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Djokovic Vanquishes Del Potro for Third U.S. Open Crown

Djokovic Vanquishes Del Potro for Third U.S. Open Crown

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In 2002, Pete Sampras capped his illustrious career by claiming his 14th major at the U.S. Open, a number which seemed insurmountable for future generation at the time. Today, Novak Djokovic downed Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to hoist the U.S. Open trophy, tying Sampras’ record.

What was suppose to be a routine seventh service game for Del Potro, up 40-0, turned into a nightmare as Djokovic induced a series of miscues to seize the break. Quickly, with an uneventful hold, the Serb sealed the first set.

On the surface, it was a straight sets victory. However, the match was anything but straightforward. After Djokovic broke in the opening game of the second set, Del Potro returned the favor in the fifth game. Up 4-3, the Argentine could not penetrate Djokovic’s formidable defense. Consequently, the Serb dismissed three break points in an eighth game which lasted 20 minutes. The set was decided by a tiebreaker. After the initial three points went against the server, Del Potro finally gained a 3-1 advantage with a forehand down the line winner. Yet, with the same stroke misfiring, the players were back on serve. With two consecutive errors on serve, Del Potro went down 4-5. As the Argentine’s forehand, his most ominous weapon, deserted him, a 95 minutes set terminated with Del Potro netting a crosscourt forehand.

Again it was Djokovic pocketing the early break for 3-1 in the third set. Still, Del Potro clawed his way back and ultimately levelled the score. Djokovic’s steady play put an end to Del Potro’s two game streak and the Serb moved ahead 4-3. Promptly with a forehand flub and a double fault, Del Potro stared at double break point. As the Argentine’s backhand sailed wide, Djokovic secured the 5-3 lead. Soon, a forehand down the line winner gave Djokovic match point. It was all the Serb needed as he struck an overhead winner to conclude the set and nab his third championship after 3 hours and 15 minutes.

A chant broke out from his horde of fans as the 2018 finalist stepped up to the mic during the trophy ceremony. Del Potro cited “it’s not easy to speak right now, but I love you too guys. I’m so happy to be playing the final against this magnificent idol. He is one of my friends on tour, he knows if there is one player I want to watch winning title is him. Of course, I’m sad because I [loss], but I’m happy for Novak and his team as well. You deserve to win”.

For Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open titlist and world number three, it’s been a long journey to his second major final. With multiple wrist surgeries, there was doubt that he would ever return to this caliber of tennis. He expressed “I never gave up. . . I was trying to fix all my injuries to be back here, I got it after nine years which is amazing to me because the U.S. Open is my favorite tournament on tour and I am very proud for that”.

Always one to look at the glass more than half full, Del Potro conveyed in Spanish “I want to thank my team, all those who have helped me to get to this stage, my friends, all the people who have supported me. Even from those in Argentina, I could feel the energy. Lastly, I believe at times one can win or lose a tournament, but the love of the people is worth as much as this trophy. I already have this trophy, so I’ll take away with me the love from all of you”.

Post elbow surgery in March, Djokovic was an average player. A semifinal run in Rome where he fell to Rafael Nadal improved his record to 7-6. After an unexpected ousting by Marco Cecchinato in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, Djokovic may have hoped, yet, it would hard to imagine that he’d bank on triumphs at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He credits his resurgence to the “support of the love ones, my kids, my wife, my team, a small group of people that has been with me through difficult times as well. When I had the surgery this year, I could truly understand what Juan Martin was going through. . . You learn from adversity. . . I tried to take the best out of myself in these moments.”

What does this title signify for Djokovic, equaling Sampras’ feat, third on the all time list “I was hoping he was going to be here tonight, Pete you are my idol and I love you”. Moreover, Djokovic stated “I want to congratulate Juan Martin for what he has done, coming back last five years, having faith and belief in himself that one day he will be a top player. I wish him all the best. I know he is going to be here again with the champion trophy”.

With Nadal retiring in the semifinals with a knee injury after being down 2 sets to Del Potro, his future is uncertain. Thus, with this win, Djokovic gains traction, moving from a ranking of six to top three. As such, he has a realistic shot at ending as the year end number one.

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Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final

Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships - Day 6 - Saturday 7th July 2018 -  All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - Wimbledon - London - EnglandBoth U.S. Open finalists were on the precipice of history. For Serena Williams an eighth title at Flushing Meadows would have been another accolade by equalizing Margaret Court with a record 24th major. While for Naomi Osaka lifting the trophy would brand her as the first individual from Japan to ever capture one of the sports’ highest honors. Ultimately, it was the 20 year old who realized her dream. Osaka surprised Serena 6-2, 6-4 to capture the championship.

For Osaka, who as a youngster watched from the top bleacher as her idol held court at this same venue, to be in the final felt “a little bit, surreal. Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it. At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. Yeah, I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.” That approach to the biggest encounter of her budding career served her well.

