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ATP Tour wrap: Qualifiers continue runs in Dubai and Acapulco

THE two ATP 500 events in Dubai and Acapulco provided some surprising upsets, as well as some come-from-behind wins as we recap the day’s action.

The top two remaining seeds continued their straight-sets run into the semi-finals, joining the two surprise packets in the semi-finals of the 2021 ATP Dubai Tennis Championships. Second seed Andrey Rublev and third seed Denis Shapovalov continued their dominant form to reach the final four, while Russian wildcard Aslan Karatsev and South African qualifier Lloyd Harris continued their respective runs into the semis.

The top ranked Rublev has been near unbeatable at ATP 500 level of late, and his consecutive run – which includes three titles – extended to 23. He defeated Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in straight sets 7-5 6-2, repeating the effort from their head-to-head at the most recent ATP 500 event in Rotterdam. The second seed will now lock horns with compatriot Karatsev who paved his way through to the semis with a come-from-behind win over young gun Jannik Sinner.

“I have really great connection with Marton and we are good friends on Tour. I have a huge respect for him. All the matches that we’ve played each other were drama matches,” Rublev said post-match. “We just smiled because we always have tough matches against each other. It’s not easy to play each other. “It’s always long rallies, it’s always tough points and in the end we just smiled.”

Karatsev dropped the first set to the Italian 16th seed in a tiebreaker 7-5, but found his groove in the final two sets to win 6-7 6-3 6-2 in the longest match of the day at two hours and 29 minutes. Sinner served up 10 aces against the Australian Open semi-finalist, but Karatsev was more consistent upon return, breaking five times to two and winning 79 and 50 per cent of his first and second serve points.

“It was tough at the beginning as he is a really talented guy,” Karatsev said post-match. “In the tie-break I was a little unlucky. I felt more comfortable in the second set and knew how to play against him.”

Meanwhile third seed Shapovalov was able to get past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in another quarter final, defeating his opponent 7-5 6-4. The Canadian has also not dropped a set in Dubai and was able to book a date with Harris in the semi-finals following the big-serving South African’s victory over Kei Nishikori. It is Harris’ second win over a Grand Slam champion, having defeated Dominic Thiem in the Round of 32. This time he had to fight all the way in three sets, defeating the Japanese veteran, 6-1 3-6 6-3.

“It was a tough match as Jeremy was serving and playing well,” Shapovalov said post-match. “I am really happy that I was able to convert the break points. It helps to play three straight sets matches and I feel fresh and ready to go.”

Karatsev has shuffled up four places in the ATP Tour world rankings, going above both Nishikori and Fucsovics into number 38 in the world, while Harris is now also at a career-high of 64th following a 17-spot rise. Rublev is slowly closing the gap on the Top 7, while Shapovalov has leapfrogged Roberto Bautista Agut who fell in the Round of 16 at Acapulco.

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-5 6-2
[3] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-5 6-4
[WC] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [16] Jannik Sinner (ITA) 6-7 6-3 6-2
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-1 3-6 6-3

 

Five of the seven seeds in the Abierto Mexicano ATP 500 event made their way through to the last eight in what was largely a one-sided day of action. Six of the eight matches were done in just two sets, with no more than 19 games played in each of those. The two three-set matches featured the remaining qualifiers with the results going both ways.

Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti booked his spot in the quarter finals with a come-from-behind win over United States’ Frances Tiafoe 2-6 6-3 7-6, including a dominant 7-1 final set tiebreaker. He joined eighth seed Casper Ruud in there who had a similarly tough time shaking off Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor in three sets, 4-6 6-3 7-6. Ruud won the deciding tiebreaker 7-3 in a match that lasted two hours and 23 minutes, which was 21 minutes less than the Musetti-Tiafoe clash.

All the other results were straightforward, though not always as you would expect, with German Dominik Koepfer and Brit Cameron Norrie being two other unseeded players to reach the Acapulco quarter finals. Koepfer upset fourth seed Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4 6-2, while Norrie took down Italian sixth seed Fabio Fognini, 6-4 6-3. It was better news for another Canadian in seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime who defeated United States’ wildcard Sebastian Korda 6-3 6-4.

Korda joined John Isner on the list of outs, following the big-serving American’s demise at the hands of top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek talent won 6-3 6-2 to breeze through to the last eight, as did second seed Alexander Zverev and fifth seed Grigor Dimitov. The pair proved too strong for Serbian duo Laslo Djere and Miomir Kecmanovic respectively, defeating them both in straight sets respectively.

