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Brown Blast-Off: Dreddy Dashes To First Title Since 2016

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

Brown Blast-Off: Dreddy Dashes To First Title Since 2016

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

Mouratoglou Open (Sophia Antipolis, France): Dustin Brown is back with a vengeance! After an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, the 34-year-old German surged to the title at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Sophia Antipolis.

Brown survived a murderers’ row of opponents, downing Robin Haase 6-4, 6-3 and rallying past both 15th seed Kimmer Coppejans and 14th seed Rudolf Molleker from a set down. In Sunday’s championship, he would sprint to the title, defeating Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 31 minutes.

The German is on the mend after a back injury derailed the majority of his 2018 season. Brown would find his form in a flash on the clay courts of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, using his vast arsenal shots and spins to constantly rattle  his opponents. He was a Hot Shot machine all week, endearing himself to the French faithful from the start.

It was Brown’s eighth Challenger crown in total and first since 2016, when he prevailed on the grass of Manchester. Having fallen outside the Top 250 of the ATP Rankings, he is projected to rise to No. 167 on Monday.

So, how excited is the man they call ‘Dreddy’?

“I’m going to have a couple beers, take a bath and stay up all night watching some TV series so that this day never ends.”

Ferrero Challenger Open (Villena, Spain): We’re running out of superlatives to describe Pablo Andujar’s sensational comeback campaign. The 33-year-old Spaniard entered the Challenger stop in Alicante on the heels of a title run in nearby Marbella, Spain, and he refused to take his foot off the gas. Andujar extended his win streak to 10 straight with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over countryman Pedro Martinez on Sunday, adding to his victory at last week’s Casino Admiral Trophy.

Located at former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero’s academy in the town of Villena, the tournament was celebrating its second edition this week. After also lifting the trophy in its inaugural edition a year ago, Andujar successfully defended his crown with aplomb. He dropped just one set all week, improving to 6-0 in finals since returning to action after undergoing three shoulder surgeries in 2017.

One year ago, Andujar entered Villena just inside the Top 600 of the ATP Rankings. Now, he leaves at No. 70 and will look to retain his crown at yet another tournament next week – the ATP 250 stop in Marrakesh.

In other news, a pair of teenagers stole the headlines earlier in the week. At the age of 15, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz Garfia earned his first Challenger match win, becoming the fourth-youngest to do so in 20 years. He is the first player born in 2003 to emerge victorious. One day earlier, in Sophia Antipolis, Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti became the first player born in 2002 to claim his first win. Both earn their first ATP Rankings points.

You May Also Like: Teens Claim Back-To-Back Challenger Milestones


Abierto GNP Seguros (Monterrey, Mexico): Alexander Bublik and Emilio Gomez will take centre stage at Club Sonoma in Monterrey on Sunday night. Bublik is bidding for his third title of the year, which would secure his return to the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. One year ago, the Kazakh suffered a broken ankle at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, but a 17-5 record has seen him rediscover his form in a hurry in 2019.

Gomez, meanwhile, is eyeing a maiden title at the age of 27. Son of former World No. 4 and 1990 Roland Garros champ, he is appearing in his first final. The Guayaquil native is bidding to become the first Ecuadorian champion on the ATP Challenger Tour since Giovanni Lapentti in 2011.

Winner of Tournament of the Year in 2015, the Abierto GNP Seguros embarked on a new era this year. The event moved from October to April, becoming just the second combined ATP Challenger/WTA Tour tournament on the calendar (also Nottingham).

Lloyd Harris is the top seed at the Santaizi ATP Challenger in Taipei City, Taiwan, with Evgeny Donskoy and Sergiy Stakhovsky also leading the charge. Last week, Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak won his maiden title in Saint-Brieuc, France, and now he will vie for a second straight crown, seeded sixth in Taipei.

The Spanish swing concludes with the inaugural Murcia Open. Pedro Sousa is the top seed, with Roberto Carballes Baena leading the home charge. Former World No. 9 and 13-time ATP Tour champion Nicolas Almagro is set to conclude his storied career, appearing in his last professional tournament.

