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You cannot be serious: Murray hits back at McEnroe claim

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray has slammed John McEnroe’s claim the world number one should be seen as ‘a distant fourth’ behind old rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Murray

Murray begins his Wimbledon preparations this week as he defends his title in the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club and American legend McEnroe may have given the Scot a little extra motivation with his criticism.

Although Wimbledon champion Murray remains top of the rankings, the 30-year-old has struggled this year, while Nadal and Federer have enjoyed unexpected revivals.

At Wimbledon, Federer will be hoping to clinch a 19th Grand Slam, while Nadal and Djokovic are gunning for their 16th and 13th respectively.

McEnroe told the Sunday Times that Murray, who has won three major titles, can’t be ranked on the same level as his ‘Big Four’ rivals.

But while the Scot admits that rings true for their whole careers, he pointed to his record at the Olympics, where he has won two singles gold medals, as evidence to the contrary.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m very proud of the Olympic medals, they mean a lot to me,” Murray said at Queen’s Club on Sunday.

“Within tennis, a lot of people just go ‘oh that guy was a better player because he won more Grand Slams than that one or that woman was better because she won more Grand Slams’.

“If that’s the case then what is the point in all of us being here today? Why is everyone here covering this event? There are other tournaments outside the slams as well.

“If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I can’t compare myself to them.

“There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have but for the most part I would have been fourth.

“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked number one in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work.”

Murray also stood by his recent claim that he may only have two or three more years left challenging for major honours, despite Federer winning the Australian Open aged 35 in January.

“It’s really hard, it’s always tough to stay at the top of any sport,” Murray said.

“I hope I stay at the top of the game for five, six, seven years but I think just because Roger’s done it doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to everyone.

“Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am.”

Murray will face British number four Aljaz Bedene at Queen’s on Tuesday as he looks to hold onto the title he won for a record fifth time last year.

Nadal, Djokovic into quarters as champion Muguruza exits

June 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and title-holder Novak Djokovic surged into the French Open quarter-finals for a record-equalling 11th time on Sunday, but reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza crashed out in the last 16.

DJokovic

Nadal continued his ruthless form at Roland Garros by dispatching Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to match Roger Federer’s mark of last-eight appearances in Paris.

The 14-time major winner has dropped just 20 games in four matches as he strives to become the first man to win 10 titles at a single Grand Slam.

“I’m happy because Roberto is a very good player. It’s very important for me to be in the quarter-finals one more time,” said Nadal, who turned 31 on Saturday.

“Probably I didn’t play as well as I did the other day, but I still played well.”

The fourth seed will meet compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, through to his first Slam quarter-final, for spot in the last four after the latter stunned Canada’s Milos Raonic.

Carreno Busta, seeded 20th, needed seven match points to clinch a thrilling 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 8-6 win over the fifth-seeded Raonic.

Djokovic also became an 11-time quarter-finalist as he sauntered past Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 6-3.

The Serb needed 75 minutes to clinch the opening set but then outclassed the 19th seed to set up a showdown with Dominic Thiem.

“There’s no easy match in a Grand Slam quarter-final, it will be very difficult for both of us,” said Djokovic of his upcoming challenge.

The Serb also confirmed that coach Andre Agassi had, as planned, already left Paris.

Austrian sixth seed Thiem thrashed Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarters for a second straight year.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori fought off a fierce challenge from South Korea’s Hyeon Chung in an all-Asian tussle held over from Saturday following rain to clinch a place in the last 16.

Chung quickly forced the contest into a fifth set as play resumed on Sunday, but the world number 67 double faulted on match point to gift Nishikori a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 0-6, 6-4 victory.

“I think the rain helps me a lot, because I was really down in the fourth set and mentally I wasn’t ready,” admitted Nishikori, who faces Fernando Verdasco next.

Karen Khachanov will play Andy Murray in the fourth round after the giant Russian beat American 21st seed John Isner 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3).

Kristina Mladenovic ensured the host nation will have two women in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1994 after dumping out fourth seed Muguruza 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“I’m sad. It’s a very painful defeat here in the French Open,” said Muguruza, who left Court Suzanne Lenglen angrily wagging her finger at the crowd.

“I just think that they sometimes should be a little bit more respectful,” she added, as Mladenovic thrived on the partisan support.

The French 13th seed is through to just her second Slam quarter-final — after the 2015 US Open — and will face Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky for a spot in the last four.

The Swiss 30th seed, a 2015 semi-finalist, defeated 2002 runner-up Venus Williams 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 to guarantee a first-time major champion will be crowned next Saturday.

Danish 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki knocked off 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the last eight for just the second time.

Wozniacki, who made her only other quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros in 2010, will next meet Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko, a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner over 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova advanced to round four with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Germany’s Carina Witthoeft.

Pliskova, who had won just twice in five previous French Open appearances before this year, will face Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg for a quarter-final spot.

World number 290 and qualifier Petra Martic reached the last 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Latvian 17th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Croatia’s Martic, a former top 50 player whose ranking slumped after a back injury sidelined her for 10 months, will face Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Fifth seed Svitolina downed Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 7-5.

Nadal merciless as Djokovic toils in Paris

June 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal lost just one game in a ruthless display to reach the French Open last 16 on Friday, but title-holder Novak Djokovic needed five sets to survive.

Nadal

Nadal demonstrated why he is once more considered the overwhelming favourite at Roland Garros with a brutal demolition of Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The Spaniard romped to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 win, narrowly missing out on becoming just the sixth man in the Open era to record a “triple bagel”.

“Perfection? I don’t know about that,” said Nadal, who plans to celebrate his 31st birthday on Saturday by watching Real Madrid take on Juventus in the Champions League final.

“I think I played very well today. The most important thing is to be through and I played my best match in a while.”

Nadal will meet compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Reigning champion Djokovic escaped trouble against Diego Schwartzman, the second seed rallying from two sets to one down to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

The 12-time major winner was embroiled in a bitter spat with umpire Carlos Ramos in the fourth set as Djokovic was warned for unsportsmanlike conduct after an earlier time violation.

But Djokovic eventually proved too strong for Schwartzman, playing in the last 32 of a Slam for the first time, and goes on to face Spanish 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round four.

“I expected a tough match, there were lots of exchanges from the baseline and the conditions were heavy,” said Djokovic.

“I congratulate Diego on a great battle. He played very, very well.”

Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic advanced to the last 16 when Guillermo Garcia-Lopez retired with a thigh injury in the second set.

Raonic, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2014, led 6-1, 1-0 before the veteran Spaniard, ranked 153, quit after just 28 minutes.

He will play Spanish 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who dumped out Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Dominic Thiem, a semi-finalist last year and the only player to beat Nadal on clay this season, brushed past American 25th seed Steve Johnson 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Belgian 10th seed David Goffin suffered a nasty ankle injury when he got caught up in court covers, forcing him to abandon his third-round tie with Horacio Zeballos of Argentina.

Goffin was leading 5-4 when he chased down the ball towards the back of the Suzanne Lenglen court.

However, his right foot got horribly jammed beneath the rolled-up tarpaulin before he tumbled into the wall and a linesman’s chair.

The 26-year-old was helped from the court by two officials and retired in the locker room.

An MRI scan revealed that the Belgian had not suffered a break.

Reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza gained further momentum in the defence of her title with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kazakh 27th seed Yulia Putintseva.

The Spaniard closed out victory with an ace in a match that featured 11 breaks of serve in 20 games played.

“I think the more matches I play and the toughest victories I think gives you self-confidence, successful feeling out there,” said Muguruza.

“I think it’s important with all the three matches that I played that are not easy at all.”

Muguruza plays French 13th seed Kristina Mladenovic, who rallied from 5-2 down in the third set to beat American Shelby Rogers, for a place in the last eight.

Venus Williams cruised past Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-1, while 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame China’s Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.

Australian 23rd seed Samantha Stosur, the 2010 runner-up, breezed into the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Ons Jabeur’s historic run ended as the lucky loser from Tunisia, the first Arab woman to reach the last 32 at a major, lost 6-2, 6-2 to Swiss 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky, a 2015 semi-finalist.

Djokovic shrugs off injury as Serbia take Davis Cup control

April 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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World number two Novak Djokovic shrugged off his recent elbow injury to give Serbia a winning start in their Davis Cup quarter-final against Spain on Friday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Albert Ramos Vinolas.

Djokovic

Djokovic, who skipped the Miami Masters because of the injury and came into the tie in Belgrade with just seven wins on the tour this year, wrapped up the rubber in style, dropping just one point on serve in the final set against his 24th-ranked opponent.

Viktor Troicki, the world 39, then made it 2-0 for Serbia by seeing off 19th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

“I am satisfied with my game, especially with the serve,” said Djokovic, who led Serbia to their only Davis Cup title in 2010.

“It worked well today and I won a lot of points off my first serve. At this level that’s important.”

Five-time winners Spain are without Rafael Nadal after the 14-time Grand Slam champion opted to stay at home to prepare for the clay-court season.

The winners of the tie will face either France or Great Britain in the semi-finals.

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal advance at ATP Indian Wells

March 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic launched his bid for a sixth ATP Indian Wells Masters crown with a two-set triumph over Kyle Edmund as the stars shone on Sunday in the California desert.

Djokovic

The 46th-ranked Edmund served for the second set at 5-3, but world number two Djokovic broke him en route to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) triumph.

His reward is a tough third-round clash with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over fellow Argentine Federico del Bonis.

“I think I played very well in the first set,” Djokovic said. “Second set was obviously up and down. But credit to Kyle for playing some really aggressive tennis.

“He made a lot of winners in the beginning and midway through the second. There was not much wrong I did. I did miss some forehands. But other than that, it was a very solid match. Good, quality tennis, a good test.”

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also reached the third round, Federer flying through with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over France’s Stephane Robert in just 51 minutes.

Nadal opened his account with a steady 6-3, 6-2 victory over Argentina’s Guido Pella.

The three stars are packed together in a remarkable bottom quarter of the draw.

But Djokovic said he can’t afford to think about a possible quarter-final clash with either of his longtime rivals with del Potro coming up.

While Djokovic has won 12 of their 16 career meetings, the Argentine handed him a crushing two-tiebreak defeat in the first round of the Rio Olympics — a defeat Djokovic avenged in Acapulco this month.

“Big guy, big serve, big forehand,” Djokovic said of del Potro.

“Definitely not the draw that you like early in the tournament and that you wish for, but it is what it is,” added Djokovic, who is trying to get back to the winner’s circle after a shock second-round exit at the Australian Open and a quarter-final loss to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

Ninth-seeded Federer, resurgent after a 2016 season marred by injury, downed Nadal in an epic Australian Open final to secure his 18th Grand Slam title.

He hit a speed bump in Dubai this month, failing to convert three match points in a third-round loss to Evgeny Donskoy — but he was firing on all cylinders against the 81st-ranked Robert.

“Very happy,” said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year with a knee injury that required surgery. “Knee is a thing of the past, which is great. I don’t even have to think or talk about it.”

Nadal was pleased with a “solid” opening effort against Pella, made trickier by the oven-like mid-day temperatures and the fact that Pella, like Nadal, is a left-hander.

“I didn’t try to do amazing things. I tried to play solid,” the fifth-seeded Spaniard said. “For moments I played well. For moments I played a little bit less well. Important thing, I won, and I won in straight sets.”

Nadal knows he’ll have to turn up the intensity if he wants to end a hard court title drought stretching back to 2014.

The bottom half of the draw also features fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who eased past Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.

But sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final, was an early casualty, beaten 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 by 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

The jam-packed half of the draw is a contrast to the wide-open top half, which lost a lot of its lustre on Saturday when world number one Andy Murray was stunned by 129th-ranked Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

“That’s sport, no?” Nadal said. “Yesterday probably Andy didn’t play his best match and Vasek served very well. So then you go to a tiebreak and anything can happen.”

Djokovic seeks to turn up heat in California desert

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Five-time champion Novak Djokovic will be out to reassert his dominance on the hard courts of Indian Wells this week, seeking to shake off the slump that has dogged him into 2017.

Djokovic

Djokovic’s five titles in the California desert include the last three.

But the Serbian star arrives at a tournament he has owned shaken by a second-round exit at the Australian Open, which was followed by a shocking quarter-final loss to young Australian Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

The setbacks come on the back of a troublesome second half of 2016, when he lost his world number one ranking to Andy Murray and relinquished his Wimbledon and US Open titles.

Acknowledging that his longed-for first French Open crown last year left him emotionally depleted, Djokovic nonetheless says his game remains good enough to get him back to the summit.

