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Ram/Salisbury To Play Murray/Soares In US Open Final

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2021

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury won a final-set tie-break in their third-round match before saving four match points in a two-hour, 58-minute quarter-final marathon at the US Open. The American-British duo bounced back well on Thursday when they defeated Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey 7-6(5), 6-4 to reach the final at Flushing Meadows.

“I don’t know if it frees us up, but certainly you feel match-tough,” Ram said. “You feel like you’re ready to handle whatever is going to come your way.”

The fourth seeds, who lifted the trophy in Toronto last month and emerged victorious at the 2020 Australian Open, did not face a break point and converted their only opportunity to triumph after one hour and 18 minutes.

“Obviously excited to come through,” Salisbury said. “We knew it was going to be a tough match. Very dangerous team. Both have got big games, so if they play well, then it can kind of take it out of your hands. Just happy how we stayed focussed on what we do well.”

Ram and Salisbury have made the semi-finals in five of the past seven majors. This will be their third Grand Slam championship match as a team.

“It helps a lot,” Ram said of their experience deep in majors. “We are feeling like in these positions we have been there before, and now it’s going to be our third final together. I think experience never hurts when you feel like you can draw on something that’s happened before.”

They will next play seventh seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, who battled past eighth seeds John Peers and Filip Polasek 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. This is Soares’ first tournament since Wimbledon, as the Brazilian underwent surgery to remove his appendix upon arriving at the Tokyo Olympics.

Murray and Soares lifted major trophies together at the Australian Open and US Open in 2016. Soares was also victorious at Flushing Meadows last year alongside Mate Pavic.

This is the first time in the Open Era that two Britons will meet in a major men’s doubles final. Ram and Salisbury beat Murray and Soares in their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting earlier this year in the Australian Open semi-finals.

Did You Know?
Salisbury is trying to become the first man to win men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year at the US Open since 2010, when Bob Bryan accomplished the feat.

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Cervara On Medvedev: 'Adversity Makes Him Find His Best'

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2021

Daniil Medvedev has advanced to the US Open semi-finals with the loss of just one set as he pursues his first major trophy. The Russian has made the last for at this event in three consecutive years, and will play Felix Auger-Aliassime for a spot in his third major final.

Before the match, spoke to Medvedev’s longtime coach, Gilles Cervara, about his charge’s progression through the tournament, how much he has changed since making his first semi-final at Flushing Meadows two years ago, dealing with pressure and more.

How happy are you with the tournament so far?
On one side I’m happy because Daniil is in the semi-finals with full energy because he won all his matches in three sets and one in four sets. Even in the four-setter, the match was not that long. The other part of me is thinking we are just in the semi-final. It’s a good thing, but not enough for us.

How would you say your mindset has changed since making that first semi-final here a couple of years ago?
I think the mindset doesn’t change really, because even at that moment, our goal was to be the best we could be. It means when you have to play one match, you want to win that match. We want to do everything we have to do to win that match. Daniil is No. 2 in the world, so it’s something normal to be here and [want to] win every tournament. But if you see the details, it’s the same mindset.

Of course when you make your first semi-final, you feel that it’s something big, so that’s why you are not prepared to be in the semi-final. It’s new, you have a lot of emotion, you are proud of yourself. It’s something really big. Today, to be in the semi-final, it’s not as big as it was in the past. But the mindset to perform, succeed, do your best and be the best player you can be is exactly the same.

Daniil Medvedev
Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA
From a coaching perspective, what have you learned from Daniil’s previous runs this deep in majors, including his two major finals?
My mindset is the same since I’m a kid. I try to do the best I can do and perform in everything I can do. I didn’t learn so many things about the performance. For me, it’s the same. But what I learned is the question I have in myself about players.

When you have a player like Daniil, it’s to try to understand or know what makes the difference between Daniil for example or another player in the Top 30 or Top 100, to realise what makes the difference between these guys in their potential. That’s an interesting question, because you can realise that there is some part of these top players that they’re born with this and some players don’t have this and that makes success tougher to get.

