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Zverev Races Into US Open SFs

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Alexander Zverev is one win away from a return to the US Open final after a commanding straight-sets win over Lloyd Harris at Flushing Meadows Wednesday.

After saving a set point on the Harris serve in the first-set tie-break, the German took full control of the match, taking the South African’s opening-service games in the second and third sets en route to a 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4 win.

“He served incredibly in the first set, so I didn’t have a lot of chances. I somehow managed to win the first set and that loosened me up a little bit,” Zverev said.

Extending his winning streak to 16 matches, the Tokyo Olympics and Cincinnati champion will face the winner of tonight’s quarter-final between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 8 Matteo Berrettini.

Zverev’s aggressive, flat returning and heavy rally-ball forehands forced Harris to play deeper behind the baseline that he prefers and limited the South African’s ability to dictate play. The Monte-Carlo resident also continued his strong serving performance this tournament, closing out the match with a 136 mph ace, his 21st of the match.

The German will be happy to advance but less pleased with how he closed out the match. Serving at 4-1, 40/0 in the third set, Zverev produced a string of errors to drop serve and was also pushed to deuce in his next service game, escaping with a pair of aces to restore order at 5-3.

Zverev also looked to suffer from minor back discomfort midway through the second set, but his personal physio Hugo Gravil will have two days to get the 24-year-old back to full fitness ahead of the semi-finals.

Zverev has now served 83 aces and just 15 double faults through five matches and today won 82 per cent of first-serve points. He has dropped serve four times this fortnight. At last year’s US Open Zverev hit 10 or more double faults in a match four times.

“The serve is the shot I’ve spent the most time on, it’s the shot that I’ve got to practise the most,” Zverev said. “At some point I feel like, if you work very hard, you’re doing the right things, it will come together. Maybe that’s what’s happening right now.”

Looking to join Andy Murray (2012) as the only men to win the Olympics and US Open in the same year, Zverev has enjoyed a much more efficient path to the semi-finals this year, dropping just one set (to Jack Sock) in five matches. In 2020, the Hamburg native was pushed to four sets four times en route to the semi-finals. (And he played five-set matches in the semis and final.)

Of his possible semi-final opponents, Zverev trails Djokovic 3-6 in their ATP Head2Head, but did come from a set and a break down at the Olympics to stun the Serbian in their most recent meeting. At the beginning of the season he also pushed Djokovic to 7-6 in the fourth set at the Australian Open and 7-5 in the third at the ATP Cup. Zverev leads Berrettini 3-1 and won their only hard-court meeting in Shanghai in 2019.

Inevitably asked about a possible semi-final showdown against Djokovic, Zverev, said: “Against him you prepare that you have to play the best match that you can. You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win. Most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him. Against him, you have to win the match yourself. You have to be the one that is dominating the points. You have to do it with very little unforced errors.

“He is the best player in the world. He is very difficult to beat. But he’s still also got to win tonight. He’s playing Matteo Berrettini who is in very good form, finals of Wimbledon.”

World No. 46 Harris, who next Monday will rise to a new career-high FedEx ATP Ranking, won eight matches at the majors this year, after winning a combined two matches at the Slams during the past three years. He has 24 match wins on the season, including a victory over Rafael Nadal at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. during the US Open Series.

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Quiz: Identify Novak Djokovic's Grand Slam Final Foes

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Of Novak Djokovic’s 20 Grand Slam titles, 13 have come against his biggest rivals – Rafael Nadal (4), Andy Murray (5) and Roger Federer (4) – in the championship match.

Can you recall the seven other players he has beaten in a major final? In 2021 alone, the World No. 1 has overcome three different opponents to claim the title at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

As Djokovic looks to make history at the US Open, with a record-breaking 21st major title and a calendar-year Grand Slam on the line, we put you to the test in this challenge.

Did You Know… Djokovic and Nadal both won their 20th Grand Slam titles at 34 years of age, respectively at 2021 Wimbledon and 2020 Roland Garros, while a 36-year-old Federer won his at the 2018 Australian Open. Comparing The Big 3’s Slam Stats

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Felix Surges Into Nitto ATP Finals Contention

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Felix Auger-Aliassime has jumped into contention for a spot at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

Ten days ago, the Canadian was in 15th position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, but after a series of composed performances, Auger-Aliassime finds himself in 10th place on 2,320 points (factoring in points earned at the US Open).

Still alive at Flushing Meadows, the 21-year-old has become the first Canadian man to reach the US Open semi-finals in the tournament’s history (since 1881) following wins over the likes of Roberto Bautista Agut, Frances Tiafoe and Carlos Alcaraz. Auger-Aliassime is also the youngest man to advance to the last four since Juan Martin del Potro lifted the trophy in 2009.

