Robin Haase ousted defending champion Andrey Rublev 6-3, 7-6(6) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag on Friday to reach his second tour-level semi-final of the season.
The sixth seed won 81 per cent of first-serve points and saved six of the seven break points he faced to defeat the #NextGenATP Russian, who was competing in his first event since April due to a lower-back stress fracture. Haase, the World No. 38, is pursuing his first ATP World Tour title since the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel six years ago. The Dutch No. 1’s only other triumph came at the same tournament in 2011.
Next, the 31-year-old will face Argentine Guido Pella, who beat Serbian Dusan Lajovic 7-6(3), 7-5 in one hour, 41 minutes. Pella is fresh off of a third-round appearance at Wimbledon, where he came from two sets down to defeat Marin Cilic.
In the other semi-final, qualifier Marco Trungelliti defeated Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-4 in one hour, 13 minutes to make his maiden tour-level semi-final. Before arriving in Croatia, the Argentine had never advanced to the quarter-finals at an ATP World Tour event.
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Trungelliti will face the winner Italian Marco Cecchinato, who ousted Serbian Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-1 in one hour, 22 minutes. This year’s Gazprom Hungarian Open winner and Roland Garros semi-finalist is into his fourth tour-level semi-final of the season. Entering the 2018 season, he had just four tour-level match wins.
Third seed will play Granollers for a spot in Newport final
American Steve Johnson moved closer to capturing his fourth title on Friday, defeating Israeli Dudi Sela 6-2, 6-3 in 58 minutes to reach the semi-finals at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open.
“It feels good,” Johnson said. “You come here to Newport, you come to an event, you expect to at least give yourself a chance at being here at the end of the week. Now we’re here, and I’m just going to keep putting my best foot forward.”
In April, Johnson retained his trophy at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, his third victory at tour-level. The third seed’s first triumph came two years ago on the grass in Nottingham.
Johnson will face Marcel Granollers in the semi-final, after the Spaniard upset top seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-1 in 61 minutes. Entering the week, the 32-year-old had just a 10-18 tour-level record on grass. But he won 52 per cent of return points against the Frenchman to move into his first ATP World Tour singles semi-final since 2015 in Zagreb.
The American has won both of the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with their most recent match coming at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open. But he isn’t putting much stock into those victories, both on hard courts.
“That’s not going to play into effect here,” Johnson said. “He’s a great tennis player. He’s won 500s, he’s no slouch. He’s a Grand Slam doubles champion. So he knows how to come in and be aggressive. He’s a tough competitor and I know he’s going to come out tomorrow guns blazing and I’m going to try to do the same.”
British wheelchair tennis player Andy Lapthorne secured a spot in another quad singles final at the British Open after a straight sets win.
The world number three defeated Japan’s Koji Sugeno 6-3 6-2 and will face world number one David Wagner.
It is the fourth time in the past five years that Lapthorne has reached the final but he is still waiting for his first senior British Open title.
However, fellow Briton Alfie Hewett missed out on the men’s singles final.
Hewett looked lacklustre in his 7-5 6-2 semi-final defeat by France’s Stephane Houdet.
He served for the first set at 5-3 but double-faulted on set point and was not able to recover from being broken twice at the start of the second set.
Lapthorne started his semi-final strongly and raced into a 5-0 lead against world number five Sugeno before the Japanese player fought back.
But the Briton secured the set – and after the first four games of the second set were shared, he pulled away with four games in a row to secure victory in the division where players have impairments in three or more limbs.
“He [Sugeno] is a dangerous player; he has weapons from everywhere on the court, so that’s why I was so pumped up, because if you drop your level even one or two notches he’s going to strike,” Lapthorne said.
“I had to use my experience to get over the line and now it’s all about looking forward to coming back and doing it all again in Sunday’s final.”
Wagner recovered from losing the first set to beat Australian third seed Heath Davidson 5-7 6-1 6-0 in the other semi-final.
The women’s singles final will between the world’s top two ranked players – and last year’s finalists – Diede de Groot of the Netherlands and Yui Kamiji of Japan.
Stich Never Dreamt Of Newport Induction, But Etches Name In Tennis History
German speaks to ATPWorldTour.com about his tennis journey
German Michael Stich was walking through the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday for the first time, wearing a constant smile across his face. On Saturday, he will become an inductee, joining an elite group made up of the greatest players in tennis history.
