Djokovic Nabs Eastbourne, Sugita Wins Maiden Title in Antalya Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Novak Djokovic emerged from the Aegon International in Eastbourne as a champion, taking the final against Gael Monfils 6-3 6-4, ensuring he won’t have lost more than one match on grass in a season since 2013, and that he has two ATP titles this year. The superstar Serbian didn’t drop a set in matches against Vasek Pospisil, Donald Young, and Daniil Medvedev in a tournament that was plagued by rain delays. Monfils reached his first final in a year by beating Cam Norrie, Bernard Tomic, and Richard Gasquet, his win over Gasquet one of the matches of the year as he recovered from a knee injury, and closed the match out in three despite serving for the match in set #2.
The Bryan Brothers won the doubles against Rohan Bopanna and Andre Sa.
Yuichi Sugita will move to a career high ranking well into the top 100, as he won his first ever ATP title, and continued a career best season. The 28 year old has won more than 30 matches at all levels and claimed the final over Adrian Mannarino 6-1 7-6. He adds the ATP trophy to a trophy case that includes three challengers this season. Sugita beat Matt Ebden, David Ferrer, Daniel Altmaier, and Marcos Baghdatis to reach the final. Mannarino reached his first final in two years with wins over Borna Coric, Mohamed Safwat, Fernando Verdasco from a set and a break down, and Andreas Seppi.
Robert Lindstedt and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi beat Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the doubles final.
Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils will contest an all-wildcard Eastbourne International final after defeating Daniil Medvedev and Richard Gasquet in Friday’s semi-finals.
The Serb ultimately ran out a comfortable winner against his Russian opponent 6-4 6-4, but Monfils was made to tough it out for his victory, eventually triumphing in a third set tiebreak.
But there was disappointment for home hopeful Johanna Konta who was forced to withdraw prior to her match with Karolina Pliskova due to a thoracic spine injury, plunging her Wimbledon prospects into serious doubt. To compound British woes, Heather Watson suffered an agonising three-set loss to 2009 Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the other women’s semi-final, falling 7-5 in the third.
Medvedev misses opportunities against Djokovic
While Medvedev should take heart from competing hard versus Djokovic, he’ll go away contemplating a collection of opportunities – particularly in the opening set – that could have made it a much harder afternoon’s work for the former world number one.
After clumsily succumbing from 40-0 up on serve in the first game of the match, the Russian bounced back with a break in the fourth game, and arguably looked in control at various points, especially in the eighth game when he manufactured three break points to move 5-3 clear – however his inability to grasp one would prove costly.
Djokovic snuck out of the game, proceeded to break a frustrated Medvedev to 15 minutes later, before wrapping up the set with no drama. The top seed continued to dominate early in the second, breaking the Medvedev serve once more as he reeled off five games in succession across the two sets.
Medvedev, ranked 52 in the world, stayed competitive for the rest of the second set and forced Djokovic to serve it out, saving a match point on his own delivery, but he was to make no mistake, routinely holding to 15.
After the match, Djokovic said: “I’m really glad that I’ll be able to fight for the trophy tomorrow. I haven’t had too many opportunities to fight for the trophy in the last 10 to 12 months. I’m hoping that I can continue on this path of raising my performance and the quality of tennis.”
He was also complimentary about his stay in the sunny seaside town of Eastbourne, the first time.
“I am undoubtedly enjoying this week and the fact that I’m in the final obviously makes it even better. But I felt very welcomed from the first day by the people in Eastbourne,” continued Djokovic.
Monfils shows mental fortitude to best Gasquet
A strong mentality isn’t always associated with Monfils’ game, but it was the world number 16’s nerve which ended up being pivotal against his compatriot.
The first set was vintage Monfils, as he swooped around the back of the court blazing heavy groundstrokes, combined with some neat net play to take it 6-2.
Gasquet lost serve once more midway through the second set, but was offered a route back in as Monfils was broken for the first time immediately after. The latter reached the precipice of victory once more in the 10th game, mustering two match points on the Gasquet serve, but was unable to convert as the set went to a breaker.
Despite racing to a 4-0 lead, Monfils pinned back the deficit to 5-4, and then a 7-6 lead to eke out a third match point. But once more, Gasquet displayed resilience, saving it before nicking the set 9-7.
