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Schwartzman Sets Up Thiem Showdown In Barcelona

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Schwartzman Sets Up Thiem Showdown In Barcelona

Mayer to meet Nadal; Fritz to face Nishikori

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman set up a second-round meeting against third seed Dominic Thiem on Monday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. The 26-year-old Schwartzman overcame an up-and-down performance that included 53 unforced errors to beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Nishioka, who hit 16 winners to 42 unforced errors, struggled with cramps as the two-hour and 19-minute match finished. Schwartzman was playing his third match in Barcelona after having to qualify because the Argentine, No. 25 in the ATP Rankings, forgot to sign up before the tournament deadline.

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He trails Thiem 2-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, although Schwartzman has won their past two matchups, including earlier this year 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) at the Argentina Open in February.

Home favourites went 2-2 on day one in Barcelona. Jaume Munar ran away with his first-rounder against Portuguese qualifier Pedro Sousa 2-6, 6-4, 6-0, and will next meet #NextGenATP American and 14th seed Frances Tiafoe. Both players competed at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

You May Also Like: Nadal In Barcelona: ‘What Has Happened Has Happened’

In an all-Spanish battle, 2010 champion Fernando Verdasco beat wild card Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-3. Verdasco, the only former champion in the draw besides Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori, will next meet 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Chilean lucky loser Nicolas Jarry gained revenge against Spain’s Marcel Granollers 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Granollers had beaten Jarry in three sets in the final round of qualifying. The 23-year-old Jarry will next meet second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer will face top seed and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal. Mayer outplayed Romanian Marius Copil 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5 to advance.

American Taylor Fritz will face Nishikori for the second time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series on Tuesday (Nishikori leads 1-0). Fritz ousted friend and compatriot Reilly Opelka 6-3, 6-4.

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Berrettini Records First Upset Of The Week In Budapest

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Berrettini Records First Upset Of The Week In Budapest

Albot, Krajinovic advance on Monday

Matteo Berrettini of Italy provided the first surprise win of this year’s Hungarian Open on Monday. In a wild match featuring eight breaks of serve, he hung tough in Budapest to defeat seventh seed Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-4.

Berrettini will play Aljaz Bedene in the second round. The Slovenian recovered from being down a double break in the opening set to defeat Aussie Bernard Tomic 7-6(3), 6-3.

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Eighth seed Radu Albot continued his fine form this season with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. The Moldovan broke his opponent twice in each set and secured the win on his fourth match point after one hour and 41 minutes. He’ll take on qualifier Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, who squandered four match points in the second set before recovering to beat Italian Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5.

The first doubles match of the week saw third seeds Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski of Great Britain defeat Mate Valkusz of Hungary and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-0, 7-6(4).

Tuesday’s schedule features fifth seed Laslo Djere of Serbia, sixth seed and 2018 finalist John Millman of Australia and Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters runner-up Dusan Lajovic of Serbia.

You May Also Like: 20 Things To Watch In Barcelona, Budapest

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Nadal In Barcelona: 'What Has Happened Has Happened'

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Nadal In Barcelona: ‘What Has Happened Has Happened’

Spaniard ready to bounce back after Monte-Carlo upset

Rafael Nadal walked away from the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters last week without playing in the ATP Masters 1000 final for the first time since 2015. But the Spaniard, who lost to eventual champion Fabio Fognini in the semi-finals, is ready to put the upset behind him.

My personal opinion is that I played one of the worst matches on clay. It’s a reality. There is no need to hide it. I do not see the benefit of wanting to deny it,” Nadal said on Monday after playing mini tennis with Kei Nishikori at the Palau de la Música Catalana. “What has happened has happened.”

The 32-year-old was playing in his first tournament since March’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. On 15 March, Nadal beat Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals but the Spaniard had to withdraw from his semi-final against Roger Federer.

This week, Nadal is the top seed at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and is going for his 12th title at the ATP 500 event.

You May Also Like: A Look Back At The 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

In Monte-Carlo, I took a step forward with how I was a week before. I lost a good opportunity to start the season in a fantastic way. But now I’m going to have another one,” he said.

