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Davis Cup Semifinals Recap

The Davis Cup – The World Cup of Tennis. From September 15-17, 2017, four teams vied for a spot in the 106th Davis Cup World Group finals, while nations losing in the quarterfinals battled to stay in the World Group league. For the first semifinal, Belgium and Australia faced off in Brussels. Meanwhile, in the second semifinal, France and Serbia met in Lille. Many expected easy victories for Australia and France, who have 28 and 9 Davis Cup titles, respectively. France cruised to a 3-1 victory, winning the best of five rubbers (the Davis Cup term for an individual match), and Belgium upset Australia by a score of 3-2.

In the Belgium-Australia match, World No. 12 David Goffin was looking to lead Belgium to another final after barely losing to Great Britain in 2015. Goffin first beat John Millman, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. Nick Kyrgios responded by overcoming Steve Darcis in a brutal five set match, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 6-2. The British doubles combination of John Peers and Jordan Thompson easily beat the Belgian doubles team, forcing Goffin to step up his level of play. During Goffin’s match against Kyrgios, he was initially down 6-7, but ultimately secured the necessary break points to win the next three sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

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Kyrgios, who has taken down many top five players, said, “I can always do better, but Goffin was too good.” Leveled at 2-2, Steve Darcis, who has been playing some of his best tennis, performed well again, easily beating Jordan Thompson.

In the France-Serbia match, many expected an easy win for France as Novak Djokovic was injured and not playing this year. Dusan Lajovic shocked many when he beat Lucas Pouille, giving Serbia an early lead. However, his level of play did not transfer to his teammates, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France easily beating Laslo Djere. Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, the duo that won the 2016 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open doubles tournaments, easily won the Rubber 3 match. For the Rubber 4 match, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga led France to another Davis Cup final with his four-set victory over Dusan Lajovic.

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Meanwhile, the World Group Playoffs occurred across many continents to determine next year’s World Group, which collectively represents the best teams from the three zones (the Americas, Europe/Africa, and Asia/Oceania). If they lose in the playoffs, teams can be relegated to the Group One zonal tournament. Argentina, the reigning champions and No. 1 seed, lost in a huge upset to Kazakhstan by a tally of 3-2, and will be relegated during Davis Cup 2018. The surprising result comes largely from Juan Martin Del Potro’s absence this year. The Netherlands also surprised many with their shocking victory over the No. 4 seeded Czech Republic, again attributed to the absence of a top player, Tomáš Berdych.

From November 24 to November 26, 2017, the Davis Cup finals will occur in France. The matchup between France and Belgium will be extremely close. The Davis Cup is unique, as players can cross over from singles to doubles in order to maximize their chances of winning. In 2014, Switzerland overcame France by only playing Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka across all matches, granting them a 3-1 victory. If Belgium only plays Steve Darcis and David Goffin, they will maximize their chances for obtaining Belgium’s first Davis Cup title.

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If they do so, they would most likely face Tsonga and Pouille in Rubber 1, 2, 4, and 5, and Herbert and Mahut in Rubber 3, the doubles match. A Darcis-Goffin duo may be able to take down the Grand Slam-winning Herbert and Mahut duo. However, Pouille leads 3-0 against Goffin (all in 2016) and Tsonga leads 4-2 against him. Additionally, Darcis usually loses in early rounds and has not faced Pouille before or Tsonga since 2002. Come November, I predict a relatively easy 3-1 or 3-0 French victory to grant them a tenth Davis Cup title.

An Early Look at the 2017 US Open

The 2017 ATP World Tour has been reminiscent of many past years with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominating the season. Leading up to the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year, Rafael Nadal is ranked World No. 1 and Roger Federer is ranked No. 3. This year, Nadal also won a historic tenth French Open title while Federer won a historic eighth Wimbledon title and a fifth Australian Open title. Federer has won five total titles this year, despite missing quite a few tournaments. There are many players who have the potential to progress or even win the US Open; some are old favorites, and some are rising stars.

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The Big Four are always potential winners, but this year, Federer is the most dangerous. Despite missing the entire clay court season and Cincinnati Masters tournament due to injuries, Federer has maintained a 93.9% win record and has taken down many top ten foes. He has also played his best tennis in Grand Slams, winning two this year.

Nadal also has the potential to win, securing the World No. 1 ranking for the first time in three years. However, just as in years past, he has been struggling to perform at his peak level after the French Open, facing relatively early exists in Wimbledon, Montreal and Cincinnati.

