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Is Zverev a Grand Slam champion in the making?

  • Posted: May 21, 2018
2018 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 May-10 June
Coverage: Daily live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

In Indian Wells as an 18-year-old in March 2016, Alexander Zverev had a straightforward forehand volley to knock out Rafael Nadal and take his place in the quarter-finals.

He buried it in the net, and the chance was gone. “On match point, I sucked,” the German later said.

That was their first meeting. Four subsequent matches have also gone Nadal’s way, but there were five sets in the 2017 Australian Open, and a narrow escape for the Spaniard in Sunday’s Rome Masters final.

Nadal may well have recovered from 3-1 down in the deciding set without the rain delay, but it certainly checked Zverev’s momentum and ended his run of 13 wins in a row.

The now 21-year-old, who is based in Monte Carlo, has gathered an impressive array of trophies in a short period of time. In the past two years, the former junior world number one has won eight titles – including three at Masters level – and been runner-up a further five times.

Zverev, who also answers to the name Sascha, has no significant weaknesses. His backhand is breathtakingly good (which is a big advantage on clay when facing Nadal’s beloved, and heavily spun, crosscourt forehand), and despite being 6ft 6ins tall, is able to move as well as serve well.

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But before the French Open, which begins on Sunday, Zverev still needs to prove himself on the Grand Slam stage. He is yet to reach the quarter-final of any Slam and his one appearance in the fourth round ended in defeat by Milos Raonic at Wimbledon last year.

After beating Zverev to the Rome title, Nadal confidently predicted this is just a matter of time.

“It’s impossible to not have a great result in a Grand Slam when you have the level that he has,” the new world number one said.

“It’s just time. If he’s not playing well in Grand Slams during the next two years, you can come back to me and tell me ‘you know nothing about tennis’. But I believe that it is going to be a different story.

“Tennis is tennis. It doesn’t matter – best of three, best of five. Playing best of five is a big advantage for the best players, and Sascha is one of the best players.”

It is hard to argue with Nadal’s prediction, although Zverev’s Grand Slam performances in the past year have not come close to matching his form on the ATP Tour. He lost to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of last year’s French Open, and after that run to the last 16 at Wimbledon, was beaten by Borna Coric in the second round of the US Open.

After losing the deciding set of his third-round match 6-0 to eventual semi-finalist Hyeon Chung at January’s Australian Open, Zverev said the problem was not physical, but hinted it could be mental.

What should be remembered, though, is that the German only turned 21 last month. The French Open will be just the 12th time he has played in a Grand Slam main draw. By means of comparison, Roger Federer’s first Slam title, at Wimbledon 2003, came at his 17th attempt. And Federer was about the age then that Zverev will be at the 2019 Australian Open.

“I try to play the same way, play the same way over a longer period of time,” Zverev said, as he looked ahead to Roland Garros after the Rome final.

“For me, it will be match by match there. And hopefully I’ll be able to play the same kind of tennis like I did in the last three weeks. We’ll see. The next few days, I will not even think about tennis. And then I’ll go to Paris and do my best to prepare and try to compete for the French Open.

“Of course, Rafa will be the favourite there, there’s no question about it. I’ll be in the other half of the draw. So, that’s a good thing,” he said, with a smile.

Alexander Zverev factfile
Born: 20 April 1997 in Hamburg, Germany
Turned pro: 2013
Grand Slam appearances: 11
Best Grand Slam performance: Fourth round, Wimbledon 2017
ATP Tour titles: Eight
ATP Tour finals: 13
Career prize money: £7.73m
2018 prize money: £2.44m

Zverev will arrive in Paris as the world number three, and in the absence of Federer, as the second seed. He knows he will be under the spotlight. He can be prickly and blunt with the media, but he can also be brutally honest.

“Nerves got the better of me. I choked,” he said, after losing a decisive round-robin match to Jack Sock at the ATP Finals in London last November.

Zverev has been seeped in tennis for all of his life. His parents, Alexander and Irina, are former professionals, and dad still coaches him to this day. His brother Mischa, nearly 10 years his senior, reached the last eight of the 2017 Australian Open after a stunning win over then world number one Andy Murray.

Sascha has been a regular by the side of the court from a toddler as the family travelled with Mischa on the junior tour. He thinks he first had a knock-up with Murray and Novak Djokovic at the age of just three.

The man, with the world at his feet, has been a long time in the making.

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Tennis With A View: Ferrer & Querrey Enjoy Geneva Sights

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

Tennis With A View: Ferrer & Querrey Enjoy Geneva Sights

Seeded stars visit the Cité du Temps in Geneva

Sam Querrey and David Ferrer are the first and fourth seeds, respectively, at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open this week in Switzerland. But before they begin their campaigns at the ATP World Tour 250-level event, the pair took to a smaller court for some pre-tournament fun.

Querrey and Ferrer played mini-tennis at the Cité du Temps, a square in the centre of Geneva that offers a view of Lake Léman, a jet d’eau and the Rhône River. The American is playing in Geneva for the third time, and he says that the decision to return was an easy one.

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“I love this city and the tournament. The conditions are perfect here and I always enjoy playing here,” said Querrey, who faces Guido Pella in the second round. The Argentine beat him in Houston earlier this year in a third-set tie-break.

“My fiancée is coming in today because I’ve told her so many good things about Geneva.”

Ferrer Querrey

After Querrey hit with some ball kids, Ferrer — who plays German Peter Gojowczyk on Tuesday — jumped on the court for a doubles exhibition with tournament director Thierry Grin against the top seed and tournament sponsor Eric Sturdza.

“I’m happy to be back in Geneva,” said Ferrer, who welcomed his first child, Leo, earlier this month. “It’s a very nice tournament and I’m looking forward to playing here again.”

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Nadal Surges Ahead of Djokovic On 'Big Titles' Leaderboard

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

Nadal Surges Ahead of Djokovic On ‘Big Titles’ Leaderboard

Spaniard bolsters his Big Title conversion rate as well

Two down, one more to go.

Rafael Nadal may have stumbled in his bid to sweep all four “Big Titles” on clay, a feat he accomplished in 2010 when he won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Mutua Madrid Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and Roland Garros. Nadal fell to Dominic Thiem in the Madrid quarter-finals earlier this month.

But the 31-year-old Spaniard has still added two more Big Titles – a combination of Grand Slam, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and Nitto ATP Finals crowns – to his haul as the European clay-court season enters its final three weeks.

Winning Two Out Of Three Masters 1000 Titles On Clay



Rafael Nadal

2005-09, 2012-13, 2017-18

Novak Djokovic

2011, 2015

Thomas Muster


Gustavo Kuerten


Andrei Medvedev


*Madrid transitioned from hard court to clay in 2009

Nadal won Masters 1000 title No. 31 in Monte-Carlo last month, and on Sunday, the Spaniard celebrated his 32nd Masters 1000 crown, beating Alexander Zverev in the Rome final 6-1, 1-6, 6-3. Nadal’s eighth Rome crown further padded his lead against Novak Djokovic (30) and Roger Federer (27) on the all-time Masters 1000 titles leaderboard. Before the clay-court swing began, Nadal and Djokovic were even at 30 all.

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Nadal also has snuck ahead of Djokovic in two other areas: his overall Big Title count and his improved Big Title conversion rate. Nadal now has 48 Big Titles to Djokovic’s 47, and the Spaniard has won one Big Title every 3.47 opportunities, while Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the Rome semi-finals, has won an average of one Big Title every 3.51 chances.

“It means a lot to win in Rome here again,” Nadal said.

Both Nadal and Djokovic remain ahead of the all-time Big Titles leader, Roger Federer, with their superior conversion rates. Federer has won one Big Title every 4.1 opportunities.