As he toured the museum with family and friends, the former World No. 2 came across a young boy, who was also looking through all of the historical artifacts. The boy was playing a trivia game, and didn’t know the answer to the question he was asked.
“Never give up,” Stich told him.
That’s something that the 18-time tour-level titlist never did. When the German was that boy’s age, he never dreamt of making it this far. In fact, Stich’s first sport was football, not tennis, which he began playing at the age of six. Gaining induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame never appeared in his wildest dreams. But he worked hard to build a successful career that spanned nearly a decade.
“I never thought about it. I think when I started playing and understanding that I could become a good player and when I turned professional, then I had a list in my head of what I wanted to achieve,” Stich told ATPWorldTour.com. “But to be here, and to have that as a goal, really was never something I could have imagined.”
Stich wanted to play well in Germany, lift a Grand Slam trophy in singles and doubles, and help Germany triumph in the Davis Cup. Mission accomplished.
The German famously ousted top seed Stefan Edberg in the 1991 semi-finals at The Championships without breaking serve, and then defeated his compatriot, second-seeded Boris Becker, to claim victory at Wimbledon. He’d go on to win the doubles title at SW19 the following year with John McEnroe, and aid Germany to Davis Cup glory in 1993. Stich also owns an Olympic gold medal, and plenty more.
Stich was a runner-up at the US Open in 1994 and Roland Garros in 1996. He tallied a 385-176 record, which according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone ranks 35th all-time in terms of winning percentage (68.6 per cent).
The museum has a showcase with loans from Stich and fellow Class of 2018 inductee Helena Sukova, featuring the German’s 1991 Wimbledon singles trophy, his 1992 Olympic Men’s Doubles gold medal, the Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz — Germany’s highest honor for service to the nation — and more. So what was it like to see some of his most valuable possessions on display alongside some of the most notable artifacts in tennis history?
“The first thing I thought when I saw it was like, ‘Damn, I’m missing some more Grand Slam trophies. Should have been some more’,” Stich joked. “But when you walk by and you see John [McEnroe] donating a trophy from the Wimbledon doubles, if I would have had five [trophies], I would donate one as well. I just have one.”
That makes this moment even more special for Stich.
“The whole setup is just great, the history of the building, the history of the place itself and to be part of that history is remarkable,” Stich said. “I’m very grateful for that, but you’re just a tiny piece of the puzzle.”
In a way, there was an air of uncertainty about the trip. Stich had never been to Newport. But when he got a call from International Tennis Hall of Fame Chief Executive Officer Todd Martin notifying him of his induction, the excitement began to build.
“I thought of it as a little bit of an adventure trip,” Stich said. “I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t know the place. That’s why it’s so great to come here, and also the atmosphere in Newport in general when you just walk through the streets, it has a lot of similarity for me with Wimbledon with the tradition and with the feeling and with the sense of the history and the tradition. There are very few places in the world that have that and preserve that and that’s great.”
The first room visitors see in the museum is the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery. And Stich’s plaque calls him, ‘one of the sport’s most stylish players, a free-flowing shot-maker who excelled on all surfaces’.
“I realised when I looked at my pictures on that wall in the room that we have, that they only showed my backhand, so maybe they’ll just remember my backhand,” Stich joked. “For me, that’s actually not so important. I think what’s important for me is when people come up to me and say I enjoyed watching you play tennis in general, the way I played tennis, maybe the style, maybe playing quite fluently.”
Of course, Stich is happy to have won the titles he did and accomplish many of his goals. But in the end, he’s not as concerned about the mementos. Instead, he wants people to remember enjoying him play.
“As long as I gave joy to the people from time to time, then that’s what makes me happy,” Stich said. “I don’t want them to remember me for certain wins or trophies that I won. I want them to remember the Wimbledon final because of the final, because of the match, not for the fact that at the end I lifted a trophy.”
Djokovic Reveals Mental, Physical Struggles In Open Letter
Serbian star details struggles of the past 18 months
Novak Djokovic has posted an open letter on his official website detailing the mental and physical issues he has had to overcome to win a fourth Wimbledon title at The Championships on Sunday.
The Serbian, who returned to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on Monday with his 13th Grand Slam championships crown, revealed the doubts he had about returning to his peak performance days after suffering a six-month injury layoff last year.
“In 2017, the injury of my right elbow was so severe that I was forced to be out from the Tour for six months. Injury was one of the issues, the other big one was any motivation. I didn’t have problems to practice and to enjoy the tennis court but I had mental hurdles when I had to compete.
“One day I will share more in depth what kind of challenges I had to face and how I felt.
“For the past two years, I wasn’t patient with my tennis expectations. I wasn’t wise in strategising. And I certainly wasn’t clearly hearing my body telling me that there is something serious happening with my elbow. I was trying to find solutions somewhere else and solution was always inside of me.
“After many changes made with training, racket, team members, I didn’t know if I would be able to get back on the desired level of tennis. Actually, one part of me always believes in my own qualities and capabilities. But there was a lot of doubtful moments where course of action could have gone different ways.”
Djokovic, who beat World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, overcame Kevin Anderson in the final and afterwards witnessed his son, Stefan, come into the players box on Centre Court to celebrate the victory. He also paid tribute to his wife, Jelena, and children, in the open letter.
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“The feeling of having my son in my wife’s arms at the trophy ceremony in the Players box was the most wonderful sensation I have had at any tournament that I have ever won in my career.
“When I became a father, one of my biggest dreams was to have my children present at the stands while I am playing. Let alone winning trophies. That dream came true several days ago. Everyone keeps on asking me to describe the feeling. I have said it is unforgettable, special, fulfilling, wonderful, joyful. But most of all, it is Magical! When I thought that moment could not get any better, he shouted “Daddy, Daddy!” That’s when I completely melted. Overwhelmed with emotions. Happy and joyful beyond belief. I am so GRATEFUL to have experienced that.”
Read The Full Open Letter On Djokovic’s Official Website
ATPWorldTour.com looks back on an exciting second quarter of 2018
After six months of the 2018 ATP World Tour season, there’s already a plethora of storylines to track. Here are the top five stories of the second quarter.
Nadal Proves His No. 1 Status Rafael Nadal swept through the European clay swing once more, dealing with the pressure and weight of expectation so well to compile a 32-2 match record – including the 900th match win of his career – in the second quarter of the year.
While his red dirt dominance is nothing new, the Spaniard strengthened his lead at the top of the ATP Race To London, for one of eight spots at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, with four clay-court titles — historic 11th crowns at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Nishikori), the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitsipas) and Roland Garros (d. Thiem), in addition to an eighth trophy at the Internazionali d’Italia (d. Djokovic). In beating Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 at Wimbledon, Nadal won a match for the ages to advance to semi-finals for the first time since 2011.
As World No. 1 for 40 of the past 46 weeks (since 21 August 2017), Nadal has withstood Roger Federer’s three brief stints in the top spot this year, and will enter the North American hard-court swing defending 2,270 points, including 2,000 points at the US Open. How the 32-year-old fares at the Western & Southern Open, the Rogers Cup and in New York City will go a long way in clarifying whether he will finish at year-end No. 1 for a fifth time (2008, ’10, ’13, ’17).
The Resurgence Of Djokovic As Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka continue to find their way back from long-term injuries, the rehabilitation and resurgence of Novak Djokovic in recent months, initially on European clay and then on London’s grass, after a right elbow injury, is heart-warming.
Having missed six months of 2017, and forced to undergo surgery after the Australian Open (l. to Chung in the fourth round) in January, the Serbian protected his elbow with a new service technique and went 6-6 in his first six tournaments. Yet, the 31-year-old’s confidence began to resurface in reaching the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (l. to Nadal in the semi-finals), then at Roland Garros, where he advanced to the quarter-finals (l. to Cecchinato).
It wasn’t until he contested the Fever-Tree Championships final (l. to Cilic) that Djokovic began to serve and return with greater potency. With low expectations coming into The Championships at Wimbledon, particularly because of a lack of big-match play, Djokovic moved through the draw, relatively unheralded for a former champion, to beat Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set in the semi-finals and then Kevin Anderson in the final. It was his 13th Grand Slam championship crown (fourth all-time in the singles list) and first since May 2016 in Paris.
From No. 22 in ATP Rankings on 21 May — his lowest position since No. 22 on 2 October 2006 — Djokovic has put together a 19-3 match record in his past four tournaments and was restored to the Top 10 at No. 10 on 16 July.
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Anderson, Isner Enjoying Career Years Anderson and John Isner, both at career-high ATP Rankings, are highlighting how off-court work can reap dividends between the tramlines in 2018. As evidenced in Anderson’s 26-24 fifth set win over Isner in the Wimbledon semi-finals, which lasted six hours and 36 minutes — the second-longest match in major championship history.
