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Rublev Repeats Ruud Win, Returns To Hamburg Final
el día 26 septiembre, 2020 a las 1:26 pm
Andrey Rublev advanced to his second straight Hamburg European Open final on Saturday, ending the run of in-form Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2. The World No. 14 won 54 per cent of his first-serve return points (19/35) to defeat Ruud in Hamburg for the second straight year. At last year’s event, Rublev rallied from a set down to beat the 6’0″ right-hander 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round. ”[It is] my first ever time that two years in a row I reached a final at the same tournament,” said Rublev, in an on-court interview. “For the moment, it is the most special tournament for me. We will see how it goes tomorrow.” Rublev is through to his third final of 2020. The Russian became the first player since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to win back-to-back trophies in the opening two weeks of the year. Rublev claimed 11 straight victories to open his 2020 ATP Tour season, winning titles in Doha and Adelaide before a run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open. With his straight-sets win against Ruud, the 22-year-old improves to 24-6 this season. Only Novak Djokovic (31-1) owns more victories than Rublev this year. Most ATP Tour Wins In 2020 Rank Player Win/Loss Record 1 Novak Djokovic 31-1 2 Andrey Rublev 24-6 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas 21-8 4 Casper Ruud 20-9 5 Felix Auger-Aliassime 18-13 Ruud was competing in his fourth semi-final from five clay events this year. The 21-year-old earned his maiden ATP Tour title at the Argentina Open (d. P. Sousa) and also advanced to the Santiago final in February (l. to Seyboth Wild). At last week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Ruud reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final (l. to Djokovic). The Norwegian leads the ATP Tour with 15 clay wins this year (15-4). “Casper did such a great run this week,” said Rublev. “He did such a great run last week in Rome… lost a good match against Djokovic. He is really on a high level now and I wish him good look at Roland Garros.” Rublev will face Stefanos Tsitsipas or Cristian Garin in the final. The 2019 runner-up is tied at 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Tsitsipas and owns a 2-0 ATP Head2Head record against Garin. Under a closed roof on Centre Court, Rublev stepped in on his forehand and pushed Ruud behind the baseline to earn an early break advantage. Despite dropping serve at 3-2, Rublev continued to find success on his return. The four-time ATP Tour titlist regained his advantage in the next game after an extended rally, moving up the court to land a backhand drop shot winner. Rublev closed the set with a love service hold after 50 minutes. After winning only 48 per cent of first-serve points (11/23) in the opening set, Ruud received treatment to his right shoulder ahead of the second set. Rublev earned three further breaks when play resumed, as he continued to dictate points by stepping inside the baseline and driving powerful groundstrokes up the line. The Moscow native ran to the net and flicked a forehand winner up the line to convert his second match point. “The match was really tough. I think everyone saw how tough it was, how [many] long rallies we had, how many chances both of us had,” said Rublev. “It could [have been] easily 6-4, 6-2 to Casper’s side, but I was a little bit lucky. In the most important moments and at the end, the match was for me. I am really happy with the way I played today.”
Five Challenger Stars To Watch At Roland Garros
el día 26 septiembre, 2020 a las 5:32 am
For the next fortnight, all eyes will be on the stars of the ATP Tour as they battle for glory at Roland Garros. But as hungry as they will be to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, there is a group of competitors that are just as motivated to make a splash at the hard-court Grand Slam. They are the players competing throughout the year on the ATP Challenger Tour. Securing entry into a Grand Slam is no simple task. It requires year-round focus, hard work and consistency to arrive at this moment. For players grinding on the Challenger circuit, this is the reward. Having the opportunity to test their talents against the best players in the world, and with coveted points and prize money at stake, is what drives these players from January to November. Roland Garros 2020 is no exception. A platform to showcase their skills and eventually take the next step on the ATP Tour, it presents a huge opportunity on a global stage. A strong performance on the terre battue can prove to be career-altering for many Challenger stars, as they target the Top 100 and beyond. So, which players are poised to wreak havoc on the draw? We look at five to watch in Paris… Daniel Altmaier (GER) After more than five months on the sidelines, many players have seized the opportunity to rest, get healthy and fine tune their game. Altmaier is certainly one of them. The 21-year-old, who has battled chronic abdominal and shoulder injuries since reaching his first ATP Tour quarter-final in 2017 (Antalya), used his time in quarantine to work on his fitness and build a «more stable» body structure. That commitment is paying off for the German, upon the resumption of the ATP Challenger Tour. A