“I used to take cat naps but now I take kitten naps, which are half as long but twice as cute,” Scot Murray said with a straight face when asked about his tournament preparations.
Meanwhile, when asked about 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, fellow American player Madison Keys answered somewhat bafflingly: “I think Serena is so good at just knowing how to use every part of the kayak.”
After talking about his training, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas declared deadpan: “Slap your dad and call him Brad.”
Comedian Fallon told The Tonight Show: “No-one knew that we were doing this. It’s bizarre, but it’s so good.”
Even world number ones Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka got in on the act, both uttering the same words of wisdom to perplexed journalists during the US hard-court season: “When the score was deuce, the juice got loose.”
So, now the cat’s out of the bag, we’ll know any more strange statements really are just genuinely strange statements.
Fire & Ice: How Krawietz & Mies Have Become 2019’s Breakout Doubles Team
Germans face Granollers/Zeballos in the US Open semi-finals
When Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies arrived at the New York Open this February, the Germans had played only three tour-level events together. Neither player had earned much experience on the ATP Tour beyond that.
But not only did they capture the trophy there; they would become the breakout doubles team of 2019. Krawietz and Mies claimed glory at Roland Garros and now they are into the semi-finals of the US Open. They certainly didn’t foresee any of that happening.
“I would have asked you how many beers you had to ask me this question, honestly,” Mies said, cracking a laugh. “I mean it’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t believe you if you would have told us that in New York in February.”
It’s as if the Germans have come full circle. They did not drop a set on the indoor hard courts of Long Island’s ATP 250 tournament seven months ago, and now, they’re back in New York for more. This time, they are only two victories from earning a second major crown.
“Winning our first ATP title meant so much for us. It was such a big moment and big relief that really showed us we belonged on the ATP Tour,” Mies said. “We were just coming from the Challenger Tour and making the next step getting into more ATP events at the start of the year. Then we won one title right away, so that gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The first time Krawietz and Mies played together was at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Meerbusch, Germany, in August 2017. But due to a knee injury Mies was dealing with, they did not compete as a team again until April 2018.
But they wasted little time finding a groove, winning two Challengers and reaching two additional finals at that level by Wimbledon, where they qualified and reached the Round of 16.
“We played the first tournament and clicked from the start,” Krawietz said. “We have good communication and I think it fits good. On court, off court also. It’s important to understand [one another] off court also because we are travelling all the time together and just improve our game.”
The question is, how has this tandem found such a high level without much experience on the sport’s biggest stages, let alone with one another?
“Andi is unbelievable at the net with the best reactions. I feel good on my serve of course because he helps me a lot, so I feel very comfortable on my serve. I have to hit the right spots and then he can cover the good spots and take whatever he feels,” Krawietz said. “On the returns, we are both returning good. We have no big weakness. We can improve of course here and there, but I think that’s a good thing.”
“German machines!” Mies interjected, with a smile.
“It’s not normal that you play with a guy and you start winning right away. You have to find a way and you have to find the right chemistry to feel comfortable on the court,” Mies said. “We’re different players, we’re different characters, but it just clicks.
“Kevin is a more relaxed guy, a little bit more calm and I’m more an emotional guy, emotional player. It’s a little bit like fire and ice. It just really helps me when I’m a bit too emotional, he calms me down. When it’s close, he’s always very relaxed. It helps me to relax. When he’s a bit too relaxed and he’s a bit low with the energy, I can push him up.”
The Germans followed different paths. Krawietz, a 27-year-old, tried his hand in singles, climbing as high as No. 211 in the ATP Rankings. Mies, who is 29, attended Auburn University before moving onto life as a professional tennis player, focussing on doubles.
But from the moment they stepped on the court together, Krawietz and Mies have proven a dynamic duo. A year ago, they were simply battling to be able to compete on the ATP Tour. Now, they are playing to prove they are one of the best teams in the world.