Murray pulled out late on Saturday after the seeding was released due to an injury. Djokovic is also missing the US Open and perhaps much more of the season after his doctor recommended 6-12 weeks to recover from an elbow injury. Stan Wawrinka is also out after undergoing knee surgery.

The rising stars of men’s tennis are also poised to make headlines. Twenty year-old and fourth seed Alexander Zverev recently beat an injured Federer in Canada, perhaps making him a formidable candidate for this year’s trophy. However, he also lost to unseeded Francis Tiafoe in Cincinnati, and Roger Federer easily dispatched of Zverev 6-1, 6-3 in June’s Halle Open. Dominic Thiem, the sixth seed, could also make it well into the second week, but he has faced many early exits to unseeded players throughout the year.

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For the top half of the draw, my pick is that Federer makes it to the finals, defeating Nadal in a very close match. Based on his performance throughout the year, he can overpower Nadal potentially for the fifth time in a row. However, his first match against Frances Tiafoe showed how cautiously he was playing. That being said, Nadal leads 23-14 in the head-to-head rivalry. If Federer plays more assertively in later rounds of the US Open as analysts predict he will, he would be in a position to beat Nadal and win his sixth US Open title. Federer’s success in Flushing Meadows also overshadows Nadal, who has only won two titles.

Finalist #1: Roger Federer

As for the bottom half of the draw, my pick is Marin Čilić. Although Čilić played below average in the Wimbledon Final against Federer, Murray’s absence grants him a clear shot at the finals. The Croat has openly admitted his happiness regarding the easy draw that he has received given Murray’s lack of participation in the tournament, and has posted career best finishes in two major tournaments this year. Čilić also won the US Open in 2014.It looks as though he may face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the bottom half of his bracket, which could lead to a matchup against the higher-seeded Alexander Zverev. Given the Croat’s abundance of experience at the US Open, he has the upper hand.

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Roger Federer (right) had a very close call in the first round when he almost lost to US youngster Frances Tiafoe (left)

Finalist #2: Marin Čilić

Ultimately, my pick is Federer as the 2017 US Open Champion. While Federer may have claimed in recent interviews that, “I am not 25 anymore. I’m not sure I can win three slams in one year. Winning two is already pretty crazy and plenty good enough for me,” he knows that he is aging, he realizes that Murray, Wawrinka, and Djokovic are out, and he knows that Nadal is tired from the French Open and clay court season. He also just easily beat Čilić, who is quite possibly his biggest competitor in this tournament, in the Wimbledon finals and leads 7-1 in their head-to-head record. These factors will make his will to win even stronger. His record this season rivals his glory days in 2004 and 2007, and his opponents know it. Unless he suffers a serious injury or continues to struggle like he did against NextGen star Frances Tiafoe, Federer will fight on and come out victorious.

Federer’s Dominant Path to a Record 8th Wimbledon Title Overshadows Other Wimbledon Victors

This year’s Wimbledon brought many surprises and crowned champions new and old at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. On the gentlemen’s singles side, Roger Federer cemented his status as the greatest of all time and most certainly the greatest Wimbledon player of all time by winning the tournament and clinching a record 19th Grand Slam title. His 3-set, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 domination over Marin Čilić secured his record eighth Wimbledon Title, making him the only eight-time champion of the tournament. The man didn’t drop a set the entire way through. On the women’s side, Garbiñe Muguruza won her first Wimbledon singles title at just 23 years of age, defeating veteran female player and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in straight sets.

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On the gentlemen’s doubles side, new champions Łukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled through four five-set matches to win their first Wimbledon doubles title, winning the championship in a thrilling 5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 3-6, 13-11 match against Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. In women’s doubles, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina dispatched Hao-Ching Chan and Monica Niculescu 6-0, 6-0 in just 55 minutes. Although this year unveiled many new champions, Federer’s victory stands above the others as he continues to break records and play some of the best tennis of his career.

Roger Federer’s victory was not entirely surprising, but still left many in the tennis community awed, including himself; Federer described the win as “magical.” Roger, 35, is the oldest man to win the Wimbledon singles title in the Open Era and broke the record of seven Wimbledon titles which he shared with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. Federer had not won Wimbledon –or any Grand Slam– since 2012 (until this year), seeing his ranking fall to 17 in the world in January 2017 due to a 6-month injury layoff. It was the first time he ranked outside of the Top 10 since October 2002. After Federer broke his Grand Slam title drought in Australia earlier this year, tennis pundits and fellow players knew Federer would be formidable. It was the first time he beat Rafael Nadal at a Grand Slam other than Wimbledon.

