Tag: yannick hanfmann

ATP 250 wraps: Aussies bow out in Singapore as upsets take place in Montpellier

IT was a mixed bag of results on day two across the various ATP 250 events, as we recap the results as of publishing in Montpellier, Singapore and Cordoba.

A couple of experienced talents joined the list of outs from the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, with eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff and Frenchman Gilles Simon both bundled out of the tournament. Struff went down to qualifier and compatriot Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets, losing 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 18 minutes, with the 144th ranked played topping his German counterpart who sits 107 placed above him in the world. Meanwhile Austrian Dennis Novak continued his strong start to the year with a solid three-set win over Simon. Novak needed a tiebreaker to get through the first set, before dropping away in the second, and then posting a win 7-6 1-6 6-3 to advance to the Round of 16.

In other results, wildcard Benjamin Bonzi won through in straight sets in the all-French clash against Lucas Pouille, getting up 7-6 6-2. Experienced Czech Jiri Vesely was far too good for a disappointing Mikael Ymer, winning 6-1 6-1, while in the final results, Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor won 6-2 6-7 6-3 over American Marcos Giron in the clear best match of the day. It lasted two hours and 10 minutes with the players evenly matched until Griekspoor – who had saved all five break point opportunities from his opponent – broke for a third time to win. .

In the late game, the most talked about match took place on Court Patrice Dominguez with Belarusian Egor Gerasimov taking on Grand Slam winner and returning from injury Brit, Andy Murray. After a nail-biting first set tiebreaker (10-8), Gerasimov ran away with the contest in the second set to win 7-6 6-1 and book his spot in the second round.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Peter Gojowczyk (GER) defeated [8] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 6-3 6-4
[WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) defeated Lucas Pouille (FRA) 7-6 6-2
[Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) defeated Marcos Giron (USA) 6-2 6-7 6-3
Dennis Novak (AUT) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 7-6 1-6 6-3
Jiri Vesely (CZE) defeated Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-1 6-1
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated Andy Murray (GBR) 7-6 6-1

 

Over in Singapore, five matches were completed on day two, and it was not good news for the Australians with all three players on court unable to join day one winner, Alexei Popyrin in the Round of 16. Marc Polmans was the toughest to beat, forcing Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama to three sets before going down 6-4 2-6 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes. Similarly, John-Patrick Smith also suffered a three-set loss, this time to Macedonian sixth seed Radu Albot who won 6-2 3-6 6-1.

James Duckworth was unable to really break down German Yannick Hanfmann in their match, with the latter triumphing in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 to advance to the next round of action. In the other two matches, Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek won against Japanese wildcard Shintaro Mochizuki. Celikbilek got up 6-0 6-4 convincingly, while American Maxime Cressy moved into the Round of 16 with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung.

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Radu Albot (MCE) defeated [Q] John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Maxime Cressy (USA) defeated Jason Jung (TAI) 7-6 6-2
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-2 6-4
Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) defeated Marc Polmans (AUS) 6-4 2-6 6-4
[Q] Altug Celikbilek (TUR) defeated [WC] Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) 6-0 6-4

 

The two lower ranked players at the Cordoba Open won through to the second round with hard-fought three sets wins over their respective opponents. Chilean wildcards Nicolas Jarry came from a set down to survive a nail-biting tiebreaker and then win in three against rising Spaniard Jaume Munar, 5-7 7-6 6-4. The match lasted a whopping two hours and 44 minutes with Jarry serving up seven aces, and winning 75 per cent of his first serve points, albeit off a lowly 54 per cent efficiency. Jarry’s was more efficient with 74 per cent of his first serves going in, but only capitalising on 63 per cent of them, as both players were broken five times.

In the other match, Jozef Kovalik also needed three sets to get past Daniel Elahi Galan, bouncing back from a disappointing second set to win 6-2 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes. Kovalik broke four times to three, the last being a crucial one in the final set, to book his spot in the Round of 16 with victory on the clay courts.

