Tag: John Millman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Struff eyes off maiden title in home nation

GERMAN Jan-Lennard Struff will eye off his maiden ATP Tour title after downing Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka to reach the final of the BMW Open in Munich. The 87-minute victory came after Ivashka had disposed of his top ranked compatriot Alexander Zverev in the quarter finals, with Struff doing it a lot easier, 6-4 6-1 in 87 minutes of action.

The seventh seed’s win mean the home nation hero was finally able to break through to an ATP Tour final after previously reaching the semi-final stage of an ATP Tour tournament on seven occasions. Having been broken early and trailing 3-0, Struff looked in a bit of trouble until he won 12 of the next 13 games in a one-sided result much to the pleasure of the German crowd.

“I am happy to have reached my first final on home soil in Germany and I will try my best tomorrow,” Struff said post-match.

The German will now face fellow unseeded talent Nikoloz Basilashvili who has been there and done it before, collecting four ATP Tour titles, the most recent of which occurred in Doha earlier this year. Much like Struff the Georgian also came from a slight deficit – albeit only the opening game in this case – to string together the next nine matches to win the first set 6-1 and lead 3-0 against second seed Casper Ruud. Basilashvili eventually won the second set 6-2 with three of the last four games, to upset the highly ranked Norwegian and roll into the decider.

“I am feeling good and I am feeling fresh,” Basilashvili said post-match. “I am looking forward to the final. “I feel confident here and the court suits me, so it will be an interesting match tomorrow as we played recently in Italy.”

The interesting factor will be Basilashvili’s extra workload during the day after the Georgian defeated Slovenian lucky loser Norbert Gombos 6-4 6-4, and Ruud had taken down Australian eighth seed John Millman in the other quarter final 6-3 6-4, before having to head out on court for the semi-final last night.

Meanwhile in the other ATP 250 event, unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie booked his unlikely spot in the Estoril Open final in Portugal. Norrie overcame sixth seed Marin Cilic to make his way into the decider following two tight sets 7-6 7-5, and will take on seventh seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in today’s final after the Spaniard took care of compatriot, eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the other semi-final, 6-1 6-4.

“I was really tough. I started a little bit slow and managed to ease my way into the match. [I] played really good when break point down and went after it,” Norrie said post-match. “[Marin] was serving great and it was really tricky to get his first serve back… I am fortunate to get through and I am just happy to be in my second final.”

Norrie is having some sort of season, having claimed 18 ATP Tour victories this season, ranked equal third overall with Italian Jannik Sinner, behind Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, and red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev (26). Going into outright third might be a challenge in this match though, as the Brit looks to overcome a 2-0 head-to-head advantage that Ramos-Vinolas has in their clashes thus far.

BMW OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [2] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-1 6-2
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-4 6-1

BMW OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [8] John Millman (AUS) 6-3 6-4
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated [LL] Norbert Gombos (SLO) 6-4 6-4

ESTORIL OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [6] Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 7-5
[7] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 6-1 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Qualifier stuns Zverev as Munich hosts thrillers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BMW OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

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

ESTORIL OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Seeds all advance in Munich and Estoril

IT was a largely predictable day in the ATP 250 events across Europe as all six seeds out on court in Munich and Estoril advanced through to the quarter finals after the Round of 16 matches got underway. The only Top 10 talent in action was top seed Alexander Zverev, with the BMW Open favourites dominating 6-2 6-4 against Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis to book his spot in the final eight. The match lasted one hour and 27 minutes before the German advanced, putting up six aces and winning 73 per cent of his first serve points.

“I haven’t played much tennis the past few weeks, so I know I’ll need to improve for the next match,” Zverev said post-match. “I’ve had success in the past and I feel good here. I’ve played well in the practice and hopefully I can do better on the match court.”

