Tag: Rafael Nadal

Zverev wins second Madrid trophy in style

ALEXANDER Zverev has come from behind to down opponent Matteo Berrettini in the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open final yesterday, claiming his fourth ATP Masters 1000 trophy. The German fifth seed dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker after holding a set point, came out with vigour after that to win 6-7 6-4 6-3.

It was the Italian eighth seed’s first ever ATP Masters 1000 final, and whilst he started strongly and held his nerve in the opening tiebreaker, he could not halt the rampaging Zverev, who knocked off the two best clay courters in the world, in Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem back-to-back at the tournament. It was also Zverev’s third straight Top 10 win, and became the first time Zverev has won consecutive matches at three straight tournaments.

“It is great [to win this title], especially after losing my last three finals I played at Masters 1000 events,” Zverev said post-match. “This is definitely special and I just want to enjoy this one.”

It also marked the second Madrid title he has won after taking out the trophy in 2018, defeating Thiem in the final. He has a 15-2 record at the tournament, having competed in four events, and is his most successful ATP Masters tournaments. Despite Berrettini’s best efforts on serve – producing seven aces to Zverev’s five – and claiming the first set 10-8 in the tiebreaker after facing a set point, it would not be enough as Zverev broke the eighth seed four times to one throughout the contest.

“[Matteo’s] game style showed it all,” Zverev said. “I didn’t play anybody this week that can serve 235[km/h] on clay and serve 230km/h kick serves. It definitely was a different match and I am extremely happy right now.”

Berrettini won 72 per cent of his first serve points off a 67 per cent clip, but was eventually eclipsed by the German, who won 76 per cent at 69 per cent efficiency. Overall the points were fairly even, with Zverev winning 52 per cent of them, but won 37 per cent of his return points to Berrettini’s 31 per cent.

Both players will head to Rome to compete in another ATP Masters 1000 event, where the sixth seeded Zverev will face the winner of either Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, or Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien in the Round of 32. Berrettini is seeded ninth at the event, meaning he has to take on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Round of 64, before a second round clash with the winner of Australia’s John Millman or Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

MADRID MASTERS FINAL RESULT:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 6-7 6-4 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Zverev stuns Nadal on clay for third straight win over top seed

ALEXANDER Zverev has found the winning formula to defeating Rafael Nadal, and it has now stretched to the clay courts, defeating the top seed Spaniard in straight sets to book a 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 semi-finals spot. The German fifth seed backed up his wins in the 2019 ATP Finals and 2020 Paris Masters with a third straight win in the Madrid Masters, but this victory was different. It was back on clay and in Nadal’s home nation, where the King of Clay is near-unbeatable. By the time the match ended, Zverev had won 6-4 6-4, coming back from 2-4 down in the first set to post the win in one hour and 44 minutes.

“[It is] definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said post-match. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

The German served four aces, won 82 per cent of his first serve points, and broke Nadal three times to one during the match to secure his spot in the last four. Zverev won here in 2018, and holds a 13-2 record, also not dropping a set thus far in the 2021 edition. In the 2018 final, Zverev knocked off Dominic Thiem, which was the only time the German has been the third seed Austrian on clay. Thiem has an 8-2 head-to-head record against Zverev, and 4-1 on clay including the memorable come-from-behind five-set US Open final.

“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. “I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. “I am looking forward to the match.”

Thiem had to get himself out of trouble after losing the first set and having to save several break points in the fifth game of the second set to remain in the contest against American John Isner, going on to post a three-set win. The Austrian broke his opponent in the penultimate game of the match to take out the deciding set and win, 3-6 6-3 6-4 to set up the huge semi-final with Zverev.

“I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve,” Thiem said post-match. “I was a little bit surprised by his return games. I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set].”

Isner served 18 aces without a double fault, and won 77 per cent of his first serve points. He managed to match Thiem on return points off his second serve, but could not convert more than one of his seven break point chances which proved costly. Thiem on the other hand managed to convert the two from four, and won a higher percentage of first serve points (79 per cent).

In the other quarter finals results, eighth seed Italian Matteo Berrettini came from a set down to storm to victory against 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin, not dropping a game in the deciding set to win, 5-7 6-3 6-0. That victory set up a final four meeting with Norwegian Casper Ruud who knocked off Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 7-5 6-1. Zverev and Thiem are up first at 4pm local time ahead of the women’s final between Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, with the Ruud-Berrettini semi-final at night.

MADRID MASTERS 1000 RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[3] Dominic Theim (AUT) defeated John Isner (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 5-7 6-3 6-0
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-5 6-1

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Even seeds fail as odds fall the way of victory

THE Round of 16 has well and truly begun at the Madrid Open, as competitors backed up a huge second round of event yesterday with little break as the third round got underway. Whilst the King of Clay retained the mantle with another win, three top 10 seeds fell in a big day on the clay.

It appeared as though every other seed proceeded to the quarter finals in an intriguing day of action, as the odd seeds in Rafael Nadal (first seed), Dominic Thiem (third), and Alexander Zverev (fifth) reigned supreme, whilst the evens in Daniil Medvedev (second), Stefanos Tsitsipas (fourth) and Andrey Rublev (sixth) failed to proceed to the next round.

Two of the major results of the day saw Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev both bundled out, with those two encounters the only three-setters of the day. It was 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin who claimed the scalp of Medvedev, with the equal-biggest win of his career coming in the two and a half hour, 6-4 6-7 6-1 matchup. Whilst Medvedev broke back in the second to win the tiebreaker 6(2)-7, Garin’s overall service game efficiency paid off winning 71 per cent of his service points compared to Medvedev’s 62 per cent, whilst also claiming the ascendancy on return. For Rublev, it was American John Isner who spoiled the party with a 7-6 3-6 7-6 victory in just over two hours. Realistically, Rublev just could not compete with Isner on serve, as the hard-hitter piled on 29 aces to claim easy points, and while Rublev actually led service efficiency and won more off his serve (82 per cent compared to 68 per cent), Isner rallied when it mattered to win both the first and third set tiebreakers.

“I’m very happy,” Isner said post-match. “I wasn’t the better player out there today; I did win the match. “My serve kept me in it. “There’s a reason he’s won so many matches this year.”

“It’s a nice feather in my cap right now with my ranking being a little bit lower,” Isner said. “I haven’t played much since the tour stopped last year. “I think this is my only seventh event. I haven’t had many matches. “But to beat a guy like that, maybe being a little bit undercooked, is a very special moment for me.”

“It is my favourite clay court probably,” Isner said. “It has an indoor feel even though it’s not fully indoors. It’s got a great sound to it. “The court is fast. “To me it doesn’t seem like there’s too much clay on the court so, of all the clay courts I play on, it plays closest to a hard court of any of them. “The altitude in Madrid just really helps my serve. “The ball goes through the air very fast. You put all those things together, it’s a good recipe for me to do some damage on serve.”

The third upset of the day saw Casper Ruud scored a big win over Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6 6-4, as the Norwegian marginally claimed victory winning the same amount of points, but fortunate to retain the upper hand throughout the close contest.

“He is one of the best players this year on the Tour, one of the ones who has won the most matches. He’s won his first Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo. Barcelona he was very close to getting the title there, as well,” Ruud said post-match. “But the conditions are a bit different here than other clay courts with the fast shots, the ball traveling faster through the air because of the altitude. You get a lot of free points with the serve that you don’t usually [get] on the clay courts. I think that also today went a bit in my advantage.

“I felt like he was doing some mistakes that he doesn’t always do. I was just trying to take care of the chances that I got.”

