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Alcaraz Evades Evans To Reach US Open Fourth Round

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

Alcaraz Evades Evans To Reach US Open Fourth Round

Defending champion next meets Arnaldi, who upset 16th seed Norrie

Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open campaign hit its first speed bump Saturday in New York, but the Spaniard’s title defence nonetheless continues apace.

Faced with a seeded opponent for the first time this fortnight, the Spaniard moved past Daniel Evans 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to book his spot in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third straight year. Alcaraz needed to produce a high-class display to overcome Evans and his trademark box of tricks, but the Spaniard’s consistency and power was key as he held firm for a three-hour, 10-minute triumph.

Alcaraz and Evans produced a host of thrilling all-court exchanges to open the day’s play on Arthur Ashe Stadium in style. The 26th-seeded Evans dug deep in the third set to become the first player to take a set from Alcaraz this fortnight, but the World No. 1 was ultimately too consistent for the Briton. Alcaraz struck 60 winners to Evans’ 28 to improve to 3-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

Perhaps the moment of a richly entertaining encounter was Alcaraz’s sublime forehand pass on the run to crucially break Evans for 4-2 in the fourth set. The Briton had played an almost perfect point, pulling the 20-year-old side to side, but was left staring in disbelief as the Spaniard charged out wide to fire a down-the-line finish that clipped the back of the baseline.

The 20-year-old Alcaraz’s next challenge as he chases his third Grand Slam crown is a clash against Matteo Arnaldi. The Italian upset 16th seed Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time.

More to follow…

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Djokovic Recovers Two-Set Deficit, Downs Djere At US Open

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

Djokovic Recovers Two-Set Deficit, Downs Djere At US Open

World No. 2 will next meet Gojo

Second seed Novak Djokovic scored a memorable comeback in the US Open third round Friday against Laslo Djere to keep his hopes alive for a record-extending 24th major title.

Djokovic recovered from two-sets-to-love down for the eighth time in his career, clawing past his countryman 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 after three hours, 45 minutes.

“Unbelievable. It’s almost 2 a.m., a large number of people stayed,” Djokovic said when addressing the crowd. “I hope [the fans] enjoyed the show, it was definitely not so enjoyable for me, especially in the first two sets. It was one of the toughest matches I’ve played here in many years. Huge, huge credit to Laslo for playing some of the best tennis that I’ve ever seen him play.”

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For the first 90 minutes of the match, Djere held the advantage in extended rallies as he produced fearless, heavy-hitting from the baseline and often hit behind Djokovic to put him off balance. The 95-time tour-level titlist regrouped, quickly raising his level in the third set as he drew errors from Djere’s forehand to pull the match back within reach.

“I did a little pep talk in the mirror. I kind of laughed at myself because I was so pissed off and annoyed with the result,” Djokovic said when asked about leaving the court following the opening two sets. “I had to force myself to lift myself up, lift the spirits up a little bit. I’ve done it a few times before in my career, it worked. A few times it didn’t work, but tonight it did and I’m grateful.”

The turning point came when Djokovic broke serve for the first time at 1-0 in the third set by winning an exciting 26-shot rally. The Serbian then lifted his hands in the air as if he were asking the New York crowd for more support.

Despite the lopsided score in the final three sets, Djere was still putting Djokovic to the test under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic earned a gut-punching break after a marathon 10-minute game at 1-1 in the fourth set, in which the 32nd seed had earlier struck a stunning one-hand backhand flick past the three-time US Open titlist.

Djokovic then earned more looks on return and found top-tier defence in the latter stages of the match, deflating Djere’s hopes of earning the biggest win of his career. When the clock hit 1:32 a.m., Djokovic booked his place in the fourth round after fending off a break point while serving for the match.

“If he was getting tired, it didn’t take away much from his game to be honest. I think he played better in the fifth than he probably did in the third and fourth because he just started swinging through the ball,” Djokovic said. “He was behind a break and he served very well. He was hitting his spots so well.

“It was very difficult for me to find a solution. He is a very complete player, all-around quality serve, return, forehand, backhand. So I didn’t have many options at the beginning but in the third, I kind of lifted myself up and the crowd got into it.

“Once I got the break in the third I thought, ‘Okay, I have a chance, I might as well go after it.’ I started to play a bit more aggressive, started to read his game slightly more than I had in the first two sets. It worked well but trust me, it was nerve racking all the way until the last shot.”

