Tag: Yoshihito Nishioka

ATP 250 wraps: Humbert saves match points as Popyrin win ensures all-Australian quarter final

THERE were some huge results across the ATP Tour’s three tournaments played in France, Argentina and Singapore, as we wrap up the day’s action below.

Ugo Humbert overcame multiple match points to put away Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor in a thrilling match of the day in the Open Sud de France at Monypellier. In three nail-biting tiebreakers, Humbert lost the first one 7-4, then backed up with 7-5 and 7-5 in the final two tiebreakers, but it was Humbert’s fighting spirit looking down and out midway through the second set that shone through. The Frenchman was 7-6 5-2 down and had to fight off three match points in the ninth game to fight off the 160th ranked Griekspoor.

In a match that lasted two hours and 50 minutes, Humbert served one more ace (10-9) and two less double faults (2-4) as well as a superior 83 to 74 per cent first serve points success rate. In the end just seven points separated the players, with Humbert converting one of two break points in that second set, and saving eight of nine in a terrific defensive effort throughout the match.

“It was tough today. [Griekspoor] played at a great level,” Humbert said post-match. “I tried to stay combative. It was tough. [We played] three tie-breaks and I am super happy to win this match.”

Also having a fight on his hands, second seed Belgian David Goffin survived a thriller against French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. Goffin has not been in the greatest form of late, but showed equal fighting spirit to come from a set down to win in three. The Belgian crucially broke the Frenchman in the eleventh game of the deciding set to successfully serve for the match, 4-6 6-4 7-5 after saving a break point in the final game.

Seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego made his way into the quarter finals with a straight sets win over American Sebastian Korda. The Italian had an easier time of it than his fellow seeds, getting up 6-3 6-2 to book his spot in the final eight.

Meanwhile in other results, the remaining three Round of 32 matches were completed with a couple of upsets. Slovenian Aljaz Bedene upset Italian young gun Jannik Sinner in a come-from-behind win 6-7 7-6 7-6, and French qualifier Gregoire Barrere set Georgian Top 40 talent Nikoloz Basilashvili packing in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. In the other first round match, Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina had to navigate three sets to knock off compatriot and qualifier, Berabe Zapata Miralles 7-6 5-7 6-2.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 16:

[6] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated [Q] Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-7 7-6 7-6
[7] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Sebastian Korda (USA) 6-3 6-2
[2] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 4-6 6-4 7-5

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32:

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated [5] Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3-6 6-2 7-6
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [Q] Berabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 7-6 5-7 6-2
[Q] Gregoire Barrere (FRA) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 6-4

 

The first four players are through to the quarter finals in Singapore, with three seeds joining Australian Alexei Popyrin in the final eight. Thanks to Popyrin winning, it has guaranteed an Australian will make the semi-finals, with the other two remaining Aussies – second seed John Millman and wildcard Matthew Ebden – facing off later today to take on Popyrin in the quarter finals.

Popyrin fought hard to overcome Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev, 6-1 5-7 6-3 to book his spot in the quarter finals. Also making their way into the last eight were a trio of seeds, with the third, fourth and fifth seeds all winning. Third seed Marin Cilic accounted for Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-5 6-4, while fourth seed Alexander Bublik and fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka brushed aside Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek and American Maxime Cressy in straight sets respectively.

The last of the Round of 32 matches were also completed yesterday, with eighth seed Soonwoo Kwon surviving a thriller against United States qualifier, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 4-6 6-3 6-4 to move into the second round. In the other results, Ebden defeated Indian Yuli Bhambri in straight sets 6-3 7-6, while Italian Roberto Marcora earned a date with top seed Adrian Mannarino later today after taking care of Latvian Ernests Gulbis, 7-5 6-4.

SINGAPORE OPEN ROUND OF 16:

[3] Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Taro Daniel (JPN) 7-5 6-4
[4] Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated [Q] Altug Celikbilek (TUR) 6-2 6-2
[5] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) defeated Maxime Cressy (USA) 6-4 6-2
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [WC] Adrian Andreev (BUL) 6-1 5-7 6-3

SINGAPORE OPEN ROUND OF 32:

[8] Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) defeated [Q] Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (USA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Roberto Marcora (ITA) defeated Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 7-5 6-4
[WC] Matthew Ebden (AUS) defeated [PR] Yuli Bhambri (IND) 6-3 7-6

 

There were plenty of fans who went home happy from the Cordoba Open, with six of the nine winners on the opening day coming from Argentina. The three other winners did not knock off an Argentinian either, so the maximum amount of talent from the host nation advanced through to the Round of 16, which allowed a minimum of two Argentinians to reach the quarter finals after setting up all-Argentinian Round of 16 matches.

