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Rodionov Makes History For Austria With Maiden Title

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

Rodionov Makes History For Austria With Maiden Title

19-year-old speaks to after winning his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Almaty, Kazakhstan

If Jurij Rodionov has been flying under the radar over the past year, he will be a household name soon enough. Dominic Thiem is undoubtedly the face of Austrian tennis, but the World No. 7 could have some company at the pinnacle of the game in the near future.  

At the age of 19 years and one month, Rodionov claimed a slice of history for the European nation on Saturday, becoming just the fourth Austrian teenager to win an ATP Challenger Tour title. He is the youngest to do so since 1986, when both an 18-year-old Thomas Muster and a 17-year-old Horst Skoff achieved the feat.

Rodionov lifted his first trophy on Saturday in Almaty, Kazakhstan, ousting Pedja Krstin 7-5, 6-2 to cap an impressive week at the clay-court tournament. He is just the second teenager to win a Challenger title this year, joining Rudolf Molleker (Heilbronn). 

2018 #NextGenATP First-Time Winner Spotlight: Molleker | Polmans | Hurkacz

Rodionov’s victory in Almaty is as improbable as it is impressive. The teen was appearing in only his fifth Challenger main draw, all of which have resulted in quarter-final finishes or better. When given the opportunity to compete against the best, he has taken full advantage.

Last year, Rodionov made his first big splash at the $125,000 event in Ningbo, China, registering arguably the comeback and upset of the year, after rallying from 3-6, 1-5 down to stun Jordan Thompson for his first Top 100 win. He was ranked No. 691 at the time and now the 19-year-old is projected to ascend to a career-high No. 292 in the ATP Rankings on Monday.

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Born in Nuremberg, Germany, to Belarusian parents, Rodionov decided to play under the Austrian flag in 2015 after his father moved the family there for work. He admits that football was his first love, but wasn’t allowed to play until age six, so he decided to pick up a racquet.

Rodionov spoke to following his victory in Almaty…

Jurij, congrats on winning your first Challenger title. Talk about how it feels.
Now it feels amazing, but during the match I was feeling all the pressure. My serve wasn’t working very well, but after match point it was a big relief for me. Now it’s a really good feeling.

You are just the fourth Austrian teenager to win a Challenger title. What are your thoughts when you hear that?
Wow, I didn’t know that. It’s a great achievement and I’m very proud of myself and my great team who supported me throughout this long week. All these hours in the gym finally paid off.

You beat some strong players during the week. What went right for you?
Pretty much everything. I talked with my coach about tactics every day and it worked on the court. I’m just happy I could play like I did this week.

To come through qualifying and win a title is never easy. How did you stay mentally focused all week?
That’s a good question and I don’t know, to be honest. A lot of players and coaches ask me that. I don’t know. Somehow it just works and I’ve stayed focused. It’s been a long week. I’m proud of that.


How much confidence did you take from Loughborough and Shymkent to go even further here?
Yes, a lot of confidence from those events. Before Loughborough I didn’t play my best tennis, but after that I gained a lot of confidence and put it together in Almaty. I’m playing my best tennis now.

You got one of your biggest wins over Yannick Hanfmann in the semis. Do you now believe that you can compete with these top players?
Well, last year I already beat Jordan Thompson. He was Top 100. I knew I could compete against the best, but I lacked a bit of consistency. I was working on that throughout the year in 2017. Now I believe even more that I can compete with these players.

You are up to a career-high in the Top 300. Did you set any goals at the start of the year and what are they now?
At the start of the year, my goal was to win a Challenger and to be in the Top 250. So the first goal I already achieved and the second one I’m very close. We’re only halfway through the year, so I’m in a good position.

2018 #NextGenATP Challenger Winners (born 1997 or later)

Player Age Tournament
Rudolf Molleker 17 yrs, 6 mos. Heilbronn, GER
Jurij Rodionov 19 yrs, 1 mo.  Almaty, KAZ 
Taylor Fritz 20 yrs, 3 mos. Newport Beach, USA
Reilly Opelka 20 yrs, 8 mos. Bordeaux, FRA
Marc Polmans 20 yrs, 9 mos. Launceston, AUS
Jaume Munar 21 yrs, 1 mo. Prostejov, CZE
Hubert Hurkacz  21 yrs, 3 mos.  Poznan, POL 

For those of us who don’t know much about you, tell us something. What do you enjoy doing off the court? Do you have any passions outside of tennis?
I’m a big football fan. I support Arsenal FC. Other than that, I just enjoy time with my friends. Going out, eating out with them. The casual stuff.