Undeterred, Monfils seized the initiative with an early break and continued to hold with relative comfort. Given past happenings though, it was no surprise to see a much frailer Monfils when it came to the crunch. Three errant forehands gifted Gasquet a lifeline late on, somewhat inevitably setting up another tiebreak.
An early double fault from Monfils would have been costlier had Gasquet not responded in kind, but he did and seemed oddly edgier than his opponent at this sudden death stage. Four straight points gave Monfils command, and when a fourth match point arrived at 6-4, he clinched it with a booming unreturnable serve to win 6-2 6-7(7) 7-6(4).
Monfils will go for his seventh ATP singles title in 26 tries on Saturday – and sixth at 250 level – while Djokovic hopes to claim his 68th but only his second of the year.
Watson’s run to the semis of a stacked WTA Premier draw has been the surprise of the week in Eastbourne, and the plucky Brit dared to dream of making the final, roaring back from a set and a break down to push the Dane the distance in the day’s opening match.
The world number 126 even moved a break up in the third, but meekly handed it back in the next game, losing it to love. No quarter was given either way thereon until the last, when Watson gave up two break points. She saved the first but not the second as Wozniacki put herself in a position to win her second Eastbourne International title, eight years after her first.
Pliskova’s bye ensures she will be fresh for the final in what has been a hectic week for the players due to the rain-affected schedule. Konta now faces an agonising weight to see whether she will be fit for Wimbledon, but defiantly said: “I’m doing everything I can to be ready.”
Bob and Mike Bryan notched their 113th doubles title and their first in Eastbourne with a 6-7(4) 7-6 10-3 triumph over Rohan Bopanna and Andre Sa in the final on Court 1.
Earlier in the day, the Bryans beat Andre Begemann and Andres Molteni 7-6(1) 6-4 to make the championship match, while Bopanna/Sa got there courtesy of a 7-6(4) 3-6 11-9 win over Robin Haase/Dominic Inglot.
In the women’s doubles, Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua beat the third-seeded pairing of Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova 6-2 6-3 in the first semi-final, before Yung-jan Chan/Martina Hingis romped past Nicole Melichar/Anna Smith 6-0 6-1 in just 43 minutes.
Pliskova and Wozniacki are set to take to the court at 12.15pm local time on Saturday, with Djokovic and Monfils due on not before 2pm. The women’s doubles final between Barty/Dellacqua and Chan/Hingis will follow.
Konta battled past French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko in three gripping sets before downing world number one Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4 to conclude the day’s play, as she thrived on the Centre Court billing. Watson was left to work her magic on the outside courts, but strolled past 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-3, and then overcame Barbora Strycova 6-1 1-6 6-4 in an encounter full of momentum swings.
Konta will now meet last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the semis, after the Czech bounced back from a 4-2 deficit in the final set to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova. Pliskova’s third round victory triumph came courtesy of a straight sets win over Peng Shuai; Kuznetsova reached the quarter-final stage with a victory over Kristina Mladenovic.
Watson will go up against former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, after the Dane rallied from a set down to take out Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1. Wozniacki had previously beaten Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-2 in the third round, while Halep sneaked past Tsvetana Pironkova 6-7(6) 7-6(4) 7-5.
In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic edged Donald Young 6-2 7-6(9) to reach the last four, but was made to work in the second set, with Young unable to convert while serving for it. The Serb’s semi-final opponent will be Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who secured two impressive wins over Robin Haase and fourth seed Steve Johnson, both in three sets.
Meanwhile, Richard Gasquet showcased perhaps his best form of the season, dispatching Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-4 in the early morning, before coming back to take out another big server, John Isner, 6-3 6-2 in rapid fashion. An all-French last four clash was ensured by Gael Monfils, who returned after seeing off British wildcard Cameron Norrie to defeat Bernard Tomic 7-6(4) 6-0 on Court 1 in the quarter finals.
Konta brings Ostapenko down to earth
Ostapenko, fresh from her French Open win, came into her third round match against Konta full of confidence, not least as a Grand Slam champion but by winning her last five tour matches in final set deciders.
The Latvian assumed early control, breaking at the first opportunity with her incisive backhand causing numerous problems for Konta. However, the Brit dug in and got back into the contest, before snatching the opener on her third set point against the Ostapenko serve.