Perhaps it was a display of nerves at the start, but each player overcame a 0-30 deficit in her opening game. However, with Serena’s forehand flying long, Osaka had a break point. With the American miscuing with a double fault, Osaka went up 2-1. Soon, with an ace at 40-15, the Japanese protégé confirmed the break. In the next game, applying pressure with her groundstrokes, Osaka had Serena facing break point. When the American’s backhand found the net, Osaka secured a 4-1 cushion. With a forehand volley winner, Williams secured her initial break point. Coolly with an ace, Osaka was at deuce. With Serena failing to capitalize on another break point, Osaka built a 5-1 lead. Visibly flummoxed, Serena with the support of a boisterous crowd climbed out of 0-30 hole to hold. Yet, Osaka would not be denied. Up 40-15, she saw Serena dump a forehand return into the net to cap the opening set.

Osaka’s best previous showing at a major was the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open where she succumbed to world number one, Simona Halep. Thus far, her first and only career title came this year at Indian Wells. Her next tournament at the Miami Open, she stunned Serena in the early rounds who had been back from maternity leave. But, since March, Osaka’s results had been subpar. Although Osaka had a record 31-0 after winning the first set, this was the big league. The experience chasm which divided these two in terms of experience couldn’t be starker. However, the combination of Serena’s dire 38% first serve stat, her 2-7 mark in major finals after surrendering the first set, the last comeback being 13 years ago at the Australian Open, underlined that Osaka had history on her side.

In the second game with Osaka serving, Serena got saddled with a coaching violation by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s hand gesture, signaling for her to move forward caught the umpire’s eye but was not seen by Williams. Perhaps this infraction was the fuel Serena needed. Up to now, Osaka was a wizard at making break points disappear, 16 in her previous two matches, 13 alone in the semifinals against Madison Keyes and two already today. With a backhand return winner, Serena had her fourth break point of the fourth game. As Osaka’s backhand landed long, Serena finally had chiseled a 3-1 edge. But an ace for 30-15, followed by successive double faults and a backhand error was how Serena’s service game unfolded. She responded by smashing a racket. Tagged with a second code violation, Serena did not realize that it meant an automatic loss of point. With an ace at 40-0, Osaka comfortably held for 3-3. Next, with a backhand up the line return winner, the Japanese hopeful was at 30-40, she connected with a forehand up the line pass winner to seal the break for 4-3.

Incensed, Serena could not let go of what she viewed as an injustice. During the changeover, she labeled Ramos a “thief”. He retaliated by giving her a third code violation for verbal abuse. This time, the consequence was a loss of a game, “I called you a thief because you stole a point from me”. In shock and disbelief, Williams resorted to the referee. But, what was done, could not be undone, Osaka was awarded a game for 5-3 without striking a ball. After Serena’s love hold, it was Osaka’s turn to be under pressure. With an ace, the youngster arrived at 40-15. On her second try, with an unreturnable serve, Osaka closed out the match.

There was no outward excessive celebration by Osaka who had defeated her idol on the largest stage in tennis. Her reaction is reflective of her personality according to her coach Sascha Bajin, Serena’s former hitting partner, who began working with her last November “I think everybody. . .on this planet can learn a lot from that girl in order to maintain that innocence. I believe the more open we are and the more honest we are and show vulnerability sometimes and who we truly are, the better this world is going to be. And all the fake emotions, I’m not a fan of it. I believe that, yeah, she’s a star for that.” Serena hugged her at net and told Ramos “you owe me an apology”.

During the trophy ceremony, Serena did her utmost to shift the spotlight onto Osaka where it belonged “I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to do questions. I want to tell you guys, she played well, this is her first grand slam. I know you guys were here rooting for me. Let’s make this the best moment we can. . .Let’s give everyone the credit where the credit is due. . . Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”

Serena realized the gravity of the situation “I felt at one point bad because I’m crying and she’s crying. . . she just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were just sad tears because of the moment.. .this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. . . I definitely don’t want her to feel like that.”

Certainly, an awkward time for this 20 year old who with serenity and poise had a fairy tale outcome, but not quite the finish she dreamt of “I know everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this, [with tears streaming down], I just want to say thank you for watching the match. It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open final. I am glad I was able to do that. I’m grateful I was able to play with you, [turns to Serena and bows], thank you” Osaka displayed mixed emotions “I know she really wanted to have the 24th grand slam. Everyone knows, it’s on the commercials everywhere. When I step on the court, I feel like a different person. I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But when we hugged at net, I felt like a kid again. . .When I was growing up, I did a whole report on her in the third grade. [I said] I want to be like her”.

Following her win, she had a touching embrace with her mother “she sacrificed a lot for me. It means a lot for her to come and watch my matches because she normally doesn’t do that. All we are missing is my dad, he doesn’t physically watch my matches, he walks around I will see him later”

Serena is no stranger to controversy at the U.S. Open. In 2004 in the quarterfinals against Jennifer Capriati, at least three blatant ruling errors, including an overrule by the chair umpire on a clear out ball, likely cost her the match. Those flubs ushered in the era of electronic review. In the 2009 semifinals down 4-6, 5-6, a second serve foot fault at 15-30 brought on a harangue which resulted in a second code violation and point penalty to hand Kim Clijsters the match. Serena viewed the coaching violation as unfair “one thing I love about tennis is being out there and it’s the one time I don’t want to hear anyone tell me anything. It’s my moment of peace. You have to figure it out and you have to problem solve.” For Williams, the game penalty was a gender issue “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. For me to say thief and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said thief. It blows my mind. But, I’m going to continue to fight for women. . .[Alize] Cornet should be able to take off her shirt without getting a fine, it’s outrageous”.

The tennis world is warming up to this newly minted champion, the youngest U.S. Open titlist since Maria Sharapova at age 19 in 2006. Osaka contributes her success to Bajin in turning her from a top 60 player to a top 10 competitor, her ranking will shoot up from 19 to 7. “Sascha is a really nice person, he’s really positive and upbeat. I think for me that’s really important because I tend to be down on myself a lot”.

Has Serena’s behavior soiled her image in her eyes in any way? Osaka cited “I don’t know what happened on the court. For me, I will always remember the Serena that I love, It doesn’t change anything. . .She was really nice at net and on the podium. So I don’t really see what would change”.

Although born in Japan, Osaka represents the quintessential American story. Born to immigrant parents, father is Haitian, mother from Japan. She grew up in Brooklyn and trains in South Florida. If she continues to emulate her idol’s play on court, with her humble demeanor, the U.S. will want to adopt her as their own considering she holds dual citizenpship.

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Djokovic Picks Up Fourth Wimbledon Trophy

Djokovic Picks Up Fourth Wimbledon Trophy


Novak Djokovic dispatched Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 in the Wimbledon finals in order to acquire his 4th major at that the All England Club.

At the beginning of this fortnight, it’s unlikely that the odds maker had the South African on their radar. Anderson, the 2017 U.S. Open runner up, shocked Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Never previously winning a set in their four prior meetings, he overcame a 0-2 set deficit, match point, to prevail 13-11 in the fifth, in a match lasting 4 hour and 14 minute. Two days later, clashing with John Isner, a player no stranger to marathon matches, Anderson outlasted the American 26-24 in the decisive set, he was on court for 6 hour and 36 minute. Djokovic for his part endured a 5 hour 15 minute tussle with Rafael Nadal in the semifinals over two days edging the Spaniard 10-8 in the fifth. Would fatigue be a factor as Anderson attempted to elevate his status not only to the first South African to get to the last dance, but to that of victor at this venue?

The two competitors had met 6 times before. The South African’s sole win was at the Miami Open in 2008. Anderson’s inability to connect on his most valuable asset the serve, gave Djokovic the initial game as the South African double faulted. Swiftly with another errant forehand by Anderson, Djokovic consolidated for 2-0. Later, with Anderson dumping a backhand volley into the net, Djokovic capitalized on another break point and with a love game padded his lead to 5-1. With this insurmountable advantage, Djokovic eventually captured the set.

Concern over his right elbow prompted Anderson to call the trainer for treatment, however, this was not sufficient to slow down Djokovic. A backhand miscue handed Djokovic breakpoint in the opening game. In a carbon copy of the first set, the Serb cashed in and after a hold jumped in front 2-0. Down the road, a double fault by Anderson gifted Djokovic 15-40. With the South African’s forehand up the line landing wide, Djokovic moved ahead 4-1. Serving for the set at 5-2, Djokovic’s stroke misfired off a tremendous return by his opponent. Yet, Anderson failed to convert on his first break opportunity. Djokovic went on to pocket the second set.

In the third set, with time his adversary, Anderson changed tactics slightly by coming to the net more frequently. In the eight game, a let court allowed the South African to control the point and get a break chance. However, with his backhand traveling long, Djokovic arrived at deuce and ultimately leveled the score at 4-4. The Serbian stared down two set points in his next service game. After a love hold by Anderson for 6-5, his best window to take the set came with Djokovic’s forehand down the line flub giving him 15-40. Still it was a no go. A third break point was swiftly dismissed by Djokovic. Soon with an ace, the score was 6-6. In the tiebreaker, Djokovic curled a forehand up the line pass for a winner for 3-1. Then, with Anderson’s backhand volley missing it’s target, the Serb sprinted to a 5-1 edge. With Anderson’s return finding the net, Djokovic sealed the deal at 7-3.

Anderson drove as hard as he could to make the match competitive “first and second sets, Novak beat up on me pretty bad. The whole fortnight I tried my best to keep at it, came a point or two from pushing it to the fourth set. It would have been great to play longer here. But playing against Novak isn’t easy. He is a true champion of our sport and congratulation to him.” Commenting on his physical condition, Anderson said “I am definitely not as fresh now as I was coming into the week. But this is such an amazing tournament for us players. We dedicate our whole lives to fight for a spot to be on this court. . . there’s only been a few individuals who’ve made it out here, so that’s what it takes for me to get to here, I would have given another 21 hours. It really meant a lot to me.”

