Eighth seed Sam Querrey inched closer to a third final at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston. The American marched into the semi-finals on Friday, saving two set points in the opening set and another in the second set to defeat Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 7-6(6), 7-6(4).
“My first two matches were pretty clean, but this match was more about fighting your way through it,” said Querrey. “There were some frustrating moments against a tough opponent, but I found a way to win those tie-breaks and that’s what tennis is about sometimes.”
In a match with no service breaks, Querrey let slip a 4/1 lead and dropped five straight points in the first-set tiebreak, but rallied from 4/6 to win the next four points. He then saved a set point on his serve at 4-5 in the second set before eventually prevailing in one hour and 48 minutes.
The two-time Houston finalist (2010, 2015) is through to the last four without dropping a set. He also reached the semi-finals this February at the New York Open (l. to Schnur). Querrey evened his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Tipsarevic at 4-4 after losing their three previous matches against the Serbian, who was appearing in his first ATP Tour quarter-final since October 2016.
Querrey will now play Christian Garin after the Chilean comfortably defeated Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 6-2. Garin saved five match points in his second-round win over second seed Jeremy Chardy of France. He reached his first ATP Tour singles final last month at the Brasil Open (l. to Pella).
#NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud denied Marcel Granollers the birthday he hoped for. The Spaniard turned 33 on Friday, but Ruud didn’t provide any gifts and won 11 straight games to prevail in their quarter-final 6-1, 6-0. All three of Ruud’s ATP Tour semi-finals have come on clay. The 20-year-old reached the last four at the 2017 Rio Open presented by Claro (l. to Carreno Busta) and again last month at the Brasil Open (l. to Garin).
Next up for Ruud is the winner between seventh seed Jordan Thompson of Australia and qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia.
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In 2003, Rafael Nadal won two matches at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters as a 16-year-old. Ever since, the Spaniard has dominated at the first ATP Masters 1000 clay-court tournament of the season.
Nadal has triumphed in Monaco 11 times, one of three events (also Barcelona & Roland Garros) at which the lefty has lifted that many trophies. The 32-year-old arrives this year trying to make more history, pursuing a record 12th crown.
Fast Facts – By defeating Kei Nishikori in last year’s Monte-Carlo final, Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win 11 titles at a single tournament. He would later earn 11th crowns at Barcelona and Roland Garros.
– Nadal won 46 straight matches in Monte-Carlo from 2005-13, a record for consecutive victories at a single tournament.
– Of his 11 triumphs at this ATP Masters 1000 tournament, Nadal has not dropped a set on five occasions.
– Nadal has not lost a match against Roger Federer (3-0), Andy Murray (3-0), Stan Wawrinka (2-0) or Dominic Thiem (2-0) in Monte-Carlo.
– From 2006-08, Nadal defeated Federer in three consecutive Monte-Carlo finals, winning seven of eight sets against the Swiss star.
Five Nadal Stats From Indian Wells First Match: 2003, Nadal def. Karol Kucera 6-1, 6-2
First Title: 2005, Nadal def. Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5
Top 10 record : 22-3
6-0 Sets Won: 11
Most Recent Appearance: 2018 Nadal arrived in Monaco having won 10 consecutive matches at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournament. But the Spaniard had not played a tournament since the Australian Open due to a hip injury.
That didn’t matter for Nadal, as he stormed to his 11th crown in Monte-Carlo, triumphing at the prestigious event without dropping a set. On average, Nadal lost just two games per set en route to his victory.
Seed at the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters: No. 2
Did You Know? Nadal is the only competitor from the 2003 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters who was directly accepted into this year’s main draw.
Djokovic, Nadal Face Challenging Monte-Carlo Draws
Main draw action begins on Sunday
The old adage of “one match at a time” couldn’t apply more heavily to this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters draw. While some fans may be looking ahead to a championship clash between top seed Novak Djokovic and second seed Rafael Nadal, their draws have plenty of obstacles to clear once main draw action starts on Sunday in the first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event of the year.
Two-time champion Djokovic will open his campaign against Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis or Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Kohlschreiber recorded a stunning third-round upset of the World No. 1 last month at the BNP Paribas Open. Should the top seeds progress through the draw as projected, Djokovic could face No. 6 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the quarter-finals. The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion defeated Djokovic in their only FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year at the Rogers Cup.
Nadal begins his quest for an unprecedented 12th title at this event against Aussie John Millman or Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, but could have a blockbuster third-round clash against No. 15 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada or Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Clay-court specialists including former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, No. 11 seed and 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato of Italy, and Rio Open presented by Claro champion Laslo Djere of Serbia also loom in his quarter.
“This has always been a very special place for me,” said Nadal during the draw ceremony. “I watched all of the great champions here as a kid, so it was always a dream for me to be here.”
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Third seed Alexander Zverev is in the bottom half of the draw and will look to shake off a disappointing early exit this week at the Grand Prix Hassan II. The German could have a blockbuster opening-round clash against #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. Kei Nishikori, last year’s Monte-Carlo finalist and the fifth seed this year, could await in the quarter-finals.
