Tag: brandon nakashima

ATP/WTA Miami Open 1000: Qualifiers wrap

THE qualifying rounds have begun at both the ATP Tour and WTA Tour Miami Open 1000 event in the United States, with plenty of talented names looking to break into the main draw entries over the next few days.

In the men’s draw, the day’s top ranked players in Mackenzie McDonald and Thiago Seyboth Wild both made it through to Day 2 unscathed, whilst fellow top 10 qualifying seeds in Damir DzumhurHenri LaaksonenFederico GaioBrandon Nakashima and Jason Jung also completed their first round matches successfully. Wildcards Mischa Zverev and Shintaro Mochizuki both kept their main draw hopes alive with the former overcoming 16th seed Danilo Petrovic, whilst the latter was 4-1 up against seventh seed Daniel Altmaier before the German retired mid-match. Looking at the home-grown American talent, Bjorn Fratangelo, Mitchell Krueger and Ernesto Escobedo all join McDonald and Nakashima in the second day of qualifiers, with Emilio Nava still yet to play.

Looking to the women’s, and there are plenty of quality players looking to earn their way into the main draw with yesterday’s Monterrey victor in Leylah Fernandez one of them. The Canadian second seed is yet to play, but will hope her result goes a different way to her fellow top seeds with Misaki Doi (first seed) and Martina Trevisan (third) both falling in three sets. Rounding out the top five seeds are Kirsten Flipkens and Tamara Zidansek, with both reigning supreme in their respective matches, whilst Varvara Gracheva and Nina Stojanovic were the only other two top 10 qualifiers to remain in the hunt. Looking once more to the American talent aiming to earn their way into the main draw, Kristie Ahn and Hailey Baptiste both did what their more high profile compatriots could not, making it through to the next round as Caty McNally and Coco Vandeweghe both fell.

ATP Tour wrap: Seeds begin to fall in Dubai, as Musetti upsets Schwartzman in Acapulco

IT was a horror day for the seeds in Dubai’s ATP 500 event, but not so bad for the ones at Acapulco, though one diminutive Argentinian Top 10 talent fell to an Italian qualifier.

Unseeded players at the Dubai Tennis Championships began to get their revenge on the seed’s who dominated the previous day’s play, with every possible unseeded player making their way through to the quarter finals at the ATP 500 event. The only unseeded player to lose out was Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene, who went down to fellow unseeded talent Kei Nishikori who won in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 to advance to the final eight in the tournament.

The big wins were qualifier Lloyd Harris and wildcard Aslan Karatsev who advanced through to the quarter finals thanks to hard-fought victories in their respective matches. The South African Harris defeated 14th seed Serbian Filip Krajinovic in two tight sets 7-6 6-4, overcoming the first set tiebreaker 7-5 before holding up well under pressure in the second set to secure the win. Australian Open semi-finalist Karatsev won through with a come-from-behind three-set win over 17th seed Lorenzo Sonego, 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Other unseeded players to advance through were Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. Chardy toppled Russian eighth seed Karen Khachanov 6-7 6-4 6-4 in an epic battle throughout two hours and 36 minutes, while Fucsovics defeated 11th seed Serbian Dusan Lajovic to advance to the next round of the tournament. Khachanov was the second highest ranked player to bow out in the Round of 16, as fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut went down to Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, 6-4 3-6 7-5 in another epic contest that lasted two hours and 24 minutes and saw Sinner serve 16 aces throughout the match.

“Roberto is an incredible player, very solid,” Sinner said post-match. “It was very tough, not going for too much or striking the ball too slow. I am looking for these kind of tough matches in order to improve. I am happy to have won and can play one more match here tomorrow. I tried to control my emotions as much as possible, which helped me a lot.”

It was a lot more straight forward for the other two seeds who advanced, with second seed Andrey Rublev and third seed Denis Shapovalov having no issues moving through to the quarter finals. Rublev defeated 15th seed American Taylor Fritz 6-3 6-1 to book his place in the final eight, while Shapovalov took out 13th seed Pole Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-3.

The quarter final take place today with Shapovalov and Chardy up first, followed by Karatsev and Sinner in the other afternoon match. At night, Harris and Nishikori lock horns, followed by Fucsovics and Rublev in the late game. Chardy and Sinner will also have to double-up during the day with doubles quarter finals as well later in the afternoon.

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [15] Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-3 6-1
[3] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated [13] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-4 6-3
[16] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [4] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-4 3-6 7-5
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated [8] Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-7 6-4 6-4
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [11] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-1 4-6 6-4
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [14] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [17] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4 6-4

 

In Acapulco, the Round of 32 was completed with 10 clashes played out on day two of the main draw matches, in the smaller ATP 500 event. The story of the day was Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti – who only turned 19 earlier this month – taking down top seed Diego Schwartzman to set himself up for a Top 100 spot at the end of the tournament.