Konta looked to strike decisively early in the second, and almost broke Ostapenko early, but the steely 20-year-old kept swinging hard and confidently, and reaped the rewards by breaking in the seventh game, and handily once more at 5-3 to eliminate the pressure of serving for the set.
Ostapenko seemed in control, but faltered from 40-0 up to drop serve in the third game of the decider. Yet Konta was unable to seize on her rival’s mistakes, losing her next two service games as a fiery Ostapenko established a 4-2 advantage.
But in typically unpredictable WTA fashion, the Roland Garros victor capitulated from thereon. Most costly for Ostapenko was her forehand, which splayed numerous errors, although an errant ball toss – which she should have caught – contributed to an all-round malfunction as Konta gladly accepted consecutive breaks. She then eventually snuck over the line on her third match point, to the delight of the home crowd.
Djokovic impresses against Young before scraping through
Djokovic’s duel with Young was certainly a match of two halves, with both responsible for the fluctuations. The opening set would have been precisely what the Serb was hoping for from his stay in Eastbourne, cruising through it 6-2 and appearing at ease.
But the past 12 months have been far from plain sailing for the 12-time Slam champion, and Young’s improved level combined with a Djokovic drop off made for a tasty second set. The American proved tougher, saving two break points early on to keep up. However, as the crunch point arrived, a few signs of Djokovic’s frailties emerged, particularly on the forehand – a shot he got stuck and collapsed on at times. Young grabbed a break to move 5-4 up as Djokovic wobbled, but he stumbled too as the latter broke back after saving a set point.
A tight tiebreak followed, with Young getting another set point at 6-5, however he did little wrong, with Djokovic serving big out wide. An untimely double fault for Young at 9-9 was pivotal though, as Djokovic got the win in one hour and 37 minutes.
The women’s semi-finals and men’s semi-finals will be played in that order on Centre Court on Friday.
Wildcard Watson and Wozniacki start things off at 11am and will be followed by Pliskova v Konta.
Djokovic and Medvedev will take to the court not before 1pm, before Gasquet and Monfils round off the Centre Court action in what strikes as the match of the day.
In the doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan play Andre Begemann and Andres Molteni first on Court 1 in their semi-final, with Robin Haase/Dominic Inglot v Rohan Bopanna/Andre Sa due on for theirs simultaneously on Court 2. The men’s doubles final is scheduled last on Court 1 on Friday.
Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua v Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova are second on Court 1 for the women’s doubles semis, and will be followed by Nicole Melichar/Anna Smith v Yung-Jan Chan/Martina Hingis.
2017 ATP Eastbourne and Antalya Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The grass court season winds down on the ATP Tour with 250 level stops in Eastbourne, UK, where TA will be providing on-side coverage, and at a new ATP tournament in Antalya, Turkey. With grass court prep opportunities very limited on the ATP tour, a host of top players are looking for just a few extra matches before Wimbledon, including Novak Djokovic. Here is your full preview.
ATP World Tour 250*
Eastbourne, Great Britain
June 26-July 1, 2017
Prize Money: €635,660
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (2)
2: Gael Monfils (17)
3: John Isner (24)
4: Steve Johnson (25)
First round matches to watch:
Jiri Vesely vs. (Q)Vasek Pospisil
Vesely isn’t a pushover on grass, but he’s an underdog in this one because he hasn’t played a match on the surface this year. Coming off a challenger title on clay, the switch could be a challenge, but his form is good. Pospisil has been great recently and his serve does a lot of damage on grass, look for the Canadian to get a quality win and reach round 2.
Donald Young vs. Kyle Edmund
The Queen’s quarterfinalist Young will take on Edmund, a home favorite who was poor at Queen’s Club, and could use some form. Edmund on grass is probably a safer prospect, but battles hard and could get away with another upset this week.
Nicolas Mahut vs. Robin Haase
The struggling Frenchman Mahut will take on Halle quarterfinalist Haase. Both players have the ability to peak on grass, and Mahut is typically the better player on this surface, he also has a h2h win. All of that said, if Haase can avoid a mental collapse I have him eking out a win in this one, Mahut is rapidly becoming a doubles specialist.
(5)Sam Querrey vs. Daniil Medvedev
Querrey reached the quarters in Queen’s and is solid on grass, but Medvedev, who has two straight grass quarterfinals looks to be even better. This young Russian will be a threat at Wimbledon, and has already demonstrated he has the game on this surface to trouble opponents beyond the level of Querrey. Look for the #5 seed to go home.
