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Murray: 'It's Feeling Better All The Time'

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Murray: ‘It’s Feeling Better All The Time’

Scot competing in Washington D.C. for the third time

All eyes will be on Andy Murray at the Citi Open, where the former World No. 1 plays just his third tournament of the season as he continues his comeback from hip surgery in January.

“It’s feeling better all the time,” Murray said. “It takes time after you’ve been out for a long period to get the match sharpness back. I’ve only played three matches in the past year, so I’m just trying to get back on the match court as much as I can and see how I’m feeling after playing two, three, four, five matches in a week. That’s the big test. I’ve done a lot of training recently and I’ve come through that pretty well. So hopefully if I get into that situation, I’ll be alright.”

The Scot showed signs of his top level in his return at the Fever-Tree Championships in June, pushing in-form Nick Kyrgios deep into a third set in his first match since 2017 Wimbledon. He then beat Stan Wawrinka at the Nature Valley International before bowing out in the second round and withdrawing from The Championships to better recover.

“I’m feeling better than I did during the grass-court season, that’s for sure. But I also haven’t played a hard-court match since Indian Wells last year. That’s a long time,” Murray said. “I have to see how the body responds… [I’ve] felt pretty good in practice.”

However simple it might sound, the Scot simply wants to compete. He won at least 40 tour-level matches in 11 straight seasons from 2006 through 2016, but has only played three matches in more than 13 months.

“I’m looking forward to playing. Like I said, I’ve not played a hard-court match for a very long time,” Murray said. “Once I get out there after the first few games, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just want to have a prolonged period on the match-court right now. I’m looking forward to that.”

One week ago, Murray dropped to No. 839 in the ATP Rankings, his lowest-ever placement in the standings. The Scot first broke into the rankings 15 years ago this week at No. 774 as a 16-year-old thanks to a quarter-final showing at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Manchester, England. But the former World No. 1 is not worried about the number next to his name.

“I want to stay healthy through the end of the year. I think if I do that, then I’ll start to win more matches, my ranking will move up. If I only play one or two tournaments and then take a break for a month, it’s just difficult to get into that routine,” Murray said. “If I stay fit and healthy, I’m not worried so much about ranking. I want to be winning matches and competing against the best players and that will build my fitness up quicker than anything I could do in the gym. So that’s my goal between now and the end of the year and hopefully it’ll mean I’ll be ready to start the 2019 season really well.”

In his second and most recent appearance at the ATP World Tour 500-level event, in 2015, Murray fell against Teymuraz Gabashvili. He’ll have to be on top of his game early on, as the 31-year-old faces stiff early tests.

Murray will play home favourite Mackenzie McDonald, who advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon, in the first round. The winner will face fourth seed Kyle Edmund, who defeated Murray in his last match at Eastbourne in June.

“I’ve enjoyed coming here. It’s a beautiful city. There’s a lot to do and see. The event itself has got great history,” said Murray, who reached the final on his Washington debut in 2006 as a teenager. “I like the conditions here. It sets you up well for the rest of the U.S. summer. Unfortunately, last time I was here I didn’t play so well. Lost a tough one in my first match. So really hoping this time I could get a few more matches in.”

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Home, Sweet Home: Isner Into Eighth Atlanta Final

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Home, Sweet Home: Isner Into Eighth Atlanta Final

American will try to lift his fifth Atlanta trophy against Harrison or Norrie

It is often said that there’s no place like home, and that certainly has rung true for John Isner at the BB&T Atlanta Open — held in his native Georgia — over the years.

So it was no surprise that the top seed beat fourth seed Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-1 on Saturday to reach his eighth final at the ATP World Tour 250-level tournament. On Sunday, the American will try to lift his fifth trophy at the event against compatriot Ryan Harrison or Brit Cameron Norrie.

“It was tough,” Isner said on court after the win. “Just like yesterday, I was able to get out early in the third set and that definitely took some pressure off. I’m very happy to be back in the final here. I need to get in the air conditioning and just rest so I could be ready for tomorrow.”

