Tag: Dennis Novak

ATP 250 wraps: Albot upsets Mannarino in Singapore as top seeds advance in Montpellier

IT was a huge day of ATP Tour action across the globe, as we look at how the matches went down in Montpellier, Singapore and Cordoba with the quarter finals completed in two tournaments, and the Round of 16 wrapped up in the latter one.

Looking at Montpellier, the top two seeds remain on a crash course to meet in the Open Sud de France final after winning their quarter finals in style to now take on unseeded opponents in the semis. In a tournament where nothing has been as expected, number one seed Roberto Bautista Agut, and number two seed David Goffin both provided some stability with comfortable victories.

Bautista Agut won 6-3 6-3 over talented sixth seed Frenchman Ugo Humbert, while Goffin dispensed of seventh seed Italian Lorenzo Sonego, 6-4 6-4. Bautista Agut needed 75 minutes to knock off Humbert, dominating off his consistent serve, only dropping three points off his first serve, and 11 in total, while Humbert could not get his usual power off his serve going, matching the more steady Bautista Agut with three aces each. Goffin also only served the three aces, defeating Sonego in 86 minutes, breaking three times to one which was enough to salute in straight sets fashion.

In the battle of the unseeded players, Belarusian Egor Gerasimov came back from a set deficit to post a win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, 4-6 6-4 7-5. The match lasted two hours and 29 minutes, with Gerasimov producing 16 aces and breaking five times to four in an impressive performance against the rising Spaniard. Meanwhile German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk – who defeated highly rated compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round – continued his run with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Dennis Novak. The match lasted 83 minutes, with Gojowczyk saving both break points he faced, whilst capitalising on four of 13 against the Austrian. His serving efficiency was poor at 45 per cent, but he made the most of it when it did go in, only dropping three points off his first serve.

Gerasimov takes on Goffin in the first semi-final on Court Patrice Dominguez today, while Bautista Agut faces Gojowczyk in the other semi-final.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE QUARTER FINALS:

[1] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated [6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-3 6-3
[2] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-4 6-4
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 4-6 6-4 7-5
[Q] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) defeated Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-4 6-1

 

In Singapore, top seed Adrian Mannarino was the major casualty of an otherwise as expected day, with two other top four seeds, and the higher ranked Australian in an all-Australian battle, moving through to the semi-finals. Mannarino suffered a straight sets defeat against tricky Macedonian Radu Albot who has found form of late, getting up 6-3 6-4 in an impressive performance. Albot served five aces without a double-fault and broke three times to one throughout the 95-minute match, only dropping four points on his second serve to be able to recover well.

Following him into the final four were third seed Marin Cilic, fourth seed Alexander Bublik, and Australian Alexei Popyrin. Cilic was able to fight back from a disappointing second set to post a three-set victory over Soonwoo Kwon in the match of the day. The match lasted exactly two hours, and with 18 aces and an 80 per cent first serve success rate, the Chilean veteran proved too powerful for the Korean, breaking a fourth time in the deciding set.

Bublik took care of Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 in 73 minutes and serving 15 aces to zero. He faced nine break points and remarkably saved them all, whilst making the most of his opportunities with three breaks from six chances. Meanwhile, Popyrin defeated compatriot and wildcard Matthew Ebden, 6-4 7-6 in one hour and 25 minutes. The winner put up 14 aces to three and broke the only opportunity created in the match, whilst controlling his serve to only lose 16 points on serve at a high 76 per cent success rate.

Cilic will now face Popyrin in the first-up semi-final today, before Albot and Bublik lock horns in the match straight after for a spot in the final.

SINGAPORE QUARTER FINALS:

[6] Radu Albot (MCE) defeated [1] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 6-4
[3] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [8] Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-2 2-6 7-5
[4] Alexander Bublik (KAZ) [5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-3 6-2
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [WC] Matthew Ebden (AUS) 6-4 7-6

 

The time difference in Cordoba, Argentina means that the Round of 16 was completed overnight, with the quarter finals set to take place today. Aside from a shock loss to third seed Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, the results went as planned, with three top eight seeds all knocking out their unseeded opponents. It also meant the home nation has four representatives in the quarter finals, with the potential to be an all-Argentinian final four if they can somehow get up.

