Tag: Novak Djokovic

ATP Tour wrap: Italians compete well on Rome Day 2

IT was a successful day of action for home nation hopefuls on Day 2 of proceedings at the ATP 1000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Masters Open in Rome, as four Italian talents – including three wildcards – reigned supreme and one claimed victory over the only seed of the day.

It was 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti who claimed a big scalp over top 20 Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz, taking out the first set with ease before the 15th seed was forced to retire early in the second.

“It’s always incredible playing here in Rome,” Musetti said. “It’s a fantastic site here in Foro Italico. Even without a crowd, tonight was really fun.”

Musetti hit 13 winners to two unforced errors in a clean first set before Hurkacz was forced to stop play. He is joined by fellow teen Jannik Sinner and other compatriots Gianluca Mager and Stefano Travaglia in the second round, while Fabio Fognini fell to a resurgent Kei Nishikori in straight sets. Mager scalped top-ranked Australian Alex De Minaur while both Sinner and Travaglia earned bragging rights over Frenchmen Ugo Humbert and Benoit Paire, as the remaining French talent on the day in Adrian Mannarino was outclassed by an unlikely victor in qualifying Bolivian Hugo Dellien who picked up his first ATP Tour level win for the year in the process.

A couple of lucky losers in Yoshihito Nishioka and Aljan Bedene could not maintain their luck when they were both disposed of in speedy encounters, falling to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and German Jan-Lennard Struff in 56 minutes and 66 minutes, respectively. Taylor Fritz and Aslan Karastev executed excellent straight sets victories and will need to bring that form into their next respective encounters, setting up huge challenges in the second round with matchups set against Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Sinner is dealt with the tough draw of clay champion, Rafael Nadal next up.

“I was really frustrated to give away the early break,” Fritz said following his victory over Brit, Daniel Evans. “He played two pretty good points, then I missed two forehands. I thought I was hitting the ball really well right from the beginning. I just told myself not to get too upset about it, as I was playing well. Dan has been playing well lately, beating Novak in Monte-Carlo, so it’s great to get a strong win. I am going to try my best [against Djokovic].”

“We (Djokovic) played twice on clay in 2018, in Monte-Carlo and Madrid,” Fritz explained. “I got beaten pretty bad those two times. I feel better prepared to play him now, after the match in Australia.”

In other games, Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis, Croatian Marin Cilic and Chilean Cristian Garin all claimed wins on their opening day.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS: 

[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [15] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-4 2-0 RET
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Karen Khachanov (RUS) 3-6 6-4 6-0
[Q] Hugo Dellien (BOL) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 2-6 7-5 6-2
Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 6-2
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [LL] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-0 6-2
Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-5 6-2
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Alex De Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-3
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-2 6-4
Jan Lennard-Struff (GER) defeated [LL] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-3 6-1
[WC] Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Dominant dozen for Nadal in Barcelona as Berrettini claims Serbia Open

IT was far from his most dominant Barcelona Open win – facing a championship point and needing three sets to finally lift the trophy – but Rafael Nadal proved too strong for Stefanos Tsitsipas, getting across the line in an epic three hours and 38 minutes. The 6-4 6-7 7-5 was the longest best-of-three ATP Tour final in existence since time started being tracked 30 years ago. For Nadal, it was his twelfth Barcelona Open title and in doing so, took back the world number two spot from Daniil Medvedev.

“I think I never played a final like this in this tournament, so it means a lot to me against a player like him, [after what] he achieved in Monte-Carlo and [that he reached] the final here without losing a set,” Nadal said post-match. “It is an important victory for me. I think I have been increasing my level during the whole week and this victory confirms it. That’s important for today. “To have the trophy with me here at home means a lot, but at the same time for the future.”

Nadal actually had the chance to close out the match in straight sets, winning the opening set and holding two championship points in the tenth game, only for the Greek talent to rally, force a tiebreaker, win said tiebreaker and then battle it out in the deciding set. The win meant Nadal claimed his 61st ATP Tour title, of which 13 have come from Roland Garros, 12 from Barcelona, 11 from Monte Carlo and nine in Rome (all clay court events).

Prior to the match, Tsitsipas was yet to drop a match on clay, having won all nine matches and not even dropping a set. Nadal understood just how big of a challenge his opponent was, and how he had to dig deep to retain the title, having lost to Tsitsipas in the quarter finals at the Australian Open after being two sets up.

“It’s about accepting the challenge,” Nadal said. “It is about being humble enough to accept that sometimes you are not playing that well and you need to fight for it and you need to try to find solutions every day. That’s what I did.”