After a 2 year drought, Djokovic has his 13th major “It feels amazing [to be holding the trophy] because for the first time I have someone screaming daddy, daddy. . . I’m very emotional. . . I want to congratulate Kevin and his team. . . In his first Wimbledon final, he didn’t play his best for two sets, but in the third, he was the better player. I was quite lucky to get through ”

Following his career grand slam achievement in 2016 at the French Open, Djokovic hit a dirt patch with only two titles in 2017. A round of 16 exit at the Australian Open this year finally convinced him that a niggling elbow issue could not be fixed with rehab, he underwent surgery. In addition, returning to familiar roots, coach Marian Vjada, considering today’s outcome was his most astute decision. Djokovic cited “I had to trust the process. . . I owe a great thanks to my team, last couple of years it hasn’t been easy. With a severe injury, I had many moments of doubt and did not know whether I could come back to a level to compete. . . No better place in the world to make a comeback, it’s a sacred place for the world of tennis”

When the new rankings are revealed, Djokovic will rejoin the top 10 from his current position at 21. While Anderson crack the top 5 for the first time from his spot at 8.

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Kerber Stymies Serena for Maiden Wimbledon Title

Kerber Stymies Serena for Maiden Wimbledon Title


Angelique Kerber was at this stage twice before in 2016, meeting Serena Williams in finals. At the Australian Open, she surprised the American to obtain her first major. But Williams turned the tables on the grass to acquire her 7th Venus Rosewater dish. Today, Kerber’s steely defense once again proved impenetrable as she bested Serena 6-3, 6-3 to finally earn the coveted silverware.

This was their 9th meeting with Williams holding a 6-2 winning record. Subsequent to starting the match with 30-0, Serena committed a string of unforced errors to gift Kerber the opening game. The German backed up the break by claiming the second game. After seven unforced errors, the total of what she tallied the entire match in the semifinals facing Kerber’s compatriot, Julia Goerges, Williams settled down. With a break at love, she levelled the score at 2 all. But with consecutive double faults in the seventh game, the American found herself under the gun at 0-40. With Williams’ forehand landing long, Kerber secured a crucial break and by pocketing the next game led 5-3. With Serena’s backhand finding the net at 30-40, Kerber pocketed her third break and the first set.

Coming into the finals, the American had the fewest unforced errors compared to the rest of the field with Kerber second in that category. By the way she littered the lawn today, no one would have deduced that. Moreover, in the opening set, Williams won one point off her second serve. As the match progressed, Kerber continued to sure up her defensive play. What would have been uncontested winners against any other opponent, resulted in errors, whether forced or unforced, on Williams’ stat sheet. A prime example was with Serena serving at 2-3, Kerber sprinted to a casual volley on her part to blast a winner for 15-40. Soon with a running forehand winner up the line, Kerber sealed the next game for 5-2, four points from her maiden Wimbledon title.

By securing the next game at love, Serena kept her hopes for an 8th Wimbledon title alive momentarily. Promptly, with a sensational forehand up the line winner, the German arrived at championship point. Serena’s return miscue ultimately cemented the victory for Kerber. In defeating Williams, Kerber becomes the first German since Steffi Graff, her idol, in 1996 to triumph on the All England Club. Also, She stopped the American, at least for now, who remains knotted with Graff, 23 majors and 7 Wimbledon trophies.

Following a long hiatus due to pregnancy, Williams seeded 25th but ranked 181st, made it to this final after only her fourth tournament after rejoining the tour. Although despondent that she could not leave with the grand prize, her voice cracking a bit, she cited it “was an amazing tournament for me. I was really happy to get this far. It’s obviously disappointing, but, I cannot be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.” With so many physiologic changes, it’s remarkable how Serena could get back to this form. She doesn’t believe that she is either “superhuman or supermom”, according to the American “I am just me. For all the moms out there I was playing for you today. I tried. Angelique played really well. . . I look forward to being back out here and doing what I do best. Angelique is an incredible person. She is a really good friend, I am really happy for her. It’s her first title [here], I know she is going to enjoy it”

Runner up in 2016, Kerber was overwhelmed by the occasion confessing “when I was a little kid, I was always dreaming of winning, it’s a dream come true. I knew that I had to play my best tennis against a great champion like Serena. It’s an honor for me to share the court with her”. Indeed, Kerber’s defense was stellar, 11 winners and only 5 errors in 2 sets. She commented that Serena’s comeback is “an inspiration for everybody, it’s amazing watching you. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title”

After a brilliant 2016 including reaching number 1, Kerber’s stock declined finishing 2017 ranked 21. A new coach, a title in Sydney this year, her first since the U.S. Open in 2016, the German is once again on the rise at age 30. On Monday, her ranking will improve from 10 to 4. For her part, Serena Williams gained a lot of ground with her showing, her ranking will catapult to number 28.

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Federer Overpowers Del Potro as he Moves on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

Federer Overpowers Del Potro as he Moves on to the Round of 16 at the Miami Open

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The hype preceding the third round match between Roger Federer and Juan Del Potro was off the decibel meter as these two set to collide in the third round at the Miami Open. Federer conquered the Argentine 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round.

After two wrists surgeries over the last few years, Del Potro has slowly worked his way back to a ranking of 29. This was the 21st match between the two. Del Potro had beaten the former world number one in the U.S. Open final in 2009 as well as in the final at his home town tournament, Basel, in 2012. Although Federer has a 15-5 mark against the Argentine, Del Potro had won 3 of their ultimate 5 meetings.