Argentinian qualifier Juan Manuel Cerundolo caused the one big upset of the day, toppling Kecmanovic in a come-from-behind win. After dropping the first set in a tiebreaker, Cerundolo held firm in the second set, and ran away with it in the third to secure a 6-7 7-5 6-2 victory. The match lasted two hours and 19 minutes, with Cerundolo breaking six times to three, and winning 64 per cent of both his first and second serve points, while Kecmanovic only managed 44 per cent success off his second serve and his inconsistent form of late continued.

The other three-setter was fifth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas who survived a scare from another Argentinian qualifier in Tomas Martin Etcheverry, 2-6 7-6 7-5. The match went for a whopping two hours and 49 minutes before Ramos-Vinolas could finally shake off his lower ranked opponent, needing to break a third time during the win. Both players served five aces, but it was Etcheverry who won more overall points, being better on serve and return, but Ramos-Vinolas just found a way to win.

The other two results were fairly straightforward with top seed Diego Schwartzman winning 6-2 6-2 over Italian clay courter Marco Cecchinato, while seventh seed Brazilian Thiago Monteiro accounted for unseeded Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, 6-3 6-4. Looking to the quarter finals today, Monteiro takes on Cerundolo and Schwartzman faces Ramos-Vinolas, while in the other ones, Federico Coria matches up against second seed Benoit Paire, while Argentinian qualifier Facundo Bagnis meets Slovakian Jozef Kovalik.

CORDOBA ROUND OF 16:

[1] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-2 6-2
[5] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [Q] Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG) 2-6 7-6 7-5
[7] Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-3 6-4
[Q] Juan Manuel Cerundolo (ARG) defeated [3] Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-7 7-5 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP 250 wraps: Ebden upsets Millman in Singapore, as seeds tumble in Montpellier

IT was another big day across the three ATP 250 events, with Round of 16 matches completed in two of them, while Cordoba’s time difference meant the rest of its second round clashes will be completed over the next eight hours.

Two top four upsets in the Round of 16 have flung the door wide open in the quarter finals stage of the Open Sud de France, with just four of the eight seeds remaining in Montpellier. Those four seeds all play each other, guaranteeing two unseeded players will reach the semi-finals.

Austrian Dennis Novak upset third seed Serbian Dusan Lajovic in straight sets, 7-6 7-5, while Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was even more clinical during a 7-5 6-2 victory over fourth seed Pole Hubert Hurkacz. With those seeds out, they set up quarter finals clashes with Peter Gojowczyk and Egor Gerasimov respectively.

Gojowczyk knocked off Jiri Vesely in the tightest match of the day, needing three sets to put away the tricky Czech, as the German qualifier came back from a tiebreak down to win 6-7 7-6 6-3. Meanwhile Gerasimov won against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene – who took out Jannik Sinner in Round 1 – in a tight two sets as well, 6-4 7-6.

Order was restored with Roberto Bautista Agut stepped on court as he destroyed French qualifier Gregoire Barrere 6-0 6-3 in a dominant performance. Now Bautista Agut will face the last remaining Frenchman in Montpellier, sixth seed Ugo Humbert in the quarter finals. At the other end of the draw, second seed David Goffin will take on Italian seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated [Q] Gregoire Barrere (FRA) 6-0 6-3
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated [3] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 7-6 7-5
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [4] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 7-5 6-2
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4 7-6
[Q] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) defeated Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-7 7-6 6-3

 

The biggest upset in Singapore was the ousting of second seed and tournament favourite, John Millman who went down to compatriot and wildcard Matthew Ebden. It marked Millman’s second consecutive loss after a shock defeat in the opening round of the Australian Open to Corentin Moutet. Ebden proved far too good on the day, cruising through in a 6-4 6-1 victory to set up a quarter finals clash with compatriot Alexei Popyrin.

Millman was the only seed to lose on the day, with now tournament favourite, Adrian Mannarino booking his place in the quarter finals. The top seed won 6-3 7-5 over Mexico’s Roberto Marcora to make it into the final eight, whilst other seeds, Radu Albot and Soonwoo Kwon also secured wins. Albot defeated Yannick Hanfmann in a come-from-behind thriller, defeating the German 6-7 7-6 6-3 which included saving multiple match points. Meanwhile Kwon took out Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama to reach the quarter finals with a 6-3 6-4 triumph.

