continued though as Wawrinka saved six more break points in the set before breaking Nishikori in the 12th game of the set to level the match.

Set No. 3 saw Wawrinka continue to play well as he was able to break Nishikori twice. Just like the second set, the Suisse was able to break in the final game to close it out, this time giving himself a two-sets-to-one lead.

In the fourth set, almost everything went the way of the Suisse as he was able to break three times and ease his way into the US Open final.
There will be no secrets between Djokovic and Wawrinka on Sunday as they have played each other 12 times since 2012, as well as six times in majors. While Djokovic leads the career head-to-head record 21-4, no one will be able to predict what will happen in the final.

 

Caroline Wozniacki Advances Into US Open Semifinals For Third Time

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Caroline Wozniacki reached her third US Open semifinal on Tuesday as she defeated an injured Anastasija Sevastova, 6-0, 6-2 to start off a lackluster night session that saw the men’s match between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga end with the Frenchman retiring.

The Dane, a former world No. 1, reached the only two major finals of her career at the US Open, coming in 2009 and 2014. The win puts her into her first semifinal at a major since that run to the final of the US Open in 2014.

“It’s amazing to be back here. It’s the best feeling ever,” said Wozniacki, currently ranked No. 74.

The former world No. 1 had no issues starting off the match as she was able to break Sevastova to get out to a quick lead. It was just a couple games into the match, though, that the Latvian took a tumble on the baseline and rolled her ankle, essentially killing off any chances she had of winning the match.

“I felt real sorry for her. I kept pushing her back and making her run,” said Wozniacki, who was aware of the injury but did not want to give her opponent any room to get back into the match.

After taking the first set with no trouble whatsoever, it looked like the second set would take a similar path. Wozniacki was able to race out to a 4-0 lead as Sevastova continued to struggle with the ankle injury.

In the fifth game, however, the Latvian was able to finally get on the board as she fought off three break points to hold for the first time in the match. She would hold again in her next service game and looked to finally be in the match, but it was too little too late.

In the next game, Wozniacki held with ease to close out the win, setting up a semifinal with the 2016 Australian Open champion, Angelique Kerber. The German leads the head-to-head record 7-5, but the Dane holds a 5-4 lead in hard court matches.

“She’s had a great year so she will be tough to beat, but I’m going to do my best. That’s all I can ask for myself,” said Wozniacki. “I always believe in myself, no matter what my ranking.”

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Karolina Pliskova Reaches First Major Quarterfinal With US Open Win Over Venus Williams

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Karolina Pliskova ended the opportunity of having an all-Williams semifinal at the US Open as she defeated Venus Williams on Monday, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).

“I put everything in there, I’m happy that I won it,” said Pliskova.

The 10th-seeded Pliskova reached her first quarterfinal at a major with the win that saw her battle back from a being down a set and a break in the second set, while she also had to fight off a match point in the third.

In the first, the Czech didn’t have much to offer for the crowd-favorite Williams. The American, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at the age of 36, rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with ease. That lead would expand to 5-1 for Williams, but she would have difficulty closing out the set as Pliskova would break her twice and actually got the set back on serve.

With Pliskova serving at 4-5, though, she quickly fell into a 0-40 hole and was unable to battle out of it as Williams broke on her third chance to close out the set and take a lead.

The second set saw some of that momentum for Pliskova from the end of the first set carry over. Despite going down a break early, the Czech didn’t let it crush her hopes, as she immediately broke in the next game before breaking again two games later, eventually having a 5-3 lead. Serving out the set at 5-4, Pliskova had no troubles levelling the match as she held at 15 to take the match into a decider.

Pliskova, who hit 33 winners in the match, continued to be in charge early on in the third set, pressuring Williams in her first two service games. The pressure paid off as Pliskova broke for a 2-1 lead before fighting off three break points in the next game to go up 3-1. One sloppy game at 4-3, though, would cost Pliskova the lead as Williams broke easily to level up the match.

With Pliskova serving at 4-5, it looked like the opportunity had slipped out of the hands of the 24-year old as Williams had a look at a match point. Pliskova was able to hold her nerve, though, and earn a tough hold for 5-5. That gave the Czech a confidence boost that allowed her to break in the next game and attempt to serve for the match at 6-5.