Have you studied the Big Three to try to understand what allows them to perform at their best in the big moments?
Of course, I see it every day with Daniil, and especially when he plays big matches like he already did many times and like he will do tomorrow. In matches, adversity makes him find the best in himself. The match is the most important part to find his best and sometimes during practice, you cannot reach this level of adversity. Matches make these players better for sure.

All these experiences for players, it’s like somewhere inside them. Of course they use it like something invisible, like self confidence, that they already lived something like this to help them win that kind of match.

How different do you believe Daniil is as a player compared to a couple years ago?
You get more mature, more experience. And when we talk about experience, it’s the ability to play this kind of match with less stress, and to know more about himself and get prepared the best way he has to be. It’s all the small things. I hope it can make a small difference against Felix, who is playing his first semi-final in a Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev, Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal at the US Open
Medvedev reached his first major final in New York two years ago. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
How much could that experience help in a moment like this?
I can’t really tell you today. We will see tomorrow if it will make a difference. Let’s see. I cannot say because of course even if a player hasn’t played a semi-final yet, he is still able to win. If he is at this level of the competition, it means he has good skills and a good game to win. Everything is possible. We cannot only say Daniil has more experience. Maybe, but we of course cannot just wait for this.

Daniil has only played Felix once in a match and it was more than three years ago. How much time have they spent practising together?
Yes, we do it sometimes, so they know each other. They appreciate each other. We know it will be a really tough match, because we saw Felix during the tournament play an amazing game. He’s a very dangerous player.

As you get deeper into a big tournament like this there is more pressure, so what do you guys do to avoid that?
For us it’s very, very easy because Daniil is a very simple person. The pressure is not on his shoulders, that’s my feeling. Because he’s like this, I have no pressure at all as well. I live my normal life. I like to practise, I like to box and I continue to do this during the tournament, so it doesn’t change anything. I just do this outside with a boxing coach because with the virus, I don’t want to be in any gym.

We live a normal life on the Tour and during the tournament. Even with big matches, it doesn’t change anything. We stay the same.

Read More Coaches’ Corner Interviews

As you mentioned, Daniil is a simple guy who never seems to let the pressure or a moment get to him too much. How impressive is that?
It’s very important to go on court very light on these things that can make you more tight or not [able to use] 100 per cent of your resources. These things are very important. In the past, many players have lost matches because of pressure or they didn’t know how to deal with it. Everybody is different with this pressure.

Someone asked Daniil if he was thinking about Novak and he was very clear he isn’t because he has to focus on what he is doing. How important is it that he is not thinking too far ahead?
When you focus on yourself, it makes you stay in the present and focus on what you have to do. It makes you better than having part of your brain, part of your mind thinking of something useless. I think Daniil has a good mindset to keep focussing on what he has to do only.

Even if you watch Novak and the other matches, he doesn’t think or compare to him. He will only have to do it if he wins and Novak also wins. That’s why it’s useless to think about Novak now or before [they play].

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Preview: Medvedev Draws On Lessons Learnt As Djokovic Eyes History

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2021

While fast to quip he’s “not old”, Daniil Medvedev enters his third straight US Open semi-final wary that the pressure is firmly on his shoulders as he prepares to meet the “much younger” Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday.

Second seed Medvedev is proof the freedom to play without expectations, in a first Grand Slam semi-final, can reap the rewards after beating Grigor Dimitrov at Flushing Meadows two years ago. But experience brought invaluable lessons and the Russian learnt and taught a few in his time since.

In the 2019 final, after wins over former champion Stan Wawrinka and Dimitrov, he famously rallied from two sets down before Rafael Nadal finally prevailed 6-4 in the fifth set. He knows the 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime will play with that same fearlessness against him.

“I kind of understood, I almost beat Rafa, being two sets down and a break, so I do belong here,” Medvedev said. “And last year against Dominic [Thiem], if I talk about a lesson, it was more how to play him…

“He played a really great level and I couldn’t find a solution, which I took a lesson and tried to do better in the Nitto ATP Finals. Even if it was super tough, there was a lesson. There’s no Dominic here, no Rafa, so I’m just going to try to play my best and see which other lessons I can take.”