CORDOBA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[WC] Nicolas Jarry (CHL) defeated Jaume Munar (ESP) 5-7 7-6 6-4
Jozef Kovalik (SVK) defeated Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) 6-2 1-6 6-3

Picture credit: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Davis Cup future side: Germany

IT has seemed a world away since Spain lifted the 2019 Davis Cup. While the 2020 edition was ultimately cancelled and had to be postponed until 2021, it gives tennis fans extra time to work out what teams might look like when it recommences.

Draft Central will take a look at various nations over the break and see what the team might look like. Today’s team is Germany, who have moved up four places since the last Davis Cup, into number eight in the world. While only narrowly a point ahead of Italy in ninth, the well-balanced unit is one to watch into the future.

TEAM:

#7 Alexander Zverev
#36 Jan-Lennard Struff
#19D Kevin Krawietz
#20D Andreas Mies

Germany has already booked its spot in the Davis Cup Finals after pantsing Belarus 4-1 in March last year. The Germans did that without their top player Alexander Zverev, who when on hard court could beat anyone in the world based on his 2020 form. Germany has a straight forward line-up to choose with the two standout singles players, and two standout doubles players, and enough depth to call upon if injuries or unavailabilities strike.

Zverev had by far his best season in 2020, finding more consistency and beginning to look more like a threat deeper in tournaments. He was near-unbeatable in Germany and at 23-years-old is much younger than anyone else inside the Top 100 for the European nation. He could challenge most of the top teams and get the Germans off to a great start, whilst second singles player Jan-Lennard Struff – who for the good part of a decade has played as the number one singles player – is more than handy.

Struff relies a lot on his serve, and does not have as many weapons as Zverev, but when on his game, is a difficult player to break. He had no troubles leading the side to victory over Belarus, and while he is not a number one singles choice anymore, is better than quite a few second singles choices. He can also play doubles as the 53rd ranked overall, and third German doubles player for his nation.

Luckily he would not need to, with familiar doubles combination in Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies ranked inside the Top 20. Both are the logical choices to team up in the Davis Cup, and will do so again when the nation next takes to the court. Others who might be in the extended squad include Dominik Koepfer, Yannick Hanfmann and Daniel Altmaier who have all shown good form in 2020, while veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber‘s best days are behind him, but he can still add important experience to the side.

Picture: Tennis World USA

Top three seeds move through in Germany as Italians and Serbians face off in Sardinia

IT could not be more counter-contrasting at the two ATP 250 events in Germany and Italy, with all the predictable results advancing at Cologne on the hard courts, whilst the final seed remaining in Sardinia bowed out.

The top three seeds all advanced in Germany, with home nation hope, Alexander Zverev leading the way following the top seed’s momentum-swinging 6-4 3-6 6-0 victory over South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Zverev was inconsistent at times but eventually stormed away with the win, notching up the victory in an hour and 46 minutes. He hit eight aces to five and won 69 per cent of his first serves to 59 per cent, breaking five times, three of which came in the one-sided final set.

“I have got to do a better job of keeping my focus until the end of a match. I relaxed a little bit and then he picked up his game,” Zverev said post-match.

“Playing on the ATP Tour, you only play great players. “Once you lose your focus, it doesn’t matter what your ranking is, it doesn’t matter how many titles you won, you have still got to play until the end otherwise it can go the other way very quickly.”

Zverev was far from alone in competing in three setters, now set to face the last remaining unseeded player at Cologne in Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The world number 71 knocked off Dennis Novak in the other quarter final for the top half of the draw, taking almost two hours to win 6-3 2-6 6-3.

Not a known big server, Davidovich Fokina only won the 57 and 35 per cent off his first and second serve points, but really hammered home off Novak’s second serve with a 70 per cent success rate to break eight times to seven in the match.