Zverev will be difficult to beat at home on the clay, though second seed Casper Ruud would be in with a shot, cruising through his first match in the tournament by taking care of Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, 6-3 6-2. Ruud was tough to beat on serve, only dropping nine points – including only two on his second serve – whilst not facing a break point and breaking the Uruguayan three times.

In other results, John Millman knocked off Guido Pella following the Argentinian’s retirement early in the second set. Despite being a set up, Pella dropped the first two games of the second set and was forced to retire in the 75th minute of the match. Meanwhile, Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka knocked off fellow qualifier, United States’ Mackenzie McDonald in three sets, 6-7 6-1 6-2, cruising home to book his spot in the next round against Zverev.

Over in Portugal, it was a good day for the seeds there too, albeit with a few more complications. With the exception of eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina‘s whitewash of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-1 6-2, the other two seeds needed three sets to overcome their opponents. Third seed Ugo Humbert got up in a tight struggle over Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4 3-6 6-3, while sixth seed Marin Cilic dropped the first set in a tiebreaker to home nation qualifier, Nuno Borges before coming back to win, 6-7 6-4 6-4. In the other match, South African Kevin Anderson took care of Spanish lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 6-3 7-6.

BMW OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [LL] Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-2 6-4
[2] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-2
[8] John Millman (AUS) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 4-6 2-0
[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated [Q] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 6-7 6-1 6-2

ESTORIL OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[3] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[6] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [Q] Nuno Borges (POR) 6-7 6-4 6-4
[8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-1 6-2
Kevin Anderson (RSA) [LL] Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-3 7-6

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Matches underway at Munich and Estoril

PROCEEDINGS are underway at the ATP Tour 250 events in Munich, Germany and Estoril, Portugal, as the Round of 32 begins.

At Estoril, a number of Spaniards took the court with just the one reigning supreme in eighth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – the only seed of the day – in a hard-fought day on the clay. Davidovich Fokina took on compatriot Pablo Andujar and claimed a 6-3 4-6 6-1 victory in just under two and a half hours. Whilst it was not a particularly effective service encounter from either Spaniard, the higher ranked of the two came away with the chocolates.

South African Kevin Anderson hard-hitter piled on a whopping 20 aces on his way to victory over American Frances Tiafoe, reigning supreme for a come-from-behind 4-6 7-6 7-6 victory. Anderson only hit three double faults throughout the contest but failed to really command control in the tight encounter, though to his credit did not relinquish easy points to Tiafoe, saving a match point to claim victory in two hours and 47 minutes.

“It was obviously a very, very close match,” Anderson said post-match. “I think there were a lot of positives, a lot of really high quality tennis, especially from midway through the second until the end of the match, I was really happy with the way I played. I think even if I had lost that match, obviously it’s always tough losing, but I definitely felt I took a step in the right direction today.

“Getting the win is a big added bonus, it gives me another opportunity to come out in a couple days’ time.”

Frenchman Jeremy Chardy defeated the third Spaniard in qualifier Jaume Munar in a come-from-behind victory, 3-6 6-3 6-4. Where Munar had the upper hand early, Chardy bit back in the second to command proceedings and cleaned up his act, not wasting as many service game on his way to the opening round victory.In the remaining game, Portugal qualifer Nuno Borges downed Australian Jordan Thompson in the only straight setter of the day, 7-6 6-3.

At Munich, five matches played out with both hometown hopefuls falling on home soil, as an all-Australian head-to-head saw the only seed of the day claim victory in the opening round.

On a day packed with multiple countrymen taking the court, it was the two Argentinians that both took out victories, although one came much easier than the other as Guido Pella walked away with a 6-0 2-0 trouncing of Belarusian Egor Gerasimov who was forced to retire mid-match, whilst Pella’s compatriot Federico Coria claimed a 6-3 3-6 6-2 victory over German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Gerasimov’s compatriot in Ilya Ivashka claimed the quickest and easiest win of the day by far, obliterating Emil Ruusuvuori 6-1 6-2 and forcing errors from the Finnish competitor to complete victory in 67 minutes.

Eighth seed John Millman overcame compatriot Alexei Popyrin but did not have it easy, requiring almost three hours to consolidate a 7-6 3-6 7-5 victory. A marginally better winning rate on both his first and second serve paid off, as Millman outlasted Popyrinto claim the win. Meanwhile, Lithuanian lucky loser Ricardas Berankis was the remaining winner of the day, defeating the second German in wildcard Maximillian Marterer, 7-6 6-3 to head to the second round.

MILLENNIUM ESTORIL OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[8] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-3 4-6 6-1
Kevin Anderson (RSA) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 4-6 7-6 7-6
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated [Q] Jaume Munar (ESP) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[Q] Nuno Borges (POR) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 7-6 6-3

BMW OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[8] John Millman (AUS) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 7-6 3-6 7-5
Federico Coria (ARG) defeated [Q] Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) 6-3 3-6 6-2
[LL] Ricardas Berankis (LTU) defeated [WC] Maximillian Marterer (GER) 7-6 6-3
[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 6-1 6-2
Guido Pella (ARG) defeated Egor Gerasimov (BLR) 6-0 2-0 RET

ATP Tour wrap: Nadal escapes against Nishikori as seeds advance in Barcelona

ONLY one unseeded players – Cameron Norrie – remains in the 2021 Barcelona Open ATP 500 event, after the Round of 16 yielded largely predictable results. Three of the top eight seeds were ousted in the third round, by five of the top six booked their place in the quarter finals.

Top seed Rafael Nadal again needed three sets, this time against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, with the 11-time winner trouncing his opponent 6-0 in the opening set, before the two-time Barcelona winner hit back. Nishikori won the second set 6-2, before the number one seed once again got on top to win in three sets, 6-0 2-6 6-2. The world number three had to grind out the win with Nishikori playing his usual-defensive gamestyle that wears down opponents. Nadal has no issues digging deep though, and in the end, just the three winners to Nishikori cost him, and edged Nadal to a 12-2 record in their head-to-head.

“I think I played much better than yesterday; that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal said post-match. “The level of positive energy [was] higher, so [I’m] very satisfied.”

Nadal will now face the unseeded Norrie who managed to also dominate eighth seed David Goffin early, winning the first set 6-0. Goffin hit back to lead 5-3 in the second, before the Belgian was forced to retire with a right leg injury. In the sole head-to-head clash between the pair, Nadal defeated Norrie a couple of months back in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Meanwhile 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime ousted compatriot Denis Shapovalov in a massive straight sets win. Auger-Aliassime won 6-2 6-3 to book his spot in the quarter finals, in just 89 minutes. The Canadian up-and-comer was phenomenal in his approach, having also knocked Shapovalov out of this year’s Australian Open, dominated on serve.

“I was happy with my level today,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “It’s never easy to play against him and it’s great to have won in straight sets. The next match won’t be easy, a tough challenge.”

The Canadian will now face second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who fought past 14th seed Australian Alex de Minaur, 7-5 6-3. The Greek needed one hours and 24 minutes to post the win, breaking three times to one, and winning 76 per cent of his first serve points off a 70 per cent clip, with five aces. He won 69 per cent of his service points, and 35 per cent of his return points in an impressive display.

“I was playing close to the lines so that was definitely difficult,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s a good competitor; he always puts out his best game. I think running and getting an extra ball back is actually his biggest strength so that’s what makes him very difficult to play against.”

Tsitsipas said he was looking forward to playing the 10th seed Canadian, who was in good form and ever-improving, a challenge the Greek star was ready for coming into the Barcelona Open quarter finals.

“I’ve never played him (Auger-Aliassime) on clay,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s someone that has done very well in recent years and [he’s] playing at the top of his form right now. I’m looking forward to the next battle, to the next difficulty that’s set, and can’t wait to compete against Felix.”

In other results, third seed Andrey Rublev posted a three-set hard-fought win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 6-7 6-4, and fourth seed Diego Schwartzman cruised through with a 6-4 6-3 triumph over France’s Corentin Moutet. Sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta ended the run of his Spanish compatriot and qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3 6-4, with 11th seed Jannik Sinner also making his way into the quarter finals with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Spains’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

In Serbia, the remaining four Round of 16 matches were completed, with third seed Aslan Karatsev the sole successful seed on the day. He had to fight off a match point against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene before winning 6-3 4-6 7-6, while the news was not as positive for fourth seed Dusan Lajovic, with the Serbian going down in three sets to Argentinian Federico Delbonis, 6-3 2-6 6-4. In other results, a couple of Australians fell with seventh seed John Millman losing out to Japanese lucky loser Tarro Daniel in three sets 3-6 6-2 6-3, while Alexei Popyrin fell at the hands of Italian qualifier, Gianluca Mager.

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-0 2-6 6-2
[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [14] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-5 6-3
[3] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-4 6-7 6-4
[4] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 6-3
[11] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [5] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 7-6 6-2
[6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-3 6-4
[10] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [7] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-2 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [8] David Goffin (BEL) 6-0 3-5 RET

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[3] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-3 4-6 7-6
Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated [4] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-3 2-6 6-4
[LL] Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated [7] John Millman (AUS) 3-6 6-2 6-3
[Q] Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 7-5 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Mixed bag for Serbians, while Nishikori survives Barcelona scare

KEI Nishikori is no stranger to adversity. The Japanese 2014 US Open runner-up has had his fair share of injuries over the past couple of years, seeing the former Top 5 talent to slip outside the Top 30. Heading into the Barcelona, the unseeded world number 39 had won six of 13 games in 2021, hardly a form line that is indicative of what he is capable of. Whilst his best may well be behind him, Nishikori showed he can dig deep, coming back from a set and a break down to win in three over Argentinian Guido Pella in the first round of the Barcelona Open.

Nishikori dropped the first set 6-4 and was 2-4 and 5-6 down in the second set, agonisingly close to an early exit from the tournament he won back-to-back in 2014-15. He battled hard to take the second set in a tiebreaker against Pella 7-4, then raced away with a 6-2 victory in the third to move through to the second round. Nishikori said he was disappointed with his opening two sets, and was lucky to get away with the win, aware of how close he came to losing the match.

“He had the match today at 6-5, serving [for the match],” Nishikori said post-match. “He was much better in the first and second [sets] and 3-0 up in the tie-break. I don’t know how I fought through. [In the] third set, I was playing much better.

“I was making so many unforced errors in the first and second [sets]. Maybe he got a little bit tired and I was playing strong in the third set. I want to take that to the next round… The way I fought today and the way I played in the third set was good.”

Nishikori will need to improve drastically to defeat 13th seed Cristian Garin, with the Chilean on his preferred clay surface. Nishikori had a forgettable meeting with Garin last year, albeit when he was still returning from injury, losing 6-0 6-3 in a disappointing head-to-head at Hamburg. Now on clay, Garin will be even more difficult to knock off, with the Chilean undoubtedly the favourite, but Nishikori could frustrate him.

While Nishikori survived, another former Top 5 talent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was not so lucky, knocked out by Egor Gerasimov in straight sets, 7-5 6-1. He joined fellow Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Benoit Paire in exiting the tournament, with the latter arguably in the worst form of anyone on Tour and not looking like that will change anytime soon. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jeremy Chardy flew the flag for the French, booking their spots in the next round, while all three Spaniards out on court made it through, with Jaume Munar, Pablo Andujar and Bernabe Zapata Miralles securing their Round of 32 spots. Italian lucky loser Federico Gaio, Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka and Brit Cameron Norrie were the other three winners on day one of the main draw matches at Barcelona.

In Serbia, four players from the home nation were out on court on day one, with mixed results. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic looked in control in his match, leading a set up and at 5-5 in the second, but then dropped five of the next six games to trail 1-3 in the third set. Krajinovic found a way to steady, winning five consecutive games to end the match and secure the 7-5 5-7 6-3 win over Italian Stefano Travaglia.

It was the opposite result for the other Serbia-Italy clash, as Marco Cecchinato found his clay form that made him dangerous a couple of years back, defeating Viktor Troicki in straight sets, 6-1 6-4 to book a date with Italian second seed Matteo Berrettini in the second round. Australian seventh seed John Millman also spoiled the party for Serbian wildcard Danilo Petrovic in two tight sets 7-5 6-4, while fellow wildcard Nikola Milojevic knocked off Federico Coria 6-4 6-0. Regardless of how results play out at the tournament, it is almost a forgone conclusion that Serbia will lift the trophy, with world number one Novak Djokovic a raging favourite at the event, with Berrettini his closest rival and then Aslan Karatsev – who was not even inside the Top 100 at the start of the year – seeded third.

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[WC] Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-3 7-5
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 3-6 6-3
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated Nikoloz Basilshvili (GEO) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[LL] Federico Gaio (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 7-5 6-3
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 7-5 6-1
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Sumit Nagal (IND) 7-5 6-0
[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated [Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-3 6-1
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 4-6 7-6 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-1 6-2
[Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) defeated [Q] Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-7 7-5 6-1

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-5 5-7 6-3
[7] John Millman (AUS) defeated [WC] Danilo Petrovic (SRB) 7-5 6-4
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [WC] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-4
[WC] Nikola Milojevic (SRB) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-4 6-0

Picture credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

ATP Tour wrap: Popyrin’s stunning turnaround confirms second round spot

AUSTRALIAN young gun Alexei Popyrin has produced a stunning comeback after dropping the first set to love, to book a second round spot in the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters 1000 event. Popyrin fell 6-0 down against Spaniard Pablo Andujar, then somehow managed to pick himself off the canvas to post a 0-6 6-2 7-6 victory in one hour and 58 minutes.

Popyrin served seven aces for five double faults, a far better ratio than his opponent, though Andujar was much more efficient with his serve, producing a 65 per cent efficiency to the Australian’s 47 per cent. Popyrin also won 71 per cent of his first serve points compared to Andujar’s 66 per cent. Neither player was particularly dominant on their second serve, with Popyrin taking 56 per cent of the points off Andujar, while the Spaniard won 48 per cent of Popyrin’s second serve. In the end just four points separated the players as Popyrin won 91 to 87 in the match.

The Australian – who had to come through qualifying – moved to a 12-4 record this season, and won his 14th tiebreaker from 17 chances, a remarkable amount of tiebreakers in just 15 matches – greater than one per match. His maiden title in Singapore has seen him get on the board on the ATP Tour, but he also has four Top 50 victories to his name, and will now take on French wildcard Lucas Pouille in the second round. Popyrin has an open draw into the the quarter finals if he is good enough, following Alejandro Davidovich Fokina‘s upset of Matteo Berrettini.

Davidovich Fokina defeated the eighth seed Italian 7-5 6-3 in their clash, to book a spot in the third round and await the winner of Popyrin and Pouille. The pair met at the Australian Open third round last year, with the Frenchman winning an absolute classic in five sets, 7-6 6-3 6-7 4-6 6-3 after the Australian came from two sets down to force a fifth set, including holding his nerve in the third set to win the tiebreaker 12-10.

Davidovich Fokina was pleased with his upset of Berrettini to advance and have a rest before his next match, and noted he was aware that the Italian rising talent was returning from injury.

“I’m very happy with this win. I’m very excited to defeat a Top 10 player,” Davidovich Fokina said post-match. “Last year I faced a couple of Top 10 players and I came close, but I couldn’t close them out. “But here I am improving every day, I’m playing better and better. “I also knew that Matteo was coming back from an injury and he wouldn’t have a lot of rhythm. I was able to take advantage of that today.”

The other Round of 32 match saw fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas advance with a straight sets win over the dangerous Aslan Karatsev, 6-3 6-4. The Greek star will now await the winner of 16th seed clay court specialist Cristian Garin and Australian John Millman. In other results, the seeds all advanced with Spanish duo Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta, Pole Hubert Hurkacz, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Italian Fabio Fognini all joining Garin – who knocked off Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime – in the second round.

Norwegian Casper Ruud set up a tantalising clash with fellow clay courter Diego Schwartzman, as Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis advanced past Adrian Mannarino to have the tough job of matching Rafael Nadal on the clay. Italian teenager Jannik Sinner got past Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3 6-4 and now faces top seed Novak Djokovic in the Serbian’s first match since his Australian Open triumph. It was not a great day for the Serbians overall, with Miomir Kecmanovic, Dusan Lajovic and Laslo Djere all knocked out in the first round, and Filip Krajinovic advancing thanks to a retirement from Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili. Other winners were Great Britain’s Daniel Evans, France’s Jeremy Chardy, Russia’s Karen Khachanov and a trio of Italians in Lorenzo Sonego, and qualifiers Marco Cecchinato and Salvatore Caruso.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-3 6-4
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 7-5 6-3

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-2 7-5
[12] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [Q] Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-5 7-6
[13] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated [Q] Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) 6-3 3-6 6-3
[14] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-3 6-4
[15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-2 7-5
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 7-6 6-1
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-3 6-4
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-3 6-7 6-2
[WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-3 6-4
Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-4 6-1
[Q] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [Q] Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-4 6-3
[Q] Salvatore Caruso (ITA) defeated [WC] Lucas Catarina (POL) 6-7 7-6 6-3
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [WC] Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN) 6-2 6-1
Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-3 6-4
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 7-5 6-1
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-4 0-6 7-5
[Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 0-6 6-2 7-6
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-1 2-0

ATP Tour wrap: Rainy day grinds Monte Carlo Masters Day 2 to a halt

DAY 2 at the Monte Carlo Masters was interrupted by intermittent rainfall, limiting proceedings and eventually grinding the day to a halt with only four matches completed and five in the process when the cancellation was announced.

Russian Aslan Karatsev outclassed Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti in a huge clash which ended up playing over the course of around five hours thanks to rain delays. Whilst his now second round opposition in Stefanos Tsitsipas expected to take on Musetti in the Round of 32, Karatsev proved him wrong with the 6-3 6-4 sweep of Musetti, hitting 23 winners to win in just under 90 minutes all up. He won 78 per cent of first serve points off a 63 per cent clip and saved all four break points in the victory, setting up an intriguing clash with Tsitsipas next round.

“It was a really tough match [for] my first match of the season on clay [with] tough weather conditions,” Karatsev said. “We started in the morning [and] I started pretty well, I broke him and then the court was getting heavy, the ball was heavy. It is tough to play against him. [He is] really fit, [he] runs a lot and gives everything back, so you have to build the point by yourself and close the point by yourself.”

Meanwhile, a couple of Australians took the court with John Millman heading to the second round after downing Frenchman Ugo Humbert, whilst higher ranked Alex de Minaur fell to Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Davidovich Fokina saved six of eight break points in the 6-4 7-6 encounter with de Minaur, and was much more consistent across both his first and second serves at a higher efficiency to claim the victory. Millman’s 76 per cent winning rate off his first serve paid off against Humbert, whilst he also converted four of seven break points to come away with the 6-3 6-3 victory. In the remaining match, Tommy Paul came out with a default 4-1 victory when lucky loser Pedro Martinez retired midway through the first set, on court for less than 30 minutes.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Aslan Karastev (RUS) defeated [W] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 7-6
John Millman (AUS) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-3 6-3
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated [LL] Pedro Martinez 4-1