Popyrin and Ebden’s quarter final will be the only unseeded quarter final with the six other seeds all reaching the last eight of the Singapore tournament. Mannarino will now take on Albot for a spot in the semis, while Kwon and third seed Marin Cilic go head-to-head, as does fourth seed Alexander Bublik and fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated Roberto Marcora (MEX) 6-3 7-5
[WC] Matthew Ebden (AUS) defeated [2] John Millman (AUS) 6-4 6-1
[6] Radu Albot (MCE) defeated Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-7 7-6 6-3
[8] Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) 6-3 6-4

 

Frenchman Benoit Paire grabbed his first win of 2021, and only second in the last 12 months when he took care of Chilean wildcard Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at Cordoba. Paire won 6-2 6-4 to get the monkey off the back after being 1-9 since the restart of the Tour in August. Jarry was not the only Chilean to be sent packing from the event, with qualifier Marcel Tomas Barrios Vera going down. He lost out to Jozef Kovalik, with the Slovakian coming from behind to win in three sets, 4-6 6-2 6-3 and book his spot in the quarter finals.

In the other two matches played yesterday, four Argentinians stepped on court with one higher ranked and one lower ranked player winning against their respective opponents. Qualifier Facundo Bagnis took full advantage against eighth seed Federico Delbonis, knocking him out of the tournament with a 6-4 7-5 win. Meanwhile Federico Coria had to come back from a disappointing first set to post a 1-6 6-2 6-4 victory over wildcard Francisco Cerundolo.

The four remaining Round of 16 matches – including three with Argentinians – will take place today.

CORDOBA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Benoit Paire (FRA) defeated [WC] Nicolas Jarry (CHI) 6-2 6-4
Jozef Kovalik (SVK) defeated [Q] Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera (CHI) 4-6 6-2 6-3
Federico Coria [ARG] defeated [WC] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) 1-6 6-2 6-4
[Q] Facundo Bagnis (ARG) defeated [8] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 6-4 7-5

Picture credit: J.B. Autissier – Panoramic

ATP 250 wraps: Aussies bow out in Singapore as upsets take place in Montpellier

IT was a mixed bag of results on day two across the various ATP 250 events, as we recap the results as of publishing in Montpellier, Singapore and Cordoba.

A couple of experienced talents joined the list of outs from the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, with eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff and Frenchman Gilles Simon both bundled out of the tournament. Struff went down to qualifier and compatriot Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets, losing 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 18 minutes, with the 144th ranked played topping his German counterpart who sits 107 placed above him in the world. Meanwhile Austrian Dennis Novak continued his strong start to the year with a solid three-set win over Simon. Novak needed a tiebreaker to get through the first set, before dropping away in the second, and then posting a win 7-6 1-6 6-3 to advance to the Round of 16.

In other results, wildcard Benjamin Bonzi won through in straight sets in the all-French clash against Lucas Pouille, getting up 7-6 6-2. Experienced Czech Jiri Vesely was far too good for a disappointing Mikael Ymer, winning 6-1 6-1, while in the final results, Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor won 6-2 6-7 6-3 over American Marcos Giron in the clear best match of the day. It lasted two hours and 10 minutes with the players evenly matched until Griekspoor – who had saved all five break point opportunities from his opponent – broke for a third time to win. .

In the late game, the most talked about match took place on Court Patrice Dominguez with Belarusian Egor Gerasimov taking on Grand Slam winner and returning from injury Brit, Andy Murray. After a nail-biting first set tiebreaker (10-8), Gerasimov ran away with the contest in the second set to win 7-6 6-1 and book his spot in the second round.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) defeated [8] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-3 6-4
[WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) defeated Lucas Pouille (FRA) 7-6 6-2
[Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) defeated Marcos Giron (USA) 6-2 6-7 6-3
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 7-6 1-6 6-3
Jiri Vesely (CZE) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-1 6-1
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Andy Murray (GBR) 7-6 6-1

 

Over in Singapore, five matches were completed on day two, and it was not good news for the Australians with all three players on court unable to join day one winner, Alexei Popyrin in the Round of 16. Marc Polmans was the toughest to beat, forcing Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama to three sets before going down 6-4 2-6 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes. Similarly, John-Patrick Smith also suffered a three-set loss, this time to Macedonian sixth seed Radu Albot who won 6-2 3-6 6-1.

