Tag: aslan karatsev

2021 Wimbledon preview: Will the Fed Express have one last stop? Can Serena equal the Grand Slam record?

THE Wimbledon Championships are finally here. One of the most eloquent events on the planet, the third Grand Slam of the year played on the grass courts of London are set to begin overnight with plenty of sub-plots in both the men’s and women’s draws. For the greatest ever champions at the event, there is a chance it will be the last hurrah, with Roger Federer and Serena Williams both gunning for perhaps their last Wimbledon titles. Standing in their way are the likes of Novak Djokovic – looking to equal Rafael Nadal and Federer on 20 Grand Slams – and Ash Barty who when fully fit has proven she can get it done across any surface.

WOMEN’S:

Looking at the WTA Tour draw, the immediate thought is to those not at the event in a couple of Grand Slam winners. World number two Naomi Osaka and world number three Simona Halep are both not competing at the All England Club, leaving Barty and Aryna Sabalenka as the top two seeds. It will be Sabalenka’s highest ever seeding at a Grand Slam, and for a player who has failed to make it past the fourth round at any major, or the second round at Wimbledon, all eyes will be on the Belarusian at the event.

Sabalenka has been handed a soft draw to begin with, as four qualifiers and a wildcard sit in the first two rounds, with 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova set to be her first seeded opponent if Sabalenka can – and should – make the third round. It gets a little tougher from there with the in-form Maria Sakkari and Elena Rybakina a potential third round matchup and then the winner in-line for a Sabalenka Round of 16 clash.

At the other end of the draw, tournament favourite Barty can beat anyone on any surface, and first up will be Carla Suarez Navarro in a battle of two of the Tour’s heartwarming talents. Barty’s exploits and worldwide respect are well known, but Suarez Navarro is returning to the Tour after beating a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in September, having retired from the professional Tour in order to look after her health. Whilst not the ideal first round match back for the Spaniard, it will be a great sub-plot to see her back out there.

If Barty can survive the talented Suarez Navarro – who has made the fourth round of Wimbledon three times – then her first big test will come against home nation hero Johanna Konta in the third round. Konta is fairly strong on grass, and should test Barty, though a fourth round matchup with Kiki Bertens – the 10th best grass court in the draw – will be a potential blockbuster. Williams is also lurking in Barty’s half if the pair make it all the way to the semi-finals, with Williams every chance to greet the world number one in the final four.

The second ranked grass court player in the draw is Czech Petra Kvitova who has copped American Sloane Stephens up first, then might have four consecutive opponents of home nation hero Heather Watson, American Jessica Pegula, fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova, and 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin. That draw is as rough as they come considering Pegula’s form, and Kenin and Pliskova’s ability on grass.

Garbine Muguruza is another to take note of, ranked third overall on the surface, and matched up with Fiona Ferro in the opening round. All eyes will be on a potential third round clash with Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian recently claimed her first WTA Tour – the first Arab player to ever do so – and she is ranked fourth overall on the surface, which sets up a tantalising clash in only the third round.

If smokies are what you are looking for, then do not sleep on young gun Coco Gauff, who is capable of pulling off big wins on the surface as she has shown since debut at Wimbledon. She will have to do it the hard way with Belinda Bencic and Williams as her likely third and fourth round opponents, though Williams also has Bad Homburg champion Angelique Kerber to deal with in the Round of 16.

Other grass court players who are ranked highly include Daria Kasatkina, Liudmila Samsonova and Madison Keys, with Elise Mertens and Elina Svitolina some other seeds who are more than capable on the surface, making it some high-quality tennis.

First round matches to watch:

[10] Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs. Sloane Stephens (USA)
[1] Ash Barty (AUS) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
[24] Anett Kontaveit (EST) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)
[18] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
[8] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs. Tamara Zidansek (CZE)

MEN’S:

In the ATP Tour draw, the sixth seeded Federer will have a tough road to a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam. The Swiss Maestro is running out time with age and durability catching up to him, and the Wimbledon event organisers have done him no favours. Adrian Mannarino is never a first round matchup you want in a Grand Slam, with another Frenchman in veteran Richard Gasquet, home nation hero Cameron Norrie and the either the red-hot Lorenzo Sonego or reliable Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta waiting in the fourth round. Mallorca winner Daniil Medvedev is the top four seed in his quarter of the draw, with Alexander Zverev the other one in his half. Medvedev has one of the toughest first round matches in German Jan-Lennard Struff, whilst Zverev has a host of Americans lining up in the early rounds.

