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Kyrgios-Nishikori Highlights Potential Clashes To Watch In Miami

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Kyrgios-Nishikori Highlights Potential Clashes To Watch In Miami

Federer and Wawrinka could meet in the third round

After a thrilling first ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the year in Indian Wells, won by Dominic Thiem, the ATP Tour heads to Miami with another 1,000 ATP Ranking points up for grabs for the titlist. looks at five potential early-round matches to watch:

Kei Nishikori vs. Nick Kyrgios (R3)
At the BNP Paribas Open, there was much anticipation for a potential Novak Djokovic vs. Nick Kyrgios third-round battle. But German Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated them both.

There is another third-round blockbuster on the horizon for Kyrgios. But this time, it could be against sixth seed Kei Nishikori. If both guys advance to the third round, the Aussie will be especially motivated, given that Nishikori has won all four of their FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

“I always find it tough playing him,” Kyrgios said after his most recent loss against Nishikori, at Wimbledon last year.

Kyrgios has one of the best serves on the ATP Tour. And when he is on his game, like when he triumphed at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, he can take the racquet out of almost anyone’s hands. But Nishikori’s returning skills, speed, and ability to play aggressively could make for a thriller in Miami, three years after he beat Kyrgios in this event’s semi-finals in straight sets.

Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych (R2)
There might not be a more enticing second-round match than the potential of top seed Novak Djokovic meeting former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych. Less than four years ago, they were both inside the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings at the same time.

Djokovic has won 25 of 28 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Berdych — including all 21 of their matches on hard courts. But the Czech has proven his ability to challenge anyone in the world, owning multiple victories against each member of the ‘Big Four’.

Berdych at his best elicits short replies with his serve and immediately seizes control of rallies with his flat, penetrating groundstrokes. He got off to a quick start in 2019, winning 11 of his first 14 matches.

But Djokovic will be hungry to get back on track after a third-round loss against Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells. Last year, the six-time champion lost his opener in Miami against Benoit Paire. The World No. 1 certainly won’t want to endure deja vu.

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Roger Federer vs. Stan Wawrinka (R3)
Rematch, anybody? Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka in the third round at the BNP Paribas Open last week. Wawrinka may have a chance to return the favour in the third round at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

Like Djokovic-Berdych, this has mostly been a one-sided FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with Federer winning 22 of 25 battles against his Swiss compatriot. But former World No. 3 Wawrinka has shown throughout his career that his best tennis is as good as anyone’s.

Wawrinka did a good job of making 73 per cent of his first serves against his fellow Swiss star in the California desert. But Federer was not troubled, winning 41 per cent of those points. In fact, Wawrinka won 12 per cent more second-serve points than he did with his first delivery.

If the friends do battle in the third round, it’ll be an opportunity for a breakthrough for Wawrinka, who is still working his way back from two left knee surgeries in August 2017. The 30th seed seeks his first win against a Top 5 opponent since beating then-World No. 1 Andy Murray at 2017 Roland Garros.

Marin Cilic vs. Denis Shapovalov (R3)
Another rematch that could be on the cards in Miami would pit Marin Cilic against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov. In the span of five months, the two have split their only two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

In Indian Wells, Shapovalov needed just 78 minutes to dismiss Cilic, winning all but three of his first-serve points and saving the two break points he faced. This matchup is entertaining in that both have similar games, looking to land a big first serve and dictate play from the first ball of rallies. The intrigue: who can do their best better?

Shapovalov advanced to the fourth round in Miami on debut last year, and he may have to get by Cilic in the third round if he is to repeat that showing, and possibly go further, this time. Cilic, on the other hand, has lost three of his past four matches, so he will be keen to perform well at the year’s second Masters 1000 event.

Sam Querrey vs. David Ferrer (R1)
Perhaps the most interesting first-round match in Miami could be former World No. 3 David Ferrer’s last at the tournament. The Spaniard faces former World No. 11 Sam Querrey, who has won at least one match in Miami 11 times.