Fourth seed Dominic Thiem is in the top half of the draw and looks to start his favourite part of the season with a flourish. The Austrian starts out against a qualifier or Martin Klizan of Slovakia, but No. 16 seed David Goffin looms in the third round. The Belgian leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 7-3 and has won their past three matches. No. 8 seed Karen Khachanov is Thiem’s projected quarter-final opponent and the Russian won their only FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Intriguing first-round matches to watch include No. 9 seed Borna Coric of Croatia squaring off against in-form Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, No. 14 seed Gael Monfils of France taking on Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, and Wawrinka battling against Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
My First Challenger Title: Ferrero’s Triumph In Napoli 1999
ATPTour.com reflects on the moment that launched Juan Carlos Ferrero’s career, on the 20th anniversary of his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Napoli, Italy
Every legend has had their start here. Regardless of potential and promise, all players have come through the ATP Challenger Tour as they begin their climb to the upper echelons of the game. However, not all paths to the top are created equal. While some enjoy slow and steady progressions over the course of many years, others have benefited from lightning-fast ascents. Such was the case for Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Many remember ‘The Mosquito’ for his incredible all-around game, predicated on stunning agility and a flawless forehand. The Spaniard reached the pinnacle in 2003, rising to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings after winning the title at Roland Garros. But few recall where Ferrero kicked off his meteoric march to the top.
The year was 1999. A 19-year-old Ferrero was first embarking on his professional journey. Little did he know that season would prove to be the catalyst that launched him to the Top 100, Top 50 and beyond – all in the span of seven months.
Ferrero was sitting at No. 200 in the ATP Rankings when he entered just his third Challenger main draw in Napoli, Italy. An unseeded wild card, he would make an immediate impact, stunning top seed and 48th-ranked Davide Sanguinetti in the first round, en route to the title. At the age of 19 years and one month, he was a Challenger champion.
“At that time, I was playing very well,” Ferrero told ATPChallengerTour.com. “I had won four straight lower-level events and was invited to play some Challengers. Napoli was my third, but as young as I was, I was in great form and motivated to compete. I remember the final was very hard. I was always under pressure but managed to get the second set in a tie-break and that changed everything. I was very motivated in the third set and my opponent fell apart.”
The final Ferrero refers to came against a Spanish qualifier named Juan Albert Viloca-Puig. He would eventually triumph 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-1. And the future No. 1 was not done there, adding a second Challenger crown on the clay courts of Maia, Portugal just two months later.
“Playing just three Challengers and winning one already made me realize that I could be there, competing with the best. It encouraged me to do even better. There are players who take several years to make the jump to the biggest tournaments. I was lucky to pass quickly, playing only six or seven Challengers before competing on the ATP Tour.”
That second victory on the Portuguese clay propelled the Spaniard to the Top 100. And he would celebrate an even bigger title towards the end of that fruitful 1999 campaign, prevailing on the ATP Tour for the first time in Mallorca. From No. 200 to open the season to a year-end No. 44 in the ATP Rankings. The ascent to No. 1 was well underway.
Ferrero’s 1999 Campaign
Twenty years later, Ferrero’s impact on the ATP Challenger Tour continues. From player to tournament director, he has transitioned to running the show at the Ferrero Challenger Open in his hometown of Villena. Last week, the tournament held its second edition, with Pablo Andujar retaining his title on the Spanish clay.
Held at the 39-year-old’s JC Ferrero Equelite Sport Academy, the world-class facility features 10 clay courts, eight hard courts, one grass court, as well as a 400m running track, football field, nine-hole golf course, fully-equipped gym, player residences and a school.
For Ferrero, establishing an ATP Challenger Tour event in Villena, and thus bringing professional tennis back to his home region, is a great source of pride. It is an integral part of a new three-week Spanish swing in April, sandwiched between tournaments in Marbella and Murcia.
“We are always staging many tournaments at the academy, but to have one at this level makes me really proud,” added Ferrero. “All fans of tennis in this area miss the [former ATP Tour] Valencia Open and we love being able to offer them a professional tournament again. I am proud of the result and we now have a junior event and the Challenger in back-to-back weeks. It takes a lot of work, but we are delighted to be able to offer this at the academy.”
Ferrero also admits that while there has been a learning curve in running a professional tournament, his unique perspective as a former player has helped him provide a world-class experience.
“Knowing what the players want is very helpful. It is easier to manage a tournament and have a clear understanding of what all sides want. As a director, you come to realize that when you are a player you aren’t aware of the great effort they make for you in the tournament. That’s my goal. To make sure they have everything they need and make it a great experience.”
Why Felix & Federer Can Gain In The ATP Rankings On Clay
Find out who has the most to gain in the ATP Rankings through Roland Garros
#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime was still outside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings less than two months ago. But now, he has his sights set on the Top 30, and possibly even the Top 20 with the clay-court season getting underway.