Meanwhile, in Barletta, Italy, players and fans are welcomed for the tournament’s 20th edition. Italians comprise seven of the Top 8 seeds, with Gianluigi Quinzi leading the way. Seeded 10th, Thanasi Kokkinakis will appear in his first tournament since retiring from the Australian Open with a shoulder injury.

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Bains requests to change nationality from Australian to British

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

World number 253 Naiktha Bains has made a formal request to both the WTA and ITF to change her playing nationality from Australian to British.

Bains, 21, was born in Leeds but emigrated to Brisbane aged eight, and holds dual citizenship.

She has won two singles and 12 doubles titles on the ITF Tour.

Bains’ situation is a reversal of that which saw Olympic silver medallist Laura Robson move to the UK aged six having been born in Melbourne.

The move to change her nationality has been made independent of the Lawn Tennis Association.

  • Naiktha Bains – the one that got away
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Zverev, Nadal Ready For Clay-Court Swing

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

Zverev, Nadal Ready For Clay-Court Swing

Houston, Marrakech kick off the nine-week swing on Monday

Two-time clay-court ATP Masters 1000 titlist Alexander Zverev isn’t waiting around to start his clay-court swing. The World No. 3 is the top seed at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, an ATP 250 event that starts Monday.

View Marrakech Draw

Zverev heads into Africa’s only ATP Tour event as the favourite to win his 11th ATP Tour title and fifth on clay. The 21-year-old German has won a clay-court Masters 1000 title in each of the past two seasons, first beating Novak Djokovic at the 2017 Internazional BNL d’Italia in Rome for his maiden Masters 1000 crown. Last year, Zverev didn’t drop his serve all tournament en route to beating Austrian Dominic Thiem for the crown at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Flashback: Sascha’s Madrid Moment

With thousands of ATP Ranking points up for grabs, the nine-week clay-court swing will be vital for Zverev and anyone else looking to gain ground in the ATP Race To London. The clay-court swing features three Masters 1000s – the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Mutua Madrid Open and Rome – along with Roland Garros. From those four tournaments alone, the winners will take home 5,000 points.

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has dominated the stretch better than anyone during the past decade-plus. Last year, he captured his 11thtitles in Monte-Carlo, at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Roland Garros. No other male has won a single event 11 times, let alone three events on that many occasions.

The Spaniard will especially want to flex his muscle on the red dirt if he’s to be in contention for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking come November. Nadal is defending 4,680 points that he earned last season. In 2018, 63 per cent of Nadal’s total 7,480 ATP Rankings points came from his time on the European clay courts.

Read More: Federer Passes Djokovic For Lead In ATP Race To London

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will also be itching to return to his home surface. Djokovic, however, won’t be eager because of his memories from a year ago, but rather, by what did not happen last year.

Twelve months ago, the Serbian was still in the midst of his comeback from right elbow surgery, and he began to make strides by reaching the semi-finals in Rome and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. But the 31-year-old seeks his first clay-court title since 2016 Roland Garros.

Dominic Thiem, an eight-time clay-court ATP Tour champion, should start this year’s clay-court swing armed with more confidence than ever. The Austrian beat Roger Federer to win his maiden Masters 1000 title at the hard-court BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last month.

The past two seasons, Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay, doing so at 2017 Rome and 2018 Madrid. Nadal, for his career, has won 92 per cent of his clay-court matches (415-36), according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone.

This could be the year Thiem matches his Indian Wells breakthrough on clay. The past two years, the Austrian, No. 5 in the ATP Rankings, has reached the Madrid final (l. to Nadal, Zverev).

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro is still recovering from his fractured right patella, but he received positive news from his doctor last week and hopes to return soon.

The clay-court swing also begins on Monday with the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston. Two-time defending champion Steve Johnson will go for the trifecta. No player has won back-to-back-to-back titles at the tournament since Bobby Riggs in 1936-38.

Read More: Bryan Brothers, Hewitt Featured In Houston Doubles

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Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Houston & Marrakech

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Houston & Marrakech

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

The ATP Tour is back in action, shifting to clay this week at ATP 250 tournaments in Houston and Marrakech. Two-time defending champion Steve Johnson will try to win his third consecutive title at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship. In Morocco, reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev will look to capture his first title of the year at the Grand Prix Hassan II.

View Draws: Houston | Marrakech

1) Johnson Defending:
Johnson comes in as the top seed and two-time defending champion. The American is bidding to become the first player to three-peat at this tournament since Bobby Riggs did so in 1936-38. This is the second ATP Tour tournament at which Johnson is the top seed (2016 Newport – QF). He is 11-4 lifetime at River Oaks, winning his past nine matches.

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2) Ivo Returns: Ivo Karlovic won the 2007 title and reached the semi-finals in 2011 and 2018, when he became the oldest player to reach an ATP Tour semi-final since Jimmy Connors at 1993 San Francisco. The 40-year-old Croat has a 10-6 record in Houston and he opened this season by reaching the championship match in Pune (l. to Anderson).

3) Americans Seeded: Five of the eight seeds are Americans with Johnson, fourth seed Reilly Opelka, fifth seed Taylor Fritz, sixth seed Mackenzie McDonald and eighth seed Sam Querrey, who reached the Houston final in 2010 and 2015.

4) 2019 Champions: There have been 19 different champions in the first 20 tournaments of the season with Roger Federer the only two-time winner. Opelka (New York) and last year’s finalist Tennys Sandgren (Auckland) are two of the seven first-time ATP Tour winners this season.

5) Thompson Turnaround: Seventh seed Jordan Thompson is one of the most improved players on the ATP Tour this season. The 24-year-old Aussie has compiled an 11-8 record after going 1-11 last year. He finished a year-end best No. 72 in the ATP Rankings in 2018 with a 52-17 record on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning three titles in eight finals.

6) Janko is Back: Two-time (2011-12) year-end World No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic is making his first Houston appearance since 2015. He missed all of last season after undergoing hamstring surgery in September 2017. This will be his fifth tournament of 2019.

7) Opelka Eyes Top 50: Opelka is looking for his first win in River Oaks (0-2). The 21-year-old American has reached a career-high No. 56 after his personal-best 10-5 start, highlighted by his maiden ATP Tour title in New York. He won eight matches from 2016-18.

8) Ruud on the Rise: #NextGenATP Norwegian star Casper Ruud is making his Houston debut. His father, Christian, won the River Oaks title in 1996 when it was a non-ATP Tour event. Casper cracked the Top 100 last month after his semi-final showing in Sao Paulo.

9) Wild Cards: The wild cards are Americans Bjorn Fratangelo and Noah Rubin along with Tipsarevic. Fratangelo is making his third straight main draw appearance (1-2) and Rubin his second (0-1). Tipsarevic is also making his third showing (1-2).

10) Bryans Back: Five-time U.S. Clay Courts champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who have finished No. 1 on the ATP Tour in 10 of the past 14 years, are making their 13th appearance in Houston. They have won five titles (2007, ‘09-’11, ’14) in their past eight visits (DNP ’08, ’12) and have compiled a 26-3 mark since 2007. They are looking for their third title of the year after winning in Delray Beach and Miami. They have won a record 118 tour-level titles together.

1) Top 30 Quartet:
At the only African tournament on the ATP Tour, taking place for the second year at the Royal Tennis Club de Marrakech, four Top 30 players in the ATP Rankings will try to lift the trophy: World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, second seed Fabio Fognini, third seed Kyle Edmund and fourth seed Gilles Simon.

2) Zverev The Top Seed: Zverev comes in with a 10-4 record on the season, reaching the Acapulco final (l. to Kyrgios). Last year he won two of his four ATP Tour titles on clay in Munich and Madrid.

3) Fabio Looks For Jumpstart: Fognini captured three ATP 250 titles in 2018, and he will look to win his first trophy of 2019 in Marrakech. The Italian comes in with a 4-7 record on the year, but he will try to turn it around in Morocco, where he faces Czech Jiri Vesely.

Fognini Tsonga Jaziri in Marrakech

4) Spanish Success: A Spaniard has hoisted the Marrakech trophy in five of the past eight years, led by reigning champion Pablo Andujar, who also won titles in 2011-12. The other Spanish winners are Tommy Robredo (2013) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (2014).

5) Andujar in Morocco: Last year Andujar came in ranked No. 355 when he captured his third title on Moroccan soil. He is 15-2 at the tournament.

