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Mahut Shuts Down Shotmaker Brown In Metz

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2017

Mahut Shuts Down Shotmaker Brown In Metz

Frenchman working towards a return to the Top 100

Veteran Frenchman Nicolas Mahut continued his push to break back into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings with a 6-1, 7-6(4) first-round win over German shotmaker Dustin Brown at the Moselle Open in Metz, France, Wednesday.

The current World No. 107 slipped out of the Top 100 for the first time in more than two years in July but put himself back within range by winning five matches at the US Open to come through qualifying to reach the third round for the second consecutive year.

Mahut first played the Moselle Open in 2003. He is a two-time semi-finalist at the event (2013, 07) and has reached the quarter-finals the past two years. To reach the quarters again, he must beat lucky loser Kenny De Schepper, who claimed a main-draw slot when top seed Pablo Carreno Busta withdrew. (Mahut lost to the Spaniard in the third round at Flushing Meadows earlier this month.)

The 35-year-old has won one title in each of the past two seasons (both in ‘s-Hertogenbosch). His four career titles (and six finals appearances) have all come on grass.

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Zopp Surging In Comeback Behind 29-2 Run

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2017

Zopp Surging In Comeback Behind 29-2 Run

Five years later, a Top 100 return is in sight for Estonia’s Jurgen Zopp

Twenty-nine wins in 31 matches. It’s a run most players could only dream of.

For Jurgen Zopp, the dream has become a reality. The culmination of five years of hard work and dedication, Estonia’s most successful player is thriving once again in his bid to return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Amidst a litany of injury setbacks, including back ailments and an abdominal tear, Zopp struggled to find his footing after reaching a career-high of No. 71 in 2012. Confidence was low and consistent success was hard to find. But that all changed in an instant in July. Hovering just inside the Top 500, Zopp would produce a magical run.

Four consecutive Futures events resulted in three titles and a final finish and he would kick off the month of September with an impressive return to the ATP Challenger Tour, notching his first title in three years in Alphen, Netherlands. With two days of torrential rain testing players’ patience, Zopp claimed seven wins as a qualifier to lift the trophy. He defeated former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo in the final at the Tean International.

“I didn’t even expect to get to the semis,” Zopp said, reflecting on his title run in Alphen. “I just took it match by match. I had a tight first round in the main draw, and then won 7-5 in the third in the second round. It could have gone either way. If somebody had told me I would win that week, I wouldn’t have believed it, but when you keep trying and keep pushing yourself, you might get lucky. I think this is what happened. I have had the level to play with those guys, but many times things don’t come together. This time though it really worked out well.”

In total, the Estonian has amassed a 29-2 record over the past two months, culminating with a run the semi-finals at the prestigious Challenger stop in Szczecin, Poland just last week. Most importantly, his flurry of wins has also yielded a significant boost in the Emirates ATP Rankings, soaring nearing 300 spots to No. 194.

A speechless Zopp attempted to explain his staggering run.

“Five years ago, I got to the Top 100 and then I started struggling with my back injury. I was out seven months, and then I played five months off and on, and then I was out six months again. I was struggling pretty much for one-and-a-half years. Now I’ve been fine for almost three years, but this year I had a little tear on my abdominal.

“In July, I just started winning. To be quite honest, I can’t point my finger at something specific. I went to play a $25k Futures in Germany and I managed to win that week. I think that was the key, to win that first week.”

As the wins continue to pile up, Zopp is refusing to be complacent in his work ethic. With new coach and former Finnish player Kim Tiilikainen joining his team in July, he believes he is still striving to discover his top level. The Top 100 is within reach once again and the 29-year-old’s journey is far from over.

“He has been a good mental support and now knowing that I am not alone has helped also,” Zopp said about Tiilikainen’s impact. “We haven’t really tried to work or make something really better, but it is a better feeling when you are not alone traveling and you have someone who is responsible for you and taking care of you.

“This year it didn’t start off good because of injury, but it’s been getting better. Tennis isn’t about how you feel with your forehand, or how good you feel you are moving. Sometimes it is difficult to understand tennis. I think maybe if you ask my coach he would say I am playing close to the Top 100 level. I am beating the guys around there and these past weeks I definitely played at that level. We will see if I can keep it up the next six months or next 12 months. That is the key I believe.”

With the 2017 season nearing the end, returning to the Top 100 is a lofty goal, but one that Zopp will not back down from. However, all numbers aside, he plans to make the most of his hot streak as he goes to play in the ATP Challenger Tour events in Ortisei, Italy and Ismaning, Germany.

“[Top 100] is always the goal, but I try not to think about it too much, because when you think about the numbers too much it might affect you. In tennis, if you get too emotional and want something too much, the emotion might get in the way of your game and performance. I just try to do my job and play my level. We will see what happens.”

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Metz 2017

  • Posted: Sep 19, 2017

Metz 2017

The content of this article took place at Moselle Open

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Istomin Upsets Gasquet In Metz

  • Posted: Sep 19, 2017

Istomin Upsets Gasquet In Metz

Disappointment for Gasquet on home soil

It was an unhappy return for Frenchman Richard Gasquet as he played his first match in Metz since 2001. The sixth seed was beaten 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 by Denis Istomin in the first round of the Moselle Open on Tuesday.

It was a fast turnaround for Gasquet, who captured his first ATP Challenger Tour title in seven years when he triumphed in Szczecin on Sunday. Istomin saved 10 of the 13 break points he faced as he overturned a 1-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Gasquet to prevail in one hour and 54 minutes.