The match of the first round surely has to be 21st seed Ugo Humbert up against Australian Nick Kyrgios. One of many classics across the draw, it is hard to look past it as one that will be as entertaining as they come. With Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and young gun Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime also in that little group in the first three rounds, there are plenty of great matches. Just above that section is a first round match to die for with the old and the new as Australian Alexei Popyrin takes on US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori in the first round. Nearly every first round match in that section is phenomenal, with another Australian in Jordan Thompson locking horns with 12th seed Casper Ruud, and Russian bolter Aslan Karatsev facing Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Djokovic is favourite for the event and he looks to have a fairly safe draw until the quarter finals. Brit wildcard Jack Draper is up first, with the teenager certainly having a memorable opening round encounter, before the Serbian is set to play former Top 10 player Kevin Anderson. Djokovic’s first seeded encounter could be Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, with the wounded Gael Monfils and clay court oriented Cristian Garin the highest ranked en route to Djokovic’s quarter finals. A mouth-watering last eight clash with either Jannik Sinner or Andrey Rublev would be a must-watch, but both young guns must overcome their own draws in the process. Sinner faces tricky Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the opening round, and also has the likes of Jiri Vesely and Diego Schwartzman for company, with the diminutive Argentinian facing out-of-sorts Benoit Paire in the opening round. Rublev takes on Federico Delbonis in the first round, with Fabio Fognini a tough third round potential matchup.

With no Nadal in the draw, third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas steps up into the placing, with Frances Tiafoe up first, and the likes of Karen Khachanov and Eastbourne champion Alex de Minaur possible third and fourth round opponents. Australia’s top ranked player has to contend with in-form Sebastian Korda in the first round, and also has a potential third round clash with home nation hero and grass court talent Dan Evans. The Brit will take on one of the better grass court players over time in Feliciano Lopez in the opening round though, so there are no easy matches. Another Australian in John Millman has copped Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round, with Andy Murray earning a wildcard and coming up against Georgian 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. Murray is a really good chance in that contest, though Denis Shapovalov as a third round opponent seems stiff.

Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini is currently the second ranked grass court player, with the 25-year-old Italian taking on Argentinian Guido Pella in the first round. He has a fairly standard draw to begin with, as John Isner appears to be his logical third round opponent. Karatsev is an unknown on grass and is line for a Round of 16 clash with Berrettini, though Ruud as the highest ranked player in the section will be keen to step up to the plate.

Another to keep an eye on in the draw is Marin Cilic – who has a potential third round clash with Medvedev – with the Croatian ranked inside the Top 10 grass court players. As Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and David Goffin are all missing, the draw is open for some underdog stories to come through, and there are plenty of tantalising first round matches, never mind the third round and beyond clashes.

First round matches to watch:

[21] Ugo Humbert (FRA) vs. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs. Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
[6] Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
[15] Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs. Sebastian Korda (USA)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Alexei Popyrin (AUS)

 

Picture credit: Michael Regan/Getty Images

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: Federer makes successful return to grass

THE main draws of grass court tournaments in Halle and London commenced overnight, with players ramping up their preparations for the all-important Wimbledon Championships beginning on June 28. While two of the top seeds banked victories, three other big names were victims of surprising upsets.

Roger Federer made a successful return to grass at the Noventi Open, taking care of qualifier Ilya Ivashka 7-6 7-5. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been vocal about his desire to win in London, and he even withdrew from Roland Garros following his third round victory to assist his preparation. Federer did not lose on serve in this match and said that he enjoyed his first outing on grass since 2019.

“I missed it. I’ve done the hard courts, I’ve done the clay and now [I am] on the grass,” Federer said. “It’s been great being back here in Halle, I love playing here.”

“[I] had a tough moment early on in the first set when he had break points, so that was crucial to get out of those. “And then I played a really good tie-break, which I was happy about. “Overall I think I served very well. “Clearly, I can always be a little bit better, but I’m very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first one.”

Things did not go as smoothly for Roland Garros quarter finalist Roberto Bautista Agut, who bowed out in straight sets against American youngster Sebastian Korda 6-3 7-6. Korda had never previously competed in a tour-level match on grass, so it was important that he played with aggression and confidence against his higher-ranked opponent.

“I think the grass really suits my game,” Korda said. “I’m a big hitter, I try to come into net and be aggressive. In the biggest moments I saved a lot of break points, stayed super calm and I never really backed off. “I kept moving forward, kept going to net and kept doing my thing.”

