The Clay-court Season - Run up to the French 2019

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Post by sirfredperry on Tue 09 Apr 2019, 9:07 am

First topic message reminder :

It's clay court time, with Rafa raring to go on his favourite surface and Roger playing on the dirt for the first time for three years.

As I do every year, I'm making Rafa favourite for RG and also expect him to have his usual good run at the other big tourneys. There could be a few changes in the men's top ten, with Zverev and Thiem both defending a stack of points.

At the very top, Djoko has a chance to extend his lead, knowing that come June it will be his turn to defend a huge points haul.

A look at the women's rankings shows just how close it is at the top, with the lead likely to change hands a lot over the season.

Kyle Edmund has already chalked up a first-round win on clay in Marrakech. Bad draw for him as he now has to play Tsonga.

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Post by No name Bertie on Sat 11 May 2019, 9:32 pm

So Nadal's losses this year:

Australian Open: Final: Jan 2019
Loses to Djokovic: 3-6 2-6 3-6

ATP 500 Acapulco: R16: Feb 2019
Loses to Kyrgios: 6-3 6-7 6-7

India Wells: SF: Mar 2019
Loses to Federer: walkover

Monte Carlo: SF: Apr 2019
Loses to Fognini: 4-6 2-6

ATP500 Barcelona: SF: Apr 2019
Loses to Thiem: 4-6 4-6

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Post by No name Bertie on Sat 11 May 2019, 9:34 pm

Currently Nadal 4-6 1-1 Tsitsipas

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Post by Turron on Sat 11 May 2019, 9:35 pm

Tsitsipas won the 1st set despite getting some weird line calls. Perhaps it's making him even more determined to put up a fight.

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Post by Turron on Sat 11 May 2019, 9:42 pm

Nadal could lose this, he has that slightly gormless look that normally means the guy he is playing isn't following the script

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Post by No name Bertie on Sat 11 May 2019, 10:00 pm

Nadal takes the second set with a double break 6-2. As far as I can tell it is still a tight match.

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Post by No name Bertie on Sat 11 May 2019, 10:55 pm

Tsitsipas has a break in the third set and Nadal is trying to hold his serve to stay in the match.
Nadal 4-6 6-2 3-5 Tsitsipas with Nadal serving.

A titanic game with Nadal trying to hold serve - but he fails - goes a double break down in the final set and loses the match.
Nadal 4-6 6-2 3-6 Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas continues to show he is going to be a force to be reckoned with.  And Nadal has to find another gear before RG 2019 begins in two weeks time.

So we have a Djokovic v Tsitsipas final in Madrid.

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Post by lags72 on Sat 11 May 2019, 11:04 pm

Good win for Tsitsipas, who continues to impress.

Changing times for Rafa.
Dumped out of Monte Carlo, and then in both of his ‘home’ events.

That’s three semi-final defeats in a row - two of them in straights.

He remains a fighter ; but the longstanding Nadal aura of near-invincibility on clay is well & truly shattered for ever.

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Post by laverfan on Sat 11 May 2019, 11:16 pm

Tsitsipas played very well and held his nerve.

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Post by sirfredperry on Sun 12 May 2019, 8:53 am

Full marks to Tsitsipas but what's going on with Rafa? As far as I can see, this will be only the second time (first was in 2015) that he has headed for Rome having not won a clay-court title so far*.

Now it could be he's not fully fit. Or is age finally catching up with him, even on clay? Or have players more belief against him? Could be a combination of all these things.

What's more sure is that Rafa is no longer overwhelming favourite for RG now, although I wouldn't write his chances off.

* Just checked and Rafa did win Buenos Aires on clay in 2015


Last edited by sirfredperry on Sun 12 May 2019, 9:35 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : add on)

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Post by No name Bertie on Sun 12 May 2019, 11:30 pm

Djokovic has a comfortable win over a tired Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4.   It does suggest that Tsitsipas has to work on his tournament fitness, saving energy in the early rounds, and general recovery between matches.  Still he has plenty of time for this.

Well done to Djokovic.  Djokovic said one of the biggest things he can take from his Madrid efforts is confidence leading up to RG 2019.  It would be amazing if he could win RG 2019.  He would be aiming for his second RG title and his second "non-calender year grand slam" whilst Nadal would be going for his 12th RG title. Surely Nadal is already a legend of the clay court, whilst Djokovic ... would be cementing a legendary status.