The qualifier won 6-3 2-6 6-4 in two hours and 23 minutes, serving six aces to zero, and winning 66 per cent of his first serve points. Schwartzman was more consistent off his second serve – winning 64 per cent of the points, but Musetti capitalised at the right times, breaking in the final set to claim the win and move through to the Round of 16.

“There is a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice and I think some tears left in my eyes,” Musetti said post-match. “I’m really proud of myself, but now I’m going to work harder and focus on the next days.”

All the other seeds in action advanced through to the next round unscathed, meaning seven of the eight seeds will be there in the Round of 16. Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas brushed aside Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-3 6-1, whilst fifth seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov spent the least time on court in a 6-4 3-0 win over Adrian Mannarino, as the Frenchman had to retire. Meanwhile other seeds Milos Raonic, Fabio Fognini and Casper Ruud all advanced through to the second round with straight set victories.

In the battle of the unseeded players, Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic and Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie both advanced in straight sets, defeating Feliciano Lopez and Stefan Kozlov respectively. In the all-American battle, Frances Tiafoe had some tense moments against up-and-coming qualifier and compatriot Brandon Nakashima, before posting a 6-4 6-7 7-6 victory – with both tiebreakers being 7-5 to respective players – in the longest match of the day with players spending two hours and 47 minutes on court. In the other result, Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor moved through to the Round of 16 with a 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory over United States’ lucky loser Denis Kudla.

There are some ripping contests in today’s action with Musetti now facing off against Tiafoe for a spot in the quarter finals, while Fognini will take on Norrie. On centre court, top seed Tsitsipas will have a blockbuster match against John Isner, while earlier in the evening, American wildcard Sebastian Korda will face seventh seed Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Serbian Laslo Djere will lock horns with German second seed Alexander Zverev.

ABIERTO MEXICANO ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-3 6-1
[Q] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [3] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-3 2-6 6-4
[4] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 7-6 6-4
[5] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 3-0 RET
[6] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-5 6-2
[8] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [SE] Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) 6-4 6-1
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-4 6-4
Frances Tiafoe (USA) defeated [Q] Brandon Nakashima (USA) 6-4 6-7 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [Q] Stefan Kozlov (USA) 6-3 6-3
[Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) defeated [LL] Denis Kudla (USA) 7-6 4-6 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Young guns to watch on the ITF Tour

THE International Tennis Federation (ITF) is well and truly stacked with developing talent, and Draft Central is beginning to delve into the young guns coming up through the ranks emphasising those who have burst onto the scene and showcased some exciting qualities in their junior years. While many of these players are beginning to feed into the ATP and WTA Tours, there are some great youngsters who are yet to break into the fold and will look to build on their 2020 form heading into the new year. All rankings are as of November 30, 2020,

Junior boys

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)

Age: 17
ATP Tour ranking: 141

An exciting youngster looking to really break onto the ATP Tour scene is Alcaraz, with the developing Spaniard proving he is more than capable of producing excellent wins. With five titles to his name in 2020, including three clay court Challengers to go with his two M15 hard court titles, there is no doubt Alcaraz has the star power to continue propelling himself up the rankings and hitting some real strides.

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

Age: 18
ATP Tour ranking: 128

The young Italian is the second ranked youngster on the ATP Tour at the moment, and it shows in his consistency and drive to continue going one better. While still developing his craft and looking to continue his strong efforts against top 100 players, Musetti has showcased plenty of potential on Tour since debuting in 2019, and will look to keep his strong run going in 2021.

Brandon Nakashima (USA)

Age: 19
ATP Tour ranking:
166

American youngster Nakashima is a talent worth keeping an eye on, with the ability to be the next big thing credit to his high work rate and powerful swing. Like Musetti, Nakashima’s ability to shock top 100 players has been a key to developing his skill, flourishing on wildcard entries and using his athleticism to fly out of the blocks. Currently at his peak ranking and steadily developing, look to see Nakashima continue well into 2021.

Harold Mayot (FRA)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking:
1
ATP Tour ranking: 
426

ITF world number one Mayot is an exciting developing talent, with the 2020 Junior Australian Open title under his belt and a proven winning ability. With plenty of tenacity and determination, Mayot still has a way to go before truly impacting on the ATP Tour scene, but there is no doubt he will get there once he further develops against strong, more experienced bodies.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 2
ATP Tour ranking: 511

A consistent performer on the ITF Tour, Rune is one to watch in the future. While he did not win a Challenger tournament, as was his 2020 goal, three M15 titles on the senior ITF Tour is certainly nothing to sniff about. More than that, and it proves the 17-year-old is more than capable of competing against those bigger bodies in the future, especially on his preferred surface of clay.

