Tag: lloyd harris

ATP 250s wraps: Tsonga beaten on return as Popyrin claims win in Singapore

GRAND SLAM finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier yesterday, though it did not go plan. The former Top 10 talent was easily beaten by American Sebastian Korda in the first round of the ATP 250 event.

The match lasted just 72 minutes with Korda claiming the spoils, 6-4 6-2, dominating on serve and only dropping eight points in total, saving both of his opponent’s break point opportunities. Tsonga was far from his best, but getting through the match was the key, still winning 69 per cent of his first serve points, and serving five aces throughout the match. He saved three of six break points, but ultimately could not do enough against a player who has built form over the past 12 months.

It was better news for sixth seed Ugo Humbert, whose rise up the ATP Rankings continues following his straight sets win over Slovakian Norbert Gombos. Humbert won 6-4 7-6 in 78 minutes, slamming home 18 aces and winning 88 per cent of his first serve points off an elite 79 per cent efficiency to never give his opponent a chance. In Gombos’ defence, he held up well, actually breaking Humbert once from two chances, while the Frenchman broke him from both his opportunities. Overall the class of Humbert stood out and he advanced to the Round of 16.

In the final match played on day one of the main draw event, seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego battled past young Frenchman Hugo Gaston. The Italian won 6-3 6-7 6-1, holding his nerve in the third set after dropping the second set tiebreaker 9-7, to win in two hours and 19 minutes. He served seven aces and broke six times from 12 chances, while only being broken three times himself.

In today’s action, there are plenty more Frenchman on show, with Lucas Pouille taking on compatriot and wildcard Benjamin Bonzi, while Gilles Simon faces Austrian Dennis Novak. The match of the day could be either British wildcard and Grand Slam winner Andy Murray taking on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, or Swede Mikael Ymer locking horns with Jiri Vesely.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Norbert Gombos (SVK) 6-4 7-6
[7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated [WC] Hugo Gaston (FRA) 6-3 6-7 6-1
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-4 6-2

Five first round matches were completed in Singapore, with a mixed bag for the two seeds on court. Fifth seed Japanese counter puncher Yoshihito Nishioka defeated improving American Michael Mmoh 6-2 3-6 6-3, while seventh seed South African Lloyd Harris went down in three sets to Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev.

Nishioka needed almost two hours to defeat Mmoh, surviving 11 aces to bring up 10 break point opportunities, albeit only taking three. It was two more than Mmoh who broke once in the second set, but could not do it again in the match. Meanwhile Andreev took two hours and 19 minutes to knock off the fast-serving Harris, not needing to serve and ace and even holding off 12 of 15 break point chances for the South African to win 1-6 6-3 6-4. The Bulgarian bounced back from a disappointing first set to post the impressive win over the developing Harris.

Andreev now takes on Australian Alexei Popyrin who knocked off American qualifier, Christopher Eubanks in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6, both of which were 7-5 tiebreakers. The match lasted one hour and 46 minutes, with Popyrin powering home 15 aces and saving 10 of 11 break points in a remarkable feat. He won 72 per cent of his first serve points, and also only broke Eubanks once, holding firm in the crucial tiebreakers to claim a narrow straight sets win.

In other Singapore results, United States’ Maxime Cressy became his nation’s sole winner on the day, downing Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung in straight sets 7-6 6-2, while Japan’s Taro Daniel joined compatriot Nishioka in the second round after a tight three-set win over India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan, 6-3 6-7 6-3.

In today’s action, three Australians are out on court, with Marc Polmans up first against Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama. Following that match, qualifier John-Patrick Smith has to find a way to upstage sixth seed Macedonian Radu Albot, before James Duckworth takes to the court at night against German, Yannick Hanfmann.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-2 3-6 6-3
[WC] Adrian Andreev (BUL) defeated [7] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 1-6 6-3 6-4
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 6-3 6-7 6-3
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [Q] Christopher Eubanks (USA) 7-6 7-6

At the time of publishing, none of the day one matches had been completed in Cordoba, with the Argentinian tournament finishing off the third round of qualifying earlier in the day. The night session featured two Round of 32 matches which will be covered in tomorrow’s wrap, with Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan facing Slovakian Jozef Kovalik, followed by Spaniard Jaume Munar taking on Chilean wildcard Nicolas Jarry.

Picture credit: ATP Tour

2021 ATP 250 previews: Montpellier, Cordoba and Singapore

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

CORDOBA:

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

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

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

MONTPELLIER:

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

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

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

SINGAPORE:

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

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Men’s Round of 16 wrap: Russians advance as Nadal set to face rested Tsitsipas in semis

JUST two matches were fully completed in the Australian Open men’s Round of 16 on day eight of the competition, with a total of eight sets played across the four matches. Second seed Rafael Nadal and fourth seed Daniil Medvedev moved through in straight sets, while fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas strolled into the quarter finals, and seventh seed Andrey Rublev only played two sets before booking his place in the final eight.

