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Nishioka Channeling Inner Rios In Comeback

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Nishioka Channeling Inner Rios In Comeback

Japanese reaches first ATP World Tour final in Shenzhen

It has been a long road for Yoshihito Nishioka. Exactly one year ago, the 23-year-old was at home, steadily making progress with his rehab after suffering a torn ACL.

Nishioka details the process as quite grueling, forcing him to draw upon all his physical and emotional fortitude. But as arduous as it has been, each victory tastes that much sweeter. 

On Sunday, Nishioka will hope to cap the greatest week of his young career with a maiden ATP World Tour title. The margins couldn’t have been closer as he edged Fernando Verdasco in a deciding tie-break, reaching his first tour-level final at the Shenzhen Open.

“It has been 10 months since I returned, but I think that is actually quick to get to this point,” said Nishioka following his semi-final win. “I’m really happy for this. I never reached a final before I got injured, so I think my level is better than ever. It’s no surprise to me, but I do feel lucky to get here.”

Nishioka is bidding to not only become the 11th first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this year, but do so as a qualifier. Six wins in seven days, including impressive victories over an in-form Denis Kudla, Denis Shapovalov and Cameron Norrie, have put the Japanese on the precipice of his maiden title.

Just four months ago, Nishioka was sitting at No. 362 in the ATP Rankings when he triumphed at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Gimcheon, Korea. Now, he is looking to add an even bigger piece of silverware to his collection in Shenzhen. And perhaps the greatest prize of all: victory would see him return to the Top 100 for the first time in 14 months.

You May Also Like: Challenger Q&A: Nishioka Notches First Title In Comeback

How is Nishioka putting it all together and thriving once again? He draws inspiration from his idols. Like former World No. 1 Marcelo Rios, the 5’7″ Nishioka is also under 6-feet tall and he admits that he models his game after the Chilean legend. In an era of big-hitting giants, there is something to be said for the diminutive fighter who utilizes his agility as a major weapon.

“When I was younger, I watched Marcelo Rios. When I went to the United States, I was training all the time at Nick Bolletieri’s academy and he told me I have to watch more of Rios. He is around the same height as me and he got to World No. 1, so I think I can make it. I can run more than him too.

“And for sure Kei is the biggest reason why we [the Japanese players] are doing so well. He made it to No. 4 and he showed us that we can be like that. Also, he’s not the tallest player. Many Japanese players play the Challengers to get a higher ATP Ranking, but we also have to play more ATP tournaments and Kei has showed us it is possible.”

On Sunday, Nishioka will square off against Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the Shenzhen title. A first-time winner will be guaranteed when the Japanese and the Frenchman take to Center Court. Regardless of what transpires, Nishioka relishing the moment. 

“I know he has a good serve and likes to come to the net many times. He’s playing very aggressive. I think it’s very important for me to return well tomorrow. If I’m doing that, maybe he will have pressure on his service games and get nervous and make mistakes. I just have to get pressure on him.

“I’m very excited for this moment. I was not thinking I could reach the final when I was in qualifying. But this is very exciting for me, to be in my first final. I know there will be pressure tomorrow, but I will try to do my best.”

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Zverev, Del Potro On Collision Course In Beijing

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Zverev, Del Potro On Collision Course In Beijing

ATP World Tour’s ‘Asian Swing’ continues at the China Open

In 2017, Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev produced a three-set classic at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. One year later, the Top 5 stars will hope history repeats itself on Chinese soil.

Del Potro and Zverev lead the pack at next week’s China Open in Beijing, with plenty at stake for both players in the ATP Race To London. At third and fifth, respectively, the Argentine (4,910 points) and the German (4,365 points) are bidding to make significant statements as they continue their quests to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. A final encounter in Beijing could go a long way to determining their fate.

Del Potro will be competing in his first tournament as a 30-year-old when he takes to the National Tennis Centre in the Chinese capital. Fresh off a final run at the US Open, he is making his second appearance at the ATP World Tour 500 event. He opens against Spanish veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas and could face either Karen Khachanov or Sam Querrey in the second round.

Other seeds in the Tandil native’s half of the draw are fourth seed Fabio Fognini, seventh seed Borna Coric and eighth seed Marco Cecchinato. Fognini is playing the best tennis of his career and will be seeking his fourth title of the season on Sunday at the Chengdu Open. His countryman Cecchinato opens against the lone former champion in the draw – Marcos Baghdatis.