Djokovic’s Two-Set Comebacks

Event  Round Opponent Score
 ’23 US Open R3 Djere 46 46 61 61 63
 ’22 Wimbledon* QF Sinner 57 26 63 62 62
 ’21 R. Garros* F Tsitsipas 67 26 63 62 64
 ’21 R. Garros* R4 Musetti 66 67 61 60 40 ret.
 ’15 Wimbledon* R4 Anderson 67 67 61 64 75
 ’12 R. Garros R4 Seppi 46 67 63 75 63
 ’11 US Open* SF Federer  67 46 63 62 75
 ’05 Wimbledon R2 G-Lopez 36 36 76 76 64

* Won title

Boasting a 41-5 match record this season, Djokovic improved to 2-0 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Djere, whom he also beat last year at the ATP 250 event in Belgrade despite being two points from defeat.

Should the 36-year-old Djokovic claim his third major title of the season this fortnight, he will become the oldest men’s champion in US Open history (Open Era).

Djokovic will next meet Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, who is unbroken this week. The 25-year-old defeated Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday to reach his maiden major fourth round. Up 29 spots to No. 76 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Gojo is guaranteed to crack the Top 100 for the first time following the season’s final major.

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How Rublev Found His Softer Side

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

How Rublev Found His Softer Side takes a closer look at Rublev’s personality

Thwack. Crack. Pop. Bweh.

Those sounds often make up the soundtrack of Andrey Rublev’s matches. The 25-year-old is one of the biggest ball-strikers in the sport, putting everything he has into nearly every shot. His powerful game has led to a lot of success, including 14 ATP Tour singles titles, a career-high No. 5 Pepperstone ATP Ranking, 22 Top 10 wins and three appearances in the Nitto ATP Finals.

When you think of watching Rublev play tennis, you think of intensity, for better or worse. When things are going well, the three-time US Open quarter-finalist overwhelms opponents with his fierce offensive game. Rublev wears his heart on his sleeve and in difficult moments, he is never afraid to show his emotions on court, sometimes agonising over his performance.

But in recent years, fans have come to know a different side of Rublev — call it a softer side. In social media videos, he often breaks out into fits of laughter, jokes with colleagues and shows sensitivity, whether to fans or otherwise. On an ATP Tour YouTube video titled “Andrey Rublev reacts to your YouTube comments 🥰”, the top comments are:

Petition for ATP Tour to do more of this!!


The video gets ten times better with him in it.

Andrey is the most adorable and honest person that needs to be protected at all costs.

Among the fans, Rublev has become not just a favourite, but a beacon of light. It is difficult to speak with him or watch a fun video of his without cracking a smile. But the quickest way to make Rublev blush is to remind him of his ever-growing fanbase.

“I would say obviously it’s something special that you cannot get somewhere or buy somewhere because of feelings. Of course in those moments you feel special. I don’t know. Even myself, I want to say big thanks to these [people] who are writing these things,” Rublev said at Indian Wells earlier this year. “Maybe with this stuff, you feel a bit more responsibility that you need to always improve in a better way.”

Rublev is much quicker to be self-deprecating than he is to give himself credit. He openly dislikes saying positive things about himself.

“Yeah, yeah. I have this problem,” Rublev said Thursday evening, cracking a smile. “I don’t know. Maybe some complexes, I don’t know why.”

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His actions speak louder than words, though. Whether around his practices, walking around the grounds or after matches, Rublev signs as many autographs and takes as many selfies as possible to make the fans happy. To him, it is an easy way to make people feel validated in their decision to spend their hard-earned money and valuable time to watch tennis. It is a humble attitude for a player who has plenty to do, from working on his game to off-court commitments.

But according to Rublev, he was not always embarrassed to say nice things about himself or listen to others do the same.

“When I was younger I think I was the opposite. Too much, a bit cocky when I was quite young, and then I realised how stupid I was,” Rublev said. “When I was a kid I was playing really well and I was winning a lot of tournaments. I was thinking maybe I was cool or whatever or everything will be like this in life. I don’t know, a typical kid with not really much brains and then with some things I realised that I was just stupid and that’s it.

“Then I turned out completely the opposite way.”

