Tag: Benoit Paire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HALLE NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

ATP Tour wrap: French fall as Sinnik survives thriller to advance at Roland Garros

IT was a forgettable day for the French fans in Paris, as all six French representatives were bundled out of the 2021 Roland Garros ATP draw in the first round on day two. In a day that was largely favourable to seeds – with eight of the 10 seeds in action grabbing wins – there were still some thrilling contests, none more so than Italian young gun Jannik Sinner‘s five-set win over France’s Pierre Hugues-Herbert.

Sinner fell two sets to one down after winning the first one easily, before bouncing back to win in five sets, 6-1 4-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 to advance through to the Round of 64. The match lasted three hours and 32 minutes, as both players showed their talents at the net, with 24 per cent of the total points won there. Sinner won 61 per cent of his approach shots, whilst Herbert won 58 per cent, in a real epic battle. The Italian hit 15 less winners than his opponent (43-58), but had a whopping 26 less unforced errors (36-62) in a more conservative, but consistent performance. Herbert’s ability to control his serve (13 aces to five) was what kept him in it, but in the end, it was the mistakes that cost him and set Sinner into the next round.

Perhaps the biggest choke of the day went to American Frances Tiafoe, who was two sets to love up and in control against compatriot Steve Johnson. The more experienced kept toiling away though, and won the next three sets easily, dominating the fourth and fifth sets to win in three hours and 11 minutes, 6-7 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-1. Johnson hit 49 winners to 46 and 41 unforced errors to 47, marginally ahead in each statistical category, though breaking nine times to five was the difference in the latter stages of the match. Also needing five sets to win was American Tommy Paul, who survived an almighty fightback from Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell to win 6-2 6-4 4-6 4-6 10-8 in three hours and 33 minutes. Paul hit six more winners (47-41) and had 10 less unforced errors (40-50), whilst winning an impressive 76 per cent of both his first serve points, and net points won to hold off the determined Australian and book himself a Round of 64 spot.

In terms of upsets, just two seeds fell on day two of the competition, with 13th seed David Goffin and 26th seed Lorenzo Sonego both exiting the Grand Slam. Sonego’s compatriot, Italian Lorenzo Musetti continued his great rise over the past 12 months to obliterate Goffin in the first set, before holding out in two more tight sets to win 6-0 7-5 7-6. The match lasted two hours and 18 minutes, with the sloppy Goffin hitting a whopping 48 unforced errors to Musetti’s 27, and while Goffin was more clinical at the net (79 to 64 per cent success), and hit more winners (37-23), Musetti posted a 71 per cent serving efficiency and first serve winning rate. Big serving South African Lloyd Harris might not have had his usual numbers off the aces (6-5), but still did enough to take care of Sonego in straight sets, 7-5 6-4 6-4 in an identical time to the other upset, two hours and 18 minutes. Harris did hit 40 winners to 31, and he won 75 and 69 per cent off his first and second serve respectively – losing just 24 points – to Sonego’s 66 and 58 per cent, to advance through to the next stage.

The other eight seeds in action all advanced, with eighth seed Roger Federer making his return to the Grand Slam circuit, posting a straight sets win over Uzbekistan qualifier Denis Istomin. The 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory in one hour and 33 minutes was the quickest of the ATP Tour matches, giving the Swiss Maestro an eye-catching start to the clay tournament. Federer was absolutely exquisite as he hit 48 winners to 18, and won 79 per cent of his points at the net compared to Istomin’s 43 per cent. He produced eight aces and only dropped 13 points on serve for the entire match, breaking five times from 13 chances and never conceding a break point opportunity in a clinical victory. Fellow top 10 seed Daniil Medvedev also advanced in straight sets, putting away a tough first round opponent in Alexander Bublik, 6-3 6-3 7-5. Fellow seeds, Casper Ruud and Nikoloz Basilashvili needed four sets to overcome their opponents Benoit Paire and Dusan Lajovic, whilst American trio seeded 30th, 31st and 32nd in Taylor Fritz, John Isner and Reilly Opelka, all advanced through to the Round of 64 with straight sets wins.

Unfortunately for France, it was not a great day, with Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bundled out in four sets against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. The Japanese talent won 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-6 to advance through to the Round of 64 in two hours and 52 minutes, winning the fourth set tiebreaker 7-5 in a match which almost went to five sets. Tsonga was far from disgraced upon his return, producing 19 aces to two, and hitting 61 winners to 21, but his power was still finding its consistency, whacking 73 unforced errors to 21 which proved costly. The longest match of the day was Jaume Munar‘s four-set come-from-behind victory over Jordan Thompson in four hours and 23 minutes. The Spaniard dropped the first set tiebreaker to the Australian 8-6, before a quicker second set followed, and then the clay court talent won 7-5 in the third set tiebreaker, and with an additional break secured in the win in an epic contest, 6-7 6-1 7-6 6-4. Thompson hit 55 winners to Munar’s 35, but the Spaniard had 28 less unforced errors (50-78), and was more efficient with his serve (75 to 54 per cent), also breaking five times from 23 chances to Thompson’s two from 10.

Fellow Spaniards Pedro Martinez – who defeated most recent title winner Sebastian Korda in straight sets – and Carlo Alcaraz also advanced through to the second round, with Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic and Italy’s Gianluca Mager all sending wildcards, qualifiers or lucky losers home in the first round. Other winners were Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak and Argentina’s Federico Delbonis who both made their way into the second round at Roland Garros.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-3 6-3 7-5
[8] Roger Federer (SUI) defeated [Q] Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [13] David Goffin (BEL) 6-0 7-5 7-6
[15] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6
[18] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Pierre Hugues-Herbert (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-7 7-5 6-4
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [26] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 7-5 6-4 6-4
[28] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4 6-3 0-6 6-2
[30] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-4 6-2 6-4
[31] John Isner (USA) defeated Sam Querrey (USA) 7-6 6-3 6-4
[32] Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated Andrej Martin (SLO) 6-3 6-2 6-4
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-6
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [WC] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 7-6 6-1 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [Q] Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) 7-5 7-5 6-2
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [WC] Mathias Bourgue (FRA) 6-3 6-3 6-4
Steve Johnson (USA) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-7 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-1
[PR] Kamil Majchrzak (POL) defeated [WC] Arthur Cazaux (FRA) 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-4
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [LL] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) 6-3 6-4 6-3
Pedro Martinez (ESP) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-4 6-2 6-2
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Maximilian Marterer (GER) 6-4 6-1 7-6
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated [WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 6-4 4-6 4-6 10-8
Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated [LL] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) 6-2 3-6 6-4 7-5
Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-7 6-1 7-6 6-4
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-3 2-6 6-1 7-6
Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Radu Albot (MOL) 6-1 2-6 6-0 6-1

Picture credit: Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

ATP Tour wrap: Top three seeds bundled out in Parma and Belgrade

WORLD number one Novak Djokovic remains the only top three seed left across the ATP Tour’s two 250 events after the other five players all suffered defeats in both Parma and Belgrade. Just four matches were played in the Serbia Open to complete the Round of 16 matches, whilst all eight second round matches were run and done in the Emilia-Romagna Open after rain delays impacted previous day’s play.

Djokovic is the raging favourite in Belgrade, especially after the second and third seeds both suffered defeats via three-set losses to qualifiers. Spanish qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena knocked off second seed Gael Monfils in a tight contest after a strong start, winning 6-1 3-6 7-6 to advance to the next round. Joining the Spaniard in the quarter finals was Slovenian qualifier Andrej Martin who toppled Georgian third seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in an equally tight encounter after the first set, triumphing 6-1 4-6 7-6. Both third set tiebreakers finished with a 7-4 result.