After a run to his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro (on clay) and the Miami semi-finals, Auger-Aliassime is up to a career-high World No. 33, having become the first player born in the 2000s to crack the world’s Top 50. With only 52 points to defend through Roland Garros, Felix is poised to push higher in the coming weeks.
The only player ranked ahead of the 18-year-old with fewer points to defend is 101-time tour-level titlist Roger Federer, who has not played on clay since 2016. There is just one more player ranked ahead of Felix who has less than 100 points to defend, and that’s World No. 14 Russian Daniil Medvedev, who is defending only 75 points through Roland Garros.
Felix has enjoyed success on clay, too. He owns a 9-7 tour-level record on the red dirt, which is his best mark (in percentage terms) on any surface. Auger-Aliassime also advanced to the 2016 Roland Garros Boys’ Singles final.
Auger-Aliassime might be able to make a move during this upcoming stretch because of the number of points players ranked above him will be dropping through Roland Garros. With all those points off, the only players from 20th on who will remain ahead of the Canadian are No. 20 Denis Shapovalov, No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 25 Alex de Minaur.
Points To Defend Through Roland Garros
Player (Current Points)
Points To Defend
Points To Defend
20) Denis Shapovalov – 1,820
27) Gilles Simon – 1,340
21) David Goffin – 1,765
28) Pablo Carreno Busta – 1,300
22) Kyle Edmund – 1,680
29) Grigor Dimitrov – 1,300
23) Roberto Bautista Agut – 1,680
30) Frances Tiafoe – 1,290
24) Diego Schwartzman – 1,485
31) Lucas Pouille – 1,275
25) Alex de Minaur – 1,439
32) Laslo Djere – 1,246
26) Richard Gasquet – 1,375
33) Felix Auger-Aliassime – 1,245
World No. 4 Federer gained plenty of momentum by winning the Miami Open presented by Itau, his 28th ATP Masters 1000 title. And now, the Swiss will try to maintain his form as he prepares to compete on clay for the first time since 2016 Rome.
Scheduled to play at the Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros and with no points to defend, the 101-time tour-level champion will have a chance to boost his ATP Ranking.
Federer could challenge Alexander Zverev (who is defending 2,570 points during the swing) for the third spot in the ATP Rankings, and potentially Rafael Nadal (who is defending 4,680 points) for World No. 2.
Points Defending Through Roland Garros
Although Nadal and Zverev will play more on clay than Federer — Zverev began his swing this week as the top seed at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, where he lost to Jaume Munar — it gives the Swiss an opportunity to make up ground. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is also in a good position, only defending 855 points, a large portion of which came from a semi-final showing in Rome and a run to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
A four-time ATP Tour champion, Medvedev may also make a move to crack the Top 10 for the first time. All rivals ranked ahead of Medvedev, except Federer, are defending at least 160 more points than him.
Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka is another player who could make a move. The Swiss, World No. 36, is at his highest ATP Ranking since last May. And with only 65 points to defend through the clay-court Grand Slam, he too will be looking to take advantage.
Players With The Most ATP Ranking Points To Defend Through Roland Garros
Points To Defend
No. 2 Rafael Nadal
No. 3 Alexander Zverev
No. 5 Dominic Thiem
No. 16 Marco Cecchinato
No. 6 Kei Nishikori
Players In The Top 30 With Fewest Points To Defend Through Roland Garros
Three Frenchmen — fourth seed Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire — will feature in the Grand Prix Hassan II semi-finals on Saturday for the first time since 2008. Eleven years ago, Simon, Tsonga and Julien Benneteau featured in the penultimate round.
Simon battled past Taro Daniel, saving 12 of 15 break points, in a 6-4, 7-5 victory over two hours and 34 minutes on Friday for a place in the semi-finals against Pablo Andujar, who advanced without playing when his Czech opponent Jiri Vesely withdrew due to a right toe injury. Simon won the 2008 trophy, while Andujar is a three-time titlist (2011-12, 2018).
Tsonga required 67 minutes to beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 6-2, winning 26 of his 29 first-service points. “My opponent played very well this week,” said Tsonga. “So I tried to take the initiative and put him under pressure right from the beginning. The goal is to play well again tomorrow and reach the final. I feel well here, we are in Africa. The fans support me a lot.”
Benoit Paire booked his place in the semi-finals for the second time in three years by knocking out #NextGenATP Spaniard Jaume Munar 6-1, 6-3 in 59 minutes. Munar had overcome World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the second round on Thursday.
“I played aggressively today and was able to bother him,” said Paire. “I made the right choices and I’m really happy with my match today. Jo is a great player, I’ve never beaten him. So it will be a complicated match for sure. But the last matches gave me confidence, so I look forward to the semi-final.”
First-Time Team Finalists To Contest Doubles Championship Matwe Middelkoop and Frederik Nielsen reached their first ATP Tour doubles final as a team by beating Simone Bolelli and Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-2 in 50 minutes. They will face Jurgen Melzer and Franko Skugor, who will also contest their first team championship after the pair defeated Leander Paes and Benoit Paire 1-6, 6-3, 10-5 in 71 minutes.