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Q2 Review: Djokovic, Nadal, Federer Tighten Grip On Top

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

Q2 Review: Djokovic, Nadal, Federer Tighten Grip On Top

Big Three continue to rule the “Big Titles”

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal returning to their very best tennis, along with Roger Federer making more history, highlighted the second quarter of the 2019 season on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic capped off another relentless fortnight by winning his fifth Wimbledon title on Sunday, beating Roger Federer 13-12(3) in the first fifth-set tie-break in Wimbledon singles history.

Nadal made the semi-finals at SW19 (l. to Federer), but the Spaniard, per usual, ruled the main European clay-court swing despite a slow start on the surface.

Nadal didn’t win his first title of the season until 19 May, the longest it’s taken him since 2004, when he won his maiden tour-level title. But the Spaniard made up for the missed opportunities, beating Djokovic for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia title in Rome for his record-setting 34th ATP Masters 1000 title and then running away with his 12thRoland Garros title against Dominic Thiem.

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Nadal had to withdraw from his BNP Paribas Open semi-final against Roger Federer in March (knee) and missed the Miami Open presented by Itau later that month.

“Too many issues the last 18 months. So that makes these last few weeks very, very special,” Nadal said after winning in Paris.

Djokovic also had a less-than-Novak like finish to the first quarter of the season, failing to reach the quarter-finals at either March Masters event.

But the Serbian recovered well, winning the Mutua Madrid Open title (d. Tsitsipas) for his 33rd Masters 1000 title. Djokovic then reached the Rome final and Roland Garros semi-finals before hoisting his 16th Grand Slam title at the All England Club.

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The World No. 1 dominated the tie-breaks in the Wimbledon final against Federer, 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3).

“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of. I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the [2012] final of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything,” Djokovic said.

Federer won his 10thNOVENTI OPEN title in Halle, the first time the Swiss has entered double-digit titles at a tournament. At SW19, the 37-year-old made his 31st Grand Slam final (20-11) and had two match points to become the oldest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era. Instead, Federer fell to Djokovic for the 26th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (22-26).

“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed, I can’t believe it,” Federer said.

On clay, Federer returned for the first time since 2016, making the quarter-finals in Rome and Madrid and the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

Representing the #NextGenATP, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas won his first clay-court title at the Millennium Estoril Open and reached his second Masters 1000 final (Toronto) in Madrid.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, also compiled another strong clay-court swing, beating Nadal en route to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell title (d. Medvedev), making the semi-finals in Madrid (l. to Djokovic) and reaching his second consecutive Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). And No. 6 Alexander Zverev won his first title of the year in Geneva and reached his second Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris.

Other highlights of the second quarter included Italy’s Fabio Fognini breaking into the Top 10 and winning his first Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters; Russians Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev also joined the elite group for the first time; and four players won their first tour-level title: Chilean Cristian Garin (Houston, Munich), Adrian Mannarino of France (‘s-Hertogenbosch), Lorenzo Sonego of Italy (Antalya) and American Taylor Fritz, who made the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals (Eastbourne).

More On The Second Quarter’s First-Time Winners
Sonego Saves Championship Point
Mannarino’s First-Time Winner Spotlight
Fritz Wins Maiden Title In Eastbourne
The Numbers Behind Garin’s Meteoric Rise

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Isner Hungry For Another Newport Title

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

Isner Hungry For Another Newport Title

American missed three months because of a broken foot

John Isner has picked nearly the perfect spot to continue his comeback from a foot injury. The 34-year-old American accepted a wild card into the one of his favourite tournaments, the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, and is the top seed at the ATP 250 event, which Isner has won three times.

He’s been more successful at only one other tournament, his home BB&T Atlanta Open, which Isner has won five times. The 6’10” American played collegiate tennis at the University of Georgia, only 116 kilometers away from Atlanta.

“I’ve had a lot of success [in Newport]. When I first started playing this tournament early on in my career, I didn’t have much success and I was struggling with the courts. But I finally I think learned how to play on these courts and since then I’ve always done pretty well here,” Isner said.

The right-hander lost his opening match the first two times he played on the Newport grass (2007-08). But he learned quickly, winning back-to-back titles in his next two appearances (2011-12) and in 2017. Since 2008, Isner has failed to reach the quarter-finals only once, in 2015, when he lost to eventual champion Rajeev Ram of the U.S.