Novak Djokovic is playing a rare 250 tournament, and he’ll begin his campaign against the Pospisil/Vesely winner. I have Edmund facing Jared Donaldson, after Edmund defeats Young, and Donaldson defeats Diego Schwartzman, Djokovic should then defeat Edmund to reach the semifinals. Despite his shaky form, Novak should at least get two wins this week given his typically solid grass court game.
Defending champion Steve Johnson sits in the section below, Johnson is no slouch on grass and should defeat Franko Skugor/Thomas Fabbiano to reach the quarterfinals. I have Medvedev emerging to face Djokovic in the semifinals though, his path is Querrey, and then the Mahut/Haase winner, the young Russian has every reason to compete for ATP points this week, and his form is better than Johnson’s.
Gael Monfils needs to preserve his health, but he should otherwise be good enough to defeat Cam Norrie or Horacio Zeballos. I have Stuttgart semifinalist Mischa Zverev defeating Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic, then taking out Monfils to reach the semifinals. Tomic opens against Norbert Gombos. Zverev is the most in-form player in this section, and he’s excellent on grass.
John Isner has been pedestrian this year, and I have him losing to Jeremy Chardy in round 2, after Chardy defeats Dusan Lajovic. Presuming he’s healthy, it should be a good week for Richard Gasquet. He should blitz past Frances Tiafoe, Kevin Anderson/Thomaz Bellucci, and then Chardy. Anderson could be dangerous but he hasn’t played on grass this year.
Dark Horse: Daniil Medvedev
The Russian should make the semifinals this week, and depending on how much Djokovic will try to tank to be fresh for Wimbledon he could make the final this week. Watch out for this young run to rise.
Semis Djokovic d. Medvedev
Gasquet d. Zverev
I’ll go with Djokovic although I’m not certain this week, Gasquet and Zverev is also another tough match to predict, but this should be the final four.
Final Djokovic d. Gasquet
ATP World Tour 250
June 25-July 1, 2017
Prize Money: $439,005
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Dominic Thiem (9)
2: Paolo Lorenzi (38)
3: Fernando Verdasco (36)
4: David Ferrer (32)
First round matches to watch:
Nikoloz Basilashvili vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis should be favored but he’s not fit and has dropped seven straight matches, Basilashvili has lost four straight but is still good enough on grass to sneak out a win in this one.
Yuichi Sugita vs. (Q)Matt Ebden
Ebden is a journeyman who is best on grass and has had some decent runs this year on the surface, Sugita has a grass challenger title and is looking to shake off the journeyman tag. This is a challenger tour level matchup, and I’ll give a fresher Sugita the slightest advantage.
Dominic Thiem will only lose this tournament if he’s trying to preserve himself for Wimbledon. It’s one of the weakest draws on tour this year, as Thiem will begin against Rogerio Dutra Silva or qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan. Viktor Troicki should beat Carlos Berlocq and the Basilashvili/Baghdatis winner, as I have it Thiem over Troicki in the quarters.
His terrible season aside, David Ferrer should be good enough to beat Sugita/Ebden with Martin Klizan lurking in the quarters, a match where Ferrer will be favored. Klizan faces Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan, with Daniel Altmaier or Victor Estrella to follow, in yet another weak section. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t Thiem vs. Ferrer in the semis.
With Paolo Lorenzi much preferring clay, Joao Sousa becomes the defacto #2 seed, Sousa should beat Radu Albot and Lorenzi before falling to Andreas Seppi in the quarterfinals. Seppi will face qualifier Kamil Majchrzak in his ATP debut, with Janko Tipsarevic to follow. It’s been a while since Seppi was semifinal quality, but in this weak draw someone has to emerge.
Fernando Verdasco will face Steve Darcis (who beat Denis Istomin round 1), Adrian Mannarino will face Cem Ilkel or Mohamed Safwat, I have Verdasco defeating Mannarino in the strongest portion of the draw, and then putting away Seppi in the semis.
Dark Horse: Adrian Mannarino
On a fast surface Mannarino could upset Verdasco and then take this title, it’s truly up for grabs this week.
Semis Thiem d. Ferrer
Verdasco d. Seppi
As boring as it may be, I’ll go with Thiem to win the title, and Verdasco to reach the final on grass.