Meanwhile compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut had a similar experience to Zverev, having a couple of tight sets before storming to a 6-0 win in the decider. Bautista Agut defeated sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 5-7 6-0 to win in two hours and 30 minutes and book his place in the Cologne semi-finals. He weathered 14 aces from Hurkacz and had only broken once in the first two sets, then broke his opponents three times in the final set to advance.

In the last quarter final, Felix Auger-Aliassime made his way through in no time, winning in the easiest match of the round to defeat Moldovan Radu Albot, 6-3 6-0. That match lasted 72 minutes as he hit four aces and won 71 and 63 per cent of his first and second serve points, also breaking five times to one and dominating in all facets of the game to set up a semi-finals meeting with Bautista Agut.

COLOGNE QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4 3-6 6-0
[2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated [6] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 7-6 5-7 6-0
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Radu Albot (MOL) 6-3 6-0
Alexander Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-3 2-6 6-3

Meanwhile in Italy, the semi-finals resemble something no one could have predicted with a couple of Italians and a couple of Serbians booking their spots in the final four.

Teenage future star, Lorenzo Musetti continued his run since the COVID-19 break with an 88-minute victory over German, Yannick Hanfmann to become the youngest ATP Tour semi-finalist since fellow 18-year-old Jannik Sinner 12 months ago. He won 67 per cent of his first serve points off a 63 per cent efficiency, whilst making the most of break point opportunities, capitalising on five of six chances compared to his opponents’ two of 11.

“It’s amazing,” Musetti said post-match. “Last week, I was playing in Parma and losing to Frances [Tiafoe], a great player. “I was thinking of coming here and trying to go as far as I could, but I am living my best moments in Sardinia. “I am playing my best tennis here.

“I was in trouble a little bit in the second set, as Yannick was returning so well. I had a great attitude in the second set, fighting for every point to win six games in a row. “I think my great weeks in Rome and Forli took me to this level of confidence to keep me at this playing level. I have learned more about how to manage match pressure and how to behave on the court.”

Now Musetti will head on to face the highest remaining player in the draw, in Serbian Laslo Djere. He is ranked 74th in the world, though is much better than his ranking might suggest, winning against Czech Jiri Vesely in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. The match lasted 83 minutes as he did not face a break point, and broke off both of his two chances, capitalising from Vesely’s low second serve percentage of 40 per cent.

Djere is the only top 100 player remaining in the draw with the 143rd ranked Musetti in alongside the 103rd ranked Marco Cecchinato and 166th ranked Danilo Petrovic in the other Sardinia semi-final. Wildcard Cecchinato defeated fourth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three sets, 4-6 6-1 6-1 to make his way through to the final four, while Petrovic knocked off Argentinian Federico Delbonis 7-6 6-1.

SARDINIA QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [4] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-1
[LL] Danilo Petrovic (SRB) defeated Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-1
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-2 6-4
Laslo Djere (SRB) defeated Jan Vesely (CZE) 6-4 6-4

Picture: Getty Images

Ruud downed at Sardinia while seeds prevail in Cologne

IT was another big day across the two ATP 250 tournaments, seeing a much more successful pursuit from the respective home nations in Germany and Italy though a couple more seeds fell across the two competitions. Sardinia favourite Casper Ruud was the upset of the round, downed in straight sets and seeing just one seed remain in Italy.

At Cologne, top seed Alexander Zverev had no issue disposing of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-1 in 63 minutes, while Canadian young gun and third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime downed qualifier Henri Laaksonen with the same scoreline and taking an extra 14 minutes to get the job done. Both winners in Zverev and Auger-Aliassime were excellent off their serve, hitting seven aces apiece and racing ahead winning 84 per cent and 90 per cent of their first serve points respectively. 

Where Verdasco was unsuccessful, compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was far more threatening downing eighth seed Croatian Marin Cilic in the lone three-setter of the day. While Cilic ran away with a convincing first set, it was the tight second set that set the tone for Davidovich, winning the second set tiebreaker and stealing momentum for the final set to come away with the 3-6 7-6 6-2 victory. Meanwhile, second seed Roberto Bautista Agut continued his fine form against a fighting Gilles Simon, outlasting the Frenchman in the 6-4 7-6, two-hour and 19-minute battle.