Dominic Stephan Stricker (SUI)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking: 3

While Stricker is yet to really break onto the ATP Tour scene, the youngster has proven he is ready to step up to the next level and with a current ranking of third on the ITF rankings, there is no doubt he has the capacity to do so when he gets an opportunity – and an uninterrupted season. A Junior Roland Garros title in 2020 and the likes of Roger Federer to look up to certainly will aid in his progression heading into 2021.

Junior girls

Coco Gauff (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 48

One of the most high profile young guns in the world at the moment, Gauff is the gift that keeps on giving with her rate of development and potential given how far she has come in such a short time. Still just 16-years-old, Gauff’s  ability to leave it all on the court and command victory as an underdog – including two straight sets victories over Venus Williams – have seen her rocket into media attention.

Daria Lopatetska (UKR)

Age: 17
WTA Tour ranking: 355

Another exciting youngster breaking onto the scene is Lopatetska, with the versatile Ukrainian able to put out excellent efforts across a range of surfaces and, even with an interrupted season following on from major knee surgery in 2019, has showcased plenty of grit and determination to get back out there. With a heap of potential and Elina Svitolina on her side, it is only a matter of time before Lopatetska is back on the cards.

Katrina Scott (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 447

Scott may still be only 16-years-old, but her exciting potential has seen her rocket into contention on the WTA Tour alongside Gauff, following her compatriot’s footsteps onto the senior rankings well before expected. A competitive youngster who has showed no signs of stopping since her debut at the 2020 US Open as a wildcard, expect Scott to continue developing and keep the USA superpower going as she heads up the rankings.

Polina Kudermetova (RUS)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 6
WTA Tour ranking: 775

The younger sister of Veronika Kudermetova, there is no doubt 17-year-old Polina knows what it takes really break onto the WTA Tour stage. While she has not really made it there yet – in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited court time – the Russian youngster is a proven winner throughout the years and, with an ability to fight every second, will look to continue developing with more time in 2021.

Elsa Jacquemot (FRA)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 1
WTA Tour ranking: 535

The 2020 Junior Roland Garros winner and current world number one on the junior ITF Tour, Jacquemot is one to watch in the future. With two titles to her name in 2020 and a whopping 89 per cent win rate – 12 straight on clay – the French 17-year-old may not have broken onto the WTA Tour just yet but certainly has the proven winning ability to be a huge threat on Tour.

Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND)

Age: 15
ITF Tour ranking: 2

The youngest player on this list is 15-year-old Andorran Jimenez Kasintseva, and while she is still developing her court craft there is no denying she is a star of the future, holding the Junior Australian Open title in 2020 and only leaving top spot on the ITF rankings when Jacquemot took out the Roland Garros title. With an overall win rate of 88 per cent and just three losses on tour, expect big things from the young gun.

Kukushkin ousts Garin in five, sets up third round clash with Thompson

MIKHAIL Kukushkin has outlasted Chilean 13th seed Cristian Garin to win in five sets today, setting up a third round encounter at the US Open with Australian Jordan Thompson. The 32-year-old Kazakhstan player won the first two sets with ease, before Garin hit back in the next two to level the match at two sets all, like he had done in the first round. Unlike that Round of 128 great escape over American wildcard Ulises Blanch, Garin was not able to pull off another come-from-behind victory and went down in five sets, 6-2 6-1 3-6 4-6 7-5 in four hours.

Ranked 90th in the world, Kukushkin was able to go toe-for-toe with the world number 19, hitting 45 winners apiece, though Kukushkin had six less unforced errors (41-47). While not completely dominant after the first couple of sets, Kukushkin still won all the key stats, recording a 59 per cent serving efficiency (compared to 54 per cent), 70 per cent first serve winning ratio (66 per cent) and 47 per cent second serve winning ratio (39 per cent). He was also able to capitalise on break point opportunities better, with nine from 13 – with five of those coming in the first two sets, and the last of those coming in the deciding fifth set – compared to Garin’s six of 16 success rate. The Chilean was able to serve double the aces (12-6), but unfortunately it did not help the knock on him being a clay specialist who struggles on hard court in big tournaments.

Now Kukushkin will face off against Australian Thompson, who booked his spot in the Round of 16 with a 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3 triumph over Belarusian Egor Gerasimov. The Belarusian was coming off a good win over 18th seed Dusan Lajovic, but it was Thompson that fired from early on, racing through the first set, then going 2-0 up before the world number 72 won the third set. The Sydney-born Thompson is ranked nine places higher than his opponent, but he was largely made to fight off a fierce, but erratic Gerasimov. The Belarusian smashed 23 winners (six less than Thompson) but 51 unforced errors in a match he would rather like to forget, winning just 35 per cent of points off his second serve, whilst Thompson won 57 per cent of those to go with 72 per cent off his first serve as well as eight aces.