James Duckworth was unable to really break down German Yannick Hanfmann in their match, with the latter triumphing in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 to advance to the next round of action. In the other two matches, Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek won against Japanese wildcard Shintaro Mochizuki. Celikbilek got up 6-0 6-4 convincingly, while American Maxime Cressy moved into the Round of 16 with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Radu Albot (MCE) defeated [Q] John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-2 6-4
Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) defeated Marc Polmans (AUS) 6-4 2-6 6-4
[Q] Altug Celikbilek (TUR) defeated [WC] Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) 6-0 6-4

 

The two lower ranked players at the Cordoba Open won through to the second round with hard-fought three sets wins over their respective opponents. Chilean wildcards Nicolas Jarry came from a set down to survive a nail-biting tiebreaker and then win in three against rising Spaniard Jaume Munar, 5-7 7-6 6-4. The match lasted a whopping two hours and 44 minutes with Jarry serving up seven aces, and winning 75 per cent of his first serve points, albeit off a lowly 54 per cent efficiency. Jarry’s was more efficient with 74 per cent of his first serves going in, but only capitalising on 63 per cent of them, as both players were broken five times.

In the other match, Jozef Kovalik also needed three sets to get past Daniel Elahi Galan, bouncing back from a disappointing second set to win 6-2 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes. Kovalik broke four times to three, the last being a crucial one in the final set, to book his spot in the Round of 16 with victory on the clay courts.

CORDOBA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[WC] Nicolas Jarry (CHL) defeated Jaume Munar (ESP) 5-7 7-6 6-4
Jozef Kovalik (SVK) defeated Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) 6-2 1-6 6-3

Picture credit: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

ATP 250s wraps: Tsonga beaten on return as Popyrin claims win in Singapore

GRAND SLAM finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier yesterday, though it did not go plan. The former Top 10 talent was easily beaten by American Sebastian Korda in the first round of the ATP 250 event.

The match lasted just 72 minutes with Korda claiming the spoils, 6-4 6-2, dominating on serve and only dropping eight points in total, saving both of his opponent’s break point opportunities. Tsonga was far from his best, but getting through the match was the key, still winning 69 per cent of his first serve points, and serving five aces throughout the match. He saved three of six break points, but ultimately could not do enough against a player who has built form over the past 12 months.

It was better news for sixth seed Ugo Humbert, whose rise up the ATP Rankings continues following his straight sets win over Slovakian Norbert Gombos. Humbert won 6-4 7-6 in 78 minutes, slamming home 18 aces and winning 88 per cent of his first serve points off an elite 79 per cent efficiency to never give his opponent a chance. In Gombos’ defence, he held up well, actually breaking Humbert once from two chances, while the Frenchman broke him from both his opportunities. Overall the class of Humbert stood out and he advanced to the Round of 16.

In the final match played on day one of the main draw event, seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego battled past young Frenchman Hugo Gaston. The Italian won 6-3 6-7 6-1, holding his nerve in the third set after dropping the second set tiebreaker 9-7, to win in two hours and 19 minutes. He served seven aces and broke six times from 12 chances, while only being broken three times himself.

In today’s action, there are plenty more Frenchman on show, with Lucas Pouille taking on compatriot and wildcard Benjamin Bonzi, while Gilles Simon faces Austrian Dennis Novak. The match of the day could be either British wildcard and Grand Slam winner Andy Murray taking on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, or Swede Mikael Ymer locking horns with Jiri Vesely.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Norbert Gombos (SVK) 6-4 7-6
[7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [WC] Hugo Gaston (FRA) 6-3 6-7 6-1
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-4 6-2

Five first round matches were completed in Singapore, with a mixed bag for the two seeds on court. Fifth seed Japanese counter puncher Yoshihito Nishioka defeated improving American Michael Mmoh 6-2 3-6 6-3, while seventh seed South African Lloyd Harris went down in three sets to Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev.

Nishioka needed almost two hours to defeat Mmoh, surviving 11 aces to bring up 10 break point opportunities, albeit only taking three. It was two more than Mmoh who broke once in the second set, but could not do it again in the match. Meanwhile Andreev took two hours and 19 minutes to knock off the fast-serving Harris, not needing to serve and ace and even holding off 12 of 15 break point chances for the South African to win 1-6 6-3 6-4. The Bulgarian bounced back from a disappointing first set to post the impressive win over the developing Harris.

Andreev now takes on Australian Alexei Popyrin who knocked off American qualifier, Christopher Eubanks in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6, both of which were 7-5 tiebreakers. The match lasted one hour and 46 minutes, with Popyrin powering home 15 aces and saving 10 of 11 break points in a remarkable feat. He won 72 per cent of his first serve points, and also only broke Eubanks once, holding firm in the crucial tiebreakers to claim a narrow straight sets win.

