Tag: fernando verdasco

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 Miami Open 1000: Ivashka wins in three tiebreakers, as Aussies advance

TWO retirements, three tiebreak sets over more than three hours, and a couple of Australians back on the winners list, there was plenty to talk about at the 2021 ATP Miami Open on Thursday.

The epic three-set, three-tiebreaker match went down to the wire over three hours and 18 minutes, before Belarusian Ilya Ivashka got up over South Korean Soonwoo Kwon, 7-6 6-7 7-6. The first two tiebreakers were 7-4 in favour of the opposite opponents before Ivashka got up 7-3 in the deciding tiebreaker. He served 20 aces and won 71 per cent of his first serve points off a 72 per cent efficiency, breaking his opponent four times, while Kwon won 74 per cent of his first serves of a 55 per cent clip, breaking four times from 11 chances himself.

Elsewhere it was a great start for Australian duo, Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Thompson overcame Argentinian Federico Delbonis in two tight sets 7-6 6-4, while qualifier Kokkinakis won on his return to the court in Miami with a 6-3 6-3 victory over fellow qualifier, Japan’s Shintaro Mochizuki. A 17-year-old talent, Mochizuki is a former junior world number one who claimed the 2019 Wimbledon junior title and is currently ranked 630th in the world.

There were plenty of home nation talents out on the court, with a number of them getting up in victories. United States representatives Bjorn Fratangelo, Sebastian Korda, Denis Kudla and Tennys Sandgren all won through to the next round of the tournament. Qualifier Frantangelo defeated Fernando Verdasco in straight sets, while Korda inflicted the same defeat on Romanian Radu Albot, Kudla knocked off Jeremy Chardy in a tight three-set battle, while Sandgren only needed 12 games before Spaniard Pedro Martinez retired, leading 6-4 2-0. Michael Mmoh was the only American to lose out on the day, going down 6-4 6-4 to Italian young gun Lorenzo Musetti, 6-4 6-4.

In other straight sets results, lucky loser Damir Dzumhur toppled veteran South African Kevin Anderson in a close one 7-6 7-6, while Yasutaka Uchiyama and Daniel Elahi Galan both won in two sets against Salvatore Caruso and Thiago Seyboth Wild respectively. Croatian Marin Cilic had a tougher assignment against Federico Coria getting up 6-3 2-6 6-4, while Miomir Kecmanovic also needed three sets to topple British qualifier Liam Broady.

MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[Q] Bjorn Frantangelo (USA) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4 6-4
Sebastian Korda (USA) defated Radu Albot (ROU) 6-3 6-0
[Q] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) defeated [Q] Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) 6-3 6-3
Denis Kudla (USA) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-3 2-6 6-4
[LL] Damir Dzumhur (BIH) defeated [PR] Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6 7-5
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) defeated [WC] Jack Draper (GBR) 7-5 0-0 RET
Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-4
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Liam Broady (GBR) 7-5 6-7 6-1
Tennys Sandgren (USA) defeated Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-4 2-0 RET
Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 7-6 6-7 7-6
Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) defeated [Q] Thiago Seyboth Wild (BRA) 6-3 6-4
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-4 6-4
Christopher O’Connell (AUS) vs. Joao Sousa (POR)
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) vs. [Q] Thomas Fabbiano (ITA)

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

Americans roll on in Nur-Sultan as Millman advances

AUSTRALIAN John Millman is through to the quarter finals of Astana Open in Nur-Sultan and with a number of other upsets, has put himself in a good position to win his maiden ATP Tour title. The fourth seed in Kazakhstan, Millman took care of Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 22 minutes to book a spot in the quarter finals and avenge compatriot James Duckworth who went down to Verdasco in the opening round.

The Australian will be pleased to be back on his home surface of hard court and he showed it during a challenging, but well-earned win over his Spanish opponent. Both played served at a high efficiency above 70 per cent, both only dropped 10 points on serve, and both recorded a second serve percentage of 58 as well. But it was Millman’s ability to save break points – four all up – whilst capitalising on two of four against Verdasco to advance through to the next round.

Millman’s biggest danger to the title will come in the form of his next opponent in Tommy Paul. The rising American talent blitzed Macedonian rival Radu Albot 6-4 6-0 in just 72 minutes on court. He won 69 and 57 per cent of his first and second serve points, compared to just 45 and 42 per cent of Albot’s respective serves. Albot broke once from five chances in the first set, but it was a remarkable five from five for Paul who did not hold back when taking the opportunity to break, and stormed to a big win.

Paul was one of three Americans on the right side of the scoreline on the day, with Frances Tiafoe joining him in the second round. The American won 7-5 6-3 over tournament favourite Miomir Kecmanovic in 81 minutes on court. In what has been a shaky year for Tiafoe, reaching just his second ATP Tour quarter final, he was too strong on serve for Kecmanovic who proved inconsistent.

Tiafoe served seven aces for the match and only dropped a total of 12 points on serve, including only four in the second set. With a 62 per cent efficiency off his serve, it was always going to be hard to beat, as he also broke four times from 10 chances compared to Kecmanovic’s one from four. The 22-year-old will now take on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov who came from behind to defeat Jiri Vesely, 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Gerasimov’s serve was on song and hard to stop, slamming home 14 aces on his way to an 80 per cent first serve winning percentage off a 70 per cent clip. He also won 58 per cent of his second serve points and broke twice compared to his Czech opponent’s once in a match that was certainly about the service. Despite only serving at 56 per cent efficiency and producing five double faults for his seven aces, Vesely remained in the contest for the most part, but the two breaks cost him during the tight, one-hour and 51-minute loss.

In the two first round results to complete the draw, the top two Kazkahstan hopes were playing and saw mixed results. Top home nation representative Alexander Bublik was shocked by American Mackenzie McDonald who won 6-3 6-2 in just 72 minutes,. Two weeks ago Bublik had won 2-6 7-6 6-4 in St. Petersburg, but McDonald had taken lessons from that loss to turn it around and post the win despite Bublik’s inconsistent serve of 11 aces and eight double faults.

It was better news for the other automatic Kazakh entry into the draw in Mikhail Kukushkin who came from behind to post a win over Argentinian Federico Delbonis. Kukushkin won 6-7 6-3 6-2 to shake off a disappointing 7-5 first set tiebreak loss to advance through to the second round in an epic two hours and 33 minutes, the longest match of the day. Delbonis served seven aces to two, but Kukushkin broke five times to two, taking full advantage of a 42 per cent winning ratio off the Argentinian’s second serve.

The remaining Round of 16 matches take place tomorrow with Finnish young gun Emil Ruusuvuori up against Australian eighth seed Jordan Thompson first, following by third seed Adrian Mannarino – the new tournament favourite – facing Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita. Italian veteran and wildcard at this event, Andreas Seppi meets McDonald, whilst Kukushkin backs up for a night session up against top seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire who enters the draw for the first time.

Picture: Tennis Australia

Thompson breaks four-game losing streak as American duo also advance in Nur-Sultan

JORDAN Thompson has broken a four-game losing streak by making it through to the second round of the Astana Open in Nur-Saltan, Kazakhstan. The Australian is seeded eighth at the ATP 250 event, and saw off the in-form Cameron Norrie to come from behind and win 5-7 7-6 6-2.

The match lasted two hours and 41 minutes with the 60th ranked Thompson and 70th ranked Norrie neck-and-neck for the most part before Thompson pulled away in the final set. Both players served four aces, but the Brit produced five double faults to two in the match, taking out the first set off the back of a strong serving percentage. By contrast, Thompson could only win 43 per cent of his second serve points in the set and was broken twice.

Thompson lifted his rate after that, increasing his overall serving efficiency as Norrie’s second serve percentage dropped to 41 per cent. The pair went to a tiebreaker and looked liked Norrie might come away with the straight sets win, but Thompson got there in the end with an 8-6 tiebreak victory. From there, Thompson stormed to victory taking the only two break points produced in the deciding set, and despite only having a 45 per cent serving efficiency, won 16 of his 22 points on serve, compared to Norrie’s nine of 20.