Certainly I really enjoy playing here,” Isner said. “This place is so historic and this tournament has been here for so long. It’s been so successful for so long.”

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Isner broke his left foot in the Miami Open presented by Itau final against Roger Federer and missed all of April, May and June. He returned earlier this month at Wimbledon, where the 2018 semi-finalist made the second round (l. to Kukushkin). But Isner isn’t worried about transitioning from the SW19 lawns to Newport.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a change coming from Wimbledon. Of course the grass isn’t completely the same but it feels the same underneath your feet. Maybe the bounces are a little bit different but going from Wimbledon to here it’s, in my opinion, it’s pretty easy,” he said.

Because of the time away, Isner has dropped in the ATP Rankings to No. 15, his lowest spot since 19 March 2018. The 14-time ATP Tour titlist spent much of his time away resting, which was a change from his usual rehab from injuries.

“I hurt my bone and as anyone will tell you, bone is bone. Of course you can take some more vitamin D and try to do everything you can, but you just have to stay off of it. That’s been the most difficult thing for me because… anytime I’ve had anything hurt I’ve been able to actively rehab it. This, you really can’t do that that much; you have to just let your body heal itself,” he said.

“I was pretty motionless for a long time. I don’t think I hit a ball for 10 weeks, so I didn’t start practising until a week before Wimbledon. It’s tough but I wasn’t dwelling on it by any means. I’ve been very fortunate to be healthy. Injuries are a part of all sports, and tennis is no different, so I just… enjoyed my time at home.”

He couldn’t compete on the ATP Tour, but Isner did gain plenty of quality time with his wife, Madison, and their 10-month-old girl, Hunter Grace.

“It’s not that we wouldn’t have had that time, I think they would have travelled during the clay-court season. It’s just waking up in the morning and being with my daughter for a few hours as opposed to 30 minutes as I’m getting ready for practice and going about my day,” Isner said last month. “It’s very, very special for sure. She’s in her formative years, and it’s just been great.”

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Rublev In Driver’s Seat In Umag Opener

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

Rublev In Driver’s Seat In Umag Opener

2017 champion to face Lajovic next

Andrey Rublev opened his bid to reclaim the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag title on Tuesday, cruising into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Robin Haase. The 21-year-old Russian improved to 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with his lone loss to the Dutchman coming in last year’s Umag quarter-finals.

Rublev, a two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier, won his maiden ATP Tour title here in 2017 as a lucky loser. He will look to reach his first quarter-final since February in Marseille when he next meets No. 4 seed Dusan Lajovic, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist (l. to Fognini).

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Italian Paolo Lorenzi, the 2017 finalist, battled for a place in the second round. The 37-year-old Italian came back to defeat German qualifier Peter Torebko 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(3) in three hours and 10 minutes. Lorenzi next faces No. 3 seed Laslo Djere.

In an all-Italian opener, Stefano Travaglia dismissed Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 6-2 to set a meeting with Fabio Fognini, the top seed. Fognini, currently at a career-high No. 9 in the ATP Rankings, won the Umag title in 2016.

A pair of Argentines also advanced Tuesday. Facundo Bagnis knocked out No. 7 seed Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, and eighth seed Leonardo Mayer defeated Pablo Andujar 6-1, 7-5. Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic saved a set point at 5-4 in the opening set as he came back to defeat Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-5, 7-6(4).

In doubles action, top-seeded Austrians Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer opened their Umag campaign with a 6-2, 7-6(2) win over Pedro Sousa and Stefano Travaglia.

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Jarry Battles On Båstad Debut; Ymer Prevails

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

Jarry Battles On Båstad Debut; Ymer Prevails

Ramos-Vinolas sets Bastad rematch with Verdasco

Fifth-seeded Chilean Nicolas Jarry got off to a winning start on his Swedish Open debut recovering from a 2-4 deficit in the first set in a hard-fought 7-6(1), 7-5 win over Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland in one hour and 44 minutes on Tuesday. Laaksonen came back from 1-3 down in the second set, which included five service breaks. Jarry, the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open finalist (l. to A. Zverev) in May, will now play Swedish wild card Mikael Ymer.

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Elias Ymer, also a wild card recipient, prevailing against Thiago Monteiro 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 after two hours and 38 minutes, avenging his defeat to the Brazilian in last year’s Båstad opener. Both players capitalised on three of their nine break point chances, and Ymer finished the match with 99 points to 98 for Monteiro.  