In terms of the top seeds, Novak Djokovic moved to 25-0 in season 2020 with a 6-7 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund. He did not have it all his own way against the Brit, but when the Serbian is winning 83 per cent of his first serve points off a 67 per cent success rate with 16 aces, very few could stop him. Edmund was not bad, doing well of his own service, but winning just 25 per cent of his return points compared to Djokovic’s 42 per cent. Now the Serbian meets Jan-Lennard Struff for the third time this year, after the German 28th seed got past American Michael Mmoh in straight sets, 6-2 6-2 7-5. Also through to the Round of 16 was fifth seed Alexander Zverev making it two Germans into the third round, defeating American 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima in four sets, 7-5 6-7 6-3 6-1. While Zverev got through, he admitted Nakashima – who only made his ATP Tour debut in January – was one to look out for in the future.

“Obviously I didn’t want to lose the second set, but I know that if I play my game I can still win,” Zverev said post-match. “So it was one set all, everything was still open. “He’s a good player [and] has an incredible backhand… “He’s a great player, I think, with great potential. “His serve surprised me a lot, because he doesn’t serve very fast. “But his placement is incredible. “He can go any corner. “He has all the serves that you need. “His second serve is incredibly good.”

Zverev will shape up against Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino who won against former top 10 player Jack Sock in straight sets, 7-6 7-5 6-2. The winner of that match will face off against either Cameron Norrie or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina with the two unseeded players making it through to the Round of 16. Norrie backed up his win against Diego Schwartzman in Round 1 with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over another Argentinian in Federico Coria, while Davidovich Fokina upset rising talent, Pole Hubert Hurkacz.

At the other end of the draw, seventh seed David Goffin will take on the in-form 26th seed Filip Krajinovic, while Taylor Fritz was the only American – out of seven – to move from the second to the third round. Fritz got up 7-5 6-3 6-2 over Gilles Simon to book a date with Canadian young star, Denis Shapovalov who survived a dogfight against South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon, 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-2. Meanwhile Pablo Carreno Busta had an easy second round encounter to roll past American wildcard Mitchell Krueger, 6-1 6-2 6-2 to come up against Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis who won in four sets against Steve Johnson. In the remaining two matches, 27th seed Borna Coric got through in a five-set thriller against Argentinian Juan Ignacio Londero to take on Greek star, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was matched at times by little known American world number 168 – or the next John Isner at 201cm- Maxime Cressy, but got there in the end.

Picture: Rhea Nall/USTA

Norrie comes from behind to stun Schwarzman in “two dogs with no serves” match

UNSEEDED Brit, Cameron Norrie has stunned the US Open followers with a massive come-from-behind five-set win against Diego Schwartzman to book a spot in the second round. The 25-year-old world number 76 defied heavy odds to win just his second career match in five sets, and his fifth in 50 games coming from a set down. This was not just one set down, but two, with Norrie having to overcome a two sets to love deficit with Schwartzman leading 6-3 6-4, before hitting back to win 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 7-5.

The match was a record-breaker for its whopping 58 break points, as it went to almost four hours in matchplay – three hours and 58 minutes – before Norrie was able to get back and win following five broken service games in the opening two sets. Norrie actually trailed again in the fifth at 3-5 and then saved two match points in the deciding set, before he broke Schwartzman for the 11th time in the match at 6-5 to take out the win.

“I’m not sure it’s too good of a record to be holding, but I think it had a lot to do with how he returns. It was tough to get free points out there,” Norrie said post-match. “It’s nice to be part of that [record] and it shows that it was just two dogs out there battling with no serves really. “It was a good match and I guess I’ll take the record.”

The total breakdown of break points was Norrie winning 11 of 31, whilst Schwartzman recorded eight of 27. The Brit said he was thankful to get through the scrap ahead of his second round match with Argentinian, Federico Coria who also came from two sets down to level the match before opponent Jason Jung was forced to retire 2-0 down in the fifth set.

“I was just real happy that I stayed patient and didn’t snap too much,” Norrie said. “I think I could have easily snapped at missing that many returns, especially against a guy [who doesn’t have] a huge serve. “I think my attitude won it for me today… sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, I think.”

Whilst Norrie’s win was the biggest in terms of opposition ranking, Schwartzman was not the only casualty on day one, with big serving American, and number one player from the home nation in John Isner exiting after a five-set thriller against compatriot, Steve Johnson. While Isner is the worst first round opponent when it comes to trying to warm up upon return games, Johnson did his best, weathering a storm of 52 aces from his higher ranked opponent, while producing 22 himself.

Johnson is no slouch on serve, and he won a whopping 85 per cent of his first serve points – more than Isner, but crucially was able to break twice and not be broken himself in a blockbuster smashing fest. The match lasted three hours and 50 minutes, with Isner smashing 91 winners to Johnson’s 74 during the 6-7 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-6 victory. Now the 30-year-old must advance through to take on Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the second round.