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Post by lags72 on Mon 13 May 2019, 1:23 am

sirfredperry wrote:Full marks to Tsitsipas but what's going on with Rafa? As far as I can see, this will be only the second time (first was in 2015) that he has headed for Rome having not won a clay-court title so far*.

Now it could be he's not fully fit. Or is age finally catching up with him, even on clay? Or have players more belief against him?  ...................

Not fully fit ?? Eh .... Headscratch

I don’t think there was any sign of fitness issues as he cantered through the first three rounds .... all in straight sets, and against some quality opposition.

To me it’s not especially complex. Younger highly talented players like Thiem - and now Tsitsipas - are simply proving too much of a handful and they’ve worked out just how to counter Rafa’s game, however effective it has been over the years. Rafa will almost certainly beat them again at some point ; but as I referenced earlier, the aura of invincibility (in his case, on clay) is gone. It happens to all the greats ..... even Federer ...... ‘twas ever thus through tennis history.

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Post by sirfredperry on Mon 13 May 2019, 7:56 am

Rafa, and the rest, are at it again, in Rome, this week. Brits Norrie and Evans have made it thru' qualifying. Fed has confirmed he's playing, while the draw means that Rafa may have to get by Thiem in the quarters.

Thiem will probably still be in the top four come the French which will be a relief to Djoko and Rafa who won't have to meet him until the semis.

Who are people tipping for the women's title at the French? You could probably make a good case out for a dozen players only to find someone outside that chosen 12 comes away as champion.

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Post by MrInvisible on Mon 13 May 2019, 7:20 pm

I think the qualifying wins for Norrie and Evans are excellent results. For the latter, who would surely count clay as his weakest surface, a fantastic win over recent Monte Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic. For Norrie meanwhile a hard-fought 3 set win over one of the form players so far this claycourt season Nicolas Jarry. Sometimes, amidst the short-lived excitement of Wimbledon in this country I think we overlook v impressive results by our players elsewhere during the year and those 2 wins are likely to fall into that category.

Tsitsipas had a great tournament in Madrid - beat Zverev and then Nadal on clay - surely that's one of his tennis bucketlist items ticked off already. Nadal is clearly not the player he was - but nevertheless there are v few players who've beaten him on clay (wonder how many players still active on the tour fall into this category). I don't see Tsitsipas as a viable contender at Roland Garros this year - however, he's now reached 3 finals on clay (1 title), so is a player to avoid there. Djokovic meanwhile has slipped into form at just the right time.

My revised favourites in order for Roland Garros are as follows:

1) Djokovic - got a mental edge over Nadal at Australian Open, and the next best player on clay in recent years.
2) Nadal - but based on his amazing record at Roland Garros rather than poor (by his standards) current form.
3) Thiem - reaching final at Roland Garros last year and winning Indian Wells will have done wonders for his confidence
Then a big big gap:
4) I would have one for Zverev before but will now go for Federer, just ahead of a clutch of players further back, neither of whom are likely to win, but could reach semis with a good draw:

Medvedev, Khachanov, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Nishikori

The womens' is open but I will stick with Halep.

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Post by sirfredperry on Wed 15 May 2019, 1:38 pm

Another awful result yesterday for A Zverev. Not quite sure what's happening with him at the moment. Would be a tad ironic if he was to put in a good run at RG having had a fairly miserable time of it lately.

No play at Rome so far today so I assume it's raining, rather than the fans rebelling at the doubling of ticket prices now Fed is playing. The man himself none to happy with the situation - the prices that is, rather than rain.

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Post by sirfredperry on Thu 16 May 2019, 4:20 pm

After yesterday's rain, many of the players forced to play twice today. Hats off to Konta who has managed to bt two GS champions (Stephens, V. Williams) in a few hours.

Fed was only detained for 80 mins against Sousa. Just as well as his next opponent later today is Coric - one of the few players only having to play once today.

Rafa dropped just one game against Chardy while Djoko had an easy win too. Mladenovic almost outdid Konta, despatching Bencic and Barty today.

Fans certainly getting their (double) money's worth today.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 16 May 2019, 4:41 pm

Kyrgios was very Ruud!

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Post by Duty281 on Thu 16 May 2019, 4:42 pm

And Kyrgios had another tantrum and stormed off the court.

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Post by Just John on Thu 16 May 2019, 5:05 pm

Kyrgios’ antics became boring quite some time ago. Time for a lengthy ban, or suspension.