In other Singapore results, United States’ Maxime Cressy became his nation’s sole winner on the day, downing Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung in straight sets 7-6 6-2, while Japan’s Taro Daniel joined compatriot Nishioka in the second round after a tight three-set win over India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan, 6-3 6-7 6-3.

In today’s action, three Australians are out on court, with Marc Polmans up first against Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama. Following that match, qualifier John-Patrick Smith has to find a way to upstage sixth seed Macedonian Radu Albot, before James Duckworth takes to the court at night against German, Yannick Hanfmann.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-2 3-6 6-3
[WC] Adrian Andreev (BUL) defeated [7] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 1-6 6-3 6-4
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 6-3 6-7 6-3
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [Q] Christopher Eubanks (USA) 7-6 7-6

At the time of publishing, none of the day one matches had been completed in Cordoba, with the Argentinian tournament finishing off the third round of qualifying earlier in the day. The night session featured two Round of 32 matches which will be covered in tomorrow’s wrap, with Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan facing Slovakian Jozef Kovalik, followed by Spaniard Jaume Munar taking on Chilean wildcard Nicolas Jarry.

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Cup Day 1 wrap: Favourites win amongst individual upsets

THREE of the top four seeds managed to grab an early advantage in the ATP Cup that got underway yesterday, with only Italy’s victory over Austria the exception. In other results, reigning champions Serbia knocked off a determined Canada, Spain clean swept Australia, and Russia took care of Argentina.

SERBIA 2 defeated CANADA 1

Novak Djokovic and a fresh Filip Krajinovic led the top seeded Serbia to a win over Canada in what was a nail-biting event. The world number one – who overcame injury concerns with blisters earlier in the week – managed to defeat young gun Denis Shapovalov 7-5 7-5. As was expected, big serving Milos Raonic returned the favour with a 6-3 6-4 triumph over Dusan Lajovic to tie up the singles.

It all came down to the doubles, with Djokovic returning to the court, this time pairing with training partner and Top 30 player Krajinovic. They teamed up against Raonic and Shapovalov who chose to play the doubles over their lower ranked teammates, pushing the Serbians all the way. In the end though, the top ranked team got through with a 7-5 7-6 victory to win the opening match of the day.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 7-5 7-5
Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-3 6-4
N. Djokovic / F. Krajinovic (SRB) defeated M. Raonic / D. Shapovalov (CAN) 7-5 7-6

ITALY 2 defeated AUSTRIA 1

It was a Jeckyll and Hyde performance from Italy in what was more expected than surprising considering the talent, but inconsistency within their Top 20 players. Fabio Fognini was red-hot favourite to topple world number 100 Dennis Novak, the second lowest ranked singles player in the tournament. Unfortunately the firebrand’s inconsistency came back to haunt him and Novak put in a stunning performance to level the tie at 6-3 6-2. Italy got back on track when Matteo Berrettini stunned US Open winner Dominic Thiem in straight sets, 6-2 6-4.

All four players returned to the court for the doubles, with Berrettini again being the key player. The up-and-comer teamed up with Fognini to easily win the first set against Thiem and Novak, before pushing through to claim victory in straight sets. 6-1 6-4.

Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-2 6-4
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4
M. Berrettini / F. Fognini (ITA) defeated D. Thiem / D. Novak (AUT) 6-1 6-4

SPAIN 3 defeated AUSTRALIA 0

In the only clean sweep of the day, Spain swept Australia despite the late injury withdrawal of world number two, Rafael Nadal. The tournament favourites flexed their muscles in the matchup, as despite losing Nadal, still went on to beat a couple of Top 40 players in Alex de Minaur and John Millman. Pablo Carreno Busta took care of Millman in the opening match 6-2 6-4, before Roberto Bautista Agut fought back from a set down against de Minaur – who has won their only two head-to-head matches – to claim victory, 4-6 6-4 6-4.

With the tie decided, Carreno Busta returned to the court to partner with Marcel Granollers up against Australian specialist doubles pairing John Peers and Luke Saville. Nothing went right for the Australians in the tie though, as the Spanish won in straight sets 6-4 7-5 to cruise through and put themselves in control to advance through to the semis.

Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 4-6 6-4 6-4
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-2 6-4
P. Carreno Busta / M. Granollers (ESP) defeated J. Peers / L. Saville (AUS) 6-4 7-5

RUSSIA 2 defeated ARGENTINA 1

Also securing the tie after the singles matches was Russia, who with two Top 10 talents had the most damaging combination of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. Medvedev won in straight sets, 7-5 6-3 over Diego Schwartzman in a tight encounter, though the match before it was a blowout as Rublev made light work of Schwartzman’s teammate, Guido Pella, 6-1 6-2.