You are also up more than 30 spots in the Race to Milan. What are your thoughts on the Next Gen ATP Finals?
Of course it would be nice to get there, but hopefully next year. It’s a bit too soon for this year. I’m focused on getting better at the Challenger level and improving my game. Maybe next year it will be my goal.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Nature Valley Open: Johanna Konta reaches Nottingham final

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

British number one Johanna Konta reached the final of the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham for the second year in a row after a straight-set win over Donna Vekic.

Konta beat the defending champion from Croatia 6-2 6-3 in a match delayed for over an hour because of rain.

She will face top seed Ashleigh Barty from Australia in Sunday’s final.

Barty defeated Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-4 in the opening semi-final.

Konta had looked strong early on in the blustery conditions against Vekic with the Croat requiring treatment on a leg injury at the end of the first set.

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Heavy rain then started to fall, forcing the players off court.

On the resumption, Konta broke to go 2-1 up in the second set but although an increasingly emotional Vekic broke back, the Briton broke again for a 4-3 lead.

With the Vekic forehand becoming more erratic, Konta held on for the win.

“It was challenging for both of us with the rain delay but I am happy to have battled through,” said Konta.

“Ash is a very crafty and talented player, and likes this surface. She has improved since last year and it will be a tough match for me.”

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Zverev Faces Early Test In Halle

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

Zverev Faces Early Test In Halle

Federer seeks 10th title, with Thiem making his 2018 grass debut

Alexander Zverev has reached both of his grass-court ATP World Tour finals at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, losing against Florian Mayer in 2016 and Roger Federer last year. But if he is to break through at his home tournament and lift a trophy on the mown lawns for the first time, he will have to be sharp from the get-go.

In the first round, the German will confront Borna Coric, who has beaten Zverev in two of three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. The Croatian won in Cincinnati three years ago and at the 2017 US Open. But in the Miami quarter-finals this March, Zverev earned his first triumph in their rivalry.

Both players have shown good form this season. Zverev captured his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Madrid, and went on to win three five-setters in a row to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. Coric, on the other hand, is 4-3 against opponents inside the Top 11 of the ATP Rankings in 2018, and he advanced to the semi-finals at Indian Wells and the quarter-finals in Miami.

Zverev could also potentially face a stiff challenge in the quarter-finals against No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet, who is competing in the Libema Open championship match on Sunday. While Zverev leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-0, three of the matches have gone to three sets, with the German triumphing 7-5 in the third set in Monte-Carlo earlier this year. Last year in Montreal, Zverev saved match point against Gasquet after a 49-shot rally, eventually coming out victorious.

Fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori are also in Zverev’s bottom half of the draw. And then there’s the matter of Federer, who has triumphed in Halle nine times. The Swiss is not only in form, reaching Sunday’s final at the MercedesCup to extend his winning streak on grass to 15. But the 36-year-old has a 59-6 record in Halle, with all six of those losses coming against players who broke into the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings during their career.

Federer opens his campaign against Aljaz Bedene, who he beat at this year’s Australian Open in straight sets. The earliest the top seed has lost at the tournament is the quarter-finals.

The first seeded player Federer could face is a familiar foe in World No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber. If they meet in the quarter-finals, the Swiss will take confidence in knowing he has won all 13 of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the sixth seed. Federer has beaten Kohlschreiber three times in Halle, with their most recent match at the event, in 2015, going to a final-set tie-break.

Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem, the No. 3 seed, will make his 2018 grass-court debut against a qualifier or lucky loser. In his quarter, No. 5 seed and Stuttgart semi-finalist Lucas Pouille faces in-form #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in an interesting opener. That will be the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

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Gasquet Books Place In 30th Final

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

Gasquet Books Place In 30th Final

Frenchman to face countryman Chardy on Sunday

Richard Gasquet reached his 30th tour-level final, beating Australia’s Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 on Saturday at the Libema Open.

The second seed converted five of seven break points en route to a one-hour, 48-minute victory to reach his second final of the season. In February, Gasquet reached his sixth consecutive Open Sud de France final, losing in straight sets to Lucas Pouille.

Gasquet came within two points of victory at 6/6 in the second-set tie-break, but Tomic held his nerve to force a decider. The World No. 30, not to be disheartened, secured an early break of serve to lead 2-0 before charging to victory. The World No. 30 improves to 8-2 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Tomic, who was contesting his first tour-level semi-final since the 2016 Fever-Tree Championships. Gasquet will face countryman Jeremy Chardy in Sunday’s final.

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Chardy reached his first tour-level final in nine years, beating Australia’s Matthew Ebden 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 32 minutes.

The 31-year-old, who last reached a championship match at the 2009 MercedesCup (d. Hanescu), hit 14 aces and saved both break points he faced. The Frenchman had lost his past seven tour-level semi-finals dating back to his 2009 triumph in Stuttgart. Chardy maintains his perfect FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Ebden, improving to 4-0.

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After falling to his lowest ATP Ranking (No. 100) since 2 January 2012 on 5 March this year, Chardy has enjoyed an impressive resurgence. The World No. 72 reached the Round of 16 at the first two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events of the year, in Indian Wells and Miami, and has since reached the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open semi-finals. Chardy also won last week’s Surbiton Trophy on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Did You Know?
Richard Gasquet won his first two ATP World Tour titles on grass in Nottingham (2005-2006). But, since those back-to-back triumphs, the Frenchman has not won another title on the surface.

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Murray admits to being 'nervous' before Queen's return

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018
2018 Fever-Tree Championships on the BBC
Venue: Queen’s Club, London Dates: 18-24 June
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs, the BBC Sport website and app.

Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray admits he will be nervous when he makes his competitive return from hip surgery in the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s next week.

The three-time Grand Slam winner, 31, will play for the first time in almost a year.

The Scot’s last competitive appearance was at Wimbledon last July, and he had surgery in January.

“There are a lot of doubts when you’ve not played for a long time,” he said.

“I’m expecting to be very nervous when I go back out there.

“Coming back from injury you’re always kind of second guessing yourself. You never know exactly when you’re going to be ready, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there and competing, and hopefully playing well.

“I’ve obviously got lots of great memories from here, from winning the tournament and playing here the first time when I was 18. I’m sure I’ll have the same nerves and stuff as I did all those years ago.”

He will play Australian world number 24 Nick Kyrgios in the first round on Tuesday.

  • Federer to return to world number one after reaching Mercedes Cup final
  • Follow Fever-Tree Championships live on the BBC

Murray’s long-awaited return

Following his surgery in Australia, Murray said he would only return to competition when completely fit and ready, although has long targeted a return for the grass-court season.

He had hoped to play in this week’s Libema Open in the Netherlands, but pulled out after saying he was “not quite ready and wanted to be 100%”.

Murray, a five-time Queen’s champion, practised on his own at the west London club before playing two sets against British number three Cameron Norrie on Friday.

“I’ve been practising the last couple of weeks and obviously building up each day,” he added.

“I started playing sets about a week ago. So, I played probably seven or eight sets, and I wanted to feel how I felt the following day after playing a couple of sets with Cam Norrie yesterday.

“I got tested by my physios on Saturday morning to make sure I hadn’t stiffened up and lost any range of motion in my hip which can happen when you’re tired and the hip’s a bit angry.

“That wasn’t the case. That was all positive and I pulled up pretty well from that, so then I decided to go for it.”

The Scot’s last competitive match was his Wimbledon quarter-final defeat by American Sam Querrey on 12 July, 2017.

He said he first felt pain in his right hip during the French Open semi-final against Wawrinka in June 2017, though he has had issues with it throughout his career.

Murray withdrew from the US Open two days before the start of the tournament in August, and said he realised he was not ready to compete in Brisbane prior to January’s Australian Open when he tested his hip against other top-50 players.

He had an operation at the St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne on 8 January.

This year’s Wimbledon begins on 2 July.