Both players will be plenty motivated, as Ferrer, who made the final in 2013, will try to make a magical run in his final hard-court Masters 1000 event. World No. 68 Querrey is at his lowest ATP Ranking since 2014, so he will be hungry to get back on track with a strong performance in Miami.

The bonus for the winner: a clash with second seed Alexander Zverev.

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Wawrinka & Federer Could Clash In The Third Round… Again!

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Wawrinka & Federer Could Clash In The Third Round… Again!

Djokovic opens his campaign against Berdych or Tomic

Roger Federer could meet compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the third round for the second straight tournament at the Miami Open presented by Itaú. After Federer defeated Wawrinka in straight sets in Indian Wells en route to the final (l. to Thiem), Wawrinka, the 30th seed may get a chance to avenge that loss in the second ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the year.

If the Swiss stars meet, it will be their 26th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (Federer leads 22-3). All three of Wawrinka’s victories have come on clay, at either Roland Garros or a Masters 1000 tournament. But perhaps Federer was a prophet after beating his friend in the California desert.

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““I think he knows, as well as I, that he’s very, very close and it’s just a matter of time until he’s going to break through again,” Federer said after their Indian Wells match.

Federer will have to get past Aussie Matthew Ebden or a qualifier, and Wawrinka must defeat Serbian Filip Krajinovic or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert to set the popcorn battle. Federer has won all 12 of his clashes with Wawrinka at hard-court Grand Slams or Masters 1000 events, triumphing on eight of those occasions in straight sets.

Watch Highlights Of Roger & Stan’s Indian Wells Clash:

Also in their quarter is sixth seed Kevin Anderson, Rolex Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov, 13th seed Daniil Medvedev and 2017 Nitto ATP Finals winner Grigor Dimitrov.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is pursuing a record seventh Miami title, will look to get back on track after a surprising third-round loss against German Philipp Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells. Regardless of who he meets in the second round, it will be a familiar foe. Djokovic will play former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych or Aussie Bernard Tomic.

The top seed has won 25 of 28 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Berdych — including all 21 of their matches on hard courts — and all five of his clashes with Tomic. But Berdych owns four victories against World No. 1s, including a triumph in Miami against then-World No. 1 Federer nine years ago.

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The first seeded opponent Djokovic could face is No. 32 seed John Millman, who beat Roger Federer in the fourth round of last year’s US Open before Djokovic dismissed him. No. 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who upset Djokovic en route to the Doha title in January, could be a fourth-round opponent for the Serbian. No. 15 seed Fabio Fognini, who partnered Djokovic to the Indian Wells doubles semi-finals, is also in his section.

Fresh off his maiden Masters 1000 triumph in Indian Wells, Dominic Thiem carries plenty of confidence into Miami. Matching his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 4, the third seed will play Indian Wells quarter-finalist Hubert Hurkacz or Italian Matteo Berrettini in the second round. The next highest-ranked player in his quarter is Kei Nishikori. There may be another popcorn third-round match, as Nishikori could face Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC winner Nick Kyrgios. 

Seventh seed John Isner begins his title defence against Slovak Martin Klizan or a qualifier, and he could face Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille in the third round. Alexander Zverev, who lost to Isner in last year’s final, is the second seed. The German will face an early test against former World No. 3 David Ferrer or home favourite Sam Querrey. 

Zverev’s quarter is filled with #NextGenATP stars. He could play 28th seed Frances Tiafoe in the third round, while reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and 20th seed Denis Shapovalov are also among the #NextGenATP players in the bottom fourth of the draw.

Projected Quarter-final Matches
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 7 John Isner
No. 3 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 5 Kei Nishikori
No. 4 Roger Federer vs. No. 6 Kevin Anderson
No. 2 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas

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Federer's Backhand Struggles Clear Way For Thiem

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Federer’s Backhand Struggles Clear Way For Thiem

Swiss fell in BNP Paribas Open final for second consecutive year

The conversation starts and ends with backhand returns. The rest is just window dressing.

Dominic Thiem defeated Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to win the the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday, with backhand returns meaning more to the outcome than any other shot.