In other Belgrade Open results, fifth seed Croatian Dusan Lajovic advanced with a 6-3 6-4 win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, while eighth seed Federico Delbonis knocked off fellow South American in Brazilian Thiago Monteiro. In an epic contest, the Argentinian escaped with the win, 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Belgrade was not the only tournament where top seeds fell in the second round. The top three seeds all exited in the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Italy in very different ways. Top seed Lorenzo Sonego was taken out of his home tournament by ever-improving American Sebastian Korda in straight sets, 6-1 7-5. Third seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas put up more of a fight against Slovenian lucky loser Norbert Gombos, but still dropped out in three sets, 6-3 6-7 6-2. Second seed Benoit Paire‘s horror past 12 months continued with a disappointing 7-5 3-1 loss having to retire against Spaniard Jaume Munar.

In more predictable results, fourth seed Jan-Lennard Struff had his work cut out for him against a home nation favourite in wildcard Flavio Cobolli, but fought through three sets to win, 6-4 4-6 7-6. Fifth seed Richard Gasquet provided some relief for French tennis fans across the globe with a win against another Italian in qualifier Pedro Martinez 6-3 3-6 6-3, whilst eighth seed Yoshihito Nishioka easily took care of young gun Lorenzo Musetti in a shock straight sets win, 6-3 6-2.

In the remaining two results, the sole Italian winner of the day in wildcard Marco Cecchinato got up courtesy of a 7-5 6-2 win over seventh seed Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, whilst sixth seed United States representative Tommy Paul took down Czech Jiri Vesely in a come-from-behind victory, 6-7 7-6 6-3.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated [1] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-1 7-5
Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated [2] Benoit Paire (FRA) 7-5 3-1 RET
[LL] Norbert Gombos (SLO) defeated [3] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-3 6-7 6-2
[4] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [WC] Flavio Cobolli (ITA) 6-4 4-6 7-6
[5] Richard Gasquet (FRA) defeated [Q] Pedro Martinez (ITA) 6-3 3-6 6-3
[6] Tommy Paul (USA) defeated Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-7 7-6 6-3
[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [7] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 7-5 6-2
[8] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-3 6-2

BELGRADE OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[Q] Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated [2] Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-1 3-6 7-6
[Q] Andrej Martin (SLO) defeated [3] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-1 4-6 7-6
[5] Dusan Lajovic (CRO) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-3 6-4
[8] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 7-6 3-6 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Geneva and Lyon events begin

TWO ATP 250 events have begun this week, with tournaments in Geneva and Lyon shaping up with their respective Round of 32. Four matches played out at both events on the opening day, with six of the seven French competitors falling across the two tournaments on a huge first day in both Switzerland and France.

At Geneva, Dominik Koepfer and Arthur Cazaux were the two big winners of the day disposing of French seeded duo, Benoit Paire and Adrian Mannarino. Koepfer may have lost the first set but that did not stop him from testing out-of-form seventh seed Paire, with a better service efficiency paying off despite hitting six double faults for three aces. While Paire won 82 per cent of his first serve points (60/73), Koepfer’s 66/98 off a 67 per cent clip paid off as he backed it up with a marginally better 51 per cent win rate off his second serve in the 6-7(8) 7-6(5) 6-4 contest. Koepfer saved a whopping 17 break points of Paire’s 19 chances, showcasing his strong defensive game to remain on top of the contest.

Meanwhile, teen French wildcard Cazaux took the court for his first ATP Tour-level match and claimed his first win in one fell swoop, with a 6-3 6-7 6-3 sweep of compatriot Mannarino. He required just under two and a half hours to defeat the eighth seed, hitting 10 aces and showing immense control to come back from the 6-7(5) second set to take out the victory.

“It’s something very great. It’s a big win for me today. It’s the biggest win of my life,” Cazaux said. “I’m so grateful and I hope to continue in this tournament.”

Overall, Cazaux won 72 per cent of his service points off a 60 per cent clip, and whilst his return could do with some improving, it was at a greater efficiency than his experienced opposition who failed to adjust to the 18-year-old’s exciting style of play, which included a ‘tweener’ during the second set.

“When I hit the shot, I didn’t think about nothing. I had my back to the net and I just hit the shot. I didn’t ask any questions in my head,” Cazaux said. “It was a big shot. I’m so happy I hit this shot.”