“Right now I feel like it was better than it was, especially in the second part of last season,” Djokovic said Thursday as unseeded men swung into action in the first ATP Masters tournament of the year.

“Particularly after the US Open I had those couple months where I wasn’t myself on the court. Now I’m at the better place and I believe that I’m headed in the right direction.”

Djokovic, who lifted the trophy in Doha this year before his Australian Open defeat, insisted the latest setbacks haven’t discouraged him.

“Generally if I see myself kind of (in) larger perspective today compared to end of last season, I’m a different player,” he said. “I feel more comfortable, I feel more fresh. I look forward to competing and I feel more confident on the court.”

But he’s got a monumental task in Indian Wells, where he anchors a bottom quarter that also includes four-time champion Roger Federer, and three-time winner Rafael Nadal.

The talent-laden section also includes former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, Kyrgios and young German Alexander Zverev.

“I haven’t had too many draws like that,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite amazing to see that many quality players are in one quarter.

“It is what it is,” he added. “Obviously Nadal and Federer are starting to build their rankings. They haven’t played, especially Roger hasn’t played for six months of the last season.

“Winning the Australian Open he got in the top 10 but he’s still not top eight, obviously that’s potentially putting him in position to play last 16 with a top eight player.

“We’ll see what happens. I guess in the first four or five days of the tournament we’ll have some very, very strong matches.”

Murray heads the draw that gives all 32 seeded players a first-round bye.

Among Thursday’s matches, Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi downed Robin Haase of the Netherlands to book a first-round meeting with third-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-3 to earn a clash with Murray, while France’s Jeremy Chardy beat Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 to book a meeting with eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.

The 23-year-old Thiem, who won his eighth ATP title in Rio last month, is among the young players keen to muscle in on the game’s “Big Four” of Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Even after his 2016 Australian Open victory more than a year ago, Djokovic indicated he could feel them coming, telling reporters that wolves running up the hill are hungrier than the wolf at the top.

“I guess I’m one of the wolves going up now,” Djokovic said Thursday. “And I’m hungry.”

Djokovic battles into ATP Acapulco quarterfinals

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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World No. 2 Novak Djokovic battled into the quarterfinals of the ATP Acapulco event on Wednesday, rallying for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Juan Martin del Potro.

Djokovic

The Serbian star led a parade of the top four seeds into the last eight, with second-seeded Rafael Nadal, third-seeded Marin Cilic and fourth-seeded defending champion Dominic Thiem all advancing.

Top-seeded Djokovic, back in action this week for the first time since his shock second-round exit at the Australian Open in January, had to dig deep against former U.S. Open champion del Potro after falling a break down in the third set.

He broke back immediately to level the set at 4-4 then held at love to pile the pressure on del Potro, who fended off one match point with a service winner but couldn’t hold off Djokovic on the next.

“Every match that I’ve played against delPo in the past couple of years has been very close, really enjoyable to play and great for the crowd to watch,” said Djokovic. “I am very happy and proud to win this match, even though I was close to losing when he was serving at 4-3 up in the third set.

“I just tried to get as many returns back in play as possible.”

The Serbian advanced to a quarterfinal clash with Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over American Donald Young.

Djokovic’s travails in a match lasting two hours and 38 minutes were a far cry from Nadal’s comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 victory over Paolo Lorenzi.

”I played a complete match today and I’m feeling great after a month without playing,” said Nadal, a two-time winner in Acapulco who is playing his first tournament since falling to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.

“I think I played a very solid match … some great shots, some good winners,” added the Spaniard, who dropped just seven points on his serve and never faced a break point against the 38th-ranked Italian.

Nadal broke Lorenzi for the fifth time in the final game of the match, delivering a stinging forehand winner to wrap up the win in just 66 minutes.

Nadal next faces Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 winner over Australian lucky loser Jordan Thompson.

Cilic booked his quarterfinal berth with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over fellow Croatian Borna Coric.

Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, remained unbeaten against his 20-year-old compatriot.

He fired a dozen aces, and broke Coric three times in the match — including twice in the final set to set up a clash with American Steve Johnson, a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over American wildcard Ernesto Escobedo.

Austria’s Thiem advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino.

Thiem, winner at Rio de Janeiro last week, booked a meeting with American Sam Querrey, who toppled fifth-seeded Belgian David Goffin 6-2, 6-3.

Djokovic through in Mexico on return

March 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Former world number one Novak Djokovic was made to work hard before finishing strongly to defeat Martin Klizan in straight sets on his return to competition at the ATP Acapulco event on Tuesday.

Djokovic

Djokovic has not played since his shock second round exit at the Australian Open in January, and showed signs of ring-rustiness before defeating Klizan 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) before a raucous Mexican crowd.

The 29-year-old Serbian started slowly and was forced to save two break points in the third game of the first set before hanging on for a 2-1 lead.

He had to save a further break point in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead but then swiftly punished world number 62 Klizan with a break to go 4-2 up.

The contest then went with serve as Djokovic claimed the opening set.

Klizan was soon in trouble in the second set as he suffered a break in the opening game before Djokovic held for 2-0.

That proved to be the cue for a mini-collapse, however, as Djokovic was broken twice and Klizan raced into a 4-2 lead.

But the 27-year-old Slovak’s composure deserted him and Djokovic broke back and held to level at 4-4.

The set went with serve to go into a tie-break and once again Djokovic’s superior experience of pressure situations told, Klizan snatching at a forehand that went long to give his opponent match point.

Djokovic duly sealed the win with a deft lob that left Klizan scrambling to return before finishing with a volley into an open court.

Elsewhere Tuesday, Australia’s Bernard Tomic wilted in the sultry conditions against American Donald Young before retiring citing the heat.

Tomic lost the first set in a tie-break 7-6 (7/5) but then retired before the second set got under way.

In other matches, third seed Maric Cilic advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.

Djokovic, Kyrgios in lead roles at star-stripped Davis Cup tennis

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios hope the Davis Cup heals the wounds of their painful Australian Open exits this weekend when they will be the only two men in the top 15 taking part.

Djokovic

World number one Andy Murray has opted out of Britain’s trans-Atlantic trip to Ottawa where Canada will be without fourth-ranked Milos Raonic for the World Group opener.

Meanwhile, Australian Open champion Roger Federer and world number three Stan Wawrinka miss Switzerland’s tie in the United States.