As Argentina had the specialist doubles combination and one of the best in the world in Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos, they managed to grab an important point back by defeating Rublev and Aslan Karatsev in the third match, winning 6-4 7-6. It mattered little as Russia grabbed the win 2-1, but gave Argentina a glimmer of hope, though the South American nation would need Japan to stun Russia for a chance of making it through to the semis.

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 7-5 6-3
Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-1 6-2
M. Gonzalez / H. Zeballos (ARG) defeated A. Karatsev / A. Rublev (RUS) 6-4 7-6

2021 ATP Cup preview: Greece

GREEK fans will get to see their nation at the 2021 ATP Cup thanks to the qualification system of top ranked players. World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas ensured the proud nation was able to qualifier for the team event, though it will be an uphill battle for the European nation to get past the group stage.

TEAM:

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Michael Pervolarakis
Markos Kalovelonis
Petros Tsitsipas

Greece is the only nation in the tournament without both singles players inside the Top 100. In fact, the second ranked singles player behind the sixth ranked Tsitsipas is Michail Pervolakis who comes in at number 459th. Keeping in mind the next lowest ranked singles player in Dennis Novak of Austria at 98th. So for Pervolakis, the saying of “great experience” will ring true, though coming in as the heavy underdog, he can relax and play his brand of tennis without pressure.

Tsitsipas is absolute quality and there is no doubt that on his day, he can beat anyone. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, none of them would strike fear for Tsitsipas. While he would not be considered favourite in those games, being on hard court he would be favoured over Nadal, and at least be close to Thiem. If he can play at his best, he can get Greece 1-0 up, though it is fair to say that will go to 1-1 after the singles.

It leaves the nation with a conundrum for the doubles, but one they will be fully prepared for. The two doubles players are Markos Kalovelonis and Petros Tsitsipas. Kalovelonis is ranked 536th in the world, and the younger Tsitsipas comes in at 776th. No doubt it could be a family affair if the two Tsitsipas brother teams up, but realistically, Greece needs the top ranked one to be playing doubles if it is any hope of winning a tie. He is their top ranked doubles player despite only playing 14 tournaments, with Pervolarakis the number two with 21 tournaments.

It is not anticipated that Greece will only use two players, but expect Stefanos to be called upon for doubles to team up with either his brother or Kalovelonis if the tie is in the balance. In saying that, it will still be difficult for Greece as a lot of the other nations have specialist doubles combinations, and anyone they come up against will struggle. It is hard to see Greece toppling either Spain or Australia in the group stage.

It will take a pretty monumental effort for Greece to advance, but Tsitsipas is a patriotic player with bucketloads of talent and plenty of support, so he will be doing everything in his power to drag his nation across the line.

Picture credit: Ella Ling/ATP Tour

2021 ATP Cup preview: Austria

WHEN it comes to Austria’s chances at the 2021 ATP Cup, plenty rests on the shoulders of 2020 US Open winner Dominic Thiem. The world number three won his first Grand Slam having come runner-up to the respective GOATS of the Australian Open (Novak Djokovic) and Roland Garros (Rafael Nadal).

TEAM:

Dominic Thiem
Dennis Novak
Philipp Oswald
Tristan-Samuel Weissborn

There is no sugar coating it, the chance of victory lies solely with the talented Thiem who is far and away the top Austrian. The 27-year-old can match it with anyone in the world, and it showed by making the 2020 ATP Finals decider. He has more ATP Tour ranking points than every other Austrian player put together, and will be eyeing off rising up the rankings more with a full year in 2021.

One aspect about Thiem is that he can play on clay or hard court, so is not just restricted by the surface. He will feel comfortable at Melbourne Park, and worries a lot of players on Rod Laver Arena and the like. He could, and should, win his singles 95 per cent of the time in this tournament, which gives his nation an immediate head start. The only issue then lies in finding the other win in order to go through to the next stage.

Luckily being a seed, Austria immediately avoids the other three nations in Serbia, Spain and Russia, so Thiem should claim the win. Dennis Novak avoids quality second players, though with the exception of Greece, he will start underdog in all his singles matches. A perfect group would be Greece and Japan, but unless that happens, the European nation might struggle.