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While the ATP Race To London is heating up, the ATP Race To Milan is also nearing a thrilling conclusion. Currently in seventh place, Andrey Rublev is the only contender in the Beijing draw and could face Fognini in the second round. But first, the Next Gen ATP Finals contender will have to navigate a tough opener against Portuguese No. 1 Joao Sousa.

Meanwhile, Zverev faces an equally tricky path in the bottom half. Roberto Bautista Agut awaits in the first round in what will be their fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter (tied 2-2). Chinese teen Wu Yibing is a potential second-round opponent, with third seed Grigor Dimitrov and fifth seed Kyle Edmund also looming large.

One year removed from appearing in his first ATP World Tour event at the Chengdu Open, Yibing is making his tournament debut in Beijing. He remains in search of his first tour-level match win, but will be bolstered by a strong performance against fellow teen Felix Auger-Aliassime this week in Chengdu.

You May Also Like: Fitness A Priority For Wu Yibing In Return To Tour

In other action, Dimitrov is hoping for a late-season surge to keep his hopes of defending his Nitto ATP Finals crown alive. The 2016 finalist in Beijing opens against Ryan Harrison.

Main draw play at the China Open kicks off on Monday.

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China Open: Johanna Konta beaten by Julia Gorges in first round

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Johanna Konta is out of the China Open after a first-round defeat by German 10th seed Julia Gorges.

Konta, ranked 43rd in the world, rallied after the opening set but lost 6-2 4-6 6-3 in Beijing.

Gorges hit 42 winners to Konta’s 18 and won 75% of first-serve points to claim victory in two hours and 15 minutes.

British number one Konta has not beaten a top-10 player since her victory over Simona Halep – then the world number two – at Wimbledon in 2017.

Konta, who lost in the first round in Wuhan on Monday, was broken in her opening service game and let two break points slip as Gorges took the first set.

The two traded breaks in the second set but Konta converted her fourth break point for a 5-4 lead and hit her third ace to force a decider.

The Briton defended well in the final set but could not keep out Gorges, who broke and then served out the match.

Fellow Briton Katie Boulter earlier qualified for the Beijing main draw with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Lara Arruabarrena in the final round of qualifying.

The 22-year-old will now face Kirsten Flipkins on Sunday.

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However, British number two Heather Watson lost her final qualifying match 6-0 6-3 to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.

Both fifth seed Petra Kvitova and world number six Elina Svitolina fell in the first round at Beijing.

Czech Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, lost 6-2 6-1 to Australia’s Daria Gavrilova, while Ukrainian Svitolina was beaten 0-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) by Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia.

However, Latvian 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko advanced with a 6-4 7-6 (7-3) win over Magdalena Rybarikova.

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Shapovalov-Chung Blockbuster Headlines Tokyo Draw

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Shapovalov-Chung Blockbuster Headlines Tokyo Draw

Nishikori attempting to claim third title in front of home fans

If you’re looking for excitement at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018, you won’t have to wait long. There are plenty of tantalising first-round matchups in Tokyo, led by a clash between 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals winner Hyeon Chung and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Two of the brightest talents in the sport will clash for the second time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, after Chung triumphed in the round-robin stage at Milan last November.

The South Korean will try to continue what has been a successful season, backing up his success at Fiera Milano by reaching the quarter-finals at nine of his 13 tour-level events in 2018. The 22-year-old cracked the Top 20 in April, and is currently the World No. 19. Shapovalov has also stood out, claiming 30 match wins so far this season, including a run to the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals.

It won’t get any easier for the winner, as Chung or Shapovalov will face either former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz, who advanced to the semi-finals at the Chengdu Open. Wawrinka has shown signs of his top form during his comeback from two knee surgeries, beating reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov twice and making the last four at last week’s St. Petersburg Open.

The top seed, Marin Cilic, will begin his event against German Jan-Lennard Struff. In their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head clash, at Sydney in 2014, the Croatian was victorious in three sets. He will look to continue his recent success in Tokyo, where the World No. 6 has reached the semi-finals the past two years.

The second seed is Kevin Anderson, who at No. 8 in the ATP Race To London is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. The South African, who won the New York Open, advanced to the Wimbledon final and has made the semi-finals at two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events (Madrid, Toronto) this year, opens against Aussie Matthew Ebden. The first seed he can face is No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet.