This is a very special tournament that is part of the history of tennis and of my own. I have another morning to practice, and we will see how we are doing. On a physical level, I’m more or less well.”

Nadal is 58-3 at the event and won his 11th Barcelona title – and third straight – last year. The World No. 2 even has his own court – Pista Rafa Nadal – at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona-1899, the oldest Spanish tennis club.

It is true that I have not won any titles, but I reached the final in Australia, semi-finals in Indian Wells and now semi-finals again in Monte-Carlo. The year is not bad and I’m third in the [ATP Race To London], but with more problems than I would have liked,” Nadal said.

The job is to find myself. During the last 18 months, I have had too many stops and ups and downs, non-tennis related. And when that happens, it’s hard to pick up rhythm and continuity. But it is true that it has happened so many times, and that after things go well… everything that happened seems to be forgotten. I hope to be ready to play well. And if it is not here, it will be in Madrid, in Rome or at Roland Garros.”

Nadal will open against Argentine Leonardo Mayer, a 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 winner against Romanian Marius Copil. Nadal could earn a rematch against Fognini if both reach the Barcelona final.

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20 Things To Watch In Barcelona, Budapest

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

20 Things To Watch In Barcelona, Budapest

Nadal, Cilic lead the fields this week

The European clay-court swing continues this week in Barcelona and Budapest, with top players, including Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic, respectively, leading the fields. Here are 20 things to watch from the ATP 500 and ATP 250 events:

10 Things To Watch In Barcelona

1) Best in Barcelona: 11-time champion Rafael Nadal leads a star-studded field at the 2019 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Also competing at the ATP Tour 500 event are former champions Kei Nishikori and Fernando Verdasco, Top 10 players Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and last week’s ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo champion Fabio Fognini.

2) Pista Rafa Nadal: The Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell named a court after World No. 2 Nadal in 2017. It becomes crystal clear why that decision was made after reviewing his 58-3 record at Barcelona and the fact that the top seed won the trophy for the 11th time at the event last year – a feat he had also accomplished the week prior at Monte-Carlo, and then repeated at Roland Garros.

3) Special Kei: No. 4 seed Nishikori is the most recent dominant player at Barcelona other than Nadal, as the Japanese star picked up the two trophies between Nadal’s three-year title streaks of 2011-13 and 2016-18. Nishikori reeled off 14 straight wins at the event from 2014 to 2016, and nearly pulled off the hat-trick before his run was stopped in the 2016 final by Nadal.

4) Fog Rolling In: Before last week, Fognini had a 4-8 win-loss record in 2019, including going 0-for-4 on clay. That suddenly changed when he clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Monte-Carlo, defeating 11-time champion Nadal in the semi-finals before a final victory over Dusan Lajovic. Fognini, the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title, is at a new career-high ranking of No. 12.

5) From A to Z: No. 2 seed Zverev is no stranger to ATP Masters 1000 titles, as the 22-year-old is the only active player other than Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray to have claimed at least three titles at that level. Nevertheless, the World No. 3 comes into Barcelona still looking for his first title of 2019, and has advanced to a quarter-final-or-better just once this year.

6) Greece is the Word: Tsitsipas burst onto the scene at Barcelona last year. The #NextGenATP Greek star was ranked just No. 63 when he entered the event, but he won five matches in straight sets, including a win over the previous year’s finalist Thiem, to reach his first ATP Tour singles final. One year later, the 20-year-old has won two titles, and is currently ranked at a career-high No. 8.

7) Feet of Clay: No. 3 seed Thiem has won eight of his 12 titles and reached 14 of his 19 finals on clay courts. The Austrian, who made his first Grand Slam final on the clay of Roland Garros last year, defeated then-World No. 1 Murray in the 2017 Barcelona semi-finals before falling to Nadal.

8) Wild Ones: Former World No. 3 David Ferrer received a wild card into the event; the four-time Barcelona finalist plans to retire next month after the Mutua Madrid Open. Along with Ferrer and Zverev, the wild cards are Grigor Dimitrov, Feliciano Lopez, and 19-year-old Nicola Kuhn.