year after dropping out of the FedEx ATP Rankings, the 22-year-old Altmaier would rise to a career-high No. 183 just two weeks ago. He reached back-to-back Challenger semi-finals, in Cordenons and Aix-en-Provence, posting statement wins over a surging Lorenzo Musetti and World No. 61 Pablo Cuevas. It was his first victory over a Top 100 opponent in three years. Among all players in the Roland Garros draw, Altmaier owns the most Challenger wins in 2020. In fact, his 21-11 record is second-best on the circuit since the start of the year. Only Aslan Karatsev owns more victories. The German will make his Grand Slam debut against Feliciano Lopez, with countryman and 30th-seed Jan-Lennard Struff a potential second round opponent. Tomas Machac (CZE) What a story this was. Machac wasn’t even slated to be in the qualifying draw on Sunday. But following the withdrawal of multiple players due to COVID-19, the Czech teenager found himself in qualies of a Grand Slam for the first time. From being one of the last players in the draw to punching his ticket to the big show, he would qualify without dropping a set. Machac might just be the best kept secret on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2020. He’s the teenager few are familiar with, but that won’t last long. In February, right before the COVID-19 shutdown, the 19-year-old won his maiden Challenger crown on the indoor hard courts of Koblenz, Germany. And he’s certainly shown that his game translates to all surfaces, storming through Roland Garros qualifying with authority. Machac, who is coached by two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Daniel Vacek, likens his game style to Novak Djokovic. Boasting excellent defensive skills on the court, the Czech has developed his talents on the Challenger circuit in the past year. Machac is the youngest player from the Czech Republic in the Top 400 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, rising to a career-high No. 246 upon the Challenger restart in August. «This is a dream,» said Machac. «I did not expect this. I left everything out there. I’m just excited and I can’t even describe it properly.» Machac will face the biggest test of his young career in Paris, opening against 27th-seed Taylor Fritz. His Grand Slam debut will be his first meeting with a Top 100 opponent. Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) Rinderknech is the Frenchman everyone should be watching in Paris. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, no player was more dominant on the ATP Challenger Tour. The Parisian entered the season outside the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he would find his stride in a hurry. Having thrived in four years at Texas A&M University, the 24-year-old adapted quickly in his second season on the professional scene, claiming his maiden Challenger title at home in Rennes, before sprinting to back-to-back finals on Canadian soil. Armed with a mammoth serve and boisterous baseline game, Rinderknech built more confidence with every passing week. It was in Canada that he surged to a career-high of No. 160, finishing runner-up in Drummondville and lifting his second trophy the following week in Calgary. «It was pretty tough for me to stop playing,» said Rinderknech. «If I can digest what happened in January and February, and go back to work with even more motivation, I can achieve my goals. I had a pretty good chemistry on the court and with some more hard work, I know I can do it again.» A native of Gassin, located along the French Riviera, Rinderknech is poised to make his Grand Slam debut on home soil. He will face Aljaz Bedene in the first round and could face the winner of the all-Serbian clash between Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Milojevic. Jurij Rodionov (AUT) Rodionov is the #NextGenATP star on the rise in Paris. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Austrian was sprinting towards qualification into the Next Gen ATP Finals. He was a ruthless force in the month of February, scoring an impressive 15 wins from 17 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour and lifting trophies on both the indoor hard courts of Dallas and outdoor hard courts of Morelos. After nearly three years grinding on the Challenger circuit, Rodionov’s breakthrough finally arrived. Rodionov has flipped the script in 2020, teaming with new coach Javier Frana to climb to a career-high of No. 166 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Rodionov boasts a unique and eclectic game style, often employing various tactics from point to point. From moving his opponents side-to-side and then luring them in to the net, to staying on the baseline and looking to attack with his forehand, the Austrian is as unpredictable as they come. And with his affinity for the tweener, trick shots are not out of the question. Following a successful qualifying campaign, Rodionov will open his Grand Slam career against French veteran Jeremy Chardy. Borna Coric and Norbert Gombos are potential second-round opponents. Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) There are no easy matches in Grand Slam qualifying and Vukic had to earn all three of his victories at Roland Garros. In the first round, the Aussie saved two match points to upset the surging Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz. Trailing by a set and a break, he would claw back from the brink of defeat. Vukic would not be denied his first Grand Slam appearance from there, overcoming Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Jason Jung to punch his ticket to the main draw. A three-time All-American at the University of Illinois, ‘Vuki’ hails from Sydney, Australia, but has Eastern European heritage in his blood. His parents, who introduced him to the game at age five, are from Montenegro (dad) and Bosnia (mom). The 24-year-old graduated with a degree in finance in 2018 and has battled on the ATP Challenger Tour ever since. In March, all the work finally paid off. In the week before the COVID-19 shutdown, Vukic reached his first Challenger final on the hard courts of Monterrey, Mexico (l. to Mannarino). He secured the biggest win of his young career in upsetting World No. 56 Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Now, up to a career-high No. 190 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Aussie is hoping his strong 2020 campaign translates to the Grand Slam stage. He faces another qualifier, Pedro Martinez, in the first round, with 14th seed Fabio Fognini and top American John Isner also in his immediate section of the draw. Five More To WatchLiam Broady qualified for a Grand Slam for the first time, as the 26-year-old refused to drop a set in his three matches. Having previously received Wimbledon wild cards on three occasions, it marks his first successful major qualifying campaign in 12 attempts. He will open against Jiri Vesely. Steven Diez was made to wait even longer in his bid to qualify at a slam. In his 16th attempt, the Canadian earned his Grand Slam debut on Thursday. The World No. 179, who won his lone Challenger title in Burnie, Australia, last year, has Spanish parents and originally competed for Spain early in his career. Two sons of Grand Slam champions – Emilio Gomez and Sebastian Korda – also booked their spots in the main draw from qualifying. Exactly 30 years after his father Andres Gomez won Roland Garros, Emilio rallied from 0-3 30/40 down in the deciding set (d. Popko) to punch his ticket on Thursday. And 20-year-old Korda, son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, will also make his debut in Paris. One of the more under-the-radar first round match-ups features Vukic against Pedro Martinez. At No. 105 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Spaniard is on the precipice of a Top 100 breakthrough. Martinez is ready for the big stage, having reached the Australian Open second round as a qualifier in January, as well as his first ATP Tour quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro. And just two weeks ago, he earned his first Top 50 win (d. Querrey) in his ATP Masters 1000 debut in Rome.
Andres Gomez On Son Emilio Qualifying In Paris: ‘It’s Very Exciting. I’m Drained!’
el día 26 septiembre, 2020 a las 1:52 am
Andres Gomez woke up at about 4 a.m. in Ecuador Thursday morning. The 1990 Roland Garros champion was awake plenty early in anticipation of watching his son, Emilio Gomez, play in the final round of qualifying on the Parisian terre battue. Thirty years ago, Andres lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires after beating Andre Agassi in the final. Which made him more nervous: competing for the trophy or watching his son trying to qualify for a Grand Slam for the first time? “Watching. It’s not even close. I probably walked more around the house and around the TV watching the match than I did when I played the final,” Andres told ATPTour.com. For a while, 28-year-old Emilio appeared to be heading towards defeat against Dmitry Popko. In a match that featured two rain suspensions, the Kazakhstani led 3-0 in the third set and had a break point to go up a double-break against the Ecuadorian. At 4-5 in the decider, he faced two match points on his serve. “I’d rather be on the court than being outside. Outside you get so nervous,” Emilio said. “On the court you have all the adrenaline, which makes it go by. But when you’re outside and hoping for someone to win that much, especially imagining for my dad, [I am sure] he did a couple rounds of the house.” Gomez played without fear, going after his forehand on Court 13. If he was going to fall short, he was going to do so on his terms. It didn’t matter that he was dealing with a sore back, which hindered him. “I think the will to win was stronger than all the pain I was feeling in that third set,” Emilio said. “I played super aggressive and kind of forgot about everything [and] where I was. I was looking for my first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam, [which is] especially [important] here at the French Open. “It took a lot of running and a lot of guts to pull it out after having two match points against me.” Gomez, the No. 155 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, rallied. By staving off defeat, he put the pressure on Popko. Despite failing to serve out the match at 6-5, Gomez stormed through the tie-break to turn one of his dreams — making the main draw of a major — into reality. “It was disbelief for how everything went during the match,” Emilio said of what he felt after completing his victory. “As I was walking off I had so many emotions that I have never had before, thinking about all the things I went through to be here and to enjoy this moment. It’s been tough for me.” It’s not that long ago that Gomez was considering quitting professional tennis. In April 2017, he hurt his shoulder during a Davis Cup match. That injury kept him out for nearly four months. When he returned, the shoulder still was “pretty bad”. Gomez couldn’t serve or hit his forehand normally for an extended period of time. In June 2018, he lost in the first round of three consecutive Futures events in the United States and his FedEx ATP Ranking was outside the Top 500. A month later, there were two Futures in Ecuador that were his last chance to turn things around. “I felt like the world was against me. I was ready to quit, but at that time I had two weeks to prepare for two tournaments in Ecuador and I was able to work and give myself that last chance,” Emilio said. “I won both tournaments in singles and doubles and that gave me that extra life. Qualifying here at the French was really important, but if you ask me what the most important thing I’ve done in my career is, it was probably winning those Futures.” The Gomez family practises positivity, and that’s what Emilio has done. Last year in Tallahassee he lifted his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy and in October, he reached a career-high World No. 143. Inevitably, people will take notice that the son of a Grand Slam champion is working his way towards the Top 100. When Andres goes to see his son compete, he tries to watch from a place where people don’t focus on him being there rather than Emilio playing. “He has a weight to carry with me that’s on him all the time. I’m not even present, but without the [physical] presence,” Andres said. “He deals with it very well and we’re proud of what he does and how he goes about himself. He’s very professional, so he deserves to get the big rewards and hopefully this is the start of something. “I can’t shy away from being a parent and a proud one.” For Emilio, that “weight” of being Andres Gomez’s son has lessened over time. “It’s been easier as time has gone by. It’s just been nice. It’s actually nice they mention him because I know how much this means not only to me, but my whole family,” Emilio said. “I think for Sebastian Korda it’s pretty much the same [with him being Petr Korda’s son]. That’s the difference between Sebi, me and the other sons of tennis players. We are the only two sons of Grand Slam champions playing tennis [at this level right now]. “I think I fulfilled something that he’s wanted for a long time, but we’re going back to work tomorrow. We’re going to enjoy it today, a little bit tomorrow and then get ready for the first round because it’s going to be pretty important. It’s probably going to be the most important match I’ve been a part of, whoever I play. I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m going to go for it and take my chances.” The earliest Emilio will play his first-round match – against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego – is Sunday, giving the Ecuadorian time to rest. His dad needs it, too. “It’s very exciting,” Andres said. “I’m drained!” Did You Know?Petr Korda’s son, Sebastian Korda, qualified for the main draw on Friday, so the sons of two Grand Slam champions will compete at Roland Garros.
Rafa 13.0: ‘I’m Going To Need My Best Version’
el día 25 septiembre, 2020 a las 10:07 pm
Does Rafael Nadal consider himself the favourite at this year’s Roland Garros? As a 12-time tournament champion, he has dominated the event like no other player in all Grand Slam history. On the other side of the ledger, he has played just one tournament since February and suffered a surprise quarter-final loss to Diego Schwartzman last week in Rome. His great rival, Novak Djokovic, comes in with a 31-1 record on the season, and the confidence of having won a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome. To win the trophy, Nadal may need to beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final. And the World No. 2 feels that conditions are not in his favour. So maybe, just maybe, there is hope for others in the field. “I always have been beatable on clay. [Novak] beat me a lot of times,” said Nadal. “But at the same time [it] is true that I had a lot of success on this surface. [The] situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different [reasons]. The ball completely different. The ball is super slow, heavy. It’s very cold. Slow conditions. “Of course, the preparation have been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practise with the right attitude, to give [myself] a chance. That’s the main goal for me. Be competitive on Monday, and let’s try. Just day-by-day. I know this place very well. It is about being patient, being positive, just trying to find the positive vibes every single day.” Despite the challenging conditions for the Spaniard at this year’s event, Nadal is excited to be back at the most successful tournament of his career. The Spaniard can create history in Paris this year. If Nadal lifts the trophy by winning seven matches in Paris, he will equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam crowns and hit 100 victories at the clay-court Grand Slam championship. Nadal currently holds a tournament record 93 wins from 95 matches. “We are just about to start a very important event, the most important event in my tennis career historically,” said Nadal. “I am just happy to be back here in this place… The situation is a little bit more difficult than usual without a doubt. But that’s it. I going to keep trying my best. I know [it is] going to be a big challenge to play well here. But I did it in the past… I know very well I have to keep giving [myself] chances to find the best level possible.” Nadal is aware that conditions in Paris are vastly different from previous years. The typical spring weather has been replaced by damp, cold conditions at Stade Roland Garros. But the Spaniard is not a complete stranger to challenging weather in Paris. At last year’s event, the 19-time Grand Slam champion overcame heavy winds to defeat Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals. With weather conditions out of his control, Nadal is choosing to focus on what he can influence ahead of his first-round match against Egor Gerasimov: his attitude and concentration. “The conditions on the court are completely different than the previous years,” said Nadal. “I [am] just going to try to keep working hard. I think I had a good couple of practices… I am not having bad feelings. I am just trying to focus on what I have to do to be ready. That’s my goal.” By accepting that this Roland Garros will be like no other he has played before, Nadal has been able to relax and focus his mind on one simple goal: to find his best level. It is a goal he has managed to achieve on 12 previous visits to the tournament. Only time will tell if his bid for a 13th Coupe des Mousquetaires will be successful. “What you need is the right energy to accept every single thing. That’s what I am doing,” said Nadal. “Just stay positive knowing that the conditions are not perfect for me, maybe not perfect for others either, and accept that I [am] going to need my best version to have chances. “I am just relaxed knowing that it’s a very special year. I am here just to give myself a chance to enjoy another Roland Garros and, of course, to try my best to be competitive and fight for the final goal.”
Thiem Sees ‘Huge Challenge’ To Repeat US Open Success In Paris
el día 25 septiembre, 2020 a las 8:43 pm
Dominic Thiem hopes to keep the feel-good factor that his US Open triumph brought him two weeks ago on the crushed brick of Roland Garros, where he has reached the final for the past two years. “I felt great coming here because, I’ve achieved such a big goal,” said Thiem on Friday, in Paris. “At one point, whatever comes now is somehow a bonus. On the other hand, I want to do the best I can in every single tournament I play. Especially here in Roland Garros, [where] I [had] four crazy years with two semi-finals [and] two finals. “I love the conditions here. I love the whole tournament. First practice yesterday, I straight away felt great with the conditions, with the clay, in the Suzanne Lenglen stadium. I tried to not think too much about the US Open, but to see this as a new tournament, as a new challenge. To be as good as possible from the first point on.” Thiem has had little time to celebrate and reflect on his first Grand Slam championship title over Alexander Zverev in the US Open final on 13 September. “I was enjoying that obviously at home with family and friends,” said Thiem, who played on clay in Austria for two days prior to arriving in Paris on Wednesday. “I tried not to lose all the tension, tried not to do nothing for too long. I did nothing for three or four days, then I started to practise on clay. But I’ll see how I handle all the emotions, also all the physical challenges which happened in New York. In the past, I was not that great playing the tournaments, after big titles like [the BNP Paribas Open in] Indian Wells last year or [the Erste Bank Open in] Vienna. I’ve always played not that great the following week. I will try to do it differently here in Paris [and] try to be on top of my game from Monday onwards.” The 27-year-old Austrian could rise to a career-high No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings should he go on to capture the Roland Garros crown, but Thiem isn’t ruling out 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 93-2 record at the Paris major. “I think he’s always going to be the big-time favourite when he’s playing, when he’s healthy and fit,” said Thiem. “I think he is… the big favourite, just because of the past. He won the tournament 12 times, which is just incredible. He’s by far the best clay-court player ever. But there are some slight changes. The balls are a little bit different… It can be super rainy, super cold end of September, beginning of October. Maybe that’s a little bit tougher for him. “For me, it’s the same. I also love [it] when it’s hot, when the ball bounces high. Maybe it’s a little bit better conditions for Novak [Djokovic]. Rafa is the huge favourite than Novak, because of all his titles, all the experience. Then I guess, there is [apart from me] three other players, like Sascha [Zverev], Daniil [Medvedev] and Stefanos [Tsitsipas].” With six days of clay-court practise under his belt by Monday, when he will face two-time former quarter-finalist Marin Cilic, Thiem is anxious. “I have to see how I handle the New York title, because obviously it was physically and mentally very demanding,” said Thiem. “I hope that I’m 100 per cent ready on Monday. All of that is a huge challenge for both of us [Nicolas Massu and Thiem], for all my team. But they are great. They are preparing me really well all the time, for all the tournaments. So I hope they’re going to do it again here in Paris.”