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Post by No name Bertie on Fri 17 May 2019, 3:16 am

sirfredperry wrote:... Fed was only detained for 80 mins against Sousa. Just as well as his next opponent later today is Coric - one of the few players only having to play once today ...
Ending up being a 50-50 match with Federer pulling through after losing the first set: 2-6 6-4 7(9)-6(7)
Both Djokovic and Nadal had easy wins in the R16 of matches.  Cilic lost in R32.  Del Potro won (two sets) in R16 as did Nishikori (three sets).  Tsitsipas also through in R16.

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Post by sirfredperry on Fri 17 May 2019, 7:30 am

Coric had two MPs at 6-4 in the final set tiebreak. Fed now faces Tsitsipas who was about the last to finish. They got thru more than 40 singles matches yesterday which is probably a record for a non-GS tournament.

As for Kyrgios, it's such a pity he's wasting his talent. I keep waiting, in vain, for him to grow up. Not sure it's ever going to happen, though.

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Post by MrInvisible on Fri 17 May 2019, 8:11 am

So, signs of returning to normality for Nadal on the clay?  Consecutive crushing wins over past 2 rounds dropping only 1 game in each match.  V good win over Coric for Federer - whilst the Croat hasn't been in amazing form so far this year, he is a tough opponent on clay and this result is a clear indication that Federer ought to be reaching 2nd week at Roland Garros on current form.

Impressive too for Tsitsipas, beating Monte Carlo winner Fognini in his 2nd match of the day.  Great to see Del Potro back in winning action, and also nice to see good win for Schwartzman, who's had a quiet year so far.

On the WTA side, Konta finally belatedly seems to be hitting some form, winning 2 matches yesterday too.

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Post by lags72 on Fri 17 May 2019, 9:07 am

That was some comeback win by Federer. Even the highlights reflected a serious battle with hard hitting from both players.

Coric is young & tough but was not required to play two matches on the same day - unlike Federer and a number of others. He was impressive throughout and had two MP’s, but ultimately couldn’t get the result.

Fognini has been showing very good form but was taken down by Tsitsipas .... who is now probably favourite to win his QF versus ..... the Fed.

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Post by lags72 on Fri 17 May 2019, 1:25 pm

Federer withdraws from Rome QF, citing injury to right leg.

A very rare occurrence, mid-tournament...... collectors item !

Pity not to see him take on Tsitsipas once again.

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Post by laverfan on Fri 17 May 2019, 1:26 pm

Roger Federer Withdraws From Rome QF.

Sorry, @lags72, did not mean to step on your post.

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Post by No name Bertie on Fri 17 May 2019, 3:58 pm

Further evidence of the demise of Roger Federer due to age.

Rest day Wednesday due to rain.
Followed by two matches of tennis on thursday with five sets of tennis played - hence simulating a best of five set match - similar to one of seven potential rounds of tennis in a grand slam.

Beats Sousa R32:  6-4 6-3.
A few hours rest.
Beats Coric: 2-6 6-4 7-6

I thought to myself great - maybe Federer is building up to a peak for RG 2019 which begins in about ten days time.  Here he has shown endurance.

But today we learn this exertion caused him to injure his right leg (presumably a muscle strain).  So I have to go back to my current view of Federer of being fragile (due to age).

Maybe he will rethink his clay court schedule.  It is likely he overstretched for something and then noticed the muscle strain on his warm down.  So probably there was nothing he could have done to have prevented it (apart from maybe precautionary strapping).  If it is a joint or tendon injury then that could be more serious.  Similarly a muscle tear rather than a muscle strain would be more serious.  However those types of injuries are usually noticeable immediately - which would have warned Federer to have stopped / seek medical attention during the match.

His main targets should always be grass and then the hard courts. Let's hope he will be ready for Wimbledon.

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Post by MrInvisible on Fri 17 May 2019, 5:08 pm

Sensible for Federer to pull out, and there should be enough time for him to recover well for Roland Garros. This year is likely to be his swansong on clay so its understandable he wants to give it a go. Unless he goes really deep in back-to-back 5 setters in Paris he ought to be fine for Wimbledon too.

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Post by sirfredperry on Sat 18 May 2019, 9:40 am

Delpo had two MPs in the second-set tiebreak but Djoko went on to win in three. Seems to be a large number of matches of late when the winners saved MPs.