6) Wild Cards: Zverev is making his tournament debut and he is joined by Fognini and Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga as the other wild cards. Fognini is 2-3 in Morocco, with his last visit coming in 2012. Tsonga’s only previous showing was in 2008, when he reached the semi-finals.

7) Tsonga Returns: The 33-year-old Tsonga finished last season No. 259 after missing seven months with a left knee injury. But he is off to a quick start in 2019, winning his 17th ATP Tour title in Montpellier in February.

8) Former Champions: Besides Andujar, the two other former Grand Prix Hassan II champions are Argentine Federico Delbonis (2016) and Simon (2008).

9) 2019 Champions: Fifth seed Laslo Djere of Serbia and Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero are two of the seven first-time ATP Tour winners this season. They will look to add a second trophy in Marrakech. Djere captured the ATP 500 title in Rio de Janeiro while Londero earned the crown on home soil in Cordoba.

10) Doubles Draw: The top-seeded team is Jamie Murray and John Peers. From 2013-15, the British-Australian duo won six ATP Tour titles together, four of which came on clay. The second seeds are Indian Rohan Bopanna and Brit Dominic Inglot. Bopanna and Inglot have played one another 16 times on the doubles court, but this will be the first time they compete alongside one another.

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Azarenka reaches first singles final for three years

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached her first singles final in three years by defeating top seed Angelique Kerber at the Monterrey Open.

The Belarusian beat Kerber – another former world number one – 6-4 4-6 6-1.

She now faces Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in Sunday’s final in Mexico.

“I haven’t won many of those in the last couple years so it’s good that I’m able to turn it around and pick up my level,” Azarenka said.

The 29-year-old last contested a singles final in April 2016, winning both Indian Wells and Miami within two weeks before announcing her pregnancy later that year and giving birth to son Leo in December.

She returned to the sport competitively the following summer but has been involved in a custody battle with the child’s father which has impacted on her tennis.

“I’m getting back used to playing, and I’m trying to make better decisions, better choices under pressure,” Azarenka said after her win against the German.

“It’s all about taking one step at a time. To put it all together is always more tricky, so I’m glad that I’m able to put little pieces together in the important moments.

Former Wimbledon champion Muguruza earlier reached the final with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova.

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Tsonga, Fognini, Jaziri Kick Off Clay-Court Swing In Marrakech

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2019

Tsonga, Fognini, Jaziri Kick Off Clay-Court Swing In Marrakech

Trio pleased to be in Africa for the ATP 250

They’ll have a hard time finding better scenery anywhere.

To kick off this year’s Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, wild cards Fabio Fognini of Italy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France joined Tunisian Malek Jaziri and tournament director Hicham Arazi of Morocco for a light-hearted hit on Marrakech’s famous Djemaa el Fna square.

Fognini Tsonga Jaziri in Marrakech
Fabio Fognini, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Malek Jaziri and Tournament Director Hicham Arazi have fun ahead of the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech. (Photo: Hakim Wiseman Joundy)

Hundreds of spectators watched team Africa (Arazi/Jaziri) beat team Europe (Fognini/Tsonga) in an entertaining tie-break match. The players all enjoyed their time in the city, especially Fognini, who is making his first appearance at the Marrakech tournament.

I’m happy to be here in Marrakech and hope to play well this week. The atmosphere here on the square is very fascinating, and it was a pleasure to share the court with those players and play in front of the enthusiastic crowd. I hope they will all come on-site and support me,” said Fognini, who, at No. 18 in the ATP Rankings, is the second seed.

View Marrakech Draw

Jaziri, on the other hand, is making his third consecutive showing at the ATP 250 tournament. The 35-year-old, who at No. 66, is the highest-ranked Arab player, reached the quarter-finals last year (l. to Edmund).

It’s great to bring tennis in the city and play in front of tourists and on such a legendary landmark like Djemaa el Fna. I always enjoy playing in Morocco,” he said.

Tsonga, still on the comeback from left knee surgery one year ago, also had a great time. The Frenchman opens against German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

I was here as a tourist a couple years ago and now I’m back playing tennis, which feels great,” Tsonga said.

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