At the top end of the seeds, the like of Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and David Goffin all advanced, though Zverev and Goffin dropped sets to challenging opponents in Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka.

Jordan Thompson flew the flag for Australia, booking his spot in the Round of 64 with a win over Italian Stefano Travaglia, and he will now take on Egor Gerasimov. The Belarusian upset 18th seed Dusan Lajovic in four sets, 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 26 minutes to make his way through. It was better news for his compatriot Filip Krajinovic on the same court later in the day, defeating Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets.

The only other seed who looked in trouble on day one that came close to losing outside of those who did, was 13th seed Chilean Cristian Garin who had a less-than-convincing five-set win over United States’ Ulises Blanch.

The 244th 22-year-old stunned the world number 19 early in the match, winning the first two sets, 6-4 7-5, before Garin wrestled back control at 4-4 in the third to win six of the next eight games and level the match at two sets apiece. The Chilean then went on with it to win the match 4-6 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-2 in just over three hours of matchplay.

In terms of young guns, American teenager Brandon Nakashima defeated Italian Paolo Lorenzi in straight sets to book a second round date with Zverev, while 168th ranked 23-year-old Maxime Cressy knocked out Jozef Kovalik to have just as tough of a challenge in the next round against Tsitsipas. Mitchell Kreuger and Marcos Giron joined 19th seed Taylor Fritz and former top 10 player Jack Sock, as the other Americans through to the next round.

In other results, Kyle Edmund knocked off Alexander Bublik to take on the toughest challenge in tennis – Djokovic – while Jan-Lennard Struff remained on track to face the Serbian star again in the third round with a win over Spaniard, Pedro Martinez. Pablo Carreno-Busta, Denis Shapovalov, Borna Coric, Hubert Hurkacz and Adrian Mannarino all advanced through to the next stage of the event, set to face Krueger, Soonwoo Kwon, Juan Ignacio Londero, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Sock respectively. Of the remaining unseeded winners, Gilles Simon, Lloyd Harris and Mikhail Kukushkin all made it through.

At the time of publishing, United States’ Michael Mmoh had the advantage over Portugal’s Joao Sousa, leading two sets to one, entering into the fourth set.

Opinion: The US Open draw and who has the toughest run

AFTER publishing our 2020 US Open men’s preview yesterday, we go more in depth to take a look at the draw and what might eventuate at Flushing Meadows over the next two weeks, as we analyse who has the easier draws and who has the tougher encounters.

World number one Novak Djokovic is the raging favourite and it is easy to see why, but to suggest he has escaped rather largely unscathed for the majority of the draw is unheard of. Damir Dzumhur is not the easiest of first round matches, and while Djokovic should have no troubles taking care of him, both Kyle Edmund and Alexander Bublik are more than capable of causing upsets over top players. A likely third round encounter of Jan-Lennard Struff could be a beauty, though Struff does not quite have the tools to match Djokovic, and neither does potential fourth round opponent, John Isner. The tall serving American will no doubt force the Serbian into tight sets through purely not dropping service games, but Djokovic often trumps in the tiebreakers.

With four other top 10 players in the quadrant, it is puzzling how some in the American media have assumed it will be a breezy run for Djokovic. Yes, the Djoker should win it all, but it is hardly like he has got a soft run. A third round encounter between David Goffin and Filip Krajinovic is one not to be missed, though both have tough first round opponents they need to overcome in Reilly Opelka and Mikael Ymer respectively. If Marco Cecchinato could find the form that took him to the top 20, then the Italian could be a danger for Goffin in the second round. Also in the bottom half of the draw is fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, and seventh seed Alexander Zverev. If those two face off in the quarter finals, look out.

Never mind the quarter finals, for Diego Schwartzman he cannot afford to look too far ahead at all if he is going to make an unlikely run at it, with Cameron Norrie up first, followed by fellow Argentinian Federico Coria, a third round encounter with Hubert Hurkacz, and then Zverev and Tsitsipas after that. While he should win his first round encounter, no doubt the German Zverev would have been mumbling under his breath when he saw his little 16th of the draw. Former top five player Kevin Anderson is up first, with rising American talent Brandon Nakashima or tough Italian Pablo Lorenzi in the second round. Then it is a number of players who are generally far better than their rankings in Adrian Mannarino, Lorenzo Sonego, Jack Sock or Pablo Cuevas for the third round. What a group.

The bottom half of the draw is far more open, with Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev rightfully seeded at second and third. But if Thiem’s shocking loss to Krajinovic at the Western & Southern Open is anything to go by, this is going to be a tough half to pick who emerges in the semis. Thiem takes on rising Spaniard Jaume Munar, and realistically if he loses in the first two rounds, then the danger bells should be well and truly be going off. He has a much softer draw for his first couple of games, before coming up against 31st seed Marin Cilic. Of all the lower seeds to meet in the third round, he is not the one you want. The 2014 US Open winner is a top 16 player, and realistically a top 10 player at Flushing Meadows. That will test the clay courter in Thiem.