9) Spanish Success: Verdasco is the only player in the draw to have claimed the title other than Nadal and Nishikori. The 2010 champion has a 15-10 record at Barcelona, having also made the 2012 semi-finals and the 2009 quarter-finals. He will face Lopez for the 11th time in their rivalry.

10) Doubles Duty: Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez won the Barcelona doubles title last year. They return to the event, but with different partners: Feliciano is paired with Pablo Carreno Busta, and Marc teams up with Marcel Granollers. The No. 1 seeds are Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.

10 Things To Watch In Budapest

1) Third Time’s the Charm: The ATP Tour returns to Budapest for the third straight season with the Hungarian Open. Former finalists John Millman and Aljaz Bedene join Top 15 Croats Marin Cilic and Borna Coric in the field.

2) Wild One: Top seed Cilic got a wild card into Budapest, and the World No. 11 comes into the event with a 4-5 record on the year, still seeking his first 2019 quarter-final. As the reigning Australian Open runner-up, Cilic rallied from two sets down and saved match points to oust Fernando Verdasco in the third round of Melbourne, but lost in the fourth round to Roberto Bautista Agut.

3) Borna Again: No. 2 seed Coric starts the Hungarian Open coming off back-to-back quarter-final showings at ATP Masters 1000 events at Miami and Monte-Carlo. Coric, whose first ATP Tour singles title came on clay at Marrakech in 2017, is returning to Budapest for a second showing, following a first-round loss to Jiri Vesely in his only prior appearance in 2017.

4) Serbian Surprise: Dusan Lajovic lurks as an unseeded player despite being a newly minted Top 25 player. The Serb is now at a career-high ranking of World No. 24 after his run to a first-ever ATP Tour singles final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters last week. Lajovic, who notched his first Top 5 win over Dominic Thiem in Monte-Carlo, smashed his prior career-high ranking of No. 42.

5) Great Georgian: No. 4 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili made his second quarter-final of 2018 in his debut showing at Budapest last year. The Georgian would go on to break through in a big way last season, winning two titles, at Hamburg and Beijing, and finishing the year in the Top 25.

6) First Wins Club: No. 5 seed Laslo Djere and No. 8 seed Radu Albot are two of the eight first-time singles champions on the ATP Tour this season. Djere picked up his first trophy at Rio de Janeiro, while Albot triumphed at Delray Beach, becoming the first singles champion to represent Moldova.

You May Also Like: At 23, Laslo Djere Is Without Parents, But Not Without Hope

7) Close Calls: Last year’s runner-up John Millman is back as the No. 6 seed; the Australian made his sole final to date in Budapest last year. Millman edged 2017 runner-up Aljaz Bedene in last year’s semi-finals; Bedene has also returned to Budapest, as he too still seeks a first title.

8) #NextGenATP On The Rise: Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic had only one ATP Tour win heading into March’s BNP Paribas Open. But the 19-year-old qualified and made his first ATP quarter-final in Indian Wells before falling to Canadian Milos Raonic. Kecmanovic, now at No. 87 in the ATP Rankings, qualified and will face Millman in his Budapest opener.

9) Going Wild: Hungarians Attila Balazs and Mate Valkusz join Cilic as wild cards. 20-year-old Valkusz, who lost to eventual champion Marco Cecchinato in the first round of qualifying last year, will be making his ATP Tour main-draw debut this week. The 30-year-old’s best tour-level result was a semi-final run as a qualifier at Bucharest in 2012.

10) Doubling Up: Rohan Bopanna and Dominic Inglot head the Hungarian Open doubles draw as the top seeds. Inglot is going for his second straight title at Budapest: he won the event last year partnering Franko Skugor.

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Fognini Rises To Career-High, Mover Of The Week

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Fognini Rises To Career-High, Mover Of The Week looks at the top Movers of the Week in the ATP Rankings, as of Monday, 22 April 2019

No. 12 (Career High) Fabio Fognini, +6
The 31-year-old became the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters after beating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match. Fognini stunned 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in straight sets en route to the trophy, which is his ninth ATP Tour crown. Fognini jumps six places to a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings following his run to the title in the Principality. Read More

No. 24 (Career High) Dusan Lajovic, +24
The Serbian recorded five consecutive tour-level victories for the first time in his career to reach his maiden ATP Tour final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Lajovic did not drop a set en route to the final, overcoming Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev before his straight-sets loss to Fognini. The 28-year-old soars 24 spots to career-high No. 24 in the ATP Rankings.

No. 28 (Career High) Guido Pella, +7
After a successful ‘Golden Swing’ which included a title run at the Brasil Open (d. Garin) and a runner-up finish at the inaugural Cordoba Open (l. to Londero), Pella continued his impressive start to the season by reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final. Pella defeated Rio Open presented by Claro champion Laslo Djere, seventh seed Marin Cilic and Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato to reach the last eight in the Principality, where he fell to 11-time Monte-Carlo titlist Nadal. Pella rises seven positions to a career-high No. 28 in the ATP Rankings.

Other Notable Movers

No. 38 Richard Gasquet, -8
No. 43 Grigor Dimitrov, -15
No. 45 (Career High) Cameron Norrie, +11
No. 51 Jan-Lennard Struff, -7
No. 57 (Career High) Jaume Munar, +4
No. 58 Taylor Fritz, +7
No. 62 Andreas Seppi, -16
No. 66 Lorenzo Sonego, +30
No. 73 Pablo Cuevas, +8
No. 75 Prajnesh Gunneswaran, +5
No. 87 (Career High) Miomir Kecmanovic, +4
No. 90 (Career High) Lloyd Harris, +4
No. 92 Hugo Dellien, -17
No. 96 Mischa Zverev, -19
No. 97 Guido Andreozzi, -13

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Fed Cup: How Great Britain can thrive after World Group promotion

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Anne Keothavong was a playing member of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team when they made the trip to Sweden for the 2012 World Group play-off.

Seven years, and three further play-off disappointments later, she is now the captain of a side which finally has the chance to discover whether it can be competitive against the world’s elite.

GB’s 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan at London’s Copper Box Arena ensures a return to World Group level of the Fed Cup for the first time since 1993.

The format for next year’s competition is far from signed off. But, for the first time in a generation, Britain will at least start the year with a theoretical chance of lifting the trophy.

The International Tennis Federation hopes to introduce a week-long Finals featuring 12 teams from next April.

The plan is for this year’s semi-finalists to be joined by the winners of eight play-off ties to be staged in February.

  • Boulter wins to end GB’s 26-year wait for Fed Cup promotion
  • GB captain ‘in awe’ after Fed Cup joy

Interest from host nations was sought in March. Budapest is said to be among the cities to have put its name forward, but financing the event is another matter.

The ITF is understood to have pledged prize money in excess of $10m (£7.7m), and that money is supposed to be generated by the host city.

There is also a fair amount of opposition to the concept. WTA tournaments staged in the weeks either side of the proposed Finals will expect to see traditionally strong fields depleted.

And there are players – and many fans – who resent the potential reduction in the number of home ties which generate the special atmosphere evident this weekend.

Keothavong, who says she has not yet been asked her views by the ITF, admits to being in two minds about whether the reforms are in the best interests of the sport.

“I’m not sure,” Britain’s captain says. “We’ve waited so long for a home tie and now we’ve got it.

“The support we had was something we might not experience again, so it’s hard to know. I don’t know what the right format is for this competition.”

If the planned reform flounders, the ITF is likely to create one 16-team World Group for 2020, played on a knockout basis with the final four competing for the title in November.

Either way, Britain will have its work cut out to make progress.

Potential opponents include Japan (featuring world number one Naomi Osaka); Romania (featuring world number two Simona Halep); the Czech Republic (with two top five players in their ranks); and the United States (who have three top 20 players to choose from).

Britain does not currently have any singles’ players in the world’s top 40, and yet in Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter do have two players you underestimate at your peril.

