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Williams learned before Konta loss that half-sister's killer now free

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Serena Williams says she discovered that the man convicted of killing her half-sister had been released on parole just minutes before her match with Johanna Konta last month.

Briton Konta inflicted the worst defeat of Williams’ career, winning 6-1 6-0 in the first round of the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.

Williams’ elder half-sister Yetunde Price was shot dead in 2003.

“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” said the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

Robert Maxfield was jailed for 15 years in April 2006 and Williams, 36, attended the sentencing.

She told Time magazine: “No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behaviour.”

Price was 31 when she was shot dead in Compton, Los Angeles. Her children were 11, nine and five at the time.

“It’s unfair that she’ll never have an opportunity to hug me,” Williams said.

“It was hard because all I think about is her kids – what they meant to me and how much I love them.

“I would like to practice what I preach, and teach [Williams’ daughter] Olympia that as well. I want to forgive. I have to get there. I’ll be there.”

‘That’s not being Serena’

The US Open gets under way in less than two weeks with Williams vying for a seventh singles title at Flushing Meadows.

Williams, who returned to the women’s tour earlier this year after giving birth to Olympia last September, admitted she is at the “start of a long comeback” after losing in the second round of the Cincinnati Open to Czech Petra Kvitova on Tuesday.

She returns to New York having lost in the US Open semi-finals in both 2015 and 2016.

“I’m trying to get a new vibe there,” said the current world number 27.

“But I’m not going in there thinking I’m going to lose. That’s not being Serena. That’s being someone else.”

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The Importance Of Striking An Ace

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

The Importance Of Striking An Ace

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers looks at how striking aces is the ultimate weapon

There are only five players in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings that hit on average at least one ace per service game in 2018.

Aces are the ultimate serve weapon, but performance varies greatly at the pinnacle of our sport with the number of aces hit per game. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers identifies that the average amount of aces that the Top 50 hit per game is 0.54, or approximately one ace every two games.

The table below has the leading five players from the current Top 50 (as of 13 August 2018) with the highest average aces per game, and also their performance in 2017 as a comparison.

Top 50: Leading Five Players Average Aces Per Game

Current ATP Ranking Player 2018 Aces/Game 2017 Aces/Game
No. 9 John Isner (USA) 1.45 1.40
No. 29 Milos Raonic (CAN) 1.38 1.07
No. 18 Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 1.34 1.06
No. 6 Kevin Anderson (RSA) 1.14 1.03
No. 34 Sam Querrey (USA) 1.03 1.00

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to have such awesome firepower to begin a point. The influential dynamic for these five players is that they essentially only have to go and win three points in a service game, because they get to enjoy one ‘free’ point with their ace.

What’s also important to consider is that hitting the most number of aces on the ATP World Tour does not directly equate to being World No. 1. The average ranking of these five players is 19, so this also highlights that bombing aces is always nice, but there is still a lot of work to be done, as well on the return side of the equation, to win matches.

What’s fascinating is that World No. 1 Rafael Nadal actually drops to the bottom of this list, hitting the least amount of aces per game out of the Top 50 at just 0.2 aces per game, for an average of one ace out of every five service games.

The 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov leads #NextGenATP players in this category with an average of 0.72 aces per match this season. The following table highlights the Top 5 #NextGenATP players in the data set.

Top 5 #NextGen Players – Average Aces Per Game in 2018

Current ATP Ranking Player 2018 Aces/Game
No. 32 Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 0.72
No. 38 Frances Tiafoe (USA) 0.60
No. 4 Alexander Zverev (GER) 0.57
No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 0.56
No. 37 Andrey Rublev (0.39) 0.39

This analysis shows that diversity of playing styles is alive and well at the pinnacle of our sport. Both John Isner and Nadal are ranked in the Top 10, but sit at either end of the spectrum with the amount of aces they hit in their service games.

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Plans to turn Davis Cup into 18-team season-ending event approved

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Controversial proposals to revamp the Davis Cup and turn it into a season-ending 18-team event have been backed by national tennis federations.

A two-thirds majority among the 140 nations was needed at the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) annual general meeting.