Meanwhile American duo, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe both advanced through to the second round of the Astana Open with straight sets wins. The seventh seed Paul won 7-6 6-3 over Stefano Travaglia, winning 81 per cent of his first serve points and saving six of eight break point opportunities, whilst Travaglia won just 43 per cent off his second serve, and was broken four times in the 95-minute match.

Tiafoe turned the tables on a loss to Frenchman Corentin Moutet from a fortnight ago in Sardinia to get up in an easy 6-3 6-2 victory in 82 minutes. The American served five aces and won 69 and 60 per cent of his first and second serve points. Moutet could only break even for half of each, serving four double faults to one ace and only managed the one break to Tiafoe’s four.

“I played really well tonight,” Tiafoe said post-match. “I was really intense from the beginning… I am just happy I came and took care of business.”

Tiafoe now takes on Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round with the second seed receiving a bye from the Round of 32, a clash that Tiafoe is looking for to in a couple of days.

“[Miomir] is one of my better friends on Tour,” Tiafoe said. “He is a year younger than me and we have had a couple of good matches before. He has been playing really good. He is around his career high right now and I am climbing back. Obviously, we wouldn’t usually play in the second round of an ATP 250, but it is the way it is right now. It is going to be a really good match.”

Meanwhile in the other matches, veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco won 6-4 7-5 against James Duckworth to set up a second consecutive match with an Australian. Verdasco plays fourth seed John Millman in the Round of 16. In the other completed match, Radu Albot knocked out the first home nation hope, coming from behind to defeat Kazakhstan wildcard Dmitry Popko 4-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 51 minutes.

Picture: Getty Images

Bergs stuns Ramos-Vinolas in first tour level match

THE Round of 32 was complete at both the ATP 250 tournaments in Cologne, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium, with a mostly predictable day – bar one huge scalp at Antwerp – seeing just one seed across the two competitions take the court.

At Cologne, just the four matches played out with young gun Jannik Sinner downing lucky loser James Duckworth, while Duckworth’s compatriot John Millman overcame a shaky start to reign supreme over Fernando Verdasco. Sinner impressed in his 61-minute demolition of his Australian opponent, winning 78 per cent of points off his first serve for the 6-1 6-2 victory. It was not just his own serve though with the Italian teen converting five of seven break points and winning 59 per cent of points on the return. For Millman, the 6-4 6-2 victory came through weathering Verdasco’s serve and forcing errors from the Spaniard who hit eight double faults for three aces at 60 per cent efficiency. Millman won a whopping 84 per cent of points off Verdasco’s second serve, benefiting off the Spaniard’s inconsistent serve.

While Alejandro Davidovich Fokina had no issue disposing of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Damir Dzumhur, French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert had to overcome a second set comeback from American Tennys Sandgren to proceed through to the Round of 16. The Davidovich Fokina-Dzumhur battle was intriguing, with the Spanish victor far more consistent and that consistency ultimately getting him over the line. Dzumhur contested well on the first serve but struggled capitalising off his second, also failing to win critical points off the return in the 6-2 6-3 battle. For Hubert it was a tougher battle, forced to fight back from a second set slip in the 6-3 3-6 6-3, two hour and 16 minute match. The closeness of the contest was evident with neither player willing to give an inch, though it was the Frenchman who outlasted the hard-hitting Sandgren – who hit 10 aces for six double faults – and marginally beat the American on both his service and return games, winning just five more points overall.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

John Millman (AUS) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4 6-2
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [Q] Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-2 6-3
[Q] Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-3 3-6 6-3
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [LL] James Duckworth (AUS) 6-1 6-2

At Antwerp, Australian Alex de Minaur was the only seed to take the court, and was forced to fight every second for victory by Frenchman Richard Gasquet who stormed out of the blocks in the first set. De Minaur showcased his ability to come back from the brink though with an impressive second set to draw even and turn the tides in the 3-6 7-6 6-3, two hour and 18 minute win. Marginally better off his service and return games than Gasquet, de Minaur won 52 per cent of overall points, showcasing the closeness of the battle. Meanwhile, wildcard Belgian Zizou Bergs snatched a huge victory over Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his first tour-level match. Home hope Bergs, currently ranked at 528th in the world compared to Ramos-Vinolas’ 45th, won with the exciting 7-5 7-5 match coming down to the wire. Like de Minaur, Bergs won 52 per cent of overall points (75-68) and used his seven aces to command points off his own serve.

