Tag: benjamin bonzi

ATP 250 wraps: Humbert saves match points as Popyrin win ensures all-Australian quarter final

THERE were some huge results across the ATP Tour’s three tournaments played in France, Argentina and Singapore, as we wrap up the day’s action below.

Ugo Humbert overcame multiple match points to put away Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor in a thrilling match of the day in the Open Sud de France at Monypellier. In three nail-biting tiebreakers, Humbert lost the first one 7-4, then backed up with 7-5 and 7-5 in the final two tiebreakers, but it was Humbert’s fighting spirit looking down and out midway through the second set that shone through. The Frenchman was 7-6 5-2 down and had to fight off three match points in the ninth game to fight off the 160th ranked Griekspoor.

In a match that lasted two hours and 50 minutes, Humbert served one more ace (10-9) and two less double faults (2-4) as well as a superior 83 to 74 per cent first serve points success rate. In the end just seven points separated the players, with Humbert converting one of two break points in that second set, and saving eight of nine in a terrific defensive effort throughout the match.

“It was tough today. [Griekspoor] played at a great level,” Humbert said post-match. “I tried to stay combative. It was tough. [We played] three tie-breaks and I am super happy to win this match.”

Also having a fight on his hands, second seed Belgian David Goffin survived a thriller against French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. Goffin has not been in the greatest form of late, but showed equal fighting spirit to come from a set down to win in three. The Belgian crucially broke the Frenchman in the eleventh game of the deciding set to successfully serve for the match, 4-6 6-4 7-5 after saving a break point in the final game.

Seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego made his way into the quarter finals with a straight sets win over American Sebastian Korda. The Italian had an easier time of it than his fellow seeds, getting up 6-3 6-2 to book his spot in the final eight.

Meanwhile in other results, the remaining three Round of 32 matches were completed with a couple of upsets. Slovenian Aljaz Bedene upset Italian young gun Jannik Sinner in a come-from-behind win 6-7 7-6 7-6, and French qualifier Gregoire Barrere set Georgian Top 40 talent Nikoloz Basilashvili packing in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. In the other first round match, Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina had to navigate three sets to knock off compatriot and qualifier, Berabe Zapata Miralles 7-6 5-7 6-2.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 16:

[6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-7 7-6 7-6
[7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-3 6-2
[2] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 4-6 6-4 7-5

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32:

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated [5] Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3-6 6-2 7-6
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [Q] Berabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 7-6 5-7 6-2
[Q] Gregoire Barrere (FRA) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 6-4

 

The first four players are through to the quarter finals in Singapore, with three seeds joining Australian Alexei Popyrin in the final eight. Thanks to Popyrin winning, it has guaranteed an Australian will make the semi-finals, with the other two remaining Aussies – second seed John Millman and wildcard Matthew Ebden – facing off later today to take on Popyrin in the quarter finals.

Popyrin fought hard to overcome Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev, 6-1 5-7 6-3 to book his spot in the quarter finals. Also making their way into the last eight were a trio of seeds, with the third, fourth and fifth seeds all winning. Third seed Marin Cilic accounted for Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-5 6-4, while fourth seed Alexander Bublik and fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka brushed aside Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek and American Maxime Cressy in straight sets respectively.

The last of the Round of 32 matches were also completed yesterday, with eighth seed Soonwoo Kwon surviving a thriller against United States qualifier, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 4-6 6-3 6-4 to move into the second round. In the other results, Ebden defeated Indian Yuli Bhambri in straight sets 6-3 7-6, while Italian Roberto Marcora earned a date with top seed Adrian Mannarino later today after taking care of Latvian Ernests Gulbis, 7-5 6-4.

SINGAPORE OPEN ROUND OF 16:

[3] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Taro Daniel (JPN) 7-5 6-4
[4] Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated [Q] Altug Celikbilek (TUR) 6-2 6-2
[5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Maxime Cressy (USA) 6-4 6-2
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [WC] Adrian Andreev (BUL) 6-1 5-7 6-3

SINGAPORE OPEN ROUND OF 32:

[8] Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated [Q] Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (USA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Roberto Marcora (ITA) defeated Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 7-5 6-4
[WC] Matthew Ebden (AUS) defeated [PR] Yuli Bhambri (IND) 6-3 7-6

 

There were plenty of fans who went home happy from the Cordoba Open, with six of the nine winners on the opening day coming from Argentina. The three other winners did not knock off an Argentinian either, so the maximum amount of talent from the host nation advanced through to the Round of 16, which allowed a minimum of two Argentinians to reach the quarter finals after setting up all-Argentinian Round of 16 matches.

Federico Coria caused the upset of the day, bundling out sixth seed German Dominik Koepfer in straight sets, 6-1 6-4. He advanced through to the next round to face compatriot and wildcard, Francisco Cerundolo. The 135th ranked Cerundolo upstaged Italian Gianluca Mager, coming back from a set down to win, 6-7 6-1 6-4.

