Tag: Andrey Rublev

ATP Tour wrap: Berrettini, Humbert claim maiden ATP 500 titles

TWO huge ATP 500 finals played out overnight, with the resulting winners proving relentless in both Halle, Germany and London, England as both victors claimed their maiden ATP 500 titles in the process. World number 31 Ugo Humbert upset fourth seed Russian Andrey Rublev in Germany, whilst in London it was top seed Matteo Berrettini who downed British hopeful Cameron Norrie on home soil.

Both competitors came away with intriguing finishes, as Humbert went 3-0 in finals wins, with his former two both ATP 250 events in 2020, whilst Berrettini was the first player to win on debut at Cinch since a 17-year-old Boris Becker in 1985.

“[It was an] unbelievable week,” Berrettini said. “If I think about [Boris’] name and my name, it’s crazy. I was dreaming about playing this tournament. I was watching [it] when I was a kid and now I had the chance to lift the trophy, so it’s a dream come true.”

Berrettini required one hour and 57 minutes to get his hands on the cinch trophy, overcoming Norrie 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3. He utilised his service games, and served up a whopping 19 aces for one double fault throughout the three sets, winning 91 per cent of his first serve points off a 76 per cent clip.

“It was definitely a really good week. When you win a tournament, it means that you’re playing good. But I think during the tournament, after every match I was increasing my level,” Berrettini said. “I think today I had to play my best tennis, especially in the important points, to win… I’m really happy with my performance overall.”

Norrie was searching for a maiden ATP Tour level title, with his fourth final – and third of the season – going the same way as his first three, however proving there is plenty of success to come in the future for the 25-year-old.

“He’s a great player. We never played each other and I think this year he’s shown how he can play on all surfaces,” Berrettini said. “He’s made finals, he’s playing great tennis… I’m sure he’s going to lift a title really soon.”

“I think I played okay. The first set I just donated him the break, and that was the first set. I didn’t have any really chances on his serve,” Norrie said. “But he’s tricky because he’s obviously serving very good [on the] first and second serve, and then you’re back to serving very quickly. Obviously not easy, but I did everything I could.”

For Humbert, it was a straight sets sweep that was by no means straightforward against Rublev, requiring 87 minutes to take down the Russian 6-3 7-6(4).

“It is incredible. It is the best victory of my career,” Humbert said. “I am very proud because it wasn’t easy. I was a little bit tired, but I tried to stay focused on each point, and did what I could, so it is very nice.

“I tried to stay aggressive and take the ball early because in the baseline rallies it was tough, because Andrey was hitting the ball very hard. Physically, it was tough, and I tried to take my chances when I could, and I won.”

The 22-year-old left-hander won 85 per cent of his first serve points off a 73 per cent clip and hit nine aces on his way to victory, and saved both break points opportunities that came his way.

“It has been a really great week for me, with my first grass final,” Rublev said. “It was not easy in the beginning. Everything was so fast, just one or two shots. At 3-4 I hit three second serves in a row and he returned twice deep and with the new balls it was really tough.”

“The second set was good for both of us. In the tie-break I had a big chance with the forehand but I missed them, but it happens and I can’t control it. He was serving very well.”

In Spain, the Mallorca Championships have begun with the opening day of events seeing just two matches play out, with Spaniard Pablo Andujar falling to Jordan Thompson in three, unable to contain the Australian’s 14 aces, whilst Frenchman Adrian Mannarino overcame german Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 6-3.

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL RESULT:

[1] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-4 6-7 6-3

NOVENTI OPEN FINAL RESULT:

Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated [4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-3 7-6

MALLORCA CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 6-3
Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 2-6 7-6 6-2

 

Picture credit: Getty Images for LTA

ATP Tour wrap: Norrie books home final as young guns to face off in Halle

CAMERON Norrie is one win away from claiming his maiden ATP Tour title after reaching the final of the Cinch Championships. Playing in front of a home London crowd, the Brit knocked off second seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov in an upset, to advance through to the final to take on top seed Matteo Berrettini.

Norrie won 7-5 6-3 against Shapovalov – who had to do the double following his quarter finals win over Frances Tiafoe earlier in the day – for the world number 41 to stake his case for a seeding at Wimbledon. The 29-year-old had already reached a career-high in the world rankings, but he showed out on court he is not done yer, winning 76 and 57 per cent of his first and second serves off a 65 per cent clip against the Canadian to win in one hour and 34 minutes.

“I think I played very, very well today, I was extremely clutch on some of the big points,” Norrie said post-match. “I am so pleased to be through to the final here, I can’t even describe it. It has not really sunk in yet. It is nice to get over the line there, and all credit to Denis, it was a tough match.

