Unseeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka are both aiming for a third Grand Slam when they meet in Saturday’s US Open final
Unseeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka are both aiming for a third Grand Slam when they meet in Saturday’s US Open final
Pablo Carreno Busta is one set from reaching his first Grand Slam final, leading favoured fifth seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-2 on Friday in the semi-finals of the US Open.
The Spaniard has shown few nerves in the biggest match of his career, playing steady tennis and taking any opportunity to aggressively target the German’s forehand. Even after taking the lead, he has accelerated harder, going after second-serve returns and keeping the pressure on Zverev, who has found little rhythm through two sets. The German has made 36 unforced errors compared to only 12 for Carreno Busta.
Carreno Busta faced a break point in his second service game, but raised his level after that. He broke twice in the opening set, hitting two crisp backhand passing shots in the early going to boost his confidence.
Zverev’s two-handed backhand is his most trustworthy shot, but even that was misfiring in the second set. Zverev made 12 unforced errors within the first four games to dig himself a hole. The German avoided a total washout heading into the third set, breaking at 0-5 and holding to get some momentum going, but Carreno Busta erased a 0/30 deficit in the next game to earn a two-set lead.
Zverev trailed early in his quarter-final against Borna Coric on Tuesday, losing the first set 1-6. But in the middle of the second set, he began to play more aggressively and found his range from the baseline. That has not been the case against Carreno Busta.
Both players are pursuing their first appearance in a major final. World No. 27 Carreno Busta can become the second-lowest-ranked tournament finalist since the FedEx ATP Rankings were established in 1973. The man who beat Carreno Busta in the 2017 US Open semi-finals, then-World No. 32 Kevin Anderson, holds that distinction.
Zverev, who is trying to become the first German US Open finalist since Michael Stich in 1994, made his first Grand Slam semi-final earlier this year at the Australian Open.
Nobody remaining in the draw has won a Grand Slam title, guaranteeing a first-time major champion for the first time since the 2014 US Open (Marin Cilic).
ATP 500 to take place from 21-27 September
After 18 months of renovation work, the site of the Hamburg European Open has been transformed ahead of the 2020 edition of the tournament.
The new-look Rothenbaum Tennis Stadium, the main court for the ATP 500 event, was recently unveiled in a special ceremony attended by Vice President of the German Tennis Federation (DTB), Hans-Wolfgang Kende, Hamburg’s Sports Senator Andy Grote, Hamburg European Open tournament director Sandra Reichel, entrepreneur and patron Alexander Otto and the first chairman of the Club an der Alster, Dr. Carsten Lütten.
The tournament, which will be held from 21-27 Septmeber, has an impressive history of past champions. Seven former World No. 1s have lifted the trophy, including two-time champion Rafael Nadal (2008, ’15). The Spaniard has made four visits to the event, claiming 16 wins from 18 matches.
“Hamburg is a very important tournament for me. I won the title twice here and enjoyed unforgettable matches,” said Rafael Nadal. “I remember my first win against my current coach and close friend Carlos Moya in 2003. I also know that my 81-match [clay] winning streak came to an end in the 2007 final against Roger [Federer]. The new Centre Court is going to be great. I want to congratulate you and wish you the best.”
Alongside improvements to its centre court, which also include a new façade, modern seating and increased capacity for wheelchair users and the visually impaired, the Hamburg European Open has renovated its players’ centre and entrance plaza. The tournament’s previous Hall of Fame has also been upgraded, with a new, digital ‘Walk of Champions’ taking its place. Visitors can scan a range of QR codes to discover information about the tournament’s history, including past champions.
In the Open Era, only one German player has managed to lift the Hamburg trophy. One year after falling to Stefan Edberg in the 1992 championship match, Michael Stich defeated Thomas Muster and Ivan Lendl en route to the 1993 trophy. Stich and 1990 runner-up Boris Becker shared their positive wishes for the tournament, where they earned a combined 34 singles victories.
“Now the time has come! The new Center Court will open its doors and it will surely be an absolute dream!” said Stich. “I think it is great that Alexander Otto is so committed, giving the players the chance to experience a completely new feeling on court. Of course, the spectators will also be happy about it the same way. I will always carry the Rothenbaum in my heart.”
“I am also pleased that the Rothenbaum site has finally been renovated,” said Becker. “I have many memories of the tournament. Most of them are pretty good. Well, we do not talk about one or the other defeat. We are in 2020 and I am pleased that the Rothenbaum will shine in its old splendour again.”
The tournament received €10m in funding to complete the site improvements, including an €8m donation from The Alexander Otto Sports Foundation. Otto’s company, ECE, were responsible for the project management and design planning. The City of Hamburg contributed €1m to the renovation of the roof. The German Tennis Federation with its subsidiary DTB Stadion and Marketing GmbH, as well as local tennis and field hockey club, Club an der Alster, provided the remaining funds for the project.
“I am delighted with the result,” said Alexander Otto. “The stadium has been completely renovated and with its now international, modern look, a successful re-positioning of the Rothenbaum brand takes place. It is great to see what we have created here as partners. Players and visitors are invited to come and stay at the Hamburg European Open, which is the perfect framework to celebrate the stadium’s inauguration.”
Serena Williams feels she was closer to a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam at this year’s US Open than she was in her four recent major final defeats.
Serena Williams’ latest bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title ends as Victoria Azarenka rolls back the years to reach the US Open final.
Pete Sampras captivated tennis fans worldwide when he captured his maiden Grand Slam title at the 1990 US Open. At age 19, the big-serving American became the youngest men’s singles champion in tournament history, a record which still holds today, and found himself thrust into the spotlight.
Although Sampras appeared to handle the increased expectations well, he reflected on the moment 30 years later and said he wasn’t ready for it as an introverted teenager.
“I struggled off court being around people, the media, the attention… I just struggled for the next six or eight months,” Sampras told Tim Henman in the latest edition of ATP Champions Tour: Legends Live. “It was a tough adjustment for me… I’ve won the US Open and I’m recognised around the world. I wasn’t ready for it. I was 19 and it takes time to become more secure in your game or even who you are as a person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I won the Open. It was a great moment. But it was a little too soon.”
Sampras arrived in New York with two titles that year in Philadelphia and Manchester, along with several other deep runs that contributed to his FedEx ATP Ranking rising in eight months from No. 69 to No. 12. Although he had a pair of Top 10 wins to his name, Sampras had yet to show he could beat the world’s best players on the biggest stages.
“I was pretty young at the time. I was only a pro for a couple of years and was sort of a dark horse,” Sampras said. “I was just trying to make the second week. I’m not looking to win it… The mindset was that I had nothing to lose. I just went out there and played great tennis.”
Sampras made headlines by taking out World No. 6 Thomas Muster for his first Grand Slam quarter-final, but he was far from done. He stunned three-time US Open champion Ivan Lendl in the last eight, then defeated John McEnroe in the semi-finals and Andre Agassi in the championship match.
It was the start of Sampras’ love affair with New York. He won the tournament four more times (1993, 1995-1996, 2002), fittingly playing his last professional match against Agassi in the 2002 US Open final.
”I won that match against Ivan and everything changed… For those two weeks, I just got in the zone,” Sampras said. “I developed this 125mph serve down the middle and was painting the lines, trying to get into the net and serving-and-volleying. I can’t explain it.”
Aslan Karatsev reached three straight finals on the ATP Challenger Tour
Who has been the hottest player on the ATP Challenger Tour during the restart? There is only one answer.
Aslan Karatsev was a dominant force since the tour kicked off, returning with a vengeance in the Czech Republic. Hungry and motivated following the five-month COVID-19 hiatus, the 27-year-old Karatsev is in the midst of the best stretch of his career.
How good has Karatsev been? The Russian won 15 of 16 matches on Czech soil, with his lone defeat coming to former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the Prague I final. It was his first match against a Top 20 player in seven years and only gave him more confidence going forward.
Karatsev battled for nearly two hours against the Swiss star and he would proceed to lift back-to-back trophies in Prague II and Ostrava in the subsequent weeks. In fact, he reeled off 13 sets in a row in that span, notching convincing final victories over Tallon Griekspoor (Prague II) and Oscar Otte (Ostrava). He soared more than 100 spots to a career-high No. 140 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
“It’s always great to win the title and these were a few big Challengers,” said Karatsev. “The two weeks in Prague and the week in Ostrava were fantastic for me. I beat two really good guys and I lost to Wawrinka in the first final. I’m happy to make these [FedEx ATP Rankings] points so quickly.”
Karatsev with the Ostrava trophy
Five years removed from his lone previous title on the ATP Challenger Tour, Karatsev surprised himself with his ruthless run. But most importantly, he showed that he’s capable of much more than even he believed.
An integral part of the Russian’s team was missing throughout the three-week stretch. Alberto Lopez, Karatsev’s coach of almost two years, was supposed to travel with his pupil to these initial tournaments, but had to cancel his plans due to restrictions surrounding the pandemic.
Lopez, who previously guided Garbine Muguruza to WTA No. 1, was unable to get a visa from their training base in Belarus. He was forced to stay behind, leaving Karatsev on his own in Prague and Ostrava. Coach or no coach, the Russian showed what he’s capable of.
|Ostrava||Champion||+24 to No. 116 (projected)|
|Prague II||Champion||+54 to No. 140|
|Prague I||Runner-up||+59 to No. 194|
“My coach couldn’t be here with me, but we put in a lot of work during the pandemic. It’s been tough for everyone. I was staying at home for a while and then I went to the U.S. to practise and play exhibition matches. That was good preparation. I spoke to my coach and we decided to just keep it simple. It worked and we did a great job.”