The 25-year £2.15bn plan – funded by an investment group led by footballer Gerard Pique – will start in 2019.

“Sometimes things have to change, or they have the risk to die,” said Pique.

The Davis Cup, which was founded in 1900, has been played in the current format since 1981.

“I can understand for a very traditional tournament like the Davis Cup, it’s difficult for people and they have doubts,” Pique told BBC’s World Service.

“Everyone agrees that change has to be done, but there are some people who think it needs other changes and that is something I can understand.”

ITF chief executive David Haggerty said the decision would elevate the Davis Cup “to new standards”.

“This new event will create a true festival of tennis and entertainment which will be more attractive to players, to fans, to sponsors and to broadcasters,” he added.

The Lawn Tennis Association, Britain’s governing body, opposed the proposals, saying it was concerned about scheduling, financing and the division between member nations.

The ATP intends to stage a revamped World Team Cup in Australia in the first week of January from 2020 – less than two months after the conclusion of the Davis Cup finale in November.

Players were not consulted in the process, but 71% of the voting federations backed the proposals at the AGM in Orlando on Thursday.

What is the current format and how will it change?

The Davis Cup is one of the world’s largest international team competitions with 132 nations taking part in 2018.

Sixteen nations compete in the World Group in a straight knockout, while the remaining countries are divided into three regional zones depending on their location.

It is played in February, April and September and November at home and away venues, with each World Group tie played over three days in a best-of-five tie of five-set matches.

However, an increasing number of top players have skipped matches in recent years to ease their schedule.

The reformed event would see matches played over the best of three sets, culminating in a World Cup-style tournament to determine the world champions.

Twenty-four teams would compete in home and away ties in February, with 12 winning teams advancing to the finals in November.

The four semi-finalists from the previous year’s tournament, plus two wildcards, would complete the 18 teams.

The finals – to be staged in Madrid or Lille from 18 to 24 November – would be a round-robin format before a knockout phase, with matches consisting of two singles and one doubles rubber.

Who is backing the new event?

Barcelona and former Spain defender Pique founded and leads the investment group Kosmos, which is backed by Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani.

“This is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level,” said Pique.

American billionaire Larry Ellison, who runs the Indian Wells tournament, has said he will also invest.

“The new revenues for nations that the event will generate will have a transformative effect on the development of tennis in all nations,” added Haggerty.

“Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.”

World number one Rafael Nadal and 13-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic are among the players who have supported Davis Cup reforms.

Why did the LTA oppose the plans?

The LTA said it consulted widely before deciding it could not support the proposals “as they stand”.

In a statement released on the eve of the vote, it said its concerns were:

  • “The proposed format and its impact on the tennis calendar, extending the season for players, risks player participation and therefore fan appeal.”
  • “The clarity of how the business case will work in practice, which has led the LTA to conclude that it is too early to seek approval.”
  • “The strength of the ITF in governing and developing tennis across the world will be reinforced by bringing tennis together behind a unified proposal and the LTA feels we have not yet reached that point.”

However, the LTA said it recognised “reform of the competition is needed”.

“The LTA remains fully supportive of the ITF and its leadership and we will work together on the future of Davis Cup regardless of the outcome of the vote,” LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said.

Who else is against it?

The LTA was one of five federations – along with the United States, Australia, France and Germany – to be given the highest percentage of 12 votes in the electoral voting system.

Tennis Australia, which would host a rival team competition planned by the ATP, and the German Tennis Federation (DTB) also voted against the plans.

“This proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup special and unique,” read a Tennis Australia statement.

DTB president Ulrich Klaus said the decision was a “bitter pill to swallow”.

“Sadly, the discussion in the last few days was mainly about money and not about the sport,” he added.

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Thursday Preview: Shapovalov Faces Raonic In Cincinnati

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Thursday Preview: Shapovalov Faces Raonic In Cincinnati

Federer, Cilic, Dimitrov, Djokovic, Wawrinka all feature in the third round

View FedEx ATP Head2Head for the Rogers Cup & vote for who you think will win! 
Dimitrov vs Djokovic |Anderson vs Goffin | Raonic vs Shapovalov


Six members of the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings feature on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open, but standout third-round matches feature Milos Raonic, once again the Canadian No. 1, against his compatriot Denis Shapovalov and No. 10 seed Novak Djokovic versus defending champion Grigor Dimitrov.