The remaining two matches saw straight sets victories go to Spaniard Pablo Andujar and American Tennys Sandgren, with the former downing Australian Jordan Thompson in less than 90 minutes, while the latter required an hour and 47 minutes to take down Italian Salvatore Caruso.

At Lyon, none of the home nation’s talent headed through to the second round in a disastrous and rainy day of action, as three of the four winners only required two sets to proceed. The quickest win of the day went to Aljaz Bedene, as the Slovenian downed former top 10 veteran, Gilles Simon. Bedene won 84 per cent of his service points in a classy 6-2 6-3 win, whilst also winning 48 per cent on return and converting four break points in a one-sided one hour and 16 minute contest.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert had a strong start against American Sebastian Korda but fell away in the second, registering nine double faults throughout as Korda cleaned up on serve, winning 78 per cent of his first serve points to claim the 7-6(5) 6-4 victory. Cameron Norrie registered a similarly solid win 7-5 6-3 in just over 90 minutes, utilising Corentin Moutet‘s shaky second serve to his advantage to win 49 per cent of his return points to go with a serviceable 60 per cent service game winning rate.

The remaining matchup saw Yoshihito Nishioka claim victory in Lyon’s only three-setter for the day, overcoming Ugo Humbert 3-6 6-3 6-4 after a shaky start. While Humbert was solid on serve, winning 70 per cent of his first serve points (37/53) off a 64 per cent clip (53/83), Nishioka pipped him at the post winning 43 points of a possible 66, despite a lower percentage efficiency on both to claim the ascendancy and ultimately the victory. The Japanese 25-year-old saved 12 break points from Humbert’s 15 chances and converted four of nine, eventually winning 51 per cent of the overall points (95 to Humbert’s 92) in a tough, yet even, clash.

GONET GENEVA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS: 

Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [7] Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-7 7-6 6-4
[WC] Arthur Cazaux (FRA) defeated [8] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 6-7 6-3
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-0 6-4
Tennys Sandgren (USA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-3 6-4

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

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-2 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 7-5 6-3
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 7-6 6-4
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 3-6 6-3 6-4

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: Popyrin upsets Sinner as Nadal smashes heir apparent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Mixed bag for Serbians, while Nishikori survives Barcelona scare

KEI Nishikori is no stranger to adversity. The Japanese 2014 US Open runner-up has had his fair share of injuries over the past couple of years, seeing the former Top 5 talent to slip outside the Top 30. Heading into the Barcelona, the unseeded world number 39 had won six of 13 games in 2021, hardly a form line that is indicative of what he is capable of. Whilst his best may well be behind him, Nishikori showed he can dig deep, coming back from a set and a break down to win in three over Argentinian Guido Pella in the first round of the Barcelona Open.

Nishikori dropped the first set 6-4 and was 2-4 and 5-6 down in the second set, agonisingly close to an early exit from the tournament he won back-to-back in 2014-15. He battled hard to take the second set in a tiebreaker against Pella 7-4, then raced away with a 6-2 victory in the third to move through to the second round. Nishikori said he was disappointed with his opening two sets, and was lucky to get away with the win, aware of how close he came to losing the match.

“He had the match today at 6-5, serving [for the match],” Nishikori said post-match. “He was much better in the first and second [sets] and 3-0 up in the tie-break. I don’t know how I fought through. [In the] third set, I was playing much better.

“I was making so many unforced errors in the first and second [sets]. Maybe he got a little bit tired and I was playing strong in the third set. I want to take that to the next round… The way I fought today and the way I played in the third set was good.”

Nishikori will need to improve drastically to defeat 13th seed Cristian Garin, with the Chilean on his preferred clay surface. Nishikori had a forgettable meeting with Garin last year, albeit when he was still returning from injury, losing 6-0 6-3 in a disappointing head-to-head at Hamburg. Now on clay, Garin will be even more difficult to knock off, with the Chilean undoubtedly the favourite, but Nishikori could frustrate him.