Federico Coria caused the upset of the day, bundling out sixth seed German Dominik Koepfer in straight sets, 6-1 6-4. He advanced through to the next round to face compatriot and wildcard, Francisco Cerundolo. The 135th ranked Cerundolo upstaged Italian Gianluca Mager, coming back from a set down to win, 6-7 6-1 6-4.

Facundo Bagnis will get plenty of experience against his fellow Argentinians, having defeated wildcard Nicolas Kicker in straight sets in the first round, and will face eighth seed Federico Delbonis in the Round of 16. The qualifier defeated Kicker 6-1 6-4 to set up the Delbonis meeting, with the seed knocking off Portugal’s Pedro Sousa for the Round of 16 spot.

Another qualifier to advance through to the Round of 16 was Juan Manuel Cerundolo who toppled Brazilian young gun Thiago Seyboth Wild. Winning in two eight sets 7-5 7-6, Cerundolo will now have the tough task of taking on third seed Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic who had a bye in the opening round. Meanwhile Tomas Martin Etcheverry booked his Round of 16 spot with an upset win over Slovenia’s Andrej Martin, 6-3 7-6 and will take on Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the next match.

Other winners on the day was Thiago Monteiro who won through thanks to a straight sets victory over compatriot and lucky loser, Brazilian Joao Menezes, 6-3 6-3. Italian Marco Cecchinato advanced through to take on top seed Diego Schwartzman with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Bolivian Hugo Dellien, while Robert Carballes Baena was too strong for Joao Sousa, winning 6-3 6-1 and the Spaniard will now take on Monteiro in the next round.

CORDOBA OPEN ROUND OF 32:

Federico Coria (ARG) defeated [6] Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-1 6-4
[7] Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [LL] Joao Menezes (BRA) 6-3 6-3
[8] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Pedro Sousa (POR) 6-4 6-4
Marco Cecchinato (ITA) defeated Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2 4-6 6-1
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-3 6-1
[Q] Facundo Bagnis (ARG) defeated [WC] Nicolas Kicker (ARG) 6-1 6-4
[Q] Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG) defeated Andrej Martin (SLO) 6-3 7-6
[WC] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-7 6-1 6-4
[Q] Juan Manuel Cerundolo (ARG) defeated Thiago Seyboth Wild (BRA) 7-5 7-6

Picture credit: ATP Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SINGAPORE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

Picture credit: ATP Tour

2021 ATP 250 previews: Montpellier, Cordoba and Singapore

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

CORDOBA:

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

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

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

MONTPELLIER:

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

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

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

SINGAPORE:

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

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

ATP Cup Day 2 wrap: Two teams book semi-finals spots while Germans set up Serbian battle

BOTH Italy and Russia are through to the ATP Cup semi-finals, while Germany set up a virtual elimination final with Serbia in the third group match. In the other result, Australia managed to grab a win against Greece, though being swept by Spain all but eliminated their chances of moving through to the next round, meaning Greece will need to beat Spain in order to book a spot in the semis.

ITALY 2 defeated FRANCE 1

In what was anticipated to be one of the matchups of the day, Italy wrapped up their tie against France to book a semi-final spot at the ATP Cup. The Italians backed up their win over Austria the day before with a 2-1 win over France. This time Fabio Fognini was not letting his guard down after a poor singles performance on day one, knocking over Benoit Paire in straight sets, 6-1 7-6.

Matteo Berrettini followed his good form from day one thanks to an upset over Dominic Thiem, to put away Gael Monfils 6-4 6-2 to guarantee Italy safe passage into the final four. The doubles were effectively a dead rubber, but it was the French duo of Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vaselin who were too strong for their Italian counterparts Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori, winning 6-3 6-4.

France will take on Austria in the final group match to determine second or third.

Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-4 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-1 7-6
N. Mahut / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) defeated S. Bolelli / A. Vavassori (ITA) 6-4 6-3

RUSSIA 2 defeated JAPAN 1

Following Italy into the semi-finals was Russia who took care of Japan in similar fashion, winning by the end of the two singles. Having two Top 10 players up against two opponents outside the Top 40 made them heavy favourites, and Daniil Medvedev made the most of his chances against Kei Nishikori who will be hoping to have more continuity in his game after missing so much time due to injury the last 18 months. Medvedev won 6-2 6-4, while his teammate Andrey Rublev had no issues with a 6-1 6-3 triumph over Yoshihito Nishioka.