The home fans will be out in force to cheer on two-time Tokyo champion Kei Nishikori, who is making a push to rejoin the Top 10 once again. The Japanese superstar has won seven of his past nine matches, including an impressive effort at the US Open, where he reached the semi-finals. Third-seeded Nishikori plays compatriot Yuichi Sugita in the first round and he can eventually clash against fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals.

Another interesting first-rounder pits recent Moselle Open champion Gilles Simon against #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur. Simon has enjoyed a resurgent campaign, climbing from No. 89 in the ATP Rankings at the start of the year to No. 29. De Minaur owned just two tour-level match wins prior to 2018, but he has quickly shown his readiness for this level by reaching two ATP World Tour finals (Sydney and Washington, D.C.).

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Herbert Saves 2 MP In Shenzhen Thriller

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Herbert Saves 2 MP In Shenzhen Thriller

Frenchman reaches second ATP World Tour final

Don’t call Pierre-Hugues Herbert a doubles specialist. This week, the Frenchman is finding his form on the singles court, surging into the Shenzhen Open final in dramatic fashion.

On Saturday, Herbert upset seventh seed Alex de Minaur 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(8), saving two match points in a gripping third-set tie-break. The 27-year-old moved into the championship after two hours and 34 minutes, improving to 3-1 in deciding tie-breaks this year.

It will be the second ATP World Tour final for Herbert, who previously finished runner-up to Kevin Anderson at the 2015 Winston-Salem Open. He will face Yoshihito Nishioka in Sunday’s title match.

“I’m really happy and proud of myself to be in the final,” said Herbert. “It was a really tough match today against Alex, who I played in Wimbledon and that was a big fight too. I’m happy to be through to my second ATP final. My plan is to rest and have a good night and be ready for tomorrow. It’s my dream to lift the trophy.

“Against Alex, you feel like you have to win the point four times. He has wheels and he’s running so fast. He almost got to the last one, where I thought he had no chance. It was an amazing match point and it’s one you remember for a long time.”

Herbert outdueled one of the ATP World Tour’s most determined warriors to reach the final. De Minaur refused to yield an inch from the baseline, but the Frenchman was up to the task. After conceding the opening set, the #NextGenATP Aussie seized the momentum in the second, keeping the rallies short and not allowing Herbert to navigate to the net.

And once again his dogged defence was on display in the decider, as De Minaur stormed back from an 0-3 deficit to force a tie-break. But Herbert would match his opponent from the baseline, saving match points at 6/5 and 7/6 as the drama boiled over on Center Court. A De Minaur running forehand clipped the tape, forcing a net-charging Herbert to put away an awkward volley. And he would deny the second match point with an overhead smash.

Herbert sealed the victory on a second match point of his own, firing his 42nd winner to book a spot in the final. A 13-time doubles champion at the tour-level, including three Grand Slam crowns and six ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, Herbert is seeking his maiden moment in singles. Earlier in the week, he earned his first Top 20 win of the year in stunning World No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, before rallying from a set down to defeat Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Friday.

De Minaur, who entered the match with a 3-0 record in deciding tie-breaks on the ATP World Tour, was bidding to appear in his third final of the year. The Aussie teen remains in fourth place in the ATP Race To Milan and will hope to continue his push towards a Next Gen ATP Finals berth at next week’s stop in Tokyo.

We are guaranteed to have an 11th first-time winner this year, after Nishioka also prevailed in a deciding tie-break to reach the final. He edged Fernando Verdasco 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in Saturday’s nightcap to move into his first ATP World Tour final.

First-Time Winners In 2018

Player Tournament Won
Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Yoshihito Nishioka Shenzhen
Nikoloz Basilashvili Hamburg
Matteo Berrettini Gstaad
Mischa Zverev Eastbourne
Marton Fucsovics Geneva
Taro Daniel  Istanbul 
Marco Cecchinato  Budapest 
Frances Tiafoe  Delray Beach 
Roberto Carballes Baena  Quito 
Mirza Basic  Sofia 
Daniil Medvedev  Sydney 

The 23-year-old Japanese is not only bidding to become the latest first-time titlist, but also the sixth qualifier to emerge victorious at the tour-level in 2018. After storming through qualifying, he earned signature wins over an in-form Denis Kudla, Denis Shapovalov and Cameron Norrie before ousting Verdasco.

Nishioka is the feel-good story of the week on the ATP World Tour. This time last year, he was on the road to recovery after tearing his ACL at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Now, he is one win from lifting his first trophy and returning to the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings.

“I’m very excited for this moment,” said Nishioka. “I was not thinking I could reach the final when I was in qualifying. But this is very exciting for me, to be in my first final. I know there will be pressure tomorrow, but I will try to do my best.”

It has been five years since Herbert and Nishioka last met, with the Frenchman prevailing in the first round of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Yokohama in 2013.

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Fognini Moves Closer To Italian History In Chengdu

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Fognini Moves Closer To Italian History In Chengdu

Italian to meet Tomic in final

Fabio Fognini moved one win from Italian history at the Chengdu Open, beating #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-3 on Saturday.

The World No. 13, winner of three tour-level crowns this season, booked his place in his fourth final of the season after one hour and 49 minutes, winning 61 per cent of second-serve return points en route to victory. If Fognini adds the Chengdu trophy to his titles in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos, the 31-year-old will become the first Italian on record to win four tour-level titles in one season.

“I am happy because it was a great match,” said Fognini. “I returned really well and was moving better and better. I am happy to be in the final here in Chengdu.”

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With his 40th tour-level win of the season (40-18), Fognini, improves to 4-3 in semi-finals this year. Fognini owns an 8-9 record in championship matches at tour-level, but has won each of his three final appearances this season.

“It is my best year so far. I am really happy that the first time I visit Chengdu, I am in my first final,” said Fognini.

Fritz was bidding to reach his second ATP World Tour final (also 2016 Memphis) as he bids to qualify for November’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The 21-year-old owns 19 wins from 33 tour-level matches this season.

Top-seeded Fognini will face Bernard Tomic in Sunday’s final. The 25-year-old Australian defeated Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ATP World Tour final since 2016 Acapulco. Tomic fired 12 aces and saved all three break points he faced to overcome the Millennium Estoril Open champion after 75 minutes.

World No. 123 Tomic, who recently lifted an ATP Challenger Tour title in Mallorca, will aim to capture his first tour-level trophy since 2015 Bogota. Fognini owns a 2-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Tomic.

Did You Know?
Last week, Fognini ended a two-year doubles title drought in St. Petersburg. Fognini, on his team debut alongside countryman Matteo Berrettini, defeated defending champions Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop in the championship match.

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Murray Withdraws From Beijing To End 2018 Season

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Murray Withdraws From Beijing To End 2018 Season

Ankle injury forces Brit to withdraw from China Open

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray has withdrawn from next week’s China Open due to an ankle injury. The 2016 champion, who reached the Shenzhen Open quarter-finals, will end his season after previously announcing his plans for the Beijing event to be his final tournament of the year.

The 31-year-old ends his 2018 campaign with a 7-5 record, following his long-awaited return to the ATP World Tour at the Fever-Tree Championships in June. Murray’s appearance at The Queen’s Club ended an 11-month absence, dating back to 2017 Wimbledon, due to a hip injury.

After undergoing hip surgery in January, Murray fell in three sets to Nick Kyrgios on his return to action at The Queen’s Club. An encouraging straight-sets win over former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka at the Nature Valley International followed, before three hard-fought wins earned Murray his first quarter-final appearance of the season at the Citi Open. Murray showcased all of his fighting qualities in the U.S. capital, battling past Mackenzie McDonald, countryman Kyle Edmund and Marius Copil.

In what would prove to be his final event of the season, Murray showed signs of his best form at the Shenzhen Open to defeat top seed and defending champion David Goffin in straight sets. In the quarter-finals, Fernando Verdasco overcame Murray once again (also US Open) to advance to the final four.

Murray will open his 2019 campaign at the Brisbane International. He is a two-time champion at the season-opening event (2012 & 2013).

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Cabal/Farah Qualify For First Time To Nitto ATP Finals

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2018

Cabal/Farah Qualify For First Time To Nitto ATP Finals

Colombians served as alternates in 2016

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will make their Nitto ATP Finals debut this November at The O2. The Colombians clinched their place in the eight-player, eight-team field following the release of the draws for next week’s ATP World Tour 500 tournaments in Beijing and Tokyo.

Cabal and Farah are the second team to qualify for the 2018 tournament, joining Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, whom they faced in the Australian Open final earlier this season.

In addition to their first Grand Slam final, the Colombians also reached three other championship matches in 2018. They won their first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and were runners-up at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires and Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Cabal, 32, and Farah, 31, first joined forces at the Futures level in 2004 and made their tour-level main draw debut in 2011 at Wimbledon. They have won 11 titles from 25 finals, highlighted by a season-high four titles in 2016. They served as alternates at the Nitto ATP Finals that year.

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