Just above that is a massive 16th group with young gun Thiago Seyboth Wild drawing a seed, but a very beatable seed in Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Evans has talent, but is kind of like a box of chocolates as Tom Hanks once said, and you genuinely have no idea what you might get. If Seyboth Wild can make it through a few matches it will be great for his confidence, with Corentin Moutet and Jiri Vesely waiting in the second round as the pair face off in a huge unseeded match. Andy Murray and Felix Auger-Aliassime are bound to lock horns in the second round, with the winner of that – probably Murray – likely to go to the fourth round where they face either Thiem or Cilic.

One of the unseeded matches of the entire draw occurs in the quarter above, with Vasek Pospisil taking on Philipp Kohlschreiber. This might go on for ages, and the winner has to take on a red-hot Milos Raonic in the second round. The all-Canadian battle will be built up well, while Roberto Bautista Agut – fresh off pushing Djokovic in the semis at the Western & Southern Open – will be looking to take care of Australian Open quarter finalist Tennys Sandgren on Sandgren’s home court. Australian Alex de Minaur is also in this quarter of the draw, with a lot of question marks over his form, but he should make it through to the third round with a softer few matches up first starting with Slovakian Andrej Martin. The winner of 11th seed Karen Khachanov and ATP Next Gen Finals winner Jannik Sinner could be there in the third for de Minaur.

In the top quadrant of the bottom half, Medvedev starts off with Federico Delbonis, then will likely have Laslo Djere and then Guido Pella, all of whom do not pose a huge threat. Realistically, the third seed has the softest draw of all the major players, with only realistically Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini – who look destined for a fourth round encounter likely to topple the Russian. If Medvedev lives up to his potential, he should cruise through to the quarter finals, not discounting the challenging Grigor Dimitrov and improving Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Georgian takes on Australia’s second highest hope in John Millman who is never to be discounted in a scrap and at this venue – having defeated Roger Federer here before – while Tommy Paul will face off against Dimitrov in the first round.

Form shows in New York as stacked qualifying draw gets underway

IT was a huge first day at the traditional Cincinnati Masters – moved to New York for COVID-19 reasons in the lead up to the United States – with the Western & Southern Open’s qualifying taking place in the women’s and men’s draws.

Focusing the attention on the women’s draw, three of the top four seeds in the qualifying were bundled out, as those who impressed at Lexington continued their form. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • Top seed Jil Teichmann smashed Aliona Bolsova 6-2 6-2 in just 62 minutes of play
  • Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez upset second seed Anna Blinkova 6-1 6-4
  • Liudmila Samsonova took down third seed Lauren Davis rather easily, 6-4 6-1
  • It was a positive day for the Americans with a number of crucial wins including Ann Li, Shelby Rogers, CiCi Bellis, Kristie Ahn, Jessica Pegula, Katie Volynets, Christina McHale and Caroline Dolehide
  • The longest match of the day by far was 12th seed Kristen Flipkens‘ 5-7 7-5 7-6 epic against Ukrainian Katarina Zavatska
  • Just 10 seeds remain out of the 20 that were out on court in a massive day of upsets
  • Teichmann and Rogers and Fernandez and Ahn are among the tantalising round two qualifying matches on display tomorrow

The ATP Tour’s tournament had just as many shocks on day one, with the majority of qualifiers out on court in the Masters 1000 event. Here’s some of the highlights from the day:

  • Ranked outside the top 100, Finn Emil Ruusuvuori took out second seed Frenchman Jeremy Chardy far too easily, 6-0 6-1, in a day of upsets on Court 12, with 17th and 19th seeds, Federico Delbonis and Laslo Djere both bowing out to unseeded Jaume Munar and Marcos Giron
  • Great American hope Brandon Nakashima was no match for 21st seed Hungarian, Marton Fucsovics, losing 6-2 6-4, while it was better news for lowly ranked J.J. Wolf and Mackenzie McDonald who knocked over 11th seed Egor Gerasimov and 24th seed Yuchi Sugita respectively
  • South African Lloyd Harris found his form from January with an upset win over up and coming Swede and 10th seed, Mikael Ymer 7-5 7-5
  • Third seed Pablo Cuevas joined Chardy and Juan Ignacio Londero on the sidelines after a shock loss to unseeded Japanese talent, Yasutaka Uchiyama
  • The first Australian male on court, Jordan Thompson was able to topple American Michael Mmoh
  • Salvatore Caruso defeated ATP Next Gen Finals winner Jannik Sinner in the all-Italian clash late in the day, while top seed Gilles Simon booked a spot in the second round of qualifying with a win over Taro Daniel

The wildcards for the ATP Tour events are impressive with the likes of up and comer, Tommy Paul and Australian Open quarter finalist Tennys Sandgren, as well as Frances Tiafoe and Grand Slam winner Andy Murray – the latter of whom both face off in the Round of 64.

