Author: Peter Williams

Zverev wins second Madrid trophy in style

ALEXANDER Zverev has come from behind to down opponent Matteo Berrettini in the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open final yesterday, claiming his fourth ATP Masters 1000 trophy. The German fifth seed dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker after holding a set point, came out with vigour after that to win 6-7 6-4 6-3.

It was the Italian eighth seed’s first ever ATP Masters 1000 final, and whilst he started strongly and held his nerve in the opening tiebreaker, he could not halt the rampaging Zverev, who knocked off the two best clay courters in the world, in Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem back-to-back at the tournament. It was also Zverev’s third straight Top 10 win, and became the first time Zverev has won consecutive matches at three straight tournaments.

“It is great [to win this title], especially after losing my last three finals I played at Masters 1000 events,” Zverev said post-match. “This is definitely special and I just want to enjoy this one.”

It also marked the second Madrid title he has won after taking out the trophy in 2018, defeating Thiem in the final. He has a 15-2 record at the tournament, having competed in four events, and is his most successful ATP Masters tournaments. Despite Berrettini’s best efforts on serve – producing seven aces to Zverev’s five – and claiming the first set 10-8 in the tiebreaker after facing a set point, it would not be enough as Zverev broke the eighth seed four times to one throughout the contest.

“[Matteo’s] game style showed it all,” Zverev said. “I didn’t play anybody this week that can serve 235[km/h] on clay and serve 230km/h kick serves. It definitely was a different match and I am extremely happy right now.”

Berrettini won 72 per cent of his first serve points off a 67 per cent clip, but was eventually eclipsed by the German, who won 76 per cent at 69 per cent efficiency. Overall the points were fairly even, with Zverev winning 52 per cent of them, but won 37 per cent of his return points to Berrettini’s 31 per cent.

Both players will head to Rome to compete in another ATP Masters 1000 event, where the sixth seeded Zverev will face the winner of either Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, or Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien in the Round of 32. Berrettini is seeded ninth at the event, meaning he has to take on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Round of 64, before a second round clash with the winner of Australia’s John Millman or Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

MADRID MASTERS FINAL RESULT:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 6-7 6-4 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Sabalenka bites back with upset win over Barty

ARYNA Sabalenka has reversed the result of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in almost stunning style to defeat world number one Ash Barty and claim the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open title. The Belarusian fifth seed did not even drop a game in the first set – something she conceded to Barty in the second set of their previous final – before holding on in three sets to win, 6-0 3-6 6-4 4. It was Sabalenka’s first ever clay court WTA Tour title.

“I’m not really scared of this surface any more,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Before I was too much thinking about the clay court, that this is surface not for me, that it’s really tough to play on this surface, it’s long rallies. I was really too much thinking about this. This year I relaxed and just play my game. I worked a lot on the movement, so I prepare myself really well for the clay court.”

The win over Barty was an important one, having lost to Barty not only in the Stuttgart decider, but also the Miami Open quarter finals last month. Having not dropped a match in 16 encounters on clay, the Australian was the most in-form player in the competition. Sabalenka has traditionally struggled at high-level events, but defied her critics by beating the best in the world and winning the title.

“I wouldn’t compare match in Miami and here to Stuttgart,” Sabalenka said. “Stuttgart I was injured. “It’s tough to say anything about that match. “She was just unbelievable. “I gave her opportunity there, and she took it. “In Miami, it was really slow courts, long rallies. It was really hot. “There, physically I would say it was much harder to play against her than here.

“I think what I did really well here, I stayed focused from the beginning till the end. “I was putting her under the pressure, especially in the end of the third set. “In those key moments I was a little bit more aggressive. “That’s what really helped me to win this match.”

Sabalenka produced nine aces to three in the one-hour and 39-minute final, whilst winning 69.8 per cent of her first serve points, compared to Barty’s 62.5 per cent. She also broke the Australian five times to three – three of Sabalenka’s which came in the first set – and won 56.5 per cent of her return points. The defeat was hard to take for the Australian who took it with grace and said Sabalenka was outstanding, particularly in the first set.

“She takes the ball out of my court and essentially takes the racquet out of my hand when she serves the way she did in the first set,” Barty said post-match. “I gave her a few too many looks on second serves. “She’s able to dominate and take that away from me. “I guarantee it won’t be the last time that it happens. “I’ll continue to fight and try to find a way back in each and every time.”

MUTUA MADRID OPEN FINAL RESULT:

[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-0 3-6 6-4

Picture credit: Mutua Madrid Open

ATP Tour wrap: Berrettini books Zverev clash in Madrid final

EIGHTH seed Italian Matteo Berrettini has put recent inconsistent form behind him to post a strong semi-final win over Norwegian Casper Ruud and book his spot in the 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 clash. The Italian proved too good for the world number 22, winning 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 22 minutes to secure a spot in the decider against fifth seed Alexander Zverev. Berrettini, who served five aces and only dropped three points off his first serve – and five off his second – did not even face a break point on his way to an almighty win.

“It’s a great, unbelievable feeling, especially coming from Monte-Carlo where I wasn’t feeling that good,” Berrettini said post-match. “I won in Belgrade and now I’m in the final, so I’m really looking forward to playing against Sascha. I hope I enjoy it tomorrow the way I enjoyed tonight.”

Berrettini was unbeatable on serve, and managed to grab the required break in each set to down the clay court specialist Ruud, to step up and reach his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final, becoming just the third Italian in history to do so after Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner – both in the past three years.

“My serve is my weapon, but today I think I returned a lot and I put pressure on him,” Berrettini said. “I was just playing more aggressive. He’s kind of like me, he likes to run around the forehand and play with spin. But I guess today I was playing better than him.

“The other time he beat me, so it’s always a great fight against him. He [reached] three semi-finals in a row [also Monte-Carlo and Munich] so he was feeling confident. I guess that’s why I’m maybe even more happy with my win today.”

The Italian hit 24 winners and kept his defensive pressure high as Ruud could only manage the seven for the match. Despite the win, Berrettini knows who good his next opponent is – Zverev – considering his last two victories at Madrid.

“I saw him, he’s playing really good,” Berrettini said. “He’s solid. “He moves well. “For his height, he’s really good. “He serves well. “I mean, he’s in the final. “He beat Rafa [Nadal] and Dominic [Thiem], probably the best players on clay.”

After toppling Nadal in the quarter finals, Zverev claimed the semi-final win over the next best clay courter in reigning US Open winner Thiem, 6-3 6-4. The German served six aces to one and won 78 per cent of his first serve points off a 66 per cent clip. He broke Thiem three times from 11 chances, and was only broken once himself in a dominant performance against the Austrian. Zverev said he was pleased to get the win against an opponent who more often than not had his measure.

“We have had some fantastic matches. We have played the biggest matches in the world. We have played Masters 1000 finals, we have played Grand Slam finals and [the rivalry] is still developing,” Zverev said post-match interview. “It is still going to go on for a few more years. Hopefully we will play a few more amazing matches.”

After defeating Thiem in the 2019 Madrid Masters 1000 final, Zverev has reached his second decider at the event, and will need to take down Italian Berrettini to claim another huge title.

“It is going to mean a lot to me [if I can win the final]. I am definitely looking forward to it,” Zverev said. “I am definitely looking forward to playing another big final and I hope I can turn it my way this time.”

MADRID MASTERS 1000 SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Zverev stuns Nadal on clay for third straight win over top seed

ALEXANDER Zverev has found the winning formula to defeating Rafael Nadal, and it has now stretched to the clay courts, defeating the top seed Spaniard in straight sets to book a 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 semi-finals spot. The German fifth seed backed up his wins in the 2019 ATP Finals and 2020 Paris Masters with a third straight win in the Madrid Masters, but this victory was different. It was back on clay and in Nadal’s home nation, where the King of Clay is near-unbeatable. By the time the match ended, Zverev had won 6-4 6-4, coming back from 2-4 down in the first set to post the win in one hour and 44 minutes.