Current and Former Champions’ Big Titles Won (Records Since 1990) 


Grand Slams

Nitto ATP Finals


Total (Avg)

Roger Federer




53/216 (4.1)

Rafael Nadal 16/51 0/8 32/110 48/167 (3.5)

Novak Djokovic




47/165 (3.5)

Pete Sampras




30/146 (4.9)

Andre Agassi




26/164 (6.3)

Andy Murray




18/148 (8.2)

Boris Becker*




9/83 (9.2)

Thomas Muster




9/86 (9.6)

Gustavo Kuerten




9/103 (11.4)

Jim Courier




9/113 (12.6)

Stefan Edberg**




4/56 (14)

Marcelo Rios




5/83 (16.6)

Michael Chang




8/142 (17.8)

Marat Safin




7/131 (18.7)

Andy Roddick




6/127 (21.2)

* Becker’s four other Grand Slam titles came before 1990.
** Edberg’s three other Grand Slam titles came before 1990.  

The next – and final – Big Title up for grabs on clay this year will be Roland Garros, which begins Sunday. Nadal will be going for his 11th Roland Garros title and his 17th Grand Slam crown.

But don’t count out Djokovic, who won Roland Garros in 2016 to become the eighth man to win the career Grand Slam and the third man to hold all four major championships at once. The Serbian reached his first quarter-final and semi-final of the season in Rome before falling to Nadal 7-6(4), 6-3 during their 51st FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

Read & Watch: Nadal Survives Battle Against Djokovic

I don’t think that there was too much of a difference, which is great news for me. Because Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay courts. And he’s in great, great form,” Djokovic said after losing to Nadal in Rome.

I’ve played four matches here. I didn’t really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn’t have many great results in the last period. So I’m pleased with how I’ve played the last three days, very pleased. And hopefully Roland Garros can be just a continuation of this run.”

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Q: Have You EVER Seen A Point Like This? A: No!

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

Q: Have You EVER Seen A Point Like This? A: No!

Joran Vliegen reflects on hitting one of the rarest shots in tennis, at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Heilbronn

Joran Vliegen has seen it happen in practice, but never in an actual match.

Competing in the doubles semi-finals at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Heilbronn, Germany, with Sander Gille, the Belgian pulled off a magical act of improvisation. Facing eventual finalists Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, Vliegen hit one of the rarest shots in tennis, bringing the crowd at the Neckarcup to their feet.

The 24-year-old’s fast hands were on full display, as a Mies stab volley struck the net twice before Vliegen’s quick instincts took over. As the ball – laden with backspin – hit the net on his side of the court, he incredibly carved it cross-court before it could bounce twice. Vliegen hit a terrific short angle to keep the point alive, all with the presence of mind to avoid scraping the net with his racquet.

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“I didn’t really think about it, I just wanted to get the ball back over the net,” Vliegen said. “I’ve never seen this before in an actual match, but it often happens in those mini tennis games you play with four people. I guess playing those finally paid off! Honestly, after watching it again I thought the point was over when the ball hit the net on my side. I didn’t know about the rule, but I definitely learned something that day!”

And the point wasn’t over! Krawietz sprinted to retrieve Vliegen’s shot, scooping the ball over the net with the smallest of margins. The German’s winner was just as stunning as the improbable shot that preceded it. Krawietz and Mies would win the point and the match 6-1, 7-6(6), before finishing runner-up in Sunday’s championship.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Lyon Open: Cameron Norrie beats Jose Hernandez-Fernandez to reach round two

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

British number three Cameron Norrie reached the second round of the Lyon Openwith a straight-set win over Jose Hernandez-Fernandez of the Dominican Republic.

Norrie, ranked 102, defeated Hernandez-Fernandez, ranked 266, 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.

The 21-year-old struggled with his serve at times in the first set, he was far more solid in the second set.

He next faces either French sixth seed Gael Monfils or Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.

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Monfils Falls In Lyon Debut

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

Monfils Falls In Lyon Debut

Fifth seed Mannarino upset by Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

Gael Monfils arrived in Lyon attempting to get back on track following consecutive 3-6, 1-6 losses in Madrid and Rome. 

But the No. 6 seed let slip a 6-2, 4-3 lead in his debut on Monday at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon. German Maximilian Marterer eliminated the Frenchman 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting after one hour, 50 minutes. It is the second year in a row that Monfils has lost three consecutive matches ahead of Roland Garros. In 2017, the former World No. 6 advanced to the Round of 16 in Paris before falling in straight sets against Stan Wawrinka. 

Marterer, whose only previous win against a player sitting higher in the ATP Rankings than Monfils came against World No. 16 Diego Schwartzman in Munich this year, impressively won 42 per cent of first-serve return points in the second and third sets to advance to the second round. The 22-year-old will face Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who beat Dominican Jose Hernandez-Fernandez 7-6(5), 6-1 in a battle between two former college tennis players.

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Guillermo Garcia-Lopez notched his 10th tour-level win of 2018, upsetting fifth seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Garcia-Lopez, who reached the quarter-finals in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro on clay in February, converted six of his 18 break point chances to advance after one hour, 51 minutes.The 34-year-old will face France’s Calvin Hemery, who earned his second tour-level win on Sunday, for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Ecuador Open champion Roberto Carballes Baena took three hours and five minutes to book his place in the Round of 16, edging Laslo Djere 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 6-3. The Spaniard won 77 per cent of first-serve points and saved seven of eight break points en route to the triumph, earning him a second-round meeting against top seed Dominic Thiem.

Lucky loser Federico Coria came from a set down to secure his first ATP World Tour win in his first tour-level match, defeating compatirot Nicolas Kicker 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. The World No. 335 was just 2-5 on the ATP Challenger Tour this season. But nevertheless, the Argentine won 73 per cent of second-serve return points and broke his 25-year-old compatriot on six occasions to clinch his milestone victory.

Did You Know?
Federico Coria owned just one Top 100 triumph before beating Nicolas Kicker on Monday, which came against World No. 100 Renzo Olivo at the Campinas Challenger in October 2016.

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Donaldson Sets Wawrinka Clash In Geneva

  • Posted: May 21, 2018

Donaldson Sets Wawrinka Clash In Geneva

Tiafoe, who was within two points of defeat, also advances

Stan Wawrinka has won back-to-back titles at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open. But a 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier will look to knock the home favourite off his throne in the second round this year.

Jared Donaldson ousted Uzbek Denis Istomin 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 in one hour, 48 minutes, snapping a five-match losing streak to set a clash against the Swiss superstar, who is the No. 3 seed. The American pushed Wawrinka to three sets two years ago in Cincinnati in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, and will look to even the series for a spot in the quarter-finals.

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Speaking of young Americans, Donaldson was not the only one to move on in Switzerland. This time last year, #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe had just two tour-level wins on the season, and four in his career. But the 20-year-old notched his 16th victory of 2018 on Monday, coming back to defeat compatriot Ryan Harrison 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.

Tiafoe trailed 2-5 in the second-set tie-break, but reeled off five consecutive points to force a decider. He will face No. 5 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Hungarian Marton Fucsovics as he seeks his fourth quarter-final of the season.

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Another American, Tennys Sandgren, raced into the second round after a slow start, beating Andreas Haider Maurer 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 to snap a five-match losing streak of his own. The Houston finalist (l. to Johnson) hit 11 aces and, after dropping the first set, won 91 per cent of his first-serve points (20/22). 

Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles needed just 55 minutes to clinch a win in his first tour-level match, upsetting Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-2. The 21-year-old will meet seventh seed Andreas Seppi in the second round.

Did You Know?
Bernabe Zapata Miralles was one of two players to clinch a win in his first tour-level match on Monday. Federico Coria also accomplished the feat in Lyon.

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