Nadal booked his spot in the quarter finals with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini in two hours and 16 minutes. Playing a consistent brand of tennis all tournament, the world number two stepped it up a gear against the talented Fognini, only hitting 20 unforced errors to the Italians’ 35, whilst having just eight less errors.

“When you go on court against Fabio you worry,” Nadal said post-match. “There can always be problems. I was just lucky that when he broke me [in the second set] I responded immediately and held the score. Today was very humid and quicker during the day, which I like, but I have to adapt to every condition.”

Fognini served one extra ace (7-6), but Nadal was more consistent with a whopping 77 and 69 per cent success rate from his first and second serve, dropping just 19 points for the match. By comparison, Fognini only won 64 and 41 per cent of his first and second serve points, and broke twice from six chances, though defended bravely to save 13 break points. It mattered little however as Nadal did break six times during the straight sets win.

Next up is Tsitsipas, who did not even take to the court after the other Italian remaining in the Australian Open draw, Matteo Berrettini, pulled out prior to the match due to injury.

“It will be a big challenge and today’s win was good for my confidence,” Nadal said. “I will need to be ready. “My back is holding up and tomorrow’s practice will be important preparation.

“[The] first set, without a doubt, was my best level in the tournament. My physical condition needs to keep improving, but I think [today’s] match helps. I was not able to practise the proper way for the past 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work in practice.”

It is an all-Russian quarter final in the other match following Medvedev’s straight sets triumph over American talent Mackenzie McDonald. The world 192nd had a solid win, with four set victories over Marco Cecchinato and 22nd seed Borna Coric, before toppling Lloyd Harris in the Round of 32. He was no match for the impressive Medvedev, who won 6-4 6-2 6-3 in just 89 minutes.

In that time Medvedev broke six times from seven chances, and won 78 per cent of his first serve points. McDonald was competitive with only eight less winners (21-29) and only two less non-ace winners after Medvedev produced seven aces to one. It was the Russian’s consistency with his shots, producing 15 unforced errors to McDonald’s 23, while winning 60 per cent of his second serve points and 40 per cent of his receiving points compared to his American’s 43 and 25 per cent respectively.

“It’s an exciting moment [to be] in [the] quarter-finals in Australia for the first time, that’s a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said post-match. “I want more all the time, but step by step. “So this is amazing.

“When you play Mackenzie, many times he’s going to be in control of the games and you just need to defend,” Medvedev said. “I knew that I needed to play a lot of low balls, because he plays really flat and aggressive. “If you give him high balls, he’s going to try to destroy them. “That’s what he did in a few moments.

“I was just trying to stay as much as possible in the points… and I managed to take all my chances today.”

An abdominal injury to Norway’s Casper Ruud allowed in-form rising Russian talent Rublev to book an all-Russian battle with Medvedev in the quarter final. Leading 6-2 7-6, the seventh seed was in control over the 24th seed who was playing in his first Grand Slam fourth round match. It became too much though, and after losing the second set, opted to pull out and hand Rublev safe passage into the final eight.

In those two sets, Rublev won nine of his 10 points approaching the net, breaking four times to two, and winning 77 and 57 per cent of his first and second serve points, Ruud was still solid with a 61 per cent success rate off his first serve, but only 44 per cent off his second. He also had a winner to unforced error ratio of 20-21, while Rublev was slightly better at 22-17.

Like Medvedev, Rublev was thinking of his nation and friends when it came to taking on the world number four.

“At least one of us [Russian players] will be in the semis,” Rublev said post-match. “At least that’s the good news. But it’s going to be a tough match. I mean, last time he beat me in the quarters in the US Open. Now we’re again in quarters in the Australian Open. So we’ll see what’s going to happen. I hope we can show a great fight and great level.”

The results mean for the first time, three Russian will compete in the quarter finals at the same Grand Slam as qualifier Aslan Karatsev is set to take on 18th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov today. World number one Novak Djokovic will hope to pull through injury worries when he locks horns with sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the other quarter final played today.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 6-4 6-2 6-3
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GER) defeated [9] Matteo Berrettini (UTA) Walkover
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [24] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-2 7-6 RET

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 32 wrap: Medvedev survives five-setter as top seeds advance

SIX of the eight top 16 seeds will compete in the fourth round of the Australian Open, after all the higher ranked players won on day six of the Grand Slam. Seeds featured in seven of the eight matches, three of which were all seeds. In the sole unseeded match, United States’ Mackenzie McDonald won in straight sets over South African Lloyd Harris to be the clear underdog in the bottom half of the draw.