Isner now leads Ebden 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series after avenging his lone loss against the Aussie, which came earlier this season at the Australian Open. The 33-year-old has won eight of his nine semi-finals in Atlanta, and will look to improve his record of 13-12 in tour-level finals.

For a moment, it looked like a relatively straightforward match might have turned into a disaster for the 6’10” American. Isner led by a set and a break, which appeared to cement a victory considering he arrived in Atlanta leading the ATP World Tour in service games won this season at 94.63 per cent according to Infosys ATP Scores & Stats. After breaking back, Ebden saved one match point in the ensuing tie-break when Isner missed a backhand return long.

“I didn’t like my energy once I got broken. That’s a big part, it’s intangibles out there,” Isner said. “It’s not based on strokes or anything like that. My energy wasn’t great, and I think that’s what cost me the second set.”

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But instead of wilting in the Atlanta heat, Isner quickly recovered using the confidence from his victory at the Miami Open presented by Itau and run to the Wimbledon semi-finals to recover and break twice in the decider, coming out victorious after exactly two hours. This time, there was no slip from Isner, who hit two of his 26 aces to close out the win. If Harrison pulls through his semi-final against Norrie, he will set a rematch of last year’s final, in which Isner triumphed. 

“I’ve played both those guys before. Obviously I played Ryan here in the final last year,” Isner said. “It would be great to play him again in the final, two Americans. But we’ll see what happens.”

Did You Know?
Isner can join Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras as the only Americans to win five or more titles at a single tournament if he triumphs in Atlanta on Sunday.

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Watch: Harrison Tweener Makes ESPN's Top 10 Plays

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Watch: Harrison Tweener Makes ESPN’s Top 10 Plays

American’s hot shot comes in at No. 2 on the list

First and foremost, Ryan Harrison was happy to advance to the semi-finals of the BB&T Atlanta Open after defeating reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung on Friday evening. But he got more good news later in the evening, when a tweener he hit at 3-1 in the second set was named the No. 2 play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“I mean tweener points are so much fun. You hit a shot like that, especially when it is unexpected. In that specific situation, I was kind of chasing the ball down and I just happened to be there,” Harrison said. “It helped me actually get a lot of momentum into that next game where I got the double break in the second set. Not only did I win the point, I also responded and broke again. Sometimes whenever you get an uplift like that from the crowd, it can help you psychologically and it can shake your opponent psychologically. I think I used it as good momentum.”

Harrison will hope to bring some of that magic and momentum into his semi-final on Saturday, as he faces Cameron Norrie for a spot in the championship match. 

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Into The Wild In Kitzbühel

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Into The Wild In Kitzbühel

Philipp Kohlschreiber, Dennis Novak and Fernando Verdasco visit Wildpark Aurach

On Monday, the 27th edition of the Generali Open kicks off in scenic Kitzbuhel, Austria. But first, the tournament’s stars stepped out for an activity at nearby Wildpark Aurach.

Two-time champion and local resident Philipp Kohlschreiber joined wild card Dennis Novak and third seed Fernando Verdasco at the animal habitat on Saturday. Located in the Austrian Alps, it is home to 200 different native and exotic animals, including monkeys, kangaroos and llamas.

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“It’s a very special location,” said Kohlscreiber. “Not many tournaments can offer such a great experience with the animals, beautiful view and the weather is great. Impressive to see so many animals close up.”


Defending champion Kohlschreiber, who also lifted the trophy in 2015, is seeded second at next week’s tournament. It is the last clay-court event of the year on the ATP World Tour.

Novak, meanwhile, enters on the heels of a run to the third round at Wimbledon as a qualifier, where he earned his first Top 20 win over Lucas Pouille. His first tour-level match win came in Kitzbuhel in 2015.

Verdasco opens against either Roberto Carballes Baena or Hamburg semi-finalist Nicolas Jarry. The Spanish veteran reached the Kitzbuhel final 13 years ago, falling to Gaston Gaudio in 2005.

