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Djokovic Tries To Slow Tsitsipas' London Pursuit In Shanghai Quarter-finals

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

Djokovic Tries To Slow Tsitsipas’ London Pursuit In Shanghai Quarter-finals

Federer to face Zverev in another blockbuster

Clinch a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals. Beat the World No. 1. Defeat all members of the ‘Big Three’ in the same season. Reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas can accomplish all of that on Friday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

But Tsitsipas faces a stern challenge in top seed Novak Djokovic, who rides a seven-match winning streak into their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. Tsitsipas defeated Djokovic last year in Toronto in their only hard-court meeting, and the Serbian got his revenge this year in the Madrid final.

If the Greek superstar upsets Djokovic, he will become the sixth player to qualify for the season finale, which will be held at The O2 from 10-17 November. But the 20-year-old can also qualify if Italian Fabio Fognini beats Cincinnati titlist Daniil Medvedev earlier in the day.

Both players carry a lot of momentum into the clash, with Djokovic fresh off the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title he won last week and Tsitsipas has earned five Top 30 wins in the past week and a half, after earning only five of them between the start of Rome in May and the beginning of last week’s ATP 500 event in Beijing.

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Tsitsipas is already the youngest player to defeat each member of the ‘Big Three’ — Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — and now he can do it in a single year, having beaten Federer at the Australian Open and Nadal in Madrid.

“It’s going to be very interesting the next couple of years to see how tennis will evolve and how the young guys are going to dominate the game,” Tsitsipas said after his second-round win in Shanghai. “I have been trying really hard to be up there, and I know that it’s not easy for me to maintain that level, because if I keep doing the same thing, my opponents will know what I’m doing and what works for me, so I always have to constantly improve and get better.”

It is also an important match for Djokovic, as the Serbian continues to close on Rafael Nadal in the battle to finish year-end No. 1. Djokovic can pull to within 460 points of Nadal in the ATP Race To London if he lifts his fifth Shanghai trophy this week.

“There is always something to work on. That’s the beauty of sport and life in general, you can always improve,” Djokovic said. “But I am very happy with the way I’m playing, with the way I’m feeling on the court.”

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There will be another battle of the generations between 38-year-old Roger Federer and 22-year-old Alexander Zverev. There is a lot at stake for both men, with Federer pursuing his 29th ATP Masters 1000 crown and reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Zverev scratching and clawing to return to The O2.

Zverev is currently in eighth place in the Race, as he is pushing to compete in the season finale for the third consecutive year. The German impressively bagelled good friend Andrey Rublev in the first set of their third-round match, eventually triumphing in straight sets,

“I think it was very good tennis, but I know against Roger it’s going to be very, very difficult,” Zverev said. “He’s going to try to different things and it’s going to be a difficult match.”

Federer, a two-time Shanghai champion, is trying to take a 4-3 lead in his rivalry with Zverev, who ousted the Swiss superstar in the semi-finals of last year’s Nitto ATP Finals. Federer is also trying to make the last four of a tournament for the first time since Wimbledon.

Medvedev and Fognini have split their two previous meetings. And while Medvedev has already booked his London spot, Fognini is trying to compete on the singles court at The O2 for the first time, and a victory against the Russian would catapult him into the Top 10 in the Race.

“I think it’s the worst player that I can play at the moment, because he changed completely in the summer. Of course he was also great before, but he made an unbelievable change during the U.S. swing, and he’s dangerous. He’s really dangerous,” Fognini said. “He’s really comfortable inside the court. But I’m here to try to complicate [the match for] him, try to take my chances, have the chance. If not, I fly home.”

The final singles match of the day pits last week’s Beijing winner, Dominic Thiem, against another London hopeful in Matteo Berrettini in what promises to be a big-hitting match. Thiem won their only previous match at Roland Garros last year on clay, his favourite surface.

One year ago, Berrettini lost in Shanghai qualifying as the World No. 54. Now he is No. 13 in the ATP Rankings and in contention for a spot in the Nitto ATP Finals. If the Italian beats the Austrian and Zverev loses to Federer, Berrettini will climb into seventh spot in the Race.