The match of the day was easily fourth seed Daniil Medvedev‘s five-set win over 28th seed Serbian Filip Krajinovic. The Russian looked to have everything under control early, before Krajinovic hit back wiht the next two sets. The fourth seed steadied in the final set to storm away and win 6-0 in the fifth for a 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 victory.

Medvedev dominated in terms of serving with 15 aces to two, whilst winning 77 per cent of his first serve points to the Serbian’s 64 per cent. Krajinovic made the most of his chances at the net however, winning 35 of 47 approaches and hit only three less winners when excluding aces (34-37).

“He played unbelievable, especially in the fourth set,” Medvedev said post-match. “Third set I had some chances… He raised his level. I tried to change my position on the return in the fifth set and it seemed to be working well, I guess.”

Compatriot Andrey Rublev advanced through to the fourth round in easier fashion, defeating veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, 7-5 6-2 6-3. Of the eight players winning through, two were the Russian seeds, and the other two were the Italian seeds. Matteo Berrettini fought off a determined Karen Khachanov to win in three tiebreakers 7-6 7-6 7-6, while 16th seed Fabio Fognini was too strong for the last Australian man in Alex de Minaur.

Fognini won 6-4 6-3 6-2 in the later match, whilst over on Rod Laver Arena, second seed Rafael Nadal booked his spot in the Round of 16 with a straight sets win over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie. Also through to the next stage were fifth seed Greek talent Stefanos Tsitsipas who defeated Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets, while 24th seed Norwegian Casper Ruud make his first ever Grand Slam fourth round appearance with a four-set win over Moldovan Radu Albot.

Ruud was clinical in his win, having never made it into an Australian Open third round before, producing nine aces to three against Albot. He won 50 of 58 first serve points, and was more clinical on his second serve with a 63 per cent success rate. Ruud also broke five times from 12 chances compared to Albot’s two from five.

The fourth round matches set up from the day’s results sees Nadal and Fognini going head-to-head to play the winner of Tsitsipas and Berrettini. In the other quarter, Medvedev and McDonald lock horns, as Rublev and Ruud do battle as well. In today’s matches, top seed Novak Djokovic will face 14th seed Canadian Milos Raonic, whilst up the other end, Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev. In the other two matches, third seed Dominic Thiem and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov will face off, while Alexander Zverev takes on Dusan Lajovic.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 7-5 6-2 705
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated [28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-4 6-1 6-1
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-3
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) 7-6 7-6 7-6
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated [21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-3 6-4
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Radu Albot (MDA) 6-1 5-7 6-4 6-4
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-6 6-1 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 64 wrap: Tsitsipas survives epic thriller from brave Kokkinakis

A NEVER-say-die attitude from fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis was on full display in yet another Rod Laver classic match yesterday at the Australian Open. The second round encounter had the Greek star overwhelming favourite against the talented local who has battled with injuries over the past few years, but clearly has the talent to be a top ATP Tour player.

In an unbelievable four-hour and 32-minute slog fest, Tsitsipas finally got up 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4 but Kokkinakis lost no fans along the way – including Tsitsipas himself – having pushed the 2019 ATP Finals winner to the brink.

“I think he has a huge forehand, [a] very good serve,” Tsitsipas said of Kokkinakis’ game post-match. “All the potential is there. I really hope he stays injury-free, because it can be very frustrating. I have dealt with it, and I know it’s very difficult mentally to go through things like this. “I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him.”

Kokkinakis had a well balanced game and out-served Tsitsipas with 23 aces to 17 and two less double faults (8-10), though the Greek star won 86 and 56 per cent of his first and second serve points compared to 72 and 46 per cent. The big factor was the break point conversions, with Tsitsipas breaking five times from 22 chances to the Australian’s zero from three. The fifth seed also hit 78 winners to 58, and 16 less unforced errors (46-62).

“[It was a] great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” Tsitsipas said. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirit.”

Tsitsipas will have to recover quickly to take on Swede Mikael Ymer tomorrow who took care of Spanish qualifier and wonderkid, Carlos Alcaraz after dropping the first set, 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-5. Ymer was one of just six unseeded players to advance through to the next round, with most at the expense of Australians. Macedonian Radu Albot knocked off wildcard Christopher O’Connell in straight sets, 6-2 7-5 7-6, while South Africa’s Lloyd Harris needed five sets to post a win over another wildcard in Alexei Popyrin, 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3. After only dropping one game in his first match, Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin was brought back to earth, losing in four sets to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

The only two other unseeded players to make it to the Round of 32 were those who knocked out a couple of seeds in United States’ Mackenzie McDonald and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez. McDonald knocked off 22nd seed Croatian Borna Coric 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4, while Lopez toppled 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 coming back from two sets to love down to win in three hours and 18 minutes over the Italian out on Court 7.

