Tag: Cristian Garin

ATP Tour wrap: Zverev stuns Nadal on clay for third straight win over top seed

ALEXANDER Zverev has found the winning formula to defeating Rafael Nadal, and it has now stretched to the clay courts, defeating the top seed Spaniard in straight sets to book a 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 semi-finals spot. The German fifth seed backed up his wins in the 2019 ATP Finals and 2020 Paris Masters with a third straight win in the Madrid Masters, but this victory was different. It was back on clay and in Nadal’s home nation, where the King of Clay is near-unbeatable. By the time the match ended, Zverev had won 6-4 6-4, coming back from 2-4 down in the first set to post the win in one hour and 44 minutes.

“[It is] definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said post-match. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

The German served four aces, won 82 per cent of his first serve points, and broke Nadal three times to one during the match to secure his spot in the last four. Zverev won here in 2018, and holds a 13-2 record, also not dropping a set thus far in the 2021 edition. In the 2018 final, Zverev knocked off Dominic Thiem, which was the only time the German has been the third seed Austrian on clay. Thiem has an 8-2 head-to-head record against Zverev, and 4-1 on clay including the memorable come-from-behind five-set US Open final.

“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. “I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. “I am looking forward to the match.”

Thiem had to get himself out of trouble after losing the first set and having to save several break points in the fifth game of the second set to remain in the contest against American John Isner, going on to post a three-set win. The Austrian broke his opponent in the penultimate game of the match to take out the deciding set and win, 3-6 6-3 6-4 to set up the huge semi-final with Zverev.

“I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve,” Thiem said post-match. “I was a little bit surprised by his return games. I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set].”

Isner served 18 aces without a double fault, and won 77 per cent of his first serve points. He managed to match Thiem on return points off his second serve, but could not convert more than one of his seven break point chances which proved costly. Thiem on the other hand managed to convert the two from four, and won a higher percentage of first serve points (79 per cent).

In the other quarter finals results, eighth seed Italian Matteo Berrettini came from a set down to storm to victory against 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin, not dropping a game in the deciding set to win, 5-7 6-3 6-0. That victory set up a final four meeting with Norwegian Casper Ruud who knocked off Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 7-5 6-1. Zverev and Thiem are up first at 4pm local time ahead of the women’s final between Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, with the Ruud-Berrettini semi-final at night.

MADRID MASTERS 1000 RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[3] Dominic Theim (AUT) defeated John Isner (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 5-7 6-3 6-0
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-5 6-1

Picture credit: ATP Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: 

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

ATP Tour wrap: Popyrin upsets Sinner as Nadal smashes heir apparent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Two of three seeds fall on second day at Madrid

TWO seeds fell on the official second day of competition at the 2021 ATP Mutua Madrid Open in Spain, whilst a couple of qualifiers and a young gun wildcard also proceeded through to the second round.

It was qualifier Argentinian Federico Delbonis that overcame 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta on home soil, dropping the first set to the Spaniard before biting back in the second and retaining control from there on out. The two hour encounter saw Delbonis marginally lead for efficiency on his first and second serve winning rates despite Carreno Busta being cleaner on serve, resulting in the 3-6 6-4 6-3 finish. Meanwhile, South African Lloyd Harris out-hit Grigor Dimitrov, piling on 12 aces to three in the two and a half hour, 6-3 3-6 7-6 contest. The two players could not be split throughout, with the third set tiebreaker showcasing just how tight the matchup was, as both players completed the match winning the same amount of points throughout (104).

The only seed to win on the day was 16th seed Cristian Garin, who ousted a second Spaniard in Fernando Verdasco, while qualifiers Carlos Taberner and Pablo Andujar also fell on home soil, taken down by Italian Fabio Fognini and American Marcos Giron, respectively.

It was not all bad news for Spaniards though, as young gun Carlos Alcaraz proceeds to the second round after disposing of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets, 6-4 6-0, to set up a clash with compatriot and clay champion Rafael Nadal in the Round of 32.

“I started the match a little bit nervous,” Alcaraz said. “I tried to play aggressive to get the nerves out and tried to enjoy playing here, in front of a big crowd in Madrid.”

“For me, [to] play against Rafa is a dream come true,” Alcaraz said. “Since I was a kid, I wished to play a match against Rafa and now I will be able to here [on] the Centre Court of La Caja Magica in Madrid. It is a really special match against Rafa.”