The 26-year-old will be intent on dishing out the lesson as he looks to extend his ATP Head2Head against the Canadian to 2-0. The Russian claimed their only prior meeting in a third-set tie-break in the round of 32 in Toronto three years ago.

Medvedev dropped his first set of the tournament on Tuesday, in his four-set quarter-final win over Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp, while Auger-Aliassime advanced when his opponent, #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, retired during the second set of their showdown. The 12th seed knows he needs to raise his game to deny the World No. 2 and reach his maiden major final.

“Of course, he’s going to come in with a lot of confidence. I also need to step up and be confident in myself,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I need to serve well. I need to play a great match, be solid from every aspect of my game.

“At the same time I need to try to put pressure on him. But it’s going to be tough. I need to be ready for his best. I need to lace my shoes really well, too, because there’s going to be a lot of running.”

In a worrying sign for prospective opponents in his bid for the Grand Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic has hit his straps in time for the semi-finals, for his 10th clash with fourth seed Alexander Zverev. The World No. 1 improved to 12-0 in US Open quarter-finals as he captured his 80th match win at Flushing Meadows against sixth seed Matteo Berrettini on Wednesday night.

The three-time champion moved to within two victories of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam and despite having dropped a set in four of his five matches, announced he had finally played his way into form.

“I took my tennis to a different level. It was the best three sets of tennis I’ve played so far in the tournament for sure,” he said of the final sets in his four-set triumph over Berrettini.

The Serbian holds a 6-3 advantage in his ATP Head2Head against Zverev and has a score to settle after losing from a set and a break up in their Tokyo Olympics semi-final. Zverev is on a 16-match winning streak, adding an ATP Masters 1000 title to his Olympics gold medal ahead of the US Open.

“He’s in a fantastic form. Next to Medvedev, [the] best form. But it’s best-of-five, it’s a Grand Slam. Of course looking at his results in the past few years, he’s played very well here on this court,” Djokovic said. “He was a couple of points away from his first Slam last year against Dominic [Thiem].

“I know it’s going to be a battle, even harder than it was today. But I’m ready for it. These are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination.”

A runner-up to Thiem last year, the German has dropped just one set – to Jack Sock – in his 2021 campaign. He took down unseeded South African Lloyd Harris in straight sets to book his return to the semi-finals.

“You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win… [but] most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him,” Zverev said of Djokovic. “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.”

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Djokovic Blunts ‘Hammer Of Tennis’ For US Open SF Berth

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2021

Novak Djokovic has closed to within two matches of an historic Grand Slam after withstanding an early struggle against sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in the US Open quarter-finals on Wednesday night.

The top seed hailed the Italian as the “hammer of tennis” for his thunderous serve and forehand ahead of their third straight major championship showdown. But the Serbian again drew on his superior movement and returns to nullify the 25-year-old’s chief weapons 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 30 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

For the fourth time in five matches this campaign, Djokovic dropped a set only to pull comfortably clear in the third and fourth sets. He remained unbeaten from their four ATP Head2Head meetings, improved to 12-0 in US Open quarter-finals and 42-9 across all majors at that stage. It was his 80th match win at Flushing Meadows.

“It was a great match, a lot of energy on the court, off the court as well. Matteo is a terrific player, an established Top 10 player. Every time we face each other it’s a close battle,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

“When I lost the first set I managed to forget about it and move on, kind of be in the moment and I think I was locked in from the beginning of the second set. I took my tennis to a different level. It was the best three sets of tennis I’ve played so far in the tournament for sure.”

Djokovic won 74 per cent of first-serve points and hit 44 winners, including 12 aces. He hit 15 fewer unforced errors than his opponent’s 43.

“I wanted to start out the match well, I thought I did tonight. I had some break points midway through the first set but he has one of the best serves in the game,” he said. “There’s a reason why they call him a hammer in tennis. He’s got a big serve and forehand.

“Next to [Juan Martin] del Potro probably the biggest serve and forehand we have in tennis so I had to be really focused on every point, not allowing him to come back into the match. I think it was a great performance overall.”

The opening set was physically demanding as both battled hard on serve. Six of 12 games in the set went to at least one Deuce, the longest of which came at 2-3 with Berrettini serving.