“I didn’t expect it,” Karatsev told Florian Heer of Tennis TourTalk. “I don’t know the secret but I focused on my game… I would say that my game has become more consistent, not having too many ups and downs. I also had to cope with a knee injury three years ago but now everything is fine. I just go from match to match.”
Karatsev leads the Challenger circuit in match wins this year, owning a 24-5 record. His successful season started well before the tour’s restart, having also reached the final in Bangkok in January. That’s a total of four final appearances from seven tournaments entered in 2020.
After opening the year just inside the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, Karatsev is projected to rise to a career-high Top 120 position on Monday. He will next compete at Roland Garros qualifying, beginning 21 September. The 27-year-old, who seeks his first Grand Slam main draw in what will be his ninth attempt, is appearing in qualifying for the first time since the 2016 US Open.
Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka reaches another US Open final after producing a high-quality performance to edge past American Jennifer Brady.
Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev have put their focus on each match in front of them this fortnight, but are very aware this is the first US Open semi-final lineup since 2003 to not include anyone in the Big Three. Both men arrive in peak form for their semi-final match on Friday and are hungry to move one step closer to a maiden Grand Slam title.
”There is no Roger, Rafa or Novak, but there is Daniil, Sascha and Pablo. They are three amazing players,” Thiem said. “Every single one of us deserves his first major title.”
Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Daniil Medvedev (3) – Thiem leads 2-1
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Thiem leads 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head rivalry with Medvedev, but the Russian won their most recent showdown last year in Montreal. Medvedev only lost four games and won 16 of the first 17 points in the second set of that quarter-final clash.
“I would say that he comes very close to the Big Three in terms of how he can play his top level for… four, five, six hours. That’s going to be really difficult,” Thiem said. “But I’m looking forward to that one. I think it’s going to be a big stage. It’s going to be a great semi-final.”
After a shocking opening-round defeat two weeks ago at the Western & Southern Open, Thiem needed time to regain his confidence. He advanced through his first three rounds at the US Open with spurts of patchy form. But once he reached the second week, his game kicked into high gear. Thiem only dropped 15 games combined against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur, sending a clear message that he wants to be the last man standing on Sunday.
Thiem will need to utilise heavy topspin, particularly on the backhand wing, in order to get on top of rallies against Medvedev. The Russian’s flatter groundstrokes are more difficult to execute when he’s forced to hit balls above his shoulder. But even for a player of Thiem’s class, finding the sweet spot of precision and power required to win points against Medvedev won’t be an easy task.
Medvedev has also displayed dominant form this fortnight. The 24-year-old hasn’t dropped a set and has only been broken three times in 68 service games (96%). Although not known as a big server, his placement has been impeccable and set him up to control the rallies against his opponents.
He’s also been equally imposing when returning. Medvedev has converted 25 of 48 break points (52%) and won 25 of 66 return games (38%).
US Open 2020: Medvedev & Thiem By The Numbers
|Service Games Won||65/68 (96%)||59/67 (88%)|
|Break Points Converted||25/48 (52%)||28/62 (45%)|
|Break Points Saved||6/9 (67%)||25/33 (76%)|
|First-Serve Points Won||83%||79%|
|Second-Serve Points Won||62%||54%|
|Return Games Won||25/66 (38%)||28/65 (43%)|
But the 24-year-old knows how forceful Thiem can be in return games and baseline exchanges. He was overwhelmed by the Austrian in the 2019 Barcelona final, winning just five points in the second set and only one of the last 13 games. Although the fast hard courts of New York are more favourable to Medvedev’s game, he knows it will be a long night if he’s not at this best.
“Dominic is a tough opponent to play… I got to feel it last year in the final of Barcelona,” Medvedev said. “On hard courts, I think it’s a little bit easier. When I say ‘easier’, he just made the final of the Australian Open. For me, it will be easier to play him on hard courts than clay courts.
“He tries to [run] around with a forehand and just go for it. I think there is not much you can do than just try to face it and see what you can do with it.”
Medvedev will look to get on top of rallies early, using his flat groundstrokes to keep the ball low and prevent Thiem from hitting in his preferred strike zone. The third seed has also shown an increased willingness to finish points at net. Keeping points short when possible will force Thiem out of lengthy rallies he thrives on and preserve energy for what is sure to be a grueling match.
Seen as the two best slamless players on tour right now, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev will battle for a spot in the US…