Seventh seed David Goffin was forced to withdraw from Halle during his clash against Corentin Moutet after slipping and landing awkwardly on his ankle in the opening game of the second set. Although he toughed out the set and had a chance to serve for the match, he could not close it out and was unable to continue after Moutet levelled the match at 1-6 7-5.

At Cinch, Russian world number 24 Aslan Karatsev made his long-awaited tour-level grass court debut and overcame a slow start to get past Chilean lucky loser Alejandro Tabilo 3-6 6-4 6-2. Karatsev did not earn a break point in the opening set but became more comfortable on the surface as the match progressed.

“[It’s] completely different than the other surfaces,” Karatsev said. “It was the first match, a tough opponent, lefty. I got used to it and in the end I found the way to manage it. “The second set was a bit tricky. “I broke him, and then in the third set he started really slowly. “I got used to his serve and I returned everything that I could. “It was easier for me [from there].”

Karatsev will face local 25-year-old Cameron Norrie next, who defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 4-6 6-3 6-4.

British wildcard Jack Draper produced the biggest upset of the day, overcoming third seed Jannik Sinner 7-6 7-6. The world number 309 struck 11 aces and came back from 0-4 down in the opening set to earn the most impressive victory of his young career. After the match, Sinner admitted that Draper was the better player in this contest.

“He understood my game,” Sinner said. “It was a little bit of a rollercoaster and he played the important points better than me. “Today, I was not serving well and I think he deserved to win. “He has more experience than me on the grass and I wish him good luck.”

 

NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

(5) Roger Federer (SUI) defeated (Q) Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 7-6 7-5
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated (6) Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-3 7-6
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated (7) David Goffin (BEL) 1-6 7-5 0-0 (retired)
(Q) Marcos Giron (USA) defeated Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 7-6 7-6
Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated (WC) Daniel Altmaier (GER) 6-2 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

(WC) Jack Draper (GBR) defeated (3) Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-6 7-6
(5) Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) 3-6 6-4 6-2
(Q) Victor Troicki (SRB) defeated (7) Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-4 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated (Q) Illya Marchenko (UKR) 6-1 7-6
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated (WC) Liam Broady (GBR) 6-4 6-4
John Millman (AUS) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 7-6 5-7 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 4-6 6-3 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Rafa downs Gasquet for 17th time as Alcaraz impresses

IT was a fairly convincing day of action on Day 5 of the Roland Garros, with all men’s matches completed by the end of the fourth set although a smattering of lower seeds succumbed to hungry opponents in the Round of 64. Meanwhile, a teen talent made it through the second round with hopes to continue his great form on clay.

It was no worries for the three top 10 seeds of the day, with Novak DjokovicRafael Nadal and Roger Federer all making it through to the second round relatively unscathed, with only Federer dropping a set on his way to the Round of 32. Djokovic hit 31 winners against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in their first encounter to reign supreme, while Nadal claimed a 35th birthday win in his 6-0 7-5 6-2 disposal of Richard Gasquet – a whopping 17th time beating the Frenchman.

“Of course it’s better to win 16 in a row than lose 16 in a row,” Nadal said. “When you go to the match and you have been winning all the last 16 times, of course the confidence is a little bit higher than when you have a tougher head-to-head.

“Being honest, I respect (and) I know how good is Richard. “I know he’s coming back after a tough period of time. “I think he played smart, playing aggressive. “I don’t know. “I just went on court with highest respect, with the highest focus possible, and that’s what I try to do every day against everyone.”

“I’m playing well, feeling great. I’m ready to go deep in this tournament,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully that’s going to be the case. “But I’ll take it match by match, and so far the two matches that I have played have been played in a high quality.

“I’m pleased with the performance today, particularly against a very good player, a specialist on clay, someone I have never faced before. [He] has got a lot of spin,” Djokovic said. “[He hits] just a very difficult ball to handle in these kind of conditions when it’s a bit warmer… These balls during the day are bouncing really high.”

“I still do believe there’s no way I’m going to go really, really super deep here or go past the Novak section,” Federer said.

“The first round I didn’t surprise myself per se, but now in the second round, I did,” Federer said. “Now can I keep it up and how will the body react? We’ll see. The mind is getting stronger, I can feel it. I have more clarity, I have more confidence growing in me.”

