Archives

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.”

Wozniacki2016USOpen

 

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

Andy Murray A Solid Favorite To Win US Open After Another Olympic Gold In Rio

Two Wimbledon titles. Two Olympic Gold Medals. How about two U.S. Opens for Andy Murray?

The Scotsman won his second Olympic Gold Medal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil beating Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the gold medal match to become the first singles player in Olympic history to win two gold medals – and repeat as champion. The Olympic gold medal for Murray comes on the heels of him winning his second Wimbledon singles title in July.

He now heads to New York as a betting favorite for the U.S. Open, the site of his first major singles title in 2012.

Murray has won his last 18 singles matches – not losing since the French Open final to Novak Djokovic and since he rehired former coach Ivan Lendl, himself a three-time U.S. Open champion. It is his longest winning streak of his professional career.

After being the dominant force in men’s tennis for much of the last three years, Djokovic has shown chinks in his game after a surprising third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon and an opening-round loss to del Potro at the Olympics. However, redemption is a motivator for the Serbian as he looks to win in New York for a third time.

The U.S. Open women’s singles event may also be a battle for the No. 1 ranking with Serena Williams seeking to hold off the challenge of world No. 2 Angelique Kerber of Germany. Williams had trouble with her health and her shoulder in her upset loss to Elina Svitolina in the third round at the Olympics that could hamper her in New York. Despite her upset loss to upstart Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the gold medal match in Rio, Kerber could counter-punch her win to a second major singles title of the year after her win over Williams in the Australian Open final in January. Garbine Muguruza of Spain, the French Open champion, may also contend in New York, but has struggled since achieving her new status in the tennis world order in Paris.

With the Olympics proving to be a physical and emotional drain for many athletes who competed, a dark horse could also emerge in either the men’s or women’s field and win a first major singles title. New top 10 stars Dominic Thiem of Austria and Milos Raonic of Canada, the Wimbledon finalist, may be fresh enough to make a mark at Flushing Meadows. Romania’s Simona Halep, who also skipped Rio, and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, a first-round loser at the Olympics, may also be ready to break through in New York. Madison Keys of the United States, who finished a painful fourth in Rio, is moving fast up the rankings and may be fueled by her disappointment in not winning a medal in Rio into Grand Slam success in New York.

Angelique Kerber Prevents All-Williams Sister Wimbledon Final

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Angelique Kerber of Germany was able to prevent an all-Williams sister final from happening at Wimbledon as she defeated Venus Williams on Thursday, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the final.

“It’s just amazing…to beat Venus in the semis. It’s always tough. I’m so excited to be in the final here,” said Kerber. “I’m just happy to be playing my best and to be in my second grand slam final.”

The match got off to a very unexpected and topsy-turvy start as each of the first five games were breaks, as well as seven of the first eight. It was Kerber, though, who was able to get that crucial extra break and first hold of the match for 4-2, before eventually snatching the first set.

“I don’t know what was the problem. I think we both were returning very well at the beginning of the first set. I mean I was a little bit nervous when I go out there because I was trying to play my best tennis,” said Kerber.

The second set looked like it could be similar to the first as the German was able to break in the opening game, but that was that. The No. 4 seed felt little pressure from that point as she lost just five points in her five service games of the set, setting up a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which she was able to defeat the 21-time major champion Serena Williams, who needed just 48 minutes to win her semifinal against Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-0.

“I know that she played long matches, in the first week especially. I was trying to move her. That was the plan,” said Kerber of her strategy against the 36-year old Venus, who made 10 more unforced errors than her opponent.

“I played against a lot of great opponents. I had a lot of tough matches. It’s not easy out there,” said Venus. “There is no such thing as impossible. It’s always possible. That’s what you feel as an athlete.”

Venus did manage to show signs of life halfway through the second set as she was able to fend off three break points while down 1-3 to hold before earning a 0-30 lead on Kerber’s serve in the next game. The German was too good though and managed to hold on, making her eager for another shot at arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time.

“I know she will go out and try everything to beat me right now,” said Kerber of her matchup with Serena which will take place on Saturday at Wimbledon.

Tsonga Outlasts Marathon Man Isner at Wimbledon

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Jo -Wilfried Tsonga outlasted marathon man John Isner on Sunday at Wimbledon, coming back from two sets to love down to win 6-7(3), 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 19-17.

The Frenchman, who is the No. 12 seed in the event, not only battled back from a two sets deficit, but also saved a match point at 15-16 in the fifth set, making his win even more impressive.

“I’m happy to win today one more match. It’s good to be alive,” said Tsonga, the former No. 5 player in the world and 2008 Australian Open finalist.

Three of the four previous meetings between Isner and Tsonga were decided by final set tiebreaks, so this tight affair on Middle Sunday at Wimbledon was hardly unexpected.

When their match began on Saturday, Tsonga lost only two points on serve in the first set, but the latter proved to be costly. A double fault from the No. 12 seed in the tiebreak gave Isner the small opportunity he needed, and he capitalized.

A break for Isner, the only one he earned in the match, came midway through the second set, all but guaranteeing a two sets lead for the American. The big serve was too difficult to break through for Tsonga and he found himself shockingly down two sets to the No. 18 seed.

Before darkness set in on Saturday, Isner had a look to close out the match in straight sets in a third set tiebreak, but the Frenchman proved to be too good, finally able to win the bigger points, setting up a resumption of play on Sunday.

When the players returned to action on the first Middle Sunday that had seen play since 2004, it was Tsonga who took advantage of it being a new day, racing out to a 4-0 lead and winning the set in just 25 minutes.

“I was focused on the game and not really on the other things. But to be honest, once I said ‘maybe it’s going to be long like Nicolas,” said Tsonga of Isner’s epic battle with his compatriot Nicolas Mahut in 2010 that went 70-68 in the fifth set.

This fifth set between Isner and Tsonga didn’t go quite that far, but it did last over two hours and went as so many Isner matches have gone before as opportunities to break were few and far between. The American did fend off a break point in the 5-5 game before having a look at his first break chance of the set 21 games later at 15-16. Isner was unable to convert, though, leaving the door open for Tsonga.

After saving that match point, Tsonga, who hit 88 winners and 21 aces in the match, proceeded to hold at love in his next service game before breaking Isner on his second chance in the 17-17 game thanks to a forehand error. There was no mistake from the Frenchman in closing out the match, holding to 15 to set up a date with Richard Gasuqet in the round of 16 on Manic Monday.

“Hope I will have a good recovery from this one and tomorrow be fit to play,” said Tsonga of his match tomorrow with Gasquet. The two have played eight times with each player winning four.

“He’s a good friend, so of course it’s different to play against him…We know each other well, so it will be a tough match,” said Gasquet.

Both Frenchmen have had a lot of success at Wimbledon as Tsonga reached the quarterfinals in 2010 before having two consecutive semifinal appearances in 2011 and 2012, while Gasquet has also reached the semifinals twice, coming in 2007 and 2015.