“It’s a crazy journey. We talk about it sometimes, too, how fast it all went, starting from the Challenger Tour last year in April and one year later being a Grand Slam champion and now giving us a chance to [potentially] play another final after a short period of time,” Mies said. “After the French Open, we had a little down, maybe. We didn’t play our best in the grass season. But I’m really happy to find our game again and to play a great level. We don’t take it for granted. We really enjoy that moment and will go for it again on Thursday.”
Dimitrov: ‘It Was That Low I Don’t Even Want To Go There’
Former World No. 3 reacts to reaching the US Open semi-finals
Grigor Dimitrov believes that working hard and trusting the process in recent weeks has helped him get out of his slump and regain confidence.
The Bulgarian, who beat five-time former champion Roger Federer in five sets at the US Open on Tuesday night, admitted, “I kept on believing in the process, kept on working, kept on trying to improve, whatever else I had to improve on my end. I really controlled the things that I could.
“I think it’s as simple as that. Sometimes the most simple things are hardest. It was not a pretty time. I’m not going to lie. But for me, also today, I don’t want to sound too humble, but it was just another match for me really. I don’t want to say I had nothing to lose, because I felt I did.
“I just came out prepared the best that I could, especially coming out from the past two weeks of preparation, fitness [and] good matches. I’m trying to build off that. Little by little things are starting to fall into their place. Today was just another step.”
You May Also Like: Dimitrov Stuns Federer In Five Sets At US Open
There has been little for the Bulgarian to cheer about since winning the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals and climbing to a career-high No. 3 in the ATP Rankings, but his performance over the past eight days at the US Open indicate he may have turned a corner.
When asked for his lowest moment over the past 20 months, the World No. 78 said, “It was that low that I don’t even want to go there anymore. It was just obviously injury, losing points, ATP Ranking. That’s the lowest point for any player.
“I think the past six, seven months have been pretty rough for me. But I had somebody to lean on, my friends, my family. I kept on believing again in the work, the rehab I had to put behind my [right] shoulder, the exercise, the practice, fixing up the racquet a little bit. There were so many things I had to adjust in such a small, but big period of time.”
Dimitrov added his late-night victory over Federer was “pretty special” as he was able to control his nerves when it came to the crunch, at the end.
“It was one of those days that when I was serving for the match, I was just as relaxed in a sense that I was able to control my nerves pretty well, control my shots, and take the right decision,” says Dimitrov. “That’s the most important.”
Having come into the US Open with a 12-15 record on the 2019 season, Dimitrov is now within one win of 300th career match victories. On Friday, he will take on in-form Daniil Medvedev, who has compiled a 19-2 on the summer North American hard-court swing and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.
The Mystery Of Monfils: ‘You Never Know How & What I Can Do’
Frenchman’s love of tennis helps inspire both himself and fans worldwide
Last Thursday at the US Open, Gael Monfils played the final match of the day on Court 17. On the scoreboard, the Frenchman beat Romanian Marius Copil 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the second round. But nobody will forget the way the eight-time ATP Tour titlist punctuated his victory. After hitting a well-placed serve, Copil was only able to scrape back a high ball that landed inside the service box.
Monfils’ response? A 360-degree overhead smash, doing a complete turn in the air before slamming the ball away. The 32-year-old lost his balance as he fell down to the court, rolling onto his back with a big smile on his face. Even Copil cracked a smile before embracing the Frenchman.
“I didn’t get offended. It was match point, it was an easy ball, close to the net. So if you have a chance to go for something crazy, why not?” Copil said. “Look how many people talked about it.”
When Monfils walks onto the tennis court, fans in the stands and around the world are treated to something more than a match. It’s also an experience. It’s something people talk about. The World No. 13’s combination of talent, pure athleticism and embracing the atmosphere makes him one of the most entertaining players in the sport.
“I’m just myself on the court. I think people, they love me because I play with my heart, I fight,” Monfils said. “It’s always something special with me. You never know how and what I can do on the court. I think that’s why the people like that, a little bit a mystery part of me.”
What people may not know is that Monfils did not grow up glued to his television set dreaming of emulating a certain tennis player whom he was watching. The Frenchman actually didn’t watch tennis, but basketball.
“I used to definitely like [Allen] Iverson when he was young, Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman. Those guys, it was fun for me,” Monfils said. “I couldn’t understand what they said because I couldn’t speak English. My parents either. But just to see them doing what they were doing was great. That was cool.”
But now, Monfils loves tennis. Not only is he a fan of the sport, but he simply enjoys being out there. Some people may characterise Monfils as a performer — and he certainly entertains — but the Frenchman is just doing what is fun for him.
“Sometime haters would say or misunderstand how lucky I am to doing what I’m doing, to be healthy and play my sport and passion. For me, tennis is a sport, yeah, some people would say my job. It’s my job, yes, but it’s a sport. It’s my passion,” Monfils said. “I can play with kids for hours. Playing Grand Slams for me is just a passion. When I’m on the court, it’s a blessing.”
At the Coupe Rogers in Montreal last month, Monfils was playing Ilya Ivashka on an outside court as home favourites Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic battled on Court Central. You might have expected fans to focus on their Canadian hopefuls — which they did — but Monfils’ court was packed, and the Frenchman thrived off that energy, pumping himself up and visibly enjoying the atmosphere, even if it wasn’t the biggest court he’d competed on.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling… it’s sometimes great to play [on a] smaller court, with the crowd very close. We can feel their energy, the passion, the love in it,” Monfils told ATPTour.com in Montreal. “I love it, to be honest. It’s great.”
Monfils began working with a new coach, Liam Smith, this season. Smith had known the Frenchman from when he was a star junior, and had also gotten to know him during practices with his former charges in Miami. And he loves to see that enthusiasm from his player.
“It’s fantastic. He loves the sport. He loves to play, to compete. He loves the big stages and he has fun on the court. I think that’s something that’s always good for young players to see,” Smith told ATPTour.com. “One piece of advice that Gael will often give to juniors is, ‘Don’t take everything too seriously. Enjoy to play the game. Enjoy to play matches, to compete.’ He’s great for the sport of tennis because he engages the crowd, he has a lot of respect for his opponent and treats everybody really nicely.”
Not everything ended well in Montreal, though. After playing great tennis to reach the quarter-finals, Monfils battled past an in-form Roberto Bautista Agut. His semi-final against Rafael Nadal was scheduled the same day due to rain the day before, but Monfils withdrew due to an ankle injury.
That injury dated back to well before that ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Canada. A few days before his first-round match at Wimbledon, Smith says Monfils had a “very nasty” ankle twist. Initial scans showed it would heal reasonably quickly, and Monfils played his match against countryman Ugo Humbert. But after letting slip a two-set lead, he retired in the fifth set due to the injury.
Monfils’ training schedule entering the North American hard-court swing was cut short, and new scans showed things that had not come up before, meaning he needed more rest. So arriving in Montreal, there was already an injury risk as the tournament wore on.
“To come out and play Rafa an hour and a half, two hours later, was not really a realistic thing for him. Obviously with the potential injury risk and interestingly enough in the second set with Bautista Agut, he ran into the corner and just tweaked a little bit that same ankle. So with him, his medical team and myself, we decided that it was better to unfortunately skip that one, which was a shame because we would have liked to have played that match,” Smith said. “I would say it worked out well if we’re still here on Sunday, but in terms of how his body is now compared to how it was after that quarter-final in Montreal, yes, it’s worked out well.”
Although Monfils lost in the first round of the Western & Southern Open after a quick turnaround, the Frenchman has found his footing here in New York, earning three of his four victories in straight sets, with the other being a thrilling five-set triumph against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Instead of suffering a letdown after that, Monfils wasted no time in dismissing the gritty Spaniard Pablo Andujar with the loss of just five games.