Joining de Minaur on the winners list are a couple of consistent performers across the past few weeks, with Lloyd Harris and Pablo Andujar both overcoming their respective opposition, while a couple of Brits join them with both Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie defeating respective qualfiers in Salvatore Caruso and Emil Ruusuvuori. Harris overcame a tough first set effort from Corentin Moutet to head to the second round, hitting seven aces on his way to a 7-5 6-2 victory, and winning points off 85 per cent of his first serve points. Meanwhile, Andujar defeated lucky loser, Federico Coria.

ANTWERP ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[W] Zizou Bergs (BEL) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 7-5 7-5
[8] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) 3-6 7-6 6-3
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated [LL] Federico Coria (ARG) 6-2 6-3
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated [Q] Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-2 3-6 6-3
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [WC] Luca Nardi (ITA) 4-6 6-4 6-1
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 7-5 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [Q] Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 6-3 7-6

Rested Schwartzman returns to Cologne

DIEGO Schwartzman will return to the ATP Tour in the second consecutive event at Cologne, following a well-earned rest after a hectic Grand Slam schedule. Having reached the final at the Rome Masters and again impressing at Roland Garros, the diminutive Argentinian returns to the court as second seed at the ATP 250 event.

With the withdrawal of French world number 11 Gael Monfils, Schwartzman looms as a danger man to home nation hero, Alexander Zverev who will be hard to beat in Germany. The in-form Denis Shapovalov and up and comers, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz join Jan-Lennard Struff and Adrian Mannarino as other seeds at the indoor event. Marin Cilic earned the ninth seed following the late withdrawal of fourth seed, Roberto Bautista Agut.

Struff has had a terrible few weeks and will be looking to turn it around here with the quality of the draw dropping off after the top six. Along with Monfils, Benoit Paire and Filip Krajinovic both withdrew from the tournament, allowing Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, and American Steve Johnson automatic entry into the tournament. John Millman and Jordan Thompson will lead the Australian charge at Cologne, whilst Frenchman Gilles Simon earned a place at the event.

Italian Jannik Sinner has earned a wildcard at the event and has a huge first-up match with Hurkacz, whilst the ever-dangerous Daniel Altmaier hopes to continue his good form of late by taking on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov in the first round. After reaching the last four of the Cologne Indoors event, Serbia’s Danilo Petrovic earned a special exemption, as did finalist, Marco Cecchinato. With the top four ranked players – Zverev, Shapovalov, Schwartzman and Auger-Aliassime – earning byes in the first round, there are still a number of other matches to keep an eye on.

Millman will take on the wily Fernando Verdasco for a crack at Zverev in the second round, whilst Thompson will take on Frenchman Gilles Simon. There are a number of French players in the draw, with another Australian-French clash between lucky loser Alexei Popyrin and eighth seed Mannarino. Cecchinato taking on the out-of-sorts Struff promises to provide plenty of excitement, whilst Petrovic and Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak‘s clash should also be a tight one.

The Cologne Championships will run throughout this week with Zverev and Schwartzman the standout favourites, though Auger-Aliassime and Sinner loom as danger men, as do Shapovalov and Millman on the hard courts.

Picture: Getty Images

Ruud downed at Sardinia while seeds prevail in Cologne

IT was another big day across the two ATP 250 tournaments, seeing a much more successful pursuit from the respective home nations in Germany and Italy though a couple more seeds fell across the two competitions. Sardinia favourite Casper Ruud was the upset of the round, downed in straight sets and seeing just one seed remain in Italy.