Another good win for Konta over a cunning, tricky leftie who has been giantkilling recently.

We could be looking at another Djoko-Rafa match in the final.

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Post by No name Bertie on Sat 18 May 2019, 1:10 pm

The BBC reports on a podcast of Kyrgios where he gives his opinion on different players.  What is actually quoted all seems reasonable as a point of view and as an open expression of his thoughts on his personal experiences.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/48293200

BBC wrote:Kyrgios on Andy Murray:
"I feel like his record against Djokovic is embarrassing, I've told him! I just feel like he's so much better than Novak, I've played them both, and I feel like Andy Murray returns better, he's harder to play against, I feel like his serve's better... I've told him 'you should have won so many more Grand Slams'.

"With Murray, he would have ticked all the boxes, it's just sad, it sucks not seeing him around here, in the locker room he was the best, always having bants and everybody was super friendly with him but he also had an opinion of some people too and he wasn't afraid to say things as well which I liked. He was just a lot of fun and I think the sport lost a good one there."

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Post by sirfredperry on Sat 18 May 2019, 3:22 pm

No doubt Kyrgios' views on Murray explained by the fact that Murray has always been super supportive - over supportive? - of the Australian.

It could be argued that K has done little to win support like Murray's. Can't help feeling, though, that K is right about Djoko in that the Serb tries too hard to be liked. Either you have charisma or you don't. Sampras, for example, had very little charisma and never played up to the crowd. He let his tennis do the talking.

About today in Rome, Konta has pulled off a terrific win over in-form Bertens to reach the final. Bertens had a day off yesterday but Konta still outlasted her in a long, three-setter.

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Post by Nathaniel Jacobs on Sat 18 May 2019, 4:21 pm

Defending champion Rafael Nadal gains revenge on Stefanos Tsitsipas winning their semi final in Rome 6-3 6-4. Nadal into his 11th final in the Eternal City. Staggering

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Post by Nathaniel Jacobs on Sat 18 May 2019, 9:43 pm

Novak Djokovic beats Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-7(2) 6-3 in a highly entertaining match.

Nadal vs Djokovic final and their 7th meeting in Rome - current h2h 3-3

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Post by No name Bertie on Sun 19 May 2019, 5:12 pm

Nadal bagels Djokovic in the first set.  Djokovic recovers in the second set and takes it 6-4.  So we now have a third and deciding set.

Leading up to this final - Nadal was in imperious form and must have been ultra-confident.  

Djokovic had successive tight three sets matches in the quarter final (Del Potro) and semi-final (Schwartzman) - so maybe was coming into the final with some tiredness and not so confident.

Current 6-0 4-6 2-0 to Rafael Nadal with Nadal on serve.

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Post by Nathaniel Jacobs on Sun 19 May 2019, 5:30 pm

Nadal got tight in the second set, understandably as I don't recall him winning any even thus far in 2019. First set was staggering he battered Djokovic.

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Post by Nathaniel Jacobs on Sun 19 May 2019, 5:39 pm

Nadal wins 6-0 4-6 6-1 just the 9th Rome title and 58th on clay.

Undisputed favourite for Roland Garros

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Post by No name Bertie on Sun 19 May 2019, 5:45 pm

Yes, fantastic tournament for Nadal - should give him the confidence he needs heading into RG.  The focus of Nadal and Djokovic should be on peaking for the slams and using the intervening tournaments as preparation and keeping the body ticking over.

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Post by sirfredperry on Mon 20 May 2019, 8:18 am

Relief for Rafa ahead of RG. I would still have made him favourite for the French even if he'd failed to win Rome. Now he's moved up to firm favourite.

Perhaps it's more interesting to, say, predict who the three other men's semifinalists will be in Paris. Djoko should certainly make it. Thiem probably. Fed? Possibly, but probably not, although you can see him having a reasonable run. Tsitsipas is certainly in with a chance.

Of the others you could make a case for Fognini maybe. Medvedev has stalled a bit after a great start to the season but could be a threat.

As for the women, who can say? Halep is defending champion, while Osaka is number one. Reckon you could do worse than to plump for Kvitova to take the title, although any of the current top 15 is capable of winning, IMHO.

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Post by sirfredperry on Tue 21 May 2019, 5:51 pm

The curse of the 02 is striking deep it seems. The last year-end champ Zverev is having a 'mare this year, while the 2017 winner - Dimi - is now down to 47 in the rankings.

Dimi took a WC into Geneva this week but, presumably due to the lateness of his request, he was forced to qualify. He got thru to the main draw, took the first set 6-1 in his first-round match and....promptly lost.

Well, at least he's good-looking and has spectacular girlfriends!

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Post by lags72 on Wed 22 May 2019, 10:21 am

@sfp - Hadn’t realised that Dimitrov was down to 47 ...... that’s a scary rankings drop for such a talented guy.

Dimi has been as high as Number 3. Same as Zverev was until recently. I don’t think (as of now) Sasha is about to suffer a similar fate as Dimi .... but the pattern in these first few months of the season is not looking good. He needs a strong showing at RG to restore some confidence.

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Post by MrInvisible on Wed 22 May 2019, 11:09 am

Agreed that Rome was a much needed tournament win for Nadal, but I'm still going to put Djokovic as favourite, only just for the title. My rationale is that Djokovic destroyed him so much in the Aus Open final this is bound to have a bearing on the Roland Garros final should they both reach it.

After Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem I will now go for Tsitsipas as 4th favourite, based on his impressive claycourt season, slightly ahead of Federer.

Zverev must have had a fall down the rankings, but could it go in his favour to fall under the radar a bit this year?

On the womens, I don't see Kvitová as a contender at Roland Garros - clay isn't really her forte. Will go for Halep who is the best claycourter on her day. Will be interesting to see how Konta does - she's had her best ever clay season so far this year.


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Post by sirfredperry on Fri 24 May 2019, 8:44 am

The draw has been made for RG. Fed is in Rafa's half, while Djoko has Thiem in his half.

Rafa starts with not one but two qualifiers in his first two rounds. Nishi and Medvedev are possible opponents for Rafa later.

Roger has Stan, Cilic and Tsitsipas in his quarter, while Dkoko could face either Coric or Shapovalov in his section plus, possibly later, A Zverev. One thing the draw means is that there could be a repeat of last year's final.

In the women, Osaka, Halep and Kvitova are all in the top half, with Pliskova, Bertens, Kerber and last year's finalist Stephens in the bottom half.

Two first round matches stand out - Svitolina v Venus Williams, and Ostapenko v Azarenka.


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Post by lags72 on Fri 24 May 2019, 9:35 am

Away from the top contenders, an intriguing R1 match : Cameron Norrie takes on fiery bad boy Nick Kyrgios.

On paper you’d say Kyrgios will have too much for Norrie. But Norrie can certainly perform on the dirt - as evidenced by his memorable DC debut v Spain ......  when he came back to defeat the highly experienced Bautista-Agut (even though the Spaniard had home advantage / partisan support)

Should be worth a watch Cool

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Post by sirfredperry on Fri 24 May 2019, 3:23 pm

Kyrgios has now pulled out and, according to reports, Norrie will play either a qualifier or an LL.

Sure Zverev would settle for a good run having had a fairly miserable time of it 'til now. Confidence will have been boosted by a couple of good wins this week. His semi in Geneva is just about to start.

One of the many teenagers doing well at the moment is Dayana Yastremska - already up to 42 in the world and has just reached the final in Strasbourg.

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Post by lags72 on Fri 24 May 2019, 3:36 pm

Yep, and a pity really. Norrie himself says he’s disappointed at the withdrawal and was looking forward to playing him.

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Post by sirfredperry on Fri 24 May 2019, 6:06 pm

18-yr-old Felix A-A is thru to another final. This guy, by the look of his results this season, seems like the real thing. Wonder when someone so young was ranked so high?

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Post by lags72 Yesterday at 1:03 pm

Whilst waiting for proceedings to get started tomorrow in gay Paree, I felt this piece about Dan Evans and Federer might be of interest to fellow 606-ers.

There are some thoughts from Evans as to how things might be improved in the way the LTA goes about its business - and I would say his opinion is genuinely constructive, rather than arrogant.

Plus ....... a first-hand insight into what happens when you get invited to practise with the Fed in Switzerland (accommodation included, it seems ..... Cool )

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tennis/2019/05/24/british-tennis-should-follow-simple-example-roger-federer-says/

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Post by sirfredperry Today at 8:07 am

A Zverev managed to take the title on a rain-hit day. But he missed three MPs at 6-3 in the final set tiebreak then had to save two MPs before winning.

Going to open a new thread for the French as it starts today.

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