Picture: Getty Images

Young gun focus: Brandon Nakashima

A QUALITY young American talent, Brandon Nakashima is a solid prospect having stepped up to the ATP Tour in 2020, and while he is still ranked at 220 in the world, at 18-years-old he has plenty of skill, determination and development that will surely see him go far.

With laser focus and intensity coming in spades, Nakashima took to the ATP Tour like a duck to water, challenging a couple quality names in early 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which inevitably put his growth to a halt. With an affinity for the hard court and a strong backhand, Nakashima may not have a heap of ATP Tour experience as of yet but has made his presence felt on the court in the tournaments that were able to go ahead earlier in the year, winning 12 of his 17 outings – albeit all ATP Challenger tournaments bar one – and also winning an ITF Futures title in the process. He stayed close to home to start his first season on the Tour, only playing in the United States thus far and inevitably taking on plenty of compatriots.

Coached in part by Australian Grand Slam winner Pat Cash, the 18-year-old is highly-touted and for good reason, with an ability to take charge of a match with ease and really challenge some tough higher ranked opponents. While still developing and growing in consistency, the American young gun really proved his potential and impressive talent in February, taking on a couple of top 100 talents, defeating Britain’s Cameron Norrie (60th in the world) and Czech Jiri Vesely (74th) in straight sets and challenging both Frances Tiafoe (79th) and Yoshihito Nishioka (63rd) in tight losses.

With a high ceiling and still so young, expect Nakashima to be one to watch out for in future years with plenty of time to tap into his exciting hard-hitting potential.

The Rise and Fall of American men’s tennis: Where to from here?

FOR the first time since the 1970s when the Open era commenced, the United States have gone through a decade without a representative holding the number one ranked position. Long considered a tennis super power, the United States have had Jimmy Connors of the 70s, John McEnroe through the 80s, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi of the 90s, and most recently, Andy Roddick of the early 2000s. But since then, no one has taken over the mantle. Indeed, not since January, 2004 has an American – Roddick – held pole position in the world rankings.

Now the counter argument is that the latest era – the past 16 years – has been dominated by three men. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have passed around the number one title since taking over from Roddick. The only one to crash that party was Andy Murray in November 2016, where he held the title for almost a year. Naturally, one could argue nations such as Australia and Sweden who in the past are the only other nations to have three players hold the number one position (aside from Spain).

It is one thing to not hold a number one ranking for a long period of time, but it is another to not realistically come close to it. John Isner has effectively been America’s top player since Roddick retired, but if you can nullify his serving game, Isner does not have the weapons to be a number one player. He is a great player, and he did reach world number eight a couple of years ago, but of his 15 career titles, 13 have come in the United States – five in Atlanta, four in Newport, two in Winston-Salem, one in Houston and one in Miami – with the other two coming in Auckland at the ATP250 event. His Miami Masters title was the highlight of his career, but realistically, for the top player in his nation, Isner has not been able to reach the same heights of his predecessors. Now 34-years-old, Isner can still be a threat around the Tour, but it is unlikely he graces the top 10 again.

A year earlier, Jack Sock reached the same career-high of eighth in the world. Having only won one title to his name coming into 2017, Sock won three titles, including at Auckland, Delray Beach and then the big one in Paris – the ATP Masters. Unfortunately for Sock, injuries truck and he tumbled down the rankings, winning just six of 22 matches the following year, and then fell right down to 208 in the world upon return, dropping matches to players outside the top 300 and retiring twice. He had good potential, but has cruelly been struck by injury and now sits at 388 in the world, three years after he was entrenched in the top 10. It can be a cruel game.

The third American to be hanging around over the last decade but not really crack into a meaningful spot is Sam Querrey. The recently turned 33-year-old is in the twilight of his career having won 10 titles and reached world number 11. After his 2010 season where he won four titles – impressively on each of the three surfaces – Querrey looked to be going places. A decade later, he has only won an additional four titles and none since 2017. The two-handed backhander is good enough to challenge the top 30 players, but is not a threat for the top handful, and has not won a ATP Tour title outside of Central America aside from that 2010 season where he won at Queen’s Club and Belgrade.

Looking ahead to the future, who from the United States is ready to take over and potentially go that step further, become a top 10 player and try and stay there to renew American tennis once again?

Taylor Fritz is the first name that comes to mind. A 22-year-old from California who reached a career-high 24th in the world prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. He has run at a 50 per cent win-loss record, but is an effective server with a 75 per cent success rate off his first serve points. He has won 81 per cent off his service games too, which surely means he should be higher? Unfortunately, Fritz has won just 18 per cent of his return games over his career, and that is a factor that just simply has to improve over time. If he is going to compete with the stars of the Tour, it needs to be up at least 10 per cent.