“It is a huge tournament for me and one of my biggest achievements so far, so I couldn’t be more pleased with myself. Let’s see if I can win one more tomorrow.”

Norrie has previously come runner-up in two events in Lyon and Estoril, and he will be hoping to go one better against Berrettini in the Cinch Championships final. Berrettini has enjoyed an impressive season with a 25-6 record to bounce back from a forgettable 2020 year, and is yet to drop a set in London, defeating fourth seed Alex de Minaur 6-4 6-4 in the semi-finals in 84 minutes on court.

“That was the goal of the week [making the final], and now I have one more step. It is a great achievement, especially for the history of this tournament. I am really happy because to beat Alex today, I had to play my best tennis,” Berrettini said post-match.

“The mentality is that I always think I can win my service games. “I know that I have a big weapon with my serve and first shot. “If I sleep too well it means something is off ahead of the final. “I have to be nervous and tight a little bit, otherwise the adrenaline does not kick in and it is tougher to play.”

Meanwhile in Halle, fourth seed Andrey Rublev will look to continue his remarkable form at ATP 500 tournaments in the past 18 months, taking care of Georgian qualifier and Top 30 player Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets, 6-1 3-6 6-3 to book his spot in the final. He needed an hour and 51 minutes to claim the win, serving six aces without a double fault, only broken once from two chances, and breaking Basilashvili three teams from eight opportunities.

“It’s my first final on grass and in Halle,” Rublev said post-match. “I think I can play on every surface and I will try my best again tomorrow. I had good opportunities to break him (Basilashvili) in the second set, some quite easy forehands and I stressed a little showing my emotions. I then came back and stayed calm, until the last game. But I won.”

Rublev will now look to take down a red-hot Ugo Humbert who left fellow young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime in his wake. The unseeded Frenchman knocked off Auger-Aliassime 6-4 3-6 7-6 to reach the Noventi Open final, with a 7-5 deciding set tiebreaker being the difference. The match lasted two hours and 34 minutes, with Humbert weathering 14 aces. and serving eight of his own, and saving eight break points, to go toe-for-toe in the power-packed contest and reverse the result from Auger-Aliassime’s triumph in Stuttgart last week.

“It was an amazing match from both of us, but it was very tough physically and mentally,” Humbert said post-match. “I’m very proud to win this match, it was exceptional. “It gives me a lot of confidence [winning matches like this], and when you win some matches 7-6 two times in the third set.”

NOVENTI OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-1 3-6 6-3
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-4 3-6 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [2] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 7-5 6-3
[1] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-4

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3 6-4

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Future of tennis advance across globe

THERE was a distinct feeling of the ATP Tour’s future being on display as the next wave of talent advanced through to the semi-finals in the Noventi Open and Cinch Championships. Whilst one quarter final – between second seed Denis Shapovalov and American Frances Tiafoe – is yet to get underway at London, the other seven events across the two tournaments played out.

At the Cinch Championships, two of the home nation heroes were dumped out of the tournament at the expense of one local talent, as Cameron Norrie advanced through to the semis by defeating compatriot and wildcard Jack Draper. Norrie won 6-3 6-3 to advance through to the final four, with the 25-year-old the second oldest winner on the ATP Tour yesterday. The world number 41 has had a great 2021 season, winning 28 of 40 matches, and needed 86 minutes to dismiss the 19-year-old talent.

”With the conditions, it was very different compared to the last couple of days,” Norrie said post-match. “Jack has been playing some really good tennis, and all credit to him, he was serving big. “I think the slower conditions today suited me a little bit more. I managed to play some really good tennis towards the end of the first set and start of the second.”

“It was not easy as the court was pretty slippery towards the end, but I am really pleased to be through. “I am happy with how I handled everything. It is a lot of fun to have this momentum and keep it rolling, but I think there are a lot of things I can improve on still.”

Norrie will take on the winner of Shapovalov and Tiafoe tomorrow once the pair face off early, whilst the other semi-final will be between a couple of rising stars in top seed Matteo Berrettini and fourth seed Alex de Minaur. Berrettini knocked off sixth seed Brit Daniel Evans, and de Minaur claimed a victory over impressive grass court veteran Marin Cilic, both matches going 7-6 6-3 in tight circumstances.

Over in Germany, fourth seed Andrey Rublev rolled on into the final four, taking out the last remaining home nation talent in Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 6-2. He advanced through to the semis to now face Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili who has already claimed two titles this year in a real brilliant or terrible season boasting a 16-15 win-loss record.

“I am happy with my performance to reach the semi-finals for the first time,” Rublev said post-match. “The first set was really tough. He was 3-0 up in the tie-break and I came back, which was the key. “After the first set, I think he mentally went down and I was pumped up. I hit a couple of good returns in the first game of the second set.”

The pair are 2-2 in the head-to-head battle, whilst another couple of young guns in Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frenchman Ugo Humbert lock horns in the other semi-final. Both giant-killers in the Round of 16, Auger-Aliassime took down grass court legend Roger Federer in a come-from-behind win, as Humbert dislodged tournament favourite Alexander Zverev in a tight three sets. In the quarter finals, the Canadian had an easier time out, rolling past American qualifier Marcos Giron in just 58 minutes, 6-3 6-2, whilst Humbert fought back from losing the second set in a tiebreaker to Sebastian Korda to claim a 6-2 6-7 6-4 win.

“I’ve been playing well these past two weeks, believing in myself a lot and dominating my service games,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “As soon as I got the break [in the first set], I feel like I loosened up and things were just going better and better.

“I don’t think Marcos played his best match, I’ve seen him play great matches before and beat Top 10 opponents… but in the end, I think I was able to put a lot of pressure on him and dictate the points. “So I can be happy with my performance.”

NOVENTI OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-6 6-2
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [Q] Marcos Giron (USA) 6-3 6-2
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-2 6-7 6-4
[Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [6] Daniel Evans (GBR) 7-6 6-3
[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [WC] Jack Draper (GBR) 6-3 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Auger-Aliassime derails Fed Express as seeds slip on grass

FELIX Auger-Aliassime has taken out one of the best grass court players of all-time, defeating Roger Federer in a come-from-behind three-set win at the Noventi Open in Halle, Germany. The unseeded Canadian was one of four winners into the quarter finals at the event, coming back from a first set loss to pounce 4-6 6-3 6-2 over the fifth seed Swiss star in one hour and 45 minutes on court.

Auger-Aliassime served 13 aces to five, and dominated his first serve, only dropping six points for the entire match. Whilst Federer managed to break him and reduced his second serve success rate to 62 per cent, it was still higher than the former world number one, who had a 62 and 53 per cent off his first and second serve winning rate respectively. By comparison, Federer faced 15 break points, and whilst he saved 12 of them, was constantly under pressure from the young Canadian who posted a win over his “childhood idol”.

“It’s a great victory, it’s good for my confidence. It was already a great challenge for me to play a player like Roger, but to beat him, it’s a great thing,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “It makes me really happy. But at the end, it’s the quarter-finals in two days.

“If it was the final, then I’d be really happy… it’s another step in the tournament, it’s a great match, so hopefully I can keep on going like that.”

Auger-Aliassime will now face American qualifier Marcos Giron who upset home nation hero Jan-Lennard Struff in three sets. Despite knocking off the top seed Daniil Medvedev in the Round of 32, Struff was not able to capitalise against Giron who won 6-7 6-3 6-4 in impressive style. It was better news for Struff’s compatriot in wildcard Philipp Kohlschreiber who defeated Frenchman Corentin Moutet in straight sets 6-4 7-6, to face off against fourth seed Russian Andrey Rublev in the next round. Rublev defeated Australian Jordan Thompson in a straightforward 6-4 6-4 match to earn his place in the final eight at Halle.

Meanwhile over in London, a couple of seeds fell and some Great Britain talents moved through in their home event on the grass. The only seed to advance to the quarter finals thus far was fourth seed Alex de Minaur who knocked off compatriot John Millman in straight sets, 6-1 6-3 to book his spot in the next round. Fifth seed Aslan Karatsev and eighth seed Fabio Fognini both fell in the second round, losing to unseeded players Cameron Norrie and Marin Cilic.

“I’m very close to Johnny, so I want him to do as well as possible and would have loved for him to be on the other side of the draw and go deep,” de Minaur said post-match. “In a way, it also brings a certain level of respect towards the match and in some ways it actually helps me. “I can kind of tell myself to be more focused and try to worry about my side of the court more. “I think I handled that very well today and [I am] very happy with my performance.”

Norrie knocked off Karatsev 7-5 6-2 to advance to the quarter finals, while Cilic won in straight sets over Fognini, 6-3 7-6. The Norrie victory was one of two for the home nation to cheer about, as wildcard Jack Draper upset the tricky and unseeded Kazakh Alexander Bublik in two tiebreakers. Draper won 7-5 in the first tiebreaker and 7-0 in the second for a 7-6 7-6 overall win and ability to secure a quarter finals spot.

“A huge win for me and definitely a big step up from my first round on Monday,” Norrie said post-match following his win over Australian Open semi-finalist Karatsev. “All credit to him, he’s having a great year. “He’s won a lot this year, so it’s a huge win for me and another match on the grass. It’s all invaluable stuff.”

NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-4 6-4
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [5] Roger Federer (SUI) 4-6 6-3 6-2
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-7 6-3 6-4
[WC] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-1 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [5] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 7-5 6-2
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [8] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 7-6
[WC] Jack Draper (GBR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-6 7-6

Picture credit: Thomas F. Starke/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Murray makes successful return as Medvedev struggles on grass

THE second day at both the Halle Noventi Open in Germany and Cinch Championships in London produced some big results, with the top seed at the first event defeated in straight sets, while a former world number one returned to the winners list at Cinch.

It was Jan-Lennard Struff who claimed a huge win at Halle, overcoming Daniil Medvedev on the grass for one of the biggest wins of his career. Despite being 2-5 down in the first, Struff fired up to force a first set tiebreak, claiming the first before dominating the second to register the 7-6(6) 6-3 victory.

“He served for the [first] set at 6-5 and twice went for an ace on a second serve and I put returns in at 30/30 and 30/40. I then played a very good tie-break and at 5-1 up in the second set,” Struff explained.

“This is the biggest win — [FedEx ATP] Rankings wise — of my career and to do it here on home soil is very special… I live only an hour from here.”

“It is better to play him on grass rather than hard courts. I have a good game for grass and I like to come in. The wins at Roland Garros definitely gave me a confidence boost.”

Medvedev’s compatriot and fellow seed Andrey Rublev was more fortunate, downing another Russian Karen Khachanov in straight sets, 6-3 7-6. While Rublev ranked higher and has recent form to back him up, Khachanov is a former semi-finalist at Halle and would not go down without a fight.

“I was waiting for this match to feel this tension,” Rublev said. “I needed to feel the pressure and I am happy with my performance today in my first match on grass.”

Meanwhile, Struff was not the only German to reign supreme on home soil, joined by third seed Alexander Zverev and wildcard Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round. Zverev was forced to overcome a second set resurgence from compatriot Dominik Koepfer while Kohlschreiber claimed a comparatively straightforward win over Austrian Jurij Rodionov. The remaining German in this half of the draw, lucky loser Yannick Hanfmann, fell in straight sets to qualifier Arthur Rinderknech.

Eighth seed Gael Monfils was knocked out by the hard-hitting Lloyd Harris, 6-4 6-4, with the South African winning 29 of his 33 first serve points on his way to victory, hitting six aces in the process. A couple more qualifiers joined the winners list with both Nikoloz Basilashvili and Lukas Lacko surviving three-setters to claim victory, as the former overcame another Frenchman Gilles Simon, while the latter battled through a tight opening set tiebreaker deficit to lead the remainder of his clash with Argentinian Guido Pella. The remaining winners on Day 2 at Halle were Felix Auger-AliassimeUgo Humbert and Kei Nishikori.

At the Queen’s Club in London, Andy Murray claimed his first win on grass since 2018 with a 6-3 6-2 sweep of out-of-form Frenchman Benoit Paire. The wildcard Brit required just 64 minutes to take out victory, firing 20 winners and 13 unforced errors throughout.

“I love it. I love playing tennis,” Murray said post-match. “Obviously competing is why you put in all the hard work. In the last few years I didn’t get to do that as much as I would have liked, so it’s great that I’m out here and able to compete again.”

“The body is old, but I did quite well today in terms of my movement and stuff,” Murray said. “It’s my first match on grass in three years and I’ve only played two or three practice sets in the buildup to this. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to play or how I was going to feel, but I think for a first match it was good.”

It was a good day to be a seed at the Cinch Championships, with all five of the day’s seeds proceeding including almost identical tight results to top see Matteo Berrettini and second seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov. Berrettini was well and truly challenged by compatriot Stefano Travaglia, with the two Italians battling hard throughout seeing a 7-6(5) 7-6(4) result.

“It’s always a fight [against Stefano]. We know each other pretty well,” Berrettini said. “We’ve played twice on the ATP Tour, but we’ve played so many more times in Futures, so I’ve known this guy for a long time. He’s always a great opponent, so well done to him. But I’m happy for my win.

“It really helps me to have so many [Italian] guys [in the Top 100] because you find new energy, and our quality is really high. We practise with each other all the time… It’s really helpful.”

Shapovalov was similarly challenged by qualifying Australian Aleksandar Vukic, needing every one of his 20 aces to overcome the qualifier 7-6(6) 7-6(6). Shapovalov may not have lost serve throughout and won 90 per cent of his first serve points to claim victory, but the Canadian explained the clash was anything but easy, with Vukic trailing on a similarly impressive 85 per cent first serve winning rate.

“Definitely not an easy, breezy match,” Shapovalov said post-match. “I think we both just served amazing today. I feel obviously very lucky to win this match today. It could have gone either way, so I’m very, very proud of myself.”