In the doubles, the Austrians do not have their best combination, with second choice Philipp Oswald and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn named instead of the highly successful duo of Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach. Though the latter pair combine for a total age of 79, they are still inside the Top 30. The 42nd ranked Oswald and 109th ranked Weissborn still have plenty of doubles experience but will be underdogs in most games.

One cannot help but feel Thiem might be throw into the doubles to pair with Oswald, given the star player is only four places behind Weissborn in the doubles rankings off just eight tournaments. He is an effective doubles player, he just understandably prefers to focus on his singles. If Austria can win the doubles, they can keep going deep in the tournament, but as has already been mentioned, so much rests with Thiem.

If Thiem wins, then Austria has a good chance of getting up. If he loses, then it’s all but curtains for them given their lack of depth. It will be fascinating to see how they approach the tournament.

Picture credit: Ella Ling/ATP Tour

2021 ATP Cup preview: Argentina

ARGENTINA have opted for a fairly obvious four to send to the ATP Cup, with ninth ranked Diego Schwartzman helping them qualify for the tournament, but only one other singles player, as well as a doubles combination which will hopefully get them a leg up in that deciding tie if required.

TEAM:

Diego Schwartzman
Guido Pella
Horacio Zeballos
Maximo Gonzalez

The Argentinian team is not bad, but also not good. One would imagine the results will depend on which teams they cop in the group, because Schwartzman can trouble certain top players, but have little chance against others. His second player in Guido Pella is another singles player who might notch up an odd win here or there, and is no pushover, but will struggle against the top nation’s second players, and unlike Serbia or Spain, does not always have the luxury to fall back on the top player’s guaranteed win.

The doubles combination is a strong one, with the third ranked Horacio Zeballos the best doubles player in the tournament, with the 35-year-old to team up with 43rd ranked doubles player Maximo Gonzalez. Both Schwartzman (52nd) and Pella (71st) are ranked inside the top 100, but they will not be used for the doubles unless injury strikes. Having Zeballos is a huge advantage for the South American team, and they will start favourites in that match more often than not.

Unfortunately for Argentina, unless Juan Martin del Potro was fully fit, they have solid, consistent players who would worry opposition nations on clay. Unfortunately, with the exception of Schwartzman coming off a career-best year, they do not have a lot of alternatives outside the singles players. In a perfect world, Schwartzman and del Potro would be a potent combination, whilst the likes of Federico Delbonis, Juan Ignacio Londero and Federico Coria all sit inside the Top 100 singles players. None strike fear into the heart of the opposition on hard court, so for this tournament, the team is what you would expect it to be.

If teams are seeded by their top ranked player, then Argentina would prefer to have Austria. It gives Pella a huge chance to knock off the second player in Dennis Novak, while Schwartzman has at least beaten Dominic Thiem three times (though is 3-6 in the head-to-head). They would be favourites against Austria with the doubles to come through strong, but would need a miracle against either Serbia or Spain, with Schwartzman needing to upset Daniil Medvedev to have a chance against Russia.

Argentina should win against Greece and Japan if they face them, with possible chances against Austria and Australia, though unless they really get a favourable draw, it will be difficult to see them advancing through to the semi-finals.

Picture credit: Philippe Montigny/FFT

Austrian wildcard stuns Shapovalov in Vienna

AUSTRIAN wildcard Jurij Rodionov has stunned eighth seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov in a straight sets win, to advance through to the second round of the Erste Bank Open. The match lasted 87 minutes as the world number 153  won just his second match for the year. Both players have strong serves, but Shapovalov’s went missing with 10 double faults to two, whilst the pair served up five aces apiece in the match for a 6-4 7-5 result to Rodionov.

Both Rodionov and Shapovalov are 21-years-old though the latter has built a much bigger CV thus far. His inconsistent serving hurt him in the end as the Austrian took full advantage off the second serve, winning 62 per cent of Shapovalov’s second serves, and 68 per cent of his own. Despite coming close in both sets, Shapovalov dropped three service games to one, and eventually bowed out of the tournament to put his ATP Finals hopes in real danger. A good run in Vienna would have put the Canadian in contention for a top nine spot this year, especially with Gael Monfils losing his first round match – which would have seen Shapovalov leapfrog him with a win – and Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman both not competing in the tournament.