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It was back in May that Shapovalov broke Raonic’s eight-year reign as Canada’s top player, just 11 days after winning their Mutua Madrid Open third-round clash 6-4, 6-4. The significance wasn’t lost on 19-year-old Shapovalov, who confessed the victory “was definitely one of my best days on clay… To beat him, it was a huge confidence booster for me.”

Now, on the hard courts of Cincinnati, Shapovalov has since compiled an 11-10 match record and Raonic, back once again as Canada’s No. 1, is growing in confidence, with a 12-4 mark. A strong service performance from Shapovalov helped him to beat Raonic on 10 May and today, on Center Court, the #NextGenATP will have to compete with great discipline. Raonic has beaten three Top 30 players since losing in Madrid – Tomas Berdych and Lucas Pouille at the MercedesCup and David Goffin, last week, at the Rogers Cup.

Five-time runner-up Djokovic, looking to become the first player to win all nine Masters 1000 tournaments this week, has won his past five matches against fifth seed Dimitrov and all four of their hard-court meetings (leads 7-1 overall). Dimitrov has two Top 10 wins this year – both over Goffin – as he continues to find the kind of early-season form that helped him to the Australian Open quarter-finals (l. to Edmund) and a 10-3 start.

Djokovic, the 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2015 finalist, is seeking his 30th match win in Cincinnati (29-11) and has won 23 of his past 27 matches, including his fourth trophy at Wimbledon (d. Anderson). Having beaten Adrian Mannarino in the second round, the Serbian star admitted, “I’m still looking for that consistency. I think it’s quite important as the matches get tougher now and the opponents are higher-ranked. I am going to need that consistency and need to be solid and kind of hit with confidence.”

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Second seed and seven-time champion Roger Federer aims to secure his 20th hard-court match win of 2018 (31-4 overall) against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina with the possibility of an all-Swiss quarter-final on the horizon against wild card Stan Wawrinka, who is returning to peak form following two knee surgeries last year. Wawrinka will first need to overcome Marton Fucsovics, also in a late night show court encounter.

Kevin Anderson, who is currently in sixth position in the ATP Race To London for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, takes a 34-12 season record (22-6 on hard courts) into his clash against No. 11 seed Goffin, runner-up at The O2 season finale in London last year, in a first-time meeting. Goffin, who came into the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament with a 2-5 record since falling in the Roland Garros fourth round (l. to Cecchinato), has earned confidence-boosting victories over last week’s Rogers Cup finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and Benoit Paire in Cincinnati this week.

Third seed Juan Martin del Potro and Hyeon Chung will need to play two matches on day four, after their second-round match was suspended due to rain on Wednesday night. Neither player has met No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios, who awaits the victor. Elsewhere, seventh seed and 2016 titlist Marin Cilic challenges Karen Khachanov of Russia.

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Garbine Muguruza: Spanish defending champion beaten by Lesia Tsurenko in Cincinnati

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza suffered a surprise defeat by Lesia Tsurenko in Cincinnati.

The 24-year-old Spanish defending champion, ranked seventh in the world, lost 2-6 6-4 6-4 to her Ukrainian opponent, the world number 45.

It was Muguruza’s first match since her defeat in the Wimbledon second round, where she was also defending her title.

“It was a very ugly match, but I’m happy that I fought, even if the level wasn’t very high,” said Muguruza.

“At the end she managed to come back in the third set and play better and found a way to win the match.”

World number one Simona Halep was still on court when rain halted play.

The top-seeded Romanian stood 4-6 6-3 3-3 against Australian qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic when storms rolled in to bring the night session to an end on a day that had already seen one three-hour rain delay.

Earlier on Wednesday, American world number three and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens set up a third-round meeting with Elise Mertens by beating Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-3 6-2.

Belgium’s Mertens, the world number 14, beat Rebecca Patterson of Sweden 3-6 6-2 7-6 (7-1).

Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber claimed her 40th win of the season, but the German fourth seed had to recover from a set down to overcome Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 4-6 7-5 6-4.

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki retired with a left knee injury after surrendering the first set 6-4 to Kiki Bertens.

  • Read more: Williams loses to Kvitova in Cincinnati
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Defending Finalist Kyrgios Throwing Down Aces In Cincy

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Defending Finalist Kyrgios Throwing Down Aces In Cincy

Aussie tacks on 16 more and reaches the third round at the Masters 1000 event

Aussie Nick Kyrgios avenged a 2016 Western & Southern Open loss to Borna Coric on Wednesday, beating the Croatian in an up-and-down second-round contest 7-6(1), 0-6, 6-3.

The 15th seed delivered 16 aces and saved six of nine break points against Coric, who now trails Kyrgios 1-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

I knew I was always going to compete in the third set. I competed too hard in the first set to sort of just let the match slip and not compete, give myself a chance to win, at least,” Kyrgios said. “I know that right now I can still serve through these matches, and that’s enough for me to compete and hang with these guys.”

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Neither player was broken in the opener but Kyrgios ran away in the tie-break. Coric, however, responded immediately, converting his fourth break point of the opening game to lead 1-0. He broke two more times to even the match.

You May Also Like: Gone In 37 Seconds, Kyrgios Blows Away Shot Clock

But Kyrgios, who set a tournament record with 39 aces on Tuesday, was clutch in the decider, converting his lone break point and erasing the only one he faced.

Kyrgios is the defending finalist in Cincinnati (l. to Dimitrov). He will next face 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung or World No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

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Stan Looking More & More Like The Man

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2018

Stan Looking More & More Like The Man

Swiss continues his impressive hard-court form with straight-sets win over Nishikori in Cincinnati

Stan Wawrinka produced arguably the best performance of his comeback season Wednesday night in Cincinnati, defeating Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4 to record just his 10th match win of the year.

The Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion moved nimbly and struck his trademark backhand with conviction to set up a third-round meeting with Marton Fucsovics, whom Wawrinka beat last week in a third-set tie-break in Toronto.

Wawrinka said, “I’m really happy with the match, with the level. I think from 1-4 down I started to play really well, moving well, changing a lot of rhythm, being really aggressive, playing the right game. For sure one of the great matches I played, so I’m happy with the level and to have one more win here.

“I feel [my game] is getting there… I was feeling great on the court… I need to just be patient with myself, to accept things that are happening and by doing that, I know that I will get there.”

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Wawrinka showed signs of returning to something approaching peak form last week at the Rogers Cup when he defeated Nick Kyrgios in the first round and pushed eventual champion Rafael Nadal in a 7-5, 7-6(4) loss in the third round.

The 33-year-old continues the hard work to rebuild his ranking following two left knee surgeries in 2017. Currently at No. 151, Wawrinka needed a wild card into Cincinnati and has also been awarded one at the US Open, which begins 27 August.

“There was some really tough moments [after the surgeries],” Wawrinka said. It’s been a year now. Today, for sure, I’m smiling, I’m happy. I won two matches here. I beat Nishikori playing a great level. I feel like that what happened last year it’s really far, but at the same time I remember it was still really tough for me. You have to [separate] winning matches and the result of how you improved, because you can have a lot of up-and-down after a big surgery like that.”

Nishikori grabbed the early break in the first set but Wawrinka claimed back-to-back breaks in the latter stages of the first set and a third consecutive break in the opening game of the second to break open the match.

Coach Magnus Norman is not in Cincinnati this week but will team back up with Wawrinka in New York. “When we started again in April, we did the schedule until the US Open, basically. For sure I’m sure we both want to keep going. I also have Yannick, I have the rest of my team with me, so we’re trying to find the right balance for everybody to be happy.”

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Did You Know?
Stan Wawrinka has three Grand Slam titles but just one ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title (Monte-Carlo, 2014).

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