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British Legends Rooney & Murray Meet In Washington

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

British Legends Rooney & Murray Meet In Washington

Rooney was at SW19 when Murray won Wimbledon title in 2013

It’s not often that you find two iconic athletes from different sports on the same court. But on Friday, British stars Andy Murray and Wayne Rooney met at the Citi Open for a short hit and game of football-tennis.

“He’s obviously had an incredible career, one of the best players ever in English football history,” said Murray, whose grandfather played for Scotland’s Hibernian F.C. “It’s nice to finally meet him. I’ve never met him before, so it’s very cool.”

Rooney, the leading goal-scorer in England National Team and Manchester United history, currently plays for local club D.C. United of Major League Soccer, so he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet Murray. The football legend was in the stands when the Scot captured his first Wimbledon title in 2013 to end Great Britain’s 77-year wait for a home champion.

Rooney Murray

“It was incredible, a real achievement, and [Novak] Djokovic at the time looked unbeatable, so it was a great victory and a great experience to be there,” Rooney said. “It was the first time I was at Wimbledon, and [it was] history for Britain, so it was a fantastic moment to be there.”

Murray, who was joined by brother Jamie Murray — the fourth seed in the doubles draw with Bruno Soares at the Citi Open — on Stadium Court, grew up playing football and follows the Premier League as he travels the world. Rooney hasn’t been able to pick up a tennis racquet much, but he says he loves watching the sport. His game was put to the test when the pair rallied, and Murray hit some serves to the football star.

Murray Rooney

“It was decent. Forehand was alright, he almost returned a couple serves. But yeah, not bad. Backhand needs a bit of work,” Murray joked. “He did alright for someone who doesn’t play much. It was good.”

Murray will now turn his attention to the ATP World Tour 500-level tournament in Washington D.C. The 31-year-old will face American Mackenzie McDonald in the first round, and could face compatriot and fourth seed Kyle Edmund in a second-round blockbuster.

Rooney Murray Murray

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Berrettini Blasts Into First Final In Gstaad

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Berrettini Blasts Into First Final In Gstaad

Italian will play for maiden ATP World Tour title

Twelve months ago, Matteo Berrettini was outside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings and plotting his ascent on the ATP Challenger Tour. What a difference a year makes.

On Saturday, the 22-year-old Italian reached his first ATP World Tour final, ousting Jurgen Zopp 6-4, 7-6(6) at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad. Berrettini needed one hour and 19 minutes to secure his fourth straight-set win of the week.

Coming off signature victories over fourth seed Andrey Rublev and former champion Feliciano Lopez, Berrettini is playing the best tennis of his young career in Gstaad. He saved both break points faced against Zopp, firing nine aces to book his spot in the championship. On Sunday, the Italian will face second seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

“I’m extremely happy,” said Berrettini. “The conditions were different today after the rain. I managed to raise my level and was fighting hard during the whole match. I’ve been playing a lot of important matches lately – winning a round in Rome, my first match at a Slam and more. I’m feeling well and excited about the final tomorrow.”

Persistent rain showers delayed the start of Saturday’s first semi-final by more than three hours, before Berrettini and Zopp took to Roy Emerson Arena. The lone break of the match would come in the very first game, as the World No. 84 set the tone with an immediate break to love. He would not stumble from there, claiming the opener 6-4 and eventually securing his third match point.

It marked the second time Berrettini and Zopp have met this year, following the Italian’s semi-final victory at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Bergamo, Italy, in February. He would go on to lift the trophy a day later and will hope history repeats itself on Sunday.

You May Also Like: Challenger Surge Sends Berrettini To Top 100 Debut

A promising unseeded finalist is deja vu for the Gstaad faithful, who witnessed Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann stun the field en route to the title match last year (l. to Fognini). Now, it’s Berrettini’s turn. After breaking into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings in May, he would streak to the third round at Roland Garros and earned his first Top 20 win against Jack Sock at Wimbledon just three weeks ago.

Moreover, at 22 years and three months, Berrettini claimed a slice of national history as the youngest Italian to reach an ATP World Tour final since 2003 (Volandri in Umag). 

In the second semi-final, Bautista Agut showed the heart of a champion to book his spot in the title match. The Spaniard rallied from a set down to dismiss Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in a marathon two hours and 41 minutes.

Bautista Agut reached his 15th ATP World Tour final in the fading sunlight, denying Djere’s bid for a first final appearance. The second seed is a perfect 4-0 in championship clashes since 2016, most recently triumphing on the hard courts of Auckland and Dubai this year.

The run to the final carries added significance for the Spaniard, following the death of his mother in May. He is also competing in his first tournament in more than a month after suffering a groin injury in the Gerry Weber Open semi-finals.

Bautista Agut

Molchanov/Zelenay Reach Doubles Final
Berrettini will look to lift a second trophy on Sunday in the doubles final, teaming with 40-year-old countryman Daniele Bracciali. They will face Denys Molchanov and Igor Zelenay.

The Ukrainian-Slovakian duo ousted second seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4 to reach their first final together. Individually, Molchanov is appearing in his first tour-level doubles final, while Zelenay is into his fourth (0-3) and first since 2012.

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Mayer Saves MP, Returns To Hamburg Final

  • Posted: Jul 28, 2018

Mayer Saves MP, Returns To Hamburg Final

Argentine awaits Nicolas Jarry or Nikoloz Basilashvili in final

Leonardo Mayer’s reign at the Am Rothenbaum continues. The ‘King of Hamburg’ battled into his third final in five years, saving a match point to dismiss Jozef Kovalik 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(7) on Saturday.

Mayer survived an offensive onslaught from the Slovakian qualifier to extend his stay at the German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by Kampmann. The Argentine needed two hours and 51 minutes to overcome Kovalik, firing 42 winners, including 28 off his forehand wing.

Two-time champion Mayer has struggled in recent months, earning just two wins from nine matches entering the week, but he has once again discovered his top form on the clay of the ATP World Tour 500 event. Mayer, whose two tour-level titles have come in Hamburg, defeating David Ferrer in 2014 and Florian Mayer last year, will look to lift the trophy once again on Sunday. He faces either Nicolas Jarry or Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The 31-year-old scored another impressive three-set win, after edging second seed Diego Schwartzman on Friday. On a sunkissed afternoon in the German metropolis, he was forced to rally from an early deficit against Kovalik. The Slovakian snatched the opening set in a tie-break, but Mayer was up to the task, forcing a decider behind an immediate break to open the second.

That would be the only break of the match, as neither player could penetrate the opponent’s serve in the third set. With a spot in the championship on the line, an exuberant Kovalik would earn a quick mini-break in the ensuing tie-break and held a match point at 6/5. But a deep return by Mayer forced Kovalik to net a forehand. Five points later, the Argentine raised his arms in triumph, lunging to put away a volley winner to secure the victory.

Mayer improved to 15-2 in five appearances in Hamburg. Last year, he triumphed as a lucky loser with an ATP Ranking at No. 138. Now, the World No. 36 is into his fifth ATP World Tour final and first of 2018.

Kovalik, meanwhile, concludes a career week on the ATP World Tour, reaching his first 500-level semi-final. The 25-year-old is thriving on the clay in recent months and will break into the Top 100 for the first time. After qualifying at Roland Garros, he claimed his third ATP Challenger Tour title in Poprad, Slovakia, and reached the final at the prestigious Sparkassen Open in Braunschweig, Germany, earlier this month.

Peralta/Zeballos Reach Doubles Final
Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos advanced to the doubles final, rallying past Ben McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 7-5, 10-7. They will face top seeds and Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic for the title.

The Chilean-Argentine pair will feature in their ninth ATP World Tour final as a team and first at the 500-level or above. Last week, they lifted the trophy at the SkiStar Swedish Open in Bastad.

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