Still only 17-years-old – until next week – Alcaraz pulled off 19 forehand winners against Mannarino, and won an impressive 81 per cent of his first serve points to claim victory.

The remaining four matches saw two more French competitors fall to join Mannarino on the sideline, as Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev pulled off a 7-5 6-4 victory over Ugo Humbert while Daniel Evans overcame a fighting Jeremy Chardy in a two hour and 46-minute classic, 7-6 6-7 6-2, piling on 13 aces for one double fault in the process, compared to Chardy’s four for six. The remaining two matches went the way of John Isner and Dominik Koepfer, with plenty of intriguing matchups coming in the coming days.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated [10] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 3-6 6-4 6-3
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [13] Grigor Dimitrov (HUN) 6-3 3-6 7-6
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [WC] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-1 6-4
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 6-7 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated [Q] Carlos Taberner (ESP) 7-6 2-6 6-3
John Isner (USA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 7-6
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 7-5 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4 6-4
[WC] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [Q] Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5

ATP Tour wrap: Qualifier stuns Zverev as Munich hosts thrillers

TOP seed and tournament favourite Alexander Zverev is out of the 2021 BMW Open in Munich, Germany after going down in a nail-biter to Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka. With just two matches on court to start the quarter finals, the German fans through they might come away with back-to-back wins after seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff held on against a determined Filip Krajinovic in three sets, but it was not to be.

In the first game, Struff needed all three sets to dismiss Krajinovic, with the seventh seed German winning 6-4 4-6 7-6 over the fourth seed Serbian. The deciding set tiebreaker went to 7-3, and was part of a whopping three-flat hours before the fast-serving Struff could advance. In those three hours, Struff put down 15 aces to Krajinovic’s six, whilst winning 77 per cent of his first serve points. By comparison the Serbian only won 58 per cent, but managed to save 11 of 16 break points, while Struff also defended well, saving eight of 13.

After Struff got up, the confidence of the home fans was sky-high to set up an all-German semi-final with Zverev out on court against Ivashka. After being pushed all the way in the first set, the number one seed prevailed 7-5 in the tiebreaker to take an early lead, and when the German served for the match at 5-4, many fans were expecting to head home shortly after. Ivashka had other ideas however, breaking the serve and winning the next three games – and nine of the last 12 0 to sail to victory, 6-7 7-5 6-3.

“This match was really tough for me and I was [close to losing] in the second set,” Ivashka said post-match. “I managed well and I tried stay in and fight until the last moment to see if he would give [me] chances and it happened.”

It was Ivashka first-ever Top 10 win, and his break in the seventh game of the second set helped him hold on and record a memorable come-from-behind victory, as both players serve five aces, but Zverev produced 10 more double faults. Ivashka saved six of nine break point opportunities, while breaking Zverev at a 50 per cent rate (five of 10).

“I just came to play match after match,” Ivashka said. “I knew that I had played well [in the] previous weeks… but I was not expecting [this run].”

Tomorrow is a hectic day with the two quarter finals – between second seed Casper Ruud and eighth seed John Millman, and fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili and lucky loser Norbert Gombos – taking place, as well as both semi-finals between the winners of those games, and the Struff-Ivashka clash.

Meanwhile in Estoril, unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie stunned second seed Cristian Garin in a come-from-behind victory on clay, saluting 3-6 7-5 6-3 in a nail-bitter to advance through to the semi-finals. Norrie broke three times to two in the two-hour and 28-minute clash, winning 59 per cent of his second serves to Garin’s 43 per cent to be the difference in an otherwise relatively even match. Norrie will now face sixth seed Marin Cilic who had an easy day out by winning a tiebreaker in the first set before South African Kevin Anderson retired. In the other quarter finals, seventh seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina both won through to set up an all-Spanish semi-final following wins over respective Frenchmen, Corentin Moutet and third seed Ugo Humbert.

BMW OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated [1] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-7 7-5 6-3
[7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [4] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-4 4-6 7-6

ESTORIL OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [2] Cristian Garin (CHI) 3-6 7-5 6-3
[8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [3] Ugo Humbert (GRA) 6-4 6-4
[6] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6 0-0 RET
[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Shapovalov bundled out among walkovers aplenty

THE Round of 16 has rolled on at the two ATP 250 events this week, with a couple of interesting results across both the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, and the Estoril Open in Portugal. A walkover was had at both tournaments in an intriguing quirk heading into the quarter-finals, as a top seed heads into the third round by default at both events.

