Tag: jaume munar

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

2021 ATP 250 previews: Montpellier, Cordoba and Singapore

THREE ATP Tour 250 events will take off immediately after the Australian Open this weekend, with a number of mid-tier talents gaining some extra match practice following disappointing exits from the Australian Open. The top ranked player across the three tournaments is Diego Schwartzman (ninth) at Cordoba, while Roberto Bautista Agut (13th) is top seed in Montpellier, and Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (36th) leads a lower-ranked field in Singapore.

CORDOBA:

Schwartzman is the standout candidate on the clay tournament and honestly he should put this one in the bank without too much trouble. His nearest rival is 29th ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire, who has opted for Spain rather than his home nation at Montpellier. Paire is in a career slump since reaching the Auckland final 13 months ago, and will struggle up against a ton of clay court regulars.

Miomir Kecmanovic and Guido Pella round out the top five, with 46th ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas the other Top 50 player in the draw. This tournament looms as one where, if Schwartzman pulls out or has a shocker, could be spread across any number of players. Thiago Monteiro is one who has been in good form, the likes of Marco Cecchinato and Juan Ignacio Londero can never be discounted on clay, and even rising Spaniard Jaume Munar is a chance.

The number one alternative at the time of publishing was Thiago Seyboth Wild who has all the talent if he can harness it, and genuinely could grab a Top 100 spot with a good run here. Spanish talents and South Americans make up the majority of the draw, with only half a dozen automatic entries from Europe, and none from the United States or Asia/Oceania.

MONTPELLIER:

Bautista Agut was aggravated at the Australian Open organisation, and now he returns to France in a reverse-Paire rather than going to his home nation in Spain. He and 15th ranked David Goffin – who both suffered disappointing shock losses at the Grand Slam – will be the clear standouts in a tournament that has the highest quality of the three by a fair way. Goffin should be the favourite still, but there are plenty in the running.

Aside from having two Top 20 players, as well as an additional two Top 30 players in Dusan Lajovic and Hubert Hurkacz, there is an abundance of youth, and returning experience that has signed up for the Montpellier event. Jannik Sinner and Ugo Humbert who are arguably the two most exciting Next Gen talents in the world are seeded, as are Lorenzo Sonego – most famously known for his upset of Novak Djokovic last year – and German Jan-Lennard Struff who ran into form at the ATP Cup.

The likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray have been named amongst the candidates to play, like fans have teleported back to the mid 2000s. Both will be returning from injury if they take to the court, amongst a host of Frenchman entered. Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Lucas Pouille are all in, with Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jiri Vesely also amongst the automatic entries.

SINGAPORE:

The weakest of the three draws by a fair margin, the lowest automatic entry comes in at 187th in the world. To be fair, it is former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis, but the Latvian is far from his glory days of a decade ago. He still has the most titles of anyone in the draw however, with some real solid competitors, though a lack of top-end talent has to be said.

Singapore could mark a rematch between Frenchman Mannarino and Australian John Millman from last year, which saw the Australian win his first ever ATP Tour title at the Astana Open. They are the standouts for the Asian event, with Marin Cilic and Alexander Bublik rounding out the four seeds. The eighth highest ranked player is Soonwoo Kwon (97th), with fair talents Yoshihito Nishioka, Radu Albot and Lloyd Harris the other seeds.

The unseeded players have some potential, with Michael Mmoh showing good form at Melbourne Park, and Alexei Popyrin and James Duckworth always dangerous. Japanese duo Yasutaka Uchiyama and Taro Daniel join Nishioka at the event, though Mannarino and Millman are clearly the standouts to take home the ATP 250 event trophy.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Davis Cup future side: Spain

IT has seemed a world away since Spain lifted the 2019 Davis Cup. While the 2020 edition was ultimately cancelled and had to be postponed until 2021, it gives tennis fans extra time to work out what teams might look like when it recommences.

Draft Central will take a look at various nations over the break and see what the team might look like. Today’s team is Spain, one of the super powers of the ATP Tour, and ranked third overall in the Davis Cup Rankings, having won the title in 2019.

TEAM:

#2 Rafael Nadal
#13 Roberto Bautista Agut
#16 Pablo Carreno Busta
#9D Marcel Granollers

One of the teams to beat in the Davis Cup, it is very easy for Spain to put together a title-winning side, led by world number two, Rafael Nadal. The Spanish not only have great singles players, but the majority of them can back up playing doubles, with even Nadal capable of stepping up on the doubles court.

Looking at the singles spots which is a hotly contested race, Nadal is the clear number one singles player, with Roberto Bautista Agut earning the second spot. They both are getting towards the twilights of their careers, aged 34 and 32 respectively, and even Pablo Carreno Busta who is the baby of the team, is 29. The other Top 50 player is Albert Ramos-Vinolas who comes in at 46th in the world, but he too is the wrong side of 30 (32).

Spain need to start thinking about a transition phase into their next group of young stars, with perhaps playing Nadal in one singles against minnows and throwing 21-year-old Alejandro Davidovich Fokina into the team, who is ranked 52nd in the world. Below him, Pedro Martinez (23-years-old) is ranked 85th, whilst fellow 23-year-olds, Jaume Munar and Carlos Taberner are in the Top 150 either side of teenage clay court sensation, Carlos Alcaraz.

They are the future of the Spanish Davis Cup team, but the nation can challenge for back-to-back titles, and Marcel Granollers will be the experience in the doubles. He could play with Carreno Busta in the doubles, and Nadal and Bautista Agut take the singles, while the next stars could have a match here or there in the extended squads. Overall, Spain is always a threat for a title.

Picture: Getty Images

Hopman Cup hypothetical teams: France & Spain

ONE of the most unique tennis tournaments which features both ATP Tour and WTA Tour players is the Hopman Cup. Given the world’s circumstance and the fact it was already skipped on the eve of last year, it looks to be either delayed later in 2021, or perhaps at the turn of the New Year in 2022. However, in this new series we wanted to look at some hypothetical Hopman Cup teams and what they might look like if there was no COVID-19 pandemic, and if the famed mixed tournament did go ahead.

We continue the series with France and Spain, who have played 24 and 17 Hopman Cups, coming in at third and fourth respectively.

France: Ugo Humbert & Fiona Ferro

This French combination would be a dream to watch, even if it was not the most stacked it could be. From the men’s perspective, Ugo Humbert is a huge star of the future, and is starting to piece together all of his ability after a big 2020 season. With a big serve and impressive shots across the court, he is France’s next big thing, and soon will be their top ranked player. Gael Monfils would be just as good of a choice in terms of excitement, with the flamboyant top ranked star unfortunately having injury issues this year and is 34-years-old. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is in a similar boat, while Benoit Paire and Adrian Mannarino are other acceptable choices. Humbert would be the pick though for his upside.

The women’s pick would not be as straight forward, but it would be fantastic to see Fiona Ferro put her hand up for the event. The French have won the title twice, and they featured Alize Cornet and Kristina Mladenovic, both of whom could be picked again. The French have no shortage of female talent in the top 100, but Ferro just has that exciting upside about her that would make her a good choice, and provide her with a good lead-up event to the Australian Open. Would this combination win the Hopman Cup? Probably not, but it would be exciting for fans.

Spain: Rafael Nadal & Garbine Muguruza

Going from a team that would probably not win the Hopman Cup to one that would be a high chance of winning the Hopman Cup, Spain always has a ridiculous amount of choices at its disposal. Surprisingly, the Spanish have only won the Hopman Cup four times – in 1990, 2002, 2010 and 2013 – with Fernando Verdasco and Annabel Medina Garrigues lifting the title last. In 2019, Garbine Muguruza competed at the event, and she would be the choice for this hypothetical one. She has the Grand Slam winning experience, is strong on hard courts and it would provide her with great experience in the lead-up to the Australian Open where she has fared so well. The Spanish women often return, with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (seven years) and Medina Garrigues (four), playing 11 of the 17 Hopman Cups.

From the men’s side, it would not happen, but imagine if Rafael Nadal stepped up to the plate to compete in the Hopman Cup? The world number two would be a huge coup for the event, and with the 2019 competitor David Ferrer retiring, the Spanish would need a new entrant. Tommy Robredo did it for four years, and it would be feasible to see Pablo Carreno Busta putting up his hand for the event, or more likely a younger player like Jaume Munar, but Nadal would be the top pick. It would have advantages for the top ranked Spaniard, with the King of Clay able to get valuable minutes on his weakest surface of indoor hard court, in a setting that is not as competitive as other major events.

Picture: Tony McDonough

Berretini falls in surprise upset

WORLD number 186 Daniel Altmaier had the biggest win of his career on Saturday, taking down seventh seed Matteo Berrettini 6-2 7-6 6-4 to progress to the round of 16 at Roland Garros. Berrettini doubled Altmaier’s number of unforced errors (42-21) struggling to find any form of rhythm on court.