It was certainly an interesting day for the Italians to say the least, with 16th seed Fabio Fognini and compatriot Salvatore Caruso going toe-for-toe over five sets on John Cain Arena, and then a little more post-match. Fognini won 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6, including 14-12 in the deciding tiebreak, where the Top 20 player was questioning Caruso’s luck throughout the match and the supervisor had to physically separate them. Nonetheless, Fognini joined fellow ATP Cup finalist, Matteo Berrettini in the next round after his younger compatriot knocked off Czech rising qualifier, Tomas Machac in four sets.

Other winners on the day were Russian duo, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov who waltzed through in straight sets, as did the top two players on display in the night session, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. Alex de Minaur was the sole Australian through to the next round in that half of the draw, joining Nick Kyrgios in the third round of the men’s competition, while Casper Ruud and FIlip Krajinovic also won though after defeating their respective opponents in four sets.

Entering the third round tomorrow, there are a number of mouthwatering clashes, as Berrettini and Khachanov do battle, as do de Minaur and Fognini. Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev seem to have an easier run to a potential quarter final now with 24th seed Ruud and 28th seed Krajinovic the sole remaining seeds in that quarter of the draw.

In today’s action, all eyes will be on the all-Canadian battle between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, as well as the blockbuster battle between third seed and last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem taking on Australian Nick Kyrgios. Adrian Mannarino locking horns with Alexander Zverev is an underrated battle, while 27th seed Taylor Fritz will take his shot at world number one and tournament favourite Novak Djokovic.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-1 6-4 6-2
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-2 7-5 6-1
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-4 6-4 7-6
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Tomas Machac (CZE) 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6
[19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-2 6-4 6-4
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-3 7-5
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated [22] Borna Coric (CRO) 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 3-6 6-2 6-4 7-5
[28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2 5-7 6-1 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated [31] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4
Radu Albot (MDA) defeated [WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 7-5 7-6
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) leads [Q] Roman Safiullin (RUS) 3-6 7-5 6-3 7-6

Picture credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 128 wrap: Aussie upsets rule day two

IT was a memorable day for the home nation at the Australian Open, as four more Aussies moved through to the second round of the Grand Slam yesterday. Two of those results were major upsets, with none bigger than wildcard Alexei Popyrin‘s come-from-behind five set win over 13th seed David Goffin. The Australian won 3-6 6-4 6-7 7-6 6-3 in three hours and 43 minutes, hitting 50 winners to 42, and capitalising off his second serve to put the Belgian away.

The result marked Goffin’s second first round exit to start 2021, after going down to Spanish young gun Carlos Alcaraz in the lead-up tournament. Speaking of Alcaraz, he booked his passage into the second round with a comprehensive 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over fellow qualifier, Dutchman Botic Van de Zandschulp. Remarkably there were three all-qualifier battles out on court today, with rising Czech talent Tomas Machac overcoming Spaniard Mario Viella Martinez when leading two sets to one and 3-0 in the fourth before Martinez retired hurt. American Michael Mmoh was the other qualifier to oust a fellow qualifier, defeating Viktor Troicki in a 7-6 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5 in a whopping four hours and six minutes.

For all of Mmoh’s great work, he gets the reward of playing Rafael Nadal in the second round, with the King of Clay shrugging off the talented Laslo Djere in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 6-1. Roman Safiullin was the fourth qualifier to make it through to the next round, toppling Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 6-4 6-3 6-4 to set up a date with Cameron Norrie in the Round of 64. The Brit talent upset his top ranked compatriot Daniel Evans, with the 30th seed coming off his maiden ATP Tour title just two days earlier.

Back on the Australians, 21st seed Alex de Minaur took out 2020 Australian Open quarter finalist, Tennys Sandgren in three sets, 7-5 6-1 6-1 to move through to the Round of 64. Joining him were compatriots Thanasi Kokkinakis who made his successful return via a straight sets win over Soonwoo Kwon, and Christopher O’Connell who stunned German talent Jan-Lennard Struff by saving six break points and only conceding 23 unforced errors in the 7-6 7-6 6-1 victory. The other big upset of the day was Moldovan Radu Albot stunning 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets. Bautista Agut expressed his displeasure in being locked away in quarantine for two weeks, but due to his first round performance can now sightsee for another fortnight, having gone down to Albot 6-7 6-0 6-4 7-6.