Facundo Bagnis will get plenty of experience against his fellow Argentinians, having defeated wildcard Nicolas Kicker in straight sets in the first round, and will face eighth seed Federico Delbonis in the Round of 16. The qualifier defeated Kicker 6-1 6-4 to set up the Delbonis meeting, with the seed knocking off Portugal’s Pedro Sousa for the Round of 16 spot.

Another qualifier to advance through to the Round of 16 was Juan Manuel Cerundolo who toppled Brazilian young gun Thiago Seyboth Wild. Winning in two eight sets 7-5 7-6, Cerundolo will now have the tough task of taking on third seed Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic who had a bye in the opening round. Meanwhile Tomas Martin Etcheverry booked his Round of 16 spot with an upset win over Slovenia’s Andrej Martin, 6-3 7-6 and will take on Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the next match.

Other winners on the day was Thiago Monteiro who won through thanks to a straight sets victory over compatriot and lucky loser, Brazilian Joao Menezes, 6-3 6-3. Italian Marco Cecchinato advanced through to take on top seed Diego Schwartzman with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Bolivian Hugo Dellien, while Robert Carballes Baena was too strong for Joao Sousa, winning 6-3 6-1 and the Spaniard will now take on Monteiro in the next round.

CORDOBA OPEN ROUND OF 32:

Federico Coria (ARG) defeated [6] Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-1 6-4
[7] Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [LL] Joao Menezes (BRA) 6-3 6-3
[8] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Pedro Sousa (POR) 6-4 6-4
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2 4-6 6-1
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-3 6-1
[Q] Facundo Bagnis (ARG) defeated [WC] Nicolas Kicker (ARG) 6-1 6-4
[Q] Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG) defeated Andrej Martin (SLO) 6-3 7-6
[WC] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-7 6-1 6-4
[Q] Juan Manuel Cerundolo (ARG) defeated Thiago Seyboth Wild (BRA) 7-5 7-6

Picture credit: ATP Tour

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

Is Ugo Humbert already the best Frenchman on the ATP Tour?

UGO Humbert is the best Frenchman on the ATP Tour. It is a big statement considering the amount of French talent going around at the moment. The nation has no shortage of talent, led by top talent Gael Monfils, the always exciting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and then the likes of Benoit Paire, Adrian Mannarino and Richard Gasquet cemented inside the top 50 players in the world. But unlike all of those players who are the wrong side of 30 – Paire is the youngest at 31 – Ugo Humbert is 22 and on the verge of breaking out in his career.

It could be argued he did just that in 2020, having his best season to-date and showing what he is capable of on the world stage. Prior to this year, Humber had a 19-26 record, but improved that to 43-38 after a huge 24-12 year that included two ATP Tour titles. The first one came in Auckland early in the year, defeating Paire in the final there, before backing up his performance indoors post the COVID break at Antwerp. His performances saw him move from 57th in the world up to number 30 in the past 12 months, giving French fans hope that he can lead the next wave of talents.

France is never short on up-and-comers, always having competitive players that will impress on the world stage. What makes Humbert so special is that he is that 188cm and is the pure power player who loves to win points quickly. He can make mistakes and is still raw, but wins a lot of points in a multitude of ways, be it off his serve, his forehand, backhand or approaching the net. In short, Humbert has a lot of tricks to his arsenal, and while he is raw, he can do a lot of damage when on song with his power plays.

It is remarkable to think that Humbert started his year with a straight sets loss in the third round of a Challenger event in Bendigo before posting a stunning maiden title win in Auckland. What made the victory in Auckland so special was the fact he knocked off four top 50 players including Casper Ruud, Denis Shapovalov, John Isner and Paire in that time. That is quite the mix of talents, and while he suffered a four-set loss to John Millman at the Australian Open and then bowed out in Montpellier to Feliciano Lopez, he reached the semi-finals at Delray Beach and arguably should have gone further.

Humbert’s Grand Slam record did not improve, with a second round defeat to Matteo Berrettini after a straight sets loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Cincinnati masters, but he then toppled Fabio Fognini before losing to Shapovalov in Rome. He then stunned Daniil Medvedev in Hamburg before dropping his quarter finals loss to Ruud also squared that head-to-head up this year. A forgettable first round loss in Roland Garros to Marc Polmans meant he won one of four matches at the majors, a key reason why he could not crack into the top 20.

Another three top 50 wins at Antwerp led him to the title, defeating Pablo Carreno Busta, Daniel Evans and Alex de Minaur. What makes those three players so different to his hat-trick of Shapovalov, Isner and Paire in Auckland is the fact the former are all-court or counter punchers, compared to the latter who are power players and big servers. In other words, Humbert can play – and win – against all types of players.