Rublev explained that he was still a good friend when he was younger and was “very loyal” to those around him. But there were some immaturities that he took time to get over. But he was made to grow up quickly as he embarked on his professional career and had already become close to the person he is now by his late teens. At the age of 19, Rublev made the US Open quarter-finals, at the time the youngest man to accomplish the feat since Andy Roddick in 2001.

“I remember that was a miracle, just out of nowhere. No one expected and it was obviously like a miracle because game-wise, body-wise, I was not ready,” Rublev said. “I was just lucky that I was playing some great tennis every day and I was shooting the ball and most of the time everything was going in and I was able to do the quarters.

“I realised it was a miracle because obviously I beat players like Grigor, Goffin. Grigor, he just won that year Cincinnati. Goffin was a Top 10 player. And obviously, if I would play them again, the feeling was they were much better players. It was just they never played me. They didn’t know who I was.”

Following his initial breakthrough, Rublev did not directly soar to the top, struggling through a period of injuries. But since cracking the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 12 October 2020, he has spent just three weeks outside of it.

“Inside the feeling is completely opposite,” Rublev said. “In the end, you said now this number and I feel ‘Wow, that’s great.’ So maybe there’s something that I’m doing well, but I don’t know, I don’t want to focus on this. I was focussing on the things that I need to improve so I want to keep focussing on them.”

A three-time US Open quarter-finalist and eight-time major quarter-finalist, Rublev is trying to make his biggest breakthrough yet at a Grand Slam tournament. Earlier this year in Monte-Carlo, he claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy.

The locker room would be pleased to see Rublev enjoy success. Frances Tiafoe, another 25-year-old who has gotten on well with his colleague since the juniors, had only positive things to say about this year’s eighth seed.

“He’s a super solid dude, man. Nicest dude. If you see him after practices and after matches win or lose, signing autographs forever. The dude is solid man and he’s a pro’s pro,” Tiafoe said. “He’s super professional, gets the most out of his game, has been in the Top 10 for years. I like him a lot, man.

“He’s always cracking jokes. He’s always fun. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he’s just one of the genuine real dudes.”

As much as he is becoming known for his personality, Rublev is fully focussed on chasing his biggest goal: discovering his potential.

“This is what I’m looking for. For the moment I don’t know. I feel that still in everything there is a huge room [for improvement] and that’s it,” Rublev said. “I just want to see what is the limit.”

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Fired-up Fritz Into R4, But 'Looking For A Lot More'

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

Fired-up Fritz Into R4, But ‘Looking For A Lot More’

American reaches fourth round at home Slam for first time

Taylor Fritz continued his bonecrushing run through the first week of the US Open Friday, gatecrashing the 18th birthday of Czech Jakub Mensik with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 win on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Fritz has reached the last 16 at Flushing Meadows for the first time in eight appearances, dropping just 13 games en route. The World No. 9 will next play #NextGen ATP Swiss Dominic Stricker, who by contrast has played 14 sets to reach the second week of a major for the first time.

“It’s so important,” Fritz said of his comfortable passage to the fourth round. “My body is going to be feeling a lot better than someone who’s had a couple of five setters back-to-back, so it’s always something you’re looking for when you’re looking to make a deep run at a Slam, to get through these matches without too much fatigue.”

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World No. 206 Mensik is fast developing into a heavy-hitting force, but it was an assertive Fritz who stamped his authority on the match from the outset by dictating with his serve and forehand and giving his young rival a lesson in focus and intensity.

Fritz won 30 of 33 points on his first serve, did not face a break point and clipped 25 winners to Mensik’s six. He has not dropped serve during the tournament.

Reflecting on his maiden run to the second week at Flushing Meadows, Fritz said, “It’s more of a relief than anything. I’ve been wanting this and expecting it for a while. It does feel really good to be in the second week for the first time and we’re looking for a lot more.

“It’s never easy playing these early-round matches when you’re the favourite and there’s more pressure on you and you’re expected to win. It feels great to play these three matches and get through them the way I’ve been getting through them. It gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.”

In the first round Fritz defeated countryman Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and also dropped just five games in the second round against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. He has faced (and saved) just three break points during the tournament.

Fritz and 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev own a Tour-leading 34 hard-court match wins on the season. The No. 1 American suffered a shock opening-round loss to countryman Brandon Holt last year at Flushing Meadows.

A US Open boys’ champion in 2015, Fritz is now 48-19 on the year with titles in Delray Beach and Atlanta and is in strong contention to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. He sits eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

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