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Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Shenzhen & Chengdu

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Shenzhen & Chengdu

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour

For the first time in 2018, the ATP World Tour travels to China, with two exciting ATP World Tour 250-level events taking place this week.

Andy Murray, the inaugural titlist in 2014, and defending champion David Goffin return to the Shenzhen Open for the tournament’s fifth edition. A trio of #NextGenATP stars — Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Alex de Minaur — are also in the field.

A new champion will be crowned at the Chengdu Open, where the field features seven players who have captured tour-level titles this season. Italian Fabio Fognini, who has already triumphed three times this campaign, is the top seed. Defending titlist Denis Istomin and 2016 champion Karen Khachanov are not in the draw.

View Draws: Shenzhen | Chengdu

1) Comeback Continues:
 Shenzhen marks the sixth event and his first-round encounter will be the 10th match of Murray’s comeback from right hip surgery, which he underwent in January. The former World No. 1 is 5-4 since his return in June, but has shown signs of his top level with victories over former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and British No. 1 Kyle Edmund.

2) Murray Memories: Murray was also a wild card at the 2014 Shenzhen Open, winning his first title of the season in spectacular fashion. The Brit saved five championship points to defeat Tommy Robredo. Four weeks later, Murray saved five match points to edge Robredo in the Valencia final.

3) David’s Defence: Much like Murray in 2014, Goffin followed his title run at the 2017 Shenzhen Open by qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals. At the year-end championships, the Belgian beat both No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer before falling in a three-set final to Grigor Dimitrov. He will try to win his fifth tour-level championship this week.

4) Borna Identity: Borna Coric of Croatia was 18 years old when he entered the Top 40 of the ATP Rankings. Yet, he has come of age in 2018, arriving in Shenzhen with a 31-15 record and a Top 20 ranking. The 21-year-old was victorious in Halle.

5) Next is Now: Three #NextGenATP stars are seeded in Shenzhen, led by Greek No. 2 seed Tsitsipas. The 20-year-old broke into the Top 15 in August following a fourth-round run at Wimbledon and four wins against Top 10 opponents en route to the Toronto final. Tsitsipas is the first Greek player to ever be ranked that high, reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam and play for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 championship.

6) Winning Feeling: Like Tsitsipas and Coric, No. 6 seed Shapovalov has earned 30 wins in a season for the first time. Though the 19-year-old is still seeking his first final at tour-level, he became both the youngest quarter-finalist and semi-finalist in Madrid tournament history in May.

7) Youth is Served: Fellow 19-year-old De Minaur has reached two finals this year, including in Washington, D.C., where four players under the age of 22 comprised the semi-finals for the first time on tour since Buenos Aires in 1995. No. 7 seed De Minaur also advanced to the final in his hometown of Sydney.

8) Chinese Hopes: Joining Murray as wild cards in Shenzhen are Chinese players Wu Di and Zhang Zhizhen. Wu is the last player from China to win a match on the ATP World Tour (2017 Shanghai). Zhang is the last player from China to reach an ATP World Tour quarter-final (2017 Shenzhen).

9) Success In China: Former World No. 1 doubles player Max Mirnyi returns to China alongside Philipp Oswald. Mirnyi won the first of his 52 ATP World Tour doubles titles, last of his 16 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 doubles titles, and one of his two Nitto ATP Finals doubles titles at events in Shanghai.

10) First-Time Duo, Top Seeds: The top seeds in the doubles draw, Ben McLachlan and Joe Salisbury, are competing together for the first time. McLachlan has captured one ATP World Tour title (2017 Tokyo), while Salisbury seeks his maiden triumph.

1) Fabulous Fabio:
Top seed Fognini returned to a career-high No. 13 in the ATP Rankings on 10 September. The Italian seeks his fourth ATP World Tour 250-level title of 2018 following victories in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos. His three trophies this season are the most won by an Italian since 1977.

2) Georgia Pride: Nikoloz Basilashvili won the Hamburg title in July to become the first champion from Georgia in ATP World Tour history, also becoming the highest-ranked player ever from his country. He peaked at No. 31 on 10 September after becoming the first Georgian to reach the US Open fourth round.

3) One of a Kind: Former World No. 6 Gael Monfils started the season with his seventh ATP World Tour title at Doha. Just 19-15 in tour-level matches since then, Monfils arrives in Chengdu after playing an ATP Challenger Tour event for the first time in five years and second time in a decade. Monfils lifted the title in Kaohsiung, Taiwan as a wild card and the No. 1 seed.

4) Champs in Chengdu: Also playing in Chengdu are Estoril champion Joao Sousa, Eastbourne titlist Mischa Zverev and Gstaad winner Matteo Berrettini.

5) Matteo On A Roll: It was a dream week for Berrettini in the Swiss Alps, where he did not drop a set en route to his first quarter-final, semi-final, final and title. Berrettini also won the Gstaad doubles title with countryman Daniele Bracciali, and triumphed in St. Petersburg last week with Fognini.

6) Asian Sensation: Still seeking the first tour-level final of his career is Hyeon Chung of South Korea. Chung has reached the quarter-finals or semi-finals at nine events this season, highlighted by a victory over six-time champion Novak Djokovic en route to the Australian Open semi-finals. Chung won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017.

7) One Year Later: Yibing Wu of China made his ATP World Tour debut at the 2017 Chengdu Open after sweeping the US Open boys’ singles and Shanghai Challenger titles. Still only 18 years old, Wu returns to Chengdu after breaking into the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings on 10 September.

8) Same Story: World No. 1 junior Chun Hsin Tseng will make his ATP World Tour debut this week. The 17-year-old from Chinese Taipei went 21-2 at the junior Grand Slams with titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Tseng was the Australian Open runner-up and a US Open semi-finalist.

9) Croatia United: Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic had not played together all season before falling in a fifth-set tie-break during the Davis Cup semi-finals on 15 September. Despite that loss, Croatia advanced to November’s final against France. Dodig and Pavic will team up again in Chengdu.

10) Adrian’s Pursuit: Adrian Mannarino has reached five ATP World Tour finals in his career, and has climbed as high as No. 22 in the ATP Rankings. The fourth-seeded Frenchman is pursuing his maiden title this week.

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Allez! Monfils Overcomes #NextGenATP Test For Kaohsiung Crown

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Allez! Monfils Overcomes #NextGenATP Test For Kaohsiung Crown

Frenchman defeats Korea’s Soon-woo Kwon for title

It had been five years since Gael Monfils last competed on the ATP Challenger Tour. But, seeking more match play and confidence after sustaining a wrist injury at the US Open, the Frenchman added the OEC Open in Kaohsiung to his calendar.

The decision paid dividends for Monfils, as the top seed surged to the title at the $150,000 event on Taiwanese soil. Now 6-0 in Challenger finals, the 32-year-old defeated #NextGenATP qualifier Soonwoo Kwon 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 in Sunday’s championship.

“A win is a win and I came here to win a lot of matches, so I am very happy,” Monfils told the assembled media following the final. “It is never easy to win a Challenger. It has given me confidence, to play five guys who were really tough. I’m just very happy.

“It was my first time in Taiwan and I had a blast. The fans came out from the first day and were here all week. This is a Challenger, but it’s very well organised. The stadium and management are great.”

Monfils becomes the fifth player to capture titles on both the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour this year. In the opening week of the season, he reigned at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, notching his seventh tour-level crown.

ATP World Tour & ATP Challenger Tour Winners In 2018

Player ATP World Tour title ATP Challenger Tour title
Gael Monfils Doha Kaohsiung, TPE
Pablo Andujar Marrakech Alicante, ESP
Marco Cecchinato Budapest & Umag Santiago, CHI
Martin Klizan Kitzbuhel Indian Wells, USA
Matteo Berrettini Gstaad Bergamo, ITA

It was not always routine, but Monfils found his form in navigating to the Kaohsiung title. He rallied from a set down to defeat another #NextGenATP qualifier, Akira Santillan, in the first round, before ousting Go Soeda, Ernests Gulbis and Duckhee Lee without conceding a break.

On Sunday, he was put to the test against 20-year-old Kwon, who was bidding for his maiden Challenger crown. After the Korean secured three straight breaks in the second set, Monfils rediscovered his rhythm in the decider, racing to a 3-0 lead and eventually claiming his second championship point. 

“Kwon played amazing today,” Monfils added. “He’s a youngster with a lot of hope and desire, so it was a very tough match and I had to pull out my best game to beat him today. But it’s not an easy turnaround. Tomorrow I am flying to Chengdu and already it’s another tournament.”

Monfils is projected to rise to No. 38 in the ATP Rankings and is poised to carry the momentum to the upcoming Asian swing on the ATP World Tour. He will face yet another #NextGenATP qualifier in his opener at the Chengdu Open – South Africa’s Lloyd Harris. The Frenchman is also slated to appear at the China Open in Beijing and Rolex Shanghai Masters. 

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Simon, 33, Turns Back Time For His Third Metz Title

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Simon, 33, Turns Back Time For His Third Metz Title

Frenchman will return to the Top 30 after his second title of 2018

Gilles Simon rolled back the clock once more on Sunday at the Moselle Open in Metz. The 33-year-old Frenchman won his third Metz title (2010, 2013) and second crown of the season, beating German qualifier Matthias Bachinger 7-6(2), 6-1.

“I have a good feeling here, I also have the family coming. So it’s a very nice feeling to come back every year,” Simon said.

Simon, who also captured the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune to start the season (d. Anderson), has won two titles in the same season for the first time since 2011 and continued what has been a career renaissance for him in 2018. He started the year at No. 89 in the ATP Rankings, and he hadn’t won a title since February 2015 in Marseille.

You May Also Like: Magnifique In Metz: Tsonga, Simon & Co

But with his 14th ATP World Tour crown (14-7), Simon, currently No. 39, guaranteed his return to the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings (No. 29) on Monday when the new rankings are released. He also continued French domination of the ATP World Tour 250-level tournament in Metz.

Frenchmen have now hoisted the trophy in 10 of the tournament’s 16 editions, including eight of the past 10. Simon will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and €89,435 in prize money. “I just want to play as much as I can,” he said.

Bachinger, despite the loss, had the best week of his career. The 31-year-old had celebrated just one tour-level victory this season before Metz. But he qualified and then won four matches in a row to reach his maiden ATP World Tour final. The German, No. 166 in the ATP Rankings, will climb 31 spots to No. 135 after receiving 150 points. He also will receive €47,105 in prize money.

“Today, I was definitely a bit tired and of course, I am a bit disappointed I couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities I had in the first set,” Bachinger said. “I need to be positive, this has been an incredible week for me. If I would have been told that I would reach the final when I arrived here to play the qualies, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Bachinger had three set points on Simon’s serve at 5-6, 0/40, but the Frenchman erased them all and cruised in the tie-break. Simon wore the German down in the second set, breaking twice and serving out the match to love.

“I put a lot of energy into this [5-6] game because I felt like it was really important to change this momentum if possible and I was able to do it, and it was for sure the key point of the match,” Simon said.

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Thiem Prevents History, Triumphs In St. Petersburg

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Thiem Prevents History, Triumphs In St. Petersburg

Austrian lifts his third title of 2018 and 11th overall

Before the St. Petersburg Open final, Dominic Thiem had lost all three of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Slovakian Martin Klizan. But he made up for that deficit in a big way on Sunday.

The top seed cruised past Klizan 6-3, 6-1 in just 68 minutes to earn his 11th ATP World Tour title, and his first on hard courts since Acapulco in 2016.