For Rodionov, he now advances into the Round of 16 to take on the winner of Aljaz Bedene and Daniel Evans. The news was not as good for fellow Austrian wildcard, Dennis Novak who suffered a tight three-set loss to South African Kevin Anderson. Whilst the former top five player is not what he used to be after injury kept him out of recent times, he was able to take care of the 92nd ranked Novak, winning 6-7 6-4 7-6 in two hours and 44 minutes of match play. Serving 18 aces, Anderson was hard to break – though it did happen once from the only opportunity – whilst Anderson broke twice to always put pressure on the Austrian. It came right down to the nail-biting deciding tiebreak as Anderson got up 8-6 in that third set to win in an epic thriller.

Monfils’ injury-affected year continued with another retirement from his first round match in Vienna. The enigmatic Frenchman lasted just nine games before pulling the pin against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, going down 6-1 2-0 in 39 minutes before he had to retire. In that time, Carreno Busta won 16 of 21 points on serve, and Monfils only won 11 off his own serve, producing seven double faults in five games and clearly looking in trouble from early on. Carreno Busta will now take on Anderson in the second round of the tournament.

In the other results, Borna Coric made it 4-0 in his head-to-head against Taylor Fritz, defeating the American 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes. Fritz served 12 aces to eight, but Coric’s consistency off his second serve – winning 71 per cent of the points to 48 per cent – was the difference – as well as breaking twice from three opportunities whilst saving all three of Fritz’s chances. Coric sets his sights on a likely Novak Djokovic Round of 16 encounter, with the world number one taking on Filip Krajinovic tomorrow. Lastly, fifth seed Andrey Rublev rolled on to easily take care of Slovakian Norbert Gombos 6-3 6-2 in just 60 minutes, serving 11 aces without a double-fault and only dropping 10 points on serve. He broke three times from four chances and did not face a break point in a dominant performance.

Tomorrow’s schedule of play at Vienna sees an all-Serbian battle between Djokovic and Krajinovic following on from a massive clash with Grigor Dimitrov and Karen Khachanov. At night, Dominic Thiem takes on lucky loser Vitaliy Sachko following Kei Nishikori‘s late withdrawal from the tournament, and Cristian Garin locks horns with Stan Wawrinka. Nishikori was one of three players to pull out at late notice, with Cologne finalist Diego Schwartzman and Antwerp finalist Alex de Minaur also pulling out allowing multiple lucky losers a second chance in Austria.

Star-studded field enters Erste Bank Open

ONE of the most star-studded fields outside a Grand Slam will enter the Erste Bank Open in Vienna with only Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev and the injured Roger Federer as the key omissions from the tournament. World number one Novak Djokovic and US Open winner Dominic Thiem are the top two seeds in a huge 32-draw tournament.

Djokovic opens his account with a clash against compatriot Filip Krajinovic, while Thiem has a challenging first-up clash against past Grand Slam winner Kei Nishikori who has been able to use a protected ranking to enter the draw. Also using a protected ranking is South African Kevin Anderson who takes on Austrian wildcard Dennis Novak in the opening round. Italian young gun Jannik Sinner and Austrian Jurji Rodionov have the other two wildcards, while Daniel Evans‘ deep run in Antwerp has earned him a special exemption into the tournament and a first up qualifier in the draw.

A massive first round draw sees fourth seed Daniil Medvedev taking on Australian Alex de Minaur in what promises to be a massive first round clash, as does the in-form Pablo Carreno Busta taking on the out-of-sorts seventh seed Gael Monfils. Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on late entry Jan-Lennard Struff who due to Zverev’s exit after a busy schedule in Germany, took his compatriot’s place and avoided qualifying. Sixth seed Diego Schwartzman takes on Serbian Dusan Lajovic and fifth seed Andrey Rublev takes on a qualifier, while eighth seed Denis Shapovalov meets Rodionov.

There are only the three past winners in the draw with Djokovic having not won since 2007, while Anderson and Thiem have won the past two years. Last year Thiem came from behind to defeat Schwartzman in three sets, 3-6 6-4 6-3 with Matteo Berrettini and Monfils reaching the semi-finals. Karen Khachanov, Rublev, Carreno Busta and Aljaz Bedene all made the quarter finals whilst Anderson won in 2018 with a win over Nishikori. Khachanov is taking on Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of the draw setting up a potential tantalising Round of 16 clash with Tsitsipas, while Thiem could face Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

With qualifying underway, the event kicks off on Monday with the event the last of the ATP 500s, with the Paris Masters and ATP Finals rounding out the year for the world’s top players alongside a couple of ATP 250 tournaments.

Picture: ATP Tour