COLOGNE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4 6-1
[2] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-4 7-6
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-4 6-1
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [8] Marin Cilic (CRO) 3-6 7-6 6-2

At Sardinia, Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the only remaining seed left after both Ruud and Tommy Paul were knocked out. Ramos-Vinolas impressed in the first set against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, running away with a solid 6-0 6-3 victory, but it was German Yannick Hanfmann who absolutely stole the show with a whopping 64 minute demolition of Ruud, 6-2 6-1. Hanfmann rendered Ruud much less efficient than usual, forcing errors from the usually more clinical Norwegian and excelling off Ruud’s serve at a 54 per cent winning rate. Ruud hit three double faults and failed to win a single break point in what was a disappointing outing for the third seed.

Two of the three Italian competitors made it through to the quarter finals, with wildcards Marco Cecchinato and Lorenzo Musetti both coming away successful. While Musetti knocked off compatriot Andrea Pellegrino in a 6-2 6-1 demolition in just 59 minutes, Cecchinato outlasted a tough first set from seventh seed American Paul to run away with an 88-minute victory, 7-6 6-4. Cecchinato’s excellent service game was the clincher, winning points off 90 per cent of his first serve including  four aces for zero double faults. 

SARDINIA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[4] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-0 6-3
Yannick Hanfmann (GER) defeated [3] Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-2 7-5
[WC] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated [7] Tommy Paul (USA) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [Q] Andrea Pellegrino (ITA) 6-2 6-1

Lucky loser Bublik making the most of his second chance

KAZAHKSTAN’S Alexander Bublik would be thankful that Rome Masters finalist, Diego Schwartzman opted to pull out of the Hamburg European Open. The world number 56 suffered defeat in qualifying and looked to miss the final lead-up tournament to Roland Garros. That was until the seventh seeded Argentinian decided rest was more of a priority after a long Masters tournament. It allowed Bublik to enter the main draw and now the Kazakh has strung together back-to-back wins.

The second of those wins was against 20-year-old up and comer, Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-4 6-2 in 78 minutes. Whilst the final result might look like a straightforward win, Bublik lost the first three games of the match, to come back and win 12 of the next 15 games and run out victorious in 78 minutes to move through to a quarter final.

“When you step on a clay court, which is not my favourite surface, and play someone as great as Felix, you have a little pressure,” Bublik said post-match. “Felix got off to a fast start, so I am happy to have found my rhythm and get through.”

Now Bublik will take on Chilean Cristian Garin in the quarter finals after the world number 22 took no chances against giant-killing German wildcard Yannick Hanfmann. Garin won 6-2 7-6 against the world number 103, winning 77 per cent of his first serve points, and breaking his opponent four times to two in the hour and 37 minutes on court.

In other second round matches, two of the top five seeds advanced through to the final eight, with Roberto Bautista Agut and Andrey Rublev both winning their respective matches. Bautista Agut had to fight across three sets to defeat the last remaining German in Dominik Koepfer, while Rublev also needed three sets to end the run of qualifier Tommy Paul, 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Both players being predominantly counter punchers meant it was always going to be a battle, and Koepfer initially had a break on the Spaniard to lead 3-2 in the deciding set. The experience of Bautista Agut in these situations shone through however, as the fourth seed won the last four games, breaking twice for a total of seven for the match, to win in two hours and four minutes. He now faces Rublev in a massive quarter finals clash.

Meanwhile there were still a couple of Round 1 matches taking place with second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas taking care of Great Britain’s Daniel Evans with minimal fuss. The Greek talent won 6-3 6-1 to book his spot in the Round of 16 in just 59 minutes. In what was his debut match in Hamburg, Tsitsipas said he was pleased he could start the tournament in such great form.