Rafael Nadal, the runner-up to Federer in Melbourne, will sit out Spain’s match in Croatia, who will be missing Marin Cilic, while Japan and France meet in Tokyo with Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the sidelines.

Tomas Berdych is out of the Czech Republic team to face Australia in Melbourne while David Goffin skips Belgium’s short hop to Germany.

Just as worryingly for the 117-year-old tournament is Juan Martin del Potro sitting out defending champions Argentina’s home tie against Italy.

Despite seeing all of his Grand Slam rivals take a breather, world number two Djokovic — stunned in the second round in Melbourne by unheralded Denis Istomin for his earliest exit at a major in nine years — is relishing leading 2010 champions Serbia against Russia in Nis.

“I am overjoyed to be back amongst these guys as we are all close friends and it’s a very special atmosphere every time we get together,” 29-year-old Djokovic told daviscup.com.

“But Russia are a young team and we can’t underestimate them.”

Russia, who won the last of their two titles in 2006, will be led by world number 52 Karen Khachnov.

A win for Serbia will set-up a quarter-final against either five-time winners Spain or 2005 champions Croatia who meet in Osijek.

In the absence of Nadal, Spain will be led by 16th-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta, the world 26.

Croatia, however, have to rely on Franko Skugor and Nikola Mektic, ranked at 223 and 319 respectively, neither of whom have ever won a Davis Cup singles tie.

At Kooyong in Melbourne, number 15 Kyrgios will try to restore his battered reputation after being accused of tanking in his five-set, second round loss to Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open.

Australia, the 28-time champions, face a Czech side led by world number 54 Jiri Vesely in the absence of world number 12 Berdych.

“I’ve got to improve a lot of things in my game, I’ve got to work harder,” said 21-year-old Kyrgios.

For Great Britain, Murray dropped out the Canada tie after his shock fourth-round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open. World number three Raonic is missing after injuring his groin in his quarter-final loss to Nadal.

With top 50 players Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund, Britain will be favourites as Canada’s top singles player is Peter Polanksy, ranked at 128.

The winners of that tie will face either Japan or nine-time champions France in the quarter-finals.

Japan are missing fifth-ranked Nishikori, who was bothered by a hip injury in his defeat to Federer in Australia.

In his absence, Yoshihito Nishioka, ranked 85, leads the Japanese challenge against a French squad who can still boast Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, both inside the top 25.

Without Federer and Wawrinka, Switzerland will look to Henri Laaksonen and 35-year-old Marco Chiudinelli, both outside the top 100, to shock their American hosts led by Jack Sock, John Isner and Sam Querrey, all in the top 30.

Top seeds Argentina are without Del Potro and Federico Delbonis, the men who won the reverse singles to beat Croatia in the 2016 final, when they start their title defence on clay in Buenos Aires against Italy.

The winners will face either Germany or Belgium who meet in Frankfurt.

Murray takes aim at Australian Open jinx

January 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray sets out Monday to end a record run of Australian Open final defeats as his great rival Novak Djokovic vies to become the tournament’s greatest champion of all-time.

Murray

World number one Murray is looking to avoid becoming the first man in the post-1968 Open era to lose six Grand Slam finals at the same major.

His coach Ivan Lendl lost five finals at the US Open before he broke through in New York in 1985.

Murray, who opens his campaign with a match against Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko on Rod Laver Arena, says he’s in a better position this time to finally break through for his maiden Australian Open.

“I obviously feel pretty confident after the way the last season finished,” Murray said.

“I do love it here. I love the conditions. I have played really well here over the years, and I just haven’t managed to get over the final hurdle.

“But I think I’m in a decent position to do it. I think I have a chance to win here.”

Murray is coming off a magnificent 2016 which included a second Wimbledon crown, a successful Olympic title defence and knocking Djokovic off the top spot to become world number one for the first time.

Murray is drawn to meet Japanese fifth seed Nishikori or Swiss legend Roger Federer in the quarters and 2014 winner Wawrinka in the semis.

He has Lendl back in his team and is conscious he has to keep improving to keep his rivals at bay to hold on to the world’s top ranking.

“The reality is, in sport, that things keep moving on, the game will get better. I’ll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak and Roger (Federer) and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there,” he said.

“So that’s why having someone like Ivan on my team who has been in that position before and knows what that’s like has been important.

“I need to continue to improve. I need to keep working hard.”

Murray knows that Djokovic will be gunning for him in the year’s first Grand Slam where he has a fantastic record of six finals and six victories going back to 2008.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion can take outright ownership of the record for Australian titles if he wins for a seventh time in Melbourne.

The Serb is currently tied with Australia’s Roy Emerson on six Australian titles.

“One of the reasons I’m here is to try to win every match that I play, and eventually the title,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic faces a potential banana-skin in the first round against experienced Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco, ranked 40, has beaten Djokovic four times in their 13 encounters and the Serb had to save five match points in beating him earlier this month in the semi-finals in Doha.

Last year, Verdasco knocked out compatriot Rafael Nadal in a five-setter first round thriller in Melbourne.

Should Djokovic get off to a winning start he is seeded to face Brisbane International winner Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, powerful Austrian eighth seed Dominic Thiem in the quarters and Canada’s big-serving third seed Milos Raonic in the semi-finals.

Outside the top two, the main hopes rest with reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who won in Melbourne in 2014, Raonic and Japanese hope Kei Nishikori.

Grand Slam warriors Federer and Nadal should also be in the mix, but they lack match time and their rankings have slipped.

Seventeen-time Grand Slam great Federer, who at 17 is out of the top 10 for the first time since late 2002, is easing his way back after six months out with a knee injury, while 14-time Grand Slam winner Nadal is coming off another injury-hit season.

Djokovic ends Murray’s 28-win streak in Qatar triumph

January 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic brought world number one Andy Murray’s 28-match winning streak to an end in Doha on Saturday to retain the Qatar Open title in a three-set thriller.

Djokovic

Serb star Djokovic won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a high-quality, action-packed match between the two best players in the world lasting almost three hours.

It is Djokovic’s 25th career victory over Murray and puts down an early-season marker against his great British rival, before the Australian Open later this month.

Describing Murray as his “biggest rival”, he said both players had “dragged each other” to their limits.

“Every match we play is a huge challenge, you have to accept and expect a great battle,” Djokovic told reporters.