“I was struggling to find the right attitude, the right energy, I was nervous,” Berrettini said. “When I tried to calm down, I was too calm. I was struggling [in] every single aspect of the game [and] I think he was playing really, really well. He really deserved the win.”

This tournament is Altmaier’s Grand Slam debut, making his run so far quite incredible. The 22-year-old will face Pablo Carreno Busta in the next round, who defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-4 in their all-Spaniard clash. Carreno Busta hit an impressive 65 winners to go with 11 aces in the victory. He is coming off his second US Open semi-final appearance last month and appears to be full of confidence.

In other results, world number one Novak Djokovic breezed past Columbian Daniel Elahi 6-0 6-3 6-2. Djokovic broke seven times in the clash and won an impressive 54 per cent of receiving points overall. He has not lost a set in the tournament so far, but he is yet to play anyone ranked inside the top 50. It will get tougher from here, with number 15 seed Karen Khachanov awaiting Djokovic in the next round. Khachanov pushed past 20th seed Cristian Garin 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-2 in two and a half hours.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov were both up two sets to love when their unseeded opponents retired hurt, and will now face each other in the fourth round. Since Tsitsipas’ first-round scare against Jaume Munar where he was down two sets to love, he has rallied nicely to win eight consecutive sets and reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros for the second straight year, something he is quite proud of.

“Being able to compete in a second week gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “It feels great, you feel like you’re part of a prestige. I’ve been putting a lot of hard work in every single match trying to rise my level, play up to my expectations. I’m very glad that I am where I am today.”

Neither Tsitsipas nor Dimitrov have progressed past Round 4 of the French Open before, and with some big names including Berrettini, Daniil Medvedev and Denis Shapovalov already eliminated in the top half of the draw, tis looms as a major opportunity for both players.

One star that is yet to show any weaknesses is 13th seed Andrey Rublev, who had a strong 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory over former Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson. Rublev lost just four points on first serve and committed only 16 unforced errors to Anderson’s 33. He is now on an eight-match winning streak after capturing the Hamburg title in the lead-up. An argument could be made that he is, alongside Tsitsipas, Djokovic’s leading challenger in the top half of the draw. Hungarian Marton Fucsovics will be Rublev’s next opponent, as he defeated Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 7-5 6-1 6-3 in just over two hours.

 

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Hamburg finalists fight back from two-set deficits to stage remarkable first round wins

STEFANOS Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev are lucky to survive the first round of the French Open after slow starts almost cost the Hamburg European Open finalists. A tight turnaround between the ATP500 event and the Grand Slam meant some soreness for the talented top 15 players, but neither would have expected to go two sets down against their respective opponents at Roland Garros.

In a match that lasted three hours and 12 minutes, it took the fifth seeded Tsitsipas five sets to come from behind against world number 109, Jaume Munar. Whilst the rising Spanish 23-year-old has shown some promising signs over the past couple of years, he almost caused the upset of the first round by racing away to a 6-4 6-2 lead against the Hamburg runner-up. It was clear Tsitsipas was not his usual self throughout the match, serving just six aces – as well as six double-faults, and hitting 54 winners throughout the contest.

Munar played well with 38 of his own winners and won 36 per cent of his points off Tsitsipas’ serve, breaking him five times from seven opportunities. With just 21 unforced errors Munar had an incredible game, but Tsitsipas stepped up when it counted to win 4-6 2-6 6-1 6-4 6-4.

Relieved just to get a win, Tsitsipas said he was not feeling it early on and struggled to get into the game, but was pleased to work his way back into the contest.

“Playing a best-of-five [match] can be very challenging and I am really happy that I will walk away from [Court] Suzanne-Lenglen today with a win,” Tsitsipas said post-match.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a match like this before. “The emotions and the nerves at the very beginning were not there, but [I made] slight adjustments and tried to find a way to win, a different way. “It wasn’t working out for me in the beginning. Nothing was working… But I am really proud of myself, the effort I put in and the amount of dedication.”

Rublev had a tougher challenge against a highly rated Sam Querrey, in what was a titanic struggle over three hours and 17 minutes. Querrey stepped up in the opening two set tiebreakers to claim a 2-0 love, and was at 5-2 with a break in hand. It seemed as though the Hamburg champion was headed for an early exit at Roland Garros, before the Russian won five consecutive games – breaking his opponent twice – to take the third set. From there, Rublev had the momentum and he never lost it, winning 6-7 6-7 7-5 6-4 6-3.

It was Rublev’s first win at Roland Garros and now he sets his sights on a clay court talent in Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who defeated French teenager, Harold Mayot for a spot in the Round of 64, 7-6 6-3 7-5. It was not a good day for the French with the home nation representatives dropping like flies. Aside from Mayot, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, Ugo Humbert, Gregoire Barrere and Quentin Halys all lost on day three, leaving just three Frenchmen in the Round of 64.

Simon put up a fight against ninth seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov before the youngster and newest top 10 player won 6-2 7-5 5-7 6-3, while Humbert won a set but had a shock loss to Australian lucky loser Marc Polmans in a disappointing defeat for a player who last start knocked off world number four Daniil Medvedev, 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. Halys took Marcos Giron to five sets but lost 8-6 in the fifth in a four-hour and 22-minute loss, while Gasquet and Barrere were beaten in straight sets by seeds, Roberto Bautista Agut and Grigor Dimitrov.

Meanwhile number one seed Novak Djokovic looked like he had some place to be, dismantling rising Swede Mikael Ymer in just 98 minutes, 6-0 6-2 6-3 barely breaking a sweat on his way to the second round. The only quicker match was Roberto Carballes Baena stunning Steve Johnson 6-1 6-1 6-0 in 83 minutes, almost unheard of for a three-set match. Matteo Berrettini had a similarly one-sided result against Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-1 6-3, while Cristian Garin and Dusan Lajovic both made their way into the Round of 64 with four-set wins over Philipp Kohlschreiber and Gianluca Mager respectively.

Way out on Court 12, Brazilian clay courter Thiago Monteiro added to a horror fortnight for 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili after the clay courter lost in the first round defending his Hamburg title, and then was bundled out in straight sets first-up against Monteiro at Roland Garros, 7-5 6-4 6-2. In unseeded matches, Slovenia’s Andrej Martin, Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, South African duo Lloyd Harris and Kevin Anderson, Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis and Hungary’s Attila Balazs all advanced through to the next stage of the tournament.

Picture: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Rublev claims biggest title of his career in three-set win over Tsitsipas in Hamburg

ANDREY Rublev has taken home the biggest title of his career and continued his unbelievable 2020 form, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 3-6 7-5 in the final of the Hamburg European Open. It was Rublev’s first ATP500 title and the fifth of his career, three of which have come in 2020 to move the Russian up-and-comer to second this season behind Novak Djokovic in terms of most titles.

Rublev added Hamburg to his title wins in Doha and Adelaide, and went one better than his finals appearance last year where he lost to defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. The victory helped him move up two ranking spots on the ATP Tour to a career-high 12th in the world and edging closer to the top 10 players at age 22. Only two players – Denis Shapovlov (21 years-old) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (22) – are younger above him.

Taking on the Greek second seed, it was an entertaining battle throughout with neither player giving an inch. Rublev won the first set, but then lost the next, and was 3-5 down in the decider looking out of it, before winning the final four games of the match – breaking Tsitsipas twice to take out the crown, with his opponent double-faulting on match point.

“It is an amazing feeling [to win an ATP 500 title],” Rublev said post-match. “I realised it only when they called double fault… a few seconds later I started to realise that it is over and I won. It is an amazing feeling. I am happy.”

Rublev attributes his victory to winning mentally, when he broke back at 4-5 to level the score and went on from there. Throughout the match Rublev weathered the 11 aces and 70 per cent serving efficiency Tsitsipas threw at him by serving three aces of his own and winning 72 per cent and 53 per cent of his first and second serve points off a 61 per cent serving efficiency, whilst breaking five times to four throughout the course of the match, including in two of the last three games.

“I was going on the court with no fear. The match was such a thriller,” he said. “[In the] third set he was twice with the break. “I was a little bit lucky at 5-4… and I broke back. “I think that was a little bit mental. I think maybe Stefanos got a little disappointed inside that he didn’t make it and then at the end everything was so fast and I won.”

Tsitsipas said it was a disappointing loss, but he would have to move on ahead of Roland Garros which kicked off whilst the two were battling it out on court.

“It is a pity. But that is what our sport is about,” Tsitsipas said. “It is all about fighting and at the end, the one who deserves it the most is the one that puts in the most hard work and dedication… I feel sad that I won’t walk away from here with the title, but I can’t wait to be back next year to do even better, hopefully.”

Rublev takes on United States’ Sam Querrey in the opening round of Roland Garros tomorrow, whilst Tsitsipas locks horns with Spain’s Jaume Munar.

Picture: Getty Images

2020 ATP Roland Garros preview: Can Nadal win number 13?

RAFAEL Nadal is always the nominal favourite at Roland Garros, probably because he has only lost three matches there in his entire career, of which one was via retirement. The King of Clay will be keen to bounce back from a shock loss to Diego Schwartzman in Rome to really put a stamp on his favourite event and extend his ridiculous lead at the top of the French Open titleholders.

With the draw released yesterday, it was announced unseeded Belarusian Egor Gerasimov has the near-impossible task of taking down the 12-time winner, with Nadal’s run to the third round fate-accompli with a likely matchup against the winner of first round battle, Daniel Evans and Kei Nishikori.

The entire quarter of the draw has some big names, but mostly in the top eighth, with Alexander Zverev (sixth seed) and David Goffin (11th) in there. Goffin has a tough first-up match with Italian young gun Jannik Sinner in one of the danger games for a seed, while 23rd seed Frenchman Benoit Paire lost his only match since returning from a positive COVID-19 test result and if he finds form could face Goffin the third round. Australian Alex de Minaur reached his first Grand Slam quarter final at the US Open but after an easier first round qualifying opponent, has Zverev for likely company in the third round.

If we are talking about matches to look forward to, then look no further than Dominic Thiem‘s quarter of the draw. The back-to-back runner-up will not have to wait until the final to play his nemesis Nadal, landing in the same half as him. Gael Monfils is up the other end of the quarter taking on in-form Alexander Bublik in a tough first-up game. Thiem himself has to take on Marin Cilic, but should have him comfortably covered on clay.

The match of the first round has to be 16th seed Stan Wawrinka up against wildcard Brit, Andy Murray. Both are Grand Slam winners and to draw in the first round is an unbelievable event. Murray is also the last wildcard you would want to face if you are Wawrinka. Also in that draw we see a ton of Americans and Frenchman running around, including teenager Hugo Gaston who if he can overcome compatriot Maxime Janvier, could have a crack at fellow young gun, Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round. Schwartzman takes on rising Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round, whilst Casper Ruud is in line to face Thiem in the third round if he can make it.

Without Thiem in his half, it is hard to see Novak Djokovic not reaching the final as the third best clay courter in the world. He has drawn improving Swede, Mikael Ymer in the first round, and has an overall smooth draw to the fourth round, with just Hubert Hurkacz in his way. A third round clash between Cristian Garin and Karen Khachanov would be on the cards for the right to play Djokovic in the fourth round which would be the Serb’s first test.

Australian John Millman has fallen in this quarter of the draw, up against Pablo Carreno Busta in what will be a tough, but winnable game for the Australian. The match of that eighth has to be seventh seed Matteo Berrettini up against Vasek Pospisil, with the in-form Canadian showing in recent weeks what he can do now he is back within the automatic entry for Grand Slams. Jan-Lennard Stuff takes on Frances Tiafoe in the first round too, while Roberto Bautista Agut has drawn Richard Gasquet in a match that will possibly be the longest of the seeded games.

In the second quarter of the draw, the best players yet to win a Grand Slam are in line to face off in a quarter final with fourth seed and US Open semi-finalist Daniil Medvedev and fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas falling here. Medvedev has the dangerous Marton Fucsovics in the first round, while Tsitsipas takes on improving Jaume Munar. The quarter might not have the op-end quality in terms of other seeds, but they have some seriously talented clay courters.

Nikoloz Basilashvili is a known performer on clay, as is Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic, all who fall into the quarter. Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev do not always have the consistency in their game, but they, along with the ever-dangerous Grigor Dimitrov round out the seeds. The match of this quarter is likely unseeded pair, Serbian Laslo Djere and Kevin Anderson, with Djere favoured due to the service. Keep an eye out for young Frenchman, Harold Mayot who takes on Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Top 5 Matches to Watch:

[16] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs. [WC] Andy Murray (GBR)
[11] David Goffin (BEL) vs. Jannik Sinner (ITA)
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs. Marin Cilic (CRO)
[7] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
[32] Daniel Evans (GBR) vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN)

Prediction:

Nadal to defeat Djokovic in four sets, with Thiem and Tsitsipas to lose in the semis. Expect a surprise quarter finals opponent for Thiem, with either Schwartzman or Coric potentially getting there over Monfils. Medvedev, Zverev and potentially Bautista Agut to round out the final eight, with Berrettini’s form of late a little shaky.

Picture: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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