Pablo Cuevas booked his place in the Cordoba Open semi-finals, beating Aljaz Bedene 7-6(2) 6-1 on Saturday afternoon.
Having trailed Bedene 1-3 when play was suspended due to rain and wind on Friday night, Cuevas broke immediately upon the resumption of play and dominated a first-set tie-break to take a one-set lead. The Uruguayan, who was appearing in his first tour-level quarter-final since the Brasil Open in February 2018, then breezed through the second set, winning each of his 11 first-serve points and 54 per cent of return points to book a semi-final clash against eighth seed Guido Pella.
Cuevas and Pella are tied at 1-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. In 2016, Cuevas defeated Pella in three sets to win the Rio Open presented by Claro.
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Cuevas has won all of his six ATP Tour trophies on clay. The 33-year-old’s past four titles have come on Brazilian soil, with triumphs in Sao Paulo (2015-’17) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ensured there will be a French champion in Montpellier for the seventh time in nine editions, beating Radu Albot 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday.
The 33-year-old, who will meet countryman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the final, finally reached his first championship match in Montpellier after 69 minutes, dropping just four points behind his first serve (21/25) to advance. Tsonga owned a 0-3 record in Montpellier semi-finals heading into the match, having fallen at the last-four stage in 2010 (l. to Monfils), 2017 (l. to A. Zverev) and 2018 (l. to Pouille).
Tsonga raced into a one-set lead after just 26 minutes, holding serve to love at 5-1 after securing two service breaks. Albot responded well early in the second set, taking a 2-0 lead after pushing Tsonga behind the baseline and moving forward to finish at the net. But Tsonga soon regained control of the match, ripping a forehand up the line to claim his fourth straight game and establish a 4-2 lead. Tsonga soon converted his first match point, lobbing Albot off his return to reach his 29th tour-level final (16-12).
More than 15 months after lifting his 16th ATP Tour trophy at the 2017 European Open (d. Schwartzman), Tsonga will meet Herbert for the third time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Tsonga leads 2-0). Herbert defeated Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-5 to advance to his third ATP Tour singles final. The World No. 44 won 84 per cent of first-serve points (27/32) to record his eighth win in 10 tour-level matches this season after one hour and 33 minutes.
Herbert continues to impress on serve this week, having held 41 of 44 service games and saved 15 of 18 break points so far in Montpellier. The 27-year-old is aiming to lift his first tour-level singles trophy after runner-up finishes at 2015 Winston-Salem (l. to Anderson) and 2018 Shenzhen (l. to Nishioka).
Herbert made a fast start in front of his home crowd, racing into a 4-0 lead before clinching the opening set on his first set point. Reducing his unforced error count, Berdych challenged Herbert in the second set, earning three break points at 4-3. But Herbert held his nerve, firing a backhand down the line to reach 4-4 before breaking, three games later, for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the match, Herbert converted his first match point with his fifth ace of the contest.
Having saved two match points against Filip Krajinovic to reach the semi-finals, Berdych was aiming to extend his unbeaten record in Montpellier to eight matches. The 33-year-old Czech triumphed on his only previous visit to the event in 2012, beating Gael Monfils in the final.
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Herbert has already lifted two tour-level trophies in doubles this year. The Frenchman captured the Qatar ExxonMobil Open title alongside David Goffin, before completing the Career Grand Slam with Nicolas Mahut at the Australian Open.
Hungarian to meet Medvedev or Monfils in Sunday’s final
Marton Fucsovics advanced to his second tour-level championship match on Saturday, beating Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 at the Sofia Open.
The 27-year-old, who improves to 6-3 this year, saved six of seven break points and withstood 10 aces from his opponent to advance. Fucsovics had held two set points in the 10th game of the opening set, but recovered well to reach the championship match after two hours and 16 minutes.
The World No. 47 will meet third seed Daniil Medvedev or seventh-seeded Gael Monfils as he aims to lift his second ATP Tour title. Last year, Fucsovics triumphed in Geneva to become the first man from his nation to claim an ATP Tour crown since Balazs Taroczy in 1982. The Hungarian lost his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Medevedev in three sets at the 2018 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and is yet to meet Monfils at tour-level.
After failing to convert a total of five break points in back-to-back return games, Berrettini found himself down two set points serving at 4-5 in the first set. But, under pressure, the Italian increased his forehand aggression and attacked Fucsovics’ forehand side to turn the tables on his opponent, winning three straight games to claim the opener after 53 minutes.
Berrettini was punished for his inability to find the target with a backhand down the line at 4-4 (30/40) in the second set, as Fucsovics soon fired back-to-back forehand winners at 5-6 (30/30) to level the match. The Hungarian then rode the momentum into the decider, establishing a 3-0 lead before converting his first match point.
Berrettini was also aiming to reach his second ATP Tour championship match. The 22-year-old Italian lifted his first trophy last July in Gstaad, holding each of his 49 service games en route to the title.
Top-Seeded Nishikori Faces Challenging Draw In Rotterdam
Four of past five champions set to compete
If the top seeds hope to make deep runs at the first ATP 500 event of the year, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, they will have to be at their very best from the start.
Top seed Kei Nishikori triumphed at the Brisbane International and advanced to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open to start his season. But he is projected to face a series of stern tests in his Rotterdam debut if he is to capture his first title at this level since Washington in 2015.
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The Japanese star plays Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round. The Frenchman is still alive at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, as he pursues his maiden ATP Tour singles title. Herbert is bristling with confidence after completing the Career Grand Slam in doubles (with Mahut) last month in Melbourne. He is at a career-high of No. 44 in the ATP Rankings, and is guaranteed to climb higher next Monday.
If Nishikori comes through that challenge, he could potentially face #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who beat him last year in Acapulco, in the second round. The first seeded competitor Nishikori could face is seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard won his first nine matches of the year, lifting the trophy in Doha and making the Australian Open quarter-finals.
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Second seed Karen Khachanov led the ATP Tour with 20 indoor match wins in 2018. But if he gets past wild card Tallon Griekspoor in his opener, he could possibly face 2017 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The former World No. 5 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, and he also is still alive in the Open Sud de France.
Fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev could meet Khachanov in the quarter-finals. Medvedev ranked second on the ATP Tour last season with 17 indoor wins. The Russian won the biggest title of his career in Tokyo, and he is competing in the semi-finals of the Sofia Open on Saturday.
Gael Monfils, who is playing Medvedev in Sofia, will face eighth seed David Goffin in his Rotterdam opener. Goffin has won three of their four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, but the Frenchman is in good form, putting on a vintage performance to defeat #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Sofia quarter-finals.
Tsitsipas, who is pursuing his first ATP 500 title, is the third seed in Rotterdam. The Australian Open semi-finalist will battle Damir Dzumhur in the first round.
Two more first-round matches to watch are fourth seed Milos Raonic against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka against Frenchman Benoit Paire. The winners of those two clashes will play one another in the second round.
Did You Know? Four of the past five Rotterdam champions are in the field this year: Tomas Berdych (2014), Wawrinka (2015), Martin Klizan (2016) and Tsonga (2017).
Delbonis & Londero Lead Argentine Charge In Cordoba
Schwartzman facing Pella for semi-final spot
There is guaranteed to be at least one Argentine finalist at the Cordoba Open, as both Federico Delbonis and Juan Ignacio Londero triumphed in front of their home crowds on Friday.
Delbonis defeated 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Jaume Munar 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 56 minutes. The World No. 77 saved all 12 break points he faced to hold off the 21-year-old Spaniard Munar. Delbonis is pursuing his third ATP Tour title, with his most recent victory coming in Marrakech in 2016.
Delbonis will play Londero, who is into his first ATP Tour semi-final after ousting qualifier Pedro Cachin 6-4, 7-6(3). Prior to this event, Londero had never won a tour-level match in three tries. He is at a career-high No. 112 in the ATP Rankings, and has captured two ATP Challenger Tour titles.
The highest-ranked player remaining is World No. 20 Diego Schwartzman, who is on court against compatriot Guido Pella.
Former World No. 5 to face Albot in the semi-finals
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battled into the semi-finals of the Open Sud de France on Friday for the third consecutive year, outlasting compatriot Jeremy Chardy in Montpellier 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-4. It is the former World No. 5’s second semi-final of the season (also Brisbane) after reaching the last four just once from six tournaments in 2018 as he struggled with a knee injury.
“Today was a tough match, really tight. We had to play two tie-breaks in the first two sets and then I came back strong in the third,” said Tsonga, who earned the only break of the match in the final game, on his 13th opportunity. “Finally he gave me a few points in the end and I’m in the semi-finals.”
While Tsonga is the No. 210 player in the ATP Rankings, he is showing some of the level that has helped him claim 16 ATP Tour titles. The 33-year-old also came from a set down in his opener against #NextGenATP Ugo Humbert, before upsetting fourth seed Gilles Simon in straight sets.
Both players combined to save the first 15 break points of the match. Chardy fended off the most trouble, nixing Tsonga’s first 12 break chances. The sixth seed consistently stepped into the court to dominate those pressure-filled rallies with his forehand, giving Tsonga few opportunities to work his way into points by pushing the wild card deep behind the baseline.
But at the 13th time of asking, Tsonga ran around his backhand to return a second serve with his forehand, eliciting a reply into the net to end the battle after two hours and 44 minutes. Tsonga now leads the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1.
“I’m really happy with my level,” Tsonga said. “I hope I will be able to play a good match tomorrow.”
The home favourite will next face Moldova’s Radu Albot, who defeated Cypriot qualifier Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 7-6(2), to reach his second tour-level semi-final. Fittingly, the World No. 90’s first trip to the last four of an ATP Tour event also came in France, last year in Metz.