While Nishikori survived, another former Top 5 talent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was not so lucky, knocked out by Egor Gerasimov in straight sets, 7-5 6-1. He joined fellow Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Benoit Paire in exiting the tournament, with the latter arguably in the worst form of anyone on Tour and not looking like that will change anytime soon. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jeremy Chardy flew the flag for the French, booking their spots in the next round, while all three Spaniards out on court made it through, with Jaume Munar, Pablo Andujar and Bernabe Zapata Miralles securing their Round of 32 spots. Italian lucky loser Federico Gaio, Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka and Brit Cameron Norrie were the other three winners on day one of the main draw matches at Barcelona.

In Serbia, four players from the home nation were out on court on day one, with mixed results. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic looked in control in his match, leading a set up and at 5-5 in the second, but then dropped five of the next six games to trail 1-3 in the third set. Krajinovic found a way to steady, winning five consecutive games to end the match and secure the 7-5 5-7 6-3 win over Italian Stefano Travaglia.

It was the opposite result for the other Serbia-Italy clash, as Marco Cecchinato found his clay form that made him dangerous a couple of years back, defeating Viktor Troicki in straight sets, 6-1 6-4 to book a date with Italian second seed Matteo Berrettini in the second round. Australian seventh seed John Millman also spoiled the party for Serbian wildcard Danilo Petrovic in two tight sets 7-5 6-4, while fellow wildcard Nikola Milojevic knocked off Federico Coria 6-4 6-0. Regardless of how results play out at the tournament, it is almost a forgone conclusion that Serbia will lift the trophy, with world number one Novak Djokovic a raging favourite at the event, with Berrettini his closest rival and then Aslan Karatsev – who was not even inside the Top 100 at the start of the year – seeded third.

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[WC] Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-3 7-5
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 3-6 6-3
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated Nikoloz Basilshvili (GEO) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[LL] Federico Gaio (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 7-5 6-3
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 7-5 6-1
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Sumit Nagal (IND) 7-5 6-0
[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated [Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-3 6-1
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 4-6 7-6 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-1 6-2
[Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) defeated [Q] Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-7 7-5 6-1

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-5 5-7 6-3
[7] John Millman (AUS) defeated [WC] Danilo Petrovic (SRB) 7-5 6-4
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [WC] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-4
[WC] Nikola Milojevic (SRB) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-4 6-0

Picture credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Tsitsipas claims first Masters crown in Monte Carlo

STEFANOS Tsitsipas has claimed the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters 1000 event overnight, defeating Andrey Rublev in the final to secure his maiden title at Masters level. The ATP Tour rising star won his sixth Tour title with the victory, but his first at either a 500 or 1000 level. The match lasted 71 minutes as the Greek fourth seed won 6-3 6-3 against Rublev to secured the win.

Coming into the match the pair was evenly poised at three wins apiece from their six head-to-head matches, and Rublev has won four titles at ATP 500 level in a remarkable 12 months of tennis. Tsitsipas had won the 2019 ATP Finals, but had not secured a trophy above an ATP 250 level otherwise and was keen to breakthrough with the win here. Having lost to Rublev at Rotterdam, Tsitsipas knew just how difficult the matchup would be. However, on clay, Tsitsipas has reigned supreme, also defeating the sixth seed in the quarter finals of Roland Garros last year.

“I knew that he was going to be a very difficult opponent to face,” Tsitsipas said post-match. There were a lot of nerves coming into that match. [We] always want to bring the best out of [ourselves] when facing each other. “Playing Andrey was a very difficult thing to do today, also considering that it was a final. “There is extra stress and extra importance in the match that we had to play. “[I am] definitely proud of the way I managed to behave and be out on the court today.”

The 23-year-old is second overall on the 2021 match wins leaderboard, two behind Rublev, with the pair having the five losses each this season. Having not dropped a tournament all week in Monte Carlo, Tsitsipas was well deserving of the title with a comprehensive win, and moving to the top of the FedEx ATP Race to Turin.

“I had an unbelievable week in Monte-Carlo,” Tsitsipas said. “I can’t describe my feelings right now. I am overwhelmed by so many different emotions and nostalgia. It is incredible that I am able to be in the position that I am. We both deserved to be in the final. We put on an amazing fight and an amazing show… I would consider it as the [best] week of my life so far.”

Tsitsipas did not face a break point throughout the matches, and took his chances when they came, converting all three of his own break point opportunities. He also capitalised off Rublev’s second serve, winning 67 per cent of the points, as the Russian was hard to contain off his first, only dropping six points in the match off his first serve. Tsitsipas was even more dominant off serve, dropping just 10 points off his serve – only four off his first serve – on his way to winning 86 and 68 per cent of his service points respectively, off a 60 per cent clip.

Both players will continue their clay court circuit at the Barcelona ATP 500 event, where Tsitsipas is second seed and has a bye in the first round to face either Jaume Munar and Thiago Monteiro, while Rublev is seeded third and will also sit out the Round of 64 before locking horns with the winner of Benoit Paire or Italian lucky loser, Federico Gaio.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS FINAL RESULT:

[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-3 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Hometown heroes take out trophies as Monte Carlo gets underway

THE home crowds rallied at the Sardegna and Marbella ATP 250 final events on Sunday, with an Italian and a Spaniard taking out the respective trophies following impressive three-set victories. Meanwhile, the Monte Carlo Masters event has begun in Monaco, with just two main draw encounters opening proceedings as the qualifiers were completed.

At Sardegna, it was third seed Italian Lorenzo Sonego who claimed the title with a 2-6 7-6 6-4 victory over Serbian Laslo Djere. The huge three hour encounter was fitting for a final, as the Serbian claimed the first set with relative ease before being forced into a second set tiebreaker wherein Sonego took the chocolates.

Sonego capitalised off Djere’s unforced error count and eight double faults to clinch victory, despite lacking intensity on serve. He was marginally more efficient on serve winning 70 per cent of first serve points off a 68 per cent clip, compared to Djere’s 71 per cent off a 57 per cent clip.

Sonego’s victory at Sardegna marks the first time an Italian has won an ATP Tour title on home soil in 15 years, with this title his second in as many days after clinching the doubles title alongside Andrea Vavassori a day prior.

“The match was long and I remained calm in the second-set tie-break,” Sonego said. “I knew the match wasn’t finished because I had always kept fighting. It’s wonderful to win the title with all my team here. Now, I am really tired, but I am very happy. I am happy to follow in [Filippo] Volandri’s footsteps and win a title on home soil.”

SARDEGNA OPEN FINAL RESULT:

[3] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 2-6 7-6 6-4

 

At Marbella, Pablo Carreno Busta reigned supreme in an all-Spanish final, defeating Jaume Munar 6-1 2-6 6-4 to claim the AnyTech365 Andalucia title. While Munar served up six aces to Carreno Busta’s zero, the top seed Spaniard was much more efficient on serve, with his 78 per cent clip paying off while a clean and consistent first and second effort was evident.

This win marked Carreno Busta’s 200th tour-level victory in excellent circumstances on home soil, winning his first Spanish title in two hour and 21 minutes.

“I suffered like yesterday trying to continue fighting all the time… I needed to do it if I wanted to win this kind of match,” Carreno Busta said. “It’s a pleasure to win a title here in Spain, in Marbella. For me, it’s very special. It’s my fifth title, so I’m very, very happy for the victory.”

“I started really good, really focused, being very aggressive,” Carreno Busta said. “After that I missed a little bit and Jaume started to play better and at the end.”

ANYTECH365 ANDALUCIA OPEN FINAL RESULT:

[1] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-1 2-6 6-4

 

Meanwhile, the Monte Carlo Masters ATP 1000 event has begun in Monaco, with just two matches played on the opening day as the qualifying rounds were complete. David Goffin and Jordan Thompson were the two winners of the day, both overcoming second set comebacks to claim respective victories in three sets.

Goffin was the cleaner player in his 6-4 3-6 6-0 victory over Marin Cilic to get the tournament started, claiming the early ascendancy before easing off in the second and blowing the Croatian away in the third set. The 11th seed Belgian was less efficient on serve but marginally more effective and consistent, hitting six aces for three double faults off a 47 per cent clip (34/73), compared to Cilic’s 10 and 10 off a 51 per cent clip (55/108).

Thompson would not be given an easy time by the higher ranked Frenchman in Benoit Paire, forced to fight for every inch of his 6-4 6-7 7-6, three hour and three minute victory. Despite dropping the second set tiebreaker 7-6(3), Thompson came out with a vengeance in the third and forced continuous errors on serve for the Frenchman, who served up 18 double faults for just eight aces. The Australian made the most of his service games against the hard-hitter, and both claimed and saved nine break points on his way to victory.

The qualifying rounds are done and dusted, seeing top seed German Dominik Koepfer, second seed Italian Stefano Travaglia, eighth seed Australian Alexei Popyrin and ninth seed Argentinian Federico Delbonis gain entry into the Monte Carlo main draw, joined by a trio of Italians.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] David Goffin (BEL) defeated Marin CIlic (CRO) 6-4 3-6 6-0
Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-4 6-7 7-6

ATP Miami Open 1000: Tsitsipas and Nishikori set for third round blockbuster

WORLD number five Stefanos Tsitsipas and former world number four Kei Nishikori have collected important wins at the Miami Open this morning to set up a blockbuster third round clash between the pair for Tuesday. Tsitsipas breezed past Damir Dzumhur 6-1 6-4 and became just the third ATP player to claim 15 victories in the 2021 season so far. Meanwhile, Nishikori had it much tougher against Aljaz Bedene, winning 7-6 5-7 6-4 in two hours and 50 minutes. The Japanese star won 73 per cent of points on first serve and won 67 per cent of points on Bedene’s second serve. Bedene has had a tough fortnight against Nishikori, as he was also defeated by the 2014 US Open finalist at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last week.

Tsitsipas was happy with his performance, particularly given that he had lost three of his four previous clashes against Dzumhur. “It was a great match, especially against a guy that I probably don’t have a good record playing against in the past,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “I started the match very strong, breaking him twice and taking a big lead in the score, and I think the things worked out by themselves after that.”

Tsitsipas will attempt to defeat Nishikori for the first time in the third round, as Nishikori was victorious in their one previous matchup (in 2018) 6-3 6-3. With this in mind, Tsitsipas knows that he has his work cut out for him. “[Kei is] a player that has played very well in the past, and even now he can raise his level really high,” Tsitsipas said. “I’ll try and be ready for the battle… It’s important for me to have matches against strong opponents like him. I am very pumped for the match and I’m going to try and put my best performance out there. I’m going to try and take it game by game… It’s a strong third round, I won’t hide it. It’s important for me to be ready for that match and be physically prepared.”

In other results, Australians Alex de Minaur, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson bowed out in their respective matches, and tenth seed Fabio Fognini was shocked by American Sebastian Korda 1-6 6-4 6-2. Former US Open champion Marin Cilic was a big winner, as he saved 11 break points in his 3-6 7-5 7-6 defeat of 13th seed Cristian Garin. Consistent performers Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic all cruised through their matches in straight sets.

ATP MIAMI OPEN 1000 ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-1 6-4
[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-1 6-2
[5] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) 6-3 6-3
[6] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-7 6-4 6-4
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated [10] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 1-6 6-4 6-2
[12] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-2 6-1
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [13] Cristian Garin (CHI) 3-6 7-5 7-6
Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) defeated [15] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[17] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Mikhail Kukushkin (KAS) 6-4 6-3
[20] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-1 6-4
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [23] Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-3 6-3
[24] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [Q] Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) 6-4 7-6
[25] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-3 6-4
[26] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated Denis Kudla (USA) 7-6 6-4
[28] Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 7-6 5-7 6-4
[29] Marton Fucsovics defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 7-6 6-7 6-4

Picture credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour