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Defending Champs Jebavy/Middelkoop Back In St. Petersburg Final

  • Posted: Sep 21, 2018

Defending Champs Jebavy/Middelkoop Back In St. Petersburg Final

Skupski/Skupski advance to Metz championship match

Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop lifted their first ATP World Tour trophy as a team at last year’s St. Petersburg Open. And one year later at the same event, the pair is one victory away from retaining that crown. 

Third-seeded Jebavy and Middelkoop battled past second seeds Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos 7-6(4), 1-6, 10-8 on Friday in a rematch of the 2017 championship match, advancing to the final after 76 minutes. Last season, the clash was far more straightforward, with the victors triumphing in straight sets.

But this time around, the Czech-Dutch duo won 12 fewer points than its opponents. However, Jebavy and Middelkoop landed eight of their nine first serves in the Match Tie-break to pressure the Chilean-Argentine team, winning five of the last six points to clinch the victory. Jebavy and Middelkoop will next face Max Mirnyi/Philipp Oswald or Matteo Berrettini/Fabio Fognini, who compete Saturday. 

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Mirnyi and Oswald, who earned titles in New York and Houston earlier this year, beat home favourites Evgeny Donskoy and Karen Khachanov 7-6(2), 7-6(1) on Friday to reach the last four.

Skupski/Skupski Into Metz Final
Brothers Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski, who triumphed in Montpellier in France earlier this year, have a chance to lift another tour-level trophy in France. The Brits, who are the fourth seeds, beat Austrians Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 in 77 minutes. 

In the final, they will clash against top seeds Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin or third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Andres Molteni.

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Nishikori Inching Closer To First Title Since 2016

  • Posted: Sep 21, 2018

Nishikori Inching Closer To First Title Since 2016

Simon beats compatriot Gasquet for the first time

Kei Nishikori continued his climb back toward the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on Friday, battling past fifth-seeded Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Moselle Open. 

“It was a tough, tough match today, but somehow I fought through and I’m happy to be in the semi-finals tomorrow,” Nishikori said. “He was playing better in the second [set]. I thought I played almost perfect game in the first set and I almost had it, but he came back. It was tough. He was up 3-1 in the third, and I had to refocus again and rebuild my confidence and had to play a little bit better in the end. It wasn’t an easy game.”

The Japanese star dropped as low as World No. 39 in April and was No. 28 as recently as July. But since, the 28-year-old has found form reminiscent of his days inside the Top 5. Nishikori, who advanced to the US Open semi-finals, is now just two wins from lifting his first ATP World Tour trophy since 2016 Memphis. He is currently in 10th position in the ATP Race To London for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.

The top seed faced a stiff test against the free-swinging Basilashvili, who advanced to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows (l. to Nadal) and claimed his maiden tour-level title in Hamburg. But the 28-year-old won 83 per cent of first-serve points and won five of eight break points to reach the last four, where he will face qualifier Matthias Bachinger, who beat German Yannick Maden 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Bachinger arrived in Metz with just one tour-level match win in 2018. But not only did he reach his first ATP World Tour quarter-final since 2014 in Stockholm, the German can now advance to his first tour-level final.

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Two-time former champion Gilles Simon broke an eight-match losing streak against Richard Gasquet, the fourth seed and 2004 finalist, with a 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over one hour and 34 minutes. The pair first clashed in June 2006 at Nottingham (Gasquet leads Simon 8-1).

Simon had come into the event having lost five of his past six matches, but with victory over Gasquet, the 33-year-old is one win away from his 21st ATP World Tour final (13-7 record). He won the Tata Open Maharashtra crown (d. Anderson) in the first week of the year, and also finished runner-up at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon (l. to Thiem) in May. 

Moldova’s Radu Albot advanced to his first ATP World Tour semi-final, where he will challenge 2010 and 2013 Metz titlist Simon, after beating Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 7-6(4), 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes. 

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Did You Know?
On nine occasions in the past 15 years, a Frenchman has won the Metz title.

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Klizan Holds Nerve, Beats Shapovalov In St. Petersburg

  • Posted: Sep 21, 2018

Klizan Holds Nerve, Beats Shapovalov In St. Petersburg

Slovakian now plays Wawrinka or defending champion Dzumhur

Slovakian Martin Klizan, the 2012 champion, recovered from a set and 3-5 down to knock out seventh-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and four minutes on Friday at the St. Petersburg Open.

Klizan, who beat second seed Fabio Fognini in the second round, is playing in his first ATP World Tour tournament since lifting his sixth crown at the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel (d. Istomin) on 4 August. The 29-year-old has a perfect 6-0 record in tour-level finals and now awaits the winner of sixth seed and defending champion Damir Dzumhur and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.