In the opening set, with Thiem serving at 0-1, the Austrian directed all 10 serves in the game to Federer’s backhand return, and the Swiss put all 10 back in the court, breaking Thiem on the fourth break point of the game.

Federer also clocked a backhand return winner to break Thiem at 3-4 in the opening set. The stroke was completely dialed in early on, but the longer the match progressed, the more it missed its mark.

Flashback to 2017 when Federer won his fifth title in the desert, and his backhand return was the focal point of his renaissance. After dominating Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3 in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, Federer said post-match, “I am able to step into the court much easier than I ever have. By coming over my backhand return from the get-go in the point I can start dominating points from the start.”

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Federer 2.0, which originated at the 2017 Australian Open and spilled over to Indian Wells two months later, was born from total commitment to come over the backhand return.

It was the bullseye of his resurgence, but that asset turned into a liability in the second and third sets on Sunday against Thiem as Federer increasingly had to slice the return to make it, providing Them with more time to immediately attack with a powerful Serve +1 groundstroke following his serve.

After making his first 10 backhand returns of the match, Federer missed five for the rest of the first set (18/23), seven in set two (13/20) and six in set three (17/23). Those 18 backhand return errors were the difference makers.

With Federer leading 6-3, 1-1 and having a break point at 30/40, he had an opportunity to put the match to bed. Almost all opponents historically go away against Federer when down a set and break.

Thiem’s first serve was always going to go out wide to Federer’s backhand return. In fact, at ATP Masters 1000 matches from 2014-2018 when serving at 30/40, Thiem has gone out wide in the Ad court almost two times out of every three (63%).

Thiem predictably went with his favourite strategy, kicking a heavy 101 mph first serve out wide to the backhand. Two years ago against Nadal, Federer stepped into the court and clocked it down the line for an outright winner as he surged to the finish line.

<a href=''>Roger Federer</a> hits a backhand at the 2019 <a href=''>BNP Paribas Open</a>

Sunday against Thiem, he shanked the break point backhand return straight into the court in front of him and bounced it over the net – table tennis style. Opportunity evaporates quickly in the desert heat.

Federer manufactured another break point two points later, but a backhand groundstroke error into the net at the end of an 11-shot rally brought the score back to Deuce. Two points later and Thiem held for a 2-1 advantage that provided the launching pad for his unlikely victory.

Thiem broke Federer in the following game, with the Swiss double faulting to start the game, then uncharacteristically served and volleyed on three consecutive second serves.

At 15/30, Thiem clocked a short-angled backhand return winner against the serve-and-volleying Swiss. On break point at 15/40, Federer attempted a forehand half-volley approach but buried it into the net, and out of nowhere he trailed 1-3.

The momentum was gone, and it would never return. Thiem suddenly was the one hitting backhand return winners when it mattered the most, and in the blink of an eye Federer went from being on his toes to on his heels.

Read More Data-Driven ATP Tour Stories

Federer missed a backhand return in the 1-3 game and again at 2-4. With Thiem serving at 5-3, Federer missed a backhand long on the opening point, another one at 30/0, and lost the set with a backhand return error long with Thiem serving at 40/15.

A drip had turned into a torrent, and Thiem had successfully established a “go-to” hole on the other side of the court any time he needed a point.

With Thiem serving at 0-1, 30/30 in the third set, Federer had another opportunity to pounce. Instead, he netted a backhand return.

Thiem won his next service game at 1-2 with another Federer backhand return error. With Thiem serving at 2-3, two more backhand return errors increased the hemorrhaging for the Swiss.

Federer had one last window of opportunity with Thiem serving at 3-4, 0/30 in the third set. He lost the last point of the three-deuce game with a backhand return error.

At 5-5 in the third set, Federer seemingly panicked again. When he got broken in the second set, he doubled down on the secondary pattern of serving and volleying three times on second serves.

At 5-5, 30/15, in the third set, the Swiss went with the risky gambit of drop-shotting on two consecutive points, losing both. Federer missed his last backhand return of the match with Thiem serving at 6-5, 30/15, setting up match point.

Federer’s backhand return was the primary reason he won Indian Wells in 2017, but it turned into a gateway to defeat against Thiem on Sunday. Back to the drawing board.

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Thiem Breaks New Ground, Mover Of The Week

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Thiem Breaks New Ground, Mover Of The Week looks at the top Movers of the Week in the ATP Rankings, as of Monday, 18 March 2019

No. 4 (Joint-Career High) Dominic Thiem, +4
The 25-year-old claimed the biggest title of his career on Sunday by lifting his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Roger Federer. The Austrian, who had previously finished runner-up in two ATP Masters 1000 finals at the Mutua Madrid Open in 2017 (l. to Nadal) and 2018 (l. to Zverev), first rose to No. 4 in the ATP Rankings on 6 November 2017, spending two weeks in the position. Read More & Watch Indian Wells Final Highlights

No. 45 Jan-Lennard Struff, +10
The 28-year-old advanced to the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 for the first time in beating John Millman, Ricardas Berankis and No. 3-ranked Alexander Zverev, before falling to Milos Raonic. In rising 10 spots, the German is now one place off his career-high of No. 44 (8 May 2017). 

No. 54 (Career High) Hubert Hurkacz, +13
The 22-year-old continues his rise, moving from No. 88 in the ATP Rankings at the start of 2019 to his current position of No. 54. The Pole reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final (l. to Federer), which included his second Top 10 win — over No. 7 Kei Nishikori in the third round — and Denis Shapovalov in the fourth round. 

No. 64 Yoshihito Nishioka, +10
The Japanese moved up to six places off his career-high (No. 58 on 20 March 2017) after a thrilling run to the Indian Wells fourth round, which includes victories over Denis Kudla, Roberto Bautista Agut and in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime. 

No. 95 (Career High) Miomir Kecmanovic, +35
The 19-year-old Serbian qualified for his second ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells, where he reached the quarter-finals (l. to Raonic). He rises 35 places to a career-high No. 95.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers This Week
No. 6 Kei Nishikori, +1
No. 12 Karen Khachanov, +1
No. 36 Marton Fucsovics, -5
No. 37 Stan Wawrinka, +3
No. 46 (Career High) Radu Albot, +7
No. 52 Matteo Berrettini, +5
No. 56 Taylor Fritz, -10
No. 68 Sam Querrey, -17
No. 71 Denis Kudla, -6
No. 74 (Career High) Hugo Dellien, +13
No. 79 Nicolas Jarry, +7
No. 80 Guido Andreozzi, +8
No. 82 Ricardas Berankis, +13
No. 84 (Career High) Prajnesh Gunneswaran, +13
No. 85 Pablo Cuevas, -12
No. 92 Hyeon Chung, -29

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Berrettini Saves 1 MP For Phoenix Crown

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Berrettini Saves 1 MP For Phoenix Crown

Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to who’s in action in the week to come

Arizona Tennis Classic (Phoenix, Arizona, USA): If the first edition of the Arizona Tennis Classic is any indication of what’s to come, the tournament will be a staple on the ATP Challenger Tour for many years. 

Matteo Berrettini and Mikhail Kukushkin produced arguably the most dramatic match of the Challenger season thus far, battling for two hours and 50 minutes in Sunday’s final. It was the Italian prevailing in the end, ousting his Kazakh opponent 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(2) after saving one match point in the second set.

One year after Kukushkin ousted Berrettini in the final edition of the event in Irving, Texas, the Italian got his revenge at the inaugural Challenger 125 in Phoenix. Same week, same final match-up, but a different result under the Arizona sun. 

Less than a year after lifting his maiden ATP Tour trophy in Gstaad, Berrettini celebrated his third Challenger title. The 22-year-old Rome native is off to a strong start to 2019, having also reached the semi-finals at the Sofia Open.

With Berrettini entering the week at No. 57 in the ATP Rankings and Kukushkin at No. 43, it was the highest-ranked Challenger final in two years. As a whole, the tournament featured a world-class field, with all 16 seeds inside the Top 100. David Goffin led the pack, but was upset in the quarter-finals by Salvatore Caruso.

