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.
by Kevin Craig
Stan Wawrinka won his third major title on Sunday at the US Open as he defeated Novak Djokovic in four entertaining sets, 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
Wawrinka, who was match point down in his third round match against Dan Evans, has now won the 2014 Australian Open, the 2015 French Open, and the 2016 US Open and has equaled Andy Murray’s number of major titles at three. Wawrinka is now just one title at Wimbledon away from completing the career grand slam.
“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” said Wawrinka, who has now won his last 11 finals in a row, in his post-match on-court interview. “I’ve been practicing hard since many million years. My goal is to give everything I have to be the best player I can…that’s what happened tonight.”
The first set really set the tone for the duration of the match as the two great friends and warriors battled for an hour to see who could take the early lead. As Djokovic battled back from 40-15 to break Wawrinka in his first service game of the match, eventually taking a 3-0 lead, it looked like the Suisse had not come to play.
Djokovic, though, had referred to Wawrinka many times before the match as a big-match player, and that is exactly what the No. 3 seed proved to be as he was able to fight off three break points later in the set, two of which were set points, and broke the Serb when he served for the set, eventually forcing a tiebreak.
In that first set tiebreak, it was all Djokovic as he didn’t let the thought of him getting broken while serving for the set get to him. The No. 1 player in the world was able to breeze to a 7-1 win, putting himself within two sets of his 13th major title.
The second set saw Wawrinka, who hit 46 winners in the match, begin to settle down and start effectively playing his aggressive style of tennis, earning a break in the early stages for a 4-1 lead. Djokovic would be able to break the Suisse later in the set and got it back to 4-4, but when he served at 4-5, Wawrinka was able to assert himself in the match again and break to even up the match at one-set-all.
In a third set that lasted almost 80 minutes, Wawrinka fought off three break points in the opening game before breaking Djokovic for a 2-0 lead. He would save another break point in the next game to go up 3-0, but the pressure from Djokovic on Wawrinka’s serve finally paid off as he broke the Suisse on his sixth chance of the set to get back on serve.
It would remain that way as neither player saw a break point until Wawrinka did so in the 12th game. After Djokovic had missed out on a game point to force a third set tiebreak, he would proceed to lose the next two points, as well as his service game and the set, allowing Wawrinka to go up two sets to one.
Djokovic, who won just three of the 17 break points that he had in the match, began dealing with a toe injury early in the fourth set, allowing the No. 3 player in the world to race out to a 3-0 lead. After fighting off a break point to hold for 1-3, Djokovic took a medical timeout before Wawrinka went to serve, an action that did not please the Suisse.
The short break required for Djokovic’s toe injury almost got into Wawrinka’s head too much as he had to fight off three break points in the next game to hold for 4-1. From there, it was straightforward for Wawrinka as he would go on to hold in a deuce game to close out the match and the championship, earning himself his third major title.
“This is honestly amazing. I came here without expecting, without having the goal to win…There was so much emotion. This is something that I never had before,” said Wawrinka.
Wawrinka’s three major titles go along with his gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in doubles and his 2014 Davis Cup title, adding up to what has been a very decorated career for someone who had to perform in the shadow of one of the greatest players of all time for the majority of his career in Roger Federer.
The US Open title makes Wawrinka the only active player to have won multiple major titles after turning 30-years old.
Despite the disappointment for Djokovic, who is still having a stellar year slightly under the radar, which seems absurd to say, he remained humble in defeat.
“This has been absolutely deserved. You were the more courageous player in the decisive moments,” Djokovic said to Wawrinka. “He was the tougher player, he knew what to do.”
The praise from Djokovic did not go unnoticed by Wawrinka, who made sure to return the gesture.
“We know each other for many, many years. Because of you, I’m where I am today,” said Wawrinka to Djokovic, citing the No. 1 player in the world as his inspiration throughout the past few years.
by Kevin Craig
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.
by Kevin Craig
Juan Martin del Potro continued his impressive run at Wimbledon on Friday, knocking out the No. 4 seed and two-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3, to enter the third round.