You May Also Like: Gasquet Rediscovers Winning Ways In Poland

Seventh seed Benoit Paire recorded his third match win on his fifth appearance in Metz by beating Greek qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4 in 57 minutes. He now plays Spain’s Marcel Granollers, the 2012 finalist, who lived to fight another day by saving one match point in the deciding set tie-break to scrape past Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli 7-6(9), 3-6, 7-6(8) in two hours and 42 minutes. Granollers, who struck 17 aces, saved one set point at 5/6 in the first-set tie-break, then one match point at 5/6 in the third-set tie-break in the pair’s first meeting for nine years.

Nicolas Almagro levelled his FedEx ATP Head2Head record with Frenchman Julien Benneteau at 3-3 after a 7-6(3), 7-5 victory. The Spaniard hit 10 aces and broke in the final game on his third match point to secure the victory.

It is the first match win in Metz for the former No. 9 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He will next face No. 2 seed David Goffin for a place in the quarter-finals. Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili toughed out a 2-6, 7-(5), 6-4 win over French qualifier Vincent Millot and now challenges fourth seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.

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Troicki, Youzhny Win St. Petersburg Openers

  • Posted: Sep 19, 2017

Troicki, Youzhny Win St. Petersburg Openers

Troicki, home favourite Youzhny advance to round two

Russian Mikhail Youzhny opened his 16th appearance (2001-13, ‘15-17) at the St. Petersburg Open on Tuesday by beating Australian qualifier John Patrick Smith 7-6(6), 6-4 in one hour 33 minutes. The 2004 champion, with a 34-13 record at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, will next face third-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini in the second round.

Seventh seed Viktor Troicki fired nine aces and saved four of five break points as he edged Andrey Kuznetsov 7-6(6), 7-6(2) in one hour and 45 minutes.

“I think it was a good quality match,” said Troicki. “I came up against a great player, a very talented Russian player, who I always had trouble with in the past. It was a tough one today, which I expected and I’m happy to go through to the second round.”

Briton Liam Broady, currently No. 242 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, recorded just his second tour-level match win – and his first since 2015 Wimbledon – in sweeping past fellow qualifier and 2013 titlist Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-3, 6-0 in 63 minutes. Broady, 23, will now prepare to meet fourth seed Adrian Mannarino of France.

Ricardas Berankis set a second-round clash with fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber as he defeated qualifier Daniel Masur 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

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Rublev's Meteoric Rise: What's Made The Difference?

  • Posted: Sep 19, 2017

Rublev's Meteoric Rise: What's Made The Difference?

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers investigates Rublev’s return game

The evolution of a tennis player typically develops along a pathway where the serve matures quicker than the return of serve.

Not so for Andrey Rublev.

The talented 19-year-old Russian already has one of the best return games on tour, fueling his meteoric rise up the Emirates ATP Rankings in the past three months to a career-high No. 37 this week.

Flash back just 12 weeks to mid-June and Rublev was not even ranked in the Top 100, losing in the second round of a clay-court ATP Challenger Tour event in Caltanissetta, Italy.

Fast forward three months to mid-September and he now has his first ATP World Tour 250 title under his belt after coming through qualifying to win at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. He followed that up with two Top 15 victories at the US Open (No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 14 David Goffin) to become the youngest quarter-finalist in New York City since Andy Roddick in 2001.

The improvement curve is about as steep as it gets.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis identifies the Muscovite’s return game is mature beyond his years. Rublev is ranked just 63rd in the Infosys ATP Stats Serve LEADERBOARD with a 257.6 rating in the past 52 weeks. He is all the way up seventh best on tour on the Return LEADERBOARD, with a 156.0 rating.

The average age of the other nine players in the Top 10 of the Return LEADERBOARD is 29 years old – 10 years his senior. The closest in age is Diego Schwartzman, who is 25. It normally takes players several years on tour to gather enough reps and experience when returning to reach the Top 10 in this category. Rublev is currently short-circuiting that theory.

Below are his impressive return metrics from the past 52 weeks.

Returning
Ranking
Win Percentage / Rating
Break Points Converted
6
45.5%
Infosys Return Rating
7
156.0
2nd Serve Return Points Won
10
52.8%
1st Serve Return Points Won
14
31.3%
Return Games Won
14
26.4%

Infosys Nia Data identifies that when Rublev won the opening point returning in the 2017 season and forged ahead 0/15, he broke a remarkable 49 per cent (60/122) of the time. By contrast, 20-year-old Alexander Zverev, who is ranked No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, only broke 40 per cent (117/289) of the time.

It’s correct to factor in that Zverev has played more than double the amount of points than Rublev against higher ranked opposition, but it’s clear to see that the young Russian is more than taking care of business as he sets his own collision course with the Top 10.

Rublev’s most impressive return metric in the past 52 weeks is Break Points Converted, being sixth on tour winning 45.5 per cent of these critical momentum points. In 2017, he has converted 38 per cent (47/125) against first serves, and a decisive 60 per cent (40/67) against second serves.

Rublev is now the second highest ranked Russian behind 21-year-old Karen Khachanov, who is ranked just five spots ahead of him at No. 32. The third ranked Russian is 21-year-old Daniil Medvedev, who is ranked No. 61 this week. All three of these players are on track to compete at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan from 7-11 November.

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