“I think that I was raising up my level from the first to the last match and obviously I played my best match today,” Thiem said. “It was pretty close in the beginning. He was playing very well at the start of the match, but then I did one break, which was very important. From this moment on, I think I had control of the match.”

By triumphing, the Austrian also prevented history. Klizan was previously 6-0 at tour-level with a championship on the line. And if the 29-year-old left-hander would have beaten Thiem, he would have become the first player since the ATP World Tour began in 1990 to win his first seven title matches. Latvian Ernests Gulbis is 6-0.

“He’s a very dangerous player. He can hit winners from everywhere,” Thiem said. “Even though he had some issues, I was still aware of that and I was trying to continue my normal tennis because otherwise maybe it would get closer again.”

Thiem, who leads the ATP World Tour with 48 match wins in 2018, is making a push to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the third consecutive year. Thanks to his efforts in St. Petersburg, the 25-year-old is projected to climb past Kevin Anderson into seventh place in the ATP Race To London.

The 6’1” right-hander has now captured three titles this year, earning that many victories in one season for the third time (also 2015 and 2016). Thiem saved the two break points he faced, with both coming in the final game. Meanwhile, he broke Klizan at three of seven opportunities. The Austrian adds 250 ATP Rankings points to his tally, and earns $209,645.

Early on in the match, it was clear the final would be a battle of forehands. Thiem has arguably the heaviest baseline game in the sport. and Klizan came out firing early, using his thunderous forehand as he did all week to advance to the final.

But as the match wore on, Thiem’s shot-by-shot intensity appeared to wear on Klizan, as the Austrian was able to dictate play, especially when targeting the Slovakian’s backhand. After gaining a set-and-a-break lead, it became clear it was Thiem’s day. On one point, he was completely out of the rally, with Klizan on top of the net to put away a volley. But the Austrian scrambled and barely got his racquet on the ball for a forehand, which he hit for a clean cross-court winner.

“I was doing a lot of things very well today: serving, returning, and also from the baseline,” Thiem said. “The scoreline was going for me, and that’s why it was pretty quick, I would say.”

It was still a strong week for Klizan, especially considering it was his first hard-court event since March. The World No. 65 earned impressive wins against second seed Fabio Fognini, #NextGenATP star Denis Shapovalov and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, earning 150 points and $110,415 in prize money.

“It’s a loss. I’m not very happy, but overall it was a good week for me,” Klizan said. “I had like three or four days to prepare on hard courts and the result, the final, I think it’s good.”

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Dream Debut: Berrettini/Fognini Triumph In St. Petersburg

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Dream Debut: Berrettini/Fognini Triumph In St. Petersburg

Italians saved set points in both sets

In their maiden outing as a team, Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini capped a memorable week at the St. Petersburg Open with a 7-6(6), 7-6(4) victory over Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop on Sunday.

The Italian duo lifted their first team title after one hour and 39 minutes, winning 69 per cent of first-serve points to overcome the defending champions in straight sets. Berrettini and Fognini were forced to save set points in both sets, at 5-6 (40/40) in the opener and at 3-5 (30/40) in the second set, before successfully navigating two tie-breaks to confirm victory.

Berrettini has now won two tour-level doubles crowns after earning his first tour-level doubles title at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad (w/Bracciali) in July. It is Fognini’s fifth tour-level doubles trophy, ending a two-year championship drought since the 2016 Shenzhen Open.

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With four service breaks in the opening six games and set-point opportunities missed by both teams, a tie-break was needed to decide the outcome of the opening set. The Italians opened up a 4/1 advantage in the set-decider and, despite failing to capitalise on two further set points at 6/4, moved one set ahead after converting their fourth opportunity.

After saving break point in the opening game of the second set, Jebavy and Middelkoop opened up a 2-0 lead with a fourth break of serve. The third seeds held two set points at 5-3 (40/30) to level the match, but consecutive errors at net rebalanced the scores.

A second tie-break was needed, and Berrettini and Fognini once again proved too strong. The Italians converted their first championship point, with a second straight big serve from Berrettini, to capture the title.

Jebavy and Middelkoop were bidding to lift their second straight St. Petersburg trophy after winning their only team title at the event last year. The third seeds also reached the championship match in Lyon this year (l. to Kyrgios/Sock).

Berrettini and Fognini receive 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split $63,690 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Jebavy and Middelkoop gain 150 points and share $33,480.

Did You Know?
No team has managed to win back-to-back St. Petersburg Open doubles titles since the tournament began in 1995.

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Mahut/Roger-Vasselin Fly Flag For France In Metz

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Mahut/Roger-Vasselin Fly Flag For France In Metz

Each claims their fourth Metz crown, and second together

Both Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin had won the Moselle Open three times before arriving in Metz this week, each doing so with three different partners. But on Sunday, the Frenchmen doubles up for the first time, beating brothers Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski 6-1, 7-5 in 58 minutes to capture their second title at the event as a team.

“It was a great week with Nicolas,” said Roger-Vasselin. “I am really happy that I forced him to come here and at the end of the week we have the trophy. It was definitely a great week for us.”

The top seeds are now 33-12 as a pair, clinching their fifth triumph together. It is Mahut and Roger-Vasselin’s first victory as a duo since 2013, when they earned the crown at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open.

Mahut partners Pierre-Hugues Herbert full-time, and they are currently ninth in the ATP Race To London, as the Frenchmen attempt to qualify for the season finale for the fourth consecutive year. But it was a successful reunion for Mahut and Roger-Vasselin in their home country, winning all eight sets they played en route to the championship.

“Winning in France is special, but winning twice here [together] and, for both of us it is the fourth time [overall], it is something big,” said Mahut. “We hope to have a fifth one next year.”

Besides Mahut adding a 23rd tour-level doubles trophy and Roger-Vasselin tallying his 15th crown, they both add 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split €27,170 in prize money. They are also the ninth all-French team to capture the title in Metz, and the second in a row, as Roger-Vasselin was victorious with Julien Benneteau in 2017.

It was a successful week for their opponents, Skupski/Skupski, as the brothers came within one match of earning their second triumph together. While they are from Great Britain, they have enjoyed a fair amount of success in France.

Ken Skupski lifted his maiden ATP World Tour trophy in Metz nine years ago (w/ Fleming), and they won their first title together earlier this year in Montpellier. Despite falling short, they both earn 150 points and a share of €14,280.

Did You Know?
Mahut and Roger-Vasselin dominated on serve in the final, dropping just one point on their first serves (28/29).

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Naomi Osaka beaten by Karolina Pliskova in Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo

  • Posted: Sep 23, 2018

Tearful US Open champion Naomi Osaka blamed tiredness after a surprise defeat in straight sets by Karolina Pliskova in the Pan Pacific Open final.

Japan’s Osaka was hoping to give home fans a victory to celebrate in Tokyo but went down 6-4 6-4 to the Czech.

“I’ve literally never felt more tired in my entire life,” said the 20-year-old, who plans to take some time off.

Former world number one Pliskova, the fourth seed, ended Osaka’s 10-match winning streak in just 63 minutes.

“Naomi was maybe a little bit tired, you could see that. But the future is bright for her and congrats to her for an incredible few weeks,” said Pliskova, 26, after her 11th career title.

Third seed Osaka’s defeat came a fortnight after she won the US Open final, which was overshadowed by beaten opponent Serena Williams’ outburst at an umpire.

Osaka could not recover after being broken by the world number eight in the fifth game of the first set and, as the strain began to show, she called for coach Sascha Bajin and groaned: “I feel so stressed out.”

She could barely bring herself to speak at the trophy presentation.

“The chances of me playing in the next tournament are very low,” she said.

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