“I feel alive,” said del Potro after his impressive win.
Del Potro, the former world No. 4 and 2009 US Open champion, used a protected ranking to get into the main draw due to the various wrist injuries and procedures he has dealt with over the past few years.
Three separate left wrist operations left the Argentine out of the major tournaments for the past two years, but he has returned with a vengeance and looks like he is already reclaiming that status as a perennial threat to win major titles.
“It’s an amazing sensation for me. I was so happy on court,” said del Potro, who will take on the No. 32 seed Lucas Pouille of France in the third round.
Del Potro, currently ranked No. 165, got off to a shaky start, allowing Wawrinka to break in just his second service game of the match for a 3-1 lead. The first set was straightforward from there as both players looked to gain confidence throughout, especially del Potro, who was able to have a look at two break points when Wawrinka served for the set, but could not capitalize on them.
The 2009 US Open champion carried that momentum over into the second set, breaking Wawrinka at the same stage that the Suisse broke him in the first set, in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Wawrinka pressured del Potro late in the set, but the Argentine held his nerve to level the match at one-set all.
The third set saw an early exchange of breaks as del Potro broke first for a 2-1 lead but fell into a 0-40 hole in his next service game and was unable to battle back, getting broken at 15. Neither player had any chances on return as the set needed a tiebreak to be decided. From 2-2, del Potro reeled off four points in a row for a 6-2 lead and didn’t look back, putting himself just one win away from his biggest win since October of 2013 when he was ranked No. 5 and beat then No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Shanghai.
Each player had their chances in the fourth set, but del Potro was the one capitalizing on big points. After forcing Wawrinka to deuce in two of his first three service games of the set, del Potro earned a break point late and converted it to take a 5-3 lead. There were no issues for the Argentine in serving out the match as he held to 15 for the win.
“I’m enjoying tennis again. I don’t know if I can be in the top positions again, but if not, I will be happy just to be playing tennis again,” said an emotional del Potro.
Looking forward to his third round encounter with Pouille, del Potro said “I don’t know if I will be tired or not because I just finished my biggest match after my comeback, but I will try to be ready for that challenge.”
With the top two seeded players, Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, out of their section of the draw, Pouille and del Potro will be looking to continue their journeys at Wimbledon and take advantage of an opened up portion of the draw.
by Kevin Craig
Andy Murray dethroned the defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka on Friday with a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win.
Murray, who became the first player from Great Britain to reach the French Open in 79 years after Bunny Austin did so in 1937, played an almost perfect match as he reached his first French Open final and his 10th major final overall.
“I played one of my best matches here today,” said Murray in his post-match interview on court.
The No. 2 seed Murray, who had to battle from a two sets to love deficit in the first round against Radek Stepanek and a two sets to one deficit to a French wild card in the second round, has been able to gain confidence throughout his run to the final and return to the form that saw him win the title in Rome just before the French Open began.
That form from Murray was at peak levels on Friday against a player who reached his own peak levels of form in the French Open final in 2015 as Wawrinka put on a masterclass performance to snatch the title and the calendar grand slam from Novak Djokovic last year.
When Wawrinka, who was on a 12-match win streak at Roland Garros, held at love and forced Murray to take 11 minutes to hold his first service game, it looked like things may very well be in the favor of the Suisse in the early stages. This may not have been surprising at all to fans of Wawrinka as he had won his last three matches against Murray and had never lost a set to him on clay.
That feeling quickly changed though as Murray was able to save a break point before breaking Wawrinka in the next game, eventually leading 3-1.
The rest of the set was pretty straight forward until Murray served to close out the set as he was forced to fend off three break points before taking the one set lead.
It was all Murray in the second set as he broke Wawrinka at love for a 2-1 lead before breaking again two games later, eventually closing out the set 6-2, losing just three points on serve in the set that lasted only 27 minutes.
Murray continued to roll on serve in the third set, holding at love in his first three service games. The problem for the Brit was he was unable to convert the one break point he saw in the set, and Wawrinka was able to take advantage of the first poor service game Murray played since the beginning of the match, fighting back from 40-15 and winning four points in a row to break and win the set.
Wawrinka stealing the third set just delayed the inevitable as Murray’s roll went right over that minor speed bump as he was able to break in the first game of the fourth set. Murray had zero trouble on serve in the fourth set, losing just four points in four games, including a hold at love to close out the match and clinch his spot in the final.
“Stan has been unbelievable the last two years. I’ve played one of my best matches today…I’m just really proud. I never expected to reach the final here…Hopefully I can put up a good match in the final,” said Murray.
Murray’s impressive fitness level and ability to hit effective groundstrokes from anywhere on the court were on full display, as he looks like he can pose a very dangerous threat to Djokovic in this year’s final.
by Kevin Craig
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka survived a major scare on Monday at the French Open as he withstood a tremendous effort from Lukas Rosol and won in five sets, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Rosol, the No. 59 player in the world from the Czech Republic, got off to a quick start in the first set as he broke Wawrinka for a 3-2 lead, but Wawrinka continued to battle despite going down a break as he took Rosol to deuce in two of his last three service games. The Czech stood strong and was able to close out the set, though, as he reminded tennis fans around the world that he is able to take out major champions, bringing back memories of his upset win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012.
Rosol continued playing well early in the second set as his go-for-broke game plan was working out, but the two-time grand slam champion found something that clicked in the latter stages of the set and he forced Rosol into making a few more errors, earning himself two breaks and only losing two points in his last three service games to level the match at one set all.
After leveling the match, many would have thought Wawrinka would be able to cruise to victory, but Rosol did not go away and actually broke the No. 3 seed in his first service game of the third set. Just like in the first set, Rosol was able to keep his composure throughout and didn’t allow Wawrinka to earn a single break point as he regained a lead and was one set away from pulling off a major upset.
Despite dropping the third set, that is where Wawrinka believed the tides turned in his favor. “In the middle of the third set, I calmed down…I was trying to be really tough with him, and eventually that’s what made the difference,” said Wawrinka.
That difference was clearly felt in the fourth set as Wawrinka forced Rosol to play one bad service game at 3-4 that allowed Wawrinka to break at love and go on to serve out the set to force a decider.
Wawrinka was all business in the fifth set as he broke Rosol for a 2-1 lead and only lost six points on serve as he had no problems closing out the match and earning his spot in the second round, where he will take on Taro Daniel of Japan.
Wawrinka was in danger of becoming the first French Open men’s defending champion to lose in the first round, but he was able to fight off one of Rosol’s better performances of his career.
Another major champion in action on Monday did not have the same luck that Wawrinka did, as Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, lost in the first round to the No. 166 player in the world, Marco Trungelliti, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Trungelliti, a 26-year old from Argentina, got into the main draw after winning three qualifying matches, and earned his second win at a major after he also won a match at the Australian Open this year.
Cilic, the No. 10 seed in the event, went down a break early in the first set but appeared to work his way back to the match as he broke Trungelliti when the Argentine served for the first set. The lesser-experienced Trungelliti was surpringly able to keep his composure and saved three set points at 5-6 to force a tiebreak, which he was able to win 7-4 and stun Cilic.
Cilic went down a break early in the second set as he was broken in his first service game, but came back to break Trungelliti three times and looked like he had finally killed off the spirited upset bid from the Argentine.
That was far from the case, though, as Trungelliti continued to fight. Cilic went up a break late in the third set for a 4-2 lead, but was unable to consolidate as Trungelliti broke right back and ended up winning four games in a row to close out the set at 6-4, putting himself just one set away from what would be the biggest win of his career, by far.
Roles were reversed in the fourth set as Trungelliti looked like the major champion, breaking Cilic twice and not allowing the Croatian to see a single break point in the set, as not a single sign of nerves was shown. The Argentine closed out the four-set win emphatically with an ace, and booked a spot in the second round where he has a great opportunity to continue his run and make the third round, as he will take on Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
Trungelliti, who has never won a title above the Futures level, increased his best win by ranking by 61 spots after beating the No. 11 player in the world in Cilic. His previous best win came over Leonardo Mayer when he was ranked No. 72 in the world.
by Kevin Craig
- Novak Djokovic earned his 700th career match win in Dubai, beating Jaziri in straight sets. He is now the third active player with 700 wins, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
- The 28-point tiebreak in Dubai that was played between Stan Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis was the longest in an ATP final since Andy Roddick beat Mardy Fish in San Jose in 2004, also playing a 28-point tiebreak.