“Any time of the grass-court season, it’s super tough to get a rhythm, so it’s very important to serve big.”

Fourth seed Australian Alex de Minaur returned to the winners list with a come-from-behind victory over Serbian Laslo Djere, while sixth seed Brit Daniel Evans got the goods over the third Australian competitor of the day in Alexei Popyrin, 6-4 6-4. Italian Fabio Fognini was the remaining seed who reigned supreme, tested by Yen Hsun Lu before coming away with the straight sets win, 6-4 7-6.

The last three winners of the day required three sets apiece to claim victory, with Frances Tiafoe coming from a set down to defeat Aljaz Bedene, while Marin Cilic and Alexander Bublik overcame second set slumps to head into the second round.

HALLE NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [1] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-6 6-3
[3] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-3 7-6
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [8] Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-4 6-4
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-3 7-5
[Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 3-6 6-4
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Sam Querrey (USA) 4-6 7-6 7-6
[WC] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated Jurij Rodionov (AUT) 6-4 6-3
[Q] Lukas Lacko (SVK) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-7 7-5 6-1
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-3 2-6 6-2
[Q] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) defeated [LL] Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 7-5 6-3

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-6 7-6
[2] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated [Q] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 7-6 7-6
[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[6] Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-4 6-4
[8] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Yen Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-4 7-6
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [Q] Sebastian Ofner (AUT) 6-2 6-7 7-6
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[WC] Andy Murray (GBR) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-3 6-2
Frances Tiafoe (USA) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 4-6 6-3 6-4

ATP Tour wrap: Frenchmen falter as Djokovic and Nadal claim quick wins

DAY 3 at the 2021 Roland Garros produced some intriguing results, with two of the top seeds in Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal retaining their winning form with respective straight set wins, while Andrey Rublev‘s Roland Garros run was cut dastardly short.

The world number seven struggled to keep up with German Jan-Lennard Struff early in the three hour and 46 minute first round clash before stealing momentum throughout the third and fourth sets to send the match to a decider. But despite a late challenge, Rublev was too late as Struff heads through to the Round of 64 with the 6-3 7-6 4-6 3-6 6-4 victory in the books.

“I played Andrey twice this year, lost twice in three sets, played twice a very good first set but couldn’t get the job done,” Struff said. “Definitely it’s a huge win for me in a Grand Slam against a top-10 player. Yeah, very, very important.”

The hard-hitting German piled on 25 aces throughout the contest, and despite hitting more unforced errors (55-47) and less winners (63-65) and winning the same amount of overall points (170), Struff was more consistent than Rublev, who was inefficient on serve in comparison.

“I mean, of course I was thinking that I would like to come back from 2-0, but I don’t know, the fifth set I was a bit unlucky,” Rublev said.

“I was feeling fine, I was practising well, I don’t know,” Rublev said. “I think we played a good level today. It’s not easy. He’s a really tough opponent for the first round, really tough, plus he’s playing better and better. He’s improving and he’s winning really great matches.”

For Djokovic and Nadal, their opening rounds were made much easier with the world number one and three claiming wins in straight sets. Djokovic appeared refreshed on court against American Tennys Sandgren, coming straight in off the back of a title in Belgrade over the weekend and not skipping a beat.

“They (Serbian fans) gave me a lot of energy and encouragement,” Djokovic said. “I felt great. I don’t think that I lost a lot of energy there, on the contrary I gained a lot, so hopefully I’ll be able to carry that into this tournament.

“He was close to breaking my serve. I somehow found really a lot of serves when I needed them and that got me out of trouble,” he continued. “Overall I am very pleased with the way I felt on the court tonight.”

Despite a late charge from Australian Alexei Popyrin, Nadal was rarely challenged in his first round matchup, coming from two match points down to dominate in the tiebreaker and claim the 6-3 6-2 7-6 victory in just under two and a half hours. While Popyrin hit six more winners (34-28), he struggled with unforced errors (43-23) with late errors in the third set hurting his chances of stealing a set from the clay court master.

“It’s his court,” said Popyrin, about playing Nadal on the main court Philippe Chatrier. “It will always be his court. I think it’s his favourite court to play on. And to nearly get a set out of him playing my first time on that court is a good achievement for me, but I’m still disappointed with it.”

“Here, especially on clay, the matches are best-of-five, the matches are long and it’s difficult to hold that kind of level for such a long time, playing with this kind of risk,” Nadal said. “Of course I don’t want to lose the set at all, but that’s part of the game.”

“You face a player that he’s decided to go for every shot, so you are in trouble. If he’s having success like he did with his serve, then it’s difficult to have breaks, and then you are in a tricky position.”