“I feel like I surprised myself a little bit,” Federer told Tennis Channel. “I didn’t expect myself to play that well or to have the energy left at the end like this and being able to keep on serving so consistently at the end was great.”

Meanwhile, ninth, 10th and 18th seeds Matteo BerrettiniDiego Schwartzman and teen Jannik Sinner all proceeded, while the likes of Gael Monfils (14th seed), Alex de Minaur (21st), Aslan Karatsev (24th) and Taylor Fritz (30th) all failed to proceed with all four only able to steal one set in their respective losses.

One of the biggest wins of the day, however, went to teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who downed the day’s remaining seed in Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets, 6-4 6-2 6-4, in just under two hours.

“Obviously it’s good, the numbers, but I still focus on me,” Alcaraz said. “That means that I’m going the right way. I am doing the right things, and I keep [doing] this. I’m still growing up as a player and as a person, and that’s the important thing.”

“Today the positive emotions were really, really important because Nikoloz is a really, really good tennis player,” Alcaraz said. “He has a lot of great skills. He hits the ball really, really hard, and if you don’t focus, if you are not focused, it’s hard to play against him. You have to be focused all the time.”

The 18-year-old is the youngest male competitor to advance to the third round at the Roland Garros since Nadal in 2004, aged only 17. He finished off the encounter with 27 winners to Basilashvili’s 16, including 10 aces, also hitting less unforced errors (26-33).

“If I went down in that game, it was [going to be] really, really hard,” Alcaraz said. “I was focused, and that’s a good skill for me.”

Five more competitors joined the winners list on Day 5, with Ricardis Berankis and Cameron Norrie taken to four, while Soonwoo KwonLorenzo Musetti and Jan-Lennard Struff all heading into the third round with straight sets wins in the books.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-2 6-4
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-0 7-5 6-2
[8] Roger Federer (SUI) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-2 2-6 7-6 6-2
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-2
[10] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Ajlaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [14] Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3
[18] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-1 3-6 6-1
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated [24] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-3 7-6 4-6 6-1
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [28] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [30] Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-4
Ricardis Berankis (POR) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 7-5 2-6 7-6 6-0
Sonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-4 7-5 7-5
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 7-5 6-3 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-2
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 7-5 7-6 6-4

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

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: Rain forces delays at Geneva and Lyon

RAIN delays in Geneva and a combination of first and second round matches in Lyon painted an intriguing day at the respective ATP 250 events. There were very little surprises compared to the past round, with just one seed falling across the two competitions.

At Geneva, two matches are yet to complete with second seed Denis Shapovalov and Marco Cecchinato unable to take the court for their clash and forcing the match to be played tomorrow. Meanwhile, Laslo Djere leads Fabio Fognini in the third set and qualifier Pablo Cuevas leads wildcard Arthur Cazaux, with the remainder of the two matches to play from 12pm.

Third and fourth seeds Casper Ruud and Grigor Dimitrov both claimed straight set wins, as did home town hope and teenager Dominic Stephan Stricker. Ruud was challenged in the first by American Tennys Sandgren before reigning supreme in the second and winning a huge 82 per cent of points off a 67 per cent first serve clip. He also converted three break points to claim the 7-5 6-2 match. For Dimitrov, the victory over Ilya Ivashka looked to be a lot more clinical and one-sided before the Belarusian bit back in the second, coming from 0-5 down to eventually lose 6-4 6-4.

“Today was honestly just a good day for me, I was very pleased with the way I fought,” Dimitrov said post-match. “I’ve been quite misfortunate in my past two or three matches that I’ve played in Madrid and Rome. I felt that I fell short with a few points here and there and therefore lost the matches.

“That can be very discouraging, but I’m very thankful that I actually got the opportunity to compete here again. Getting a wild card meant a lot to me, so I really wanted to execute every chance that I have when I’m out there on the court.”

18-year-old Stricker took down Marton Fucsovics to head into his maiden tour-level quarter final, saving eight of 11 break points and cruising past two rain delays to eventually take out the 7-5 6-4 victory.

“It feels great to be here, to beat two of these guys,” Stricker said. “I’m very happy with my performance today. I played a good match. It was hard with these rain delays, but I just tried my best. I’m pretty happy with what I did today and I’m just looking forward to my match tomorrow and just trying my best.”

Stricker won 53 per cent of the overall points to claim victory. The final match saw Dominik Koepfer challenged by Feliciano Lopez throughout their two hour and 18-minute contest, with the former clinching victory 7-5 6-7(1) 6-3.