“You saw tonight how much we both wanted to win.”

He added that he wanted to finish the match off earlier.

“I had three or four match points in the second set, he turned it around and I thought: Wow! I hope this isn’t payback time!

“He was close … all the way to the last shot you never know with Andy,” added Djokovic who was penalised a point in the second set after destroying his racquet as the tension mounted.

Despite going into the third set showing signs of frustration and weariness, Djokovic was able to claw away any momentum Murray had to secure his second successive title in Qatar and the $209,665 first prize.

A break of Murray’s serve in the seventh game of the final set — when the Scot looked most likely to win — proved decisive.

Serving for the match, Djokovic secured the title on his fourth match point, having squandered three in the second set when Murray astonishingly recovered from 5-4 down and 40-15 to win three games in a row and force, at that point, an unlikely deciding set.

It was Murray’s first competitive defeat since losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the Davis Cup back in September.

In a typically cagey start between the pair, Djokovic landed the first blow with his only break point of the first set.

In the eighth game of the opener, he came back from 40-15 down to win four consecutive points and break Murray’s serve.

Then, in the seventh game of the second set Djokovic broke Murray again despite falling over and banging his head during one rally.

It seemed to be the decisive blow, but Murray would not be easily brushed aside, rallying to take the game into the decider.

Murray said he was “obviously disappointed” to lose but was not too downbeat.

“I think physically it was a good test to start the year,” he said.

He added that he lost having failed to capitalise on his chances.

“I had a break point at 3-2. In the last game I had love-30 on Novak’s serve and played a couple of loose shots. I think I had the first break point in the first set as well, didn’t get it.

“He had one and took it, that was the difference this evening.”

Murray also dismissed any idea that the defeat would have any impact in the forthcoming Australian Open.

Saturday’s match was the first meeting between the pair since Murray beat the Serb at the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November, snatching Djokovic’s number one ranking in the process.

It was also the 20th time Djokovic has beaten Murray after winning the first set.

Despite the defeat, Murray retains his world number one ranking.

Djokovic still the biggest rival, says Murray

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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World number one Andy Murray insisted Sunday that Novak Djokovic will remain his biggest threat in 2017, as the pair prepare for a potential first clash of the season in Doha this week.

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Newly-knighted Murray, speaking ahead of the first round of the Qatar Open which begins on Monday, said the Serb would continue to make life tough for him on court this year.

“In terms of the number one ranking, Novak would be (the biggest threat),” Murray told reporters.

“I had a great sort of four, five months at the end of last year and I still only got to number one by one match basically at the end the year, so I know it will be very tough to stay there.”

Murray also tipped six-times Australian Open champion Djokovic to be the player to beat in Melbourne, when the year’s first Grand Slam begins later this month.

In Qatar, Murray is the number one seed and if matches go to form it will set up a mouth-watering final clash with Djokovic, the number two seed and defending Doha champion, on January 7.

Murray’s first round match is against France’s Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday.

Djokovic begins his title defence on Monday against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

At this stage last year, Djokovic was dominating men’s tennis and there was much talk of him winning all four Grand Slams in 2016.

But despite winning in Australia and the French Open, Djokovic’s season tailed off in the second half of the season, which saw him crash out in the third round at Wimbledon and losing the US Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

But he denied on Sunday that his game was in “crisis”.

“I don’t see the six months, second six months of 2016 as a failure or anything like that,” he told reporters.

“It’s not in my mindset, I guess, in my philosophy of life to observe things in this way — that I didn’t succeed, that I failed, that I’ve fallen or something like that.

“I just feel like every experience is a blessing one way or another.”

The 12-times Grand Slam winner and former world number one added that he retained his hunger to win.

“Without a doubt, when I’m on the court there is no other thing than to win that tennis match.”

Despite Murray and Djokovic getting top billing in Doha, they are unlikely to get things all their own way this coming week.

Also playing is one of last year’s semi-finalists, Tomas Berdych, this year’s number three seed.

France’s dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the number five seed and he has beaten Murray and Djokovic a total of eight times in his career.

The Qatar Open, now in its 25th year, has not been successfully defended since Murray won back in 2009.

Ruthless Djokovic routs Goffin in Tour Finals

November 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic crushed David Goffin 6-1, 6-2 at the ATP Tour Finals on Thursday as the world number two kept his foot on the gas in the race to finish the year atop the world rankings.

Djokovic

Djokovic had already qualified for the semi-finals as group winner, but the Serb was keen to keep the momentum going in his bid to overhaul world number one Andy Murray and he took just 69 minutes to demolish Goffin at London’s O2 Arena.

Joining Djokovic in the last four is Milos Raonic, who defeated Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to become the first Canadian to reach the semi-finals of the Tour Finals.

Djokovic has been in a prolonged slump since winning the French Open for the first time in June, sparking rumours about his private life and questions about his recent involvement with a ‘spiritual guru’ as he lost the top ranking to Murray.

But the decline is all relative as the 29-year-old has now won 21 of his last 22 matches at the Tour Finals, keeping him on course to win the tournament for a fifth successive year and record-equalling sixth time in total.

It is also the fourth time in the last five years that Djokovic has won all three of his group matches at the Tour Finals.

Djokovic is now 70 points ahead of Murray in the ATP’s ‘as it stands’ rankings, although he already knew winning the tournament would give him the year-end pole position whatever happened against Goffin.

“I’m very glad my game is going in the right direction. Today I felt the most comfortable so far in the tournament,” Djokovic said.

“I felt like I increased the quality of tennis compared to the other matches.

“I’m looking forward to the semi-finals on Saturday.”

Murray faces Stan Wawrinka in his last group match on Friday knowing a victory would guarantee he qualifies as group winner, thus avoiding a clash with Djokovic before the final.

Goffin was a late replacement for the already eliminated Gael Monfils, who pulled out of his last group match to avoid aggravating the rib injury that has troubled him for several weeks.

The Belgian, up to a career high 11th in the world rankings, had been paid £80,000 ($99,000) to hang around the O2 Arena all week as one of the tournament’s on-call substitute players, but even that sum might not have made up for acting as a punch bag for Djokovic.

Djokovic had won all four of his previous encounters with Goffin and he quickly took control again with a break in the fourth game of the first set.

Not for the first time this week, Djokovic cut a tetchy, brooding figure and after being given a time violation for taking too long between serves he had an animated conversation with both the umpire and tournament supervisor as he complained about not being given a warning first.