“With this serve, with this kind of shots from the baseline, you have everything to become a top player,” said Nadal. “If he wants to do it, of course he is going to have his chances, because he has a lot of very difficult things in his game… He has everything to become a fantastic player.”

Where Popyrin was unsuccessful, his 21st seed compatriot and top ranked Australian Alex de Minaur dominated his own contest with Italian Stefano Travaglia, staving off a third set comeback in much the same way as Nadal to claim a 6-2 6-4 7-6 victory. Travaglia had a number of compatriots playing on Day 3, joined on the sideline by Salvatore Caruso – who fell to another Australian James Duckworth in five –  while the second round entrants were headlined by top-ranked Italian Matteo Berrettini, Andreas Seppi and Marco Cecchinato.

Joining Rublev on the sidelines is 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 29th seed Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who was one of five hometown hopefuls to go down. Canadian Auger-Aliassime fell to veteran Seppi, who won his first match at the Roland Garros in four years and first tour-level match for 2021 in the process. Humbert was joined on the sidelines by wildcards Hugo Gaston and Benjamin Bonzi, as well as Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille who both failed to pull off wins. Comparatively, 14th seed Gael Monfils and unseeded Richard Gasquet head through to the second round, with the former coming from a first set deficit to win in four over Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, as the latter disposed of compatriot Gaston.

Tenth and 24th seeds Diego Schwartzman and Aslan Karatsev both joined the winners list, as Schwartzman’s Argentinian compatriot Federico Coria also found success in the first round, and was one of four players to dispose of a Spaniard. Just Nadal made it through to represent the nation in the second round, as Coria disposed of Feliciano Lopez, while Philipp Kohlschreiber and Mikael Ymer claimed victories over Fernando Verdasco and Roberto Carballes Baena, respectively. The final winner for the day was Korean Soonwoo Kwon, who escaped with a three hour and nine minute victory over hard-hitter Kevin Anderson, who piled on a whopping 30 aces throughout the 7-5 6-4 2-6 7-6 contest.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-2
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-3 7-6 4-6 3-6 6-4
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Taro Daniel (JPN) 6-0 6-4 4-6 6-4
[10] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated [PR] Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-2 6-2 6-3
[14] Gael Monfils (FRA) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 1-6 7-6 6-4 6-4
Andreas Seppi (ITA) defeated [20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-3 7-6 4-6 6-4
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 6-2 6-4 7-6
[24] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [Q] Jenson Brooksby (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-4
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) defeated [29] Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4
Facundo Bagnis (ARG) defeated [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 7-5 6-3 6-4
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-2
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4
Federico Coria (ARG) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 7-6 6-2
Pablo Cuevas (URU) defeated Lucas Pouille (FRA) 6-3 6-1 6-3
James Duckworth (AUS) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-4 3-6 7-6 6-2
Richard Gasquet (FRA) defeated [WC] Hugo Gaston (FRA) 6-1 6-4 6-2
[PR] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 7-6 6-2 2-6 7-6
Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-5 6-4 2-6 7-6
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-4 0-6 4-6 6-2 6-2

Picture credit: Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

ATP Tour wrap: Djokovic and Nadal to contest for Rome title

RAIN delays set up an enticing eighth day of action at the Rome Masters, as two players played back-to back-matches on a huge day on clay. Whilst Stefanos Tsitsipas held the upper hand prior to the delays, it was not to be done as Novak Djokovic made great use of the delay to build his form once more. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Sonego almost completed a dream run on home turf, making the semi-finals before he was stopped in his tracks by the Serbian in three sets.

The quarters saw two hard-fought contests, as Djokovic and Tsitsipas continued their matchup from the day prior with the Greek not going home quietly in a 4-6 7-5 7-5 encounter, which went the whole hog for three hours and 16 minutes. Meanwhile Sonego was tested early by seventh seed Russian Andrey Rublev before running out 3-6 6-4 6-3 victor in two hours and 33 minutes.

“There are many things to say about today or yesterday’s match. It kind of felt like we played two matches… The one yesterday, where he was the better player. He started better today also. I managed to somehow to hold my nerves [and] break his serve in the important moments in the second and third sets,” Djokovic said post-match.

Djokovic backed up well, but it was safe to say that Italian Sonego also backed up fairly well too, challenging the world number one to the bitter end.

“[This is] my favorite tournament in the world, I’m with my people here,” Sonego said. “[I am] so happy for this because I played every point. I’m really happy.”

“It’s a very emotional moment for me, playing in [the] semi-finals with Novak,” Sonego said. “He’s [an] unbelievable player. He’s the best in the world. I want to do my best.”

