In a meeting of past Rio Open presented by Claro titlists, 2016 winner Pablo Cuevas reached the second round after defending champion Diego Schwartzman retired with a right leg injury during their first-round encounter on Wednesday.
Cuevas, who was leading 6-1, 4-1 when Schwartzman was forced to shake hands, converted five of nine break points to earn a commanding lead on Quadra Central. Improving to 6-2 during the 2019 ‘Golden Swing’, the 33-year-old Uruguayan will meet Cordoba Open champion Juan Ignacio Londero for a place in the quarter-finals.
Taro Daniel recovered from a set down to beat Brazilian wild card Thiago Seyboth Wild 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Japanese saved five of six break points to reach the second round after two hours and eight minutes.
Daniel will meet Laslo Djere for a quarter-final spot. On Tuesday, Djere upset top seed and 2017 champion Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3.
Robert Lindstedt, who turns 42 in a month, is not going anywhere. The Swede might be the second-oldest player inside the Top 100 of the ATP Doubles Rankings, behind only 45-year-old Leander Paes, but Lindstedt is not planning to retire anytime soon.
“It’s more fun now than it’s ever been,” Lindstedt said. “A year or so ago I realised it’s pretty amazing what we all get to do. We actually get to travel the world and do this. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of training that goes into it, but everybody’s got to mature sometimes and I feel at almost 42, it’s about time I do it, too.”
The 2014 Australian Open champion has accomplished plenty in his career, ascending as high as World No. 3, winning 22 tour-level titles and lifting at least one trophy in each of the past 12 seasons. So why does he continue on?
“I question that myself at times, but you can always accomplish more,” Lindstedt said. “I chase titles at this point and it’s also a good feeling to be the old guy at tournaments and still win.”
Despite turning professional in 1998, before the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Alex de Minaur were born, Lindstedt is motivated by what he’s still able to do on the court. Just last year, Lindstedt partnered Dutchman Robin Haase to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, where the duo succumbed in four sets to Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor. Lindstedt is currently No. 53 in the ATP Doubles Rankings.
“I want to continue to be able to win titles. I still feel I have a deep run at a Slam left in me,” Lindstedt said. “I thought Wimbledon last year was going to be it. We had chances in the quarters. But I still feel like I have that lift. I feel like when Venus and Jupiter are aligned perfectly, those are going to be my two weeks. And that’s really why I continue. It’s all about the big moments. It’s impossible for me to not train towards that.”
During the off-season, the Swede spent some time with Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in Florida. The American twins have won 116 tour-level titles as a pair. So Lindstedt joked at practice: “I’ve hated them since ‘97, and that hatred has only grown ever since. They’ve stolen so much money from me, so many titles. We all know if they weren’t around, I would have had their careers… combined!”
“He’s had a very illustrious career. Three Wimbledon finals, he’s won a ton of tournaments with a bunch of different partners,” said World No. 1 Mike Bryan. “We’ve been playing him since the NCAA days back at Stanford, he was at Pepperdine. It’s been fun battling him for 20 years. He’s beaten us, we’ve beaten him. I’d like to think we’ve maybe won a few more times, but it was funny, we had those comments in December and he beat us in the first match of the year. He’s still playing some great, great tennis.”
At the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, Lindstedt is competing with German Tim Puetz, with whom he last week made the New York Open semi-finals.
“My 75th year on Tour is coming along okay,” Lindstedt said. “I had a very good pre-season, so my body feels better than it has in a long time.”
So long as he is healthy, Lindstedt has no reason to stop. The Swede is trying to finish his 16th consecutive season inside the world’s Top 100.
“I think an injury will go like, ‘Nah, you’re done’. It’s just too much fun at this moment. [My fiancee] Tina and I, we enjoy traveling and being on Tour, so I am going to do it as long as I can,” Lindstedt said. “Every single friend of mine back home who has played, they all say the same thing. ‘Robert, don’t stop. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t stop’.”
Former world number one Angelique Kerber suffered a 5-7 6-4 6-0 defeat against unseeded Hsieh Su-wei in the last 16 at the Dubai Championships.
World number 31, Hsieh, who beat Simona Halep at Wimbledon last year, won 12 of the last 13 points to secure victory in one hour 44 minutes.
The 33-year-old Taiwanese next faces fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Alison Riske 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5).
Third seed Halep saw off Lesia Tsurenko 6-3 7-5 to advance to the last eight.