- Wawrinka’s title in Dubai extends his win streak in finals to nine after starting his career 4-9 in finals.
- There were four finals played last week that involved a player with a one-handed backhand and a player with a two-handed backhand. All four of the players with one-handed backhands prevailed, including Dominic Thiem over Bernard Tomic, Pablo Cuevas over Pablo Carreno Busta, Wawrinka over Baghdatis, and Carla Suarez Navarro over Jelena Ostapenko.
- Cuevas played seven left-handers in a row, including all five of his opponents that he beat en route to his title in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first player to win a title playing only left-handers along the way. Cuevas played Facundo Bagnis twice, Thiago Monteiro twice, Federico Delbonis, Nadal, and Guido Pella.
- Nick Kyrgios held all 47 of his service games during his title run in Marseille before being broken in his first service game in Dubai.
- Baghdatis served up a bagel to Roberto Bautista Agut in Dubai. The last time he had won a set 6-0 was against Andy Murray at the French Open in 2010. Baghdatis has won four 6-0 sets against players in the Top 20, but only won two of the four matches that included bagels.
- Franko Skugor of Croatia won his first match on the ATP World Tour in six years in Dubai, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets. His most recent win came in July of 2010 in Umag when he beat Filippo Volandri.
by Kevin Craig
Rafael Nadal is a man on a mission and he is taking no stops along the way. At the ATP World Tour Finals Wednesday, the Spaniard was able to easily dispatch the No. 2 ranked player in the world, Andy Murray. With many tennis fans around the world writing off Nadal and not expecting him to return to the top level of the game, he has been given extra motivation at the end of this year that he hopes will carry over into the 2016 season. For now, though, Nadal will be pleased with his current run of form and that he has advanced to the semifinal round of the World Tour Finals.
Nadal’s win over Murray came with a 6-4, 6-1 score line. The match started off very tight as Nadal and Murray exchanged breaks to begin the match, and went on to play six games in the first set that went at least six points, including one that lasted 11 points. Nadal was able to get a break in the 10th game of the set, though, to earn himself a one set advantage. It was no looking back from there as the 14-time grand slam champion didn’t have to face a break point in the second set and won two-thirds of all the points played. Nadal’s consistently high level of intensity was able to fluster the British star, as Murray struggled throughout the match with his serve, only making 43 percent of his first serves and winning less than half of his service points overall.
In the second singles match of the day, Stan Wawrinka was able to fight off a hot start from David Ferrer to win 7-5, 6-2. The first set looked like smooth sailing for David Ferrer as he went up an early break, but appeared to tighten up a bit in the latter stages, allowing the 2015 French Open champion to win five games in a row from being down 2-5. Wawrinka got off to a bit of a sloppy start, as he was unable to hit through Ferrer’s great defense, but as soon as the smallest glimpse of an opportunity opened up to the Suisse, he took advantage of it and turned the match around. Similarly to the Nadal-Murray match, it was smooth sailing in the second set as Wawrinka broke in the first game and grabbed another break a couple games later to boost his lead and cruise to the win. Ferrer’s struggles on serve continued over from his first match, something that he will hope to fix in his final match at the World Tour Finals before heading into 2016.
In the doubles, the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau were able to go to 2-0 in round robin play, setting themselves up in a great position heading into their final round robin match. Their win on Wednesday came over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, 6-4, 7-6(3). Rojer and Tecau were able to get through the first set without much difficulty as they only lost three points on serve and didn’t have to face a break point. Needless to say, the second set was much more intense as the two teams exchanged breaks and ended up needing a tiebreaker to decide the set. The No. 2 team in the world were the better team on the day, though, as Rojer and Tecau were able to tough out the tiebreaker by a 7-3 score line.