“[It is] definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said post-match. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

The German served four aces, won 82 per cent of his first serve points, and broke Nadal three times to one during the match to secure his spot in the last four. Zverev won here in 2018, and holds a 13-2 record, also not dropping a set thus far in the 2021 edition. In the 2018 final, Zverev knocked off Dominic Thiem, which was the only time the German has been the third seed Austrian on clay. Thiem has an 8-2 head-to-head record against Zverev, and 4-1 on clay including the memorable come-from-behind five-set US Open final.

“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. “I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. “I am looking forward to the match.”

Thiem had to get himself out of trouble after losing the first set and having to save several break points in the fifth game of the second set to remain in the contest against American John Isner, going on to post a three-set win. The Austrian broke his opponent in the penultimate game of the match to take out the deciding set and win, 3-6 6-3 6-4 to set up the huge semi-final with Zverev.

“I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve,” Thiem said post-match. “I was a little bit surprised by his return games. I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set].”

Isner served 18 aces without a double fault, and won 77 per cent of his first serve points. He managed to match Thiem on return points off his second serve, but could not convert more than one of his seven break point chances which proved costly. Thiem on the other hand managed to convert the two from four, and won a higher percentage of first serve points (79 per cent).

In the other quarter finals results, eighth seed Italian Matteo Berrettini came from a set down to storm to victory against 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin, not dropping a game in the deciding set to win, 5-7 6-3 6-0. That victory set up a final four meeting with Norwegian Casper Ruud who knocked off Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 7-5 6-1. Zverev and Thiem are up first at 4pm local time ahead of the women’s final between Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, with the Ruud-Berrettini semi-final at night.

MADRID MASTERS 1000 RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[3] Dominic Theim (AUT) defeated John Isner (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 5-7 6-3 6-0
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-5 6-1

Picture credit: ATP Tour

WTA Tour wrap: Barty holds firm as Badosa doubles up on Bencic win

WORLD number one Ash Barty has held firm to win her eleventh three-set contest in 2021 to advance through to the semi-finals of the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open. She has only dropped one three-set match – that coming at the Australian Open against Karolina Muchova in the quarter finals – but has claimed ever other full-distance match. The most recent was her quarter finals victory over another Czech, ninth seed Petra Kvitova, 6-1 3-6 6-3.

“It’s just always staying in the fight,” Barty said post-match. “Always staying in the hunt and never letting it slide away. That certainly doesn’t guarantee results, doesn’t guarantee success. It guarantees you give yourself the best chance to do what you do and to figure it out and to find your way.

“I think it’s important not to panic, but everyone emotionally has different ways that they play on the court. I have always been quite calm on the court. That’s just always been my demeanor. But for me, it’s more about just trusting myself and knowing that we just keep chipping away and trying to find a way – and then give yourself time to do that.”

Barty moved through to the final four with the win in one hour and 48 minutes, serving six aces to five, and winning 63.5 and 62.5 of her first and second serve points. She also saved five of seven break points, and broke her opponent four times from 12 opportunities. The win means Barty is strong favourite to take out another clay tournament, with the opponent she beat in the final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix – Aryna Sabalenka – the only seed remaining in the Madrid Open.

The Belarusian accounted for 13th seed Belgian Elise Mertens who was under clear duress, retiring at 6-1 4-0 down in the second set. Sabaleka had only dropped two points off her first serve by that stage – though was serving at a horrible 44.7 per cent efficiency – and nine points off her second serve. She saved all three break points, and broke Mertens a total of four times, and restricted the Belgian to just 15 points for the match. The pair often combine in doubles, and the fifth seed certainly had concern for her close friend who retired due to a left thigh injury.

“I feel really sorry for this, and I hope that she will get better soon,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Hopefully she will be ready for the next one in Rome.”

Before she could potentially face Barty, the Belarusian will come up against unseeded Spaniard Paula Badosa who is in some great form this year. Badosa accounted for eighth seed Belinda Bencic 6-4 7-5, defeating her for the second time in a fortnight having knocked her off at the Volvo Car Open in three sets. This time it was a lot easier, and with a win over Barty last tournament too, Badosa will be confident going forward, though admitted she was not so much heading into the match.