Controlling his emotions was proving tricky, but Djokovic was in complete command of his play and he broke again to take the first set with ease.

Djokovic was in ruthless mood and breaks in the third and fifth games of the second set effectively ended the contest.

In Thursday’s evening session, Raonic maintained his remarkable success in London this year with a powerful display that secured the runners-up spot in the group.

The world number four had enjoyed impressive runs to the Wimbledon and Queen’s finals on the other side of the capital in the summer and he saw off Thiem in 90 minutes to reach his ninth semi-final of the year.

Djokovic beats Raonic to book last four spot at Tour Finals

November 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic booked his place in the semi-finals of the ATP Tour Finals with an emotional 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5) victory over Milos Raonic on Tuesday.

Djokovic

Despite having a spiritual guru in his camp these days, Djokovic has been anything but serene lately and once again the defending champion cut an angst-ridden figure for long periods of a tense clash in the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena.

Djokovic had reacted furiously after being grilled by the media about a potentially dangerous incident when he slammed a ball into the stands during his win against Dominic Thiem on Sunday.

This time, the world number two grumbled over camera flashes from the crowd and held a finger to his lips to urge them to be quiet, while moaning when Raonic tried some gamesmanship by taking his time tying up his shoelaces at a key moment in the first set tie-break.

But, to his credit, Djokovic handled everything a fired-up Raonic threw at him to ensure he remains on course to win the Tour Finals for a fifth successive year and record-equalling sixth time in total.

The 29-year-old, who has now won 20 of his last 21 matches at the Tour Finals, would also regain the number one ranking from Andy Murray if he leaves south London with the silverware.

“I managed to hang in there mentally and stay strong and believed that the opportunities would come and that I could take them,” Djokovic said.

“Milos was hanging in there and only one or two points separated us in the second set.

“It could have gone either way this match. He’s such a strong player and has got firepower.”

With Austria’s Thiem having kept alive his hopes of reaching the semi-finals with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Gael Monfils earlier on Tuesday, Djokovic knew a win would seal his last four berth with one match still to play.

Djokovic had won all seven of his previous encounters with Raonic, dropping only one set in the process, but he had his hands full with the powerful Canadian this time.

Wimbledon finalist Raonic, who defeated Monfils in his opening match, earned break points in the Serb’s first two service games, but Djokovic wriggled out of trouble on both occasions and the set went to a tie-break.

Despite serving eight aces and hitting more than three times as many winners as Djokovic, Raonic just couldn’t kill him off and in the breaker an ill-timed double fault on set point gifted the first set to the Serb.

It had taken Djokovic 64 minutes to move ahead and the 12-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t going to let that effort go to waste.

He broke in the first game of the second set and recovered from dropping serve three games later to hit back with another break for a 3-2 lead.

Just as the finish line was in sight, Djokovic was broken again in the eighth game and he had to save a set point at 5-6 to force another tie-break.

Djokovic was pushed hard in the breaker, but he had the answer on every big point and eventually wrapped up a gutsy victory in two hours and 14 minutes.

Tour Finals debutant Thiem could join Djokovic in the last four after seeing off flamboyant Frenchman Monfils.

The 23-year-old will need to defeat Raonic in his last group match on Thursday to reach the semi-finals.

Monfils is now certain to be eliminated after losing his first two matches.

“It was a very close match but luckily he helped me in the last game. Maybe I was the lucky one today,” Thiem said.

“I am very happy there’s still a chance for me to reach the semi-finals, but Milos Raonic is an amazing opponent.”

Murray, Djokovic target year-end top spot

November 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will stage a dramatic battle to finish 2016 on top of the world as the two old rivals aim for the title at the ATP Tour Finals.

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A friendly rivalry that began 15 years ago when they first faced off in European junior tournaments will reach a new level over the week as they fight to end the year as the world number one.

Murray shattered Djokovic’s 122-week reign at the top last weekend when the Wimbledon champion became the first British man to reach pole position in the ATP rankings.

But Murray has only a 405-point lead over Djokovic in the rankings and the Scot can be passed by the Serb if he doesn’t match or better his rival’s performance at the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena.

As the top two seeds, Murray and Djokovic have been drawn in different groups in the eight-player tournament, meaning they can’t meet before the semi-finals.

If their 35th Tour-level meeting comes in the final, it would be a fitting occasion to decide the top ranking, which last changed hands at the Tour Finals in 2001 when Lleyton Hewitt supplanted Gustavo Kuerten.

Murray has enjoyed an incredible 11 months on and off the court in which he has won Wimbledon for the second time, claimed a second Olympic singles gold medal and become a father to baby daughter Sophia.

“This year is the best I’ve had on court, the last few months have been the best in terms of my consistency,” Murray said.

“Away from the court it’s been by far the best in my life, a big change and a great change. I’ve really enjoyed being a parent.

“When I step on the court I will have a little more confidence and feel better about myself.

“I don’t want to spend time discussing what’s happened in the last few months. I want to keep getting better.

“That’s what I’ve always tried to do. I don’t feel any different.”

Although Murray has lost 24 of his clashes with Djokovic, few of his peers on the Tour question his right to be number one after such a strong year.

Djokovic agrees, saying: “I have only words of praise for what he has achieved in the last year or so.

“Definitely he is a well deserved number one at this point. He has been the best player for the last six months without a doubt.

“Whether he can sustain that is not a question for me but looking at his qualities and commitment there is a good chance he can play at this level for a long time.”

Djokovic has been in a slump since winning the French Open in June to complete his career Grand Slam, raising questions about his appetite for continued success.

But the 12-time major winner might find the O2 Arena is the ideal venue to restore his confidence.

He has won the Tour Finals for the last four years and another success this year would equal Roger Federer’s record of six titles.

With Federer and Rafael Nadal both absent due to injury, Djokovic and Murray will be the centre of attention.

They could have very different paths to the trophy as Djokovic holds a remarkable 23-0 combined record against Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem, who comprise his group stage opponents.

In contrast, Murray, who has never been past the semi-finals of the event, has to survive a tricky group featuring US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, as well as Japan’s Kei Nishikoriand Croatian Marin Cilic, who have both beaten the Scot this year.

Name that tune as Djokovic hums into Shanghai Masters semis

October 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Top-ranked Novak Djokovic hummed on the baseline to keep himself calm as he survived an almighty scare against 110th-ranked Mischa Zverev to reach the Shanghai Masters semi-finals on Friday.