Another player at his career-high ranking currently is Tommy Paul, with the New Jersey-born 22-year-old a late comer to the Tour compared to many of his compatriots, but has enjoyed a good past six months. He reached the final of Adelaide when he was ranked 90 in the world, defeating four top 100 players, then backed it up with wins over top 20 players, Grigor Dimitov – at Melbourne Park reaching the Round of 32 – and Alexander Zverev – at Acapulco, reaching the quarter finals – which shows potential. He too could improve his return game (20 per cent won), but has a solid 78 per cent service game record, and a reliable 61 per cent first serve. He is not as strong on serve as Fritz – but more consistent.

A third 22-year-old is Frances Tiafoe, though the fear with Tiafoe is the gap between his best and his worst. Last year the American reached 29 in the world following a remarkable run to the quarter finals at Melbourne Park. He knocked off top 40 players, Kevin Anderson, Andreas Seppi and Dimitrov in the process, before losing to Nadal in the last eight. A fortnight later he was bundled out in straight sets by 143rd ranked Jason Jung in New York. Within a month, Tiafoe would lose to Bernard Tomic, but defeat Gael Monfils. In 2020, he had a shaky start with just two wins from seven matches on Tour.

Finally, fast forward to a kid who only turned professional this year, but could well have the greatest upside if he can fulfil it. Brandon Nakashima is just 18-years-old and has played three ATP Tour matches. In those three matches at Delray Beach, he defeated Jiri Vesely and Cameron Norrie, before going down in three tough sets to Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarter finals. It might seem early to be impressed by what he has to offer, but coached by Australian legend Pat Cash, Nakashima has some great upside. As a junior boys semi-finalist at the US Open last year, he has the runs on the board from junior level, and reached number four on the junior ITF rankings.

With the Big Three’s reign coming to an end over the next few years, there is a chance for others to step up. While right now there is no United States prospect leaping up into contention, they have the next core group of players who can hopefully challenge for a top 10 rank and go from there.

2020 ATP Roland Garros fantasy tennis: RBA salutes as Edmund topples compatriot

ROBERTO Bautista Agut survived a thriller against Italian Andreas Seppi, and Kyle Edmund won the Battle of Britain to move through to the second round of Roland Garros in the 2020 ATP fantasy tennis tournament. The 12th seed Spaniard was able to overcome Seppi in a topsy-turvy contest, eventually winning 6-1 4-6 6-0 2-6 6-2 to book a spot in the next round, whilst Edmund defeated his compatriot and highest ranked Brit Daniel Evans, 6-3 6-4 6-3 to forge a path into the second round.

Elsewhere it was a largely predictable day from the seeds with Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo giving world number two Novak Djokovic something to think about early before the Serbian shook him off in a 7-5 6-0 6-1 victory. Similarly, Alexander Zverev brushed past Chris O’Connell, and Karen Khachanov, Milos Raonic and Pablo Carreno Busta all moved through to the next stage of competition without dropping a set. It was not a good day for Australian hopes with O’Connell, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth and Alexei Popyrin all smashed in their respective matches.

Of the last three, it was Khachanov, Kevin Anderson and Stefano Travaglia who all booked spots in the Round of 64 with victories of those competitors from Down Under. The talking point of the day was French teenager Hugo Gaston toppling Spanish qualifier Marcel Granollers 3-6 7-6 7-5 7-6 in a match that lasted almost three hours before the future star booked his spot in the next round.

Of the remaining winners, 28th seed Pole Hubert Hurkacz was able to get past Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar, 6-2 6-1 5-7 6-4, whilst Federico Coria downed American up-and-comer Brandon Nakashima 6-3 7-5 6-2. They joined Sweden’s Mikael Ymer, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, United States’ Taylor Fritz and Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in the next round of competition.

ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Santiago Giraldo (COL) 7-5 6-0 6-1
[7] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [WC] Chris O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 6-1 6-1
[12] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1 4-6 6-0 2-6 6-2
[16] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 7-5 6-2 6-4
[23] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-5 6-3 7-6
[24] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-3 6-1 6-4
[28] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated [Q] Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-2 6-1 5-7 6-4
Kyle Edmund (GBR) defeated [29] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 6-4 6-3
Federico Coria (ARG) defeated [WC] Brandon Nakashima (USA) 6-3 7-5 6-2
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-3 7-6 6-1
[WC] Hugo Gaston (FRA) defeated [Q] Marcel Granollers (ESP) 3-6 7-6 7-5 7-6
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-2 6-2 6-3
Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 6-0 6-3 6-0
Kevin Anderson (RSA) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-2 6-2 6-2
Hugo Dellien (BOL) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-6 7-6 6-1
Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-1 6-1 6-1