The 23-year-old Ymer, currently No. 116 in the ATP Rankings, will next meet eighth seed Joao Sousa, who closed out Day 2 action with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Jozef Kovalik. Ymer also faced Sousa five years ago in Båstad, the only other time he reached the Round of 16 at his home ATP 250 tournament. Sousa won that meeting in straight sets en route to a runner-up finish (l. to Cuevas).

Albert Ramos-Vinolas set up a Båstad rematch with fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco after defeating French qualifier Constant Lestienne 6-1, 7-5. Ramos-Vinolas and two-time finalist Verdasco have faced off three times here, with Ramos-Vinolas winning in the 2016 final and Verdasco claiming their meetings in the 2014 second round and 2017 quarter-finals. Verdasco leads the overall FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-2. 

Damir Dzumhur, the right-hander from Bosnia and Herzegovina, overcame seventh seed Casper Ruud of Norway 6-4, 6-2 in 86 minutes and will next play Roberto Carballes Baena, who knocked out his fellow Spaniard and doubles partner this week, Jaume Munar, in three sets on Monday. Meanwhile, sixth seed Juan Ignacio Londero defeated qualifier Facundo Arguello 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Argentine encounter. 

France’s Jeremy Chardy recorded his 15th match win of the season by beating Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta, a former No. 10 in the ATP Rankings, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and 12 minutes. He now challenges top-seeded Chilean Cristian Garin.

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Djokovic Passes Nadal In Battle For Year-End No. 1

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

Djokovic Passes Nadal In Battle For Year-End No. 1

Serbian has a 500-point lead over Nadal post-Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic took the lead in the battle for year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings from Rafael Nadal by winning his fifth crown at The Championships, Wimbledon, on Sunday. The Serbian passed Nadal in the ATP Race To London with 6,725 points, taking a 500-point advantage over the second-placed Spaniard (6,225), after he saved two championship points to beat Roger Federer 13-12(3) in the fifth set of the final at the All England Club.

It is the first time for three years that Djokovic has led the year-to-date standings after the conclusion of Wimbledon. In 2016, he had 8,040 points, for an 815-point lead over Andy Murray (7,225), who produced a sensational finish to the season with five straight titles, ending with victory over Djokovic in the title match at the Nitto ATP Finals for year-end ATP Tour No. 1.

So, once again in 2019, the stage is set for what could be an exciting battle with Djokovic bidding to equal Pete Sampras’ six year-end No. 1 finishes (1993-98) and Nadal going for a fifth top spot conclusion (2008, 2010, 2013, 2017).

ATP Race To London as of 15 July 2019

 Player  Points
 1. Novak Djokovic  6,725
 2. Rafael Nadal  6,225
 3. Roger Federer  5,060
 4. Dominic Thiem  3,315
 5. Stefanos Tsitsipas  2,995

Both players will be fully aware that 12 months ago, after Wimbledon, Nadal led the 2018 ATP Race To London with Djokovic in fifth position (3,355 to Nadal’s 5,760). Djokovic won three further titles (including the US Open) from five finals, which included a 22-match winning streak, to finish the year at No. 1. 

Last year, following The Championships, Nadal led second-placed Federer (4,020) by 1,640 points. In 2017, when the Spaniard finished year-end No. 1 for the fourth time, he led Federer by 550 points at this stage (7,095 to 6,545), with Djokovic in seventh position on 2,585 points.

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The 32-year-old Djokovic, who now holds a 35-6 match record in 2019, has already joined Nadal as a qualifier for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November. In addition to the Wimbledon title, Djokovic won a record seventh Australian Open (d. Nadal) and also a 33rd ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Tsitsipas). He also advanced to his ninth Internazionali BNL d’Italia final (l. to Nadal).

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How Djokovic Dominated The Tie-breaks Against Federer

  • Posted: Jul 16, 2019

How Djokovic Dominated The Tie-breaks Against Federer

Brain Game shows how the Serbian played the big points on his terms

What happened in the three tie-breaks was the exact opposite of what happened all around them.

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) in Sunday’s Wimbledon final after saving two match points with Federer serving 8-7, 40/15 in the fifth set, and then Djokovic dramatically saved two break points on his own serve at 11-11, Ad Out, just a few games later.