But despite holding match points in the second set, Djokovic was unable to clinch an easy win against the Italian – who came in hunting and in the unprecedented position of leading their head to head 1-0. It was not to be done though, as Djokovic fired in the third to fly into the Rome final, 6-3 6-7 6-2.

“I have only myself to blame for not closing the match in two sets,” Djokovic said. “At the end of the day, he is showing why he reached his first [ATP Masters 1000] semi-finals. He’s a quality player. [It is] not easy to play against him. Obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere out there on the court.”

Djokovic’s two straight victories on the day set up an enticing final against clay champion Rafael Nadal, following the Spaniard’s 6-4 6-4 sweep of Reilly Opelka.

“I did the thing that I had to do today,” Nadal said post-match. “It is not an easy, beautiful match to play and, [against] a player like Reilly, [you aren’t going to] have rhythm. You know you are going to have just a few options on your return and you know he can play very aggressive from the baseline. That is what happened at the beginning of the match. He had some options [for the] break and it was super important for me to save those moments.”

“I don’t have much time [to recover], I played a lot of tennis,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I’ll have fresh legs, because that’s what I definitely will need. “It’s necessary in order to have a chance against Rafa.”

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 4-6 7-5 7-5
Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 3-6 6-4 6-3

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4 6-4
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-3 6-7 6-2

Picture credit: ABACA/PA Images

ATP Tour wrap: Nadal and Opelka and Tsitsipas forced to wait on Djokovic lead

JUST two ATP Tour matches were completed in a ran-affected day of action, with Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas holding a nerve-wracking lead over world number one Novak Djokovic, and seventh seed Russian Andrey Rublev and unseeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego yet to go out on court.

When the rain halted play, the Greek talent had the advantage over Djokovic, not only having won a set, but was a break up to head into the night knowing that if there was one person who could benefit from a night’s rest, it is likely the world number one. Not only does the delay mean the match has to be completed today, but will mean double duties for the winner, as well as the winner of Rublev and Sonego who have not even served a ball yet.

In the matches that were completed, world number two and King of Clay Rafael Nadal got a huge boost with a straight sets win over sixth seed German Alexander Zverev. After Zverev toppled him in Madrid, Nadal made sure lightning did not strike twice, claiming a straight sets win over his opponent, 6-3 6-4 to advance through to the semi-finals.

“[I am] happy. I played a very solid match with not many mistakes, playing the way that I have to,” Nadal said post-match. “[It is] an important victory for me against a great player.”

Nadal is a nine-time champion in Rome, and if he was to make it all the way through and claim a double-figure amount of titles on the Italian clay, then he would equal Djokovic’s 36 ATP Masters 1000 crowns, an achievement he had hold of prior to the Serbian catching up. Now the Spaniard takes on unseeded American Reilly Opelka, who managed to get the job done against Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis, 7-5 7-6.

“[I will face] a big chance against a player who has almost an unreturnable serve. [Reilly] is playing well,” Nadal said. “I need to be very focussed with my serve and then try to be ready to accept [the situation] and be [engaged] on the return. That is what I am looking for.”

Opelka needed one hour and 41 minutes to win over Delbonis in the first match of the day, and will enter his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final. The big serving American produced 18 aces in the match, and has been in red-hot form on serve all tournament to book a spot in the final four of the Rome Masters,.

“I’ve definitely served well. I hit my spots really well today, especially in big moments,” Opelka said post-match. “I think that has been critical. I have stayed calm [and on] big points, I have delivered.”

ROME MASTERS 1000 QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) leads [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4 2-1
[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [6] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-3 6-4
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)
Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated [Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-5 7-6

 

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Thiem falls as Rafa is challenged during Round of 16

ROME saw another seemingly predictable day as the Internazionali BNL d’Italia continues to roll on, with plenty of top talent taking to the clay for the Round of 16. Whilst three seeds fell, two went down to higher ranked opposition in tough clashes as Dominic Thiem was the biggest name to drop to an unseeded opposition.

Thiem’s three hour and 24-minute clash with Lorenzo Sonego had everything, as the fourth seed Austrian dropped the first set before recovering to take momentum at the perfect moment during the second. But whatever extra gear Thiem had found, Sonego brought in the third to eventually claim the 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(5) victory.

“It’s amazing, an unbelievably emotional moment for me because I’m in Rome, in my Italy with fans for two sets,” Sonego said in his on-court interview. “I’m so happy for this victory, for this match. Thiem is with Nadal the best player on clay.”

While Thiem served for the match during the third set, the Italian built on the home crowd support throughout the first two – prior to a 22-minute delay to usher out the crowd due to a COVID-issued curfew – to snatch the victory, winning 51 per cent of points and hitting nine aces in the process.