Should he beat Daniil Medvedev on Thursday for a place in his first major championship final, Auger-Aliassime will rise up to eighth spot. With seventh-placed Spaniard Rafael Nadal done for 2021, effectively the cut-off for the prestigious season finale is ninth in the Race. Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz is currently in that position, on 2,505 points, just 145 points ahead of Auger-Aliassime.

Since Roland Garros, Auger-Aliassime has won 19 of 26 matches, including a run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals (l. to Berrettini) in July. The Canadian, who added Toni Nadal to his coaching team in December 2020, has also advanced to two ATP Tour finals this year at the Murray River Open in Melbourne (l. to Evans) in February and at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart (l. to Cilic) in June.

Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Standings (as of 8 September 2021)

 Player  Points
 1) Novak Djokovic*  7,530
 2) Stefanos Tsitsipas  5,470
 3) Daniil Medvedev*  5,100
 4) Alexander Zverev*  4,555
 5) Andrey Rublev  4,030
 6) Matteo Berrettini*  3,955
 7) Rafael Nadal  2,985
 8) Casper Ruud  2,675
 9) Hubert Hurkacz  2,505
 10) Felix Auger-Aliassime*  2,320

* Still active at the US Open

Two Italians — Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner — both remain firmly in contention to secure a spot at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals. Factoring in points earned so far at the US Open, Berrettini, who has reached three straight major championship quarter-finals (or better), sits in sixth position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin (3,955 points). Sinner, who fell in the US Open fourth round (l. to Zverev) on Monday, is currently in 11th place (2,255) with a little more than two months to go in the regular ATP Tour season.

The 25-year-old Berrettini, who first qualified for the season finale in 2019 — when the event was held at The O2 in London — has captured two ATP Tour titles this season at the Serbia Open in Belgrade (d. Karatsev) and at the cinch Championships in London (d. Norrie). Wimbledon finalist Berrettini is now only 75 points behind fifth-placed Russian Andrey Rublev (4,030).

Sinner, the 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion in Milan, has continued to improve this year and the 20-year-old has won two tour-level trophies at the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne (d. Travaglia) and also his first ATP 500 crown at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. McDonald) last month.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has already stamped his ticket for Turin, where the Serbian will attempt to capture a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals crown. Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas is second (5,470), while reigning champion Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev — who sit in third and fourth places (on 5,100 and 4,555 points) respectively — are still competing at the US Open.

Norway’s Casper Ruud, who completed a hat-trick of clay-court titles in consecutive weeks at Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel, and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland both have an excellent opportunity to qualify for the season finale for the first time. Ruud is in eighth spot (2,675).

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Djokovic Meets Berrettini Again; Zverev Plays Harris For US Open SFs Spot

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Will Matteo Berrettini make it third time lucky against Novak Djokovic this year? Having lost to the World No. 1 in the Roland Garros quarter-finals and the Wimbledon final, the popular Italian gets another chance on Wednesday night at the US Open in the last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic, who continues his quest for the Grand Slam, is riding a 25-match winning streak at the major championships and has lost the opening set in eight of those matches this year. Berrettini clinched the first set against Djokovic 7-6(4) in the Wimbledon final on 11 July, but was unable to go on and record his first Top 10 win at a major (0-5).

Djokovic’s Longest Grand Slam Match Wins Streaks

Wins Start End Streak Buster
30* 2015 Wimbledon 1R 2016 Wimbledon 3R Sam Querrey
27 2011 Wimbledon 1R 2012 Roland Garros Final Rafael Nadal
26 2018 Wimbledon 1R 2019 Roland Garros SFs 2019 – l. to Medvedev in SFs
25 2021 Australian Open 1R ? ?

* Longest Grand Slam Win Streak in Open Era (since 1968 Roland Garros)

“[Matteo] is the ‘Hammer’ of tennis,” said Djokovic, who is seeking his 80th match win today at Flushing Meadows (79-12 record). “Next to [Juan Martin] del Potro, [he is] probably the hardest hitter of a serve and forehand. He’s got the lethal-serve-plus-one game. He’s already established as a top player. Without a doubt. He played a semi-final here a couple of years ago, [and the] finals at Wimbledon. That was a tough four-setter.

“If he serves well, which is his biggest weapon, he’s tough. He’s tough on any surface to play against. I’ve had some really close matches with him [at the] French Open and Wimbledon recently. We’re going to play the third Grand Slam in a row against each other. Hopefully, the result will be the same like the previous two.”

Djokovic, who has won 42 of 47 matches this season, is also seeking to win another three matches this week for a record-breaking 21st major championship crown – breaking a tie with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (both on 20).

If sixth seed Berrettini were to snap a three-match losing streak against Djokovic, factoring in points earned at the tournament, he will rise to fifth position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin and improve his chances of joining the Serbian superstar at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held from 14-21 November.

