GENEVA/WASHINGTON, May 19, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 8 Roger Federer did a lot of smiling and waving toward the small, polite crowd assembled at the Parc des Eaux-Vives in Geneva for his much-anticipated first match on clay in two years – and just his second ATP Tour match of 2021 and first since March 11.
The top-seeded Federer gestured both before his Gonet Geneva Open second-round match against 75th-ranked Pablo Andújar as he was warmly introduced and two hours later as he departed on the bittersweet, short end of a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 defeat. It ended his 32-match winning streak in his home country of Switzerland.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 18, 2021
The 39-year-old Swiss star, a living legend – winner of 103 tour-level titles – and a certain future Hall of Famer, admitted during his post-match virtual press conference that he was disappointed with both the loss and in how he performed on court.
“It’s good to be back on the court,” Federer said of his one-hour and 52-minute match, “but then you lost a match like this and you’re down.”
Federer led 4-2 in the third set, a break up against Andújar and needing just to hold serve to garner the victory. Instead, Andújar won the final four games of the match to advance against either Swiss wild card Dominic Stephan Stricker, who upset Croatia’s Marin Cilic, 7-6 (5), 6-1, or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, a 7-5, 7-5 winner over Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen.
Well played, gents 👏
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 18, 2021
“It never feels great. I was looking forward to playing here, no doubt about it,” Federer continued. “But this is a press conference where I have to explain how I feel about losing, which is never the greatest way of trying to explain why and how it all happened. But, of course, there were moments where I was really happy to entertain the crowd and [I was] looking at the long road that I’ve been on from the comeback.
“Sure, it’s rewarding to be back on a tennis court. But I expect better from myself. I feel like in practice I’ve been playing better, even in practice here. But then, again, as we know, matches are a different animal. I’ve got my work cut out there.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 18, 2021
Federer hit three aces to zero double faults, placed 59 percent of his first serves in play and won 77 percent (37 of 48) of his first-serve points. He was broken three times by Andújar – including his final two service games of the match – while breaking his Spanish opponent twice in four opportunities. Andújar outpointed Federer 84-81.
“Of course, at 4-2 in the third you feel like, ‘Oh, that’s nice that I was able to turn around the match.’ You start feeling better and that’s when it dips and everything is over 10 minutes later,” Federer explained .“But we know how tennis goes and that’s where it’s so brutal sometimes. But I feel like I’d didn’t deserve it at the end. There was just not enough happening in my game.”
From 4-2, Andújar held serve, then broken Federer at 30 to level the set at 4-all, held again to lead 5-4 and did the unthinkable: he gained match points on Federer’s serve. The match ended on Andujar’s third match point against Federer as the Swiss star hit the third shot of a brief finally rally wide.
“I just could that [as] the moment was getting tougher, the game wasn’t there. Obviously [I was] missing way too much maybe to come through even though [I was up] 4-3 and a break. The chances were all there.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 18, 2021
Siniakova: Driven to tears of joy
When Katerina Siniakova knocked out World No. 8 and Emilia-Romagna Open top seed Serena Williams 7-6 (4), 6-2 in one hour and 37 minutes Tuesday afternoon in Parma, Italy, it represented her sixth Top 10 win in her career.
“If you go play against a player like this, you really have nothing to lose,” Siniakova said during her virtual press conference that followed her stunning victory. “I wanted to enjoy it.”
She did just that – she enjoyed the thrill of the victory. By the end, Siniakova was driven to tears and buried her head in a towel as she sat for a moment at her bench soaking in what she had just accomplished.
“I was really happy,” Siniakova recalled for Tennis TourTalk. “I guess I just didn’t believe it in the first moments, but then it was really happiness and joy because I really played a great match – maybe a little bit lucky. I’m really appreciating this moment.”