After quickly going up 40-0, with three match points in hand, it looked like Pliskova had finally sealed the deal. It would never be that easy with Williams, one of the most decorated tennis players of all-time, on the other side of the net. The American was able to save all three of those match points, winning five points in a row to break back and force a final set tiebreak.

“To be honest, it was very difficult after I lost my serve for 6-6. She played a very good game but I was still focused,” said Pliskova.

In the tiebreak, the fight-back from Williams had finally reached its limit. Pliskova was able to race out to a 6-2 lead where the American saved a fourth match point. At 6-3, though, the job was finally completed as the Czech capitalized on her fifth match point to ensure her place in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in her career.

“So far I’m happy that I got my first quarter-final. I’m going to enjoy this moment and prepare for the next match,” said Pliskova, who will take on either the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwansa or Ana Konjuh in the next round.

Lucas Pouille Posts US Open Upset Edging Rafael Nadal In Fifth-Set Tiebreaker

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Lucas Pouille won the match of the tournament at the US Open on Sunday as he defeated 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal in five sets, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), in an epic battle lasting longer than four hours.

“My first match on [Arthur Ashe Stadium]…yeah, I could not dream better than this,” said Pouille, who was able to win his third consecutive five-set match at the US Open.

With the win, the 22-year old from France reached the second major quarterfinal of his career and in a row after he reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon earlier this summer.

The first set was dominated by the 24th-seeded Frenchman as he gave Nadal few chances to work his way into the match. Thanks to a break in the Spaniard’s first service game, Pouille was able to relax a bit in the opening set as he felt minimal pressure on serve until the final game of the set.

After grabbing another break for a 5-1 lead, Pouille gave Nadal a look at his first break point of the match, but the 22-year old fought it off before closing out the set.

That late effort from Nadal gave him some momentum in the second set, as the roles were reversed from the first set. Nadal became the aggressor who was able to win the set with a double break advantage to level the match at one set all.

There was a point where Pouille had four break points to get back on serve in the set, but Nadal used his advantage in the experience department to will his way to a hold, eventually grabbing that second break to close out the set.

The third set opened up with a break for Pouille as he proved to Nadal and the tennis world that he wouldn’t back down after dropping the second set. At 2-0, Pouille missed out on a break point in an 18-point game and was unable to go up a double break, but kept his composure as he would only lose four points in his next three service games to close out the set and take a two-sets-to-one lead.

In the fourth, some fatigue began to be apparent in Pouille who had played five-set matches in his previous two rounds. After fighting off a break point at 1-2, the Frenchman would be broken in his next two service games with relative ease, allowing Nadal to even up the match and force a deciding fifth set.

When that deciding set began, Nadal once again was able to break, giving him three consecutive breaks of the Pouille serve. The nine-time French Open champion looked well on his way to the quarterfinals of the US Open as he lost just three points on serve in his first three service games of the set.

In that fourth service game, though, Pouille turned the tables of the match as he earned two break points out of nothing, capitalizing on the second one to get back on serve. In the very next game, the 22-year old saved a break point, and was eventually able to force one of the most dramatic and intense situations in tennis; a fifth set tiebreak.

After giving up a mini-break on the opening point, Pouille would rattle off four points in a row for a 4-1 lead, eventually extending the lead to 6-3. At that point, Pouille looked over to his box and reminded them and himself to stay calm. That’s exactly what he needed to do as Nadal would battle back to level the tiebreak at 6-6, but the Frenchman would not let this opportunity slip.

“At 6-3, I was like ‘Ok, you’re going to win this one. Then at 6-all, it was not the same,” said Pouille, receiving a laugh from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd in his post-match on-court interview.

Up 7-6 in the tiebreak, Pouille battled out an epic baseline rally with Nadal that ended with the Frenchman ripping a forehand winner down the line to close out the match and earn the win.

“It’s just never over until the last point. I was a break down in the fifth. I came back…It’s never done until the last point is over,” said Pouille.

Pouille will now take on fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils, who took out Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets in the round of 16, in the quarterfinals of the US Open on Tuesday.

Pouille