Djokovic

The defending champion, who has been struggling with motivation and injuries, lost the first set and was then taken to a second-set tie-break as tensions rose at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.

But qualifier Zverev’s composure cracked as the 12-time Grand Slam-winner reeled off the first four points of the tie-break and raced through the deciding set to win 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Djokovic’s victory sets up a semi-final against Roberto Bautista, while second seed Andy Murray hammered David Goffin 6-2, 6-2 to go into a clash with Gilles Simon of France.

As Zverev became increasingly dispirited in the deciding set, Djokovic was a picture of calm as he hummed to himself to keep his mind off mistakes.

“Instead of the occasional tantrum that I used to have, I hope it’s behind me, so I would switch that vibration and transform it into a tune,” said the world number one.

“I’m trying to remember, which one was it? It wasn’t any mantra. It was a famous song, actually. I was using it to just forget about my mistake, previous mistake. And it worked, I hope,” he smiled.

Djokovic’s unusual tactic helped him avoid what would have been the most humiliating defeat of his season and maintained his record of reaching the semi-finals in all seven visits to the tournament.

It has been a troubled few months for the Serb, who said he had lost motivation and complained of “private issues” as he suffered shock early defeats at Wimbledon and the Olympics.

He now insists he no longer cares about titles or rankings points and is concentrating only on maintaining an “optimal state of mind”, a process he compared to boiling pasta.

“(It’s) like when you’re trying to prepare pasta and then when it’s boiling water, you just switch it down, you know, turn down the heat a little bit,” he said.

“That’s what you’re trying to do but still keep the heat there, keep that focus, keep that momentum and trying to be in the zone and have that right intensity but just the right amount.”

Chinese fans brandished Serbian flags for Djokovic but there was consternation when the three-time champion gave up an early break and sent down four double faults as he lost the first set.

Djokovic’s misfiring serve cost him another two breaks in the second set but he also broke Zverev twice as they went to a tie-break and the German stood on the verge of a famous win.

However, a succession of Zverev errors effectively handed over the set before Djokovic took control against the tiring German and saw out the victory in two hours and 20 minutes.

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Djokovic will play Spain’s Bautista, who floored Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4 to send last year’s runner-up crashing out.

Second-ranked Murray kept the heat on Djokovic’s world number one spot as he thrashed Belgium’s Goffin to set up a semi-final against Simon, who beat Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

The Scot will have high confidence against Simon partly because of his strikingly strong record against French players, including his third-round dismissal of Lucas Pouille.

“I would assume it’s just a coincidence really,” said Murray of his success against Frenchmen.

“Maybe some of the guys I match up well against in terms of game style, but some of the matches have been extremely close, too.”

Djokovic wants to refind pleasure in his game

October 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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World number one Novak Djokovic, yet to play since defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the US Open, said Friday he wanted to rediscover the pleasure of playing tennis.

Djokovic

First place in the ATP rankings “is not my first priority any more, it is a secondary thing,” the 29-year-old told reporters in his hometown, the Serbian capital.

“I want to enjoy playing again and to train like when I do in Belgrade.”

Djokovic has been forced to pull out of next week’s China Open because of an elbow injury.

“I neither want to think nor to talk about the number one position, nor to win tournaments or Grand Slams,” Djokovic said.

He explained that since his victory at Roland Garros he did not feel “very well at an emotional level, neither at training nor at tournaments or during official matches… without doubt because I set historic goals for myself.”

“I do not play tennis only to win matches, tournaments or to beat records… I have had a lot of opportunities to accomplish what I have accomplished and I am now in a position to redefine my goals.”

The player’s victory in Paris won him the only Grand Slam title that had been missing from his CV.

But he said he did not “take well” to the subsequent pressure and decided to come to Belgrade to spend some time with his family and friends.

He said he was recovering well from the elbow injury and was “close” to his best form.

“My service was not very good lately, because of that injury, but other shots are at an optimum level,” he said, adding that he was “looking forward to challenges ahead”.

“Nole”, as he is known, also paid tribute to his German coach Boris Becker.

“We have won seven Grand Slams together, the results show that our cooperation was fruitful,” he said.

Wawrinka conquers nerves, pain, Djokovic for US Open title

September 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Stan Wawrinka’s US Open triumph over world number one Novak Djokovic gave him a third Grand Slam title in as many finals, but the 31-year-old Swiss says they don’t get any easier.

Wawrinka 2

Wawrinka, described by Djokovic as a player who rises to the big occasion like no other, admitted he was a mass of nerves before Sunday’s championship match.

“I was shaking in the locker room,” he said, adding that during his last minute discussions with coach Magnus Norman “I start to cry”.

“I was completely shaking,” said Wawrinka, although he added that through it all he remained convinced that he had the game to win.

“Physically I was there. My game was there. Put the fight on the court, and you will have a chance to win,” he told himself.

That’s exactly what Wawrinka did, shaking off the loss of the first set to post a 6-7 (1/7), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic.

He denied Djokovic a second straight US Open title, and for the third time beat a reigning number one in a major final.

Wawrinka had already been pushed to the limit in reaching the final.

He’d spent nearly 18 hours on court, saving a match point in a five-set thriller over unheralded Briton Dan Evans in the third round.

He had to rally against former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals, and escaped resurgent former champion Juan Martin del Potro in a quarter-final four-setter.

“I think this Grand Slam was the most painful, physically and mentally, that I ever played,” Wawrinka said. “I was feeling tired already at the beginning of the match. I was feeling the cramp coming in the third set.”

Feeling pain in the fourth, Wawrinka said he was determined “not to show anything” but just to “give everything and keep fighting and go try to win it”.

Wawrinka, who had handed Djokovic two of his biggest Grand Slam disappointments, including in the French Open final last year, said he expected his marathon tournament to be capped by an endurance test against the Serb.

“There is no secret,” Wawrinka said. “If you want to beat the number one player in the world you have to give everything.

“You have to accept to suffer and you have almost to enjoy to suffer.”

Wawrinka said things weren’t so difficult in 2014, when he won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, downing Djokovic en route to a meeting with then-number one Rafael Nadal in the final.

Back then, just reaching the final was an accomplishment to celebrate.

“I came on court to win it, but I knew it will be OK to lose it,” Wawrinka said.