Nadal and Thiem disposed of a couple of Australians, downing qualifier Alexei Popyrin and top ranked Aussie Alex de Minaur respectively, and rather significantly at that. Nadal was always going to be a huge challenge for Popyrin, who was outclassed 6-3 6-3 in 79 minutes by the Spaniard, who was far more consistent. To Popyrin’s credit he hit seven more aces and won 83 per cent of his first serve points to lead Nadal, however it was the King of Clay’s ability to both save (five from six) and convert break points (four from six) that allowed him to overrun Popyrin and keep down the unforced errors. Meanwhile the matchup between Thiem and De Minaur may have started close but saw Thiem break even in the second, retaining control and forcing errant hits from the Australian.

Fifth seed Zverev joined the winners list with a dismissal of Daniel Evans, whilst eighth seed Matteo Berrettini continued his solid form on clay with a straight sets victory over Federico Delbonis and Alexander Bublik downed a third Russian in Aslan Karatsev to head into the quarter finals.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: 

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 6-4 6-7 6-1
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-6 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 7-6 6-4
[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 7-6
John Isner (USA) defeated [6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 7-6 3-6 7-6
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-4
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-4 6-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Two of three seeds fall on second day at Madrid

TWO seeds fell on the official second day of competition at the 2021 ATP Mutua Madrid Open in Spain, whilst a couple of qualifiers and a young gun wildcard also proceeded through to the second round.

It was qualifier Argentinian Federico Delbonis that overcame 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta on home soil, dropping the first set to the Spaniard before biting back in the second and retaining control from there on out. The two hour encounter saw Delbonis marginally lead for efficiency on his first and second serve winning rates despite Carreno Busta being cleaner on serve, resulting in the 3-6 6-4 6-3 finish. Meanwhile, South African Lloyd Harris out-hit Grigor Dimitrov, piling on 12 aces to three in the two and a half hour, 6-3 3-6 7-6 contest. The two players could not be split throughout, with the third set tiebreaker showcasing just how tight the matchup was, as both players completed the match winning the same amount of points throughout (104).

The only seed to win on the day was 16th seed Cristian Garin, who ousted a second Spaniard in Fernando Verdasco, while qualifiers Carlos Taberner and Pablo Andujar also fell on home soil, taken down by Italian Fabio Fognini and American Marcos Giron, respectively.

It was not all bad news for Spaniards though, as young gun Carlos Alcaraz proceeds to the second round after disposing of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets, 6-4 6-0, to set up a clash with compatriot and clay champion Rafael Nadal in the Round of 32.

“I started the match a little bit nervous,” Alcaraz said. “I tried to play aggressive to get the nerves out and tried to enjoy playing here, in front of a big crowd in Madrid.”

“For me, [to] play against Rafa is a dream come true,” Alcaraz said. “Since I was a kid, I wished to play a match against Rafa and now I will be able to here [on] the Centre Court of La Caja Magica in Madrid. It is a really special match against Rafa.”

Still only 17-years-old – until next week – Alcaraz pulled off 19 forehand winners against Mannarino, and won an impressive 81 per cent of his first serve points to claim victory.

The remaining four matches saw two more French competitors fall to join Mannarino on the sideline, as Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev pulled off a 7-5 6-4 victory over Ugo Humbert while Daniel Evans overcame a fighting Jeremy Chardy in a two hour and 46-minute classic, 7-6 6-7 6-2, piling on 13 aces for one double fault in the process, compared to Chardy’s four for six. The remaining two matches went the way of John Isner and Dominik Koepfer, with plenty of intriguing matchups coming in the coming days.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated [10] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 3-6 6-4 6-3
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [13] Grigor Dimitrov (HUN) 6-3 3-6 7-6
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [WC] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-1 6-4
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 6-7 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated [Q] Carlos Taberner (ESP) 7-6 2-6 6-3
John Isner (USA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 7-6
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 7-5 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4 6-4
[WC] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [Q] Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5

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 escapes against Nishikori as seeds advance in Barcelona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: 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