Anderson, 32, has backed up strong early-season form over the past three months to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final — and first on a clay-court — at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Schwartzman), the Roland Garros fourth round for the fourth time (also 2013-14 and 2017) and his second Grand Slam championship final at Wimbledon (d. Djokovic). Currently at a career-high No. 5 in the ATP Rankings, the South African will now work with coach Brad Stine towards adding to his four ATP World Tour crowns and a first Nitto ATP Finals qualification, following a near miss in 2015.
Isner, 33, who lifted his first Masters 1000 crown at the Miami Open presented by Itau (d. Zverev) on 1 April, went 8-6 on the spring clay swing and came into Wimbledon with low expectations, having reached the third round (on three occasions) in nine visits. But, under the guidance of David Macpherson, Rene Moller and Justin Gimelstob, the American adopted aggressive returns and a serve-and-volley game, to beat 2016 runner-up Raonic in the quarter-finals en route to a breakthrough run at a major. He now sits at a career-high No. 8.
ATP Race To London Taking Shape Six of the Top 10 in the ATP Race To London on 2 April 2018, remain among the contenders for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November. While Nadal and Federer lead the charge for a place at the season finale, 10 different nations are represented in the Top 10 (as of 16 July 2018).
Djokovic has been the biggest riser over the past three months, jumping from 85th position (200 points) to fifth place (3,335) points in the current standings, while Nadal has moved from 39th (360) to first (5,760) and Kei Nishikori has soared from 74th (235) to 10th (1,610). Federer, who missed the clay swing, added 910 points from three grass-court tournaments.
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2018 ATP RACE TO LONDON FIRST, SECOND QUARTER COMPARISON
Points 16 July
Points 2 April (Position)
Points (Position) Difference
1) Rafael Nadal (ESP)
2) Roger Federer (SUI)
3) Alexander Zverev (GER)
4) Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
5) Novak Djokovic (SRB)
6) Dominic Thiem (AUT)
7) Marin Cilic (CRO)
8) Kevin Anderson (RSA)
9) John Isner (USA)
10) Kei Nishikori (JPN)
Twelve months ago, following the conclusion of The Championships in 2017, Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem, Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Zverev, Djokovic, Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych made up the Top 10 in the ATP Race To London. Seven of that elite group secured enough points to qualify for the prestigious season finale (Wawrinka did not compete due to injury).
Zverev, Tsitsipas, Shapovalov Among 2018 #NextGenATP Leaders Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov are the pick of the #NextGenATP so far this season. Tsitsipas and Shapovalov, both 19, trail Zverev in the ATP Race To Milan for a berth at the 21-and-under Next Gen ATP Finals in November.
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World No. 3 Zverev put together a 21-4 record on the red dirt, including a 13-match winning streak that included back-to-back ATP World Tour crowns at the BMW Open by FWU (d. Kohlschreiber) and the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem). His run ended at the hands of Nadal in a three-set Rome final, shortly prior to Roland Garros, where the 21-year-old reached his first major championship quarter-final (l. to Thiem).
Tsitsipas did not drop a set en route to his first ATP World Tour final in Barcelona (l. to Nadal), earning the biggest win of his career over No. 7-ranked Thiem in the quarter-finals. He was the first Greek to reach a tour-level final since Kalogeropoulos at Des Moines in 1973, and the first man from his country to advance to the fourth-round at Wimbledon (l. to Isner). He also beat Anderson en route to the Millennium Estoril Open semi-finals (l to Sousa).
Over the past three months, Shapovalov became the youngest quarter-finalist and semi-finalist ever in Madrid (d. Raonic in 3R, l. to A. Zverev) and peaked at World No. 23 on 11 June. He is the youngest player in the Top 25 since then-No. 19 Gasquet on 25 July 2005 and has been Canada’s No. 1 since 21 May after reaching the Rome third round (l. to Nadal).
Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, Australia’s Alex de Minaur, Spain’s Jaume Munar and Russia’s Andrey Rublev also feature among the Top 8 in the battle for a Milan spot.
Ramanathan Breaking New Ground With Childhood Icon Alongside
Ramanathan will try to reach his first tour-level final on Saturday
When Ramkumar Ramanathan was young, he was like many children from India. He would visit the Chennai Open — now the Tata Open Maharashtra, held in Pune — to watch some of his country’s national heroes, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, for example.
It was always a fun experience to watch Paes, who captured the title in Chennai six times. Ramanathan took a picture with Bhupathi at the tournament nearly 20 years ago, a memento he keeps on his phone today.
That young boy in Chennai would have never guessed who was in the players’ area to congratulate him after the 23-year-old World No. 161 defeated Canadian Vasek Pospisil on Thursday at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open to reach his first ATP World Tour semi-final. After making the minute-long walk from Bill Talbert Stadium Court, there was Paes, who was waiting to compete on that same court next.
“He said ‘Well done and keep your chin up and keep going’,” Ramanathan told ATPWorldTour.com. “He’s always giving me confidence on and off the court. We go out, and there’s always a talk about tennis, stuff outside tennis. You feel comfortable, that’s what you want off court. You don’t want to think about matches and he’s really good at that.”
In fact, Paes and Ramanathan have spent plenty of time together while in Newport, whether at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, or off the court. In both cases, Ramanathan — once a young boy who dreamt of meeting the Indian star — is benefitting from the mentorship of one of his country’s tennis icons.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Ramanathan told ATPWorldTour.com. “I never thought this would happen, but I just kept working hard and just kept pushing myself through the tough times and just kept believing in myself and that’s what’s gotten me to spend time with all the guys like Leander and all the top players. I saw them on TV playing Grand Slams and stuff and now I’m with them, so it’s a good feeling.”
Ramanathan is coached by Emilio Sanchez and trains out of the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona. But with them not being on-site this week, Paes and his coach, Mark Wirth, have been happy to help out.
“I’m really proud of Ram because he works very hard. He’s got a big game. He’s got a lot of skills,” Paes said. “For me, it’s just about mentoring him and simplifying his tennis.”
Ramanathan arrived in Rhode Island having lost five consecutive matches at all levels. But Paes is not surprised by his compatriot’s performance.
“I’ve seen that he’s had a lot of tough matches. He’s lost some really close matches, played some tough opponents and when we came here to Newport, I saw he had a great chance in the draw. It was just a matter of simplifying a few things in his game to maximise his talent,” Paes said. “I’m really proud of him. I always choose to give encouragement through positivity. Everybody’s out here with such high-quality tennis, such physicality. The margins between winning or losing are so small. It could just be one break point, it could be one shot in one point, especially on the grass here in Newport.”
The rising Indian is looking to make his mark on the grass 20 years after Paes earned his lone ATP World Tour singles title in Newport. He’s certainly off to a good start, and will play another first-time semi-finalist, Tim Smyczek, for a spot in Sunday’s championship match.
“I’m very happy for the win,” Ramanathan said. “I just have to keep going match by match and keep trying for every point.”
The American discusses his memorable first pinch-me moment and more
Just one week ago, Tim Smyczek lost in the first round of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Winnetka Illinois, relinquishing a 6-1, 3-1 lead and failing to convert three match points against Tommy Paul. But how quickly things can change.
Now, after defeating Jason Jung at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open, Smyczek is into his first ATP World Tour semi-final. ATPWorldTour.com caught up with the American after the match to provide some insight into more firsts in his career.
First pinch-me moment on the ATP World Tour
Probably when I was playing at the US Open in 2013. I was in a fifth set against Marcel Granollers, and the crowd was on its feet chanting ‘U-S-A’. That was pretty cool. I definitely paused and tried to soak that in.
First coach and most important lesson she taught me My very first tennis coach was a guy named Gene Loughrin up in Milwaukee. He really tried to teach me just to have fun with tennis. Every lesson that we ever had was just so much fun. That’s really the most important thing I was able to take away from him. He really helped me love the game.
First time I was recognised I don’t know about the first time, but the last time was at a grocery store. It was really odd, because it wasn’t at a tournament or anything, so I really wasn’t expecting it. I think it was in Tampa, Florida.
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First time I travelled abroad It was to Italy for Under 16 tournaments a long time ago.
First concert I visited Dave Matthews in Madison, Wisconsin. I would have been 16.
First prize money purchase My first prize money was like $100, so I couldn’t really get far with it.
First autograph I signed When I was 14 I did a clinic with some even younger kids, and their parents told them to ask for my autograph. I don’t really know why.
First autograph I asked for My parents used to take me to the RCA Championships in Indianapolis. I couldn’t tell you who it was, but it was there.
First pet I had a hamster when I was little named Buckbeak.
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