- 30 Jun 2020
So far, so good. The ranking of Ultimate Tennis Showdown, which will determine the Final Four of the competition, offers a final dream weekend as it stands. Three members of the world’s top 10 are currently virtually qualified for the semi-finals: Dominic Thiem (No 3), Stefanos Tsitsipas (No 6), and Matteo Berrettini (No 8). “The Greek God” regained his leadership position on Sunday evening by crushing Alexei Popyrin (3-1). The day before, he had come from a long way down to win against Feliciano Lopez in sudden death (3-2).
— UTS | Ultimate Tennis Showdown (@UTShowdown) June 28, 2020
The provisional Final Four is completed by the flamboyant Richard Gasquet, currently third place in the standings. The Frenchman has been enjoying himself immensely for three weeks at UTS. The Virtuoso has perfectly mastered the rules of the tournament, and that mastery helped him drop world No 3 Thiem, on the Austrian’s entry into the competition (3-1). Gasquet was also more solid and consistent than the fourth member of the world’s top 10 present at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy for the UTS, the No 10 David Goffin. The Belgian, who currently stagnates in sixth place in the rankings, has been defeated three times in six games and clearly does not display the same mastery of format as the Biterrois.
Above all, the top four in the standings have an important role to play in legitimising the first edition of the UTS, with two weeks before the end of the competition. There could be nothing better than three members of the top 10, accompanied by a virtuoso capable of playing the spoiler, to arouse the interest of the public. Especially since a second edition of the UTS is already on the cards.
Thiem and Berrettini Committed to Thiem’s 7 in early July
The last two weekends, as they are currently drawn, have everything they need to offer a great showcase. Tsitsipas, a pure product of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, where he has been training for five years, is the first player to have obtained five victories in the tournament. No other competitor has won more quarters than the Greek (16). More impressively, the Greek God has even scored 35 points more than Berrettini, second in the standings in that statistic. But Tsitsipas has yet to prove that he deserves his status as favourite by validating his form against direct competitors. At UTS, the world No 6 has only faced a single member of the Top 10, Thiem, and lost (3-1). He only defeated Gasquet at the 11th hour, in sudden death (3-2). Tsitsipas will have to impose himself more against Berrettini and Goffin, the other two top 10 players on the menu, to send a clear message to the other contenders as crunch time approaches.
— UTS | Ultimate Tennis Showdown (@UTShowdown) June 29, 2020
For his part, Berrettini is in ambush mode, and will play to win until the end. Since the start of the competition, The Hammer has stunned with his forehands and powerful serve. From the first weekend, he had dominated Goffin in this way (3-1). Last Saturday, he dealt Gasquet blow after blow (4-0); The Virtuoso was helpless against the Italian machine. The world No 8 briefly took first place in the ranking before Tsitsipas took it back the next day.
“I’m strangled!” Gasquet had mumbled, likening Berrettini’s shots to “bombs”.
Thiem’s forehands also resemble bombs and the Austrian has turned heads with that trademark firepower in this UTS. After getting his feet wet in his first match, which ended in a defeat against Gasquet, he has taken three top 10 scalps: Tsitsipas (3-1), Goffin (3-1) and Berrettini (3-1). All this even as he entered the tournament having played almost exclusively on clay since the post-confinement recovery. But there is still doubt as to his ability to keep his place at the top of the rankings until the end of the regular phase. Domi is committed to “Thiem’s 7”, a tournament organised by the entourage of the world No 3, from July 7 to 11, in Kitzbühel.
Thiem will therefore be absent on Saturday 11 July, the last day of the main tour of UTS1. He had already missed the first two meetings of the competition, the weekend of June 13, because of his participation in the first stage of the Adria Tour, in Serbia. With three fewer matches, Thiem’s chances of entering the Final 4 are mathematically diminished.
Berrettini is also committed to Thiem’s 7 and will miss his last match in the first phase. But with four wins in six matches since the start of the tournament and two more matches to play, the chances of seeing the Italian in the top four remain intact.
This is what UTS should hope for, so that the Final Four offers a final four worthy of a high-level tournament on the ATP circuit. There would be nothing better to immediately legitimise this newcomer to the tennis world.