At Cologne, top seed Alexander Zverev had no issue disposing of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-1 in 63 minutes, while Canadian young gun and third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime downed qualifier Henri Laaksonen with the same scoreline and taking an extra 14 minutes to get the job done. Both winners in Zverev and Auger-Aliassime were excellent off their serve, hitting seven aces apiece and racing ahead winning 84 per cent and 90 per cent of their first serve points respectively. 

Where Verdasco was unsuccessful, compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was far more threatening downing eighth seed Croatian Marin Cilic in the lone three-setter of the day. While Cilic ran away with a convincing first set, it was the tight second set that set the tone for Davidovich, winning the second set tiebreaker and stealing momentum for the final set to come away with the 3-6 7-6 6-2 victory. Meanwhile, second seed Roberto Bautista Agut continued his fine form against a fighting Gilles Simon, outlasting the Frenchman in the 6-4 7-6, two-hour and 19-minute battle.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4 6-1
[2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-4 7-6
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-4 6-1
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [8] Marin Cilic (CRO) 3-6 7-6 6-2

At Sardinia, Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the only remaining seed left after both Ruud and Tommy Paul were knocked out. Ramos-Vinolas impressed in the first set against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, running away with a solid 6-0 6-3 victory, but it was German Yannick Hanfmann who absolutely stole the show with a whopping 64 minute demolition of Ruud, 6-2 6-1. Hanfmann rendered Ruud much less efficient than usual, forcing errors from the usually more clinical Norwegian and excelling off Ruud’s serve at a 54 per cent winning rate. Ruud hit three double faults and failed to win a single break point in what was a disappointing outing for the third seed.

Two of the three Italian competitors made it through to the quarter finals, with wildcards Marco Cecchinato and Lorenzo Musetti both coming away successful. While Musetti knocked off compatriot Andrea Pellegrino in a 6-2 6-1 demolition in just 59 minutes, Cecchinato outlasted a tough first set from seventh seed American Paul to run away with an 88-minute victory, 7-6 6-4. Cecchinato’s excellent service game was the clincher, winning points off 90 per cent of his first serve including  four aces for zero double faults. 

SARDINIA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-0 6-3
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated [3] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-2 7-5
[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [7] Tommy Paul (USA) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [Q] Andrea Pellegrino (ITA) 6-2 6-1

Day 2 at Cologne and Sardinia sees tough battles

DAY 2 in both Cologne, Germany and Sardinia, Italy started with a bang with a couple of intriguing matches headlining the respective ATP 250 tournaments. It was a successful day for Spanish competitors across the two tournaments, while a couple of Italians were dealt unlucky hands taking on compatriots.

It was a rough day for Great Britain at Cologne, with both top ranked Brit Kyle Edmund and former world number one Andy Murray defeated in straight sets. Edmund put up a tough fight against South African Lloyd Harris, battling hard for the 7-5 7-6 result, to no avail. The two hour battle saw neither player really able to pull away with the momentum, although Harris’ marginally better service games proved critical, winning 64 per cent of his service points to Edmund’s 59 per cent. Wildcard Murray took the court in the final match of the day and was taken down by a hasty Fernando Verdasco, 6-4 6-4. With seven aces for two double faults and a more consistent first serve efficiency (65 per cent overall compared to Murray’s 51 per cent), Verdasco disposed of Murray with ease to proceed through to the second round. 

Joining Verdasco and Harris in the second round is eight seed Marin Cilic, who defeated lucky loser Marcos Giron in an intriguing three-setter, 6-2 4-6 6-3 in two and a half hours. Cilic racked up nine aces but five double faults, making it out with a solid 76 per cent winning efficiency off his first serve. Meanwhile, homegrown talent and wildcard Daniel Altmaier contested hard against Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen but could not come up with a win in the tough 3-6 6-3 7-6 battle, while in other games, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Gilles Simon came away with straight sets wins to head into the second round.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated Kyle Edmund (GBR) 7-5 7-6
[8] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Marcos Giron (USA) 6-2 4-6 6-3
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [Q] Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 7-5 6-4
[Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) defeated [WC] Daniel Altmaier (GER) 3-6 6-3 7-6
Gilles Simon (FRA) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-0 6-3
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) defeated [WC] Andy Murray (GBR) 6-4 6-4