Konta appears, at times, to be overwhelmed by nerves. Her game goes off the boil, and yet she invariably recovers, and should be mightily proud to have won 11 singles matches in a row.

At 3-5 down in the deciding set against Yulia Putintseva on Sunday, she won 16 of the last 18 points of the match. She was simply brilliant, and is developing a steely Fed Cup persona.

Boulter is much earlier in her Fed Cup career, but four singles wins in four days in February’s qualifying round in Bath were followed here by a very near miss against Putintseva (a match she should have won), and then a courageous comeback against Zarina Diyas.

With a hot water bottle tucked down the back of her skirt to soothe a bad back at change of ends, she clinched the tie by running away with the final set. Some shrink, where Boulter seems to thrive.

The pair will undoubtedly need the support of others if Britain are to become a force at World Group level.

Heather Watson has had a shocking time in singles of late, but is a Grand Slam doubles champion. If she can forge a potent partnership with Harriet Dart, a natural doubles player with singles aspirations of her own, Britain will add another line of defence.

Katie Swan only turned 20 last month and is now a top 200 player with four Fed Cup wins to her name.

And looking a little further ahead, there is 16-year-old Emma Raducanu, who Keothavong hopes “will be knocking on the door soon”.

The team spirit seems genuine, and so optimism should not be frowned upon – especially as, for the first time for more than a quarter of the century, the team will not have to endure the annual tribulations of Europe-Africa zone qualifying.

It will be a shame if Britain is not able to host home ties on a regular basis – the LTA proved again at the Copper Box that they know how to put on a really good show – but at least the stakes will be higher in future.

That, in turn, means the profile will be higher. And that is outstanding news for women’s tennis in the UK.

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#NextGenATP Clarke Claims Second Challenger Crown In Anning

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

#NextGenATP Clarke Claims Second Challenger Crown In Anning

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

Kunming Open (Anning, China): Jay Clarke did not waste any time in finding that winning feeling. Two months ago, the Brit fell victim to a right foot injury in Pau, France, and in just his second tournament back, he would streak to the title. Clarke scored impressive win after impressive win to lift the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Anning, China, on Sunday.

In a rematch of the 2018 Binghamton final, Clarke earned yet another victory over Jordan Thompson in the second round, before ousting James Duckworth in the quarter-finals and second seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-2 for the championship. He is the sixth #NextGenATP winner of the year, notching his first career clay-court crown. The Derby native is up to 11th in the ATP Race To Milan, rising five spots.

2019 #NextGenATP Winners

Player Age Title
Jannik Sinner 17 yrs, 6 mos. Bergamo, ITA
Corentin Moutet 19 yrs, 9 mos. Chennai, IND
Jeffrey John Wolf 20 yrs Columbus, USA
Mikael Ymer 20 yrs, 3 mos. Noumea, NC
Ugo Humbert 20 yrs, 7 mos. Cherbourg, FRA
Jay Clarke 20 yrs, 8 mos. Anning, CHN

Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open (Sarasota, Florida, USA): Tommy Paul produced one of the more clutch performances on the ATP Challenger Tour, saving all 15 break points faced to the take the Sarasota title. He defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday’s championship.

Like Clarke, Paul was competing in just his second tournament in his return from an injury absence. Following two months on the sidelines with a quad tendon injury, the 21-year-old American lifted his second Challenger trophy and first on clay.

You May Also Like: Tommy Paul Saves All 15 Break Points Faced In Sarasota Open Final

San Luis Open (San Luis Potosi, Mexico): Marc-Andrea Huesler became the 14th first-time winner this year, producing an impressive display to take the title in San Luis Potosi. The Swiss reeled off six wins in six days, capped by a 7-5, 7-6(3) win over second seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras on Sunday.

Competing in just his ninth Challenger main draw and having never previously reached a semi-final, Huesler made the most of his time on the Mexican clay. The 22-year-old from Zurich rises 70 spots to a career-high No. 281 in the ATP Rankings.

The San Luis Open is the second-longest running Challenger, celebrating its 34th edition. Only Tampere, Finland, has been on the circuit longer.