Another win over Ruud in Paris was followed by a hard fought victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and an equally challenging victory over Marin Cilic before being stopped by Milos Raonic in three sets in the quarter finals. The Masters ended his year, but he had one eight of nine to cap off the season and knocked off two top six players in the final couple of months. All in all, 2020 could be considered a success.

As of now, Humbert is yet to make his debut at the Davis Cup. That must change. He simply has to be in, and if Monfils is fit, then France should take those two as the starting singles players. Tsonga is unfortunately not as durable as he used to be, and one cannot trust Paire consistently. Right now, Mannarino should be considered ahead of both, but the French love to play with flair, and unfortunately as solid as Mannarino is, he does not have the big serve that the Davis Cup team loves. With such a strong doubles pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, the French have to start thinking about the future.

Not only should Humbert be thrown into the Davis Cup team, France need to start considering the next generation of talents before the top stars retire, all bar maybe Paire will be on the way out in the next few years, so the planning time is now. It is time to see whether Lucas Pouille and Corentin Moutet can sink or swim, particularly the latter who is still 21. Hugo Gaston at 20 has talent throw him in the extended squad and even Gregoire Barrere and Benjamin Bonzi are putting their hands up.

Whatever happens, Humbert simply has to be in because he is France’s next big thing.

Picture: Getty Images

Thompson upsets Coric as Schwartzman edges closer to ATP Finals

JORDAN Thompson caused the upset of the day against 15th seed Croatian Borna Coric, coming from behind to win in two hours and 14 minutes. The unseeded Australian won 2-6 6-4 6-2 to break up a day of largely predictable results. Ranked 61st in the world, the Sydney local weathered 14 aces off Coric’s racquet and only served the three himself, but was consistent in protecting his serve. Thompson won 44 per cent of his second serve, double the points higher ranked opponent did, also breaking five times to four, of which it was five times to two after the first set.

Diego Schwartzman is in the box seat for a debut at the ATP Finals later this month and he did his chances no harm with a straight sets win over French veteran, Richard Gasquet. The 56th ranked Frenchman held a 3-0 head-to-head record coming into the match, and in fact Schwartzman had never won a set off him previously. That all changed in Paris with the Argentinian winning 7-5 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes. Both players served six aces, with Gasquet the only one to double fault – three times – as Schwartzman claimed three breaks to one throughout the match, including early leads of 4-1 and 3-0 in he respective first and second sets. Winning 58 per cent of Gasquet’s second serve points whilst winning 65 per cent of his own, the Argentinian is in the best form of his career.

“I’m feeling great, because I have the chance in my hands,” Schwartzman said post-match. “I’m trying to do my best, and I’m feeling really, really good this week. After Rome, I got a lot of confidence and I’ve been playing very good tennis. So I want to be in London, and I hope to be there.”

In other results, fourth seed Alexander Zverev continued his ridiculous form off the back off two titles at Cologne to win easily over Miomir Kecmanovic, defeating the up and coming Serbian. 6-2 6-2. Zverev produced eight aces and won 88 per cent of his first serve points, whilst still controlling 69 per cent of his second serve points. Kecmanovic could only win 62 and 33 per cent of his respective serve points, not able to create a break point and was broken four times from six chances by the red-hot German.

The other three seeds on court earlier in the day also got through unscathed, with Australian 16th seed Alex de Minaur defeating danger man Lorenzo Sonego – who knocked off Novak Djokovic last week – 6-3 7-5 in their Round of 32 clash. Milos Raonic came through with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the 10th seed Canadian to advance, whilst third seed Russian Daniil Medvedev had a short time out on court after opponent Kevin Anderson had to retire at 6-6 in the first set allowing safe passage for the Russian.

Frenchman Adrian Mannarino flew the flag for his country as he and Ugo Humbert remained the only home nation players in the tournament after a three-set win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. Mannarino won 6-3 6-7 6-3 in an epic two hours and 47 minutes to book a spot in the Round of 16. Joining him was Spanish up and comer Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who qualified through to the main draw, knocked off Karen Khachanov and now has fended off French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. Davidovich Fokina won 6-4 6-4 to move through to the final 16.

In the late games, Russian Andrey Rublev continued his red-hot form with a 59-minute blitz of Macedonian Radu Albot. The first set lasted just 28 minutes, and the second set was not much longer as Rublev cruised into the Round of 16 with a 6-1 6-2 triumph. Rublev only dropped two points off his first serve and nine points all up to never face a break point, but made good on two of six opportunities from Albot’s serve. It was much tougher for world number two and top seed Rafael Nadal, as the Spaniard came from a set down and a tight second set tiebreaker to defeat experienced compatriot, Feliciano Lopez 4-6 7-6 6-4 to advance through to the Round of 16. Lopez was on song with 22 aces and winning 81 per cent of his first serve points, but Nadal was even better, claiming 16 aces and 89 per cent. Both players only broke once apiece in a match that lasted two and a half hours.