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In the months leading up to Wimbledon, Federer dominated in two ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. The Masters 1000 circuit, which is just under the Grand Slam tournaments in prestige, had been controlled by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal for all of 2016, with Federer never even reaching the final of any of the nine tournaments. Then, Federer won the first two Masters of the year by dismantling countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in Indian Wells and, again, Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in Miami.

After taking another break, this time for two and a half months, Federer returned to the ATP World Tour, losing his first match back. However, he quickly quelled rivals’ hopes when he won the Halle Open without dropping a set.

Federer’s return to Wimbledon, however, was flawless. In his first three rounds, he breezed through lower-ranking opponents Alexandr Dolgopolov, Dušan Lajović, and Mischa Zverev. Federer’s Round of 16 match against Grigor Dimitrov foreshadowed a thrilling match against Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and, if he won, against Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal in the finals. But Nadal’s five-set, nearly five-hour loss to Gilles Müller in the Round of 16 seemed to guarantee Murray a place in the final. In the Quarterfinals, more surprises came with Sam Querrey’s stunning five-set upset over Andy Murray. Furthermore, Djokovic, arguably Federer’s toughest competition at Wimbledon, retired to Tomáš Berdych. Federer had lost to Djokovic in the final in both 2014 and 2015; now, with Djokovic gone, it appeared as if Federer had already won the title.

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In the semifinals, 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić regained his composure after losing the first set to Querrey, defeating him in four sets. Federer won in straight sets over Berdych, who was playing extremely well. In fact, Boris Becker, Djokovic’s former coach, commented that Federer had “10 gears” and “whenever he’s in trouble he comes out with an even better shot.” He added that Berdych “played great under pressure,” but Federer’s performance is “what makes him the greatest of all time.” Becker also believed that Čilić would be “dangerous” in the final. After all, Čilić defeated Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 at the 2014 US Open in New York and, last year, forced Federer to battle back from two sets down in a 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 3-6 loss at Wimbledon.

As Federer’s 11th Wimbledon final began, commentators noticed that Čilić looked “tight” early on. Federer’s early break also heightened Čilić’s nerves, who would go on to be plagued by a “huge blister”, and frustration. Federer broke again to secure the first set, 6-3. Federer had not lost a Grand Slam match after winning the first set since 2014, but he and experts knew that Čilić was dangerous. Čilić smashed his racket on his chair during the 6-3, 1-0 changeover, indicating he was mentally unraveling. Federer quickly won the next two games. Now, down 0-3, Čilić began to cry in his chair and some wondered if his slip in the first set hurt him more than he had initially let on. Čilić instilled some hope in his fans when he held serve to make the score 1-3, but ten minutes later Federer won the set 6-1.

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In the third set, Čilić stepped up his level of play, but the pressure proved too much at 3-3. Federer secured a necessary break and the held his serve to make it 5-3. Minutes later, Federer was up 6-3, 6-1, 5-4 and 40-30. At championship point, Federer missed his first serve, but nailed a second-serve ace down the middle to secure another Wimbledon title. After the match, Banter Sports writer Nima Majidi said that, “while this year’s Wimbledon tournament was full of upsets, the champion was no surprise. Roger Federer played a great match, and proved why he is the greatest player.”

In the trophy ceremony interview, Čilić admitted, “it was really tough today,” but humbly congratulated Roger for his victory. Federer took the opportunity to congratulate Čilić and assuaged concerns of retirement, saying “I hope I can come back next year to try to defend the title.” Banter Sports Tennis Editor Nikhil Lahiri offered his insight, adding, “Federer seems to be playing the best tennis of his life at the astounding age of 35. He shouldn’t be slowing down anytime soon.”

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Federer’s 19th Grand Slam title further extended his lead over other active tennis players. Nadal’s French Open victory last month placed him second with 15 Grand Slams. Meanwhile, Djokovic, who has been not in his best form as of late, trails at 12 Grand Slams. Perhaps Federer’s latest victory is due to the early exits of formidable rivals at this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Even so, his strong performance and consistent execution in matches makes him a dangerous opponent and a player to watch in the upcoming Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati and at the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year. As he rises to 3 in the World, despite starting at 17 in the beginning of the year, many are excited to see if Federer can win more tournaments and perhaps even secure the “No. 1” ranking. Either way, he will surely be celebrating his 8th Wimbledon and his $2.9 million prize.