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So Close, Yet So Far Away: Remembering Tennis' Best Near Misses

  • Posted: Sep 21, 2018

So Close, Yet So Far Away: Remembering Tennis’ Best Near Misses remembers the best of the best, including Youzhny finishing on 499 and Federer’s close call in August 2003

To an outsider, it seems like an unfortunate ending to an outstanding career. Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny played his final match on Thursday at the St. Petersburg Open, losing to Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3. The 36-year-old Youzhny, No. 110 in the ATP Rankings, will retire stuck on 499 wins, two sets away from becoming only the second Russian to earn 500 victories (Kafelnikov 609).

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Youzhny, however, does not seem perturbed. “It’s just statistics,” he said. “I can think about a lot of things. I never made the final of a Grand Slam. I never made the semi-finals of an [ATP World Tour Masters] 1000 event. Many, many things I didn’t do in tennis.”

‘The Colonel’ should not despair; he has plenty of company. Other players, including former World No. 1s Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, have come tantalizingly close to landmark achievements only to fall just short. remembers some memorable close calls:

2005 Nitto ATP Finals F, David Nalbandian d. Roger Federer 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3)
Federer led Nalbandian two sets to zero in the final of the season finale, but the Argentine came back and won the fifth-set tie-break. Had Federer held on, he would have tied John McEnroe for the best single-season record in the Open Era. Federer finished 81-4; McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984.

1984 Roland Garros F, Ivan Lendl d. John McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5
Of course, McEnroe, like all champions, had his near misses as well. During his record-breaking year, McEnroe let slip a two sets to zero lead in the Roland Garros final. He finished his career without winning the clay-court major.

2003 Coupe Rogers SF, Andy Roddick d. Roger Federer 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3)
No one will feel sorry for Federer having spent only 310 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. But the Swiss could have arrived at the top spot a good six months sooner than when he first did, in February 2004. If Federer had beaten Roddick during the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 tournament in Montreal, he would have reached No. 1 in August 2003.

Roddick, however, was the man to beat during that North American hard-court swing, as he showed by winning the 2003 US Open. Federer, though, got Roddick back a few times, 17 to be exact. At the time, Federer led their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1. Federer now leads their series 21-3.

2006 Internazional BNL d’Italia F, Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer, 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5)
In one of the best matches of their historic rivalry, Federer held two championship points but Nadal ultimately prevailed. The Internazional BNL d’Italia in Rome and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, both Masters 1000 tournaments, remain the only “Big Titles” Federer has never won. He is 0-4 in Monte-Carlo finals and 0-4 in Rome title matches.

Read More: Roger & Rafa: The Rivalry

2009 Wimbledon F, Roger Federer d. Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14
Ten times Roddick held to stay in the final against Federer, but even that monumental feat wasn’t enough to give the American his maiden Wimbledon title. The former No. 1 fell in his third and final Wimbledon title match, and wouldn’t reach another Grand Slam final before retiring after the 2012 US Open.

2013 US Open Doubles SF, Leander Paes/Radek Stepanek d. Mike Bryan/Bob Bryan 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
The Bryans were two matches away from winning the calendar year Grand Slam. But Paes/Stepanek denied the American greats a chance at history. The Bryans had a more-recent near-miss as well, when Bob Bryan fell hurt during the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open final and the twins had to retire against Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya. Had the twins won the Spanish Masters 1000 title, they would have returned to co-No. 1s. But Bob Bryan hasn’t played a match since then, and he underwent hip surgery last month.

2013 Kuala Lumpur F, Joao Sousa d. Julien Benneteau 2-6, 7-5, 6-4
Julien Benneteau must know, a little bit at least, how Youzhny is feeling. The affable Frenchman, who played his last ATP World Tour match at the Winston-Salem Open last month, finished 0-10 in ATP World Tour finals. During his ninth final, in Kuala Lumpur, Benneteau held a championship point before falling to Sousa.

2004 Roland Garros F, Gaston Gaudio d. Guillermo Coria 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6
Coria was a heavy favourite in the all-Argentine final, but he lost and never came that close to a Grand Slam title again.

Other Notable Near Misses

  • Nadal has played at the Nitto ATP Finals eight times and reached two finals (2010, 2013), but he’s never won the prestigious season finale. The Spanish great is also 0-5 in Miami finals. Nadal led Federer during the 2005 Miami Open presented by Itau final by two sets and 4-1 in the third only to lose in five sets.
  • Scot Andy Murray has played in five Australian Open finals but has never won the season’s first Grand Slam title nor has he pushed a Melbourne final to five sets.

  • Goran Ivanisevic, 2001 Wimbledon champion, ended his career with 599 wins.

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