Pingshan Open (Shenzhen, China): This was a long time coming for Marcos Baghdatis. After five years, the former World No. 8 returned to the winners’ circle, claiming the title in Shenzhen. The second seed defeated Stefano Napolitano 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in Sunday’s final, capping a strong week in the Chinese city.

Baghdatis had dropped four straight finals – three on the ATP Tour and one on the Challenger circuit – since he last lifted a trophy at the 2014 Geneva Challenger. But this was the Cypriot’s week to shine. He is pushing towards a Top 100 return after struggling with a knee injury in 2018. Having also secured a signature Top 20 win over Lucas Pouille last month in Montpellier, the 33-year-old is making his move in the early stages of the year.


Challenger Banque Nationale de Drummondville (Drummondville, Canada): Top seed Ricardas Berankis is a force on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2019. The 28-year-old did not drop a set in clinching a pair of titles, following his convincing performance in Rennes, France, with an equally dominant showing in Drummondville.

Berankis capped his campaign in Canada with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Yannick Maden on Sunday, claiming his 11th Challenger title in impressive fashion. He joins Alexander Bublik as the only players with multiple titles thus far this year. Up 13 spots to No. 82 in the ATP Rankings, the Lithuanian is targeting a Top 50 return in the near future. He also recently registered a quarter-final result as a qualifier at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.


The three-week China swing concludes in Zhangjiagang, with top seed and New York Open finalist Brayden Schnur leading the pack. James Duckworth is seeded second, with Chinese teen Wu Yibing also in the field.

And at the Play In Challenger in Lille, France, home hope Gregoire Barrere looks to go back-to-back after clinching the title in last year’s inaugural edition. He is seeded third, while Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia Lopez is first and Drummondville finalist Maden is second.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Thiem On Indian Wells Breakthrough: 'It Feels Unreal'

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2019

Thiem On Indian Wells Breakthrough: ‘It Feels Unreal’

Austrian turns his season around at the BNP Paribas Open

Who said that Dominic Thiem can bring his best tennis only on clay courts?

The Austrian completed a dream fortnight on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open by toppling Roger Federer for his first ATP Masters 1000 title. Fans perhaps best know Thiem for his clay-court prowess, but the high-bouncing hard courts in Indian Wells suited his game perfectly and his skills on slower surfaces seamlessly transferred over.

“It feels unreal what happened in these 10 days. I came with really bad form in all categories and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells,” said Thiem. “It’s amazing that I did my first big title here on a different surface than clay. I turned a pretty bad start to the season to a very good one.”

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After a first-round exit last month at the Rio Open presented by Claro, Thiem was able to prepare for nearly two weeks in Indian Wells with new coach Nicolas Massu. The hours logged on the practise court were evident and Thiem delivered a high-quality brand of attacking tennis that gave no indication of his 3-4 record to start the season.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of his title run is who he defeated. After beating Milos Raonic in the semi-finals for the first time in their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, Thiem took out Federer for the first time on a hard court. He became one of at least five players to defeat Federer on all three surfaces, joining Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Patrick Rafter.

But Thiem was quick to praise Federer after the match and said he will likely never catch up to the Swiss star’s 100 tour-level singles titles. He also noted how difficult it still is to beat Federer, in part because of everything he’s accomplished throughout his career.

“He’s such a legend. For all of us younger players, it’s a privilege to still be able to compete with him and play against him in the finals of big tournaments like this one,” said Thiem. “Against Roger, Rafa, Novak, and some other guys, you have to beat not only the player, but also the great aura they have and all these titles they have won. You have to play doubly good to beat them.”

Thiem’s victory at Indian Wells moves him up to No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, matching his career-best standing. He also jumps well inside the Top 8 of the ATP Race To London. But with his first match at the Miami Open presented by Itau less than a week away, Thiem is already looking forward to hitting the practise courts and continuing his top form.

“Of course, the title is amazing [and] it will stay there forever,” said Thiem. “But it would be nice if I could hold this shape and all of these positive emotions in the next tournament and every tournament I play.”

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