There were a massive 242 points played through the epic contest, with just four more points going the way of the top seeded Spaniard, indicating just how even the match was. Nadal broke four times from 12 chances, which was two more than Tsitsipas who had 13 opportunities. With a 55 per cent second serve success rate, Nadal was well ahead of Tsitsipas (43 per cent) to make up for a marginally lower first serve success rate (69 to 74 per cent).

Meanwhile in Serbia, Matteo Berrettini ended the run of third seed Aslan Karatsev, with the Russian fresh off a massive win over world number one Novak Djokovic. The Italian has struggled the last couple of years since winning Stuttgart back in 2019, Berrettini claimed a three-set win, 6-1 3-6 7-6 in two hours and 30 minutes. It all looked to be going swimmingly early, but then Karatsev rallied in the second set to force a decider, which went all the way to the tiebreak. There, the Italian showed no mercy, winning all seven points to stroll to victory after a tough battle.

For Berrettini, it was a special moment, marking the first time his family members had see him win an ATP Tour title – the fourth of his career – live, when the make the trip to the Novak Tennis Centre. They saw their son put up 10 aces and take control when it counted to claim the win.

“It was something that I really wanted to happen, because my dad came once in Munich when I lost the final (l. Garin). And my mom has never come for a final,” Berrettini said post-match. “So I was like, okay this is the right moment. And I think with a match like this it’s going to stick in our minds forever. It’s something special.

“I remember this same kind of match, 7-6 in the third, in the finals of an Under-16 in Germany. And it’s crazy, because in the end it’s the same feeling. I was a kid and now I’m a pro, but it’s the same feeling. They [have] supported me since the day I was born, so it’s a great honour to bring them to these kinds of stages.”

BARCELONA OPEN FINAL:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-4 6-7 7-5

SERBIA OPEN FINAL:

[2] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [3] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-1 3-6 7-6

Picture credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Karatsev stuns Djokovic in enormous Serbia Open upset

NOVAK Djokovic was not only the sentimental favourite in his home tournament of the Serbia Open, but the raging one as well, as only one other Top 20 player was at the event with the world number one. Unfortunately he ran into a Russian rank in the form of world number 28, Aslan Karatsev whose 2021 form could be an incredible movie.

The 27-year-old Russian came into 2021 with an ATP Tour record of 3-10 across his entire career, but soon caught the eyes – and hearts – of the world with a stunning run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open. In just three months, he had not only tripled his total ATP Tour wins, but balanced the ledger and moved ahead to a 17-14 record heading into the ATP 250 Serbia Open.

Having lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-final, Karatsev had to pull out every trick in the book to kept powering away at the world number one’s wall, to win in a whopping three hours and 25 minutes. The Russian’s win was the longest match of the season in a non-Grand Slam event, and he managed to save 23 of the 28 break point opportunities created by Djokovic to win 7-5 4-6 6-4 at the stadium named after his opponent, the Novak Tennis Centre.

“It was a long, tough match [against a] tough opponent,” Karatsev said post-match. “You have to put [in] like 200 per cent to beat this guy, it’s like playing against a wall. And he also made some good shots. “He doesn’t give you any free points. “He always makes you play and you have to be always there because once you miss a couple of shots, he just takes it very quickly. “That’s how I lost the second set.”

For the world number one, it was a disappointing result and knew it meant he missed on a potential third trophy at the event.

“You never like losing at home, that is for sure. It is disappointing. I don’t feel so great now but, at the same time, I have to congratulate Karatsev who played very bravely,” Djokovic said post-match. “Whenever he needed to come up with the best shots, he did. Congratulations to him. [It was an] awesome performance from his side.”

Now Karatsev will face second seed Matteo Berrettini for the title after the Italian ended the run of Japanese lucky loser Taro Daniel in three sets. Berrettini had some incredibly one-sided sets either side of a tight tiebreaker to put away his opponent, 6-1 6-7 6-0. The match lasted two hours and seven minutes, with the Italian second seed serving up 10 aces and winning 79 and 60 per cent of his first and second serves. For Daniel, it was a gallant run to the semi-finals after losing in qualifying, but the world number 126’s luck eventually ran out.

In Barcelona, for all the anticipation and upsets, the two semi-finals went fairly one way as the top two seeds booked their spots in the ATP 500 event. Tournament favourite Rafael Nadal is now one win away from his twelfth title at the event, downing sixth seed compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 6-2. The world number three will face Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, who knocked off Italian young gun Jannik Sinner in a similarly one-way result, 6-3 6-3.

SERBIA OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[3] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 7-5 4-6 6-4
[2] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [LL] Taro Daniel (JPN) 6-1 6-7 6-0

BARCELONA OPEN SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-3 6-2
[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [11] Jannik Sinner (ITA) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Pedja Milosavljevic/AFP via Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Sinner topples Rublev to set up exciting semis

ITALIAN young gun Jannik Sinner has booked his spot in the 2021 Barcelona Open ATP 500 event after defeating the red-hot Andrey Rublev in straight sets. Rublev has been huge at ATP 500 events over the past 18 months, claiming four titles at the level, but it was Sinner who stepped up to knock off the third seed Russian 6-2 7-6 and make his way into the semi-finals.

It was far from his own way, with Sinner needing one hour and 36 minutes to claim victory, including going deep in the second set tiebreaker to salute 8-6 in a nail-biter. Sinner won 63 and 61 per cent of his first and second serves respectively off a 59 per cent clip. Rublev managed the 66 per cent off his first serve, but only 44 per cent off his second, broken three times to one during the match.

“I am trying to get better every week,” Sinner said post-match. “He has played many, many matches already this year and I tried to play my tennis. It was difficult to finish it off. I had three break points at 5-5 [in the second set], which I could not convert, but I’m pleased to win in the end. I am getting more experience in every tournament I play.”

Sinner becomes the youngest Barcelona semi-finalist since 2005 as an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal went on to win the first of his 11 titles. Next up is Stefanos Tsitsipas after the second seed claimed a 6-3 6-3 triumph over Canadian 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime to make it eight unbeaten matches – and 14 consecutive sets – on Tour.

“I think my hard efforts paid off,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “I wouldn’t say it was the best start, but I managed to win my serve from 0/40 down [in the second game]. That got me into the match and that helped me to break him at the end. I didn’t panic, but I knew what I was doing. It feels good to be able to play the way I am. I really hope the winning streak continues.”

The other semi-final will be an all-Spanish affair with top seed Rafael Nadal and sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta making it through in very different circumstances. After struggling through back-to-back three-set wins, Nadal breezed past Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-1 6-4, while Carreno Busta needed the three sets to shake off fourth seed Diego Schwartzman in the match of the day. Carreno Busta won 6-4 3-6 7-5.

Meanwhile over in Serbia, Novak Djokovic did not hold back against friend Miomir Kemanovic, dismissing the eighth seed Serbian in straight sets. The world number one claimed a 6-1 6-3 quarter finals victory to book his spot in the semis, in what was a largely predictable day of action. Second seed Matteo Berrettini defeated fifth seed Serbian Filip Krajinovic in straight sets 6-4 6-4, while third seed Aslan Karatsev knocked off Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager, 6-3 6-4. The biggest upset and run of the tournament is lucky loser Taro Daniel who came from behind to knock off Argentinian Federico Delbonis and book his spot in the final four with a 4-6 6-1 7-5 win.

BARCELONA OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-1 6-4
[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GER) defeated [10] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-3 6-3
[11] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [3] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-2 7-6
[6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [4] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-4 3-6 7-5

SERBIA OPEN QUARTER FINALS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [8] Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-1 6-3
[2] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-4 6-4
[3] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [Q] Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-3 6-4
[LL] Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated Federico Delbonis (ARG) 4-6 6-1 7-5

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Nadal stirred but not shaken by Ivashka in Barcelona

ELEVEN-time Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal had to overcome a bump in the road in the beginning of his quest to a dozen titles at the event, needing three sets to overcome Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka. Nadal dropped the first set 6-3, but soon found his groove to take out the match in two hours and 20 minutes. 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Playing on the Centre Court funnily enough named after himself in Pista Rafa Nadal, the world number three praised the underdog’s efforts early to match it with him and he had to lift his game accordingly to overcome the 111th ranked Belarusian.

“He played well. He played at a very high level, and I didn’t, especially at the beginning,” Nadal said post-match. “And then I think I changed a little bit the way I played. I was more aggressive later, and the match changed a lot. I’m happy I [fought] hard today to be in the third round. That’s what I needed after the loss at Monte-Carlo.”

Yet to lose a match on clay against a qualifier from 38 attempts, Nadal found a way to win, breaking three times to two – both of the latter came in the first set – whilst winning 80 per cent of his first serve points. Ivashka did well to take his chances, but in the end the Nadal consistency was too much, as the Spaniard won 39 per cent of his return points to Ivashka’s 31 per cent.

“I’m sure that I’m going to have the chance to play better, and I’m going to fight for it,” Nadal said. “I have the confidence that I’m not very far [from playing well], even if the last two matches [here and in Monte-Carlo] haven’t been perfect. But here I am, and I am with the right energy to try hard. It’s a process… I’m confident that by working every day I’m going to find [right] the solutions.”

Nadal will now face former Top 5 player Kei Nishikori, who fought through his second straight three-set match to overcome 13th seed and clay court specialist Christian Garin 7-6 4-6 6-1, reversing the pair’s head-to-head from last year at Hamburg where the Chilean won easily. In other results, top seeds Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman all advanced, though the latter was given a scare by American Frances Tiafoe, needing three sets to win, 3-6 7-5 6-1.

It was good news for the Spanish contingent, with sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta, qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles and unseeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas all booking their spots through to the next round. Australian 14th seed Alex de Minaur broke his poor form on clay with a straight sets win over Alexander Bublik, while Corentin Moutet and Felix Auger-Aliassime both won through to the Round of 16.

It was a good day for Serbian fans at the Serbian Open, as three of the four winners hailed from the nation. Top seed Novak Djokovic breezed through past Soonwoo Kwon 6-1 6-3, with fifth seed Filip Krajinovic also smacking his opponent, compatriot and wildcard Nikola Milojevic, 6-1 6-1. Eighth seed Miomir Kecmanovic had a tougher time against French qualifier Arthur Rinderknecht before making his way into the quarter finals, while Italian second seed Matteo Berrettini won 6-4 6-3 over compatriot Marco Cecchinato.

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 3-6 6-2 6-4
[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [WC] Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-0 6-2
[3] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [LL] Federico Gaio (ITA) 6-4 6-3
[4] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 3-6 7-5 6-1
[6] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) defeated [9] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-0 4-4 RET
[10] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated [13] Cristian Garin (CHI) 7-6 4-6 6-1
[14] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-6 6-2
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated [16] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-4 5-7 6-3
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [17] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-4

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-1 6-3
[2] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4 6-3
[5] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [WC] Nikola Milojevic (SRB) 6-1 6-1
[8] Miomir Kemanovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 6-3 3-6 6-3

Picture credit: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Three upsets and a retirement shake up Monte Carlo Masters

A STUNNING three-set upset of Clay Court King Rafael Nadal has Russian up-and-comer Andrey Rublev in a near-unbeatable way, moving through to the semi-finals of the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters ATP 1000 event. Rublev was one of three lower ranked players to win their respective matchups, leaving just him and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas as the only seeds in the final four.

Having never beaten Nadal before and the Spanish star having lifted the trophy in Monte Carlo a casual 11 times, Rublev was by far the underdog despite his rapid rise in the past 12 months. He left nothing out on the court though to inflict only Nadal’s sixth win at the event. He raced out to a 6-2 3-1 lead as if Nadal was a newcomer and Rublev even admitted “it did not feel real”.

“All the situation was strange,” Rublev said post-match. “I mean, [it] was not real that I was winning 6-2, 3-1, having breakpoints for [a] second break. It was not real. Probably inside I understood that something is going to change. It cannot be like this all the match. If it’s like this all the match, then I don’t know, probably Rafa had his worst day of his life.”

Once Nadal hit back to win five of the next six games and take the second set, the momentum was with the third seed and many expected him to go on with it. Instead, Rublev broke him twice for a whopping 5-1 lead in the third, eventually taking the set in eight games to win, 6-2 4-6 6-2 in two hours and 32 minutes.

“I would say this week I am controlling my emotions [really well]. At the end that’s the key,” Rublev said. “If after the second set I would say something or if I would show emotions, for sure the third set will be over, [it] will be 6-2 for him. “So I’m happy that I could handle it.”

Rublev won 12 more points than Nadal (99-87), serving two aces to one, but only one double fault to seven. He won more first serve points (65 per cent to 56 per cent), and converted seven of 15 break points to the Spaniard’s four of 12. Rublev will now go on to face Norwegian Casper Ruud in the semi-finals after Ruud upstaged 15th seed Italian Fabio Fognini.

That was more favourable to the winner with Ruud getting up 6-4 6-3 in 97 minutes of match play. He was consistent off both his first (62 per cent) and second (64 per cent) serves, with Fognini struggling with a 57 and 53 per cent success rate despite a higher clip (67 per cent to 64 per cent). The clay court world number 27 is eyeing off a Top 20 spot with a good run here and the 22-year-old can finally come of age at the event with just one title to his name to-date.

In the other results, Daniel Evans toppled 11th seed David Goffin in a come-from-behind win to mark his fourth victory of the tournament, officially doubling his career wins on clay having entered the 2021 event at just four. He won 5-7 6-3 6-4 and backed up his shock upset of Novak Djokovic in the previous round with the terrific win over Goffin. The Brit will now go on to face Tsitsipas, who only played out the one set prior to his opponent, Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina retiring.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-2 4-6 6-2
[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 7-5 0-0 RET
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated [11] David Goffin (BEL) 5-7 6-3 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4 6-3

ATP Tour wrap: Evans stuns Djoker in Monte Carlos madness

DANIEL Evans has pulled off the greatest win of his ATP Tour career, downing world number one Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters overnight. The Brit, who struggles on the clay normally, somehow knocked off the world’s best player in straight sets, 6-4 7-5. It was not easy, but then no one expected it to be, with Djokovic a past winner in Monte Carlo back in 2013 and 2015.

All the omens were pointing to a Djokovic win, with the Serbian not only a two-time past winner at the event, but unbeaten in 2021 with a 10-0 record heading into the third round match. Evans raced out of the block to win a double-break against Djokovic to stun onlookers, only for the Serbian to hit back and put it back on serve. Another break was all it took for the world number three, who closed out the first set, 6-4.

Djokovic put the foot down early in the second set to break and head to the second change of ends at 3-0 up, before Evans fought back to save a set point at 4-5 and then break twice upon winning the final four games of the match. The contest lasted two hours and nine minutes, but perhaps the most remarkable aspect was the fact it was Evans’ seventh win on clay, ever (his third this tournament). He is not a clay player and while Djokovic also prefers hard court, he has proven to be adaptable on any surface. But it was Evans who never gave in to claim a remarkable victory.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Evans said post-match. “I couldn’t quite believe the last ball went over the net. “It nearly didn’t. “I was pleased, regardless, with how I was playing coming into the match. “I felt good. “You can never be confident coming into such a big match like that against Novak. “It is clearly a big win and I am delighted that I got through, especially being a break down and [having had] little difficulties in the first set. It was really pleasing and I am delighted.

“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win. “I can walk on saying it, but you have really got to believe it. “Of course, I doubted myself in the match. “Serving it out is not easy. “You have got all sorts [of things] running through your head. “I am just happy with how it went and it will be one to savour for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the World No. 1. It is a nice one.”

Evans will now go on to face 11th seed David Goffin, whom he beat in the ATP Cup earlier this year, the only meeting between the pair. Evans’ win was arguably the only major upset of the day, with Goffin causing a minor upset over fifth seed German Alexander Zverev, winning in two tight sets 6-4 7-6, including an epic 9-7 second set tiebreaker. Twelfth seed Pablo Carreno Busta was the only other seed to fall to an unseeded player, going down to clay court specialist Casper Ruud in the match of the day. Both players threw everything at each other during the two-hour and 52-minute clash between Ruud emerged victorious with a 7-6 5-7 7-5 win.

At the other end of the scale, Rafael Nadal brushed aside Grigor Dimitrov like the 14th seed Bulgarian was a rookie on debut, absolutely destroying him 6-1 6-1 in 56 minutes. He only dropped eight points on serve, broke five times from nine chances, and never looked like losing the incredibly one-sided contest on the surface he has dominated for the best part of two decades. The ever-honest Nadal said it was Dimitrov’s errors – which he knew were uncharacteristic of the Bulgarian – that were the deciding factor in the result.

“[I am] sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth,” Nadal said post match. “He made a lot of mistakes. I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

The third seed will now take on sixth seed Alexander Rublev who knocked off ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in an epic three-set contest, 7-6 5-7 6-3. The other results were in straight sets, as fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas accounted for Christian Garin, 15th seed Fabio Fognini defeated Filip Krajinovic, and the lowest ranked winner Alejandro Davidovich Fokina proved too strong for French wildcard Lucas Pouille.

Nadal and Rublev are the final match of the day on Court Rainier III tonight, with Ruud and Fognini the match before. Kicking off the day is the Tsitsipas and Davidovich Fokina clash, whilst Evans and Goffin lock horns in the following match.

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4 7-5
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [14] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 6-1 6-1
[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 6-3 6-4
[11] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [5] Alexander Zverev (GER) 6-4 7-6
[6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 7-6 5-6 6-3
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [12] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 7-6 5-7 7-5
[15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-2 7-6
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA) 6-2 7-6

Picture credit: ATP Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

MONTE CARLO MASTERS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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