The 2015 champion, third seed in this year’s event, won the first set in just 36 minutes and, after losing her serve in the ninth game of the second, won the next three games.
She will now await the winner between eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic.
Current world number one Naomi Osaka, the reigning Australian and US Open champion, lost in round two to Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Mladenovic’s run ended with a 7-5 7-5 defeat in one hour 53 minutes against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
Second seed Petra Kvitova lost the second set 6-1 to American qualifier Jennifer Brady but won the decider 6-3 to wrap up victory in two hours 12 minutes.
Pliskova saved two set points in the second against Riske, who ousted 13th seed Julia Goerges in the opening round, and sealed her win in two hours four minutes when the American double-faulted on match point.
He’ll want to clean up around the edges, including bolstering his match fitness, but Juan Martin del Potro will overall be pleased after winning his season opener 6-3, 7-5against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Tuesday at the Delray Beach Open presented by VITACOST.com.
The top seed seized enough of his chances (3/7 on break points), and although he wore a bandage on his rehabbed right knee and admitted to feeling some pain, Del Potro darted freely around the blue courts he’s come to know well.
“It was a tough first round because Nishioka is a solid player from the baseline. But I played well in specific moments of the match,” Del Potro said. “I need to keep working hard on my legs because I felt tired at the end of the second set, but that’s normal for [right now].”
Del Potro will face a much bigger test – literally and figuratively – when he plays 6’11” Reilly Opelka for a place in the quarter-finals. The American won his maiden ATP Tour title at the New York Open on Sunday, and the 21-year-old stayed hot, beating countryman Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-0.
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Del Potro, No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, hadn’t played a match since 11 October, when he fractured his right patella at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. He missed the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals to finish 2018, and the Australian Open to start this year.
But, unfortunately for Del Potro, opening his season in South Florida has become somewhat of a tradition. Tuesday night marked the third time (2016, 2017) he has started his year at the ATP 250, and all three times he’s celebrated a successful debut.
The 2011 champion raised his level – and the mph on his forehand – to break in the eighth game and served out the opening set. Del Potro stumbled briefly in the second – blame his lack of matchplay – dropping his serve after breaking Nishioka.
But the Japanese left-hander sailed a backhand long on break point at 5-5 to hand Del Potro the break, and he served it out behind some of his best baseline play of the night.
“I didn’t feel really well on court, but I think that’s very normal for [right now]. I’m looking forward to feeling better in the next round,” Del Potro said. “I need time to get better, to feel confidence with my knee, with my body.”
Defending champion Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. was upset by Brit qualifier Daniel Evans 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-5. “It was difficult conditions. I was just fighting as hard as I could,” Evans said.
Tiafoe was two points away from winning at 6-5, 30/30 in the second set, and led 4-1 in the third. “Very frustrating, very frustrating,” Tiafoe said. “I definitely shouldn’t have lost tonight. I probably rushed on big points, instead of working the point a little more.”
Three-time semi-finalist (2012, 2013, 2014) John Isner saved all four break points and hit 23 aces against Canada’s Peter Polansky to advance 6-3, 7-6(4). The second-seeded Isner will meet Slovakian Lukas Lacko, who knocked out Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 6-4. “The first match out in the heat and humidity is always pretty tough,” Isner said.
Steve Johnson, the fourth seed, fought off Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei 7-6(3), 6-4 to setup a second-round meeting against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, a winner against American qualifier Tim Smyczek 7-5, 6-3.
American Jared Donaldson, playing in his first match since 6 August, fell short against Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Donaldson, who played at the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, was sidelined with tendinitis in his right knee.
Before Tuesday, Serbian Laslo Djere didn’t have a win on clay this season or a Top 10 win for his career. Now he has both. The 23-year-old, No. 90 in the ATP Rankings, routed No. 8 Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3 at the Rio Open presented by Claro.
“It was a great day. The biggest win in my career so I’m really happy right now… I hit the ball really well. He played a bit worse than normally I think, to be honest. But I had a great day. I felt the ball really well, hitting well from the baseline and then attacking well when it was time for that,” Djere said. “This is my favourite surface. So I know that I can play great tennis on clay.”
Soak it in 🌧️
Laslo Djere stuns #RioOpen top seed Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-3 to earn the first Top 10 scalp of his career and his first clay court win of the season. pic.twitter.com/yp1wYfhbtQ
The 6’2” right-hander broke the top-seeded Thiem five times and benefitted from five double faults from the Austrian, an eight-time clay-court ATP Tour titlist. Djere lost his serve in the opening game, but he settled in from there, breaking Thiem twice in the opener.
The 2018 Roland Garros finalist never found his best level. He was broken to start the second set and again in the seventh and ninth games.
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Thiem fell to 3-4 on the young season. He won the ATP 500 title in Rio in 2017 and had never lost prior to the quarter-finals in his two other appearances (2016, 2018). Djere will next meet either Brazilian wild card Thiago Seyboth Wild or Japan’s Taro Daniel.
Third seed Marco Cecchinato, who won the Argentina Open title on Sunday in Buenos Aires, was also upset. Slovenian Aljaz Bedene grinded out a 7-5, 7-6(1) victory and will meet Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, who beat Portugal’s Pedro Sousa 6-3, 6-2.
#NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud will face fifth seed Joao Sousa in the second round. Ruud beat Argentine lucky loser Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-2, and Sousa prevailed past Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
American to face Garcia-Lopez for a quarter-final spot in Delray Beach
When Mackenzie McDonald was 12 years old, he competed in Delray Beach at a junior clay-court tournament. Little did he know that just more than a decade later, he’d be playing on Stadium Court in the Delray Beach Open.
“I didn’t know about the pro tournament at the time, but I definitely had pro aspirations when I was super young,” McDonald. “I’m living out my dream now, so it’s pretty cool.”
Much of the attention on the young Americans has gone to three 21-year-olds: defending champion Frances Tiafoe, 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Taylor Fritz and last week’s New York Open titlist Reilly Opelka. McDonald followed a different path than his compatriots, attending UCLA for three years and winning the 2016 NCAA Singles Tournament before turning professional. On Tuesday afternoon, McDonald defeated Fritz, his good friend, to reach the second round in Florida.
“They’re ranked higher than me and they’ve had some great results. I’ve had my fair share, too. But Taylor’s played this tournament four times. This is my first time, so I have some catching up to do,” McDonald said. “I’ll make my mark. I still consider myself pretty young. I know I’m not the youngest, but wins like that help prove that I’m at their level, maybe better and I just have to keep doing my job.”
McDonald first broke out on the international scene at last year’s Australian Open. After qualifying in Melbourne and beating Swede Elias Ymer in the first round of the main draw, McDonald pushed 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov to the limit. The American extended Dimitrov to a fifth set, with the Bulgarian ultimately winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 8-6.
“I was happy I got a couple matches before playing on that big stage in my first Grand Slam draw off of qualifying, not a wild card,” McDonald said. “That match was massive for me, showed me what I could do, showed me my top level in a way.”
The California native maintained his momentum, reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon. Later in the season, he qualified for the Rolex Shanghai Masters, an ATP Masters 1000 event, and beat former World No. 3 Milos Raonic. McDonald may not be as young as some of his fellow Americans, but he’s improving his level just the same.
“It’s really only his third year on the ATP Tour after winning NCAAs. He started off playing the Futures circuit and had the success there and went to Challengers, had success there and really broke through last year at Wimbledon, and that’s when people really started talking about him,” said one of McDonald’s coaches, Michael Russell. “He’s had some great wins and he’s a player to contend with and we’ve been working really hard to make him believe that and [give him] the mindset that he could be a Top 50 player.
“That’s a lot of it with most of these players. All of these guys are so talented and such great athletes, but it’s having that belief and the confidence when you go out there that you are the best player on the court. Having the player buy into that and really believing that is super important.”
McDonald brings an interesting game to the court. While he stands just 5’10”, McDonald is plenty aggressive.
“I play flat and fast. I like to come in and volley, I have good returns and I’m really quick,” McDonald said. “I think some of those long points [I play] are fun to watch.”
“He’s a great ball-striker, an excellent returner, very quick and he uses his speed to take time away from his opponents,” Russell said. “He continues to look for opportunities to come to net and force the issue.”
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McDonald has shown his potential, but he has only advanced to one ATP Tour quarter-final, in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last June. The World No. 84 is determined to keep working hard daily to improve his game, and with it, his results.
“Tennis is such a weird sport. You’ve just got to keep fighting every day. That’s the thing. When I first started, it was really tough at first but I was not going to give up, I just kept fighting and trying to find a way, because that’s all I could do,” McDonald said. “I really want to be good at this sport… when you keep working hard, good things happen.
“Now I’m in the Top 100, so it’s just chasing those little goals and gains and trying to make the most out of it.”
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