US Open: Nadal-Anderson seems a mismatch, but upsets happen

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) U.S. Open finalists Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson are both professional tennis players who were born in 1986. Not much else in common.

Heading into Sunday’s match – well, mismatch, apparently – Nadal owns 15 Grand Slam titles, including two at Flushing Meadows in 2010 and 2013. Anderson: zero.

Nadal has participated in 22 major finals. Anderson: zero.

Nadal has spent a total of more than 140 weeks at No. 1, his spot right now. Anderson: zero. Indeed, at No. 32, Anderson is the lowest-ranked U.S. Open finalist since the ATP began using computer rankings in 1973.

Of their previous tour-level matches, Nadal has won four. Anderson: zero.

Add it all up, and this much is certain: There are not a lot of reasons to expect Anderson to beat Nadal.

Sure, the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson, the tallest Grand Slam finalist in history, is equipped with a booming serve – he’s been broken only five times across 108 service games over the past two weeks – and so, in theory, the South African could make Nadal uncomfortable. Although even that seems unlikely, given that the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Nadal is among the game’s top returners and has won 43 percent of his opponents’ service games in the tournament.

“He serves so well. Playing with tons of confidence and doing it very aggressively,” Nadal said about Anderson. “I will need to impose my tempo.”

Anderson’s coach, Neville Godwin, put forth the idea that his guy, only once before even so far as a quarterfinal in 33 previous appearances at majors, should be pressure-free Sunday.

“He’s completely free. He’s completely surpassed any expectations he may have had,” Godwin said. “So he’s got to release himself and just go and play.”

Yes, there is still a match to be contested, and three sets to be won, and an Anderson victory would not be the first time an unheralded tennis player managed to beat a presumably unbeatable one.

Here is a look at some of the sport’s biggest Grand Slam upsets, a list that includes Nadal’s name:

U.S. OPEN

– Roberta Vinci beats Serena Williams in the semifinals, 2015: Williams was bidding for the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988, but the 43rd-ranked Vinci won 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

– Juan Martin del Potro beats Nadal in the semifinals, then Roger Federer in the final , 2009: del Potro was 20 and managed to first wallop Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, then end Federer’s 40-match, five-title winning streak at Flushing Meadows in a five-set comeback.

WIMBLEDON

– George Bastl beats Pete Sampras in the second round, 2002: Sampras was a seven-time Wimbledon champion. Bastl was ranked 145th and a “lucky loser,” someone who was eliminated in qualifying but got into the main draw because someone withdrew.

– Richard Krajicek beats Sampras in the quarterfinals, 1996: The only match Sampras lost at the All England Club from the start of the 1993 tournament to the end of the 2000 tournament.

– Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis , Nick Kyrgios, Dustin Brown beat Nadal at Wimbledon, 2012-15: Each of those opponents was ranked outside the top 100 when they stunned Nadal, a two-time champion at Wimbledon.

– Sergiy Stakhovsky beats Roger Federer in the second round, 2013: Federer’s earliest Grand Slam exit in a decade, ending a run of 36 consecutive quarterfinal appearances at majors. Stakhovsky was ranked 116th.

– Ivo Karlovic beats Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, 2003: Hewitt became the first men’s defending champion in the professional era, which began in 1968, to bow out in the first round at the All England Club.

– Lori McNeil beats Steffi Graf in the first round, 1994: Graf became the first women’s defending champion to lose her opener.

FRENCH OPEN

– Virginie Razzano beats Williams in the first round, 2012: The 111th-ranked Razzano’s stunning win remains Williams’ lone first-round exit in 66 Grand Slam tournaments.

– Robin Soderling beats Nadal in the fourth round, 2009: Nadal was 31-0 with four consecutive titles at Roland Garros (a total he has since raised to 10). Soderling had never won even a third-round match at a major before that tournament.

– Michael Chang beats Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then Stefan Edberg in the final, 1989: Chang was 17 and remains the youngest man to win a Grand Slam title.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

– Mark Edmonson beats John Newcombe in the final, 1976: Newcombe was the defending champion and Edmonson was ranked 212th. He remains the lowest-ranked man to win a Grand Slam title.

Zverev beats Djokovic to win ATP Finals title

AP Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Alexander Zverev upset Novak Djokovic to claim the biggest title of his career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev became the youngest champion of the season-ending event since Djokovic claimed the first of his five titles a decade ago, and the first from Germany since 1995.

Top-ranked Djokovic was attempting to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles but followed the same path as the Swiss great, who lost to Zverev in the semifinals at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic’s serve hadn’t been broken all tournament until the final. Zverev did it once in the first set and three times in the second, completing the victory with a spectacular backhand winner up the line.

Both players began the match in the same form that had seen them earn straight-sets semifinal victories a day earlier, with few points going against the server.

It was Djokovic, who had lost just two of his previous 37 matches, who began to feel the pressure as consecutive forehand errors gave Zverev a chance to serve out the opening set at 5-4.

Fans gave Zverev a huge ovation as he stepped up to serve, and it appeared to inspire him. Three straight aces brought up three set points, the second of which he took when Djokovic sent another forehand long.

Zverev even began to outlast Djokovic in longer rallies, an area of the game the 14-time Grand Slam champion usually dominates. A 26-shot duel brought up another break point in the opening game of the second set and, although Djokovic saved it, Zverev won another lengthy exchange moments later with a forehand winner to go 1-0 up.

With the biggest win of his career in sight, Zverev began to show some nerves. Although he is the only active player outside of the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to possess three or more Masters titles, the young German has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Two double faults and two backhand errors gifted Djokovic an immediate break back, but Zverev quickly refocused to win a 28-shot rally on his way to breaking in the following game.

From there he remained solid on serve, before ending with a flourish. Having been pushed wide, a backhand winner on the run drifted past the helpless Djokovic.

Zverev sunk to the ground in tears as Djokovic sportingly crossed the net to embrace the player who will now be considered among the favorites to end the Serb’s run of two consecutive Grand Slam victories in Australia in two months’ time.

Earlier, American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

AP Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.