The results set up some blockbuster quarter finals, with Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime being the pick of the bunch. The other all-seeded quarter final between Ruud and Zverev is highly anticipated, whilst Musetti takes on Dimitrov, and Norrie faces Koepfer.

ABIERTO MEXICANO ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated John Isner (USA) 6-3 6-2
[2] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-4 6-3
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [4] Milos Raonic (CAN) 6-4 6-2
[5] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [6] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4 6-3
[7] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [WC] Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-3 6-4
[8] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 4-6 6-3 7-6
[Q] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 2-6 6-3 7-6

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

ATP Tour wrap: Harris stuns Thiem in Dubai

THERE was plenty to unpack in the ATP Tour over the past 24 hours with some massive upsets in Dubai, and the Abierto Mexicano kicked off in Acapulco.

In Dubai, Lloyd Harris has caused the upset of the day with a straight sets win over top seed Dominic Thiem. The US Open reigning champion automatically booked his spot in the Round of 32 due to his seeding, but lasted just 72 minutes on court as the South African server won 6-3 6-4. Harris broke twice without facing a break point, and only lost one point on his first serve to be near-impenetrable off his racket. Thiem still won 81 per cent of his first serve points, but only served at 51 per cent efficiency in a disappointing performance from the Austrian.

“I’m super, super happy with that win. [He is] by far the highest-ranked player I have beaten,” Harris said post-match. “I look up to Domi a lot so, for me, it is a special feeling. “I am really happy. “Just the fact that I am playing good tennis, match in, match out now is giving me a lot of confidence.”

Thiem was not the only seed to bow out, with fifth seed Belgian David Goffin and sixth seed Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta also losing. Goffin went down to Kei Nishikori, with the Japanese Grand Slam winner continuing to build since returning from injury, posting a tight 6-3 7-6 victory over the seed. Meanwhile, Rotterdam finalist Marton Fucsovics posted a come-from-behind win over Carreno Busta, dropping the first set in a tiebreaker before winning 6-7 6-3 6-2.

Lower down the seeded order, 12th seed Brit Daniel Evans lost at the hands of reborn Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, with the Russian wildcard winning in three sets, 6-4 4-6 6-4 to move through to the Round of 16. The only other unseeded player to make his way through to the third round was Slovenian Aljaz Bedene who took care of Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino in straight sets.

It was a lot easier going for top talents, Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov who accounted for Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori and German Jan-Lennard Stuff in straight sets. The second and third seeds were joined by fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, who won after Australian Matthew Ebden retired at 4-1 down in the first set. Also through to the next round was Russian eighth seed Karen Khachanov, who defeated the last remaining Australian in wildcard Alexei Popyrin, 6-4 3-6 7-6.

Dusan Lajovic, Hubert Hurkacz, Taylor Fritz, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego were the other seeds through to the Round of 16, setting up some tantalising matches for the next day’s play. Harris will face Krajinovic, Fritz waill face Rublev, Sinner will take on Bautista Agut and Shapovalov will face Hurkacz in the games to watch, while the other four matches see Bedene facing Nishikori, Sonego locking horns with Karatsev, Fucsovics taking on Lajovic, and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy up against Khachanov.

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [1] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3 6-4
[2] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [Q] Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 6-4 6-4
[3] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-1 6-3
[4] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated [SE] Matthew Ebden (AUS) 4-1 RET
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated [5] David Goffin (BEL) 6-3 7-6
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-7 6-3 6-2
[8] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-4 3-6 7-6
[11] Dusan Lajovic (CRO) defeated [WC] Malek Jaziri (TUN) 7-5 6-2
[WC] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [12] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-4 4-6 6-4
[13] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-3 6-4
[14] FIlip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 7-5 6-4
[15] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 4-6 6-3 7-6
[16] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 2-6 7-6 6-4
[17] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-2 6-2
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated [LL] Lorenzo Giustino (ITA) 6-4 6-3

 

It was a mixed bag for Americans in Mexico, with four United States, one Canadian and one Mexican out on court in a day of straight sets action. Whilst there were some anticipated Round of 32 matches to open the Abierto Mexicano, no match really lived up to too much bar seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime‘s victory over Tennys Sandgren. The young gun won 6-3 7-6 to advance through to the second round, the closest of the six encounters on the day.