At Lyon, five matches played out with the two Round of 32 matches going the whole hog, as sixth seed Jannik Sinner claimed victory over Russian Aslan Karatsev despite giving away a 0-6 bagel to start, coming back to win 0-6 6-3 6-4, while lucky loser and hometown hopeful Arthur Rinderknech overcame a mid-match challenge from qualifying Swede Mikael Ymer to claim 6-3 6-7 6-2 victory.

In the day’s Round of 16 matches, it was fourth seed David Goffin who fell in straight sets to Aljaz Bedene, as eighth seed Karen Khachanov reigned supreme over qualifying Pole Kamil Majchrzak and Lorenzo Musetti continued his good form with a win over American and fellow youngster Sebastian Korda, overcoming a mid-match hiccup and rain delays to claim the 6-3 1-6 6-4 win.

“I lost my focus and he won the second set easily,” said Musetti. “I started the third set well with a break up, but then Sebi came back and he was playing really well. I played with my heart and my body. I am really proud of myself.”

GONET GENEVA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[3] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 7-5 6-2
[4] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-4 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-7 6-3
[WC] Dominic Stephan Stricker (SUI) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-5 6-4

Laslo Djere (SRB) leading Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-7 2-0
[Q] Pablo Cuevas (ARG) leading [WC] Arthur Cazaux (FRA) 6-2 4-3
[2] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) v. Marco Cecchinato (ITA)

OPEN PARC AUVERGNE-RHONE-ALPES LYON ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 0-6 6-3 6-4
[LL] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) defeated [Q] Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-3 6-7 6-2

OPEN PARC AUVERGNE-RHONE-ALPES LYON ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated [4] David Goffin (BEL) 7-6 6-3
[8] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [Q] Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 7-6 6-3
[ALT] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-3 1-6 6-4

Picture credit: Laurent Gillieron

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

ATP Tour wrap: Italians compete well on Rome Day 2

IT was a successful day of action for home nation hopefuls on Day 2 of proceedings at the ATP 1000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Masters Open in Rome, as four Italian talents – including three wildcards – reigned supreme and one claimed victory over the only seed of the day.

It was 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti who claimed a big scalp over top 20 Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz, taking out the first set with ease before the 15th seed was forced to retire early in the second.

“It’s always incredible playing here in Rome,” Musetti said. “It’s a fantastic site here in Foro Italico. Even without a crowd, tonight was really fun.”

Musetti hit 13 winners to two unforced errors in a clean first set before Hurkacz was forced to stop play. He is joined by fellow teen Jannik Sinner and other compatriots Gianluca Mager and Stefano Travaglia in the second round, while Fabio Fognini fell to a resurgent Kei Nishikori in straight sets. Mager scalped top-ranked Australian Alex De Minaur while both Sinner and Travaglia earned bragging rights over Frenchmen Ugo Humbert and Benoit Paire, as the remaining French talent on the day in Adrian Mannarino was outclassed by an unlikely victor in qualifying Bolivian Hugo Dellien who picked up his first ATP Tour level win for the year in the process.

A couple of lucky losers in Yoshihito Nishioka and Aljan Bedene could not maintain their luck when they were both disposed of in speedy encounters, falling to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and German Jan-Lennard Struff in 56 minutes and 66 minutes, respectively. Taylor Fritz and Aslan Karastev executed excellent straight sets victories and will need to bring that form into their next respective encounters, setting up huge challenges in the second round with matchups set against Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Sinner is dealt with the tough draw of clay champion, Rafael Nadal next up.

“I was really frustrated to give away the early break,” Fritz said following his victory over Brit, Daniel Evans. “He played two pretty good points, then I missed two forehands. I thought I was hitting the ball really well right from the beginning. I just told myself not to get too upset about it, as I was playing well. Dan has been playing well lately, beating Novak in Monte-Carlo, so it’s great to get a strong win. I am going to try my best [against Djokovic].”

“We (Djokovic) played twice on clay in 2018, in Monte-Carlo and Madrid,” Fritz explained. “I got beaten pretty bad those two times. I feel better prepared to play him now, after the match in Australia.”

In other games, Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis, Croatian Marin Cilic and Chilean Cristian Garin all claimed wins on their opening day.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS: 

[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [15] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-4 2-0 RET
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Karen Khachanov (RUS) 3-6 6-4 6-0
[Q] Hugo Dellien (BOL) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 2-6 7-5 6-2
Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 6-2
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [LL] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-0 6-2
Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-5 6-2
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Alex De Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-3
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-2 6-4
Jan Lennard-Struff (GER) defeated [LL] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-3 6-1
[WC] Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Even seeds fail as odds fall the way of victory

THE Round of 16 has well and truly begun at the Madrid Open, as competitors backed up a huge second round of event yesterday with little break as the third round got underway. Whilst the King of Clay retained the mantle with another win, three top 10 seeds fell in a big day on the clay.

It appeared as though every other seed proceeded to the quarter finals in an intriguing day of action, as the odd seeds in Rafael Nadal (first seed), Dominic Thiem (third), and Alexander Zverev (fifth) reigned supreme, whilst the evens in Daniil Medvedev (second), Stefanos Tsitsipas (fourth) and Andrey Rublev (sixth) failed to proceed to the next round.

Two of the major results of the day saw Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev both bundled out, with those two encounters the only three-setters of the day. It was 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin who claimed the scalp of Medvedev, with the equal-biggest win of his career coming in the two and a half hour, 6-4 6-7 6-1 matchup. Whilst Medvedev broke back in the second to win the tiebreaker 6(2)-7, Garin’s overall service game efficiency paid off winning 71 per cent of his service points compared to Medvedev’s 62 per cent, whilst also claiming the ascendancy on return. For Rublev, it was American John Isner who spoiled the party with a 7-6 3-6 7-6 victory in just over two hours. Realistically, Rublev just could not compete with Isner on serve, as the hard-hitter piled on 29 aces to claim easy points, and while Rublev actually led service efficiency and won more off his serve (82 per cent compared to 68 per cent), Isner rallied when it mattered to win both the first and third set tiebreakers.

“I’m very happy,” Isner said post-match. “I wasn’t the better player out there today; I did win the match. “My serve kept me in it. “There’s a reason he’s won so many matches this year.”

“It’s a nice feather in my cap right now with my ranking being a little bit lower,” Isner said. “I haven’t played much since the tour stopped last year. “I think this is my only seventh event. I haven’t had many matches. “But to beat a guy like that, maybe being a little bit undercooked, is a very special moment for me.”

“It is my favourite clay court probably,” Isner said. “It has an indoor feel even though it’s not fully indoors. It’s got a great sound to it. “The court is fast. “To me it doesn’t seem like there’s too much clay on the court so, of all the clay courts I play on, it plays closest to a hard court of any of them. “The altitude in Madrid just really helps my serve. “The ball goes through the air very fast. You put all those things together, it’s a good recipe for me to do some damage on serve.”

The third upset of the day saw Casper Ruud scored a big win over Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6 6-4, as the Norwegian marginally claimed victory winning the same amount of points, but fortunate to retain the upper hand throughout the close contest.

“He is one of the best players this year on the Tour, one of the ones who has won the most matches. He’s won his first Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo. Barcelona he was very close to getting the title there, as well,” Ruud said post-match. “But the conditions are a bit different here than other clay courts with the fast shots, the ball traveling faster through the air because of the altitude. You get a lot of free points with the serve that you don’t usually [get] on the clay courts. I think that also today went a bit in my advantage.

“I felt like he was doing some mistakes that he doesn’t always do. I was just trying to take care of the chances that I got.”

Nadal and Thiem disposed of a couple of Australians, downing qualifier Alexei Popyrin and top ranked Aussie Alex de Minaur respectively, and rather significantly at that. Nadal was always going to be a huge challenge for Popyrin, who was outclassed 6-3 6-3 in 79 minutes by the Spaniard, who was far more consistent. To Popyrin’s credit he hit seven more aces and won 83 per cent of his first serve points to lead Nadal, however it was the King of Clay’s ability to both save (five from six) and convert break points (four from six) that allowed him to overrun Popyrin and keep down the unforced errors. Meanwhile the matchup between Thiem and De Minaur may have started close but saw Thiem break even in the second, retaining control and forcing errant hits from the Australian.

Fifth seed Zverev joined the winners list with a dismissal of Daniel Evans, whilst eighth seed Matteo Berrettini continued his solid form on clay with a straight sets victory over Federico Delbonis and Alexander Bublik downed a third Russian in Aslan Karatsev to head into the quarter finals.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: 

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 6-4 6-7 6-1
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-6 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 7-6 6-4
[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 7-6
John Isner (USA) defeated [6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 7-6 3-6 7-6
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-4
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-4 6-3

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