In the final match of the day Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Paul put on a tough showing in a close affair, which at time of publishing was not yet complete, though Paul led 6-4 1-2 in the first hour of play.

Picture: Getty Images

French trio advance in Paris as Masters 1000 gets underway

ALL three French competitors have advanced through to the Round of 32 at the Paris ATP 1000 Masters in what will be the final non invite-only event left on tour. For a handful of top 40 players their seasons are over until the Australian summer whilst for others, their year still remains alive as they advanced through to the next stage of the tournament.

Ugo Humbert held off Casper Ruud in a three set come-from-behind victory, downing the Norwegian 4-6 6-2 7-6 in two hours and 11 minutes. The 34th ranked Humbert has every chance of moving past the second highest ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire with a good Masters, and he started off on the right note defeating the 27th ranked Ruud in an impressive but hard-fought performance. Both players won their first titles in 2020 – Humbert won his first two including one at Hamburg – with this match being the third between the pair at a 1-1 match. Back on Humbert’s favoured hard court, the 22-year-old was too strong off his serve, dominating with 84 and 67 per cent of his first and second serve points, also breaking twice from from two chances – both in the second set – and avoided any break point opportunities for his opponent after the first set. Humbert now takes on second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round.

Joining Humbert in the second round were compatriots and French wildcards, Corentin Moutet and Benjamin Bonzi. Moutet had to fight tooth-and-nail to defeat lucky loser Italian Salvatore Caruso, 3-6 7-6 6-3 in two hours and 31 minutes. Moutet was able to hold firm despite five aces from his opponent and 12 break point opportunities, winning four from eight himself to crucially win an additional break compared to his more experienced opponent. The 21-year-old levelled his ATP Tour win-loss record this year to move to 10-10 after the match. Bonzi had a much easier time of it, smashing Argentinian lucky loser Federico Coria in just 56 minutes, 6-2 6-1. The 24-year-old 180th ranked Bonzi made light work of his 93rd ranked opponent to serve eight aces and only drop three points off his first serve on his way to four breaks from five chances whilst saving the only break point opportunity he faced. It was not as positive for French teen Hugo Gaston, who suffered a straight sets defeat at the hands of top 20 player, Pablo Carreno Busta.

Meanwhile Hamburg finalist Alex de Minaur advanced through to the next round with a strong 6-4 6-4 triumph over Italian Stefano Travaglia. The Australian only dropped six points off his first serve and capitalised off the Italian’s second serve to win 65 per cent of those points, and break on both opportunities. De Minaur held firm on his own serve facing three break points and was able to join fellow Australian Jordan Thompson in the second round. Thompson knocked over Argentinian qualifier, Federico Delbonis 6-2 6-3 in an hour and 18 minutes on court, serving five aces and only dropping 11 points on serve. The 61st ranked Thompson never looked like losing, and broke Delbonis four times in an impressive win.

Borna Coric earned his spot in the Round of 32 with a 7-6 6-1 victory over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. The match lasted an hour and 46 minutes before the top 30 player could hold off the Hungarian, with the latter having a good season thanks to a 14-9 record on Tour. Coric produced five aces and won 73 per cent of his first serve points off a 75 per cent clip, whilst breaking three times to one, racing away in the final set to only drop seven points on serve in that set. Coric said it was a tough encounter despite the scoreline for the second set.

“It was not an easy match and every time we have played it’s been very tough,” he said post-match. “It’s always been a very physical match. In the tie-break, I went for my shots that maybe weren’t logical, but it paid off. In the second set, I started to play much better and played at quite a high level at the end. I played one bad game at 2-1 in the first set, when I missed two first serves, but pretty much the rest of the time I was serving huge. I feel like I’m starting to play some good tennis.”

In other results, wily veteran Feliciano Lopez will take on top seed and compatriot Rafael Nadal in the Round of 32 after a 7-6 6-1 win over Serbian Filip Krajinovic. The second set went to 13-11 before Lopez got up, then the Spaniard went on to crush his highly fancied opponent in the second set for a total match time of 84 minutes. Meanwhile it was not as good news for Spanish teammate Albert Ramos-Vinolas who lost to American qualifier Marcos Giron in the first round, going down in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-1. Also through to the next round was Macedonian lucky loser Radu Albot who shocked Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz in three sets, 7-5 6-7 6-4, whilst Jan-Lennard Struff finally broke through for a win, this time against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-2, and Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos took care of fellow qualifier Marco Cecchinato, 6-2 7-6. In the late matches, Marin Cilic took care of Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-0 3-6 6-3, whilst Karen Khachanov and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina were locked in a tight tussle at the time of publishing.

 

Picture: Getty Images

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.