“But then, then, then …. I’m not that young anymore,” he said. “You’re in another final of a Grand Slam, you don’t want to lose it … because the trophy of the winner and the finalist is not the same.”

Wawrinka said his late career success is not the product of any grand design, but just the culmination of years of dedication.

“First I wanted to be a professional tennis player,” he said. “That means living with your passion, with your sport. Then (my goal) was to be top 100, then top 50.

“I never start anything (saying) I want to be number one, I want to win a Grand Slam. For me, it’s always step by step.

“The only thing I want to do is push the limit.”

Djokovic deciphers Monfils, faces Wawrinka in US Open final

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic’s strange US Open path took another odd turn as the defending champion defied stultifying humidity and the controversial tactics of Gael Monfilsto book a title showdown with Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic

World number one and defending champion Djokovic prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in a bizarre semi-final that saw 10th-seeded Monfils roundly booed and accused of not trying.

Third-seeded Wawrinka withstood an early onslaught from sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, asserting himself in the later stages to claim a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Although Djokovic holds a 19-4 record over Wawrinka, including two victories since the Swiss player shocked him the French Open final last year, Wawrinka welcomed the chance to take him on again.

“To play Novak again it will be very special,” he said.

Djokovic admitted he was “completely caught off guard” when Monfils, down 0-5 in the first in 15 minutes, stood lackadaisically in the court and began chipping the ball back.

The strategy paid off as Monfils reeled off three games in a row.

“If I would get to the net he would go for the passing shot and hit some impossible gets and balls. But that’s Gael,” Djokovic said.

It was Djokovic who emerged with the set, however, and as the Serbian star raced through the second Monfils’s interest again appeared to wane.

By the sixth game the 30-year-old had won just nine points, which he managed to nudge into double figures by the end of it.

Monfils, playing in only his second Grand Slam semi-final after making the last-four at the 2008 French Open, theatrically hobbled off the court and was jeered.

He was booed again by sections of the 20,000-strong crowd as he dropped the first game of the third set.

Monfils said his tactics were a deliberate attempt “to get inside his head”.

A more orthodox approach saw Monfils break back for 2-2 and again for 4-2 in a third set that saw Djokovic receive treatment on his left shoulder.

Although Djokovic saved one set point, and gave himself three break chances in the ninth game, Monfils was able to extend the match, marking the moment with a mighty roar to which Djokovic responded by ripping off his shirt.

“I think I should not have allowed him to come back to the match after two sets to love up and 2-love in the third,” Djokovic said.

“He started believing in himself. I think the crowd disliked his efforts towards the end of the second set. I think he felt like he needs to step it up and start to play better, which he did.”

After giving back an early break in the fourth Djokovic had treatment on his right shoulder, but he broke twice more to close out the win.

Djokovic arrived at the semi-finals having played just two complete matches in five prior rounds after a walkover from one opponent and the mid-match retirements of two others.

Wawrinka’s arduous path to the title match included saving a match point in the third round.

He’s spent 17 hours and 54 minutes on court.

Nishikori, coming off his own five-set quarter-final triumph over world number two Andy Murray, seized the initiative with a near flawless first set.

He broke Wawrinka again to open the second, but the Swiss was gradually beginning to find his range and regained the break.

After saving a bevy of break points, he broke in the 12th game to level the match at two sets apiece.

After taking the third and breaking Nishkori at love for a 2-0 lead in the fourth, Wawrinka appeared to be on his way.

Nishikori’s last gasp was a break in the fifth game, but a quick break back and a hold at love and Wawrinka was back in charge.

“He dictated play early tonight, put pressure on me and gave me no time,” Wawrinka said.

“I had to wait and fight and make him uncomfortable. He got tired and I started to be more aggressive.”

Wawrinka, who was in the US Open semis for the third time in four years, was delighted to finally make it to the final.

“I am really excited,” he said. “I have seen the final here on TV many times, watching Roger, Rafa, Novak.”

Nishikori, meanwhile, was denied a chance to improve on his runner-up to Marin Cilic in 2014.

Rested Djokovic big favourite against Monfils

September 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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World number one Novak Djokovic, the only member of the so-called “Big Four” to reach Friday’s semi-finals of the U.S. Open, also has the distinction of being the least tested of the last four at Flushing Meadows.

Sep 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a ball into the stands after his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France (not pictured) on day nine of the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Djokovic won 6-3, 6-2, (ret.) Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Serbian top seed Djokovic goes against 10th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, while number three Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland takes on sixth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan to set up the men’s final at the year’s last, and rather unusual, grand slam.

With Roger Federer missing due to injury, Andy Murray upset in the quarters and Rafa Nadal a fourth-round loser, Djokovic marches on in a quest for a 13th slam title without his familiar high profile rivals standing in the way.

Djokovic, 29, who came to New York with questions about his fitness and form after a first-round exit from the Rio Olympics and concerns over an injured left wrist, has sailed into the semi-finals in record time due to a bizarre path.

Injuries to Jiri Vesely’s forearm (second-round walkover), Mikhail Youzhny’s hamstring (third-round retirement) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s knee (quarter-finals retirement) made Djokovic something of a cameo performer at Flushing Meadows.

He is the first man in the modern era to reach a slam semi-final after three retirements or walkovers. His nine sets and 84 games completed are the fewest at this stage at any major in the Open era that featured a 128 draw and only best-of-five matches.

Djokovic, who earlier this season joined Rod Laver and Don Budge as the third man to hold all four slam titles at once following wins at the Australian Open and French Open, said the rest was much appreciated.

“In this stage of the season, considering some physical issues I have had … this was the scenario that I needed and I wished for,” he told reporters. “Right now I’m feeling very close to the peak.”

Monfils, on top of his game with a straight-sets run to the semi-finals, will need to be at his peak to reach the final as he is still seeking his first victory against Djokovic after 12 losses.

Wawrinka, who blossomed after turning 28 to win the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open, leads Nishikori 3-2 in their head-to-head, with the duo splitting grand slam quarter-final encounters.

Nishikori beat the Swiss in five sets at the 2014 Open on his way to the final, while Wawrinka beat the Japanese at the 2015 Australian Open.

Nishikori is striving to become the first man from an Asian country to win a grand slam, and should he achieve the feat would pocket a record $4.5 million, including a $1 million bonus for topping the U.S. Open Series of run-up events.

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