Tag: Andy Murray

ATP 250 wraps: Aussies bow out in Singapore as upsets take place in Montpellier

IT was a mixed bag of results on day two across the various ATP 250 events, as we recap the results as of publishing in Montpellier, Singapore and Cordoba.

A couple of experienced talents joined the list of outs from the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, with eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff and Frenchman Gilles Simon both bundled out of the tournament. Struff went down to qualifier and compatriot Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets, losing 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 18 minutes, with the 144th ranked played topping his German counterpart who sits 107 placed above him in the world. Meanwhile Austrian Dennis Novak continued his strong start to the year with a solid three-set win over Simon. Novak needed a tiebreaker to get through the first set, before dropping away in the second, and then posting a win 7-6 1-6 6-3 to advance to the Round of 16.

In other results, wildcard Benjamin Bonzi won through in straight sets in the all-French clash against Lucas Pouille, getting up 7-6 6-2. Experienced Czech Jiri Vesely was far too good for a disappointing Mikael Ymer, winning 6-1 6-1, while in the final results, Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor won 6-2 6-7 6-3 over American Marcos Giron in the clear best match of the day. It lasted two hours and 10 minutes with the players evenly matched until Griekspoor – who had saved all five break point opportunities from his opponent – broke for a third time to win. .

In the late game, the most talked about match took place on Court Patrice Dominguez with Belarusian Egor Gerasimov taking on Grand Slam winner and returning from injury Brit, Andy Murray. After a nail-biting first set tiebreaker (10-8), Gerasimov ran away with the contest in the second set to win 7-6 6-1 and book his spot in the second round.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) defeated [8] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-3 6-4
[WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) defeated Lucas Pouille (FRA) 7-6 6-2
[Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) defeated Marcos Giron (USA) 6-2 6-7 6-3
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 7-6 1-6 6-3
Jiri Vesely (CZE) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-1 6-1
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Andy Murray (GBR) 7-6 6-1

 

Over in Singapore, five matches were completed on day two, and it was not good news for the Australians with all three players on court unable to join day one winner, Alexei Popyrin in the Round of 16. Marc Polmans was the toughest to beat, forcing Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama to three sets before going down 6-4 2-6 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes. Similarly, John-Patrick Smith also suffered a three-set loss, this time to Macedonian sixth seed Radu Albot who won 6-2 3-6 6-1.

James Duckworth was unable to really break down German Yannick Hanfmann in their match, with the latter triumphing in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 to advance to the next round of action. In the other two matches, Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek won against Japanese wildcard Shintaro Mochizuki. Celikbilek got up 6-0 6-4 convincingly, while American Maxime Cressy moved into the Round of 16 with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Radu Albot (MCE) defeated [Q] John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-2 6-4
Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) defeated Marc Polmans (AUS) 6-4 2-6 6-4
[Q] Altug Celikbilek (TUR) defeated [WC] Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) 6-0 6-4

 

The two lower ranked players at the Cordoba Open won through to the second round with hard-fought three sets wins over their respective opponents. Chilean wildcards Nicolas Jarry came from a set down to survive a nail-biting tiebreaker and then win in three against rising Spaniard Jaume Munar, 5-7 7-6 6-4. The match lasted a whopping two hours and 44 minutes with Jarry serving up seven aces, and winning 75 per cent of his first serve points, albeit off a lowly 54 per cent efficiency. Jarry’s was more efficient with 74 per cent of his first serves going in, but only capitalising on 63 per cent of them, as both players were broken five times.

In the other match, Jozef Kovalik also needed three sets to get past Daniel Elahi Galan, bouncing back from a disappointing second set to win 6-2 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes. Kovalik broke four times to three, the last being a crucial one in the final set, to book his spot in the Round of 16 with victory on the clay courts.

CORDOBA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[WC] Nicolas Jarry (CHL) defeated Jaume Munar (ESP) 5-7 7-6 6-4
Jozef Kovalik (SVK) defeated Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) 6-2 1-6 6-3

Picture credit: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

ATP 250s wraps: Tsonga beaten on return as Popyrin claims win in Singapore

GRAND SLAM finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier yesterday, though it did not go plan. The former Top 10 talent was easily beaten by American Sebastian Korda in the first round of the ATP 250 event.

The match lasted just 72 minutes with Korda claiming the spoils, 6-4 6-2, dominating on serve and only dropping eight points in total, saving both of his opponent’s break point opportunities. Tsonga was far from his best, but getting through the match was the key, still winning 69 per cent of his first serve points, and serving five aces throughout the match. He saved three of six break points, but ultimately could not do enough against a player who has built form over the past 12 months.

It was better news for sixth seed Ugo Humbert, whose rise up the ATP Rankings continues following his straight sets win over Slovakian Norbert Gombos. Humbert won 6-4 7-6 in 78 minutes, slamming home 18 aces and winning 88 per cent of his first serve points off an elite 79 per cent efficiency to never give his opponent a chance. In Gombos’ defence, he held up well, actually breaking Humbert once from two chances, while the Frenchman broke him from both his opportunities. Overall the class of Humbert stood out and he advanced to the Round of 16.

In the final match played on day one of the main draw event, seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego battled past young Frenchman Hugo Gaston. The Italian won 6-3 6-7 6-1, holding his nerve in the third set after dropping the second set tiebreaker 9-7, to win in two hours and 19 minutes. He served seven aces and broke six times from 12 chances, while only being broken three times himself.

In today’s action, there are plenty more Frenchman on show, with Lucas Pouille taking on compatriot and wildcard Benjamin Bonzi, while Gilles Simon faces Austrian Dennis Novak. The match of the day could be either British wildcard and Grand Slam winner Andy Murray taking on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, or Swede Mikael Ymer locking horns with Jiri Vesely.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Norbert Gombos (SVK) 6-4 7-6
[7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [WC] Hugo Gaston (FRA) 6-3 6-7 6-1
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-4 6-2

Five first round matches were completed in Singapore, with a mixed bag for the two seeds on court. Fifth seed Japanese counter puncher Yoshihito Nishioka defeated improving American Michael Mmoh 6-2 3-6 6-3, while seventh seed South African Lloyd Harris went down in three sets to Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev.

Nishioka needed almost two hours to defeat Mmoh, surviving 11 aces to bring up 10 break point opportunities, albeit only taking three. It was two more than Mmoh who broke once in the second set, but could not do it again in the match. Meanwhile Andreev took two hours and 19 minutes to knock off the fast-serving Harris, not needing to serve and ace and even holding off 12 of 15 break point chances for the South African to win 1-6 6-3 6-4. The Bulgarian bounced back from a disappointing first set to post the impressive win over the developing Harris.

Andreev now takes on Australian Alexei Popyrin who knocked off American qualifier, Christopher Eubanks in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6, both of which were 7-5 tiebreakers. The match lasted one hour and 46 minutes, with Popyrin powering home 15 aces and saving 10 of 11 break points in a remarkable feat. He won 72 per cent of his first serve points, and also only broke Eubanks once, holding firm in the crucial tiebreakers to claim a narrow straight sets win.

In other Singapore results, United States’ Maxime Cressy became his nation’s sole winner on the day, downing Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung in straight sets 7-6 6-2, while Japan’s Taro Daniel joined compatriot Nishioka in the second round after a tight three-set win over India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan, 6-3 6-7 6-3.

In today’s action, three Australians are out on court, with Marc Polmans up first against Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama. Following that match, qualifier John-Patrick Smith has to find a way to upstage sixth seed Macedonian Radu Albot, before James Duckworth takes to the court at night against German, Yannick Hanfmann.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-2 3-6 6-3
[WC] Adrian Andreev (BUL) defeated [7] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 1-6 6-3 6-4
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 6-3 6-7 6-3
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [Q] Christopher Eubanks (USA) 7-6 7-6

At the time of publishing, none of the day one matches had been completed in Cordoba, with the Argentinian tournament finishing off the third round of qualifying earlier in the day. The night session featured two Round of 32 matches which will be covered in tomorrow’s wrap, with Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan facing Slovakian Jozef Kovalik, followed by Spaniard Jaume Munar taking on Chilean wildcard Nicolas Jarry.

Picture credit: ATP Tour

2021 ATP 250 previews: Montpellier, Cordoba and Singapore

THREE ATP Tour 250 events will take off immediately after the Australian Open this weekend, with a number of mid-tier talents gaining some extra match practice following disappointing exits from the Australian Open. The top ranked player across the three tournaments is Diego Schwartzman (ninth) at Cordoba, while Roberto Bautista Agut (13th) is top seed in Montpellier, and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (36th) leads a lower-ranked field in Singapore.

CORDOBA:

Schwartzman is the standout candidate on the clay tournament and honestly he should put this one in the bank without too much trouble. His nearest rival is 29th ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire, who has opted for Spain rather than his home nation at Montpellier. Paire is in a career slump since reaching the Auckland final 13 months ago, and will struggle up against a ton of clay court regulars.

Miomir Kecmanovic and Guido Pella round out the top five, with 46th ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas the other Top 50 player in the draw. This tournament looms as one where, if Schwartzman pulls out or has a shocker, could be spread across any number of players. Thiago Monteiro is one who has been in good form, the likes of Marco Cecchinato and Juan Ignacio Londero can never be discounted on clay, and even rising Spaniard Jaume Munar is a chance.

The number one alternative at the time of publishing was Thiago Seyboth Wild who has all the talent if he can harness it, and genuinely could grab a Top 100 spot with a good run here. Spanish talents and South Americans make up the majority of the draw, with only half a dozen automatic entries from Europe, and none from the United States or Asia/Oceania.

MONTPELLIER:

Bautista Agut was aggravated at the Australian Open organisation, and now he returns to France in a reverse-Paire rather than going to his home nation in Spain. He and 15th ranked David Goffin – who both suffered disappointing shock losses at the Grand Slam – will be the clear standouts in a tournament that has the highest quality of the three by a fair way. Goffin should be the favourite still, but there are plenty in the running.

Aside from having two Top 20 players, as well as an additional two Top 30 players in Dusan Lajovic and Hubert Hurkacz, there is an abundance of youth, and returning experience that has signed up for the Montpellier event. Jannik Sinner and Ugo Humbert who are arguably the two most exciting Next Gen talents in the world are seeded, as are Lorenzo Sonego – most famously known for his upset of Novak Djokovic last year – and German Jan-Lennard Struff who ran into form at the ATP Cup.

The likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray have been named amongst the candidates to play, like fans have teleported back to the mid 2000s. Both will be returning from injury if they take to the court, amongst a host of Frenchman entered. Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Lucas Pouille are all in, with Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jiri Vesely also amongst the automatic entries.

SINGAPORE:

The weakest of the three draws by a fair margin, the lowest automatic entry comes in at 187th in the world. To be fair, it is former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis, but the Latvian is far from his glory days of a decade ago. He still has the most titles of anyone in the draw however, with some real solid competitors, though a lack of top-end talent has to be said.

Singapore could mark a rematch between Frenchman Mannarino and Australian John Millman from last year, which saw the Australian win his first ever ATP Tour title at the Astana Open. They are the standouts for the Asian event, with Marin Cilic and Alexander Bublik rounding out the four seeds. The eighth highest ranked player is Soonwoo Kwon (97th), with fair talents Yoshihito Nishioka, Radu Albot and Lloyd Harris the other seeds.

The unseeded players have some potential, with Michael Mmoh showing good form at Melbourne Park, and Alexei Popyrin and James Duckworth always dangerous. Japanese duo Yasutaka Uchiyama and Taro Daniel join Nishioka at the event, though Mannarino and Millman are clearly the standouts to take home the ATP 250 event trophy.

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 ATP Cup preview: Russia

WHEN it comes to nations that have plenty of potential, there is no doubt Russia’s ATP Cup side will be a force to be reckoned with. Impressive seasons across the board over an interrupted 2020 will do Russia plenty of favours, although a doubles combination of an unknown quantity could throw things into question.

TEAM:

Daniil Medvedev
Andrey Rublev
Aslan Karatsev
Evgeny Donskoy

When it comes to top talent, there is no doubt Russia is on the way up with some impressive athletes and development over the past few seasons paying dividends. The top singles player is 24-year-old Daniil Medvedev, who currently ranks fourth in the world after a solid season in 2020, steadily improving and showcasing his development with an excellent ATP Finals win to top off his year. Russia’s second singles player is not far behind though, with 23-year-old Andrey Rublev finishing his season at eighth on the leaderboard with five titles for the 2020 season – leading the pack for the year. The duo’s evenness will be the real kicker for opposing nations, with little separating first and second, and both capable of beating anyone on their day.

Medvedev’s 2020 may not have shone quite as much as the ever-improving Rublev, but was still solid despite not making an ATP Tour final until the last two tournaments of the season. But an exceptional win rate against top 10 players – the best outside the big four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – and a confidence-boosting seven-game winning streak against fellow talent within the top 10, the 24-year-old can never be discounted. Meanwhile, Rublev’s 31 wins on hard court last season saw him lead the overall ATP Tour for wins on the surface, and given he will once again be back on his preferred surface at the ATP Cup expect the talent to prove relentless and just as impactful as he was during the interrupted 2020 season.

There is no doubt the duo will be tough to beat on court at the ATP Cup, although the real challenge for the nation will be the lack of depth in the doubles with Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy unranked as partners but both sitting just on the outskirts of the top 100 so certainly capable of holding their own. While the duo could be a tough battle to come up against, their partnership – or lack of – could be a real question mark against more experienced doubles partnerships and cause some doubt for the nation’s progression in the tournament.

Overall, Russia is capable of pulling out some impressive wins with top talent amongst their first and second singles players. But realistically, if one falls and the fate of the nation is left upon the shoulders of Karatsev and Donskoy. That being said, the nation is placed in Group D alongside Argentina and Japan, so should get through the first group stage with relative ease.

Picture credit: Ella Ling/ATP Tour

Davis Cup future team: Great Britain

IT has seemed a world away since Spain lifted the 2019 Davis Cup. While the 2020 edition was ultimately cancelled and had to be postponed until 2021, it gives tennis fans extra time to work out what teams might look like when it recommences.

Draft Central will take a look at various nations over the break and see what the team might look like. Today’s team is Great Britain with one of the best doubles pairings set to take the court while a veteran and fan favourite is amongst the mix.

TEAM:

#48 Kyle Edmund
#122 Andy Murray
#24 D Jamie Murray
#27 D Neal Skupski

Kyle Edmund was an easy lock for Great Britain with the 25-year-old a young up and coming player with plenty of promise. Sitting at number 48  in the world he might not be the highest ranked Brit but definitely has the firepower to cause a ruckus and make a lasting impression on the court. He has reached as high as 14 in the world proving his calibre to match it with the best in the business and skillset to use his backhand to full effect.

It is hard to go past the likes of Andy Murray with the 33-year-old not only a familiar face in the UK but so too across the globe given his years of dominance. Although in the latter part of his career and sliding down the rankings scale Murray is still a formidable force, able to grind out matches and use his overall smarts to out think and work his opponent. Murray is a seasoned campaigner that knows how to stand up on the big stage and is more than capable of leading his side to victory when the pressure is on.

Moving onto the doubles it would be remiss to not include former world number one Jamie Murray. The experienced Murray has won his fair share of silverware and is an easy choice to join the Davis Cup team given his familiarity with the doubles format, execution and overall array of skills to have a profound impact. He will be joined by partner in crime, Neal Skupski with the duo forming a formidable pairing in recent years. Although Skupski has not reached the same highs as Murray – with a career high ranking of 26 – the 31-year-old is a commanding presence on court especially when it comes to hard court.

Other options that could join the team consist of number one ranked Brit, Daniel Evans with the right-hander able to hold his own against the big names and deliver his high standard of tennis.

Hopman Cup hypothetical teams: Great Britain & Russia

ONE of the most unique tennis tournaments which features both ATP Tour and WTA Tour players is the Hopman Cup. Given the world circumstance and the fact it was already skipped on the eve of last year, it looks to be either delayed later in 2021, or perhaps at the turn of the New Year in 2022. However, in this new series we wanted to look at some hypothetical Hopman Cup teams and what they might look like if there was no COVID-19 pandemic, and if the famed mixed tournament did go ahead.

We continue the series with Great Britain and Russia. The former are regulars at the event, competing nine times, while the latter have competed seven times.

Great Britain: Andy Murray & Johanna Konta

Despite the nation competing nine times in the event, they are yet to win a title, with only Andy Murray being a top-end talent competing at the event. Fellow Top 5 player Greg Rusedski never competed, while Murray competed four times at the event, twice in back-to-back years of 2010-11 and 2015-16. He would be the pick to take to the hard courts because of his love for Australia and is the most capped Brit at the event. The other two top Brit’s in Dan Evans (2017) and Cameron Norrie (2019) have both competed as well, and you would expect if Great Britain did compete, it would be one of the trio.

In terms of the WTA Tour, Johanna Konta is the far and away top player at the moment, ranked well inside the Top 20. Though inconsistent, Konta has plenty of potential at her best, and teaming up with Murray would create a formidable team and the best on that the nation had formed at the event. More likely though, they would look at Heather Watson (three-time competitor) or Katie Boulter (most recent competitor) to represent.

Russia: Andrey Rublev & Ekaterina Alexandrova

It is amazing to think that Russia has just one title to its name at the Hopman Cup considering some of the names that have graced the indoor hard courts in Perth. Marat Safin played four times, and even teamed up with the likes of Anastasia Myskina and remarkably, his sister Dinara Safina, but could not ever get the win. Instead, Nadia Petrova and Dmitry Tursunov won in 2007 who lost their first match to Australia, before going on to upset Spain in the final. While Safin is no longer around to compete, 2018 competitor Karen Khachanov is, and he could be a good chance to go again. The pick for the men would be Andrey Rublev who has shot to the Top 10 this year and has all the pace and excitement to make it an entertaining tournament.

For the women’s side it would be a little tougher, but top-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova would be the pick. She plays well over the Australian summer time at year’s end, and is gradually improving her consistency. Russia actually has seven top 100 players which is remarkable, but none inside the Top 30. Veronika Kudermetova, Anna Blinkova and Daria Kasatkina are other young talents who could step up to the plate, or the veteran of Svetlana Kuznetsova might enjoy the tournament’s style, having played here way back in 2006.

Picture: Getty Images

2020 ATP Tour retirements

WITH every year, comes a flurry of retirements across the tennis world. While the retirements of the following players may not seem quite as significant as the WTA Tour losses this year, there is no doubt these ATP Tour players were all stars in their own right, and were particularly dominant on the doubles circuit. 

Bryan Brothers

When it comes to doubles partners, very little people do not recognise the title “Bryan Brothers” when they hear it, with identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan a supremely threatening duo – not only for their winning ability and title of the most successful doubles duo of all time, but also their flair and persistence which saw their careers skyrocket over a 22-year period. With the shared record for the most times completing a season as the world number one doubles team – 10 times – the duo racked up 124 (Mike) and 119 (Bob) titles respectively, with a 2020 Delray Beach title in March the icing on the cake ahead of their impending retirement, which was announced in August. As a team, the Bryan Brothers won 16 grand slam titles, and were clearly at their most dangerous on hard court with six Australian Open titles and five US Open titles between 2003 and 2014. The duo also collected three Wimbledon wins and two Roland Garros wins, showcasing their versatility and ability to adapt. Individually, Bob racked up seven grand slam mixed doubles titles, including four more US Open victories, while Mike got four grand slam mixed doubles wins on the board, as well as back-to-back Wimbledon and the US Open men’s doubles victories in 2018 with Jack Sock.

Leander Paes

Often credited as one of the greatest individual doubles players of all time, there is no doubt the retirement of Leander Paes is a huge loss to the wider tennis community. With a whopping 54 titles – 55 if you include his lone singles title at Newport in 1998 – to his name across a career spanning almost 30 years, Paes’ ability to continue to develop his game and produce career-defining wins is what made him such a threatening prospect, even now at age 47. The Indian veteran may finish his career ranked 147th on the doubles circuit, outside the top 100 for the first time since October, 2000, but with his accolades – including 18 grand slams across both male and mixed doubles – and former world number one status, Paes will be remembered for much more than the way his career ended, ground to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Darcis

Peaking at world number 38 in 2017, Steve Darcis’ retirement sees the Belgian complete his 17-year career with two titles to his name and plenty of strengths to speak about across his career. Typically at his most threatening on grass or hard courts, Darcis proved himself wrong with his debut title in 2007, winning on clay at Amersfoort and coming close the next year, almost going back to back but defeated by Albert Montañés. He collected his second title at Memphis in March, 2008. Also a prolific doubles player, Darcis did not win any titles on the doubles circuit but made it to the Roland Garros quarter finals in 2008 – arguably his most successful year on tour bar an impressive return in 2017 – and reached the third round at a grand slam four times across the singles and doubles circuits.

Santiago Giraldo

A former top 30 player, Colombian Santiago Giraldo may not quite have hit the heights of many other players during his time given the calibre of talent, but is the highest-ranked tennis player in Colombia’s history, with a close to 15-year career cementing him as a hugely successful name. While Giraldo completes his career with zero ATP Tour titles to his name, the Colombian was a consistent threat on tour with his ability to fly out of the blocks and shock some of the top players of the time, including the likes of Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Murray among a flurry of top 10 talents throughout the years. A player who rarely stood down from a challenge, Giraldo’s peak ranking of 28th came in 2014, and although he hovered around that 30-mark for close to a year, making one final during that time but falling to Kei Nishikori, was unable to really break into that top echelon.

Thiem and Medvedev set up fascinating ATP Finals decider

DOMINIC Thiem and Daniil Medvedev have set up a mouth-watering ATP Finals decider with strong victories over superstars of the game this morning. Thiem had a thrilling three-set victory over world number one Novak Djokovic, while Medvedev came from a set down to beat 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.

Both men have beaten Nadal and Djokovic over the past week.

Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Novak Djokovic (SRB) 7-5 6-7 7-6

Thiem is now the first player in four years to make back-to-back finals at the ATP Finals. He thought that he had the match won in the second set, but he could not convert any of his four match points and Djokovic sent the match to a third. The Austrian then came back from 0-4 down in the third set tie-break to claim a remarkable victory. It marks the 300th singles win of his career.

Thiem is now the second player ever (with Andy Murray) to have at least five wins against all members of the ‘big three’, as he takes his record against Djokovic to 5-7 (3-2 since the start of 2019). After the match, he reflected on the importance of his victory.

“It was for sure a mental battle, I got so tight in the second-set tie-break because to play these legends is always going to be something special,” Thiem said. “Playing for the final here at the Nitto ATP Finals is also something very special and I thought that after my first big title in New York, maybe I’m going to be a little bit more calm, but that was a mistake. I was just as tight and as nervous as before. It was so much on the edge that match, like every single match here. The best players in the world are facing off. So I’m just incredibly happy to be through and just [will] try to get ready for tomorrow.”

Amazingly, Thiem’s only title this year was the biggest one of his career, the 2020 US Open. He could have easily won two Grand Slams in 2020, as he was very unlucky against Djokovic in the Australian Open final. The 27-year-old is clearly one of the top three players in the world right now and deserves significant praise for the way he has elevated his game during such an unusual year.

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Rafael Nadal (ESP) 3-6 7-6 6-3

Medvedev continued his impressive undefeated run at the ATP Finals and became the first player in 72 matches to come from a set down to defeat Nadal. The Russian won 77 per cent of points on first serve and thoroughly deserves his spot in the decider. It was Medvedev’s first career victory against Nadal, and tomorrow he can become the fourth player to win the ATP Finals following a winless debut.

Nadal had a chance to serve for the match in the second set, but Medvedev rallied by being more aggressive from the baseline and the Spaniard made some uncharacteristic errors. Medvedev reflected on how he overcame the 6-3 5-4 deficit after the match.

“It felt like I was doing great shots but there was no link in my game and that was why I was losing,” he said. He was better in the important moments, I couldn’t return in the important moments, I couldn’t make a good shot in the important moments. I decided to change some small things. Just being closer, going for it a little bit more. I felt like I had the chances to win before [in] some games, a set maybe, but it didn’t work, so I had to change and it worked really well. I am really happy about it.”

Medvedev has shown great focus and determination since winning his first ATP Masters title of the season in Paris. He is 6-0 against top 10 players since that tournament began and will be hoping to maintain this impressive record tomorrow morning.

2020 ATP Paris Masters preview: Five-time winner Djoker out as Rafa returns to Tour

RAFAEL Nadal will return to the ATP Tour at the Rolex Paris Masters and has earned the status of top seed after five-time winner Novak Djokovic opted not to play at the event. Instead, the world number one who had a shock loss to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna will head to the Nitto ATP Finals in a bid to retain the top spot in the rankings. For Nadal, he is coming off a memorable win at Roland Garros for his 13th title, and will be looking for his first ever Paris Masters.

As Andy Murray and Jack Sock are not competing in the Masters 1000, the only past winner is 2018 victor, Karen Khachanov who enters the draw as the 11th seed and with a soft first couple of matches. The Russian takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the opening round and potentially in the Round of 32, or French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. A Round of 16 clash with in-form Diego Schwartzman is where it gets a little difficult, with Australian Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev in that quarter of the draw as potential quarter finals opponents.

Top seed Nadal has a bye in the first round like all the top eight seeds, with the clay court champion to take on either Filip Krajinovic or compatriot Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Krajinovic has had some bad luck of late, copping Djokovic in the opening round at Vienna and then a second round clash with Rafa in the Paris Masters. Up the other end of the draw, second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has a jaw-dropping unlucky second round clash with either Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud, with the former favoured given the match is on hard court.

Medvedev will need to put a disappointing loss at Vienna behind him, mainly because he will likely face his conqueror from the Erste Bank Open in Kevin Anderson. The South African plays Laslo Djere in the first round before the Russian in the Round of 32 should the big-server advance through. It is a huge eighth of the draw, with de Minaur taking on fellow top 30 talent Dusan Lajovic, while the dangerous Sonego locks horns with the always unpredictable Alexander Bublik.

The one to watch at the moment is Andrey Rublev, taking the sixth seed and has a potential second round match with Hubert Hurkacz, and then could meet Stan Wawrinka in the Round of 16. If that is not big enough, then a mouth-watering quarter finals matchup between Rublev and Alexander Zverev, both of whom are coming off big winning streaks, will be the match of the Tour. Zverev faces either Miomir Kecmanovic or John Millman in the second round, with a likely third round clash against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

Among the other seeds, Schwartzman returns after a rest from Vienna to face either home nation hero Richard Gasquet, or Taylor Fritz in the second round, while Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Marin Cilic and fellow Canadian Milos Raonic meets Aljaz Bedene. Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin round out the top eight seeds and will be hoping for better luck than late, with both receiving very winnable matches to the third round.

The big question mark will be whether Nadal can return to his best in Paris without Djokovic there, and how the likes of Zverev and Rublev will stack up with all the big guns at the ATP Masters 1000 with the best of the best eyeing off a place in the ATP Finals.

Evans takes down Khachanov in huge upset to keep British three-peat alive in Antwerp

IT was a mix of styles in both Cologne and Antwerp as the German tournament went largely to plan, whilst a huge upset headlined the Belgian event.

Top seed and tournament favourite Alexander Zverev is within reach of completing the Cologne double having taken out the indoors tournament last week and now into the semi-finals of the championships. He had to fight off a determined eighth seed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to advance through to the semis on a day that was largely predictable.

Zverev won 6-4 6-7 6-4, serving 16 aces and winning 83 per cent of his second serve points off a 65 per cent efficiency. He did produce nine double faults and was far from completely clean, dropping the second set in a tight tiebreaker, 7-5, but bounced back to grind out a tough win in two hours and 40 minutes, breaking four times from 11 chances to his opponent’s two from seven.

“I am in the semi-finals in back-to-back weeks,” Zverev said post-match, “I won last week and I hope I can repeat it this week. It is nice to play in front of a little bit of a crowd. They got me through it as well.”

Now the top seed and home favourite will lock horns with Italian young gun, Jannik Sinner after the teenager bounced back from a game-less second set to win 6-3 0-6 6-4 against determined Frenchman Gilles Simon.

Sinner broke four times from five chances, but it was his determination on serve to save a whopping 16 of 21 chances for his opponent, with three of the five breaks coming in that second set. The Italian had a higher serving efficiency and eon more points on serve and a higher percentage on return, but it was a tough haul through the mid-part of the game.

“He didn’t give me any angles and played down the middle. He was very solid and I tried to play more on his forehand,” Sinner said post-match. “Losing eight games [in a row] can happen, but next time I need to find a solution earlier. He played far better than me in the second set. I got a little emotional in the third set, but I wanted to show that I wanted to win.”

In other results, Argentinian Diego Schwartzman came back from a set down to win against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 2-6 7-6 6-1, whilst fifth seed Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the semis with a 6-3 6-4 triumph over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Both semi-finals are at night tomorrow with Zverev and Sinner locking horns first before Auger-Aliassime and Schwartzman do battle straight afterwards.

COLOGNE CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [8] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-7 6-4
[2] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 2-6 7-6 6-1
[5] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-3 6-4
[WC] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-3 0-6 6-4

Meanwhile in Antwerp, Daniel Evans is gunning to become the third consecutive British winner of the European Open after booking his spot in the semi-finals. Kyle Edmund and Andy Murray have won the event the past two years and now Evans is through to the final four after upstaging third seed Russian Karen Khachanov in a come-from-behind victory, 3-6 7-6 6-4.

Evans was hard to beat on serve, and whilst he is not a huge server, produced four aces and won an elite 84 per cent of his first serve points, as well as more than half of his second serve points. Khachanov is a known big server but could only produce seven aces, and while he also had a 59 per cent serving efficiency, could only capitalist on a lower 75 per cent of his first serve points. He struggled off Evans’ serve and despite winning the same amount of points as Evans (105), went down with the Brit’s second break of the match in the deciding set in two hours and 40 minutes.

“It is nice to play these guys and it is why you play the sport, to play the better players,” Evans said post-match. “I am pretty clear on how I have to play to beat them and that is what I do. “I try and execute that plan and I have done that pretty good against the better guys.”

Now Evans will face Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the semi-finals after the up and comer toppled South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Humbert won 6-3 7-6 in the match for his third win of 2020 against Harris, dominating off his first serve to break two times to won and win 83 per cent of his first serve points alongside seven aces. The tall Harris also did well with five aces from a 75 per cent success rate on his first serve, but struggled off his second serve, winning just six of 17 points.

Meanwhile, Australian Alex de Minaur will take on Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the other semi-final. The eighth seed Australian toppled American qualifier Marcos Giron 6-3 6-0 in 58 minutes, while the fourth seed Dimitrov did not even need to take the court following Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic‘s withdrawal pre-game due to an abdominal strain.

Evans and Humbert are up first in the semi-finals tomorrow afternoon, with de Minaur and Dimitrov following that match.

EUROPEAN OPEN RESULTS:

Daniel Evans (GBR) defaeted [3] Karen Khachanov (RUS) 3-6 7-6 6-4
[4] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [5] Milos Raonic (CAN) W/O
[8] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated [Q] Marc Giron (USA) 6-3 6-0
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-3 7-6

Picture credit: Laurie Dieffebacq