Did You Know?
In the doubles draw, defending champions Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo can qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals with a victory against Cincinnati champions Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek.

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How Roger Federer Controls His Social Media Screen Time

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

How Roger Federer Controls His Social Media Screen Time

Swiss faces Zverev for place in the Shanghai SF

In a lot of ways, Roger Federer is very unlike the millions of us who have smartphones. The 38-year-old has won 102 tour-level titles and earned more $127 million in prize money.

In other ways, however, he is exactly like us: He, too, enjoys social media but seeks to limit his screen time, especially when he’s around loved ones.

That’s why Federer takes breaks from social media. For instance, from 5 July to 16 September – a 10-week stretch – he tweeted zero times.

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“I took a nice break after Wimbledon, because I was spending a lot of time with the family,” Federer said. “I was just tired.”

From 24 September to 1 October, he also posted zero times, not even sharing goofy photos or retweeting witty comments from fans.

But the 28-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, upon hitting the road again, ramped up his tweeting and has continued this week at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, where he will face Alexander Zverev on Friday for a place in the semi-finals.

“It’s the energy level and obviously being around my kids. [I] try to be good role model [by] not having my phone in my hand the whole time,” Federer said. “My kids are not here, so they don’t read the press, so they don’t know I’m on the phone. I have always enjoyed interacting through social media with the fans.”

Federer has been doing plenty of that since 2 October, when he tweeted or retweeted posts 25 times. He’s retweeted photos of himself with fans, tried to pump up students before exams and applauded some of his colleagues, including Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who on Wednesday clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking for the first time.

I always said, and I swore to myself, I will never start on social media if I have to post every day two times. That’s just not the idea for me. Even though people say that’s what you’ve got to do, but I don’t care what I have to do because I’m not on social media to make money or anything,” Federer said.

I’m just there to have fun with the fans and it’s fun to interact. I have been doing it when I’m on the massage table or hanging out in the morning and not doing anything besides just having good conversations with my team.”

His social media strategy, if you will, seems to have worked out OK. Federer (@rogerfederer) currently has 12.7 million followers on Twitter, four million more than Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) but three million fewer than Rafael Nadal (@rafaelnadal).

Federer is pursuing his 29th Masters 1000 title, which would draw him closer to his two long-time rivals on the all-time Masters 1000 titles leaderboard. But will Federer be tweeting as the season’s penultimate Masters 1000 event heads into the weekend?

Now my parents are here, so probably that’s going to slow down just a little bit because I want to spend quality time with them,” Federer said. “So social media goes again probably on the side a little bit for the rest of the week.”

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Homework? Djokovic Shows Why That's Important In Shanghai

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

Homework? Djokovic Shows Why That’s Important In Shanghai

Serbian matches Isner’s ace count on Thursday

Do your homework, kids. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic showed how important that is in his third-round victory Thursday against John Isner at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

Isner reached the 1,000-ace mark for the sixth time in his career with his second ace of the match. But it was the number of aces top-seeded Djokovic allowed the American to blast by him that was the story of the match.

Djokovic matched Isner’s nine aces in his 7-5, 6-3 victory against the World No. 17 to reach the Shanghai quarter-finals.

“It’s always a big challenge returning the serve of Isner. He’s got one of the biggest serves of all-time. He’s one of the tallest guys ever to play tennis. Obviously with that height, [his] serve is a huge weapon and huge advantage,” Djokovic said. “I managed to read his serve and find a good position on the return [at the] end of the first set and also [at the] beginning of the second.”

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Djokovic now leads Isner 10-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and in seven of their 10 matches outside of Davis Cup, Isner has failed to strike at least 10 aces. The American has averaged more than 18 aces per match in his career.

“Of course I do my homework and I talk with my coaches and understand what his pattern is, what his favourite angles or serves are, if there are some,” Djokovic said. “He can hit any serve at any angle with any pace and any rotation.”

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That homework has paid off for Djokovic, who won 42 per cent of his first-serve return points against Isner in Shanghai. Isner won an average of 83 per cent of his first-serve points in his two victories before falling to Djokovic.

“I expected him to go more for the second serves, which was the case, but I didn’t expect him to not make a single double fault and really hit every second serve over 200. That was really impressive,” said Djokovic, who only won 27 per cent of his second-serve return points. “But still, I was very pleased with the way I returned. I returned a lot of balls back and just made him play.”

Djokovic has won seven consecutive matches to start the Asian Swing, including his 76th tour-level title at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships last week. The Serbian has not dropped a set in those triumphs. After retiring in the fourth round of the US Open due to a shoulder injury, Djokovic didn’t feel there was a glaring hole in his game he had to address.

“There are always some fundamental things to work on in the game that keep on repeating. It’s necessary to train in order to feel well, to feel confident, to feel that you’re striking the ball nicely,” Djokovic said. “The main priority was for me to be healthy and try to rehab, go through rehabilitation process of the shoulder in the best possible way, because I didn’t know whether I’m going to be able to play Asia or not. I’m just happy that my shoulder has been holding on and not causing me any pain.”

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Tsitsipas Presses Claims For London; Thiem Reaches Shanghai Quarter-finals

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

Tsitsipas Presses Claims For London; Thiem Reaches Shanghai Quarter-finals

Greek sets sights on Djokovic win

Stefanos Tsitsipas edged closer to becoming the sixth player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals on Friday with a battling win at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

The sixth-seeded Greek booked his place in the quarter-finals by beating Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) in two hours and 13 minutes. It was their fourth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting of the year.

Tsitsipas adds 90 points to his 2019 ATP Race To London tally (3,550) and will now challenge World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic on Friday afternoon. Djokovic beat Tsitsipas in May in the Mutua Madrid Open final. But Tsitsipas won their lone hard-court meeting in Toronto in 2018.

Tsitsipas can book his place in London Friday one of two ways: If he beats Djokovic or if London rival Fabio Fognini loses his quarter-final against in-form Russian Daniil Medvedev, who is closing in on a sixth consecutive ATP final.

Hurkacz was unable to convert two set points at 5-4, with Tsitsipas serving at 15/40 and paid the price. However, Hurkacz took a 3-0 lead in the second set only to see Tsitsipas start strongly in the deciding set tie-break by winning four of the first five points.

Tsitsipas is now 44-21 on the season, which includes two ATP Tour titles at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (d. Kukushkin) and at the Millennium Estoril Open (d. Cuevas).

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Later in the day, fourth seed Dominic Thiem extended his winning streak to seven matches by overcoming Georgian No. 15 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes for a quarter-final against Nitto ATP Finals contender Matteo Berrettini on Friday.

“Honestly, for me, it’s difficult to play against guys like him because I love to have the control over the game, love to be in offence myself. But against him, it’s almost impossible because he hits full power from the first shot on, serve or return,” Thiem said. “I had the feeling mostly in the match that I was in the defence. That’s not my strength, but I handled it well.”

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Thiem recorded his 40th match win of the year (for the fourth straight season) against Basilashvili. Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev and Thiem have booked their places at the season-ending event, to be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November. 

The Austrian secured the 15th trophy of his career on Sunday at the China Open in Beijing (d. Tsitsipas). He has also lifted silverware at the BNP Paribas Open (d. Federer), an ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Medvedev) and the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel (d. Ramos-Vinolas).

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2.15pm EDT Thursday to reflect a revised Nitto ATP Finals qualifying scenario for Tsitsipas (outlined in the fourth paragraph).

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Federer Saves Set Points, Staves Off Goffin's Aggressive Plan

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

Federer Saves Set Points, Staves Off Goffin’s Aggressive Plan

Swiss will next meet Zverev or Rublev for a place in Shanghai semi-finals

Roger Federer was pushed like few times before in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with David Goffin on Thursday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. But the outcome followed a familiar pattern.

Federer saved five set points in the opener and then rolled into his 87th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final 7-6(7), 6-4. The Swiss will meet the winner of German Alexander Zverev, who’s looking to bolster his Nitto ATP Finals hopes, or Russian Andrey Rublev in the last eight.

Federer fell to Rublev in August at the Western & Southern Open, another hard-court Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, and Federer and Zverev last faced off in the semi-finals of the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, which Zverev won en route to the biggest title of his career.

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Goffin had the right plan against the 38-year-old Swiss, charging forward and playing aggressively. The Belgian had beaten Federer only once in their 10 meetings, at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. But after he erased a set point at 4-5 on his serve, Goffin broke Federer and had the set on his racquet, serving at 6-5.

Two missed forehands and a double fault, though, saw three set points come and go in the 12th game. In the tie-break, Goffin had a set point as Federer served at 5/6, but the Swiss erased it with a laser inside-out forehand. Goffin saw another set point on his serve, at 7/6, but a backhand wide kept Federer in it, and the two-time Shanghai champion clinched his second set point.

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Goffin rebounded in the second set, but Federer broke in the seventh game when Goffin netted a forehand approach. The Belgian was looking to add 90 points to his ATP Race To London tally by making the quarter-finals. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up (l. to Dimitrov) is currently in ninth place in the Race (2,325 points), only 20 points behind Zverev (2,345), who holds the eighth and final qualification spot.

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Naomi Osaka: World number three to give up US citizenship to represent Japan at Olympics

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

World number three Naomi Osaka has said she will give up her US citizenship to represent Japan at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Osaka was born in Japan to Japanese and Haitian parents before the family moved to New York when she was three.

The 21-year-old told Japanese broadcaster NHK it was a “special desire” to represent her birth country at a home Games.

Osaka represents Japan on the WTA Tour and in the Fed Cup.

“It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan,” she told NHK. “I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional.”

Japanese law states those with dual citizenship must select one before turning 22. Two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka turns that age on 16 October.

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, Osaka has started the process of obtaining Japanese citizenship.

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Djokovic eases past Isner to reach Shanghai quarter-finals

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

World number one Novak Djokovic produced another high-quality display to ease past American John Isner in the Shanghai Masters third round.

Serb Djokovic, 32, did not face a break point as he won 7-5 6-3 against the big-serving 16th seed.

Defending champion Djokovic, who won the Japan Open last week, has not dropped a set in seven matches since injury forced him out of the US Open.

He faces Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Pole Hubert Hurkacz next.

“I’m very happy with the way I am playing. This is one of the best serving matches I’ve played,” said Djokovic, who won 85% of his service points.

Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev saved five set points in the first set before squeezing past Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

The US Open runner-up, who won the St Petersburg Open last week, earned a 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 victory to extend his record to two defeats in his past 24 matches.

Those losses came against Spanish world number two Rafael Nadal, who is not playing in Shanghai, in the US Open final last month and the Rogers Cup final in August.

Medvedev, 23, will play 10th seed Fabio Fognini in the last eight after the 32-year-old Italian beat Russian seventh seed Karen Khachanov 6-3 6-5.

Italian 11th seed Marco Berrettini progressed with a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, boosting his chances to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals in London next month.

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Britain's Watson claims biggest win in two years

  • Posted: Oct 10, 2019

Britain’s Heather Watson earned her biggest win in more than two years by thrashing China’s world number 22 Wang Qiang in the Tianjin Open second round.

Watson, ranked 103 places below Wang, won 6-3 6-0 against the number two seed in one hour 18 minutes in China.

The 27-year-old had not beaten an opponent ranked as high as Wang since victory over world number 19 Anastasija Sevastova at Wimbledon in 2017.

Victory was only Watson’s second in a WTA tournament this year.

She will play Poland’s Magda Linette in her first WTA quarter-final since reaching the Hobart Open semi-finals in January 2018.

Wang, 27, was ranked as high as 12th earlier this year, after losing in the US Open quarter-finals to Serena Williams.

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