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After Siniakova saved a set point while serving down 4-5 in the first set after hitting a forehand winner, she went to work against Williams in the second set and coasted to victory after winning 16 of the final 18 points of this second-round match. It advanced Siniakova to Thursday’s quarterfinal round against either No. 8 seed Caroline Garcia of France or Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany.
While Siniakova is better known as part of a Grand Slam-winning doubles team with Barbora Krejcikova that was formerly ranked No. 1, the Czech has worked out to improve her singles game, where she’s currently ranked 68th. She’s won four of her last six matches on clay and is 5-6 in main draw competition overall this season.
The world No.68 defeats top seed Serena Williams 7-6(4), 6-2. pic.twitter.com/ZMXu154FII
— wta (@WTA) May 18, 2021
During her virtual press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Siniakova what it meant to be able to beat Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion and future Hall of Famer, whom she outscored 74-56 and was aided by converting four of eight break-point chances. “It’s amazing, it means a lot to me,” she said. “I played an amazing match and I’m so happy I could finish it like this. It showed me that I can play like this, I can play well. I just need to be more focused and calm and be ready for every point. Of course, I would be really happy if I could keep [playing] like this.
“It was a really great match for me. Not every day is really amazing. I will just keep it in mind and try to keep doing my best.”
Big recovery for Gauff in Parma
American teenager Coco Gauff, who reached the semifinals last week at the WTA 1000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia before losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek, rebounded nicely for a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) win over Kaia Kanepi of Estonia on Tuesday afternoon.
The 17-year-old Gauff, who turns 18 at the end of this month, rallied from 3-5 down in the opening set and saved a set point to win the tie break. Then, after racing ahead 5-1 in the second set, she was broken twice and Kanepi took the set to another tie break. The Estonian had set points at 6-5 and 7-6 that she wasn’t able to cash in on. Instead, Gauff won on her first match point to move into Thursday’s quarterfinals against Camila Giorgi of Italy.
— MEF tennis events (@meftennisevents) May 18, 2021
Tennis TourTalk asked Gauff what the difference between winning losing was and what she learned from the experience that she could carry forward. She said: “I think the difference was my composure. There were moments where I got a little bit nervous and I got a little bit jumpy. But when the time came, I was able to settle down. [Kaia] started to play really well at the 5-1 and I played a bit passive. The next time, I can learn how to create a better response to when my opponent suddenly raises their level.”
What they’re saying
Roger Federer on Roland Garros: “Roland Garros is not the goal. The goal is the grass, so I still have time. I’m disappointed for the tournament more than anything. I wish I could have stayed around and played some more matches for the people here because the atmosphere still is , considering [the circumstances], very good, and they seemed very happy to see me here.”
What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk
• Coco Gauff on playing at the Tennis Club of Parma in a non-stadium atmosphere during this week’s Emilia-Romagna Open with a limited number of fans and where the sound of chirping birds can be heard, too: “Oh, it’s so good. The club here is really nice. Coming from the big city it’s nice to play in a quieter atmosphere. People have been super nice to me.”
• Croatia’s Ana Konjuh, ranked 188th after starting the year above 500 following a series of injuries and setbacks, has won three straight matches at the Serbia Ladies Open this week. The first two were in qualifying over the weekend and on Tuesday in the main draw, she beat No. 67 Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, to reach Wednesday’s second round against No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. Asked what it means to her to be able to continue improving her ranking, she said: “It means a lot, definitely for my comeback and confidence. I just keep moving forward. I hope to get back into the Top 100 as soon as possible, taking it step by step. Here we are [in Belgrade].”
The key to beating Putintseva? “It’s going to be an interesting match, for sure. I just have to be patient and putting the ball in the court. Winning in three [sets] today and keeping my level in the clutch moments was really important for my confidence.”
• Katerina Siniakova on whether she was surprised by how well she played against Serena Williams: “Yes. The finishing was much tougher. I was just trying to tell myself like every point to just keep fighting. It’s going to be fine. I didn’t make many mistakes. I’m really happy I could keep my level the entire match.”