United States’ Sebastian Korda also had a tight first set before impressively shaking off Croatian Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2, joining compatriot John Isner in the second round. The big serving American took care of Italian Salvatore Caruso in straight sets, 6-4 6-3. The news was not as positive for Steve Johnson, who bowed out 6-2 6-3 to Serbian Laslo Djere, while German duo Alexander Zverev and Dominik Koepfer both advanced through to the Round of 16.

The second seed Zverev won 6-3 6-1 against Spanish teenage talent Carlos Alcaraz, while Koepfer booked his spot in the second round with a 6-4 6-2 victory over local wildcard, Gerardo Lopez Villasenor. A massive day of action will see the other six seeds in action, with number one seed Stefanos Tsitsipas facing Frenchman Benoit Paire, third seed Diego Schwartzman up against Italian young gun qualifier Lorenzo Musetti, Adrian Mannarino trying to take down fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov, and Tommy Paul up against fourth seed Milos Raonic.

ABIERTO MEXICANO ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [WC] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 6-3 6-1
[7] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-3 7-6
[WC] Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated Marin Cilic CRO) 7-5 6-2
Laslo Djere (SR) defeated Steve Johnson (USA) 6-2 6-3
John Isner (USA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-4 6-3
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [WC] Gerardo Lopez Villasenor (MEX) 6-4 6-2

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Horror day for Aussies in Dubai

IT was a day to forget for Australian representatives in the 2021 Dubai Tennis Championships, as all four of the nation’s competitors bowed out of the ATP 500 event. Top hope Alex de Minaur lost to Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the only Round of 32 match of the day, while John Millman, Christopher O’Connell and Jordan Thompson also departed, losing to a trio of qualifiers in a disappointing result for the nation.

Chardy proved too good for de Minaur in a surprise come-from-behind win over the ninth seed, posting a 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory in an hour and 44 minutes. The Australian had two more aces (7-5) and one less double fault (2-3), but Chardy won the same amount of break points (two) as de Minaur, and both came at crucial moments in the second and third sets respectively. The players were so even across the board, Chardy only won four more points than the Australian for the entirety of the match (81-77).

Fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet achieved some personal history at the event, moving up to sixth on the most career match wins from active players with his 550th triumph at the event. If Gasquet can make a quarter final, then the 34-year-old will surpass Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in fifth on that table, behind the ‘Big Four’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Gasquet achieved the feat courtesy of a straightforward 6-4 6-2 triumph over Italian Marco Cecchinato.

“I am feeling great here,” Gasquet said post-match. “I know this court well. “I played well [here] last year. “It is a fast court. “I like to play on it. “It is important to serve well and it was a great match. “I started well, feeling confident and winning the first set and then I played better in the second set.”

Meanwhile the forgettable day from the Australian representatives saw Millman up first losing to Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles. The Spaniard won 6-4 6-4 against Millman to advance, while fellow qualifiers, Lloyd Harris and Emil Ruusuvuori toppled Christopher O’Connell and Jordan Thompson. In an all-qualifier battle, Harris got the chocolate over O’Connell courtesy of a come-from-behind 6-7 6-4 6-1 victory, with the South African getting better as the match went on. Young Finn, Ruusuvuori continued his good form of the last 12 months to win 6-3 7-6 against Thompson.

The news was not as positive for a couple of other qualifiers with Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin and India’s Yuki Bhambri both bowing out in the first round. Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff won against Kukushkin, powering his way to a 6-3 6-2 victory on the back of 16 aces, while Slovenian Aljaz Bedene took care of Bhambri in a more challenging match than he would have liked, coming from a set down to win 3-6 6-1 6-4.

In other results, Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina defeated Macedonian lucky loser Radu Albot in straight sets 6-4 6-4, while in the latest game, Marton Fucsovics defeated Vasek Pospisil 2-6 7-5 6-4 in a three-set thriller to round out the day.

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated [9] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 2-6 6-3 6-4

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) defeated John Millman AUS) 6-4 6-4
Richard Gasquet (FRA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 6-2
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) Marton Fucsovics (HUN)
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [LL] Radu Albot (MCE) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [Q] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-7 6-4 6-1
[Q] Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 7-6
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defaeted [Q] Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-3 6-2
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated [Q] Yuki Bhambri (IND) 3-6 6-1 6-4

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour