Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, last year’s finalists, were forced to save one match point on Sunday en route to the second round of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
The fifth seeds defeated Ben McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff 5-7, 7-6(4), 11-9 after finding themselves one point from defeat on deuce deciding point at 4-5 in the second set. Marach and Pavic saved five of seven break points to set a second-round meeting with Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos. The Argentine duo beat Italians Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares also came from the brink of defeat to reach the second round. The third seeds saved three match points in a thrilling 24-point Match Tie-break to beat Rohan Bopanna and Dominic Inglot 4-6, 6-3, 13-11.
On Court 11, Karen Khachanov and Feliciano Lopez overcame Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau 6-4, 6-3. The Russian-Spanish tandem saved four of five break points to claim victory in 67 minutes.
Shapovalov Kicks Off #NextGenATP Charge In Monte-Carlo
Medvedev, Fognini also compete on Monday
Main draw action heats up on Day 2 of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, with 15 first-round singles matches taking place on Monday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
View Day 2 Schedule
Denis Shapovalov, the fifteenth seed, is the first #NextGenATP player to take the court this week when he faces Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. The Canadian saved a match point to defeat Struff in their lone FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last October in Tokyo. Shapovalov has enjoyed success on clay before by reaching the semi-finals last year at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Tenth seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia opens up play on Court Rainier III when he takes on Joao Sousa of Portugal. The pair split both of their FedEx ATP Head2Head battles last year, but Sousa won their only clay-court match on home soil in Estoril. Medvedev has been in fine form in recent months, having advanced to at least the quarter-finals in seven of his past 13 ATP Tour events.
Fabio Fognini, the thirteenth seed, will have a battle of experience against youth when he meets Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev. The Italian is making his 11th straight appearance in Monte-Carlo and reached the semi-finals here in 2013. Fognini leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Rublev 3-1, but the Russian picked up his lone victory on red clay two years ago in Umag.
A bevy of high-profile doubles teams will also be in action on Monday. Top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert / Nicholas Mahut, Grigor Dimitrov / Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev / Mischa Zverev, and Novak Djokovic / Marko Djokovic will all compete in first-round matches.
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Nadal, Djokovic & Co. Visit Prince Albert At Royal Palace
Stars of the ATP Tour join H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
This week, the ATP Tour’s elite will vie for the coveted trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, with glory in the Principality on the line.
But first, a select group had the privilege of being received by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco at the Palace. The Prince has long been an integral participant of the tournament, taking in the action every year.
On Sunday, he welcomed top seed Novak Djokovic, 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, as well as Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, David Goffin, Daniil Medvedev and Mischa Zverev. Nishikori finished runner-up last year, while Auger-Aliassime is coming off a semi-final finish at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami.
At the opening of the 113th edition of the prestigious tournament, the 11 players visited the Throne Room in the State apartments and discovered the Palace Tank, and entered the Mirror Gallery for a cocktail. Djokovic presented two balls signed by all the players present for the royal children H.S.H. Crown Prince Jacques and H.S.H. Princess Gabriella.
Nadal, who made his tournament debut in 2003, will look to add to his record haul of 11 titles in Monte-Carlo and 33 at ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, while Djokovic, a two-time Monte-Carlo champion, can match the Spaniard’s Masters 1000 titles mark with victory this week in the Principality. Zverev and Indian Wells titlist Thiem are seeded third and fourth, while last year’s runner-up Nishikori returns as the fifth seed.
Mexican-Pakistani team win first ATP Tour title together
Mexican Santiago Gonzalez and Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi won their first ATP Tour title as a team on Sunday, defeating British brothers Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski 3-6, 6-4, 10-6 to win the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston.
Gonzalez and Qureshi reached their first tour-level final in February at the New York Open, ultimately falling short. But they took the next step at the ATP 250 clay-court event, entering the winners’ circle after one hour and 24 minutes. It’s been a long time coming for the Mexican-Pakistani duo, which captured an ATP Challenger Tour trophy together in Brazil 11 years ago.
“Thanks to Santiago. He’s been sticking up with me and believing in me,” Qureshi said. “I’m super-happy that we managed to win it. At the end of today he stepped his game up and really showed why he’s been Top 20, why he made the final of the French Open also on clay. This is his favourite surface and he definitely made the difference in the end today.”
It is Gonzalez’s 13th ATP Tour victory, and Qureshi’s 17th. Three years ago, Gonzalez made the Houston final with the Dominican Republic’s Victor Estrella Burgos, falling short against twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. He got revenge against the Americans on Saturday in the semi-finals.
Gonzalez and Qureshi were tremendous on return in the Match Tie-break, winning five of eight return points to beat the Brits. The winners earn 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and a share of $33,000. After agreeing to become full-time partners in December, they hope to continue this success.
“We’re going to have ups and downs, but at the end, there are going to be more ups I think because we feel great on court and outside the court so the partnership is doing great,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully this title will give us confidence for the rest of the clay-court season.”
The Skupski brothers will be disappointed to just miss out on their second ATP Tour title together, but this was their sixth final as a team. The fourth seeds add 150 points and a split of $16,920.
Former World No. 3 and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka recovered from a slow start to defeat Lucas Pouille 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday and advance to the second round of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
On the verge of dropping the first set at 3-5, Wawrinka found his best level to claim seven straight games and establish a commanding 7-5, 3-0 lead. After failing to capitalise on his first two match points, Wawrinka converted his third opportunity with a well-placed forehand volley.
The 34-year-old Swiss will be hoping to find his best form in the Principality after a second-round loss to Filip Krajinovic at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Wawrinka will meet Marco Cecchinato or Damir Dzumhur for a place in the third round. The World No. 36 has reached the quarter-finals or better in Monaco on five occasions.
Borna Coric earned his 10th tour-level victory of 2019, which is just his second win in four appearances at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. In a rain-delayed encounter, the 22-year-old overcame BNP Paribas Open quarter-finalist Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in two hours and 52 minutes.
Coric needed two attempts to serve out the match after dropping serve at 5-4 in the decider, but recovered quickly to book his place in the second round. The ninth seed will face Jaume Munar or Lucas Catarina of Monaco for a spot in the third round.
Last year’s semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov also advanced, beating Matteo Berrettini of Italy 7-5, 6-4. The 27-year-old, who improves to 13-6 in Monte-Carlo, saved six of eight break points en route to victory.
In the only other singles match of the day, Argentine Guido Pella overcame two break points at 4-4 in the third set before beating Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 25 minutes. Pella will next play seventh seed Marin Cilic, whom he defeated last year at Wimbledon in five sets.
After lifting his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open last month, Dominic Thiem enters the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters with high expectations.
The World No. 5, who reached his maiden Grand Slam final at Roland Garros last year (l. to Nadal), has lifted eight of his 12 ATP Tour titles on clay and looks set for another successful campaign on the surface this year. But the Austrian is well aware that despite his high standards, it will require his best level to succeed in a packed draw at the first Masters 1000 event of the European clay swing.
“I expect a lot, of course, like in every clay-court season… [There are] only strong tournaments and, especially here, the draw is a joke. It is so strong,” said Thiem, who will open his tournament against Slovak Martin Klizan or Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis. “In general, the level of men’s tennis is pretty high at the moment. I think everybody has to be ‘full power on’ from the first point of every match, myself as well. That is what I will try [to do] and I hope good things are coming in this clay-court season.”
Last year, Thiem advanced to his first quarter-final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. The Austrian star defeated current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in three sets to reach the last eight before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. One year on, Thiem shared his belief that while Nadal remains the man to beat on clay, he should also expect to face greater challenges on the surface.
“I think that as long as Rafa is playing, he will always be the top favourite for any clay-court title, but I think there are more serious challenges to him than the in past years,” Thiem said. “Sascha [Zverev is] always [a threat] and Novak is back on the top of his game and, I hope, me. There are the really young guys like Felix, I think he likes clay a lot. He played amazing in Miami and [there are] also other very young guys like Stefanos and Shapovalov. There are many challenges for Rafa.”
After strong starts to the 2019 ATP Tour season, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov occupy the top three positions in the ATP Race To Milan. When Thiem was asked to compare his abilities to theirs at a similar age, the 25-year-old heaped praise on the trio of #NextGenATP stars for their quick rise up the ATP Rankings.
“Compared to [Auger-Aliassime, Tsitsipas and Shapovalov], I was really bad at 18,” said Thiem. “They are so good already. They are already [around] the Top 20, Top 30. When I was 18, I was ranked No. 700 or something. I think time changed again. When I broke into the Top 100, I was the [second] youngest guy there.”
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Following success at Indian Wells in the early stages of their partnership, Thiem is confident that the addition of former World No. 9 Nicolas Massu to his coaching team will take his game to the next level on clay. The Chilean lifted five of his six tour-level titles on the red dirt.
“I started a relationship with Nico [Massu] in Rio and Buenos Aires and then, of course, I did great practice with him before Indian Wells where I achieved this title,” said Thiem. “I was thinking it was a great relationship with him and he can add many good things to my game. He grew up on clay, it was his favourite surface. So I expect good things to happen in this relationship, on this surface and in this period of the year.”
Some things are worth the wait. Benoit Paire experienced that on Sunday at the Grand Prix Hassan II.
Four years after he last lifted a trophy on the ATP Tour, the Frenchman returned to the winners’ circle. Paire celebrated his second tour-level title with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Pablo Andujar in Marrakech.
It was Paire’s first crown since he defeated Tommy Robredo on the clay of Bastad in 2015. The Frenchman was clutch in the big moments in Marrakech, having rallied from a set down on two occasions, including a first-round win over Aljaz Bedene and semi-final victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Revenge was sweet for Paire, who had fallen to Andujar in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Marbella, Spain, just two weeks ago. The Avignon native held a match point in that encounter, eventually conceding a set and a break lead. But this was Paire’s day, cruising to victory after one hour and six minutes.
Paire sprinted out of the gates on a sun-kissed afternoon in the Moroccan city. Having edged past countryman Tsonga in the semis, needing five match points to prevail, the Frenchman would turn in a near-flawless performance in the championship.
The 29-year-old was efficient from the back of the court throughout the encounter, not conceding a break all afternoon. He pulled ahead at 4-2 in the first set with a perfectly placed drop shot, before sealing the opener with a second break after just 32 minutes.
Andujar had converted a combined 11 break chances entering the final, but Paire refused to blink on serve, claiming 89 per cent of first serve points. And he was unflappable in the second set, striking a sublime lob of the outstretched arm of Andujar to consolidate another break for 5-2. He would close out the championship with a forehand into the open court on his first match point.
Former Monte-Carlo Champion Wawrinka Headlines Day 1 Action
Dimitrov, Coric also feature on Court Rainer III
Main draw action begins on Sunday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, with four intriguing matches kicking off the third ATP Masters 1000 event of the year.
2014 champion Stan Wawrinka returns to Court Rainer III to face Frenchman Lucas Pouille. The Swiss has reached at least the quarter-finals here on five occasions and seeks another big run in Monte-Carlo, while Pouille is looking for his first win since reaching the Australian Open semi-finals.
Ninth seed Borna Coric of Croatia and in-form Pole Hubert Hurkacz will kick off action on Court Rainer III. Coric is competing in Monte-Carlo for the fifth straight year and Hurkacz is making his first appearance at this event.
Who will win the first @FedEx#ATP Head2Head clash between these players?
Last year’s semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov starts his week against Matteo Berrettini of Italy. The Bulgarian has reached at least the quarter-finals in three of his past six main draw appearances in Monte-Carlo.
The final main draw singles match of the day will see this year’s kings of Brazil face off. Rio Open presented by Claro champion Laslo Djere of Serbia will face Brasil Open winner Guido Pella of Argentina.
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