“Yesterday was great. His focus, his movement, his ball-striking quality and his ability to stick to the plan that we laid out from the beginning was exceptional. When Gael plays that well, it takes a very, very good player to beat him. There are not many that can,” Smith said. “Pablo is a very good player and has a great attitude and fought really hard, but Gael played such a good match and consistently played every point with a high intensity. It’s very tough for any player to deal with that. When Gael plays with that level of composure and focus and intensity, he’s very tough to beat and he has a chance against anybody in the world.”
Monfils will look to keep it going against rising Italian Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Not only is it the biggest tennis stadium in the world, but it is also named after his idol. Monfils lives for these moments. It’s a chance to thrill thousands in person and millions across the world, with a spot in his second US Open semi-final on the line.
“You practise for that. You always dream to play in the Slam… big stadium. That’s why we play tennis for,” Monfils said. “That’s why I think it also brings the best out of me.”
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 26 Aug – 8 Sep
Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for Live Guide.
Rafael Nadal will hope to continue his push towards a 19th Grand Slam title when he plays in the quarter-finals of the US Open on Wednesday.
Three-time US Open winner Nadal faces Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, who has never reached a Grand Slam semi-final.
France’s Gael Monfils plays Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the last eight.
In the women’s event, Belinda Bencic, who eliminated Naomi Osaka, meets Donna Vekic, with Canada’s Bianca Andreescu up against Elise Mertens of Belgium.
Nadal, 33, is the only player seeded in the top 12 to be in action on the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday and meets Schwartzman after the 20th seed knocked out world number six Alexander Zverev on Monday.
Spaniard Nadal has been in impressive form and lost only three games in the last two sets of his four-set win over 6ft 6in Marin Cilic, a player almost a foot taller than 5ft 7in Schwartzman.
“It will be a big challenge, I have to play my best,” Nadal said. “I’m happy for Diego, he’s a close friend and I hope to play a great match.
“He is playing amazing – he is one of the players with the best talent on tour.”
Monfils reached the final four at Flushing Meadows three years ago, while 23-year-old Berrettini will be playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
On Tuesday, Monfils watched on as partner Elina Svitolina moved into the last four of the women’s event, beating Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4 6-4.
“We’re pushing each other and we’re now trying to join each other in the semi-finals – now it’s time for him to step up his game,” the Ukrainian joked.
Teenager Andreescu ‘never felt this confident before’
Nineteen-year-old Canadian Andreescu, a winner over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, had never got past round two in a Slam before this tournament.
“It feels awesome. I’ve been working and dreaming of this moment for a really long time, so it feels pretty damn good to be in the quarters here,” she said.
“I’m really happy, but the tournament’s not done yet and I can do even better. I’ve never felt this confident before. This year has been the best of my life.”
However, Andreescu’s opponent, Mertens, the 25th seed, has been in fine form, not losing more than three games in any set in four matches.
In the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium at 17:00 BST, Bencic, a 7-5 6-4 winner over 2018 champion and world number one Naomi Osaka on Monday, takes on Croatia’s Vekic.
Bencic, 22, was out of action for five months in 2017 after having wrist surgery and her ranking dropped outside the top 300 before she worked her way back up.
“When you’re injured you wonder if you can ever play at this level again,” said Bencic. “All true athletes have to overcome obstacles, injuries, tough times and it made me a stronger person, a better player.”
On a match against her friend Vekic, Bencic added: “It will be great that one of us will be in the semi-finals. I’m very happy for her. But definitely I want to win.”
Busy day for Jamie Murray
In the men’s doubles quarter-finals, British pair Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski take on unseeded Americans Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow.
Britain’s Luke Bambridge, along with Japan’s Ben McLachlan, play the top-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who won the doubles title at Wimbledon in July.
It is a busy day for Murray as he is also in mixed doubles semi-finals action, partnering American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Last year’s champions will play third seeds Samantha Stosur and Rajeev Ram.
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