At Munich, all three seeds prevailed on a trying day on clay, with the day’s top seed in Filip Krajinovic easing through to the third round following a walkover from German Yannick Hanfmann, while it was an entirely different story for Jan-Lennard Struff who overcame compatriot Dominik Koepfer in a massive 7-6(3) 6-7(0) 6-2 encounter.

Struff required two hours and 39 minutes to account for Koepfer, recovering from 2-4 down in the first to steal the first and requiring plenty of dash and dare to claim the final four games of the match to come away with victory, after a 0-7 deficit saw him drop the second set tiebreaker.

“I am very, very happy that I turned around the first set,” Struff said on court. “I played a not good second-set tie-break. Before [that] the set was okay, but I couldn’t lock into his service games that much… I am very happy that I broke him in the third set and I am very happy to be through. Dominik is a good guy and a very good player.”

The remaining winners of the day were fifth seed Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili and lucky loser Norbert Gombos, who both claimed wins in straight sets, disposing of Colombian qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan and Argentinian Federico Coria, respectively.

At Estoril, top seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov was ousted by Frenchman Corentin Moutet, with only a second set grab from Shapovalov putting a blemish in Moutet’s solid 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory. With this outing Shapovalov’s first as a top seed, Moutet was aware of the gravity of the encounter.

“It was who will play less worst today,” Moutet said post-match. “I think he didn’t play his best level. “I’m really happy to win, of course, because he’s such a great player. “It was a very close match. “Today I’m lucky that I won at the end. “A few points decided the winner.”

The left-handed Frenchman required two hours and six minutes to dispose of Shapovalov, who was error-ridden on serve and failed to consistently capitalise on his opportunities. Comparatively, Moutet won 66 per cent of his first serve points and 50 per cent of his second set points, all off a 67 per cent clip. He also saved nine of 13 break points and converted on four.

Second seed Cristian Garin was not required to take the court as Moutet’s compatriots Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert were not quite so lucky. While the former withdrew prior to the match with a left adductor injury, Herbert was take out in straight sets by seventh seed Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, as Cameron Norrie was tested by qualifier Pedro Martinez after dropping the first set, before running home with a huge three hour, 4-6 7-6(1) 7-5 victory.

BMW OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [WC] Yannick Hanfmann (GER) W/O
[5] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [Q] Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) 6-4 6-2
[7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated Dominik Koepfer (GER) 7-6 6-7 6-2
[LL] Norbert Gombos (SVK) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-4 6-1

ESTORIL OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated [1] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-4 2-6 6-4
[2] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) W/O
[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-2 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [Q] Pedro Martinez (ESP) 4-6 7-6 7-5

Picture credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Nadal stirred but not shaken by Ivashka in Barcelona

ELEVEN-time Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal had to overcome a bump in the road in the beginning of his quest to a dozen titles at the event, needing three sets to overcome Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka. Nadal dropped the first set 6-3, but soon found his groove to take out the match in two hours and 20 minutes. 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Playing on the Centre Court funnily enough named after himself in Pista Rafa Nadal, the world number three praised the underdog’s efforts early to match it with him and he had to lift his game accordingly to overcome the 111th ranked Belarusian.

“He played well. He played at a very high level, and I didn’t, especially at the beginning,” Nadal said post-match. “And then I think I changed a little bit the way I played. I was more aggressive later, and the match changed a lot. I’m happy I [fought] hard today to be in the third round. That’s what I needed after the loss at Monte-Carlo.”

Yet to lose a match on clay against a qualifier from 38 attempts, Nadal found a way to win, breaking three times to two – both of the latter came in the first set – whilst winning 80 per cent of his first serve points. Ivashka did well to take his chances, but in the end the Nadal consistency was too much, as the Spaniard won 39 per cent of his return points to Ivashka’s 31 per cent.

“I’m sure that I’m going to have the chance to play better, and I’m going to fight for it,” Nadal said. “I have the confidence that I’m not very far [from playing well], even if the last two matches [here and in Monte-Carlo] haven’t been perfect. But here I am, and I am with the right energy to try hard. It’s a process… I’m confident that by working every day I’m going to find [right] the solutions.”