In the doubles, Japan turned the tables on Russia in a thriller, with Ben McLachlan and Nishioka teaming up to win in a third set tiebreaker, 4-6 6-3 12-12-10. Their opponents were Evgeny Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev as Rublev and Medvedev rested up for the semi-finals.

Japan takes on Argentina in the final group match to determine second and third.

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-2 6-4
Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-1 6-3
B. McLachlan / Y. Nishioka (JPN) defeated E. Donskoy / A. Karatsev (RUS) 4-6 6-3 12-10

AUSTRALIA 2 defeated GREECE 1

Australia enjoyed a nice successful win over Greece following a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Spain the day before. While the Spanish are anticipated to advance through providing they do not get swept themselves by Greece, the home nation was able to grab a win on Rod Laver Arena. It started with John Millman taking care of Michail Pervolarakis in straight sets 6-2 6-3, before Stefanos Tsitsipas levelled proceedings with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Alex de Minaur.

It all came down to the doubles with Pervolarakis and Tsitsipas teaming up against specialist doubles pairing John Peers and Luke Saville. The Greek team pushed the Australians all the way to a third set tiebreak before Peers and Saville claimed victory, 6-3 4-6 10-5. Now Greece takes on Spain in the final group match.

John Millman (AUS) defeated Michail Pervolarakis (GRE) 6-2 6-3
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-3 7-5
J. Peers / L. Saville (AUS) defeated M. Pervolarakis / S. Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-3 4-6 10-5

GERMANY 2 defeated CANADA 1

Germany eliminated Canada and set up an effective elimination final with Serbia for the final group match after their second day win. The German team took care of Canada’s two Top 20 players, with a battle of the big servers up first resulting in Jan-Lennard Struff upsetting Milos Raonic in two tiebreakers, 7-6 7-6. They went to 7-4 and 7-2 respectively in those tiebreakers, but the consistent German outlasted his higher ranked opponent.

In the other singles match, Alexander Zverev took down young gun Denis Shapovalov, winning 6-7 6-3 7-6 in one of the matches of the tournament. Continuing his form from last year, Zverev needed the full three sets – and a 7-4 deciding set tiebreak – to shake off the Canadian, and prepare for a huge grudge match against world number one, Novak Djokovic. In the doubles, Canada surprised Struff and Kevin Krawietz in three sets, with Steven Diez and Peter Polansky forcing tiebreakers galore to win 7-6 6-7 10-3 and grab a point for the North American nation.

Germany takes on Serbia in the final group match to decide the semi-finalist.

Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) defeated Milos Raonic (CAN) 7-6 7-6
Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-7 6-3 7-6
S. Diez / P. Polansky (CAN) defeated K. Krawietz / J. Struff (GER) 7-6 6-7 10-3

Picture credit: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

2021 ATP Cup preview: Japan

ELIGIBLE to participate in the 2021 ATP Cup courtesy of Kei Nishikori‘s protected ranking, Japan enters the tournament as clear underdogs alongside Greece. The Asian nation might not have the elite talent Greece has in Stefanos Tsitsipas, but the overall team is better rounded and might yield more consistent results.

TEAM:

Kei Nishikori
Yoshihito Nishioka
Ben McLachlan
Toshihide Matsui

Former world number four, Nishikori is now all the way out in 41st after injuries wrecked the end of his 2019 season and impacted his 2020 year. He played just six ATP Tour matches – winning two – and almost went 12 months without playing a match. Since the US Open in 2019, he returned in Kitzbuhel in September last year, only to lose to Miomir Kecmanovic in three sets on debut. He had a good win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rome the next week, but fell to teenage talent Lorenzo Musetti. From there, he won just the one more match – against Daniel Evans – and played his final game of the year at Roland Garros, losing in five sets to Stefano Travaglia.

Nishikori is clearly a top talent when fit and firing, but having lacked match practice, he might struggle against a lot of the top players. He cannot be underestimated, but a number of the sides’ second players have since gone past him, and it is difficult seeing Japan pick up too many wins. Yoshihito Nishioka is gradually moving up the rankings, in at number 57 in the world, and he reached a career-high of 48th last year.

His sole tournament success came at Shenzhen back in 2018, so he is relatively capped in his ability, though last year he managed to record wins over Top 50 players, Pablo Cuevas, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Laslo Djere and Daniel Evans in the first month. Nishioka also made it all the way to the Delray Beach final before going down to Reilly Opelka in a three-set match. A forgettable mid-2020 was somewhat made up for with a strong finish to the year, but with a 14-12 record, he is one who will likely split his second singles matches.

The doubles combination has some potential with 28-year-old New Zealand-born Ben McLachlan teaming up with Toshihide Matsui. Whilst not familiar as a pairing on the regular ATP Tour, McLachlan is ranked inside the Top 50 for the format, playing a massive 38 tournaments. Matsui is 42-year-old and easily the oldest player in the ATP Cup. Pairing up with McLachlan at the same event last year, they won against Uruguay but lost against the much lower ranked Georgian pairing. He has also not played for 12 months which makes it difficult to predict.

Japan are underdogs for a reason and it would be a surprise to see them advance past the group stage, but miracles can happen.

Picture credit: Zimbio

Thompson upsets Coric as Schwartzman edges closer to ATP Finals

JORDAN Thompson caused the upset of the day against 15th seed Croatian Borna Coric, coming from behind to win in two hours and 14 minutes. The unseeded Australian won 2-6 6-4 6-2 to break up a day of largely predictable results. Ranked 61st in the world, the Sydney local weathered 14 aces off Coric’s racquet and only served the three himself, but was consistent in protecting his serve. Thompson won 44 per cent of his second serve, double the points higher ranked opponent did, also breaking five times to four, of which it was five times to two after the first set.

Diego Schwartzman is in the box seat for a debut at the ATP Finals later this month and he did his chances no harm with a straight sets win over French veteran, Richard Gasquet. The 56th ranked Frenchman held a 3-0 head-to-head record coming into the match, and in fact Schwartzman had never won a set off him previously. That all changed in Paris with the Argentinian winning 7-5 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes. Both players served six aces, with Gasquet the only one to double fault – three times – as Schwartzman claimed three breaks to one throughout the match, including early leads of 4-1 and 3-0 in he respective first and second sets. Winning 58 per cent of Gasquet’s second serve points whilst winning 65 per cent of his own, the Argentinian is in the best form of his career.

“I’m feeling great, because I have the chance in my hands,” Schwartzman said post-match. “I’m trying to do my best, and I’m feeling really, really good this week. After Rome, I got a lot of confidence and I’ve been playing very good tennis. So I want to be in London, and I hope to be there.”

In other results, fourth seed Alexander Zverev continued his ridiculous form off the back off two titles at Cologne to win easily over Miomir Kecmanovic, defeating the up and coming Serbian. 6-2 6-2. Zverev produced eight aces and won 88 per cent of his first serve points, whilst still controlling 69 per cent of his second serve points. Kecmanovic could only win 62 and 33 per cent of his respective serve points, not able to create a break point and was broken four times from six chances by the red-hot German.

The other three seeds on court earlier in the day also got through unscathed, with Australian 16th seed Alex de Minaur defeating danger man Lorenzo Sonego – who knocked off Novak Djokovic last week – 6-3 7-5 in their Round of 32 clash. Milos Raonic came through with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the 10th seed Canadian to advance, whilst third seed Russian Daniil Medvedev had a short time out on court after opponent Kevin Anderson had to retire at 6-6 in the first set allowing safe passage for the Russian.

Frenchman Adrian Mannarino flew the flag for his country as he and Ugo Humbert remained the only home nation players in the tournament after a three-set win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. Mannarino won 6-3 6-7 6-3 in an epic two hours and 47 minutes to book a spot in the Round of 16. Joining him was Spanish up and comer Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who qualified through to the main draw, knocked off Karen Khachanov and now has fended off French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. Davidovich Fokina won 6-4 6-4 to move through to the final 16.

In the late games, Russian Andrey Rublev continued his red-hot form with a 59-minute blitz of Macedonian Radu Albot. The first set lasted just 28 minutes, and the second set was not much longer as Rublev cruised into the Round of 16 with a 6-1 6-2 triumph. Rublev only dropped two points off his first serve and nine points all up to never face a break point, but made good on two of six opportunities from Albot’s serve. It was much tougher for world number two and top seed Rafael Nadal, as the Spaniard came from a set down and a tight second set tiebreaker to defeat experienced compatriot, Feliciano Lopez 4-6 7-6 6-4 to advance through to the Round of 16. Lopez was on song with 22 aces and winning 81 per cent of his first serve points, but Nadal was even better, claiming 16 aces and 89 per cent. Both players only broke once apiece in a match that lasted two and a half hours.

In the final match of the day Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Paul put on a tough showing in a close affair, which at time of publishing was not yet complete, though Paul led 6-4 1-2 in the first hour of play.

Picture: Getty Images

Gombos snuffs out Goffin’s last ATP Finals hope

DAVID Goffin has missed out on qualifying for the ATP Finals following a shock second round loss to Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos at the Paris Masters. The eighth seed went down in a heart-breaking loss 6-4 7-6 which officially put a line through the world number 14’s hopes of playing in the most prestigious invite-only event of the year.

The 105th ranked Gombos won 75 per cent of his first serve points off a 56 per cent efficiency, breaking three times from four chances, whilst saving six of eight for Goffin’s break point opportunities. The match lasted 97 minutes before Norbert won in the tightest of second sets, getting up 8-6 in the tiebreaker. What made the victory all the more remarkable was that Goffin held three set points to take the match into a decider at 6-3, but the Slovakian hit back to win the last five points of the match and claim victory. The loss now ends Goffin’s season for 2020.

Gombos could cause more havoc on the ATP Finals race when he takes on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the next round. The world number 15 has to win the Paris Masters to have any hope of making the eight-man tournament, and even then has to rely on ninth ranked Diego Schwartzman to exit early. The consistent Spaniard got the job done in the Round of 32 though, defeating German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 6-2 to advance to the third round.

Carreno Busta dominated off serve, only dropping four points off his first serve, and 12 for the entire one-hour and 20-minute match, saving Struff’s only break point opportunity. By contrast, Struff only won 71 and 52 per cent of his points off serve, still managed to hold on in all bar two service games, with Carreno Busta breaking twice in the second set to run away with the contest after a nail-biting first set.

At the time of publishing, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frenchman Ugo Humbert were locked in the tightest of tussles at a set apiece and 3-3 in the decider. Humbert won the first set in a tiebreaker 7-4, before Tsitsipas won the second 8-6. Remarkably, the Greek star faced three match points at 6-3, but won the last five points of the second set to force it into a decider. The winner will now take on Maric Cilic, who had a walkover against another Frenchman in Corentin Moutet in the Round of 32. Having just gone out on court, Italian Matteo Berrettini and American Marcos Giron were going head-to-head in the final Round of 32 match.

Looking at the first round matches played on the day to complete the Round of 64, 12th seed Stan Wawrinka blasted his way into the next stage with a 6-3 7-6 triumph over Great Britain’s Dan Evans. Wawrinka hit 35 winners and served eight aces, not being broken during the match thanks to a high 83 and 67 per cent of points off his first and second serve respectively. Evans was pretty solid too, winning 76 per cent of his first serve points, but struggled off his slower second serve, winning just 46 per cent, and was broken in the first set which cost him in the 93-minute loss.

“I’m really happy with my level today, I was serving and moving well,” Wawrinka said post-match. “I was happy to be back here in Paris, even without crowd it’s always a great tournament. “We are lucky to still have some tournaments going, so I’m trying to enjoy them as much as possible.”

Now Wawrinka will face a fellow veteran in Richard Gasquet who dominated American Taylor Fritz early before having to fight through three sets to post a victory. Gasquet trounced his younger opponent 6-0 in just 25 minutes to start the match on his home court, but Fritz fought back to win the second set before the home nation hero won in three, 6-0 3-6 6-3 in 96 minutes on court. Gasquet had two less aces (9-11), but won more of his second serve points (50 per cent to 31 per cent) which was the key difference in the end.

“I am home and I like to play here in Bercy, even if there is no crowd,” Gasquet said post-match. “I am very happy with the way I played. It is very difficult to play without the support of a crowd.”

It was a relatively good day for the French, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert coming from behind to defeat Tennys Sandgren in a third set tiebreaker, 2-6 6-4 7-6, while Adrian Mannarino posted a straight sets 7-6 6-3 win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The news was not as positive for Mannarino’s conqueror at Nur-Saltan with recent maiden title winner John Millman going down in straight sets to another Serbian in Miomir Kecmanovic.

In other results, Lorenzo Sonego continued his good form of late, backing up his Vienna final with a first round win over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 6-1 6-4. Also through to the next round was 10th seed Milos Raonic who won his fifth straight match over Aljaz Bedene, only dropping six points on serve to win 6-2 6-3 in just over an hour. Kevin Anderson booked his spot in the Round of 32 after Laslo Djere pulled out trailing 5-2 in the first set, while Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Pablo Andujar in a come-from-behind 5-7 6-4 6-2 victory.

Picture: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: ATP World Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COLOGNE CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EUROPEAN OPEN RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Laurie Dieffebacq

Four seeds proceed to Antwerp and Cologne quarter finals

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

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

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

COLOGNE ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

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

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

ANTWERP ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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