“I have to be honest, I was very nervous today,” Badosa said post-match. “Because sometimes these matches are a little bit tricky when you played her two, three weeks ago and you think in your head that you have that opportunity to make a semifinals. I was quite nervous, but I’m quite happy that I could control all the nerves and I could play my game quite good.”

In the other quarter final, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced through to the semi-finals to take on Barty for a spot in the final, needing just under two hours to win in a couple of tiebreakers against Muchova. The unseeded Russian won 7-4 in the first tiebreaker and 7-2 in the second one to bring about a stirring victory.

MADRID OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-1 3-6 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [13] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-1 4-0 RET
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated [8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-4 7-5
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Karolina Muchova (CZE) 7-6 7-6

Picture credit: Mutua Madrid Open

ATP Tour wrap: Popyrin upsets Sinner as Nadal smashes heir apparent

AUSTRALIAN rising star Alexei Popyrin has knocked off his Italian counterpart in straight sets, defeating Next-Gen ATP Finals winner Jannik Sinner, 7-6 6-2 at the Madrid Masters 1000. In a day of huge results, Popyrin booked his spot in the Round of 16 with the upset over the 14th seed, in a match that lasted 95 minutes. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker 7-5, Popyrin stormed away with some crucial breaks in the second set to win it well.

“I think it was to stay level-headed after I got broken in the first game. “We had a tactic that I tried to implement in the first game. “I couldn’t quite get my aim. But I knew I would have chances, like most do. “I just had to capitalise on them when they came,” Popyrin said post-match. “That’s what I did, I guess… I have had a pretty good record in tie-breaks this year. “I felt confident going into the tie-break. “I just tried to stay level-headed.”

The Australian won 75 per cent of his first serve points, putting down eight aces to Sinners’ none, and breaking him four times, whilst saving three of five break point opportunities himself. He advances through to the Round of 16 at the ATP Masters 1000 event to play the toughest opponent you can on this surface – King of Clay Rafael Nadal. The number one seeds destroyed the player many believe to be his heir apparent in teenager Carlos Alcaraz.

“He has a lot of potential. He’s young and [a] good guy,” Nadal said post-match. “He already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he’s going to be a fantastic player in the near future.

“I wish him all the very best. [As a] Spanish player and Spanish [tennis] fan, I really believe that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”

The birthday boy – turning 18-years-old on the day of the loss was no match for the raging Nadal, who continued his ridiculous winning streak on clay with a 6-1 6-2 victory. Nadal won in just 78 minutes on court, only dropping five points off his first serve, and attacking Alcaraz’s serve with a massive 63 per cent success rate. In what was ultimately one-sided traffic the whole way through, the teenager got a lesson in what it takes to be the best, winning just 27 points for the match (33 per cent) and watching poetry in motion.

On facing Popyrin in the Round of 16, Nadal said he was looking forward to the challenge and had liked what he had seen from the Australian who had some big weapons he would need to be ready for in the clash.

“He has a huge serve, great forehand, young… Another tough opponent. But here we are in Masters 1000, so we can’t expect another thing,” Nadal said. “I hope to be ready to play well. That’s what I am going to need every single day if I want to have chances to keep playing. Tomorrow is another tough battle. I hope to be ready.”

In other results, fifth seed Alexander Zverev strolled past Kei Nishikori to set up a Round of 16 clash with Brit Daniel Evans, following the latter’s come-from-behind win over Australian John Millman. American John Isner upset ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the Spaniard’s home country, 6-4 6-7 7-6 in a match that went down to the wire of two hours and 23 minutes. The other seed to fall was Diego Schwartzman, with the seventh seed Argentinian knocked out by Russian Aslan Karatsev 2-6 6-4 6-1, while clay court specialist Casper Ruud won through to have a crack against fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas who destroyed Benoit Paire. Other winners were 16th seed Cristian Garin and Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [WC] Carlos Alcaraz 6-1 6-2
[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 4-6 6-4 6-2
[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-1 6-2
[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-3 6-2
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [7] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2-6 6-4 6-1
John Isner (USA) defeated [9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-4 6-7 7-6
[Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [14] Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-6 6-2
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-3 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [LL] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-1 6-2
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-7 6-2 6-3
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 7-6 6-3