“It’s very satisfying to be playing that level of tennis, as I’ve missed playing on clay,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “It helps for my confidence. I’ve watched this tournament on TV since I was very young and I’m delighted to have gotten off to a strong start.”

The second seed now moves on to play Uruguayan qualifier, Pablo Cuevas in the second round. The winner of that clash will face the victor of Karen Khachanov and Dusan Lajovic with both matches scheduled for tomorrow. Up the other end of the draw, Rome Masters semi-finalist Casper Ruud defeated a sore Benoit Paire 6-4 2-0 to book his spot in the Round of 16 with a blockbuster clash against sixth seed Italian Fabio Fognini. That match will also take place tomorrow with the winner to lock horns with either Ugo Humbert or Jiri Vesely in the quarter finals.

Picture: Getty Images

In-form Humbert and Hanfmann build on recent form to stun top 10 players

RED-hot duo, Ugo Humbert and Yannick Hanfmann continued their fantastic recent form to upset top 10 players, Daniil Medvedev and Gael Monfils at the Hamburg European Open today. All bar two of the Round of 32 matches were completed, with the top three seeds the major casualties of the day.

Humbert defeated Medvedev 6-4 6-3, dominating off his serve to win 70 and 63 per cent of his first and second serve points respectively off a 73 per cent efficiency. He also served three aces without a double fault, and broke three times to Medvedev’s one, with the match lasting an hour and 22 minutes. The win followed on from impressive wins over Kevin Anderson and Fabio Fognini last week in Rome, and Humbert said his confidence was building.

“I know I can play very nice on clay,” he said post-match. “Daniil is a very nice player. I am very happy with my first Top 10 win and for sure, it was one of my biggest wins today.”

Meanwhile German wildcard Hanfmann also took apart top Frenchman Monfils, 6-4 6-3 but only needed an hour and 14 minutes to do it. Hanfmann was outstanding by serving at a 69 per cent clip, breaking from both break point opportunities and serving two aces. Most importantly, he only dropped three of 35 points off his first serve, whereas Monfils – whilst still strong on serve – recorded a much lower 67 per cent efficiency. The Frenchman also served up three double faults without an ace.

The most anticipated match of the day was world number 11 Roberto Bautista Agut up against two-time defending champion, Nikoloz Basilashvili. In yet another 6-4 6-3 results, it was the fourth seed Spaniard who got up in an hour and 25 minutes to book his spot in the Round of 16. He served five aces and had a serving efficiency of 73 per cent, breaking four times to two, and doing enough to end the world number 33’s run before it got going. Bautista Agut is a new father, with his wife giving birth to his son Roberto just a week ago on September 15.

Sixth seed Fabio Fognini also advanced through to the next round with a hard-fought three-set victory over German wildcard Philipp Kohlscreiber. The sixth seed bounced back from his shock loss at Rome to win 4-6 6-1 7-5 in two hours and 20 minutes. He broke five times and brought up a total of 19 opportunities, attacking the counter puncher’s serve to win 43 per cent of his return points. Much stronger on serve, Fognini will now take on the winner of Rome semi-finalist Casper Ruud, or the returning Benoit Paire in the Round of 16.

In other results, Felix Auger-Aliassime posted a 6-2 7-6 win over Lorenzo Sonego to move through to the next round to take on Alexander Bublik. The Kazakh made the most of a lucky loser spot due to the withdrawal of Rome finalist, Diego Schwartzman with an upset 6-2 7-6 victory over Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Also through to the next round was Chile’s Cristian Garin who completely dominated Kei Nishikori 6-0 6-3, while Dusan Lajovic and Karen Khachanov will face off the Round of 16. Lajovic took down Adrian Mannarino in straight sets, while Khachanov had a real battle against Jan-Lennard Struff before posting a 7-6 4-6 7-5 victory.