The other doubles match saw Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut bounce back and give themselves a much better chance of advancing to the semifinal round by beating Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic, 5-7, 6-3, 10-8. The French duo were the steadier team throughout the match as they won at least 85 percent of their first serve points in every set, including going eight-for-eight in the super tiebreak.
Not only did Rafael Nadal clinch his spot in the semifinal round, he was also able to clinch the first place spot of the group. This means the second place spot will be decided by the match between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, which will surely be an exciting affair on Friday. As for the doubles, despite the loss on Wednesday, Matkowski and Zimonjic still see their semifinal hopes alive, as a win is needed over Dodig/Melo and Herbert/Mahut would have to lose to Rojer/Tecau in straights.
by Kevin Craig
Day two of the ATP World Tour Finals saw more of the same as day one, as the singles winners were able to win comfortably and the best match of the day came from the doubles event. Fans in the O2 Arena were able to witness everything from dominating performances to late match nerves, as the four of the eight best singles players and doubles teams began their journey towards winning the title.
The home favorite of the singles event, Andy Murray, took on David Ferrer in what was the most competitive match of the singles tournament so far. That isn’t saying much in itself, though, as Murray was able to dispatch the feisty Spaniard by a score of 6-4, 6-4. Ferrer struggled with his serve throughout the match, hitting eight double faults and only making 49 percent of his first serves. Murray was able to take advantage of this, having eight break points in the match and converting on three of them. The Brit was able to back up his service games as well, as he only dropped six points on his first serve. This was Murray’s fifth straight win over Ferrer.
The other Spaniard in the event was able to have much better fortune in his opening match as Rafael Nadal beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka easily, 6-3, 6-2. After an entertaining first set, Wawrinka began to appear disinterested in the match after going down a break late in the first. This allowed Nadal to win half of his points on return throughout the match and earn himself 15 break points throughout the match. Wawrinka was able to save 11 of them, but the four that Nadal were able to win set him up to breeze through his first match in London. Nadal was able to turn around the recent run of form between these two, as Wawrinka had won three of their last four match-ups.
Likewise to day one of the tournament, the best match of the day came from the doubles event. On day two, it was the French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo defeating the US Open champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-7. The French pairing of Herbert/Mahut appeared to be well on their way to victory as they had a set and a break lead until the latter stages of the second set. When Herbert served for the match at 5-4, he double faulted on two match points in a row at 40-30 and on a deciding point to lose the break advantage. A team with the world number one doubles player will always take advantage of an opportunity like this, as Dodig/Melo took the momentum and were able to close out the match in a super tiebreak.
The other doubles match was much more straightforward as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau breezed through their first match in just over an hour with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic. The veteran pairing of Matkowski/Zimonjic was unable to get it going as they only had one break point the entire match and struggled to barely win half of their own service points. The number two team in the world of Rojer/Tecau used the success in their service games to apply extra pressure on the return, earning themselves eight break points and four breaks throughout the match.
The wins of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal saw the Big Four go 4-0 in their opening matches of the World Tour Finals, possibly setting themselves up for what would be a very interesting knockout round. Ferrer and Wawrinka can beat anyone they play on any given day, though, so this group is far from decided. The same is true for the doubles event as Herbert/Mahut and Matkowski/Zimonjic will be looking to avenge their losses in their last two round robin matches.
Stan Wawrinka is no stranger to the second week of the US Open, and the two will be reacquainted again this year after his 6–3, 7–6, 6–4 Saturday win over Ruben Bemelmans. Wawrinka advanced to the fourth round for the fourth straight year, and for the seventh time overall in 11 US Open appearances. His next foe is American Donald Young, who fought back from 0-2 to win in the fifth set for the second time in the tournament. “He’s a tough player,” Warinka says. “He’s improved a lot—especially his attitude on the court. He’s fighting way more, he’s always trying. He will try to get the crowd with him, so it’s going to be, for sure, a great match to play.”
Photo: Chris Nicholson, www.PhotographingTennis.com