Tag: roger federer

ATP Tour wrap: Future of tennis advance across globe

THERE was a distinct feeling of the ATP Tour’s future being on display as the next wave of talent advanced through to the semi-finals in the Noventi Open and Cinch Championships. Whilst one quarter final – between second seed Denis Shapovalov and American Frances Tiafoe – is yet to get underway at London, the other seven events across the two tournaments played out.

At the Cinch Championships, two of the home nation heroes were dumped out of the tournament at the expense of one local talent, as Cameron Norrie advanced through to the semis by defeating compatriot and wildcard Jack Draper. Norrie won 6-3 6-3 to advance through to the final four, with the 25-year-old the second oldest winner on the ATP Tour yesterday. The world number 41 has had a great 2021 season, winning 28 of 40 matches, and needed 86 minutes to dismiss the 19-year-old talent.

”With the conditions, it was very different compared to the last couple of days,” Norrie said post-match. “Jack has been playing some really good tennis, and all credit to him, he was serving big. “I think the slower conditions today suited me a little bit more. I managed to play some really good tennis towards the end of the first set and start of the second.”

“It was not easy as the court was pretty slippery towards the end, but I am really pleased to be through. “I am happy with how I handled everything. It is a lot of fun to have this momentum and keep it rolling, but I think there are a lot of things I can improve on still.”

Norrie will take on the winner of Shapovalov and Tiafoe tomorrow once the pair face off early, whilst the other semi-final will be between a couple of rising stars in top seed Matteo Berrettini and fourth seed Alex de Minaur. Berrettini knocked off sixth seed Brit Daniel Evans, and de Minaur claimed a victory over impressive grass court veteran Marin Cilic, both matches going 7-6 6-3 in tight circumstances.

Over in Germany, fourth seed Andrey Rublev rolled on into the final four, taking out the last remaining home nation talent in Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 6-2. He advanced through to the semis to now face Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili who has already claimed two titles this year in a real brilliant or terrible season boasting a 16-15 win-loss record.

“I am happy with my performance to reach the semi-finals for the first time,” Rublev said post-match. “The first set was really tough. He was 3-0 up in the tie-break and I came back, which was the key. “After the first set, I think he mentally went down and I was pumped up. I hit a couple of good returns in the first game of the second set.”

The pair are 2-2 in the head-to-head battle, whilst another couple of young guns in Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frenchman Ugo Humbert lock horns in the other semi-final. Both giant-killers in the Round of 16, Auger-Aliassime took down grass court legend Roger Federer in a come-from-behind win, as Humbert dislodged tournament favourite Alexander Zverev in a tight three sets. In the quarter finals, the Canadian had an easier time out, rolling past American qualifier Marcos Giron in just 58 minutes, 6-3 6-2, whilst Humbert fought back from losing the second set in a tiebreaker to Sebastian Korda to claim a 6-2 6-7 6-4 win.

“I’ve been playing well these past two weeks, believing in myself a lot and dominating my service games,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “As soon as I got the break [in the first set], I feel like I loosened up and things were just going better and better.

“I don’t think Marcos played his best match, I’ve seen him play great matches before and beat Top 10 opponents… but in the end, I think I was able to put a lot of pressure on him and dictate the points. “So I can be happy with my performance.”

NOVENTI OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-6 6-2
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [Q] Marcos Giron (USA) 6-3 6-2
Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-2 6-7 6-4
[Q] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [6] Daniel Evans (GBR) 7-6 6-3
[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [WC] Jack Draper (GBR) 6-3 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Auger-Aliassime derails Fed Express as seeds slip on grass

FELIX Auger-Aliassime has taken out one of the best grass court players of all-time, defeating Roger Federer in a come-from-behind three-set win at the Noventi Open in Halle, Germany. The unseeded Canadian was one of four winners into the quarter finals at the event, coming back from a first set loss to pounce 4-6 6-3 6-2 over the fifth seed Swiss star in one hour and 45 minutes on court.

Auger-Aliassime served 13 aces to five, and dominated his first serve, only dropping six points for the entire match. Whilst Federer managed to break him and reduced his second serve success rate to 62 per cent, it was still higher than the former world number one, who had a 62 and 53 per cent off his first and second serve winning rate respectively. By comparison, Federer faced 15 break points, and whilst he saved 12 of them, was constantly under pressure from the young Canadian who posted a win over his “childhood idol”.

“It’s a great victory, it’s good for my confidence. It was already a great challenge for me to play a player like Roger, but to beat him, it’s a great thing,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “It makes me really happy. But at the end, it’s the quarter-finals in two days.

“If it was the final, then I’d be really happy… it’s another step in the tournament, it’s a great match, so hopefully I can keep on going like that.”

Auger-Aliassime will now face American qualifier Marcos Giron who upset home nation hero Jan-Lennard Struff in three sets. Despite knocking off the top seed Daniil Medvedev in the Round of 32, Struff was not able to capitalise against Giron who won 6-7 6-3 6-4 in impressive style. It was better news for Struff’s compatriot in wildcard Philipp Kohlschreiber who defeated Frenchman Corentin Moutet in straight sets 6-4 7-6, to face off against fourth seed Russian Andrey Rublev in the next round. Rublev defeated Australian Jordan Thompson in a straightforward 6-4 6-4 match to earn his place in the final eight at Halle.

Meanwhile over in London, a couple of seeds fell and some Great Britain talents moved through in their home event on the grass. The only seed to advance to the quarter finals thus far was fourth seed Alex de Minaur who knocked off compatriot John Millman in straight sets, 6-1 6-3 to book his spot in the next round. Fifth seed Aslan Karatsev and eighth seed Fabio Fognini both fell in the second round, losing to unseeded players Cameron Norrie and Marin Cilic.

