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Hi everyone, my name is Marcelo Melo and I play doubles on the ATP Tour. Some of you might know that I’m actually good friends with Alexander Zverev, who reached his first US Open semi-final on Tuesday. You might be wondering how a Brazilian became very good friends with a German. I first met Sascha in Rotterdam in 2015 and we have been close ever since. My partner, Lukasz Kubot, and I lost in the first round of the US Open. But since I knew I needed to go directly from New York to Rome, I decided I would stay here a bit longer and watch Sascha play. A lot of people see Sascha and I joke all the time off the court, but he was winning, so why not support my friend? Everybody knows we’ve become very close and if there's a way I can support him, I do it. I think this year, it is especially important. When I was playing, I could feel how different it was without the fans, so I knew how important it was for players to get that energy from their team and friends. It has been like that for everyone during the tournament. It’s a different feeling inside Arthur Ashe Stadium this year, too. There are always 23,000 fans cheering for the players and it makes for a very exciting atmosphere. Sascha’s team and I would react after he played a good point to try to motivate him. After we'd stop clapping it was just quiet because the stadium was empty! It was a little bit weird. That is one of the reasons I wanted to be there to cheer for him. It’s very important to have people there who try to keep your energy up. Usually that’s not so difficult because of the atmosphere all the fans create. Even still, yesterday it felt like a very important match for Sascha. Even if there were no fans, it was the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam! Players still need to be very focussed and mentally very strong. Of course I’m very happy for him for the results he’s earning. For me he’s improving. You can see it with two semi-finals at a Grand Slam in the same year. Before this season, he never made a major semi-final. He’s such a talented and great player. I’m close to him so I see how he practises, I see how seriously he takes tennis on and off the court. I think he really deserves the results he’s getting and maybe even better, winning a Grand Slam. Off the court, he is very happy that he was beating me in different games, too! Since we are in a bubble here in New York, we of course couldn’t go anywhere. What the US Open did was very nice: They brought in many games and activities to the hotel to give us some fun things to do in a safe environment. Almost every night at the hotel I played games downstairs with Sascha. They have golf, shuffleboard, mini-basketball, table tennis, foosball and more. They brought in food trucks and all the players would be there, too. All of these things were pretty popular with the players. Sascha and I mostly played golf and shuffleboard. He actually plays better golf than me. He actually beat me at shuffleboard as well. He’s going to be upset if I don’t say that! Of course on-site I was still training in the gym and on the court as well. Now that it’s near the end of the tournament, it was weird having so few people around, but it’s always like that during the second week of a Grand Slam. It reminds me of when I made the final of the US Open in 2018 with Kubi. It’s pretty much the same. We don’t see many players once it gets to this point. Of course there are many spectators all around the grounds normally, but the quantity of players is pretty much the same. The only difference this year is it has felt empty since the beginning. We miss the fans. Unfortunately it’s tough for me to stay any longer because Sascha plays his semi-final on Friday. I need to practise on clay, especially since we’re changing surfaces. I’m flying to Rome tonight to get ready for the clay swing with Kubi. It’s going to be weird because normally after leaving New York we go to China, where I usually do pretty well. I’ve won three titles in Shanghai and made two finals there, so this is always an important time for me. To go play on clay in Rome and at Roland Garros is going to be different, but we need to adjust. We need to be strong mentally to know it’s better for us to go there since they are making the effort to allow us to play safely. Overall I think it was a great experience to be here playing again after five months without competing. Even if Kubi and I didn’t do as well as we expected, it was nice to go back to a tournament in the safe environment the US Open made for us. I think they did a great job. Now it’s time to reset and get ready to compete again. And on Friday, I will definitely watch Sascha from Rome.