“It’s not easy to play two sets with fans and one more set with no fans,” Sonego said. “But I had my team and they supported me always. I’m happy.”

Top two seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal proceeded through to the next round, although the king of clay had a sloppy start and shaky third set that almost saw Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov take out an upset.

“[It] is an important victory for me [to] be able to win matches like today, three hours and 27 [minutes], in the Barcelona final three hours and 38 [minutes], long matches,” said Nadal. “To be able to win these kinds of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body. It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow. But the main thing today for me is [to] recover physically.”

Shapovalov led 4-0 in the first and 3-0 in the second, before Nadal was able to switch up a gear to eventually claim the 3-6 6-4 7-6 victory.

“[This] has been a positive victory for me,” Nadal said. “I [fought] until the end a lot to be in quarter-finals. Tomorrow is a chance to play a quarter-final match. I hope to be ready to compete well.”

“These matches, you have nothing to lose… I also think I have what it takes to beat these guys,” Shapovalov later reflected. “It’s not a surprise to me. It’s just a tough loss. Of course, it’s not the first time Rafa’s done this. I’m not the first person to lose with match points. For sure, he does well with the pressure in those moments.

“Just something I have to take back and just make a couple changes. But I’m definitely happy with where my game’s at, relatively speaking, against the greatest player on this surface.”

Djokovic had it much easier over qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, sweeping the Spaniard in 70 minutes. Davidovich Fokina’s compatriot in Roberto Bautista Agut also struggled against higher ranked opposition, as the 10th seed fell 6-4 6-4 to seventh seed Russian Andrey Rublev.

In other games, fifth and sixth seeds Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev both continued their winning run in Rome, with the former defeating ninth seed Matteo Berrettini in front of his home crowd, and the latter tested by returning former champion Kei Nishikori before reigning supreme. The final two to round out the quarter finals are Argentinian Federico Delbonis – the only remaining qualifier left in the draw – and unseeded American, Reilly Opelka.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 6-2 6-1
[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [13] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 3-6 6-4 7-6
Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [4] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4 6-7 7-6
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 7-6 6-2
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [10] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 7-6 6-1
Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 7-6 6-4

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Predictable day at Rome despite Medvedev fall

IT was a mostly predictable day of Round of 32 results at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, as all bar two seeds proceeded to the third round following convincing wins. Just two were taken to three sets in a fairly comprehensive day on the clay.

Eight of the 10 seeds proceeded, as just Daniil Medvedev (third seed) and David Goffin (12th) fell to unseeded opposition. Medvedev was well and truly outclassed by his compatriot Aslan Karatsev, starting slow and unable to ever really command control of the 6-2 6-4 encounter.

“I’m super happy,” Karatsev said. “It was a really tough match. Against Medvedev you never know, he’s a big server. It’s tough to return, but I managed it well.”

Where it is usually Medvedev who hits big, it was Karatsev that claimed a 90 per cent winning rate off his first serve, converting three break points in the process to claim the one hour and 17 minute victory. For Goffin, it was an even worse result coming up against in-form qualifier Federico Delbonis, who swept the Belgian away with a 67 minute, 6-2 6-1 win. Like Karatsev, Delbonis was impressive on serve winning 82 per cent of his first serve points and rendered Goffin error-ridden to claim the match.

The two three setters of the day both saw the higher ranked of the draw reign supreme, however not by much as both Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev were tested in their respective encounters. For Thiem, it took a big momentum swing at 1-3 to steal back the second and claim a bagel in the third to command victory, eventually disposing of hungry Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, 3-6 7-6 6-0.

“It was such a close match, especially in the second set,” said Thiem. “I knew he’d be a super-tough opponent, particularly coming from different conditions in Madrid. I was fighting all the match and stayed in there. At the end, I got the reward for fighting. I had difficulties with my timing and my serve. I have to hurt my opponent more with my shots. I still won a great match and I will try to improve for tomorrow.”

Rublev’s matchup went far differently, with opposition Jan-Lennard Struff only marginally taking out the first set before Rublev arrested back control once more.

Remaining seeds in Rafael NadalStefanos TsitsipasAlexander ZverevMatteo BerrettiniRoberto Bautista Agut and Denis Shapovalov all continued their winning ways, as unseeded duo Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Lorenzo Sonego joined the winners list and head to the Round of 16.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-5 6-4
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [3] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 6-2 6-4
[4] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 3-6 7-6 6-0
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-5 6-2
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [Q] Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2 6-2
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-7 6-1 6-4
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-4 6-2
[10] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Cristian Garin (CHI) 7-6 6-3
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated [12] David Goffin (BEL) 6-2 6-1
[13] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated [WC] Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-6 6-3
[Q] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [Q] Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-2 6-3
Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [WC] Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour