Tag: jozef kovalik

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

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

Norrie comes from behind to stun Schwarzman in “two dogs with no serves” match

UNSEEDED Brit, Cameron Norrie has stunned the US Open followers with a massive come-from-behind five-set win against Diego Schwartzman to book a spot in the second round. The 25-year-old world number 76 defied heavy odds to win just his second career match in five sets, and his fifth in 50 games coming from a set down. This was not just one set down, but two, with Norrie having to overcome a two sets to love deficit with Schwartzman leading 6-3 6-4, before hitting back to win 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 7-5.

The match was a record-breaker for its whopping 58 break points, as it went to almost four hours in matchplay – three hours and 58 minutes – before Norrie was able to get back and win following five broken service games in the opening two sets. Norrie actually trailed again in the fifth at 3-5 and then saved two match points in the deciding set, before he broke Schwartzman for the 11th time in the match at 6-5 to take out the win.

“I’m not sure it’s too good of a record to be holding, but I think it had a lot to do with how he returns. It was tough to get free points out there,” Norrie said post-match. “It’s nice to be part of that [record] and it shows that it was just two dogs out there battling with no serves really. “It was a good match and I guess I’ll take the record.”

The total breakdown of break points was Norrie winning 11 of 31, whilst Schwartzman recorded eight of 27. The Brit said he was thankful to get through the scrap ahead of his second round match with Argentinian, Federico Coria who also came from two sets down to level the match before opponent Jason Jung was forced to retire 2-0 down in the fifth set.

“I was just real happy that I stayed patient and didn’t snap too much,” Norrie said. “I think I could have easily snapped at missing that many returns, especially against a guy [who doesn’t have] a huge serve. “I think my attitude won it for me today… sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, I think.”

Whilst Norrie’s win was the biggest in terms of opposition ranking, Schwartzman was not the only casualty on day one, with big serving American, and number one player from the home nation in John Isner exiting after a five-set thriller against compatriot, Steve Johnson. While Isner is the worst first round opponent when it comes to trying to warm up upon return games, Johnson did his best, weathering a storm of 52 aces from his higher ranked opponent, while producing 22 himself.

Johnson is no slouch on serve, and he won a whopping 85 per cent of his first serve points – more than Isner, but crucially was able to break twice and not be broken himself in a blockbuster smashing fest. The match lasted three hours and 50 minutes, with Isner smashing 91 winners to Johnson’s 74 during the 6-7 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-6 victory. Now the 30-year-old must advance through to take on Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the second round.

At the top end of the seeds, the like of Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and David Goffin all advanced, though Zverev and Goffin dropped sets to challenging opponents in Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka.

Jordan Thompson flew the flag for Australia, booking his spot in the Round of 64 with a win over Italian Stefano Travaglia, and he will now take on Egor Gerasimov. The Belarusian upset 18th seed Dusan Lajovic in four sets, 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 26 minutes to make his way through. It was better news for his compatriot Filip Krajinovic on the same court later in the day, defeating Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets.

The only other seed who looked in trouble on day one that came close to losing outside of those who did, was 13th seed Chilean Cristian Garin who had a less-than-convincing five-set win over United States’ Ulises Blanch.

The 244th 22-year-old stunned the world number 19 early in the match, winning the first two sets, 6-4 7-5, before Garin wrestled back control at 4-4 in the third to win six of the next eight games and level the match at two sets apiece. The Chilean then went on with it to win the match 4-6 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-2 in just over three hours of matchplay.

In terms of young guns, American teenager Brandon Nakashima defeated Italian Paolo Lorenzi in straight sets to book a second round date with Zverev, while 168th ranked 23-year-old Maxime Cressy knocked out Jozef Kovalik to have just as tough of a challenge in the next round against Tsitsipas. Mitchell Kreuger and Marcos Giron joined 19th seed Taylor Fritz and former top 10 player Jack Sock, as the other Americans through to the next round.

In other results, Kyle Edmund knocked off Alexander Bublik to take on the toughest challenge in tennis – Djokovic – while Jan-Lennard Struff remained on track to face the Serbian star again in the third round with a win over Spaniard, Pedro Martinez. Pablo Carreno-Busta, Denis Shapovalov, Borna Coric, Hubert Hurkacz and Adrian Mannarino all advanced through to the next stage of the event, set to face Krueger, Soonwoo Kwon, Juan Ignacio Londero, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Sock respectively. Of the remaining unseeded winners, Gilles Simon, Lloyd Harris and Mikhail Kukushkin all made it through.

At the time of publishing, United States’ Michael Mmoh had the advantage over Portugal’s Joao Sousa, leading two sets to one, entering into the fourth set.

Davis Cup Qualifiers review: Home court proves strong advantage

OF the 12 teams to qualify for the Davis Cup Finals in November, 10 of those moving through qualifying were the home nation in their respective ties over the weekend. So strong was the home court advantage or home nation support, was that the number two and three seeds were bundled out, with only the eleventh seed Japan getting ousted at home. Aside from Ecuador’s upset win over Japan, ninth seed Czech Republic was the only other team to win in a foreign nation, defeating Slovakia to book a spot in the final 16.

[1] Croatia 3 defeated India 1

The number one seeds advanced through without too much trouble, as Marin Cilic won both his singles matches in very different circumstances. He downed Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-6 7-6 – both 10-8 in the tiebreakers on Day 1, before smashing Sumit Nagal on Day 3 with a 6-0 6-1 rout. Borna Gojo also won his singles, having to come from a set down against Prajnesh Gunneswaran 3-6 6-4 6-2. India had a reason to celebrate in the doubles however, with Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes – both well into their 40s – winding back the clock to defeat Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor 6-3 6-7 7-5 to ensure India had a win on the board in the tie.

Hungary 3 defeated [2] Belgium 2

Hungary fought back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat second seeds Belgium in front of a home crowd and book its spot in the Davis Cup Finals. Without David Goffin, Belgium got off to a solid start with Ruben Bemelmans defeating Attila Balazs 5-7 7-6 6-4, before Marton Fucsovics levelled the scores for Hungary with a 6-2 5-7 6-4 victory over Kimmer Coppejans. The visitors again took the lead after a doubles win courtesy of Sander Gille and Jordan Vliegen, who downed Balazs and Fucsovics 3-6 6-1 6-4. The pair managed to pick up the slack again on the third day and carry the nation to victory with Balazs defeating Coopejans in straight sets, then Fucsovics coming from a set down to win against Bemelmans, 6-7 6-4 6-2 and send his nation to the Finals.

Colombia 3 defeated [3] Argentina 1

Daniel Elahi Galan is the toast of Colombia after guiding his nation to the Davis Cup Finals with two singles victories against Argentina. Playing against the higher ranked Leonardo Mayer and Juan Ignacio Londero, Galan was able to control play and win both comfortably in straight sets. With the number one doubles combination in the world in Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah ensuring that they took out the doubles tie, it handed the South Americans a spot in the next round. Londero was the sole success story for the visitors, coming from a set down to knock over Santiago Giraldo 6-7 6-3 6-2 in the second rubber of the tie.