In a 12-minute, seven-Deuce game, the Italian fended off two break points to hold with a bellow of “c’mon” for 3-3. It proved crucial as neither player could be separated.

Djokovic failed to capitalise when Berrettini landed only one of six first serves as he served to stay in the set at 4-5. A game later the sixth seed rolled a crosscourt forehand pass from deep behind the baseline to snare the first break and the chance to serve for the opening set.

If Djokovic was to keep his campaign alive he would have to do it from a set down for the third time as Berrettini converted on his fourth opportunity to take the opening set after 78 minutes.

The Italian finished the first set landing 63 per cent of first serves, but through his opening two games on serve in the second set he had dropped to 50 per cent and Djokovic pounced on the dip. The Serbian landed his first break of the match for 3-1 and although Berrettini pulled off back-to-back aces on his way to a 2-4 hold, the pressure did not subside.

Djokovic landed the double break and with it the set two games later when his opponent dumped a backhand into the net. Already down an early break in the third set, Berrettini was forced to dig deep for 1-3 as the roof began to close above Arthur Ashe Stadium. It did nothing to slow Djokovic’s momentum as he ran his opponent ragged to secure the double break and with it a two-sets-to-one lead.

The top seed had fans on their feet when he whipped a crosscourt forehand pass to break early in the fourth set and from there he never looked back. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev awaits in the semi-finals where Djokovic will seek revenge for his Tokyo Olympics semi-final defeat to the 24-year-old.

“He’s in tremendous form, he’s been winning a lot. After Wimbledon I don’t think he’s lost a match,” Djokovic said. “Winning gold in the Olympics, winning in Cincinnati pretty comfortably, he moved into the semi-finals here… We played a month ago in Tokyo. I was a set and a break up and he managed to turn that around.

“[It’s the] semi-finals of a Grand Slam right now, he’s one of the best players in the world and I’m pumped. The bigger the challenge the more glory in overcoming it.”

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Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Zverev To Join Djokovic In Indian Wells

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will bid for a record sixth BNP Paribas Open title when tennis returns to Indian Wells next month. The Serbian joins fellow stars in the Top 4 of the FedEx ATP Rankings – Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev – as well as a host of past champions and #NextGenATP talents in the field for 2021.

Djokovic is in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons in history, having already claimed the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles. He currently sits only three wins from completing the Grand Slam at the US Open.

Ash Barty has solidified her status as the WTA World No. 1 with an impressive 2021 season and will arrive with hopes of capturing her maiden Indian Wells title. Having already captured five singles titles this season, including a run to the Wimbledon title, Barty will look to put an exclamation point on her season with a strong performance in the desert.

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An exciting line-up of ATP Top 10 players will join Djokovic in looking to make waves in Tennis Paradise. 2021 Australian Open finalist Medvedev, 2021 Roland Garros finalist Tsitsipas, 2020 US Open finalist and Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zverev join 2021 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Andrey Rublev and 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini in search of their maiden BNP Paribas Open title this October.

On the women’s side, 2021 Madrid Open champion and defending BNP Paribas Open doubles champion Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova, Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallist Elina Svitolina, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova will have their sights set on a first Indian Wells title.

Defending Champion Bianca Andreescu will make her long-awaited return to the desert on the heels of a run to the fourth round in New York. In 2019, Andreescu captured the attention of the tennis world by becoming the first women’s wild card to win in Indian Wells. Four other former BNP Paribas Open champions are also entered: Naomi Osaka (2018), Elena Vesnina (2017), Simona Halep (2015), and Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2016).

Making their inaugural appearances at the BNP Paribas Open will #NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz, and Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff in the women’s field. Alcaraz and Fernandez catapulted onto the scene with historic performances at this year’s US Open, where both defeated Top 10 players to reach the second week in Flushing Meadows.

Gauff will be joined in Indian Wells by other top Americans including John Isner (World No. 22), Reilly Opelka (World No. 24) and Jessica Pegula (World No. 25). The remaining spots in the draws will be filled by the winners of the qualifying event, held from 4-6 October, and wild card recipients, who will be announced in the coming weeks.

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