Nadal will now face former Top 5 player Kei Nishikori, who fought through his second straight three-set match to overcome 13th seed and clay court specialist Christian Garin 7-6 4-6 6-1, reversing the pair’s head-to-head from last year at Hamburg where the Chilean won easily. In other results, top seeds Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman all advanced, though the latter was given a scare by American Frances Tiafoe, needing three sets to win, 3-6 7-5 6-1.

It was good news for the Spanish contingent, with sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta, qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles and unseeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas all booking their spots through to the next round. Australian 14th seed Alex de Minaur broke his poor form on clay with a straight sets win over Alexander Bublik, while Corentin Moutet and Felix Auger-Aliassime both won through to the Round of 16.

It was a good day for Serbian fans at the Serbian Open, as three of the four winners hailed from the nation. Top seed Novak Djokovic breezed through past Soonwoo Kwon 6-1 6-3, with fifth seed Filip Krajinovic also smacking his opponent, compatriot and wildcard Nikola Milojevic, 6-1 6-1. Eighth seed Miomir Kecmanovic had a tougher time against French qualifier Arthur Rinderknecht before making his way into the quarter finals, while Italian second seed Matteo Berrettini won 6-4 6-3 over compatriot Marco Cecchinato.

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 3-6 6-2 6-4
[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [WC] Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-0 6-2
[3] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [LL] Federico Gaio (ITA) 6-4 6-3
[4] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 3-6 7-5 6-1
[6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) defeated [9] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-0 4-4 RET
[10] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated [13] Cristian Garin (CHI) 7-6 4-6 6-1
[14] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-6 6-2
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated [16] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-4 5-7 6-3
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [17] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-4

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-1 6-3
[2] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 6-3
[5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [WC] Nikola Milojevic (SRB) 6-1 6-1
[8] Miomir Kemanovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 6-3 3-6 6-3

Picture credit: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images

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: Evans stuns Djoker in Monte Carlos madness

DANIEL Evans has pulled off the greatest win of his ATP Tour career, downing world number one Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters overnight. The Brit, who struggles on the clay normally, somehow knocked off the world’s best player in straight sets, 6-4 7-5. It was not easy, but then no one expected it to be, with Djokovic a past winner in Monte Carlo back in 2013 and 2015.

All the omens were pointing to a Djokovic win, with the Serbian not only a two-time past winner at the event, but unbeaten in 2021 with a 10-0 record heading into the third round match. Evans raced out of the block to win a double-break against Djokovic to stun onlookers, only for the Serbian to hit back and put it back on serve. Another break was all it took for the world number three, who closed out the first set, 6-4.

Djokovic put the foot down early in the second set to break and head to the second change of ends at 3-0 up, before Evans fought back to save a set point at 4-5 and then break twice upon winning the final four games of the match. The contest lasted two hours and nine minutes, but perhaps the most remarkable aspect was the fact it was Evans’ seventh win on clay, ever (his third this tournament). He is not a clay player and while Djokovic also prefers hard court, he has proven to be adaptable on any surface. But it was Evans who never gave in to claim a remarkable victory.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Evans said post-match. “I couldn’t quite believe the last ball went over the net. “It nearly didn’t. “I was pleased, regardless, with how I was playing coming into the match. “I felt good. “You can never be confident coming into such a big match like that against Novak. “It is clearly a big win and I am delighted that I got through, especially being a break down and [having had] little difficulties in the first set. It was really pleasing and I am delighted.

“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win. “I can walk on saying it, but you have really got to believe it. “Of course, I doubted myself in the match. “Serving it out is not easy. “You have got all sorts [of things] running through your head. “I am just happy with how it went and it will be one to savour for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the World No. 1. It is a nice one.”

Evans will now go on to face 11th seed David Goffin, whom he beat in the ATP Cup earlier this year, the only meeting between the pair. Evans’ win was arguably the only major upset of the day, with Goffin causing a minor upset over fifth seed German Alexander Zverev, winning in two tight sets 6-4 7-6, including an epic 9-7 second set tiebreaker. Twelfth seed Pablo Carreno Busta was the only other seed to fall to an unseeded player, going down to clay court specialist Casper Ruud in the match of the day. Both players threw everything at each other during the two-hour and 52-minute clash between Ruud emerged victorious with a 7-6 5-7 7-5 win.