Doubles players don’t necessarily need to return aggressively to return successfully. Sometimes an consistent return placed accurately could be just as effective, forcing the serving team to hit a difficult volley.Jamie Murray, a former No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings, points to several players who stand out with their consistent returning, including 2019 year-end No. 1 doubles team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.“The [Colombians] make a lot of returns. Bruno [Soares] is one of the best. He has been for a long time, certainly on the backhand side for sure, and his ability to put the ball in play and start the point is a big talent in itself,” Murray said. “[Ivan] Dodig as well has very good returns. [He has a] backhand money shot, can get the ball in play, but can also hit hard and be aggressive. Can hit both ways as well, which is another skill, to be able to hit down the line and cross-court.”Soares recently had a group chat with Cabal and Farah in which they discussed who they feel has the best consistent return.“You have an aggressive backhand, you’re able to generate a lot of power. Let’s keep talking about your forehand,” Soares joked with Farah. “Seb is aggressive with the forehand and he can generate a lot of power, but sometimes he uses the lob, which is tough for the opponents to beat. In terms of consistency, I may be a little bit better throughout the year. Just trying to be honest!”Farah believes his partner, Cabal, has the best consistent return, but not for the reason you’d expect.“Just to destroy Bruno’s ego,” Farah joked.While players unanimously selected Lukasz Kubot as the best aggressive returner, opinion was far more split on who the best consistent returner is. In this installment of the ATP Tour's 'Ultimate Doubles Series', Soares led the way.Bruno Soares“He’s very good at holding the ball and he makes you move, and then he goes in the other direction. He’s very good visually.” - Neal Skupski“He just makes a lot of returns and avoids the net player a lot.” - Joe Salisbury Mike Bryan“Mike is one of the best returners ever. We always had trouble serving against him. He’s always solid, it doesn’t matter forehand or backhand. He always puts the ball back in play.” - Marcelo Melo“Whenever he has his hands on the ball, he’s going to make you play and you’re going to have to play a tough volley.” - Jurgen MelzerMarcel Granollers“I’ve played a couple matches where I’ve just gone, 'What’s wrong with this guy?' Hard, kick, slice, anything and he’s just always had answers for me at times.” - Robert Lindstedt “He’s a very good returner, especially off the backhand side. On the forehand side, he can go with the chip lob or he can dink it to your feet. Very crafty. He’s one who you’ve always got to be on your toes against.” - Neal SkupskiIvan Dodig“I know something about this. I’ve played with Ivan for a while. I’m the guy who is also shooting [for a poach] and he’s helping me out making tonnes of returns. He’s there every day and his level of return is very, very high.” - Filip PolasekEdouard Roger-Vasselin“I feel like he can play both sides of the court, deuce and ad, he’s been really successful on both. Forehand and backhand alike he can hit the ball down at your feet seemingly every time. Maybe not the biggest return in the world, but he makes you play and you’re feeling just a constant pressure that he’s able to put on you with that quality.” - Rajeev RamJamie Murray“When it comes to just guys who are good at making balls and I needed a shot to be made… I think there are some who can put the ball low, can put the ball up above you. Jamie Murray finds a way to get a lot of points started and I think he applies pressure in a whole different way. While it might not be necessarily blowing you off the court, he’s testing your mind out there a lot and you’ve got to maintain good balance, because he can get the ball in places that are really tough to deal with.” - Raven Klaasen
When Marcelo Melo landed in Brazil after winning Roland Garros in 2015, he was greeted by fans holding signs and waiting television reporters. He had just made history in Paris, becoming the first Brazilian man to win a Grand Slam doubles title.“To be winning there in front of many Brazilians there for my first Grand Slam, I was on another planet,” Melo told ATPTour.com. “I was very happy. That was very special for me.”Entering that Roland Garros with partner Ivan Dodig, Melo had played the tournament on eight previous occasions. Twice, he had reached the quarter-finals. But the Brazilian-Croatian team lost only one set en route to the final, in which they played American legends Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.It was a special opportunity for Melo, who nearly two decades earlier watched as countryman Gustavo Kuerten became the first Brazilian Grand Slam champion at 1997 Roland Garros.“After he won, everybody was in the streets wearing his clothes. It was huge, huge news here in Brazil. Everybody was talking about tennis,” Melo said. “I was in a tournament playing juniors and everybody went to the same room to see the match. Everybody was unbelievably happy. Everybody loves Guga here in Brazil. The way he is inside the court, outside the court, for us it was very special for a Brazilian to win the French Open.”When Melo walked onto Court Philippe Chatrier, Kuerten was in the front row.“It was cool when I saw him there, he was very close… He was shouting sometimes what to do, to be calm,” Melo said. “At one point it put a little bit of pressure to see him there, but I knew him before. I spent a couple times [with him] and we even played doubles together one time at a Challenger… He wanted to give me good energy. He was trying to help as much as he could and I was very happy for him to be there watching most of the match.”There wasn’t only the pressure of competing in a Grand Slam final, but playing the top-seeded twins, who were already two-time Roland Garros champions.“The Bryans stopped me a couple times before and after [that match] in finals. To play against them, we were losing a set and a break down. They were playing at a very high level in that moment,” Melo said. “To beat them in the final to win my first Grand Slam, this was huge for us here in Brazil as well because everyone knows how big the Bryans are for doubles.”[ATP HERITAGE]Dodig and Melo rallied past the Bryan Brothers 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5 to clinch the title. Since then, Melo won 2017 Wimbledon with Lukasz Kubot, and countryman Bruno Soares claimed two major trophies in 2016 alongside Jamie Murray. Bur for Melo, his 2015 Roland Garros run will always have a special place in his heart.“Sometimes you dream about it, but you don’t actually know how it is after,” Melo said. “When I came back I started to process actually what I had done.”
Anna-Lena Friedsam ist als erste deutsche Spielerin bei den French Open ausgeschieden.
Anna-Lena Friedsam ist als erste deutsche Spielerin bei den French Open ausgeschieden. Turnierfavoritin Simona Halep und die frühere Weltranglistenerste Wiktoria Asarenka haben als erste Topspielerinnen die zweite Runde der French Open erreicht.
Britain's Dan Evans is still searching for his first French Open win after Japan's Kei Nishikori edges a tense five-setter in the first round.