[4] USA 4 defeated Uzbekistan 0

It was expected and it lived up to fruition – a United States whitewash over Uzbekistan to quickly move through to the next round. Not taking any chances, the home side put up Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz on the opening day who waltzed past Denis Istomin and Sanjar Fayziev in straight sets respectively, before the Bryan brothers did the same thing to the Uzbekistan pair in the doubles. With the tie wrapped up, the United States handed Tommy Paul a Davis Cup debut and he trounced Istomin 6-3 6-0 for a 4-0 win.

[5] Australia 3 defeated Brazil 1

Missing both of their top preferences for the singles in Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios, Australia still moved through to the Davis Cup Finals, but not without a sterling challenge from a much lower ranked Brazilian outfit. Jordan Thompson won in straight sets over Thiago Monteiro in what was expected to be a danger game for the Australians, but instead it was the remainder of the matches that pushed the green and gold to the limit. John Millman led the team in the absence of de Minaur and Kyrgios, triumphing in both singles matches from a set down, defeating up-and-coming talent Thiago Seyboth Wild 4-6 7-6 6-2 and then Monteiro 6-7 7-6 7-6 to ensure the home team moved through. Brazil did claim a win in the doubles however, with Marcelo Demoliner and Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves winning 5-7 7-5 7-6 against John Peers and debutant, James Duckworth.

[6] Italy 4 defeated South Korea 0

Another predicted whitewash occurred with Italy trouncing South Korea behind closed doors without dropping a set. With the exception of Gianluca Mager‘s 6-3 7-5 win over Ji Sung Nam, the South Koreans did not win more than four games in a match with Fabio Fognini smashing Duckhee Lee 6-0 6-3, Stefano Travaglia winning over Yunseong Chung 6-0 6-1, and the pair of Fognini and Simone Bolelli defeating Nam and Min-Kyu Song 6-3 6-1 in the doubles.

[7] Germany 4 defeated Belarus 1

In one of the more feel-good Davis Cup ties of the weekend, the spectators got their money’s worth with the full five matches being played and Germany getting up 4-1. Jan-Lennard Struff got the home nation off to the perfect start with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over Ilya Ivashka, before Egor Gerasimov took advantage of an underdone Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 7-5 7-6 in a come-from-behind win to level the tie at 1-1. Germany’s doubles team of Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies won 6-4 7-6 over Ivashka and Andrei Vasilevski, before Struff continued his form with an impressive 6-3 6-2 victory over Gerasimov to win his nation the tie. Whilst many other ties packed it in after the result was decided, Germany and Belarus opted to blood debutants in Dominik Koepfer and Daniil Ostapenkov for the fifth and final rubber, with the former ending up playing a match to remember in a 6-0 6-2 smashing to make it a 4-1 result.

[8] Kazakhstan 3 defeated Netherlands 1

Despite dropping the first match of the tie, Kazakhstan came back to post a 3-1 victory over Netherlands and live up to its eighth seed billing. Robin Haase got the visitors excited early with a 6-4 6-7 6-3 win over Mikhail Kukushkin, but Alexander Bublik came to town with a 7-6 7-6 narrow win over Tallon Griekspoor. The Kazakhstan duo of Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov won 6-3 6-3 over Haase and partner Jean-Julien Rojer, before Bublik again got the better of an overloaded Haas, 7-6 6-1 to help Kazakhstan move through to the 16-team Davis Cup Finals.

Slovakia 1 defeated by [9] Czech Republic 3

Jiri Vesely has steered Czech Republic to a solid 3-1 win over Slovakia to ensure it moved onto the Davis Cup Finals. The top ranked player in the tie defeated Jozef Kovalik 6-3 7-5, then took down Andrej Martin in three sets, 4-6 7-5 7-5. Lukas Rosol won his singles clash in the second rubber with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over Martin, while the home team scored a win with Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay winning in straight sets over Czech pair, Jonas Forejtek and Zdenek Kolar 6-4 6-4.

[10] Austria 3 defeated Uruguay 1

Despite his best efforts, Pablo Cuevas was unable to carry his Uruguayan nation to victory over Austria, suffering a 3-1 loss. Cuevas won a tough singles tie against Jurji Rodionov 6-7 6-3 7-6 on the opening day, but went down with Ariel Behar in the doubles against Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer in three sets, then suffered defeat against a well rested Dennis Novak despite winning the first set, losing 2-6 6-3 6-4. Cuevas’ brother Martin also played on the opening day and lost his singles tie to Novak, 6-2 6-4. With only three players actually ranked on the ATP Tour, Uruguay has been amazing to get as far as it has to-date, but Cuevas can only do so much.

[11] Japan 0 defeated by Ecuador 3

Unlike the Germany-Belarus clash, Japan and Ecuador both wanted to done-and-run it in front of an approximate crowd of zero people. With the threat of the coronavirus prevalent, Japanese officials were very wary and closed off the Davis Cup tie to the public. Despite heading in as favourites, top Japanese player Kei Nishikori did not take the court, and the Ecuadorians went on to down with a 3-0 domination of their opponents. Emilio Gomez defeated Go Soeda 7-5 7-6, Roberto Quiroz just got past Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-6 2-6 7-6 in a 10-8 deciding tiebreaker, before Diego Hidalgo and Gonzalo Escobar won against Uchiyama and Ben McLachlan 7-6 6-3 to wrap up the tie. Needless to say given the already high anxiousness around the tie, Japan pulled the pin with the result done and dusted.

[12] Sweden 3 defeated Chile 1

In the final tie, Chile was without top player Cristian Garin and it showed with Mikael Ymer getting the better of lower ranked Chilean opponents at home to guide his nation to a 3-1 victory. Ymer downed Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera 6-2 6-3 on the opening day, then backed it up with a 3-6 7-5 6-3 come-from-behind win over Alejandro Tabilo in the fourth rubber. Experienced doubles combination Markus Eriksson and Robert Lindstedt were too strong for Barrios Vera and Tabilo in the doubles, with Tabilo getting Chile’s only win of the tie the day before against Elias Ymer 6-4 6-3.

2020 Davis Cup Qualifiers preview: Finals spots up for grabs in huge weekend of action

THE Davis Cup qualifiers take place over the weekend, with 12 matches across the globe. Each of the winning sides will book a place in November’s new format Davis Cup Finals, joining 2019 semi-finalists Canada, Great Britain, Russia and Spain, and the two wildcards in France and Serbia.

[1] Croatia vs. India

Croatia: Marin Cilic, Borna Gojo, Nino Serdarusic, Ivan Dodig, Mate Pavic
India: Sumit Nagal, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes

The first seeds host the 22nd ranked India at home on clay and given they head in without their top player in Borna Coric, it is not as straight forward as it should be for the number two ranked nation in the world. Cilic should easily account for both Nagal and Gunneswaran, but with 276th ranked Gojo the number two singles player for Croatia, it could come down to the doubles. That might be the match of the entire tie, with Dodig and Pavic both ranked inside the top 20 for doubles, while Bopanna and Paes are world-class doubles players even if they are getting on in age at 41 and 46 years of age.

Tip: Croatia 3-2

Hungary vs. [2] Belgium

Hungary: Marton Fucsovics, Attila Balazs, Zsombor Piros, Fabian Marozsan, Peter Nagy
Belgium: Kimmer Coppejans, Ruben Bemelmans, Arthur De Greef, Jordan Vliegen, Sander Gille

World number four, Belgium travel to Hungary to take on the 24th ranked Hungary in what is genuinely a danger tie for Belgium. Without star and top 20 player David Goffin, the number two seeds are in for a real challenge to overcome a Hungarian duo of Fucsovics and Balazs who are in some nice form as it stands. Both have had a number of upset wins already this year, with Fucsovics most notably taking down Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Australian Open. The Hungarians could well clean sweep in the singles, though Coopejans is not one to be underestimated and could win both his matches. He needs to, because if he loses then Hungary should progress, though the doubles pairing of Vliegen and Gille should easily win the doubles, giving them some hope on the deciding day.

Tip: Hungary 3-2

Colombia vs. [3] Argentina

Colombia: Daniel Elahi Galan, Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Gonzalez, Juan-Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah
Argentina: Guido Pella, Juan Ignacio Londero, Leonardo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos, Maximo Gonzalez

The clay courts of Bogota do not hold an advantage for either side, with the Colombians and Argentinians both very capable on the surface. In saying that, Argentina should realistically breeze through the tie with only the doubles being the huge question mark. Pella has nominated to play which was the important aspect, given Diego Schwartzman‘s injury forcing his withdrawal. One would expect Galan and Giraldo to play the singles ties, but unless Pella or even Londero are having bad days, then Argentina should win it comfortably. Pella and Londero are both inconsistent though, so Galan playing the way he is capable of could help Colombia to a singles win, but the 19th ranked side is unlikely to make too much of an impact outside of their top ranked doubles combination of Cabal and Farah.

Tip: Argentina 4-1

[4] USA vs. Uzbekistan

USA: Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan
Uzbekistan: Denis Istomin, Khumoyun Sultanov, Sanjar Fayziev, Olimjon Nabiev

While the United States will be without their top ranked player in John Isner, realistically they could have their seventh and eighth best players and still get the job done here. The depth of the United States is far too strong for Uzbekistan who will be relying on Istomin to carry the side, probably through both singles and a doubles with a couple of youngsters named in the side. The home nation’s second and third best players in Fritz and Opelka should win all their singles, and with the Bryan brothers also likely to take out the doubles without too much problem. Expect Paul to make his debut with the tie wrapped up by the third day.

Tip: United States 5-0

[5] Australia vs. Brazil

Australia: John Millman, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth, Alex Bolt, John Peers
Brazil: Thiago Monteiro, Joao Menezes, Thiago Seyboth Wild, Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves, Marvelo Demoliner

A wounded Australian outfit hosts Brazil in Adelaide with its top two players out with injury. Both Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur are unavailable which means Millman and Thompson will lead the attack, while Duckworth and Bolt could make their debuts. Even the lowest ranked Aussie – Bolt is ranked higher than the second seeded Brazilian in Menezes, so the green and gold should still get home with a win. Monteiro could cause some problems, but Australia will realistically come away with a comfortable win, particularly on home soil.

Tip: Australia 4-1

[6] Italy vs. South Korea

Italy: Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Gianluca Mager, Stefano Travaglia, Simone Bolelli
South Korea: Duckhee Lee, Ji Sung Nam, Yunseong Chung, Min-Kyu Song, Hong Chung

The Italians have gone with a relatively strong outfit against the third lowest ranked Davis Cup nation in South Korea (29th). Playing at home, the sixth seeded and 11th ranked nation will only be missing Matteo Berrettini and young gun, Jannik Sinner from the best possible outfit, with Fognini – despite being out of form – and Sonego likely to take out Lee and Nam if they are the chosen singles players. South Korea could win the doubles with Nam and Song both inside the top 120 in that format. One in-form South Korean is Soonwoo Kwon who has not nominated for the tie, while the second ranked compatriot in Hyeon Chung is also unavailable leading the remainder of the team outside the top 200 in the ATP Tour. The most one-sided contest of the lot.

Tip: Italy 5-0

[7] Germany vs. Belarus

Germany: Jan-Lennard Struff, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Dominik Koepfer, Kevin Krawietz, Andreas Mies
Belarus: Egor Gerasimov, Ilya Ivashka, Alexander Zgirovsky, Martin Borisiouk, Andrei Vasilevski

Germany might be without its top player in Alexander Zverev, but the seventh seed nation should not have too many problems winning at home against Belarus. The tie is taking place in Dusseldorf on hardcourt, with Struff and Kohlschreiber more than likely to hold their own against Gerasimov and Ivashka. Gerasimov has shown a capability to cause headaches for the opposition, but Struff should win both singles and Kohlschreiber – if over his injury – at least one. The doubles pairing of the 12th ranked Krawietz and 13th ranked Mies should also be too much for any Belarusian pairing.

Tip: Germany 4-1

[8] Kazakhstan vs. Netherlands

Kazakhstan: Alexander Bublik, Mikhail Kukushkin, Dmitry Popko, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Andrey Golubev
Netherlands: Robin Haase, Botic Van De Zandschulp, Tallon Griekspoor, Wesley Koolhof, Jean-Julien Rojer

Two sides that head into the Davis Cup qualifiers with their full strength sides are Kazakhstan and Netherlands, with up-and-coming talents Bublik and Popko some players of the future. Bublik and Kukushkin will likely share the first day duties and if they can knock over the tie, then Popko might get the call-up. Netherlands will not be an easy team to necessarily knock over, with the doubles pairing of Koolhof and Rojer impressive, while Haase and Griekspoor are no pushovers either. In saying that, Kazakhstan should still have the upper hand.

Tip: Kazakhstan 3-2

Slovakia vs. [9] Czech Republic

Slovakia: Andrej Martin, Norbert Gombos, Jozef Kovalik, Filip Polasek
Czech Republic: Jiri Vesely, Lukas Rosol, Zdenek Kolar, Vit Kopriva, Jonas Forejtek

Slovakia enters the Davis Cup qualifiers as the second lowest ranked nation at 31st overall, while Czech Republic sits at 15th and are the ninth seed in these qualifiers. Neither of these sides has a top 50 ranked player which makes it a much more even tie than the rankings may suggest. Vesely will lead the way for the Czechs, while Rosol is always a dangerous player on his day. Martin, Gombos and Kovalik are all capable of playing in those top two singles players, while the seventh ranked doubles player in Polasek will need to work hard with whoever teams up with him. This will likely be one of the tightest contests of the weekend.

Tip: Czech Republic 3-2

[10] Austria vs. Uruguay

Austria: Dennis Novak, Sebastian Ofner, Jurij Rodionov, Jurgen Melzer, Oliver Marach
Uruguay: Pablo Cuevas, Martin Cuevas, Franco Roncadelli, Ariel Behar, Francisco Llanes

The lowest ranked nation at the Davis Cup qualifiers, Uruguay actually have the best player in the tie. Pablo Cuevas will likely win both his singles against Novak and Ofner, which means the 36th ranked nation just has to find another win somehow. The reason Uruguay is ranked so low is because three of the members are unranked in singles, with only the Cuevas brothers earning ATP Tour points. It will be an uphill battle in the other ties, with the Cuevas’s to have a heavy workload over the weekend. Melzer and Marach are a couple of experienced doubles players and will hand the 10th seeds the edge in the tie.

Tip: Austria 3-2

[11] Japan vs. Ecuador

Japan: Kei Nishikori, Yoshihito Nishioka, Yasutaka Uchiyama, Go Soeda, Ben McLachlan
Ecuador: Emilio Gomez, Roberto Quiroz, Diego Hidalgo, Gonzalo Escobar, Antonio Cayetano March

In a selfless approach to his tennis, former top five player, Nishikori will compete for Japan in a must-win clash against the lowly ranked Ecuador. They could well win all the matches in a sweep, especially if Nishikori takes the court. The Japanese star has been battling an elbow injury, and with the coronavirus forcing this match behind closed doors, there is plenty working against the Asian nation. However Japan should take care of business against Ecuador with Gomez the highest ranked singles player at 149th, with Nishikori and the in-form Nishioka to win all the singles, and New Zealand-born McLachlan to lead the doubles side.

Tip: Japan 5-0

[12] Sweden vs. Chile

Sweden: Mikael Ymer, Elias Ymer, Markus Eriksson, Carl Soderlund, Robert Lindstedt
Chile: Cristian Garin, Alejandro Tabilo, Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera, Bastian Malla

The closest match in terms of Davis Cup rankings is that between the 18th ranked Sweden and the 21st ranked Chile. Playing in Stockholm will give the teams – who both have developing youngsters – a chance to shine on the hard courts with Sweden having the home court advantage. Mikael Ymer is always a threat, ranked 72nd in the world at just 21-years-old, while his brother – two years his senior will take up the second ranked spot in the singles. Garin has found some form over the past month and will be hard to beat for the visitors, winning a title albeit on clay, though his second ranked teammate, Tabilo will need to be at his best to topple the Ymers. It will be close, but Chile should get it overall.

Tip: Chile 3-2

Chile Open: Horror day for Slovakia as Chilean wildcard moves through

IF you were a Slovakian fan in Chile to see the four players taking to the courts in the Open, you no doubt headed home disappointed with all four bowing out in the opening round of competition. In a rare special, the entire Court 1 matches featured Slovakian players, while qualifier, Martin Klizan also played in the tournament on Central Court.

Klizan bowed out to seventh seed Argentinian, Federico Delbonis in straight sets 6-1 7-6. His departure was followed by Andrej Martin, Jozef Kovalik and fellow qualifier, Filip Horansky as departures on the second day of main draw competition. Martin lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 2-6 7-6 6-3, as Salvatore Caruso downed Kovalik 6-2 6-3 and Peruvian lucky loser, Juan Pablo Varillas knocked out Horansky 6-4 6-2.

In other results, eighth seed Brazilian Thiago Monteiro came from a set down to win against Argentinian, Leonardo Mayer 6-7 6-3 6-4, while Argentinian qualifier, Renzo Olivio upset Portugal’s Pedro Sousa – who reached the Argentina Open final – 4-6 6-3 6-4. In the all-Argentinian match, fifth seed Juan Ignacio Londero defeated compatriot, Federico Coria 6-4 6-2.

The one home nation player on the day was Chilean wildcard, Alejandro Tabilo. He moved through to the Round of 16 with a straight sets win over Italian, Pablo Lorenzi. Tabilo won 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 35 minutes, serving seven aces at a 73 per cent serving efficiency. He also won 73 per cent of his first serve points and broke three times to Loreni’s one to make his way through to the second round and now faces second seed, Norwegian Casper Ruud.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] J. Londero (ARG) defeated F. Coria (ARG) 6-4 6-2
[7] F. Delbonis (ARG) defeated [Q] M. Klizan (SVK) 6-1 7-6
[8] T. Monteiro (BRA) defeated L. Mayer (ARG) 6-7 6-3 6-4
[WC] A. Tabilo (CHI) defeated P. Lorenzi (ITA) 6-3 6-4
A. Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated A. Martin (SVK) 2-6 7-6 6-3
S. Caruso (ITA) defeated J. Kovalik (SVK) 6-2 6-3
J. Varillas (PER) defeated [Q] F. Horansky (SVK) 6-4 6-2
[Q] R. Olivo (ARG) defeated P. Sousa (POR) 4-6 6-3 6-4

Buenos Aires/New York wrap: Kwon upsets Raonic to move through to quarter finals

A HUGE upset in New York has thrown open the title race as the first Round of 16 matches were completed across both the New York Open and Argentina Open.

ARGENTINA OPEN – BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA:

The first four Round of 16 matches were completed in Buenos Aires with three thrillers and one belting, though all were straight-set wins. Third seed, Dusan Lajovic won in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6 and both were 8-6 in those tiebreakers, which meant you had to feel for the loser, Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez. Also winning in two tiebreakers was lucky loser, Pedro Sousa with the Portugese player continuing his streak since losing in qualifying to defeat another qualifier in Jozef Kovalik 7-6 7-6. The big upset of the day was Brazilian Thiago Monteiro who toppled fourth seed Croatian, Borna Coric 6-4 7-6, with the second set also being an 8-6 tiebreaker.

In the one smashing, eighth seed Norwegian Casper Ruud defeated Spaniard, Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1 6-0 in 57 minutes. He finished with a serving efficiency of 74 per cent and a first serve points won efficiency of 75 per cent. It was far superior to his Spanish opponent, dropping just 10 points on serve, while Carballes Baena won just 38 per cent of his service points and only 26 per cent of his return points. Overall it was one-way traffic for the up-and-coming Norwegian who booked a spot in the quarter finals.

Round of 16 Results:

[3] D. Lajovic defeated [Q] P. Martinez (ESP) 7-6 7-6
T. Monteiro (BRA) defeated [4] B. Coric (CRO) 6-4 7-6
[8] C. Ruud (NOR) defeated R. Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-1 6-0
[LL] P. Sousa (POR) defeated [Q] J. Kovalik (SLO) 7-6 7-6

NEW YORK OPEN – NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:

South Korean Soonwoo Kwon survived a tight three-set match against second seed, Canada’s Milos Raonic to advance through to a quarter final with a 7-6 6-7 6-4 victory. It took two hours and 24 minutes for the 84th ranked South Korean to win, opening up the bottom half of the draw. He was strong on serve, winning 79 per cent of his first serve points and 67 per cent of his second serve points, while saving all seven of Raonic’s break point opportunities. He only broke the Canadian once, but it came in the crucial last set, weathering an array of aces throughout the match – with Raonic producing 33 for the match.

In other results, sixth seed Serbian, Miomir Kecmanovic defeated Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-3 6-3, Andreas Seppi knocked off American Steve Johnson 7-6 6-3 and fourth seed Ugo Humbert smashed American Marc Giron 6-1 6-0.

Round of 16 Results:

S. Kwon (KOR) defeated [2] M. Raonic (CAN) 7-6 6-7 6-4
[4] U. Humbert (FRA) defeated M. Giron (USA) 6-1 6-0
[6] M. Kecmanovic (SRB) defeated [Q] P. Lorenzi (ITA) 6-3 6-3
A. Seppi (ITA) defeated S. Johnson (USA) 7-6 6-3

Australian Open: Men’s Day 2 review – Gulbis winds back clock with first round upset

ON Day 2 of the 2020 Australian Open, a second top 20 Canadian seed fell – this time to a qualifier – while a number of others had to fight hard in order to survive against stiff opposition.

In the top eighth of the draw, world number one Rafael Nadal started off his Australian Open campaign without a hiccup, winning 6-2 6-3 6-0 against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien. Nadal barely left second gear as he hit 38 winners and won 83 per cent of his net points, breaking eight times to two during the contest. He only hit the 21 unforced errors across the three sets and had a nice tune-up for the later rounds, with his next direct opponent being Argentinian, Federico Delbonis.

Delbonis toppled Portugal’s Joao Sousa in straight sets, winning 6-3 6-4 7-6 in two hours and 19 minutes. In that time, the Argentinian served up 11 aces and 46 winners with only four double faults and 31 unforced errors, winning all the key statistical categories against his opponent. He broke twice during the contest which was enough to net him the first two sets, avoiding being broken himself then winning the third set tiebreaker, 7-3 to book a spot in the second round.

On track for a third round clash with his top countryman, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta moved through to the Round of 64 after downing lucky loser, Jozef Kovalik. The Slovenian won the second set against the 27th seed, but ultimately Carreno Busta was the cleaner player, triumphing 6-4 3-6 6-1 7-6 in two hours and 37 minutes. The Spaniard hit 41 winners and only 27 unforced errors, while controlling his first serve with a winning percentage of 87 per cent.

Peter Gojowczyk won the battle of the qualifiers, with the German downing his American counterpart, Chris Eubanks 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 to set up a clash with Carreno Busta in the second round. Gojowczyk hit 34 winners with 27 unforced errors, breaking four times and controlling with his serve, recording 74 and 64 winning percentages on his first and second serve respectively. Eubanks was solid with 40 winners of his own and 22 aces, but he could not do enough to impact and faded in the final set.

Also through to the next round was 16th seed, Karen Khachanov who posted a four-set win over Spanish qualifier, Mario Vilella Martinez. The Spaniard surprised the top 20 player by winning the first set, but Khachanov got back on top after that, saluting 4-6 6-4 7-6 6-3 to book a spot in the second round. Khachanov was too strong across all areas, smashing home 59 winners and 10 aces as his serving percentages of 81 and 71 for first and second serve points won was elite. He only broke twice, but his serve was strong enough to hold sway and not be broken after the first set.

Swedish young gun, Mikael Ymer also moved through to the next round after a straight sets win over Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan. Ymer won 6-4 6-1 6-2 to set up a chance against the 16th seed, with the 21-year-old winning every statistical category. He was sensible with 28 winners and 22 unforced errors, also dominant on serve (77 per cent of his first serve points off 75 per cent efficiency) and at the net (79 per cent success rate). He was able to also dig deep on Uchiyama’s serve to win 46 per cent of his receiving points.

Frenchman Gilles Simon continued his winning record against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas with a swift 6-1 6-3 6-3 victory on Court 3. Simon took just under two hours, but never really looked troubled winning 81 per cent of his first serve points, while collecting almost half of his opponents serve points. He struggled a bit with efficiency just putting 55 per cent of his first serves in, but hit 26 winners for only 16 unforced errors, and won nine of the 10 approach shots. He now takes on Australian Nick Kyrgios who toppled Italian Lorenzi Sonego, 6-2 7-6 7-6 in two hours and 13 minutes of play.

[1] R. Nadal (ESP) defeated H. Dellien (BOL) 6-2 6-3 6-0
F. Delbonis (ARG) defeated J. Sousa (POR) 6-3 6-4 7-6
[Q] P. Gojowczyk (GER) defeated [Q] C. Eubanks (USA) 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-0
[27] P. Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [LL] J. Kovalik (SLO) 6-4 3-6 6-1 7-6
[23] N. Kyrgios (AUS) defeated L. Sonego (ITA) 6-2 7-6 7-6
G. Simon (FRA) defeated P. Cuevas (URG) 6-1 6-3 6-3
M. Ymer (SWE) defeated Y. Uchiyama (JPN) 6-4 6-1 6-2
[16] K. Khachanov (RUS) defeated [Q] M. Vilella Martinez (ESP) 4-6 6-4 7-6 6-3

Ernests Gulbis produced the upset of the Australian Open first round with the Latvian qualifier downing 20th seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime. In a bad couple of days for Canada, Auger-Aliassime joined 13th seed and countryman, Denis Shapovalov in exiting the tournament, after Gulbis triumphed 7-5 4-6 7-6 6-4 in three and a half hours. Gulbis hit 41 winners to 35 and played an impressive service style with 79 per cent success rate off his first serve, and 60 per cent off his second. He broke three times to the Canadian teenager’s twice, and the 19-year-old struggled to combat the Latvian throughout the contest though it was a matter of a few points here and there that were the difference.

Gulbis now faces Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene who came from behind to defeat Australia’s James Duckworth in five sets. After winning the first set 6-4, Bedene conceded the next two in tiebreakers to the Aussie, before picking up the slack again to secure a Round 2 spot courtesy of a 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-4 victory. His first and second serve points winning percentages of 87 and 62 were superb, as he broke four times while not being broken himself. Also hitting 72 winners, and only 47 unforced errors, Bedene showed he could be a handful for anyone. Granted though, Duckworth was not as clinical as he could have been with just 51 winners and 71 unforced errors in the contest.

Tenth seed, Gael Monfils breezed past Yen-Hsun Lu in straight sets, downing the world number 532nd winning 6-1 6-4 6-2. While Lu was strong at the net, Monfils was too strong on serve, producing six aces and a 79 per cent winning ratio on his first serve, while attacking Luc’s second serve with a 61 per cent record. Monfils will need be playing a slightly different player to the slower serving Lu in Round 2, after 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic booked a spot in the match.

Karlovic averaged 207kmh first serves and just a casual 195kmh second serves on his way to metaphorically blowing Canadian Vasek Pospisil off the court in straight sets. Despite Pospisil holding a positive head-to-head record against the Croatian, he was no match for Karlovic who powered his way to victory with 13 aces and an 89 per cent first serve winning percentage. Karlovic also broke twice while not being broken himself, and while Pospisil was able to win 83 per cent of his first serve points and hit 49 winners, he could not crack into his opponents’ serve, winning just 15 of a possible receiving 94 points.

Fifth seed, Dominic Theim also moved on in the tournament, overcoming Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino who is far from an easy first round matchup. The Austrian triumphed 6-4 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 21 minutes, breaking five times and winning 42 per cent of his receiving points. He also won 77 per cent of his first serve points and produced 36 winners, though was not as clean as he could have been with 34 unforced errors as well. He now has the task of breaking Australian hearts when he takes on wildcard Alex Bolt in the Round of 64.

World number 140, Bolt upset Albert Ramos-Vinolas, a player who is ranked 98 places higher on the ATP rankings, in five tight sets 7-6 1-6 6-7 6-1 6-4. Despite being down two sets to one, Bolt never gave in to turn the match around and run out winning it in just under three and a half hours. Bolt can be erratic with his play producing 69 unforced errors, but also hit 55 winners while serving up 11 aces and winning 67 per cent of his points at the net. His serve-volleys troubled the Spaniard who still broke five times, but could not get it done despite his impressive second set and tiebreak-winning third set.

Also having to come back from two sets to one down in order to win, South African veteran Kevin Anderson posted a five-set win over Belarusian qualifier, Ilya Ivashka. Anderson won the first set but trailed after three, before finally stepping up to win 6-4 2-6 4-6 6-4 7-6, finishing off his younger opponent 10-8 in the super tiebreaker. The world number 122 took almost four hours to get across the line, but served up 16 aces and 48 winners as he challenged Ivashka with his net approaches, winning 71 per cent of the time he did. He was a bit rushed with 67 unforced errors, but his power and smarts got him over the line and into the second round.

Finishing off the eighth of the draw, 29th seed Taylor Fritz booked a spot in the Round of 64 with a straight sets win over Dutch qualifier, Tallon Griekspoor. Fritz won 6-3 6-3 6-3 to book a date with Anderson in the next round, serving 17 aces and only losing a remarkable one point on his first serve. He hit 39 winners and overpower Griekspoor in a stunning performance which showed why he could a dark horse for the tournament. Just as impressive as his power and serving prowess, Fritz hit just 14 unforced errors for the match, and won 86 per cent of his net points.

[10] G. Monfils (FRA) defeated Y. Lu (TAI) 6-1 6-4 6-2
I. Karlovic (CRO) defeated V. Pospisil (CAN) 7-6 6-4 7-5
A. Bedene (SLO) defeated J. Duckworth (AUS) 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-4
[Q] E. Gulbis (LAT) defeated [20] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 7-5 4-6 7-6 6-4
[29] T. Fritz (USA) defeated [Q] T. Griekspoor (NED) 6-3 6-3 6-3
K. Anderson (RSA) defeated [Q] I. Ivashka (BLR) 6-2 2-6 4-6 6-4 7-6
[WC] A. Bolt (AUS) defeated A. Ramos-Vinolas (AUS) 7-6 1-6 6-7 6-1 6-4
[5] D. Thiem (AUT) defeated A. Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 7-5 6-2

One of the tournament favourites has moved through to the second round despite a challenge from his American opponent. Fourth seed Russian, Daniil Medvedev stepped up after being a set-all to defeat Frances Tiafoe, 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2 in an exciting two and a half hour contest. Medvedev’s serve was not always perfect with 13 aces but a huge 12 double faults for just 53 per cent accuracy on the first serve. He did enough to win overall, mainly breaking nine times to five off the back of a 44 per cent success rate when receiving. He also hit 42 winners for the match and was strong without being outstanding to move through to Round 2 where he actually faces a lower ranked opponent than top 50 Tiafoe.

That opponent is Spanish qualifier, Pedro Martinez who defeated Dominik Koepfer of Germany to keep his Australian Open dream alive. Martinez won 6-3 6-4 7-5 to set up a clash with Medvedev in the Round of 64 after an impressive showing of 41 winners and only 25 unforced errors in his Round 1 contest. He also won 80 per cent of points when approaching the net which will be crucial against the world number four, and had a consistent serve throughout the match despite only producing one ace.

An injury retirement has opened up that eighth of the draw, with 28th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bowing out to Australian Alexei Popyrin, who showed concern for a player he considered his hero, post-match. Popyrin won 6-7 6-2 6-1 before Tsonga called time, having had to have painkillers to get through the match to that point. Ranked 96th in the world, Popyrin was strong in his own right during the match with a low 16 unforced errors and 34 winners, while keeping his first and second serve points won above 75 per cent.

The Australian takes on Spain’s Jaume Munar who bundled out French wildcard, Hugo Gaston in four sets. Sitting at a set apiece, Munar stepped it up a notch in the third and fourth sets to run out a 7-5 5-7 6-0 6-3 winner. It took three and a half hours, but Munar had 44 winners to 37 unforced errors, compared to his opponent with 56 and 73 respectively. He also won 48 per cent of his receiving points and broke nine times to five to guarantee he moved at least one round further in the tournament.

In a surprise to no one, American 19th seed John Isner had a tournament-high four tiebreakers in his win over Brazilian, Thiago Monteiro. The biggest server on the ATP Tour is virtually unbreakable when on song, and it contributes to epic clashes. In three hours and 27 minutes, Isner got up 6-7 7-6 7-6 7-6, with a casual 46 aces and 89 winners. Credit has to go to Monteiro for forcing tiebreakers with those kinds of numbers, though the Brazilian produced 18 aces and 68 winners himself in one of the best games of the round. Both had elite first serve points won percentages, while they were also quite dominant at the net. Now the 34-year-old, 208cm American progresses through to take on Chilean qualifier, Alejandro Tabilo.

In an equally long clash with fellow qualifier, Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan, Tabilo won 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4 to book a spot in the Round of 64. Tabilo reached 50 winners for the game and won 79 per cent of his net points, while breaking five times to three, including a crucial one in the deciding set. His second serve winning percentage of 62 was impressive, while Galan was good enough to win with a 72 per cent first serve winning percentage, but could not quite get it done with the match on the line in the final set.

Someone who could get it done despite a challenge from his opponent was 15th seed Stan Wawrinka who defeated Damir Dzumhur as one of our matches of the day yesterday. He now takes on Italy’s Andreas Seppi who won in straight sets over Serbian, Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 6-4 7-6. The Italian served up 10 aces in two hours and hit 48 winners for only 30 unforced errors, broken just once while returning the favour to the Serbian three times. Seppi has not been in super form of late, but he has made it through to a Round of 64 where Wawrinka will be a massive challenge for the 35-year-old veteran.

[4] D. Medvedev (RUS) defeated F. Tiafoe (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2
[Q] P. Martinez (ESP) defeated D. Koepfer (GER) 6-3 6-4 7-5
J. Munar (ESP) defeated [WC] H. Gaston (FRA) 7-5 5-7 6-0 6-3
A. Popyrin (AUS) defeated [28] J. Tsonga (FRA) 6-7 6-2 6-1 RETIRED
[19] J. Isner (USA) defeated T. Monteiro (BRA) 6-7 7-6 7-6 7-6
[Q] A. Tabilo (CHI) defeated [Q] D. Galan (COL) 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4
A. Seppi (ITA) defeated M. Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 6-4 7-6
[15] S. Wawrinka (SUI) defeated D. Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5 6-7 6-4 6-4

There was just the one surprise in the bottom eighth of the men’s singles top half of the draw with 98th ranked Egor Gerasimov downing top 50 Norwegian prospect, Casper Ruud in five sets. Gerasimov looked to be on top early taking the first two sets 6-3 7-6, before Ruud bounced back with his own two sets, 6-1 6-4 to level the scores at two sets apiece. In fitting circumstances, the three and a half hour battle came down to a super tiebreak where the Belarusian got up 10-6 for a 6-3 7-6 1-6 4-6 7-6 triumph out on Court 13. Gerasimov serve 21 aces to 13 and hit 74 winners in a powerful display as neither player wanted to give in, but in the end it was the Belarusian who emerged victorious to set up a Round 2 match with seventh seed, Alexander Zverev.

It was a lot smoother for Zverev in a straight sets win over Italian, Marco Cecchinato, though it was far from easy with the tight three-set victory taking two hours and 23 minutes. Zverev’s serve was back on in the game after a shaky ATP Cup, winning 72 per cent off his first serve points off 84 per cent first serve in. He produced eight aces and hit 35 winners to 28, whilst keeping his unforced errors down to a low 28. The German also broke five times to three during the match and claimed 43 per cent of his receiving points to move through to the next round.

Eleventh seed David Goffin also moved through to the Round of 64 with a straight sets triumph of France’s Jeremy Chardy. Goffin won 6-4 6-3 6-1 with the Belgian winning 83 per cent of his first serve points, while breaking six times to one in a fairly comprehensive win. He only hit the 20 winners showing an area of improvement for the future, but did enough throughout the one hour, 48 minute match to book a date with Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round.

Herbert came from two sets to one down to post a tight win over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie on Court 15. The match lasted almost four hours as Herbert hit 58 winners and produced 14 aces with plenty of net action throughout. The pair played a total of 100 points that involved one approaching the net, with Norrie marginally higher at 67 to 63 per cent success rate. Herbert will be keen to lower his unforced error count which reached 76, but is building nicely for the tough clash against the world number 11.

In a rather odd match that had the result expected but with a mid-match twist, Russian Alexander Rublev continued his unbeaten 2020 with a win over Australian wildcard, Chris O’Connell. The Round 1 match was closer than many anticipated with the world number 115 returning from injury against the top 20 player, but held up his own, even winning a set to love during Rublev’s 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-6 win. In that second set, the Australian restricted Rublev to four winners and seven unforced errors, as well as just 10 total points won, while hitting 13 winners himself and breaking three times. The class of Rublev shown through overall despite hitting less winners (41-52), also having a manageable 27 unforced errors as he won 75 per cent of his first serve points, and more importantly, 57 per cent of his second serve points. Both players were solid at the net, but the Russian stepped up when it counted and got the job done in a fourth set tiebreak.

Rublev now moves on and faces Japan’s Yuichi Sugita who smashed Frenchman, Elliot Benchetrit. The French qualifier has now best been known for his ‘banana stunt’ in qualifying where he handed a ball girl a banana to unpeel for him before being scolded by the chair umpire. It might have been his only moment of fame (or infamy) for the whole tournament as he just won five games in Sugita’s 6-2 6-0 6-3 easy win. The Japanese world number 91 won 85 per cent of his first serve points compared to Benchetrit’s 39 per cent, and had only eight unforced errors for 24 winners in an ultra-economical match. He broke six times in the process and moved through to take on Rublev.

It was another tough battle out on Court 12 where Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili just escaped from South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon. The 26th seed led two sets to one at one stage, but was forced into a deciding set before getting up 6-7 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 in just under four hours of matchplay. Basilashvili served 22 aces and hit 61 winners, too strong on his first serve with a winning ratio of 73 per cent, as well as breaking seven times to five. His second serve is an area of improvement with Kwon recording 12 return winners from a game-high 66 total winners.

Fernando Verdasco continues to defy age and posted a 7-5 6-2 6-1 victory over lucky loser, Evgeny Donskoy. The 36-year-old Spaniard enjoyed a smooth run after a tight first set with the Russian, hardly faltering on serve. Verdasco recorded a 75 per cent first serve percentage, then won 85 per cent of those serves, while claiming two thirds of his second serve. All up, he lost just 14 points and was not broken once, but broke his opponent five times, four of which came in the last two sets. Not known for being a huge hitter, the counter puncher produced 21 winners and 14 unforced errors compared to Donkoy’s 20 and 35 respectively. He now faces Basilashvili in the second round.

[11] D. Goffin (BEL) defeated J. Chardy (FRA) 6-4 6-3 6-1
P. Herbert (FRA) defeated C. Norrie (GBR) 7-5 3-6 3-6 7-5 6-4
Y. Sugita (JPN) defeated [Q] E. Benchetrit (FRA) 6-2 6-0 6-3
[17] A. Rublev (RUS) defeated [WC] C. O’Connell (AUS) 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-6
[26] N. Basilashvili (GEO) defeated S. Kwon (KOR) 6-7 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3
F. Verdasco (ESP) defeated [LL] E. Donskoy (RUS) 7-5 6-2 6-1
E. Gerasimov (BLR) defeated C. Ruud (NOR) 6-3 7-6 1-6 4-6 7-6
[7] A. Zverev (GER) defeated M. Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 7-6 6-3

Australian Open: Qualifying Rounds 2/3 – Former Wimbledon Junior runner-up and ATP Top 10 pick advance to main draw

THE first of the main draw qualifiers are through to the Australian Open starting Monday after a number of men’s and women’s finals were played yesterday. The remainder of the finals will be played today, with 32 qualifiers all-up – 16 men and 16 women – making it through to the final 128 players who will contest the 2020 Australian Open.

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Leading the charge for the main draw was former top 10 pick, Ernests Gulbis with the Latvian no doubt causing a few main draw opponents some headaches before he is assigned his place in the 128-man field. Gulbis defeated 17th seed, India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran in straight sets, 7-6 6-2. He joined Australian Max Purcell in booking a spot in the first round after the local hope downed 26th seed Slovakian, Jozef Kovalik 6-4 6-2. Also into the next round was 16th seed German, Peter Gojowczyk who will not be an easy opponent for anyone in the main draw, winning 6-2 6-3 over Frenchman Constant Lestienne. Slovakia’s 10th seed Norbert Gombos, Spain’s Pedro Martinez – who downed Czech Lukas Rosol – and Belarusian Ilya Ivashka all advanced through to the main draw in straight sets win.

From the Round 2 winners, top seed Dennis Novak continued his run to the final 32 with a straight sets win over Slovakia’s Filip Horansky, 6-1 6-4. In a day where seeds fell like flies, sixth seed Evgeny Donskoy was the other to survive the minefield, winning 6-3 3-6 6-3 over the qualifying draw’s late inclusion Croatia’s Viktor Galovic. It was bad news for ATP Cup doubles-winning player Viktor Troicki with the Serbian having to retire a set up and 1-2 down in the second set and forfeit his match to American Christopher Eubanks. Belgian, Kimmer Coppejans kept his hopes of a main draw spot alive with an upset win over third seed Canadian, Brayden Schnur, while Frances’ Elliot Benchetrit downed fourth seed Fin, Emil Ruusuvuori in an epic encounter. Netherland’s Tallon Griekspoor ended Australian wildcard, Rinky Hijikata‘s chances with a straight sets win, while Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat moved through to a final match after a 7-5 7-5 win over Alexandre Muller.

Men’s Finals:

I. Ivashka (BLR) defeated Z. Li (CHN) 6-4 6-3
[10] N. Gombos (SVK) defeated P. Krstin (SRB) 6-3 6-3
P. Martinez (ESP) defeated L. Rosol (CZE) 6-4 6-2
M. Purcell (AUS) defeated [26] J. Kovalik (SVK) 6-4 6-2
E. Gulbis (LAT) defeated [17] P. Gunneswaran (IND) 7-6 6-2
[16] P. Gojowczyk (GER) defeated C. Lestienne (FRA) 6-2 6-3

Round 2:

[1] D. Novak (AUT) defeated F. Horansky (SVK) 6-1 6-4
H. Moriya (JPN) defeated [23] S. Diez (CAN) 6-4 7-5
T. Griekspoor (NED) defeated [WC] R. Hijikata (AUS) 7-5 7-5
[WC] L. Musetti (ITA) defeated M. Copil (ROU) 6-7 6-4 7-5
K. Coppejans (BEL) defeated [3] B. Schnur (CAN) 7-6 6-3
C. Eubaks (USA) defeated V. Troicki (SRB) 4-6 2-1 RET
E. Benchetrit (FRA) defeated [4] E. Ruusuvuori (FIN) 6-4 0-6 7-6
D. Popko (KAZ) defeated E. Couacaud (FRA) 6-3 3-6 6-3
M. Bourgue (FRA) defeated [5] A. Martin (SVK) 4-6 7-6 7-5
M. Vilella Martinez (ESP) defeated [24] F. Bagnis (ARG) 7-6 0-6 6-4
[6] E. Donskoy (RUS) defeated V. Galovic (CRO) 6-3 3-6 6-3
M. Safwat (EGT) defeated A. Muller (FRA) 7-5 7-5
N. Milojevic (SRB) defeated E. Escobedo (USA) 6-4 7-6
Q. Halys (FRA) defeated D. Lee (KOR) 6-3 6-4
M. Trungelliti (ARG) defeated J. Wolf (USA) 0-6 7-6 7-5
L. Giustino (ITA) defeated [18] Y. Maden (GER) 6-7 6-2 6-4

Six players are officially through to the main draw of the 2020 Australian Open women’s draw after the first of 16 women’s finals were played yesterday. The upset of the day was 31st seed and young gun American, Ann Li toppling top seed and top 100 Romanian, Ana Bogdan, 5-7 7-6 6-2. The Wimbledon Junior Final runner-up booked a spot in the main draw and undoubtedly has a bright future ahead. She was joined in the main draw by fellow American, Shelby Rogers who downed compatriot, Caroline Dolehide 6-4 6-4. A big surprise was the straight sets exit of former top 10 player, Eugenie Bouchard with the Canadian bowing out to Italian Martina Trevisan who won 6-4 6-3. Also into the main draw was 20th seed and former top 30 player, Monica Niculescu with the Romanian getting up over 11th seed Swiss player, Stefanie Voegele in three sets, 6-2 3-6 6-4. Liudmila Samsonova was the highest seed to officially make the main draw thus far, downing 24th seed, Xiyu Wang 6-4 2-6 7-5, while Great Britain’s Heather Dart booked a spot in the main draw thanks to a win over Italian Giulia Gatto-Monticone, 6-1 6-3.

From Round 2 results that will see the remaining 20 player battling for 10 spots, second seed Nao Hibino is the highest player ranked played remaining in the draw, while third seed Varvara Gracheva will have a tough task against former top 50 player, Johanna Larsson of Sweden after the 31-year-old Swede made light work of 29th seed, Netherland’s Mandy Minella, 6-2 6-3. The North American presence at Australian Open should be strong with a number of Americans moving through to the final round with Sachia Vickery defeating fourth seed Ukrainian, Katarina Zavatska in three tight sets, while 10th seed compatriot, Catherine McNally also advanced with an easy straight sets win over Ukrainian Daria Lopatetska. Other seeds to book a spot in the next round were fifth seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, Belgium’s 13th seed Greet Minnen, 18th seed Kaja Juvan – who knocked out Australian wildcard Storm Sanders in three sets – 19th seed Barbora Krejcikova who stunned former top 20 player, Varvora Lepchenko in straight sets, and 32nd seed, Barbara Haas from Austria.

Women’s Finals:

[31] A. Li (USA) defeated [1] A. Bogdan (ROU) 5-7 7-6 6-2
S. Rogers (USA) defeated [30] C. Dolehide (USA) 6-4 6-4
M. Trevisan (ITA) defeated E. Bouchard (CAN) 6-4 6-3
[20] M. Niculescu (ROU) defeated [11] S. Voegele (SUI) 6-2 3-6 6-4
[12] L. Samsonova (RUS) defeated [24] X. Wang (CHN) 6-4 2-6 7-5
H. Dart (GBR) defeated G. Gatto-Monticone (ITA) 6-1 6-3

Round 2:

[2] N. Hibino (JPN) defeated Y. Yuan (CHN) 3-6 6-1 6-1
L. Arruabarrena (ESP) defeated Y. Naito (JPN) 6-3 6-4
[3] V. Gracheva (RUS) defeated O. Danilovic (SRB) 6-2 4-6 6-1
J. Larsson (SWE) defeated [29] M. Minella (NED) 6-2 6-3
S. Vickery (USA) defeated [4] K. Zavatska (UKR) 6-4 5-7 6-4
[19] B. Krejcikova (CZE) defeated V. Lepchecnko (USA) 6-4 6-4
[5] A. Kalinskaya (RUS) defeated L. Paar (ROU)
X. Wang (CHN) defeated [28] A. Kiick (USA) 6-0 6-1
[6] N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS) defeated I. Shinikova (BLR) 6-2 6-3
[18] K. Juvan (SLO) defeated [WC] S. Sanders (AUS) 6-0 2-6 6-3
L. Fernandez (CAN) defeated M. Hibi (JPN) 6-4 6-4
D. Lao (USA) defeated [27] K. Nara (JPN) 7-5 6-7 6-3
[10] C. McNally (USA) defeated D. Lopatetska (UKR) 6-2 6-3
E. Ruse (ROU) defeated N. Parrizas Diaz (ESP) 6-3 7-5
[13] G. Minnen (BEL) defeated F. Xun (CHN) 6-3 6-1
[32] B. Haas (AUT) defeated L. Pattinama Kerkhove (NED) 6-4 4-6 6-1