Looking at the top seeds, all bar Goffin made it through, with only Karen Khachanov dropping a set – to Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic – and Casper Ruud winning via a Jordan Thompson retirement whilst two sets to love up. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Borna Coric and Lorenzo Sonego breezed through to the second round without dropping a set, while Filip Krajinovic (28th seed) had to go to four sets to win against Dutchman Robin Haase. Aside from Goffin and Evans, the third seed to bow out at the first hurdle was 26th Polish seed, Hubert Hurkacz who went down to Swede Mikael Ymer in five sets after leading two sets to one, 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 6-3.

Of the unseeded battles, There were a number of Americans who made it through in Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald joining Mmoh in the next round, while Spanish trio Feliciano Lopez, Pablo Andujar and Roberto Carballes Baena all made it into the Round of 64. Elsewhere, Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas set up a second round date with di Minaur, while South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, Italian Salvatore Caruso, Brazillian Thiago Monteiro and Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis all won their respective singles matches.

Looking to day three, it will be a mini-ATP Cup style battle between Canada and Australia when Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime take on Bernard Tomic and James Duckworth respectively with the winners of those clashes to face off. Nick Kyrgios will have a stern test against 29th seed Ugo Humbert, while Alex Bolt also takes on a seed in 18th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. A couple of exciting matches to watch out for include 32nd seed Adrian Mannarino up against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, while another Serbian Dusan Lajovic takes on Alexander Bublik. Top seed Novak Djokovic will look to fend off the Americans as he takes on Frances Tiafoe in the second round before facing the winner of 27th seed Taylor Fritz, and his compatriot Reilly Opelka.

ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-3 6-4 6-1
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 6-2 6-2 6-4
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-3 6-3 6-4
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6 7-5 6-3
Radu Albot (MOL) defeated [12] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-7 6-0 6-4 7-6
[WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [13] David Goffin (BEL) 3-6 6-4 6-7 7-6 6-3
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-3
[19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [WC] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 6-3 6-7 7-6 6-4
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 7-5 6-1 6-1
[22] Borna Coric (CRO) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-3 7-6 7-5
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 6-3 2-1 RET
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [26] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 6-3
[28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Robin Haase (NED) 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [30] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-4 4-6 6-4 7-5
[31] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Sam Querrey (USA) 7-5 6-4 6-4
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [Q] Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) 6-1 6-4 6-4
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated [Q] Quentin Halys (FRA) 6-4 7-5 7-5
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) defaeted [WC] Sumit Nagal (IND) 6-2 7-5 6-3
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated Attila Balazs (HUN) 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-3
Salvatore Caruso (ITA) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Pablo Cuevas (URU) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-2
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [LL] Mikael Torpegaard (DEN) 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-4 6-1 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated [WC] Li Tu (AUS) 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-4
[Q] Tomas Machac (CZE) defeated [Q] Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) 6-7 7-5 6-0 3-0 RET
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
[Q] Michael Mmoh (USA) defeated [Q] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 7-6 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated Andrej Martin (SVK) 7-6 6-1 6-2
[WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 7-6 6-1
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 7-6 6-4
[Q] Roman Safiullin (RUS) defeated Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-4 6-3 6-4

Picture credit: Brandon Malone/AFP

Vesely too stong for Sandgren as Finn young gun destroys local hope

CZECH Jiri Vesely has outclassed fifth seed American Tennys Sandgren in an hour and 40 minutes in the first round at the Astana Open in Nur-Saltan, Kazakhstan. The pair fought hard but Vesely’s record on indoor hard courts over the years proved too much, downing the seed 6-4 7-6 to advance through to the Round of 16.

Vesely saved all five break point opportunities whilst breaking for the only time in the match between the big servers, just once from four chances. Both players were dominant on serve with Vesely serving nine aces and winning 72 per cent of his points on both first and second serve, while Sandgren won 84 per cent of his first serve points, but only 46 per cent of his second serve points. There was only five points difference between them in the end, but the Czech made it through in straight sets, winning in a nervous 9-7 second set tiebreaker.

“It was a very tough match, as Tennys has had very good results on hard courts,” Vesely said post-match. “He was a tough opponent for the first round, but I’ve been feeling good. I just focused on my serve and waited for my chance. The surface is pretty fast, so it’s difficult to return and I waited for one or two chances in the tie-break. I was a little bit lucky at the end.”

Vesely now takes on Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, who won just his third main draw match since the ATP Tour’s return in August yesterday, defeating South African Lloyd Harris. He served one less ace (8-9), but won three more points on serve than this opponent in a neck-and-neck three set contest. Gerasimov won 6-3 3-6 7-6. Both player broke three times in the two hours and one minute contest, but it came down to the deciding tiebreaker which the Belarusian took out 7-3. The win actually saw him ironically leapfrog Harris to one spot above the South African, into 81st overall.

Meanwhile Next-Gen talent, Finn Emil Ruusuvuori showed he he a bright future with a dominant 6-2 6-0 smashing of Kazakhstan teenager, Timofey Skatov. The 21-year-old Finn needed just 60 minutes to win 6-2 6-0 over the world 438, serving four aces and only dropping one point on his first serve. He broke six times from 12 chances and won 69 per cent of the overall points in a very one-sided affair. Now Ruusuvuori will go on to take on sixth seed Australian, Jordan Thompson.

In the other results, Japanese qualifier Yugita Sugita and Italian wildcard Andreas Seppi both won through in hard-fought three-set contest. Sugita won 6-1 5-7 6-4 against fellow qualifier Damir Dzumhur, while Seppi stepped up to knock out Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, 6-3 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 57 minutes on court.

In some bizarre fixturing, the last two Round of 32 match takes place tomorrow at night local time involving the two best Kazakh hopes. Sixth seed Alexander Bublik and American Mackenzie McDonald go head-to-head following an evening clash between Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin and Argentinian Federico Delbonis. Earlier in the day, second seed Miomir Kecmanovic enters the draw against another American in Frances Tiafoe, while Fernando Verdasco takes on fourth seed John Millman. On the other court, seventh seed Tommy Paul faces Macedonian Radu Albot, while Vesely meets Gerasimov.

Picture: Getty Images

2020 ATP Astana Open preview: Paire and Kecmanovic lead field in Kazakhstan

WHILST the world’s top ATP Tour players are battling it out in Austria, a number of mid-tier talents will hope to win the penultimate ATP 250 event in Kazakhstan starting today. The 28-player hard court event is another new event on the calendar, taking place in Nur-Sultan and named the Astana Open. The top ranked player is Frenchman Benoit Paire at 27th in the world, with Miomir Kecmanovic (39th), another Frenchman in Adrian Mannarino (41st) and Australian John Millman (44th) all receiving a bye as the top four seeds in the event.

Of that quartet Kecmanovic is the best chance to lift the trophy with the second seed at a career-high 39th in the world following his triumph in Kitzbuhel back in September. The only issue is that since run to his maiden title – that realistically only featured one top 60 player in the long-term injured returnee in Kei Nishikori – he has had one win in four matches. He was blown out of the water in Paris against Diego Schwartzman, winning just four games in three sets, whilst also suffered losses to Yoshihito Nishioka (Rome Masters) and Cameron Norrie (St Petersburg), both of whom he should realistically beat.

The sole win – over 88th ranked Mikhail Kukushkin – in Russia should give him some confidence, but he needs to find the form that saw him upset Alex de Minaur on hard court back in February. For all the talent the 21-year-old has, he was 1-3 in Grand Slams this year, despite a healthy 15-9 record in 2020. In this field he should be a real chance with either Frances Tiafoe or Corentin Moutet in the second round, then potentially Australian Open quarter finalist Tennys Sandgren or the in-form Lloyd Harris in the quarter finals.

Millman is another good chance if he can perform to his potential on hard court. He is not one that will regularly beat the top players, but everyone at this tournament is beatable for the consistent performer, and his draw is very soft running into the semis. He might have landed in the same half as Kecmanovic, but compatriot James Duckworth, and rising American Tommy Paul loom as his biggest challenges towards the final four. His form has been poor though, losing to his doubles partner in Jordan Thompson in three sets back in Kitzbuhel, as well as a five-set loss to Tiafoe at New York after a stunning upset over Georgian seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Since almost triumphing over Roger Federer at Melbourne Park, Millman has won just five games in 13 matches and was blown out of the water by the lowly Mischa Zverev (268th) at Cologne a couple of weeks back, 6-1 6-4. Luckily for him, Paire’s form has been even worse. A win over Korean Soonwoo Kwon in Paris interrupted a string of five losses since returning to the ATP Tour, but even so, he was 6-1 before losing in Auckland to Ugo Humbert and has gone 4-11 since then in a disastrous result for the top 30 player.

His compatriot in Mannarino has not faired any better. A third round at New York looked promising, but has lost first round at his five other events. This included defeats to Millman, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Milos Raonic, Dusan Lajovic and most recently in St Petersburg, the 141st ranked Ilya Ivashka. Since his loss to Alexander Zverev in the US Open, Mannarino has failed to win a set, which does not inspire confidence to do well here. With a bye first up and then a qualifier set for the second round, he could not have a smoother run into the final eight. There looms a likely danger man in home nation talent Alexander Bublik.

The 23-year-old is on the move, and while his 14-14 record this year is far from outstanding, the big server has notched up some big wins. After four consecutive first round losses since the COVID-19 return, Bublik reached the quarter finals of Hamburg with wins over Paul, Ramos-Vinolas and Felix Auger-Aliassime before a massive upset at Roland Garros over Gael Monfils. He also reached the second round at St Petersburg defeating Mackenzie McDonald, which will give him confidence seeing as McDonald is his first round opponent in Nur-Saltan.

Aside from Bulik who always remains a threat, you can never discount compatriot Kukushkin, who like Millman, is just a consistent threat regardless of level. He takes on Federico Delbonis in the first round, and then Paire in the second round. A first round encounter between Thompson and the in-form Norrie should be good, as should Harris up against Egor Gerasimov. Whilst many expect Paul to win given it is on hard court, his opponent Stefano Travaglia has been going alright of late and could be poised for an upset.

It might not be the strongest field, but someone outside the top 30 will claim an ATP Tour 250 title and give themselves some confidence heading into 2021 as this will be the final tournament for a number of players who do not play in the Paris Masters.

Picture: ATP World Tour

Evans takes down Khachanov in huge upset to keep British three-peat alive in Antwerp

IT was a mix of styles in both Cologne and Antwerp as the German tournament went largely to plan, whilst a huge upset headlined the Belgian event.

Top seed and tournament favourite Alexander Zverev is within reach of completing the Cologne double having taken out the indoors tournament last week and now into the semi-finals of the championships. He had to fight off a determined eighth seed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to advance through to the semis on a day that was largely predictable.

Zverev won 6-4 6-7 6-4, serving 16 aces and winning 83 per cent of his second serve points off a 65 per cent efficiency. He did produce nine double faults and was far from completely clean, dropping the second set in a tight tiebreaker, 7-5, but bounced back to grind out a tough win in two hours and 40 minutes, breaking four times from 11 chances to his opponent’s two from seven.

“I am in the semi-finals in back-to-back weeks,” Zverev said post-match, “I won last week and I hope I can repeat it this week. It is nice to play in front of a little bit of a crowd. They got me through it as well.”

Now the top seed and home favourite will lock horns with Italian young gun, Jannik Sinner after the teenager bounced back from a game-less second set to win 6-3 0-6 6-4 against determined Frenchman Gilles Simon.

Sinner broke four times from five chances, but it was his determination on serve to save a whopping 16 of 21 chances for his opponent, with three of the five breaks coming in that second set. The Italian had a higher serving efficiency and eon more points on serve and a higher percentage on return, but it was a tough haul through the mid-part of the game.

“He didn’t give me any angles and played down the middle. He was very solid and I tried to play more on his forehand,” Sinner said post-match. “Losing eight games [in a row] can happen, but next time I need to find a solution earlier. He played far better than me in the second set. I got a little emotional in the third set, but I wanted to show that I wanted to win.”

In other results, Argentinian Diego Schwartzman came back from a set down to win against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 2-6 7-6 6-1, whilst fifth seed Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the semis with a 6-3 6-4 triumph over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Both semi-finals are at night tomorrow with Zverev and Sinner locking horns first before Auger-Aliassime and Schwartzman do battle straight afterwards.

COLOGNE CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [8] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-7 6-4
[2] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 2-6 7-6 6-1
[5] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-3 6-4
[WC] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-3 0-6 6-4

Meanwhile in Antwerp, Daniel Evans is gunning to become the third consecutive British winner of the European Open after booking his spot in the semi-finals. Kyle Edmund and Andy Murray have won the event the past two years and now Evans is through to the final four after upstaging third seed Russian Karen Khachanov in a come-from-behind victory, 3-6 7-6 6-4.

Evans was hard to beat on serve, and whilst he is not a huge server, produced four aces and won an elite 84 per cent of his first serve points, as well as more than half of his second serve points. Khachanov is a known big server but could only produce seven aces, and while he also had a 59 per cent serving efficiency, could only capitalist on a lower 75 per cent of his first serve points. He struggled off Evans’ serve and despite winning the same amount of points as Evans (105), went down with the Brit’s second break of the match in the deciding set in two hours and 40 minutes.

“It is nice to play these guys and it is why you play the sport, to play the better players,” Evans said post-match. “I am pretty clear on how I have to play to beat them and that is what I do. “I try and execute that plan and I have done that pretty good against the better guys.”

Now Evans will face Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the semi-finals after the up and comer toppled South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Humbert won 6-3 7-6 in the match for his third win of 2020 against Harris, dominating off his first serve to break two times to won and win 83 per cent of his first serve points alongside seven aces. The tall Harris also did well with five aces from a 75 per cent success rate on his first serve, but struggled off his second serve, winning just six of 17 points.

Meanwhile, Australian Alex de Minaur will take on Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the other semi-final. The eighth seed Australian toppled American qualifier Marcos Giron 6-3 6-0 in 58 minutes, while the fourth seed Dimitrov did not even need to take the court following Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic‘s withdrawal pre-game due to an abdominal strain.

Evans and Humbert are up first in the semi-finals tomorrow afternoon, with de Minaur and Dimitrov following that match.

EUROPEAN OPEN RESULTS:

Daniel Evans (GBR) defaeted [3] Karen Khachanov (RUS) 3-6 7-6 6-4
[4] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [5] Milos Raonic (CAN) W/O
[8] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated [Q] Marc Giron (USA) 6-3 6-0
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-3 7-6

Picture credit: Laurie Dieffebacq

Four seeds proceed to Antwerp and Cologne quarter finals

THE Round of 16 has been complete at both ATP 250 events in Cologne, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium with both competitions seeing a couple of upsets and the latter in particular seeing four close contests. Four seeds remain at both Cologne and Antwerp, with a couple of qualifiers making it to the quarters at the latter tournament.

At Cologne, second seed Diego Schwartzman was the only seed to make it through the day, downing lucky loser Oscar Otte on his way to 6-3 6-2 victory. Unfortunately for homegrown talent Otte, Schwartzman controlled proceedings with ease, with a 71 per cent to 53 per cent winning rate off the first serve telling much of the tale of the 79-minute victory. Otte’s compatriot and competition seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff did not fare much better, winning the first set against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka but failing to control the rest of the match, eventually going down 2-6 6-3 7-6 in what finished as a tight encounter. While Nishioka was marginally more effective on-serve, he weathered Struff’s strong serve – which peaked at 219km/h – better than the German weathered his own slower service games – peaking at 185km/h – to come away with the win.

In the remaining two games, third seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov struggled to get going against Frenchman Gilles Simon, failing to really hit the mark in the first set before fighting back to win the second. Ultimately though, Shapovalov was unable to capitalise on his opportunities in the 6-1 4-6 6-2 effort. Despite the fight back, Simon was clinical and led much of the stats, winning 64 per cent of his service points and 51 per cent on the return to win in under two hours, handed a plethora of points through Shapovalov’s 13 double faults. Meaanwhile, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner downed French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert in just 75 minutes, coming away with the quickest win of the day 6-3 6-1.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated [7] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 2-6 6-3 7-6
[2] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated [LL] Oscar Otte (GER) 6-3 6-2
Gilles Simon (FRA) defeated [3] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-1 4-6 6-2
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [Q] Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-3 6-1

It was a day of close results at Antwerp and unfortunately for the host nation, things did not go Belgium’s way with both first seed David Goffin and young wildcard Zizou Bergs knocked from contention. The former was defeated in straight sets by American qualifier Marcos Giron, with a slow start limiting his ability to get over the line in the 6-3 7-5 battle. The one-hour and 40-minute affair saw Giron be much more consistent in his first top 20 win, and while he only won 61 per cent of his overall service points he was able to back up his first serve (67 per  cent efficiency) with his second (52 per cent) while Goffin struggled in comparison (63 per cent and 38 per cent). Goffin’s young compatriot was unlucky to draw third seed and in-form Russian Karen Khachanov, and while Bergs put up a tough fight it was not enough to proceed to his maiden tour-level quarter final, going down 5-7 6-4 6-4 in almost two and a half hours. The close battle saw Khachanov win just five more points overall, marginally leading off service and return efficiency.

American seventh seed Taylor Fritz was not quite as lucky as compatriot Giron, going down to qualifier Lloyd Harris who has proved to be in good form with his second quarter finals berth in two weeks. With 12 aces for zero double faults, Harris was cleaner than his hard-hitting opposition in the 7-5 7-6 match, and while his second serve faltered (47 per cent effectiveness) his 82 pr cent winning rate off his first serve more than made up for it. The final match of the round saw fifth seed Canadian Milos Raonic reign supreme over Britain’s Cameron Norrie, with the same close 7-5 7-6 result played out and Raonic’s  whopping 19 aces the significant gamechanger here.

ANTWERP ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [1] David Goffin (BEL) 6-3 7-5
[3] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [WC] Zizou Bergs (BEL) 5-7 6-4 6-4
[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 7-5 7-6
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [7] Taylor Fritz (USA) 7-5 7-6