At the other end of the scale, Rafael Nadal brushed aside Grigor Dimitrov like the 14th seed Bulgarian was a rookie on debut, absolutely destroying him 6-1 6-1 in 56 minutes. He only dropped eight points on serve, broke five times from nine chances, and never looked like losing the incredibly one-sided contest on the surface he has dominated for the best part of two decades. The ever-honest Nadal said it was Dimitrov’s errors – which he knew were uncharacteristic of the Bulgarian – that were the deciding factor in the result.

“[I am] sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth,” Nadal said post match. “He made a lot of mistakes. I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

The third seed will now take on sixth seed Alexander Rublev who knocked off ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in an epic three-set contest, 7-6 5-7 6-3. The other results were in straight sets, as fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas accounted for Christian Garin, 15th seed Fabio Fognini defeated Filip Krajinovic, and the lowest ranked winner Alejandro Davidovich Fokina proved too strong for French wildcard Lucas Pouille.

Nadal and Rublev are the final match of the day on Court Rainier III tonight, with Ruud and Fognini the match before. Kicking off the day is the Tsitsipas and Davidovich Fokina clash, whilst Evans and Goffin lock horns in the following match.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4 7-5
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [14] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 6-1 6-1
[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 6-3 6-4
[11] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [5] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-4 7-6
[6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 7-6 5-6 6-3
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [12] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 7-6 5-7 7-5
[15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-2 7-6
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA) 6-2 7-6

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Beltings galore as top seeds return at Monte Carlo Masters

TOP seeds and clay court specialists made their way through to the third round of the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters event, with a massively one-sided day of results. As the 14 remaining matches in the second round were completed, just one of those – Frenchman’s Lucas Pouille‘s victory over Australian Alexei Popyrin – went went to three sets. Pouille won 7-5 2-6 6-3 in by far the closest match of the day, in an overall event that was highly one-sided.

The only other straight sets match that at least looked like the eventual loser might take a set, was 14th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov‘s hard fought win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, 7-6 6-4. The remaining head-to-heads did not get beyond 10 games in a set, with the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal returning to wipe the court with Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis, whilst top seed Novak Djokovic reminded everyone what he was capable of, dismissing Italian young gun Jannik Sinner in straight sets 6-4 6-2, on his return from injury since claiming his ninth Australian Open title.

“It was solid match,” Nadal said post-match. “Of course, a very positive result. He’s a good player on clay… Nothing unbelievable, but nothing wrong. “Just a solid match, a positive start. “I think I did what I had to do today.”

Other top six seeds that advanced were fifth seed Alexander Zverev and sixth seed Andrey Rublev, who knocked out a couple more Italians in Lorenzo Sonego and Salvatore Caruso. It was a forgettable round for the European nation, as Belgian David Goffin defeated Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-4 6-0, with the quartet joining Matteo Berrettini – who lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina the day before – as omissions from the tournament. There was one more upset in the top eight seeds though, with clay court specialist Casper Ruud getting up over seventh seed Diego Schwartzman. The Norwegian won 6-3 6-3 to advance through to the third round.

The only other seed to fall on the day was 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz, who despite good form of late, went down to Brit Daniel Evans rather comfortably, 6-4 6-1. The sole Italian to win on the day and through to the Round of 16 was Fabio Fognini, with the 15th seed winning 6-3 6-3 against Australian Jordan Thompson. The Aussie was one of three Australians to fall in the second round, leaving none alive in the tournament, as John Millman suffered a 6-1 6-4 defeat at the hands of clay courter and 16th seed Cristian Garin, whilst qualifier Popyrin lost in that three-set match to Pouille.

In other results, Spanish seeded duo Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta joined Nadal in the next round with straight sets wins over American Tommy Paul and Russian Karen Khachanov, whilst Serbian Filip Krajinovic cruised through with a dominant 6-0 6-3 triumph over Argentinian lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero. To recap yesterday’s Round of 32 results, Davidovich Fokina and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas both won to round out the final 16 players in the Monte Carlo Masters third round.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Jannik Sinner (ITA) 6-4 6-2
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 6-1 6-2
[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-3 6-3
[6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [Q] Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-3 6-2
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [7] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-3 6-3
[9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 6-3 6-4
[11] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [Q] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 6-0
[12] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-2 6-3
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated [13] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-4 6-1
[14] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 6-4
[15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-1 6-4
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [LL] Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) 6-0 6-3
[WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA) defeated [Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 75- 2-6 6-3