“I’m very close to Johnny, so I want him to do as well as possible and would have loved for him to be on the other side of the draw and go deep,” de Minaur said post-match. “In a way, it also brings a certain level of respect towards the match and in some ways it actually helps me. “I can kind of tell myself to be more focused and try to worry about my side of the court more. “I think I handled that very well today and [I am] very happy with my performance.”

Norrie knocked off Karatsev 7-5 6-2 to advance to the quarter finals, while Cilic won in straight sets over Fognini, 6-3 7-6. The Norrie victory was one of two for the home nation to cheer about, as wildcard Jack Draper upset the tricky and unseeded Kazakh Alexander Bublik in two tiebreakers. Draper won 7-5 in the first tiebreaker and 7-0 in the second for a 7-6 7-6 overall win and ability to secure a quarter finals spot.

“A huge win for me and definitely a big step up from my first round on Monday,” Norrie said post-match following his win over Australian Open semi-finalist Karatsev. “All credit to him, he’s having a great year. “He’s won a lot this year, so it’s a huge win for me and another match on the grass. It’s all invaluable stuff.”

NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-4 6-4
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [5] Roger Federer (SUI) 4-6 6-3 6-2
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-7 6-3 6-4
[WC] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-1 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [5] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 7-5 6-2
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [8] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 7-6
[WC] Jack Draper (GBR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-6 7-6

Picture credit: Thomas F. Starke/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Federer makes successful return to grass

THE main draws of grass court tournaments in Halle and London commenced overnight, with players ramping up their preparations for the all-important Wimbledon Championships beginning on June 28. While two of the top seeds banked victories, three other big names were victims of surprising upsets.

Roger Federer made a successful return to grass at the Noventi Open, taking care of qualifier Ilya Ivashka 7-6 7-5. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been vocal about his desire to win in London, and he even withdrew from Roland Garros following his third round victory to assist his preparation. Federer did not lose on serve in this match and said that he enjoyed his first outing on grass since 2019.

“I missed it. I’ve done the hard courts, I’ve done the clay and now [I am] on the grass,” Federer said. “It’s been great being back here in Halle, I love playing here.”

“[I] had a tough moment early on in the first set when he had break points, so that was crucial to get out of those. “And then I played a really good tie-break, which I was happy about. “Overall I think I served very well. “Clearly, I can always be a little bit better, but I’m very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first one.”

Things did not go as smoothly for Roland Garros quarter finalist Roberto Bautista Agut, who bowed out in straight sets against American youngster Sebastian Korda 6-3 7-6. Korda had never previously competed in a tour-level match on grass, so it was important that he played with aggression and confidence against his higher-ranked opponent.

“I think the grass really suits my game,” Korda said. “I’m a big hitter, I try to come into net and be aggressive. In the biggest moments I saved a lot of break points, stayed super calm and I never really backed off. “I kept moving forward, kept going to net and kept doing my thing.”

Seventh seed David Goffin was forced to withdraw from Halle during his clash against Corentin Moutet after slipping and landing awkwardly on his ankle in the opening game of the second set. Although he toughed out the set and had a chance to serve for the match, he could not close it out and was unable to continue after Moutet levelled the match at 1-6 7-5.

At Cinch, Russian world number 24 Aslan Karatsev made his long-awaited tour-level grass court debut and overcame a slow start to get past Chilean lucky loser Alejandro Tabilo 3-6 6-4 6-2. Karatsev did not earn a break point in the opening set but became more comfortable on the surface as the match progressed.

“[It’s] completely different than the other surfaces,” Karatsev said. “It was the first match, a tough opponent, lefty. I got used to it and in the end I found the way to manage it. “The second set was a bit tricky. “I broke him, and then in the third set he started really slowly. “I got used to his serve and I returned everything that I could. “It was easier for me [from there].”

Karatsev will face local 25-year-old Cameron Norrie next, who defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 4-6 6-3 6-4.

British wildcard Jack Draper produced the biggest upset of the day, overcoming third seed Jannik Sinner 7-6 7-6. The world number 309 struck 11 aces and came back from 0-4 down in the opening set to earn the most impressive victory of his young career. After the match, Sinner admitted that Draper was the better player in this contest.

“He understood my game,” Sinner said. “It was a little bit of a rollercoaster and he played the important points better than me. “Today, I was not serving well and I think he deserved to win. “He has more experience than me on the grass and I wish him good luck.”

 

NOVENTI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

(5) Roger Federer (SUI) defeated (Q) Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 7-6 7-5
Sebastian Korda (USA) defeated (6) Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-3 7-6
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated (7) David Goffin (BEL) 1-6 7-5 0-0 (retired)
(Q) Marcos Giron (USA) defeated Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 7-6 7-6
Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated (WC) Daniel Altmaier (GER) 6-2 7-6

CINCH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

(WC) Jack Draper (GBR) defeated (3) Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-6 7-6
(5) Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) 3-6 6-4 6-2
(Q) Victor Troicki (SRB) defeated (7) Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-4 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated (Q) Illya Marchenko (UKR) 6-1 7-6
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated (WC) Liam Broady (GBR) 6-4 6-4
John Millman (AUS) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 7-6 5-7 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 4-6 6-3 6-4

Picture credit: ATP Tour

ATP Tour wrap: Bring on the final eight

EXCITING fourth round action continued at Roland Garros overnight, with headliners Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal gaining victories to become the first ever ATP players to reach 15 French Open quarter-finals.