The match statistics were overwhelmingly dominated by Federer, except for a handful of moments when Djokovic was able to reign supreme. In all three sets Djokovic won, he controlled the tie-breaks, making Federer significantly bend to his own intentions of playing the big points on the Serbian’s terms with both players trading blows from the back of the court.

At first glance, Federer’s overall net stats look extremely impressive. But when you break down when they occurred – and more importantly when they didn’t – the first real glimpse of this stunning defeat becomes clearer.

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Federer won 13/15 points serving and volleying and 51/65 points approaching the net from a baseline position. But in the 33 total points in all three tie-breaks combined, the Swiss won only one solitary point at net from just two forays forward.

Check mate.

Twenty of the 33 points (61%) in the three tie-breaks were contested with both players standing at the baseline, which played perfectly into Djokovic’s masterplan. Djokovic won 16 of the baseline exchanges, while Federer accumulated only four. Of the eight rallies that reached double digits, Djokovic won six.

In the big moments at the end of sets one, three and five, with an illustrious Wimbledon title up for grabs, Djokovic fought the fight on his terms – and ultimately on his turf. To rub salt into the wound, Djokovic won more points at net (three) than Federer did (one) in the three tie-breaks.

Three Tie-Breaks: Points Won By Strategy

(ND = Novak Djokovic / RF = Roger Federer)


Both At Baseline

Federer At Net

Djokovic At Net

Ace/ Return Error / Service Winner

Set 1 Tie-Break 7-5

ND 5 / RF 1

ND 0 / RF 0

ND 2 / RF 1

ND 0 / RF 3

Set 3 Tie-Break 7-4

ND 5 / RF 1

ND 0 / RF 1

ND 1 / RF 0

ND 1 / RF 2

Set 5 Tie- Break 7-3

ND 6 / RF 2

ND 1 / RF 0

ND 0 / RF 0

ND 0 / RF 1

W/L Totals

ND 16 / RF 4

ND 1 / RF 1

ND 3 / RF 1

ND 1 / RF 6

Percentage Played





The difference in average rally length in the three tie-breaks when both players finished the point standing at the baseline compared to coming forward or winning the point in the serve and return phase of the point was staggering.

Average Rally Length
Fifth-Set Tie-Break
Both At Baseline = 8 rallies / 53 shots = 6.6 shot average.
All Other Points = 2 rallies / 3 shots = 1.5 shot average.

Third-Set Tie-Break
Both At Baseline = 6 rallies / 51 shots = 8.5 shot average.
All Other Points = 5 rallies / 11 shots = 2.2 shot average.

First-Set Tie-Break
Both At Baseline = 6 rallies / 48 shots = 8.0 shot average.
All Other Points = 6 rallies / 10 shots = 1.7 shot average.

Three Tie-Breaks Combined
Both At Baseline = 20 rallies / 152 shots = 7.6 shot average.
All Other Points = 13 rallies = 24 shots = 1.8 shot average.

When Federer held two championship points serving at 8-7, 40/15 in the fifth set, he lost four consecutive points. Three of them were contested with both players standing at the back of the court.

The match contained 422 points, with almost half of them (46%) finishing with both players standing on their own baseline after the serve and return had successfully been hit in the court.

Throughout the match, when Djokovic kept Federer back and was able to go toe-to-toe from the trenches, he crafted a vastly superior advantage.

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Baseline to Baseline Rallies: Total Points Won
Djokovic = 59% won (113/194)
Federer = 41% won (80/194)

First Serves To The Body
Serving right at the body with first serves is a forgotten tactic of yesteryear, rarely seen on the ATP Tour on any surface. Djokovic might have single-handedly revived it on Sunday at SW19. In an effort to jam up Federer’s forward-moving return strategy, Djokovic aimed right at Federer 10 times in the final, winning an impressive eight of those points.

Djokovic First Serves To The Body
Deuce Court = Won 4/4
Ad Court = Won 4/6
Total Won = 8/10

By contrast, Federer served only one first serve at Djokovic’s body in the final, winning the point. Djokovic also hit nine first serves at the body against Hubert Hurkacz in the third round, winning eight of nine. If we start seeing an uptick in body serves in the upcoming North-American hard-court swing, we might know why.

Djokovic’s fifth Wimbledon title is impressive on so many levels. Forcing Federer to play the majority of tie-break points in baseline-to-baseline exchanges is as close to the bullseye of why he won as you will get.

Editor’s Note: Craig O’Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team.

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