Photo: Darren Carroll/USTA

Last year’s US Open finalist Alexander Zverev will be attempting to extend his 2-0 ATP Head2Head record against fellow 24-year-old Lloyd Harris in the second match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Zverev is riding a 15-match winning streak on the summer hard-court swing and will take a great deal of confidence into the quarter-final clash. Zverev beat Harris 7-6(3), 6-2 in the Western & Southern Open second round on 18 August en route to his fifth ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati and he also beat Harris 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 en route to the first of his two title in Cologne last year.

Service consistency has helped fourth seed Zverev sweep into the US Open last eight. He has been broken twice in 56 service games — following victories over Sam Querrey, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Jack Sock and 13th seed Jannik Sinner — and struck only 10 double faults in four matches.

Zverev’s 2021 US Open Service Statistics

Aces (Double Faults) 62 (10)
First Service Pct. 71%
First Serve Pts. Won 82%
Second Serve Pts. Won 60%
Break Pts. Saved 6 of 8 (75%)
Service Games Won 54 of 56 (96%)

Zverev’s Shining Weapon: ‘My Serve Is The Key’
The Nomadic Life… With Harris

World No. 46 Harris struck a career-high 36 aces past Reilly Opelka on Monday and he’ll need that consistency once again against Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Zverev if he is to become only the fifth unseeded US Open semi-finalist since 2000.

The Cape Town native will be bidding to earn his fourth Top 10 victory (3-6 lifetime). Last month, Harris defeated Rafael Nadal at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., and has overcome three seeded players at Flushing Meadows – 25th seed Karen Khachanov, seventh seed Denis Shapovalov and 22nd seed Opelka.

Unseeded US Open Semi-finalist Since 2000

Grigor Dimitrov 2019 – l. to Medvedev in SFs
Mikhail Kukushkin 2006 – l. to Roddick in SFs
Robby Ginepri 2005 l. to Agassi in SFs
Todd Martin 2000 – l. to Safin in SFs

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Alcaraz: 'It's Really Tough To End A Great Tournament Like This'

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz made history at this US Open, becoming the tournament’s youngest men’s quarter-finalist in the Open Era. But the 18-year-old had to retire on Tuesday evening during the second set of his match against Felix Auger-Aliassime due to a right adductor injury.

“It’s really tough to end a great tournament like this. I had no choice to still play,” Alcaraz said. “First of all I have to take care of my body to stay healthy. It’s a long match and I didn’t feel good to still play, so I had to retire.”

Alcaraz battled hard against Auger-Aliassime, who moved into his first major semi-final. But coming into the match off back-to-back five-setters against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Peter Gojowczyk did not help the Spaniard’s cause.

“To play two matches [that went to] fifth sets in a row, play on a great level, in a great intensity [for] four hours, it was really tough for me,” Alcaraz said. “I am not used to playing these kind of matches in a row. I think it was really tough to recover [for] the next matches.”

One year ago, Alcaraz was outside the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. The teen began this event at World No. 55, and his performance showed that he remains on the way up. Alcaraz stunned third seed Tsitsipas in a third-round thriller and proved he is a threat on the world’s biggest stages against the best players.

“These matches gave me a lot of experience, so I think this tournament made me mature a lot. I think I played great tennis for me,” Alcaraz said. “I’m really happy to play a first quarter-final in a Grand Slam. I think this tournament’s going to be a great experience for me for the next tournaments.”

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Felix Makes First Major SF After Alcaraz Retires

  • Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Felix Auger-Aliassime has been under the spotlight since age 14 when he broke through on the ATP Challenger Tour. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old Canadian made his first major semi-final at the US Open.

Auger-Aliassime led fellow #NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 3-1 when the Spaniard retired due to an undisclosed injury. Felix is the first Canadian man to make the US Open semi-finals in tournament history (since 1881) and the youngest man to advance to the last four at Flushing Meadows since Juan Martin del Potro lifted the trophy in 2009.

“It’s an amazing milestone. It’s been a fantastic tournament for me. Of course it was a weird ending today.  But in the end, I’m through,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “I’ll have a chance to play on Friday against one of the best players in the world right now to have a chance to be in my first Grand Slam final. It’s amazing, I’m happy I’m through and I’ll try to win the next one.”

The 12th seed will next play second seed and two-time major finalist Daniil Medvedev, who won their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in a final-set tie-break in Toronto three years ago.

Alcaraz won back-to-back five-setters against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and German Peter Gojowczyk to make it this far. The teen was not as sharp as he was earlier in the tournament, making 16 unforced errors in 13 games. The booming groundstrokes that so often found their mark earlier in the fortnight fell into the net on Tuesday.

During the first changeover of the second set, an ATP physiotherapist visited Alcaraz and had a lengthy discussion with the Spaniard, but did not treat him. One game later, Alcaraz retired, surprising Auger-Aliassime.

“No, I didn’t [know anything was wrong] until he called the physio. I don’t know what happened, clearly, but it’s unfortunate. I didn’t see it coming. He’s such a good player. You guys were amazing again tonight,” Auger-Aliassime told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. “I thought we were putting on a good show.”

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