The final two matches between Ruud and Paire, and second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniel Evans will be completed tomorrow, with Garin and Hanfmann, and Bublik and Auger-Aliassime the other matches on Centre Court for the day session.

Picture: Getty Images

2020 Hamburg European Open preview: Basilashvili eyes off third straight title

BACK-to-back Hamburg European Open winner, Nikoloz Basilashvili will start as an underdog in the ATP 250 tournament with a tough first round match up against fourth seed, Roberto Bautista Agut. The unseeded Georgian is one of only three past winners in the 32-player draw, with Fabio Fognini (2013) and Gilles Simon (2011) the others making the cut.

Fognini takes on German wildcard Philipp Kohlscreiber in the opening round, while Simon was a lucky loser entry, dropping his qualifying match to Pablo Cuevas, only to be called up to take on another qualifier in Jiri Vesely tomorrow. Other qualifiers through to the main draw were Americans Tennys Sandgren and Tommy Paul who both lived up to their top two seedings in the qualifying draw.

Last year, Basilashvili was seeded fourth when he triumphed over Andrey Rublev in the final, 7-5 4-6 6-3 after defeating second seed and German-native Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. Rublev had shown good form that tournament, knocking off top seed Dominic Thiem, as well as known clay courters, Pablo Carreno Busta and Casper Ruud on his run to the final. The year prior, Basilashvili defeated two-time winner and defending champion, Leonardo Meyer 6-4 0-6 7-5 in a strange final, but was the start of his run to the upper echelon of world rankings, getting through qualifying and going all the way to the final.

This year’s Hamburg European Open is much more stacked than in past years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas both entering as top seeds and hoping to have a good run on the clay in the final lead-up tournament to Roland Garros. Medvedev takes on upcoming Frenchman, Ugo Humbert with the world number five yet to tackle the 22-year-old world number 42 on Tour. Tsitsipas takes on world number 33, Daniel Evans, who he defeated easily 6-2 6-3 in the semi-finals at Dubai earlier this year.

If Basilashvili is to upset the world number 10 in Bautista Agut, then the 32nd ranked Georgian will need to back up his form on hard court from Dubai last year, where he beat the Spaniard, 6-7 6-4 6-3 in a come-from-behind win. His previous two matches – including one on the clay at Monte Carlo – both resulted in losses.

Meanwhile reigning finalist Rublev will lock horns with Sandgren in a first round encounter which based on form the Russian should win, whilst Paul will tackle tall South African Kevin Anderson who used his protected ranking to secure his spot. The winner of those gams will face off in the Round of 16.

Looking across the field, a couple of matches that could be exciting include young Chilean Cristian Garin coming up against former top five player Kei Nishikori in his third tournament back from a long-term elbow injury. Also up in the first round, Rome Masters quarter finalist, Dominik Koepfer is firing on all cylinders and keen to back up his form on home soil, with the German taking on Yoshihito Nishioka who upset US Open semi-finalist Carreno Busta last start at Rome.

Other Germans in the field include Jan-Lennard Struff who takes on eighth seed Karen Khachanov, and wildcards Kohlschreiber and Yannick Hanfmann with the latter having a tough first-up match against Gael Monfils. In the only other three Round of 32 matches, Rome Masters semi-finalist Casper Ruud takes on Frenchman Benoit Paire who returns to the Tour after testing positive to COVID-19, Canadian talent Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Lorenzo Sonego, Frenchman Adrian Mannarino locks horns with Serbian Dusan Lajovic, and in the big clash, Rome Masters finalist Diego Schwartzman might have a quick turnaround if he plays, going up against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The turnaround between tournaments has proven fatal for the player’s chances based on form, so Schwartzman and even Ruud will be up against having an impact even being on clay. Medvedev has a good run and a potential quarter final with Fognini is tantalising, whilst if Basilashvili can get past the first round, the Georgian will likely have a repeat of last year’s final against Rublev in the quarter finals. If Monfils plays to his potential he should have no troubles moving through to a semi in his quarter of the draw, while Tsitsipas and Khachanov facing off in the quarters would be a tournament organisers dream.

Prediction: Daniil Medvedev to defeat Gael Monfils in the final.

Tig and Kecmanovic win maiden titles in Europe

WHILST much of the focus has deservedly been on the US Open, two players have won their maiden titles on the ATP and WTA Tours. World number 47 Miomir Kecmanovic won his first title at the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, whilst world number 88 Patricia Maria Tig claimed her maiden title in Istanbul. Both players knocked off opponents rated lower than them, but were in good form.

For Kecmanovic, his first title comes off the back of a superb 2020 where he has won 14 of a possible 20 matches, and was able to get the job done in the final today against world number 118, Yannick Hanfmann. The German qualifier had done incredibly well to reach the final, but fell short of ultimate glory, as the Serbian broke three times to win 6-4 6-4 and secure the ATP 250 event.

“It means a lot [to win my first ATP Tour title] I worked so hard for this,” Kecmanovic post-match. “I am definitely happy that I was able to achieve it so quickly.”

The 21-year-old still has plenty of years left in his career, but his first title could have come sooner when he had championship point against Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the Antalya Open, but could not quite get it done.

“Last year sucked when I couldn’t win the final,” Kecmanovic said. “I definitely have a lot more experience since then and it means everything to be able to win a title.”

He becomes the fourth male to win his maiden title this year, and knocked off the returning Kei Nishikori, in-form Jordan Thompson, Argentinian Federico Delbonis and surprise packet 303rd ranked Swiss talent Marc-Andrea Huesler on his way to the crown.

Kecmanovic certainly did not have it all his own way, but managed to break early in the second set, which allowed him to have an advantage, and whilst he had to survive two break points at 5-4 on-serve, stood tall and held out to claim his first ever title.

“[The last game] wasn’t pretty, it was definitely difficult,” Kecmanovic said. “I just tried not to think that it was potentially the last game and I just tried to hit my serves at the right spot. Thankfully, I was able to do that.”

Meanwhile over in Istanbul, Tig had to fight even harder for her maiden WTA Tour. The Romanian who returned to the Tour following the birth of her daughter, had to come from a set down and then survive a tight third set tiebreaker to win against Canadian qualifier Eugenie Bouchard. Tig defeated the former world number five and 2014 Wimbledon finalist, 2-6 6-1 7-6 to take out the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship.

Tig had a number of chances through the contest, moving a break up twice in the third set, but Bouchard clawed her way back each time to force a tiebreaker. It was a fitting end to a match that had seen the best tennis from both players as Bouchard dominated the opening set, before Tig did the same in the second. Having not dropped a set all week, the world number 88 capped off a terrific tournament by standing up in the tiebreak and finally securing her first title.

“I’m really happy and excited about my performance,” Tig said post-match. “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong on the match. “On each match point, I was trying to do better. “She played amazing. We both fought for every point, it was a really great match.”

Now Tig can achieve a personal career-high ranking, which will surpass her previous best of 80. Having had such a long journey to this point, Tig said it was relieving to be in career-best form.

“I’ve thought about it for a very long time,” she said. “It will help me to play bigger tournaments and get on the main Tour directly, so it’s very helpful. I’m happy I could do it here, it’s been a special tournament for us.”

Photo: TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship Istanbul

First time time finalist to be crowned in Austria as Bouchard and Tig face off in Istanbul

THE upsets continued in the semi-finals of the Generali Open for a couple of title-less ATP Tour players to book spots in the final, while a former Wimbledon finalist takes on another top 100 title-less hope.

FIRST TIME FINALIST TO BE CROWD IN KITZBUHEL

Yannick Hanfmann has continued his remarkable run at the Generali Open, with the German qualifier booking his spot in the final. The world number 118, who has played just 21 ATP Tour matches and has a career-high ranking of 99, was able to outlast his higher ranked opponent Laslo Djere in three sets.

Hanfmann won 4-6 6-3 7-6, surviving an early scare and then a third set tiebreaker that only ended after a 7-5 victory. The German 28-year-old won 63 per cent of his second serve points and won off his third match point opportunity with a backhand winner in a match that lasted two hours and 25 minutes.

”I didn’t feel so good [after the first match points]. At that level, if you miss those chances you can lose the match right away,” Hanfmann said post-match. “I was happy that I had chances to go back up 6-5 and break him. I didn’t make that, so it was a tough few minutes for me to really get settled again.

”In the tie-break, I had a pretty clear mind. I was just trying to play point-by-point… really go for my game and that is what I did. It is fitting that I finished it with a backhand return winner.”

Hanfmann has not only not won a title, the German had not won a Tour match since 2018, but he is on a roll now with six straight victories and eyeing off a seventh in the final. It is not the first time he has stunningly reached an ATP Tour final from qualifying, going all the way in the 2017 Swiss Open before falling to Fabio Fognini.

Now he takes on the much higher ranked Miomir Kecmanovic. The 47th ranked Serbian is also yet to win an ATP Tour title, though his form has been much better. Kecmanovic had a fight of his own against Swiss qualifier and 303rd ranked 24-year-old, Marc-Andrea Huesler. Kecmanovic won 6-2 5-7 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes, winning 86 per cent of his first serve points.

Kecmanovic did reach his first ATP Tour career final at Antalya last year before losing to Lorenzo Sonego, but the 21-year-old is one of the Next Gen ATP Finals contenders and heads into the match as a strong favourite. However he is not taking anything for granted.

“I know it is not going to be easy because [Yannick] is a big guy [who] serves well, but hopefully I can make him play,” Kecmanovic said post-match. “Like today, [I need to] stay in the point as long as I can and just try to force him to go for too much.”

BOUCHARD DISPOSES OF BADOSA TO FACE TIG IN FINAL

Former world number five and 2014 Wimbledon finalist, Eugenie Bouchard is through to her first final in more than four years after booking her place in the Istanbul Tennis Championships. The Canadian talent defeated Spaniard Paula Badosa in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 and will set her sights on Romanian, Patricia Maria Tig who won 6-3 6-3 over Tereza Martincova.
Bouchard won 55 per cent of her second serve points and broke four times to one during the one-hour and 25-minute victory over Badosa, serving up five aces. The 26-year-old took control of her opponent by winning 75 per cent of her second serve points, and 51 per cent of total return points overall.
The win sent Bouchard into her first final since Kuala Lumpur in 2016, and marked her sixth WTA Tour final. The Canadian said she was just focused on trying to get back to her best.
“During quarantine I was in the gym every single day working super hard,” Bouchard said post-match. “It was tough, because I didn’t have an end goal or a tournament to look forward to, but I decided to really focus on my fitness, because I think that’s so important now in the game. “It’s something I’ve started doing a lot in the past year – I have days where I just work physically with a great trainer, so it’s been one of my goals. “And this week shows me that it’s been worth it, and gives me the trust that I’ve done the right thing.”
While admitting she did not know Tig, Bouchard said she was just going to “leave everything on the court” in a bid to win her second WTA Tour title. The player hoping to stop that happening is Tig, who saluted in straight sets taking an hour and 49 minutes to knock off Martincova. Whilst serving five double faults, Tig won 58 per cent of her return points, and broke a remarkable seven times from nine games to book her place in the Istanbul decider.
Tig has become somewhat of a Tour favourite, returning from motherhood and having her daughter Sofia join her in Turkey.
“There are many, many moms right now and I hope it’ll be more in the next years,” Tig said. “I think it’s very satisfying that you can do not only one thing – not only taking care of your baby, but to do what your passion is. I hope we’ll see other women deciding to have babies and still play. I am not only a different player but a different person. It gives you strength and only the best energy that you can take from your baby.”
Picture: Getty Images