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Basilashvili and Ramos-Vinolas grab titles ahead of Madrid

NIKOLOZ Basilashvili and Albert Ramos-Vinolas have added titles to their trophy cabinets with respective ATP Tour finals wins in the BMW Open and Estoril Open overnight. Georgian Basilashvili defeated seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff to claim his fifth ATP Tour title, knocking off the German in his maiden final, whilst seven seed Spaniard Ramos Vinolas grabbed his third title with a come-from-behind win over unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie.

Basilashvili won 6-4 7-6 in one hour and 26 minutes, weathering a storm of 13 aces to put down six himself, whilst breaking Struff the one from two chances and saving the only break point he faced. It was truly a match of the power servers, and the Georgian was able to capitalise more, only dropping 16 points on serve in total, which was five less than his German opponent, as both players were ultra-impressive, but the Georgian won in the clutch moments, including a 7-5 second set tiebreak.

“It wasn’t easy and I was super-tight at the end,” Basilashvili said post-match. “It was very difficult. It’s never easy playing Jan, he’s a very big fighter and serves really well. I am super happy. It seems like German conditions suit me. This is my fifth [ATP Tour] title and it will give me confidence for the upcoming tournaments.”

In Portugal, Ramos-Vinolas found himself a set down against an in-form Norrie who wanted to move to outright third on the table of 2021 ATP Tour wins this year. Unfortunately for the Brit – who was subsequently searching for his maiden ATP Tour title like Struff – the Spaniard had other ideas, coming back to win the second set, then holding out in a third set tiebreaker 7-3, to win 4-6 6-3 7-6 in two hours and 44 minutes. Ramos-Vinolas served eight aces to Norrie’s six, and won 66 and 59 per cent of his first and second serve points compared to the Brit’s 62 and 49 per cent, though both players broke an identical four times from 11 chances.

“It means a lot [to win the title]. I won three tournaments in my career, so this is one of the best three weeks in my career. I am really happy,” Ramos-Vinolas said post-match. “It was a really difficult match against Cameron. I think he played a really good tournament. I am happy for me, but he is a really good friend of mine and I am sorry for him, because I think he deserved to win the tournament as [much as] me.”

Ramos-Vinolas moved to 16 wins on clay courts on the 2021 ATP Tour, nine clear of his nearest rivals which will hold him in good stead ahead of the Madrid Open which got underway with the first few matches. Eleventh seed Denis Shapovalov moved through with a convincing 6-1 6-3 victory over Serbian Dusan Lajovic, with Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik and United States’ Tommy Paul also claiming straight sets victories over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and Spaniard Pedro Martinez respectively. In the closest match of the day, Australian Alex de Minaur came from behind to defeat Spanish wildcard Jaume Munar, 4-6 7-5 6-1 to moved through to the Round of 32.

BMW OPEN FINAL RESULT:

Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-4 7-6

ESTORIL OPEN FINAL RESULT:

[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 4-6 6-3 7-6

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-1 6-3
Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated [WC] Jaume Munar (ESP) 4-6 7-5 6-1
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-6 6-3
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated [WC] Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-4 7-5

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Struff eyes off maiden title in home nation

GERMAN Jan-Lennard Struff will eye off his maiden ATP Tour title after downing Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka to reach the final of the BMW Open in Munich. The 87-minute victory came after Ivashka had disposed of his top ranked compatriot Alexander Zverev in the quarter finals, with Struff doing it a lot easier, 6-4 6-1 in 87 minutes of action.

The seventh seed’s win mean the home nation hero was finally able to break through to an ATP Tour final after previously reaching the semi-final stage of an ATP Tour tournament on seven occasions. Having been broken early and trailing 3-0, Struff looked in a bit of trouble until he won 12 of the next 13 games in a one-sided result much to the pleasure of the German crowd.