The challenge from Kyrgios

Murray has won all five of his previous meetings against Kyrgios, who was beaten by Roger Federer in the Mercedes Cup semi-final on Saturday.

“He’s always a tough guy to play against,” he added.

“He’s got a brilliant serve and obviously he’s very, very talented. He’s unpredictable as well.

“The positive is that there probably won’t be loads of long points. Points can be quite sharp with him, which is good, but obviously a very tricky match with the way that he plays and how comfortable he is on the grass.”

Elsewhere in the draw, British number one Kyle Edmund will play American Ryan Harrison, while Dan Evans, who be playing his first ATP Tour event since a year’s ban for taking cocaine, faces France’s Adrian Mannarino.

Spanish reigning champion Feliciano Lopez takes on Belgium’s David Goffin, while Croatian top seed Marin Cilic plays another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco.

Bulgarian second seed Grigor Dimitrov will face Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur while Serbia’s 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic – who finished as runner-up at Queen’s in 2008 – will play a qualifier.

World number four Juan Martin del Potro – who would have been top seed – pulled out of the tournament on Friday, saying he had been “advised to rest” by medics.

The 29-year-old Argentine, who has suffered a catalogue of injury problems in recent years, reached the French Open semi-finals last week.

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Federer to return to world number one after reaching Mercedes Cup final

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

Roger Federer will return to world number one after reaching the Mercedes Cup final in Stuttgart, Germany.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner recovered from losing the opening set to beat Australia’s Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 7-6 (7-5).

The Swiss, 36, will now overtake Spanish rival Rafael Nadal when the new rankings are released on Monday.

He will face Milos Raonic in Sunday’s final after the Canadian beat defending champion Lucas Pouille 6-4 7-6 (7-3).

  • Murray to make return at Queen’s
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Victory against the world number 35 will give him a 98th career title.

It is the third time Federer has reached the top of the rankings this season.

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He has already achieved 309 weeks at the top of the rankings since February 2004.

Meanwhile, at the Libema Open in s’Hertogenbosch, Britain’s Dominic Inglot claimed his third doubles title of the year.

He and Croatia’s Franko Skugor beat South Africa’s Raven Klaasen and New Zealand’s Michael Venus 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

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Skugor/Inglot Capture 's-Hertogenbosch Title

  • Posted: Jun 16, 2018

Skugor/Inglot Capture ‘s-Hertogenbosch Title

Third seeds own 9-2 record this season

Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor won their second team title on Saturday, defeating Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus 7-6(3), 7-5 to triumph at the Libema Open.

“It was a great, we both played unbelievably,” said Inglot. “The weather has been amazing this week and the courts have been in great shape so we are really happy.”

The British-Croatian tandem fired 10 aces and won 75 per cent of first-serve points in the 86-minute match to add to their maiden success earlier this year at the Gazprom Hungarian Open. It is Inglot’s 10th tour-level doubles victory, while both of Skugor’s titles have come alongside the Briton this year.

Klassen was aiming to clinch his 15th tour-level doubles title, with Venus bidding for an eighth crown. Klaasen and Venus were also attempting to win their second team title after lifting the Open 13 Provence title in February.

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In a first set dominated by serve, Inglot and Skugor failed to convert the only break point opportunity for either team at 3-3. But the third seeds soon moved ahead after converting their first set point at 6/3 in the tie-break. Inglot and Skugor did not drop a single point behind their first serves (19/19) throughout the set.

“At the beginning it was tricky because it was a bit windy and our opponents were serving unbelievably,” reflected Inglot. “It was very much a serving set, in the first set.”

Klaasen and Venus responded quickly, immediately breaking in the opening game of the second set. But Inglot and Skugor rallied, pegging the second seeds back in the fourth game to level the score at 2-2, before snatching a crucial break at 6-5 to clinch the title on their second championship point.

“In the second set we got our returns going and thankfully we were able to come up with a break at the end,” said Inglot.

Inglot and Skugor receive 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and share €33,210 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Klaasen and Venus gain 150 points and split €17,460.

“Dom took over this week… he played a great match today as well,” said Skugor. “We had a lot of fun out there.”

Did You Know?
Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor have played just four tournaments together as a team. The duo won their debut tournament at the Gazprom Hungarian Open and now own a 9-2 record after capturing their second title.

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