Roger Federer claims fifth BNP Paribas Open title, gets called a name on court after beating Stan Wawrinka

 

By Leighton Ginn

At the BNP Paribas Open, Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka to tie for most titles at the Indian Wells event, never dropped a set and dominated like he did in his 20s in his 6-4, 7-5 victory Sunday.

But the thing people might remember most from Federer’s fifth title at the BNP Paribas Open is one word that Wawrinka uttered during his speech.

Wawrinka was overcome with emotions, trying to fight off tears, only to see Federer laughing. So during his speech, he jokingly called Federer an asshole, which drew a big laugh from the fans and Federer.

“There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes,” Federer joked. “Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”

Everything felt good for Federer. Coming into the 2017 season, Federer had low expectations. He had missed six months of 2016 with a knee injury, and he didn’t know what kind of level he would be able to produce on the court.

But things went better than expected when he won the Australian Open title for his record 18th Grand Slam title.

With his title at the BNP Paribas Open, he tied Novak Djokovic as the winningest player in the tournament’s history with five.

“I’m not as surprised as I was in Australia, but still this comes as a big, big surprise to me, nevertheless, to win here again and beating the players that I did and the way I did,” said Federer, who beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and Jack Sock in the semifinals. “I mean, couldn’t be more happy.

“It’s an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Yeah, last year didn’t win any titles. I don’t think I was in any finals except maybe Brisbane last year.  The change is dramatic, and it feels great.”

One of the tournaments Federer had to miss last year was the BNP Paribas Open. Before that, he had been in the finals the previous two years, losing to Djokovic both times.

With the victory, Federer will move up four spots in the rankings to No. 6. He is well ahead of where he thought he would be during the offseason.

“The goal was to be top-eight by after Wimbledon. Because if I would have lost early in Australia, I would have dropped to 35 in the world,” Federer said. ” It was a good approach, I thought, because it gave me time to get there. … It’s great, but you definitely have to reassess your goals maybe now and see, ‘Where do you go from here?’ Because this was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells, I can tell you that.

“Like I said before, I will make the plan for the remainder of the season after — especially for the clay after Miami, and then see also what the goals are, because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start.”

 

 

 

 

The year Roger Federer is having, his preseason goals seem ridiculously low as a return to No. 1 seems possible

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By Leighton Ginn

When Roger Federer returned to the court to start the year, he didn’t know where his level would be following knee surgery and six months off the tour.

So the man many think is the greatest tennis player ever said he wanted to keep things simple — play well and enjoy himself.

After winning the Australian Open and reaching the finals of the BNP Paribas Open for the seventh time after beating American Jack Sock 6-1, 7-6 in Saturday’s semifinals. If Federer beats fellow Swiss star Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, he will become the tournament’s winningest player with his fifth title, breaking a tie with Novak Djokovic.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

Djokovic, the No. 2 player in the world, has  won the previous three titles before being upset in the fourth round.

But if you look around the men’s tour, no one is playing better than Federer, who won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open to start the year. He had a hiccup in Dubai, when he lost to No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in the second round. But in the two biggest tournaments of the year so far, he’s reached the finals.

Doppelganger 1: tennis player Jack Sock, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

And looking around the tour, Djokovic and No. 1 Andy Murray both failed to reach the quarterfinals of both the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open. Earlier on Saturday, Murray announced he will miss the Miami Open, another huge event, with an elbow injury. There is also speculation that Djokovic will also miss Miami with his own elbow injury.

No. 1 Andy Murray faces lots of questions, has few answers after another early loss at BNP Paribas Open

But Federer said he set a goal of seeing where he is at following Miami, and was judging on how well he’s playing and how he’s enjoying himself on the tour.

“(It’s about) how can I remain healthy and how can I keep the fire and the motivation for the tournaments that I will be playing,” Federer said. “What I don’t want to do is overplay and just get tired of traveling and tired of just playing tournaments and just entering and, I don’t know, just doing people a favor just to be there with no aspirations. That’s not why I’m playing.

“I want to play, if people see me, that they see the real me and a guy who is so excited that he’s there. So that’s a promise I made to myself that if I play tournaments that’s how my mindset has to be and will be.”

Nick Kyrgios doesn’t think he’s a bad guy, if you put it in perspective

But with the winning comes possibilities, such as Federer returning to the No. 1 ranking. Because Federer doesn’t anticipate playing a heavy schedule, so he knows there will be an even higher premium on wins and titles.

“Sure, I’d love to be world No. 1 again. But anything else other than world No. 1 for me is not interesting,” Federer said. “You would think I would need to win probably another Grand Slam for that to happen. Because I have one in the bag, I guess there is a possibility.”

 

 

Nick Kyrgios doesn’t think he’s a bad guy, if you put it in perspective

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By Leighton Ginn

Tennis fans who know about Nick Kyrgios are not ambivalent about him: They either love him and the sublime talent he posses, or they get annoyed by his antics.

There were the comments to Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend and another player, or the accusations of tanking matches. Commentator John McEnroe has harshly criticized Kyrgios for his lack of dedication to the sport, once suggesting he retire.

“I don’t think I’m a bad guy at all. Honestly, like, I have had a couple of mix-ups in the court, but that’s in the heat of the battle, but that’s when you’re competing or you’re angry,” Kyrgios said. “Off the court, I haven’t done anything against the law. I haven’t drink-drive, haven’t shot someone, I haven’t stolen. I’m not a bad person. In the scheme of things, you put it in perspective, I’m really not a bad person.”

If he’s not bad, he does have his moments.

But the talent is there.

Kyrgios recorded his second consecutive victory against No. 2 Novak Djokovic in two tournaments. He’s also picked up wins against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Of the three, they have a combined 44 Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m very impressed him taking out Novak, back-to-back weeks, on Novak’s best surface,” said Federer, who will face Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. “I hope it’s going to lead to something great for Nick that he realizes if he puts his head down and focuses (so) that he can bring it day in and day out, week in and week out.

“That’s maybe going to take a bit more time … because when it matters the most against the best and in finals, he’s there. Eventually he will need that, but that’s a great quality to have already now.”

For fans who overlook the behavior, Kyrgios also has a go-for-broke style that will endear people. On Wednesday, Kyrgios remained aggressive with his second serves to keep Djokovic at bay.

“I have lost some matches from it. I have won some matches from it. I’m okay if I go for it,” Kyrgios said. “It’s a high percentage for me to go big under pressure. That’s my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game.”

 

French Open men’s preview: History will be made, but by who?

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By Leighton Ginn

Will Novak Djokovic become the first player since Rod Laver to win four consecutive majors for a Grand Slam?

Or will Rafael Nadal become the first player to win 10 singles title at a major. Well, he’s the only one to win nine, but 10 is an impressive number.

Or will someone else unseat the two favorites to score one of the most unlikely titles of the year like Stan Wawrinka did last year.

This could be one of the most important French Opens in a long time.

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Nadal has dominated the red clay like no other, only losing to Djokovic last year in the quarterfinals and Robin Soderling in 2009. But if Nadal does get to the final, he is 9-0.

However, this year, Djokovic and Nadal are pitted for a semifinal showdown, if they can get through the draw.

That might work out OK for Djokovic because when Nadal gets to the finals, he’s 9-0.

For Djokovic, the French Open is his missing link. A win this year, and his first title would come in the most spectacular way.

Djokovic would become the first player to complete a Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. That is an impressive accomplishment considering Roger Federer, Nadal, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg are among the names who couldn’t do it.

Getting to the final hasn’t been a problem for Djokovic as he was in the last two finals, and three times in the last four years.

Getting over the hump has become a big mental block for Djokovic, despite all the success he’s had. Losing to Stan Wawrinka was the biggest upset on the men’s side all year. Will it have a residual effect on Djokovic, knowing that if he didn’t let the French Open title slip, he would be sitting on top of the world?

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If you go by quality of play and success, Djokovic is the clear favorite. Nadal is playing well enough where he can capitalize on his Roland Garros magic.

After that, the French Open is open.

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Andy Murray won Rome and reached the finals of Madrid, splitting the finals against Djokovic. He and Djokovic have the most momentum going into Roland Garros. And the draw works in his favor with Nadal and Djokovic on the other side.

 

Defending champion Wawrinka is 18-7 , but has fallen off dramatically after winning two tournaments before March.

If people are looking for a dark horse, there’s David Goffin, who has made the most noise among the young players the ATP is trying to promote.

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The French Open should be a fun and interesting show.

 

 

Is the glass half full or half empty for Novak Djokovic going into the US Open?

Novak Djokovic speaks during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Novak Djokovic speaks during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Another week, another final that slipped through No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Heading into the US Open, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Taking the good side, Djokovic played well to reach back-to-back finals in Masters Series, losing to Andy Murray in the Rogers Cup and Roger Federer on Sunday in Cincinnati. Obviously he’s playing well enough to reach the finals, beating a lot of top players.

Djokovic created momentum heading into the US Open with all those matches. And he’s won many despite not playing his best, by his own accounts.

But the bad side is that Djokovic hasn’t dominated the hard court season in the summer like he did in the spring. At the start of the year, he won the Australian Open, the BNP Paribas Open and Miami for a very impressive trifecta. By Djokovic’s high standards, he’s a little off.

Many have called Djokovic the best hard court player, but he has never won the title in Cincinnati despite five appearances in the finals. And in Flushing, Djokovic has been very good, but only has one US Open title, which came in 2011. He also reached the US Open finals in 2007, ’10, ’12, and ’13.

Prior to these two weeks, Djokovic looked like the head-and-shoulders favorite to win the US Open, coming off his Wimbledon title and his dominant spring. And with their victories, Federer and Murray look like much more dangerous contenders for the title than two weeks ago.

At 34, Federer has fought off father time to remain a serious contender. In Cincinnati, Federer used an aggressive attack, and his service game has been dominant. If he keeps that up, Federer will be tough to stop.

Murray, who had been struggling to regain his form since back surgery at the end of 2013, the year he won Wimbledon. While Murray hasn’t yet played as well as he did in 2013, he has been playing good enough to win a major, and his Rogers Cup title could give him enough confidence to get over the hump at the US Open.

So instead of looking like the clear favorite, Djokovic will now be in a three-man battle for the title. And there will be some dangerous floaters in the field, including Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and last year’s US Open finalists Kei Nishikori and defending champion Marin Cilic.

It should make for an exciting US Open.