“I am happy to have reached my first final on home soil in Germany and I will try my best tomorrow,” Struff said post-match.

The German will now face fellow unseeded talent Nikoloz Basilashvili who has been there and done it before, collecting four ATP Tour titles, the most recent of which occurred in Doha earlier this year. Much like Struff the Georgian also came from a slight deficit – albeit only the opening game in this case – to string together the next nine matches to win the first set 6-1 and lead 3-0 against second seed Casper Ruud. Basilashvili eventually won the second set 6-2 with three of the last four games, to upset the highly ranked Norwegian and roll into the decider.

“I am feeling good and I am feeling fresh,” Basilashvili said post-match. “I am looking forward to the final. “I feel confident here and the court suits me, so it will be an interesting match tomorrow as we played recently in Italy.”

The interesting factor will be Basilashvili’s extra workload during the day after the Georgian defeated Slovenian lucky loser Norbert Gombos 6-4 6-4, and Ruud had taken down Australian eighth seed John Millman in the other quarter final 6-3 6-4, before having to head out on court for the semi-final last night.

Meanwhile in the other ATP 250 event, unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie booked his unlikely spot in the Estoril Open final in Portugal. Norrie overcame sixth seed Marin Cilic to make his way into the decider following two tight sets 7-6 7-5, and will take on seventh seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in today’s final after the Spaniard took care of compatriot, eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the other semi-final, 6-1 6-4.

“I was really tough. I started a little bit slow and managed to ease my way into the match. [I] played really good when break point down and went after it,” Norrie said post-match. “[Marin] was serving great and it was really tricky to get his first serve back… I am fortunate to get through and I am just happy to be in my second final.”

Norrie is having some sort of season, having claimed 18 ATP Tour victories this season, ranked equal third overall with Italian Jannik Sinner, behind Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, and red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev (26). Going into outright third might be a challenge in this match though, as the Brit looks to overcome a 2-0 head-to-head advantage that Ramos-Vinolas has in their clashes thus far.

BMW OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [2] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-1 6-2
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-4 6-1

BMW OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [8] John Millman (AUS) 6-3 6-4
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [LL] Norbert Gombos (SLO) 6-4 6-4

ESTORIL OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [6] Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 7-5
[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 6-1 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

WTA Tour wrap: Top seeds all survive day two in Madrid

NAOMI Osaka was among all eight seeds to book their spot in the Madrid Open second round, following a straight sets win over compatriot Misaki Doi. In her first clay event in almost two years, Osaka overcame some early resistance from Doi to post a 7-5 6-2 victory and move through to the Round of 32.

“When I was playing on clay that year, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” Osaka said post-match. “The two matches that I lost, it was more mental than it was physical. “Like, I didn’t feel uncomfortable sliding or I didn’t feel that tired. “So I’m actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.”

Osaka was one of four Top 10 seeds to advance through to the second round, with sixth seed Karolina Pliskova coming back from a set down to shake off teenage talent Coco Gauff in three sets. Pliskova won 5-7 6-3 6-2 in a tight contest to eventually finish the stronger of the pair and post a comfortable victory.

“We never played so it was definitely a difficult match. “I think I didn’t start really well, but later in the match, I was finding by game and finding my serve. “This was very important in this match because she can also serve very big,” Pliskova said post-match.

“I’m super happy that I’m through. “I’ve played one semifinal here, so I’ve had a couple of good matches here in the past, but I’m hoping to hopefully improve my game in the next match.”

Third seed Simona Halep started like a house on fire by racing to a 6-0 first set win, before having more of a struggle against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second set, eventually getting up 6-0 7-5. The other Top 10 seed to advance was fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka who destroyed Russian Zera Zvonareva in 66 minutes, 6-1 6-2.

Fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka won in three sets over Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, with 13th seed Elise Mertens and 16th seed Maria Sakkari also advanced into the Round of 32, with Sakkari remarkably going 6-0 down against American Amanda Anisimova before getting up 0-6 6-1 6-4.