It was a frustrating day for homegrown talent at the Sardinia Open, with two pairs of Italians facing off forcing Giulio Zeppieri and Gianluca Mager to the sidelines, while Andreas Seppi also went down in straight sets. On the winning front though, fifth seed Lorenzo Sonego and wildcard Marco Cecchinato defeated their respective compatriots while a couple of Spaniards in Pablo Andujar and Roberto Carballes Baena also joined the winners list.

The two seeds of the day in Sonego and Andujar were tested at points by Zeppieri and Jozef Kovalik respectively, with the latter match between Andujar and Kovalik down to the wire for a 7-5 7-5 result. The battle between the two Italians saw Sonego dominate the first set before Zeppieri bit back in the second, ultimately going down in an hour and 39 minutes, but faring well regardless of the final score in what was a solid serving match from both players. While Sonego was impressive off the first serve winning 82 per cent of points, Zeppieri was not far behind on 71 per cent making for a tight contest. In the other all-Italian battle, Cecchinato was dealt a tough hand by Mager who battled hard for a first set win, contesting well in the second before failing to maintain the same intensity in the third 5-7 7-6 6-2. 

In other games, just one of the two Argentinians made it through to the second round with Federico Delbonis downing Seppi but Federico Coria unable to contend with Carballes Baena. Meanwhile, Laslo Djere downed Sumit Nagal in 70 minutes.

SARDINIA ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Giulio Zeppieri (ITA) 6-2 7-6
[6] Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated [Q] Jozef Kovalik (SVK) 7-5 7-5
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 7-5 6-4
[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 5-7 7-6 6-2
Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 7-5 7-6
Laslo Djere (SRB) defeated [Q] Sumit Nagal (IND) 6-3 6-1

Fresh Rafa set to defend his crown in Rome

BEWARE of a fresh Rafael Nadal who will line-up for the first time in 2020 since he won the ATP 500 Acapulco event in February. The Spanish star will return to Rome to line up in Masters 1000 event in a stacked field that is even stronger than the US Open. Nadal is no stranger to the event, having won it nine times and reached the final twice more – in other words, there is not a year that goes by where Nadal does not make it to the final.

Being back on clay, Nadal is deserving favourite and the man to beat. Questions will be raised about his lack of preparation, with arguably his two greatest rivals in Rome – Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem – having plenty of match practice leading into the event. Djokovic was sensationally booted out of the US Open for hitting a linesperson in the neck, while Thiem has found his career-best form again going deep at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic will have had the opportunity to return to Europe early to practice on the clay, something Nadal has been able to do the entire time since opting not to take up the American circuit. Not that the world number two needs any practice on clay. Thiem will be the clear third favourite, and even one that Djokovic would be nervous about on the surface, whilst you can never discount Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini are the two best local hopes, and playing in Rome on clay is where they will excel the most. With 19 of the top 20 players in the world – only the injured Roger Federer is missing – the Rome Masters is set to be massive. Much like the US Open and given the tight time schedule, there have not been any qualification and instead all the wildcards and qualifier spots have been handed to Italian players. Whilst seeing Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego in action will be great, it means the likes of sub-200 ranked Italians are getting in over the likes of Marin Cilic and John Millman who miss the automatic cutoff of the 56-player draw.

Players currently flying under the radar include Stan Wawrinka – who has been warming up on the Challenger Tour – and Cristian Garin who will be thankful to be back on clay after some challenging times at the US Open. Other clay courters who are always dangerous include Filip Krajinovic, Roberto Bautista Agut and Karen Khachanov.

Rewinding to last year, Nadal knocked off Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the final, with Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman making the semi-finals. A fit Juan Martin del Potro pushed the Serbian star to three sets in the quarters, with Nadal brushing aside Fernando Verdasco, Schwartzman taking care of Kei Nishikori, and Federer pulling out of his quarter final with Tsitsipas.