The opening set was uneventful until the sixth game when a backhand down the line winner gave Federer double break point. Del Potro rebounded with a couple of great serves to level the set at 3 all. But, he could not escape a second time. Subsequent to a untroubled hold by the reigning Australian Open champion, Del Potro again was asked to overcome 15-40. This time around, when Federer’s forehand pass landed for a winner, he secured the break for 5-3.

Del Potro put up some stiff resistance the next game, getting to 15-40 with a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner. Federer replied with an unreturnable serve and forehand down the line winner for deuce. Two more chances to break for Del Potro went unclaimed. Eventually, two consecutive volley winners allowed Federer to take the set.

The second set was similar to the first with Federer manufacturing 15-40 in the fifth game. Because of a sleuth of miscues by Del Potro, Federer went on to collect the break and swiftly consolidated for 4-2. In the eighth game, Del Potro had an opportunity to break and get back on serve. But, the Argentine’s forehand, his best stroke, failed him. Federer served out the match and booked his place in the round of 16.

Does Del Potro feel a bit unlucky having to deal with the likes of Federer or Novak Djokovic so early in these tournaments? “It’s the luck that I have because of my rankings. Someone has to play them. Physically, I was okay.”

Still, Del Potro is encouraged by his performance today “I had my chances in both sets with break points. But Federer played solid in the important moments. You don’t have to play perfect tennis against Federer to win, but you have to capitalize on your chances. . you have to look at the positive side. At the start of 2016, my dream was just to get back on court, to compete again. I did not expect the success that I had at the Olympics and Davis Cup. I have not hit a two handed backhand for a long time until this tournament which is one of the things that I realize. Once I get back the backhand, it will be less physically taxing on my game.”

The statistics were spectacular for the 18 time major holder who hit 29 winners and committed only 19 unforced miscues. So the Swiss was pretty pleased with his outing. Was it really as uncomplicated as it appeared ? “It depends a little bit on your angle. I felt that I was in control and I was able to generate more chances than he did. . . Out of nowhere, I felt he got his chances, maybe because I dropped my level ever so slightly and gave him a few easy points. . .. I was more the aggressor. It was more on my racket. I like it that way”

The complexion of the match could have been altered if Del Potro had seized one of his opportunities especially in the initial set. Federer expounded “looking back, that was probably the key. I knew when he had the break point at 15-40, if I could dig my way out of that game, instead of being broken, hold and win the set, it’s a good escape. Juan Martin didn’t play his best because he did have his chances there on second serves and he could have done better, maybe played more aggressive, who knows what. But I hit some good shots to stay in there.”

The stadium was packed and the vibe was scorching like the South Florida sun. What did Federer think? “shortly before I walked out to the court you could sense the atmosphere. That’s when I told myself, just be prepared for something different. I think if the match would have gone three sets or tiebreakers or something even closer, would have been really epic. . . it was just really a great, nice atmosphere. A lot of pleasure playing him. Nice weather. Great opponent. Great crowd.”

Up to last season, Federer had a relatively injury free career. Because of his extended hiatus, his ranking suffered. Bumping into rivals prior to the quarters or semis will occur “If we’re all ranked outside of the top eight it’s going to happen more frequently naturally. That’s why Indian Wells maybe I’m to blame. I had a chance in Dubai to get into the top eight and I didn’t make it by losing in the second round. Then of course I got lucky or earned my way forward in Australia. If I would have lost early there I would’ve been outside of the top 30 and would have taken a while to get back into the top eight.”

With age come responsibility and wisdom. Consequently, foremost on Federer’s mind is “to be a bit more clever in terms of scheduling overall. Unfortunately, I can’t do it all. I can’t chase the Davis Cup and the slams and play all the Masters 1000s. At some point something has to give, unfortunately. I wish I could do it all like when I was 24 years old. . .I have to take some important decisions that work well for me as a tennis player, but then also for my family and my whole team. . .get the rest that I need, but then also play enough matches. If you don’t play enough normally you kind of lose touch of how to play break points, save break points, the shoulder gets rusty. Who knows what it is? You need the right balance. I think that’s more key than ever right now.”

At 35, is returning to number one a goal for Federer? “It’s not the priority. Health needs to be the priority. That’s why if I were to get there again I have to really win a lot of big tournaments, and I know how hard that is. I tried to do it for the last five years. So as long as I’m healthy, I feel like I can play good tennis, enjoy myself, I can beat – hopefully – some of the best players in the world, or most of them, and win tournaments as well. The rankings is very secondary.”

Most athletes come at a crossroad in their career because injury, it’s a factor in the sport. Federer states “two years ago. . . I was not 100%. At some point you just feel like in those kind of circumstances, Masters 1000s towards the end when you have to back it up day after day or play four-, five-setters every second day against the best, it’s not going to be enough at the very end. The margins are too small for anybody up there. . .very disappointing, when you realize that you’re ready to do it mentally. . .something physically is hindering you from really actually going all out. That’s how I felt. That’s why after playing like this for virtually four months, doing so much rehab and it feels like you’re having a cloud in your head all the time because you’re doing so much treatment. You hope you’re going to be better the next day. Rather than focusing on the nice weather, the nice crowd, and the good opponent you’re going to face, you’re actually hoping your knee is going to hold up. . . It’s okay to do that for a couple of weeks or for a few tournaments during the season. If you do it every single day for a month, that’s when you have to, in my opinion, take a break and rest and come back properly. That’s what I did, and I cannot believe the way it paid off actually.”

Upcoming fourth round opponent for Federer is Roberto Baustista Agut. The Spaniard dispatched Sam Querrey 3-6,6-2, 6-3. Although Federer won their five previous encounters, he knows the Spaniard is no push over “I respect Bautista Agut a lot. Was watching his match against Querrey and I really thought Querrey was playing great in the first set. I thought that at some point he was going steamroll, but that’s what Bautista Agut does so well. He competes so well point for point, day in day out, and he plays ton of tournaments, and he’s really just match tough. He may be hurt. He was taping his feet. . .I am sure he was in pain and he found a way it get it done in the end. . .I hope I can use my variation to really make him feel uncomfortable. Looking forward to backing it up tomorrow now. It’s not something I’m actually used to, playing back-to-back days. So I hope my body is going to be fine tomorrow.”

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Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match

Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match

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From the outset of the draw, the most anticipated potential third round encounter was Roger Federer against Juan Martin Del Potro. The fans got their wish since these two will battle it out for a fourth round berth.

Secondary to injury, Del Potro has off the tennis circuit for long stretches at a time the last four years. The last time Federer and he collided was in 2013 at the Barclays’ world tour finals. Federer holds a 15-5 record over the Argentine. As always the X-factor is the South American fans. Without question, the stadium will be sizzling which means anything can happen.

After the heights of Federer and Del Potro, John Isner clashes with youngster Alexander Zverev. The 19 year old, currently ranked 20th, won their sole prior meeting at the 2016 ATP Masters tournament in Shanghai.

For the women, the daytime’s most compelling match is Garbine Muguruza taking on former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. The 2016 French Open champion clawed her way to this stage needing three sets in both matches while Wozniacki sailed through. Muguruza has a 3-1 lead in their head to head. However, the two have not competed against each other since 2015.

Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka has the honor of opening the night session against 33 year old Tunisian veteran Malek Jaziri who is this far at Miami Open for the first time. He has a Herculean task in keeping his hopes for a fourth round spot alive as the two meet for the first time.

The night ends with two former Miami Open champions Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova duking it out for a quarterfinal spot. They’ve fought it out on court nine times previously with the Russian banking 5 wins over the American.

With the women seeking advancement to the quarterfinals, there is a plethora of interesting matches to pick from on Monday including world number one Angelique Kerber’s and second seed Karolina Pliskova’s.

Click here for for Monday’s complete order of play.

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Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Three time Miami Open champion Venus Williams took another step forward in the hope of seizing another trophy at the Miami Open. She defeated 22 year old Romanian qualifier Patricia Maria Tig 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the fourth round where she will face 2006 winner and 2016 finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian put a stop to American qualifier Taylor Townsend’s dream run with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph.

The first point of the match was a double fault by Williams. The 36 year old struggled to find the rhythm on her first serve which cost her in the third game, permitting Tig to capitalize on break point for 2-1. Undeterred, Williams broke back at love to even up the scoreboard.

Up to that point, the Romanian had been quite impressive knocking out Heather Watson of Great Britain in her maiden main draw match. Subsequently, she dismissed 2017 Indian Wells semifinalist and 18th seed Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.

Once up 4-3, Venus seemed to find her form and by feasting on the second serve offerings by Tig. She got the second break of the set for 5-3. Later with a winner, she closed out the deal on her serve.

The 2017 Australian Open finalist and 7 time major title holder cruised through the second set pocketing six successive games to get to the next stage.

Williams did not get out of the gate as expected, “I’ve never played her, so you have to get used to patterns or rhythm. So I thought she played well. She’s got a great game. Every game was competitive. Definitely a lot of credit to her.”

As the adage goes, it’s not how one starts but finishes. Venus turned on the afterburner in the second set “no matter what, I’m going to leave everything on the court: all my guts, blood, sweat, tears. Obviously you don’t want to wait until you’re a set down to find your best game. Today I was quite happy to acclimate quicker.”

On court coaching has been an aspect of the sport that Venus has hardly utilized, she likes to earn her victories the old fashion way “I hadn’t thought a ton about it. From my understanding, on-court coaching was supposed to be a selling point to build the game and get more interest . . . If it’s doing that, then it’s a plus. We want the game to grow and people to watch because it’s exciting. I don’t necessarily have an opinion. If it’s helping the game, I’m like down. I’m good.”

Regarding her next challenge, Kuznetsova who holds a 5-4 lead in their head to head, Venus made these comments pre match ” We’ve had a lot of great matches. I played her in the very beginning of her career and now we both have had great careers that are continuing to be amazing. I know her game. I don’t think there will be any surprises. She knows mine. I just want to continue to control the court. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Earlier in the day, world number one and top seed Angelique Kerber had to work to obtain a 6-4, 7-5 win over American Shelby Rogers. In the first set, the top seed fell behind 3-0. However, she went on a five game streak to move ahead 5-4. Soon, with Rogers committing her 21st miscue, Kerber had triple set point which she banked as the American misfired again.

In the second set, with Rogers’ backhand winner clipping the line, Kerber faced triple break point. As the 2 time major champion dumped a forehand into the net, Rogers secured a 4-2 edge. But her joy lasted only a few minutes. The very next game she surrendered the advantage due to a litany of mistakes. In the eleventh game, Kerber allowed her opponent to press while she stayed consistent with her stroke. That strategy banked her the break for 6-5. With a swift hold, she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Next up for the German will be 23 year old Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki who upset 16th seed Kiki Bertens in the second round, then booted Julia Goerges ranked 47th.

Madison Keyes’ comeback from left wrist surgery is still a work in progress. Today the world number 9 was send packing by Lara Arruabarrena, ranked 72nd, 7-5, 7-5.

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Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

Federer Pushed but Unfazed to Earn a Third Round Spot at the Miami Open

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The customary sentiment when one is 19 years old and sees a living legend across the net as the opponent is panic. By the time, the realization has set that it is an actual competition, the score line usually reads something like 0-6 with the first set evaporating in less than half an hour. Frances Tiafoe may be young, but he demonstrated a maturity today that will serve him well in the future as he faced the 18 time majors champion, Roger Federer. Although the Swiss master penned another in the win column, he was tested by the teenager in his 7-6, 6-3 victory in the second round at the Miami Open.

Ranked 101, Tiafoe worked his way into the main draw by qualifying. Then, he prevailed in the first round to earn his date with the reigning Australian Open champion. In the opening game, the American gave a nice account of himself, not getting frazzled after a 40-love lead dwindled to 40-30. With a nice backhand down the line winner, Tiafoe kept the proceeding on serve at 2-1.

As the competitors waited in the tunnel for their names to be announced, Federer was jovial and relaxed, chatting with the kid tasked with carrying his bag on court. To the contrary, Tiafoe had his racket bag on his back, concentrating intently not to let nerves creep up, not glancing long at his opponent. As he once mentioned Federer is “too smooth to emulate. He makes it look too easy. He is everybody’s idol.”

Federer kept his cool in the eight and tenth games, serving consecutive love games to put the set on an even footing twice. Later, it was Tiafoe’s turn to get comfortably to 6-5. When the former world number one saw a breathtaking backhand winner whiz for 0-15, he did not blink. Ultimately, Federer pushed the set into a tiebreaker with an ace. From that point on, Federer’s experience shone. Subsequent to securing the first point and mini-break with a volley winner, Federer cruised to capture the set.

After surrendering the first set with a bevy of unforced errors, Tiafoe rebounded by seizing the first break chance in the match to start the second set. However, his joy was ephemeral as Federer created two chances of his own and shortly leveled the set. Another testy moment in the contest was the fourth game. With three miscues, Tiafoe dug himself a 0-40 hole. The youngster shoveled himself out to reach 2 all. Yet, soon his next time serving the American stared at 15-40, Federer applied the accelerator to grab the break. The Swiss promptly sealed a love game with an ace to consolidate and move ahead 5-2. Still, for Tiafoe, there was no let down as he held serve and forced Federer to earn the win. The world number six did so with an easy service game.

Following the match, Federer reflected “I’ve hit with Frances maybe twice before: Once at the French and once at the US Open. There he surprised me . . .I saw the power he had, the explosivity he had, how he easily can generate pace. So I think he’s going to be really good, like most of the NextGen campaign . . . they’re pushing each other up right now. They have a good dynamic. They are quite friendly also with one another yet they have good rivalry.” He also praised the youngster for not letting the moment overwhelm him “I think the question was always how was he going to come out. It’s the question for any player. Also for me. How can you start a match? [He] seemed to be fearless, no problem, good serving, taking the ball early, making the plays. And that I like to see”

Hard to phantom, but at 35, Federer still gets jittery at the start of an event “even though I was pretty relaxed before the match . . .Yesterday I got these flashes of, Ooh, it’s going to be exciting. Then you walk out on court and there is always a big roar here in Miami . . it’s nice to get it over and done with on the winning side. You feel quite relieved to some extent because you know it can be dangerous. I don’t know his patterns well, or at all. I was actually playing very well. He stayed with me for very long time. That can make you nervous if maybe I wouldn’t have been so confident.”

With possibly, 14,000 sets of eyes watching, this is the biggest stage that Tiafoe has been on up to now. When Federer deferred and asked him to serve, admittedly, it amped up his anxiety level. “At first, I think he was feeling my game, didn’t know what to expect I think”.

When asked what is the primary lesson to take from this encounter, Tiafoe cited that he is encouraged by the way he played and that the goal will be to work hard on his game so that the next time he encounters such a big name it won’t be as early in the tournament. What does he feel he could improve “my return game”. Since the American pinpointed at least one aspect of his game which requires improvement, that alone is progress.

As Federer emphasized “I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a center court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward hopefully. . .we both played very well and both can maybe walk away from this match quite happy, which is not often in tennis that that’s maybe the case.”

Looking to the third round, Federer could collide with Juan Martin Del Potro “I would love to play against him. I’m happy for him with his comeback, winning at Davis Cup. . .I should have played him here last year but I was sick. It’s better to play him this time around when we’re both better. . . We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open.” But as the great one himself pointed out “I’m sure the crowd would love to see it. Robin Haase is going to have a say about that, as we know.”

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Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open

Federer Top Billing on Saturday at the Miami Open

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First on Stadium Saturday at the Miami Open, Stanislas Wawrinka takes on Horacio Zeballos. The world number three holds a 2-0 record against Zeballos who had his best results at this event last year as a lucky loser. After Roger Federer pulled out due to illness, he shocked both Juan Martin Del Potro and Fernando Verdasco to advance to the round of 16 before being stopped by David Goffin. Consequently, with the Argentinian fans behind him and fond memories, Zeballos could present a challenge for the men’s top seed.

Later on in the afternoon, Wawrinka’s compatriot Federer begins his quest for the coveted Indian Wells, Miami Open double trophy, something he has not accomplished in over a decade. The 35 year old, 18 time major champion faces American rising star, 19 year old Frances Tiafoe. This will be their first meeting. The dynamic should be interesting dynamic considering the venue and the disparity in their resume.

A few day matches on the men’s column which are must see include, Sam Querrey versus Tommy Robredo and John Isner versus wildcard
Thomaz Bellucci.

On the women’s side, after her narrow escape in three sets on Friday, needing a rain delay and saving a match point against Christina McHale, Spain’s Garbine Murguruza returns for her third round match against China’s Shuia Zhang. The two met for the first time in Doha this year in the round of 16 with Zhang pulling off the upset. Thus, Murguruza will hungry for payback.

Another compelling day session match is Agnieszka Radwanska versus Mirjana Lucic- Baroni. The Croatian stunned 2012 Miami Open Champion in the second round this year at the Australian Open on route to her semifinal berth for the first time at a major since Wimbledon 1999. So, revenge will be on the agenda for the Pole without question.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova also are back on court for their third round matches as well as 2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova.

The honor of closing out the night on the men’s side belongs to Juan Martin Del Potro as he tussles with Robin Haase. With a 2-0 record over the Dutch and with the South American crowd likely to be in full force, Del Potro will likely book a projected date with Federer for the third round.

For the ladies, Sorona Cirstea battles Caroline Wozniacki to end the evening. It will be a riveting contest considering their close head to head of 4-3 with the former world number one having the edge.

Click here for Saturday’s complete order of play.

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Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action

Fabulous Friday at the Miami Open Features Nadal and Nishikori in Action

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Friday the men will be the main attraction at the Miami Open as top ten players finally take court for second round play. The initial ATP match on display in Stadium Court showcases world number four Kei Nishikori against Kevin Anderson. The two played on three previous occasions all in 2015. Nishikori holds a 2-1 advantage in the win column. A former top 10 player, Anderson’s ranking has fallen to 74 due to niggling injury the last two seasons. However in looking to rebound, the 6 foot 8 inch South African will be quite a handful for Nishikori last year’s Miami Open finalist.

Later on in the afternoon, four time Miami Open finalist Rafael Nadal, with the absence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, begins his hunt for his first title in South Florida. Standing in the way in his maiden match is Dudi Sela. They’ve battled once before at the Australian Open with The Spaniard prevailing comfortably in three sets.

In the evening session, Grigor Dimitrov collides with Guido Pella on Stadium court. Two years ago, they duked it out with Dimitrov edging the Argentine out in two tough sets 7-6,6-4. Ranked 13th in the world, Dimitrov should handle his opponent, now at 178, with ease. But factoring in that the Argentinian will have plenty of support from the pro South American crowd, things might get dicey for the Bulgarian.

American Jack Sock fresh off his semifinal run at Indian Wells faces off against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka who himself as a lucky loser in the desert, had the tournament of his young tennis life so far. Nishioka shocked Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych to arrive at the round of 16. He nearly collected his biggest scalp against Miami Open top seed Stanislas Wawrinka before succumbing in a third set tiebreaker after failing to close out the match twice after being up a break. In their second meeting, Sock hopes to do better than their first in Acapulco this year since he was unable to collect the W.

On the ladies’ side, with sister Serena sideline by injury, Venus Williams carries the family’s hope for this Miami Open. The three time champion last made an appearance in the finals in 2010 with an unfavorable result. She clashes with Beatriz Haddad Maia for the first time in the second round. Also, World number one Angelique Kerber starts her campaign for the title, looking to improving on her best showing in South Florida which was a semifinal berth in 2016. The German contends with China’s Ying-Ying Duan, the two have never battled.

Click here for Friday’s complete order of play.

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