Djokovic overcame a scare from 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, losing the first two sets before coming back to win 6-7 6-7 6-1 6-0 4-0 in three hours and 27 minutes. Musetti retired with injury in the fifth set due to cramps and lower back pain. The Italian won 85 points in the first two sets with 25 winners, but won just 17 points in the next three sets with only five winners. Errors crept into his game and cost him a chance at a major upset, but Musetti said he has taken plenty from his maiden Grand Slam experience.

“I came here to play my first Grand Slam in the main draw, and I made second week taking two sets against the world number one,” Musetti said. “I think I take away a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions, but [also] a lot of experience. Now I know how can I play, how far I am from the [best players] on the Tour, like Nole. So I know that if I play good I can stay at this level. I will go home, rest a bit, and work for Wimbledon.”

Nadal had a comfortable straight sets victory against another 19-year-old Italian, Jannik Sinner. The Spaniard and four-time defending champion won 7-5 6-3 6-0, eliminating Sinner from the Roland Garros for a second straight year. Sinner had a chance to serve for the first set at 5-4, but Nadal thwarted that opportunity and controlled the remainder of the contest. After the match, the 13-time French Open champion said he was happy with his response in that situation.

“From that moment [at 4-5 in the first set] to 7-5, 4-0 [in the second] I think I played a very good level of tennis,” Nadal said. “Then again, [I made a] couple of mistakes and he played well, honestly. [From] 4-3 until that moment to the end of the match, I think I played great.”

Nadal has now remarkably won his last 34 matches and 35 sets at Roland Garros. His next challenge will be Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.

Schwartzman, who entered the French Open on a four-match losing streak, has not lost a set in the tournament and took care of German Jan-Lennard Struff overnight 7-6 6-4 7-5. His clash with Nadal will mark his fifth career quarter-final and his third at Roland Garros. Schwartzman is ecstatic with his current form, particularly given his poor play in the lead up to the tournament.

“I love this country, I love Paris, I think my best tennis is always here,” Schwartzman said. “It was not a good clay season, but when I came the first day here, I was feeling very well again. I’m very happy to be back, very happy to be in the quarter-finals again. I’m not very happy to maybe play Rafa in the next round, but let’s see what happens this time.”

One less match was played overnight than originally scheduled due to Swiss superstar Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the event on Monday. The 20-time Grand Slam champion released a statement on Twitter to alert fans of his decision.

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” Federer said. “After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation, it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery. I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

Federer stated in the lead up to the tournament that his goal was to win on grass rather than clay, so we should have seen a decision like this coming. Although Federer’s withdrawal is a huge disappointment for tennis fans, it should mean that the 39-year-old will be fit and raring to go at Wimbledon in just over two weeks’ time.

It also means that Italian Matteo Berrettini automatically advances to the quarter-finals and will face-off against Djokovic on Wednesday night. While the Serbian has a 24-3 record for the season so far, he knows that he will have his work cut out against the world number nine.

“[He has a] big serve, big forehand – two big weapons,” Djokovic said. “He’s in form, he finished last year very strong. He started this year strong as well, beating Dominic Thiem in Australia, playing [a] really good ATP Cup. He just has so much firepower in his game. [I will] need to be at [my] best in order to have a chance to win.”

In their one previous head-to-head meeting at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic defeated Berrettini 6-2 6-1.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-7 6-7 6-1 6-0 4-0
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-5 6-3 6-0
[10] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 6-4 7-5
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [8] Roger Federer (SUI) W/O

Picture credit: Philippe Montigny/FFT

ATP Tour wrap: Seeds remain untouchable as Italian trio prevails

AN enticing Round of 16 is set at the 2021 Roland Garros tournament, with the men’s draw completing its Round of 32 yesterday boasting six seeded wins and little doubt in the top players’ ability to continue their runs. Meanwhile, two Italian teens joined a seeded compatriot in the fourth round.

It was a predictable day for world number one Novak Djokovic and dominant clay champion Rafael Nadal, with the duo both claiming straight set victories to head into the Round of 16. Djokovic required over an hour and a half to dispose of Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis 6-1 6-4 6-1, as Nadal took slightly more time, just over two hours, to defeat Brit Cameron Norrie. In doing so, he advances to the fourth round at a grand slam for the 50th time.

“Today I had in front [of me] a player [who is] having a great season,” Nadal said. “I went on court knowing that could be a tough match, and for moments [it was] like this. I’m happy to win in straight sets. I think I did what I had to do. For moments, I played well. I think [I played] a good first set. Then for moments I need to do things better, but I am confident that I can do it.”

“I don’t think I [was] returning unbelievable today,” Nadal said. “I just returned okay. But then I was solid from the baseline to put one more ball in and to make him play.”

Nadal will take on one of two up-and-coming teenaged Italians that have made it to the Round of 16, following 18th seed Jannik Sinner‘s defeat of Swede Mikael Ymer 6-1 7-5 6-3 to have a chance at opposing the Spaniard once more. The two met during the quarter finals here last year, with the clay champion reigning supreme on his way to the 2020 title. The second in Lorenzo Musetti claimed his maiden five set 3-6 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory over compatriot Marco Cecchinato to head into the fourth round, but has a just as daunting task set as he looks toward a clash with world number one, Djokovic.

“We know each other a little bit. [We] never played [a match] and it’s going to be the first time, [which is big], especially in a Grand Slam,” Musetti said about taking on Djokovic. “So for sure there is going to be a little bit of tension, but I think that is what I’ve been working for since my childhood. All the sacrifice and hard work I did in my childhood became reality now. So I’m just enjoying the moment and I will try to do my best.”

Meanwhile, Roger Federer overcame a hungry Dominik Koepfer to head into the fourth round, denying the German left-hander a chance at a second week berth. In different conditions – his maiden Roland Garros night session, and with no spectators due to a COVID-19 warranted curfew – Federer had the class to outdo Koepfer and claim the 7-6 6-7 7-6 7-5 win in three hours and 35 minutes.

“My fighting spirit got me over the line,” Federer said. “You’ve got to love what you do, and I do.”

“I probably would have struggled a great deal (without spectators) when I was a teenager or a young player, because for me, practice was not really what I loved doing at all. I actually really disliked it, and for me it was all about the matches and atmosphere and playing for something.”

Intriguingly, Federer struck more unforced errors (63-40) and less winners (51-55) throughout the contest, however claimed a whopping 72 per cent of net points and was marginally better on the return.

“I wasn’t sure after the second set how much was left in the tank, so it was a good battle until then,” Federer said. “I feel like I needed to maybe pace myself ever so slightly at that moment, especially emotionally, of not pressing too hard and wanting it too badly.”

“I clearly hadn’t practiced three hours 35, because that’s obviously always pushing it. I pushed as much as I could, as we thought reasonable. But this today was a huge step forward for the team, and for all of us. I didn’t expect to be able to win three matches here,” he added.

“Roger is Roger,” Koepfer told German press after the match. “Unbelievable what he does at the age of 39. He plays very good tennis and is incredibly fit. He played better in the deciding moments.”

Ninth seed Italian Matteo Berrettini was also victorious, rounding out the Italian winners to three following his sweep of Korean Soonwoo Kwon, as 10th seed Diego Schwartzman downed another German in Philipp Kohlschreiber, while Jan-Lennard Struff turned the German tides with his 6-4 7-6 6-2 sweep of Spanish qualifier Carlos Alcaraz, putting an end to the teenager’s sensational run.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS: 

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-1 6-4 6-1
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-3 6-3 6-3
[8] Roger Federer (SUI) defeated Dominik Koepfer (GER) 7-6 6-7 7-6 7-5
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 7-6 6-3 6-4
[10] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-4 6-3 6-1
[18] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-1 7-5 6-3
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 3-6 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-3
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated [Q] Carlos Alcaraz 6-4 7-6 6-2

Picture credit: Philippe Montigny/FFT

ATP Tour wrap: Rafa downs Gasquet for 17th time as Alcaraz impresses

IT was a fairly convincing day of action on Day 5 of the Roland Garros, with all men’s matches completed by the end of the fourth set although a smattering of lower seeds succumbed to hungry opponents in the Round of 64. Meanwhile, a teen talent made it through the second round with hopes to continue his great form on clay.

It was no worries for the three top 10 seeds of the day, with Novak DjokovicRafael Nadal and Roger Federer all making it through to the second round relatively unscathed, with only Federer dropping a set on his way to the Round of 32. Djokovic hit 31 winners against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in their first encounter to reign supreme, while Nadal claimed a 35th birthday win in his 6-0 7-5 6-2 disposal of Richard Gasquet – a whopping 17th time beating the Frenchman.

“Of course it’s better to win 16 in a row than lose 16 in a row,” Nadal said. “When you go to the match and you have been winning all the last 16 times, of course the confidence is a little bit higher than when you have a tougher head-to-head.

“Being honest, I respect (and) I know how good is Richard. “I know he’s coming back after a tough period of time. “I think he played smart, playing aggressive. “I don’t know. “I just went on court with highest respect, with the highest focus possible, and that’s what I try to do every day against everyone.”

“I’m playing well, feeling great. I’m ready to go deep in this tournament,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully that’s going to be the case. “But I’ll take it match by match, and so far the two matches that I have played have been played in a high quality.

“I’m pleased with the performance today, particularly against a very good player, a specialist on clay, someone I have never faced before. [He] has got a lot of spin,” Djokovic said. “[He hits] just a very difficult ball to handle in these kind of conditions when it’s a bit warmer… These balls during the day are bouncing really high.”

“I still do believe there’s no way I’m going to go really, really super deep here or go past the Novak section,” Federer said.

“The first round I didn’t surprise myself per se, but now in the second round, I did,” Federer said. “Now can I keep it up and how will the body react? We’ll see. The mind is getting stronger, I can feel it. I have more clarity, I have more confidence growing in me.”

“I feel like I surprised myself a little bit,” Federer told Tennis Channel. “I didn’t expect myself to play that well or to have the energy left at the end like this and being able to keep on serving so consistently at the end was great.”

Meanwhile, ninth, 10th and 18th seeds Matteo BerrettiniDiego Schwartzman and teen Jannik Sinner all proceeded, while the likes of Gael Monfils (14th seed), Alex de Minaur (21st), Aslan Karatsev (24th) and Taylor Fritz (30th) all failed to proceed with all four only able to steal one set in their respective losses.

One of the biggest wins of the day, however, went to teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who downed the day’s remaining seed in Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets, 6-4 6-2 6-4, in just under two hours.

“Obviously it’s good, the numbers, but I still focus on me,” Alcaraz said. “That means that I’m going the right way. I am doing the right things, and I keep [doing] this. I’m still growing up as a player and as a person, and that’s the important thing.”

“Today the positive emotions were really, really important because Nikoloz is a really, really good tennis player,” Alcaraz said. “He has a lot of great skills. He hits the ball really, really hard, and if you don’t focus, if you are not focused, it’s hard to play against him. You have to be focused all the time.”

The 18-year-old is the youngest male competitor to advance to the third round at the Roland Garros since Nadal in 2004, aged only 17. He finished off the encounter with 27 winners to Basilashvili’s 16, including 10 aces, also hitting less unforced errors (26-33).

“If I went down in that game, it was [going to be] really, really hard,” Alcaraz said. “I was focused, and that’s a good skill for me.”

Five more competitors joined the winners list on Day 5, with Ricardis Berankis and Cameron Norrie taken to four, while Soonwoo KwonLorenzo Musetti and Jan-Lennard Struff all heading into the third round with straight sets wins in the books.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-2 6-4
[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-0 7-5 6-2
[8] Roger Federer (SUI) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-2 2-6 7-6 6-2
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-2
[10] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Ajlaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [14] Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3
[18] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-1 3-6 6-1
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) defeated [24] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-3 7-6 4-6 6-1
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [28] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [30] Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-4
Ricardis Berankis (POR) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 7-5 2-6 7-6 6-0
Sonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-4 7-5 7-5
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 7-5 6-3 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-2
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 7-5 7-6 6-4

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

ATP Tour wrap: French fall as Sinnik survives thriller to advance at Roland Garros

IT was a forgettable day for the French fans in Paris, as all six French representatives were bundled out of the 2021 Roland Garros ATP draw in the first round on day two. In a day that was largely favourable to seeds – with eight of the 10 seeds in action grabbing wins – there were still some thrilling contests, none more so than Italian young gun Jannik Sinner‘s five-set win over France’s Pierre Hugues-Herbert.

Sinner fell two sets to one down after winning the first one easily, before bouncing back to win in five sets, 6-1 4-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 to advance through to the Round of 64. The match lasted three hours and 32 minutes, as both players showed their talents at the net, with 24 per cent of the total points won there. Sinner won 61 per cent of his approach shots, whilst Herbert won 58 per cent, in a real epic battle. The Italian hit 15 less winners than his opponent (43-58), but had a whopping 26 less unforced errors (36-62) in a more conservative, but consistent performance. Herbert’s ability to control his serve (13 aces to five) was what kept him in it, but in the end, it was the mistakes that cost him and set Sinner into the next round.

Perhaps the biggest choke of the day went to American Frances Tiafoe, who was two sets to love up and in control against compatriot Steve Johnson. The more experienced kept toiling away though, and won the next three sets easily, dominating the fourth and fifth sets to win in three hours and 11 minutes, 6-7 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-1. Johnson hit 49 winners to 46 and 41 unforced errors to 47, marginally ahead in each statistical category, though breaking nine times to five was the difference in the latter stages of the match. Also needing five sets to win was American Tommy Paul, who survived an almighty fightback from Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell to win 6-2 6-4 4-6 4-6 10-8 in three hours and 33 minutes. Paul hit six more winners (47-41) and had 10 less unforced errors (40-50), whilst winning an impressive 76 per cent of both his first serve points, and net points won to hold off the determined Australian and book himself a Round of 64 spot.

In terms of upsets, just two seeds fell on day two of the competition, with 13th seed David Goffin and 26th seed Lorenzo Sonego both exiting the Grand Slam. Sonego’s compatriot, Italian Lorenzo Musetti continued his great rise over the past 12 months to obliterate Goffin in the first set, before holding out in two more tight sets to win 6-0 7-5 7-6. The match lasted two hours and 18 minutes, with the sloppy Goffin hitting a whopping 48 unforced errors to Musetti’s 27, and while Goffin was more clinical at the net (79 to 64 per cent success), and hit more winners (37-23), Musetti posted a 71 per cent serving efficiency and first serve winning rate. Big serving South African Lloyd Harris might not have had his usual numbers off the aces (6-5), but still did enough to take care of Sonego in straight sets, 7-5 6-4 6-4 in an identical time to the other upset, two hours and 18 minutes. Harris did hit 40 winners to 31, and he won 75 and 69 per cent off his first and second serve respectively – losing just 24 points – to Sonego’s 66 and 58 per cent, to advance through to the next stage.

The other eight seeds in action all advanced, with eighth seed Roger Federer making his return to the Grand Slam circuit, posting a straight sets win over Uzbekistan qualifier Denis Istomin. The 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory in one hour and 33 minutes was the quickest of the ATP Tour matches, giving the Swiss Maestro an eye-catching start to the clay tournament. Federer was absolutely exquisite as he hit 48 winners to 18, and won 79 per cent of his points at the net compared to Istomin’s 43 per cent. He produced eight aces and only dropped 13 points on serve for the entire match, breaking five times from 13 chances and never conceding a break point opportunity in a clinical victory. Fellow top 10 seed Daniil Medvedev also advanced in straight sets, putting away a tough first round opponent in Alexander Bublik, 6-3 6-3 7-5. Fellow seeds, Casper Ruud and Nikoloz Basilashvili needed four sets to overcome their opponents Benoit Paire and Dusan Lajovic, whilst American trio seeded 30th, 31st and 32nd in Taylor Fritz, John Isner and Reilly Opelka, all advanced through to the Round of 64 with straight sets wins.

Unfortunately for France, it was not a great day, with Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bundled out in four sets against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. The Japanese talent won 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-6 to advance through to the Round of 64 in two hours and 52 minutes, winning the fourth set tiebreaker 7-5 in a match which almost went to five sets. Tsonga was far from disgraced upon his return, producing 19 aces to two, and hitting 61 winners to 21, but his power was still finding its consistency, whacking 73 unforced errors to 21 which proved costly. The longest match of the day was Jaume Munar‘s four-set come-from-behind victory over Jordan Thompson in four hours and 23 minutes. The Spaniard dropped the first set tiebreaker to the Australian 8-6, before a quicker second set followed, and then the clay court talent won 7-5 in the third set tiebreaker, and with an additional break secured in the win in an epic contest, 6-7 6-1 7-6 6-4. Thompson hit 55 winners to Munar’s 35, but the Spaniard had 28 less unforced errors (50-78), and was more efficient with his serve (75 to 54 per cent), also breaking five times from 23 chances to Thompson’s two from 10.

Fellow Spaniards Pedro Martinez – who defeated most recent title winner Sebastian Korda in straight sets – and Carlo Alcaraz also advanced through to the second round, with Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic and Italy’s Gianluca Mager all sending wildcards, qualifiers or lucky losers home in the first round. Other winners were Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak and Argentina’s Federico Delbonis who both made their way into the second round at Roland Garros.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-3 6-3 7-5
[8] Roger Federer (SUI) defeated [Q] Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [13] David Goffin (BEL) 6-0 7-5 7-6
[15] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6
[18] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Pierre Hugues-Herbert (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-7 7-5 6-4
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [26] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 7-5 6-4 6-4
[28] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4 6-3 0-6 6-2
[30] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-4 6-2 6-4
[31] John Isner (USA) defeated Sam Querrey (USA) 7-6 6-3 6-4
[32] Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated Andrej Martin (SLO) 6-3 6-2 6-4
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-6
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated [WC] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) 7-6 6-1 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [Q] Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) 7-5 7-5 6-2
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [WC] Mathias Bourgue (FRA) 6-3 6-3 6-4
Steve Johnson (USA) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-7 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-1
[PR] Kamil Majchrzak (POL) defeated [WC] Arthur Cazaux (FRA) 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-4
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [LL] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) 6-3 6-4 6-3
Pedro Martinez (ESP) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-4 6-2 6-2
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Maximilian Marterer (GER) 6-4 6-1 7-6
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated [WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 6-4 4-6 4-6 10-8
Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated [LL] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) 6-2 3-6 6-4 7-5
Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-7 6-1 7-6 6-4
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-3 2-6 6-1 7-6
Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Radu Albot (MOL) 6-1 2-6 6-0 6-1

Picture credit: Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

2021 Roland Garros preview: Nadal eyes off 14th title as Barty returns to Paris

TO the delight of tennis fans all across the globe, the main draw of the much-anticipated Roland Garros is set to commence on Monday. This comes one week later than initially scheduled, as the French Tennis Federation postponed the tournament in the hope that COVID-19 restrictions would ease and more fans would be allowed to attend the event. The tournament will run from May 30 to June 13.

Up until June 8, French Open officials will allow 5,388 fans through the gates, with a maximum of 1,000 spectators on each court (excluding night sessions). From June 9, Roland Garros will make use of the European Union’s COVID-19 health pass and increase its capacity to 13,146 fans. Each stadium will allow either 65 per cent capacity or 5,000 fans, whichever comes first.

This upgrade will fall during the quarter-final stage of the tournament in both the men’s and women’s draws, a huge boost for the local fans and economy. To compare this with last year’s Roland Garros, the 2020 tournament was pushed back four months to September and crowds were limited to 1,000 patrons each day.

Both 2020 champions Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek will be competing in this year’s event, along with a host of big names in the tennis world. Let’s take a look at who is absent, the contenders to watch and some outside chances to keep an eye on.

THE ABSENTEES:

The most notable absentee is world number three Simona Halep, who will miss the tournament with a left calf tear. Halep, who was the 2018 French Open winner, would be one of the favourites to win this year’s title if she were able to compete.

On the men’s side, Canadian world number 14 Denis Shapovalov withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury that reportedly bothered him through the Geneva Open. Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 Roland Garros champion, has also pulled out with a foot injury.

Big names Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray have chosen not to participate so they can focus on the upcoming grass court season. Wimbledon is set to commence just two weeks after the Roland Garros final.

THE LEADING CONTENDERS:

The year’s tournament is headlined once again by Nadal, who is in pursuit of a historic 21st Grand Slam title. His remarkable record at arguably the toughest Grand Slam is well-documented – 13 French Open titles, 100 wins out of 102 matches and four championship trophies without conceding a set during the tournament. One of those flawless championships where he never lost a set came in 2020, proving that Nadal is not showing signs of slowing down on his favourite surface. If the ‘King of Clay’ ends his career with the most men’s Grand Slam titles, it will be difficult for historians not to consider him the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

His major challengers remain the two rivals challenging him for that ‘GOAT’ crown– Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Both players sit in Nadal’s half of the draw and, remarkably, we could be treated to a Federer v Djokovic quarter-final showdown if both champions play their part. If Nadal progresses to the semi-final, the winner of Federer v Djokovic would face him in the final four.

Djokovic is arguably a much tougher threat than Federer in this tournament, as the Serbian remains world number one and has won 16 of his 19 matches in 2021. Meanwhile, Federer has no expectations of winning and seems to have conceded defeat already. “I know I will not win the French Open, and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” Federer said. “Roland Garros is not the goal, the goal is the grass.”

Two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem is the other main contender to consider in the men’s tournament. Despite having a poor start to the season, the Austrian world number four has proven in recent years that he is capable of beating anyone when he plays his best tennis. With no Nadal or Djokovic in his half of the draw, this could be his time.

On the women’s side, defending champion Swiatek is considered the favourite given her strong start to the season. The 19-year-old has already won two titles this year – in Adelaide and Rome – and made an impressive run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open before being knocked off by Halep. With Halep’s absence comes a huge opportunity for Swiatek to go back-to-back.

Australian Ash Barty is her main challenger, and these two women could be forced to face off in a semi-final. After missing last year’s tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world number one and 2019 French Open champion is back with the aim of regaining her crown. Her form has been the most consistent of just about any player in 2021, claiming three titles so far along with runner-up honours in Madrid. Barty’s game is reliable and well-suited to clay, so expect her to make a deep run in Paris.

Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka deserve consideration as contenders too, but for very different reasons. Sabalenka has been brilliant on clay so far this season, having defeated Barty in the Madrid final and losing to her in the Stuttgart final. The 23-year-old has never made past the fourth round of a slam, but she appears ready to fulfil her potential and could make a serious impact over the next two weeks.

On the other hand, fellow 23-year-old Osaka has already lived up to her potential in many ways, winning four Grand Slam titles over the past four years. However, all of these have taken place on hard courts, and her struggles on clay are well-documented. Osaka has never made it past the Round of 32 at Roland Garros, so it will take a major turnaround for her to contend for the championship this year. 

THE ROUGHIES:

World number two Daniil Medvedev‘s record on clay makes for rough reading, as he has fallen in the first round of Roland Garros in each of the past four years. Given Medvedev is one of the most talented players on the circuit, this record is quite difficult for him or any expert to explain. The Russian has added clay court specialist Igor Andeev to his coaching staff in an attempt to reverse these fortunes. If Medvedev gets some comfortable wins under his belt early in the tournament, then he quickly becomes a contender to watch.

Elsewhere, Stefanos Tsisitpas and Alexander Zverev are in strong form, having won recent clay court titles in Monte Carlo and Madrid respectively. They have been drawn in the same half and could meet in a semi-final, especially if Thiem and Medvedev continue their respective struggles. Norwegian 22-year-old Casper Ruud is in impressive form having made the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and Madrid, but he has drawn a difficult first-round matchup in France’s Benoit Paire. Speaking of the draw, it could open right up for Grigor Dimitrov (in Medvedev’s quarter) after he made his debut fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros last year.

If you’re looking for a dark horse to follow on the women’s side, look no further than Garbiñe Muguruza. The 2016 French Open champion has a brilliant record at the slam, making it through to (at least) the Round of 16 in six of the past seven years. The 27-year-old has the ability to beat anyone at her best and could easily make a huge impact at this year’s event. She does have a tough draw however and would likely be forced to face Swiatek in the fourth round.

It would be remiss to rule out Serena Williams, who remains just one championship away from Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Three of Williams’ titles have come at the French Open, but her form on clay in the lead up to this year’s event has been subpar. In contrast, American 17-year-old Coco Gauff‘s form in the lead up has been outstanding, winning a title in Parma and making the semi-finals in Rome. This tournament presents a huge opportunity for Gauff, who has a lethal backhand and appears to have fixed her double faulting issues. 

American Jennifer Brady will look to continue her dominant start to the season after making the 2021 Australian Open final, while experienced stars Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are capable of doing some damage in the bottom half of the draw.

FIVE ROUND 1 MATCHES TO WATCH:

[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)

[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) v Jelana Ostapenko (LAT)

[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

[15] Casper Ruud (NOR) v Benoit Paire (FRA)

[15] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

PREDICTIONS:

Men’s champion: Rafael Nadal

Women’s champion: Ash Barty

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Roger ousted in opening match

JUST the one Round of 16 match played out across the two ATP 250 events on Day 2, as both the Gonet Geneva Open in Switzerland and Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon in France continue. But that one match saw Spaniard Pablo Andujar oust top seed and returnee Roger Federer, with the result the biggest win of Andujar’s career.

While Federer bounced back well after a shaky first set, it was the Spaniard who broke away from a 2-4 start to the third to eventually claim the win that made it such a triumph, eventually claiming the 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory and winning the remaining four games of the match to win in just under two hours.

“As [far as wins, this is] number one for sure,” Andujar said. “To win a tournament could be more emotional, but this is something I think I will remember my whole life.”

Whilst Federer was form from his career-best, returning to the clay for the first time this year and playing his first match since mid-March, the Spaniard had a clear game plan for negating the Swiss Master’s influence across the court.

“I was trying to keep the gap between the games small, trying to have faith that he was going to serve a little bit with second serves and at that moment I hoped I would have the chance to break him,” Andujar said. “For me it was very difficult, I couldn’t see his serve and he was serving pretty well, so it was difficult for me to return. I just got the chance at 4-3 when he didn’t serve with first serves and lucky me, I was able to break him.”

This is Federer’s first loss on home soil in Switzerland since 2013, but Andujar admitted Federer was not at his most potent, with the Swiss talent himself suggesting that he did not deserve a victory.

“Of course he’s much better than me and if he plays a [normal] match, he would beat me for sure. But I don’t think he played a really bad match,” Andujar said. “That’s my point of view. I think in some of the points, in some of the facets of the match, he played pretty well. I couldn’t return his serve, his first stroke after the serve is always very good. During the match, there were some good points.”

“Of course at 4-2 in the third you feel like, ‘Oh, that’s nice that I was able to turn around the match.’ You start feeling better and that’s when it dips and everything is over 10 minutes later,” Federer said. “But we know how tennis goes and that’s where it’s so brutal sometimes. But I feel like I didn’t deserve it at the end. There was just not enough happening in my game.”

In the rest of the day’s action, the remainder of the Round of 32 was complete with just one seed playing in sixth seed Fabio Fognini, claiming a speedy 6-2 6-2 victory over Argentinian Guido Pella. Qualifier Marco Cecchinato joins his higher ranked compatriot in the second round following a retirement mid-match from Stefano Travaglia, well on track to win in two before the 29-year-old pulled out of the matchup at 6-3 3-0.

A couple more qualifiers in Pablo Cuevas and Ilya Ivashka claimed straight set wins with the former downing a perhaps fatigued Reilly Opelka, who came in fresh off a run to the Rome Masters semi finals, and the latter cleaning up veteran Fernando Verdasco.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Swiss wildcard Dominic Stephan Stricker downed Croatian Marin Cilic, Hungarian Marton Fucsovics defeated Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen and Feliciano Lopez claimed victory over lucky loser Daniel Altmaier, with all three winning in straight sets, as Laslo Djere was tested in the only three setter in the day’s Round of 32 proceedings, eventually overcoming Brazilian Thiago Monteiro.

Meanwhile in Lyon, it was another shaky day for Frenchmen as just Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet proceeded to the Round of 16 from a pool of five. Fifth seed Monfils was tested by Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild in their 7-5 6-4 clash and Gasquet was forced to come from behind against compatriot and qualifier Gregoire Barrere, eventually claiming the 5-7 6-4 6-3 victory with his ability to save Barrere’s break point opportunities proving crucial.

Eighth seed Karen Khachanov was certainly put through his paces by wildcard Benjamin Bonzi in a tough two hour and 19 minute, 6-1 4-6 7-6(4) battle. Khachanov weathered Bonzi’s 10 aces and hit seven of his one, with his marginally better second serve efficiency proving to be the match winner.

19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti had the tough task of taking down seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, but that’s exactly what he did in a two hour and 46-minute blockbuster, 7-6 3-6 7-5. With a recent clash behind them, the Italian turned the tides on the 20-year-old Canadian this time around to record his fifth Top 20 victory.

“We played a really intense match, a real fight,” said Musetti. “I learned from the loss to Felix in Barcelona. It’s a good start and I hope to continue like that.”

While errors crept into both youngsters’ games, it was the Italian who was able to maintain composure, and despite winning the exact same total points as Auger Aliassime (104 apiece), claimed the victory.

The remaining matches saw qualifier Kamil Majchrzak defeat Joao Sousa, while Tommy Paul also reigned supreme over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

GONET GENEVA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-2 6-2
[Q] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 6-3 3-0 RET
[Q] Pablo Cuevas (URU) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 7-6 6-2
Laslo Djere (SRB) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-7 6-3 7-5
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 7-5 7-5
[Q] Ilya Ivashka (BLR) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 7-6 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated [LL] Daniel Altmaier (GER) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Dominic Stephan Stricker (SUI) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 6-1

GONET GENEVA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated [1] Roger Federer (SUI) 6-4 4-6 6-4

OPEN PARC AUVERGNE-RHONE-ALPES LYON ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Gael Monfils (FRA) defeated [LL] Thiago Seyboth Wild (BRA) 7-5 6-4
[ALT] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [7] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 7-6 3-6 7-5
[8] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 6-1 4-6 7-6
Richard Gasquet (FRA) defeated [Q] Gregoire Barrere (FRA) 5-7 6-4 6-3
[Q] Kamil Majchrzak (POL) defeated [Q] Joao Sousa (POR) 6-3 7-6
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 ATP/WTA 1000 Miami Open preview: Federer and Nadal withdraw as Barty returns

THE 2021 Miami Open is set to begin this week, played from Monday, March 22 through to Sunday, April 4, with the 1000 event expected to showcase some high calibre encounters across both the ATP and WTA Tours. Whilst the men’s list is missing a couple of notable names within the top 20, the women’s draw will boast just about all of the big names in the biz as the season rolls on despite COVID-19 restrictions still impacting proceedings. Both the men’s and women’s reigning Australian Open champions are set to compete, highlighting the strength of the respective events.

On the ATP Tour, the clear omissions from the draw include Rafael NadalDominic Thiem and Roger Federer, with the trio’s absence making for a huge hole in the draw and a real opportunity for the developing players coming through the ranks to make their mark. Looking down the list, it’s safe to say Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are the clear frontrunners in as first and second seeds with one title apiece to start the year, whilst Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are well within their chances here given the glaring absences. 2021 title-winners Andrey Rublev (Rotterdam title, 13-2 in 2021), Diego Schwartzman (Buenos Aires, 8-3) and David Goffin (Montpellier, 9-5) also register high in the draw, with the likes of Matteo Berrettini, Denis ShapovalovGael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut rounding out the top 11 or so players, pending shuffling from this week’s results. Factor in the explosiveness of the likes of Nick Kyrgios, who is still yet to confirm attendance, and the wealth of Spanish talent currently residing within and around the top 50, and there is so much that could go against the grain here.

Given it is an ATP 1000 event, there is no shortage of talent as players flock to Miami. Even heading down the list to lower ranked players, there are plenty of quality names across the board with in-form and young talent looking to add valuable points to their rankings. Two-time Miami champion Andy Murray is the big name wildcard at the event, joined by teen Carlos Alcaraz, Michael Mmoh, Hugo Gaston and Jack Draper in the main draw.

Heading to the women’s draw, and whilst there is more consistent top talent in the draw, that does not make it any easier to predict with the relatively even WTA Tour boasting a number of players who consistently step up at this level. Australian world number one and reigning 2019 Miami champion Ash Barty is reportedly set to compete after spending an unprecedented year way from the international circuit in 2020, joined by the ever formidable Naomi OsakaSimona HalepSofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina to round out the top five seeds. Also featuring are eight-time champion Serena Williams, who can never be overlooked in an event of this calibre, and a number of developing talents with French Open champion Iga Swiatek (2020) and 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu both set to take the court here. Jennifer BradyKarolina Pliskova and Madison Keys are another few who cannot be dismissed, as are the ever exciting teens Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova.

Factor in the evenness and unpredictability of the women’s draw, with realistically any number of the top 20 – or upwards of that – capable of beating anyone on their day, and Miami will have a real battle on its hands. The women’s main draw wildcards include Anna Kalinskaya, Ana Konjuh, Storm Sanders, Katrina Scott, Mayar Sherif, Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang, with qualifiers for both the women’s and men’s events set to play out over March 22-23.