In other results, Russian duo Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina both won through to the next stage, with a mixed bag for the Chinese hopefuls. Saisai Zheng defeated Poland’s Magda Linette in three sets, before Wang Qiang went down to Karolina Muchova in a disappointing 6-1 6-3 loss. Also through to the second round were Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, Estonia’ Anett Kontaveit and United States’ Jessica Pegula.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 7-5 6-2
[3] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-0 7-5
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-1 6-2
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-2
[11] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-2 6-4
[12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-5 3-6 6-1
[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-3 6-3
[16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Amanda Anisimova (USA) 0-6 6-1 6-4
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-4 6-0
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-3 6-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Madison Keys (USA) 7-5 6-2
Saisai Zheng (CHN) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 7-6 6-3
Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 7-6 7-5
Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-1 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 4-6 6-4 7-6

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

ATP Tour wrap: Qualifier stuns Zverev as Munich hosts thrillers

TOP seed and tournament favourite Alexander Zverev is out of the 2021 BMW Open in Munich, Germany after going down in a nail-biter to Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka. With just two matches on court to start the quarter finals, the German fans through they might come away with back-to-back wins after seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff held on against a determined Filip Krajinovic in three sets, but it was not to be.

In the first game, Struff needed all three sets to dismiss Krajinovic, with the seventh seed German winning 6-4 4-6 7-6 over the fourth seed Serbian. The deciding set tiebreaker went to 7-3, and was part of a whopping three-flat hours before the fast-serving Struff could advance. In those three hours, Struff put down 15 aces to Krajinovic’s six, whilst winning 77 per cent of his first serve points. By comparison the Serbian only won 58 per cent, but managed to save 11 of 16 break points, while Struff also defended well, saving eight of 13.

After Struff got up, the confidence of the home fans was sky-high to set up an all-German semi-final with Zverev out on court against Ivashka. After being pushed all the way in the first set, the number one seed prevailed 7-5 in the tiebreaker to take an early lead, and when the German served for the match at 5-4, many fans were expecting to head home shortly after. Ivashka had other ideas however, breaking the serve and winning the next three games – and nine of the last 12 0 to sail to victory, 6-7 7-5 6-3.

“This match was really tough for me and I was [close to losing] in the second set,” Ivashka said post-match. “I managed well and I tried stay in and fight until the last moment to see if he would give [me] chances and it happened.”

It was Ivashka first-ever Top 10 win, and his break in the seventh game of the second set helped him hold on and record a memorable come-from-behind victory, as both players serve five aces, but Zverev produced 10 more double faults. Ivashka saved six of nine break point opportunities, while breaking Zverev at a 50 per cent rate (five of 10).

“I just came to play match after match,” Ivashka said. “I knew that I had played well [in the] previous weeks… but I was not expecting [this run].”

Tomorrow is a hectic day with the two quarter finals – between second seed Casper Ruud and eighth seed John Millman, and fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili and lucky loser Norbert Gombos – taking place, as well as both semi-finals between the winners of those games, and the Struff-Ivashka clash.

Meanwhile in Estoril, unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie stunned second seed Cristian Garin in a come-from-behind victory on clay, saluting 3-6 7-5 6-3 in a nail-bitter to advance through to the semi-finals. Norrie broke three times to two in the two-hour and 28-minute clash, winning 59 per cent of his second serves to Garin’s 43 per cent to be the difference in an otherwise relatively even match. Norrie will now face sixth seed Marin Cilic who had an easy day out by winning a tiebreaker in the first set before South African Kevin Anderson retired. In the other quarter finals, seventh seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina both won through to set up an all-Spanish semi-final following wins over respective Frenchmen, Corentin Moutet and third seed Ugo Humbert.

BMW OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated [1] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-7 7-5 6-3
[7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [4] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-4 4-6 7-6

ESTORIL OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [2] Cristian Garin (CHI) 3-6 7-5 6-3
[8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [3] Ugo Humbert (GRA) 6-4 6-4
[6] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6 0-0 RET
[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images