Tunis Open (Tunis, Tunisia): The lone Challenger on the African continent, the Tunis Open welcomed players and fans for the 11th time. World No. 81 Pablo Cuevas took the title on Sunday, defeating Joao Domingues 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 31 minutes. The top Uruguayan did not drop a set all week, improving to 12-4 in Challenger finals and securing his 18th title in total, including ATP Tour victories.

There are four tournaments on three continents this week. In Tallahasee, Florida, the second stop on the U.S. clay-court swing welcomes Paolo Lorenzi as its top seed and Sarasota finalists Sandgren and Paul. The tournament is celebrating its 20th edition on the ATP Challenger Tour. Fifth seed Noah Rubin is the defending champion.

In Leon, Mexico, Alexander Bublik is hoping a return to hard courts will restore his winning ways. In his two previous hard-court Challengers, he lifted the trophy, prevailing in Pau, France in March and Monterrey, Mexico, just two weeks ago. He is joined by reigning champion and third seed Christopher Eubanks and recent Sophia Antipolis titlist Dustin Brown.

Meanwhile, in Francavilla al Mare, Italy, second seed Gianluigi Quinzi is the defending champion. Maximilian Marterer leads the pack, with fellow Germans Oscar Otte, Rudolf Molleker and Dominik Koepfer also seeded. And on the hard courts of Nanchang, China, Jordan Thompson is the top seed, while 12th seed Clarke looks to go back-to-back on Chinese soil.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Challenger Q&A: Paul A Perfect 15-For-15 For Sarasota Crown

  • Posted: Apr 22, 2019

Challenger Q&A: Paul A Perfect 15-For-15 For Sarasota Crown

Tommy Paul sits down with broadcaster Mike Cation after claiming his second ATP Challenger Tour title in Sarasota

Nerves of steel and unwavering perseverance. Tommy Paul demonstrated both of those traits and then some on Sunday at the Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open.

Paul was as clutch as they come in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event, saving all 15 break points faced to upset second seed Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 40 minutes. The 21-year-old American dug in his heels on the green clay, turning aside two break points in the first set and a whopping 13 more in the second.

The victory is extra special for Paul, who was competing in just his second tournament in his return from a quad tendon issue. Last year, he struggled with a knee ailment for a majority of the season, but capped his campaign with a maiden title on the indoor hard courts of Charlottesville. And on Sunday he once again made a triumphant comeback from an injury.

Paul ascends 46 spots to No. 158 in the ATP Rankings with the victory. After struggling for years to make his Challenger breakthrough, the American is finally putting it all together. In addition to his victory over Sandgren, he earned quality wins over Daniel Elahi Galan, a semi-finalist at last week’s ATP Tour stop in Houston, and fifth seed Paolo Lorenzi.

Paul spoke to broadcaster Mike Cation following Sunday’s triumph in Sarasota…

The big takeaway is 15 break points faced and 15 break points saved. How did you do it today?
The big points really went well for me today. It’s funny because the last time we played in Savannah, it went to 7-6 in the third. We had a battle of a match. I was saving a ton of break points then too and I did better returning on the ad side. And today I think I saved only one of those break points on the deuce side. I was more comfortable returning on the ad side, but I wouldn’t say I was too comfortable with all 15 break points [laughs].

Compare this title to your first in Charlottesville last year. I know that was such a relief for you, but what does this one feel like, considering you’re coming back from injury?
This one feels good, I’m not going to lie. This one feels really good. Especially having the injury last year and coming back to win Charlottesville in October, but then getting injured again this year. I took a few months off again after Australia. It was really frustrating. But to come back again and win the title in my second tournament back is amazing.

I think I played at a pretty high level from the start. The first day I came out, I played Gastao Elias and had a great level the whole match. I wouldn’t say it was too easy of a draw. I had Lorenzi next. It was just a great tournament and I had a lot of fun out there. This week means a lot to me.

What does this clay-court stretch mean to you? You had such a successful run a few years ago and missed it last year. And now you have this opportunity to really grow in the ATP Rankings.
It’s funny because before Houston last week, my last clay-court match was in 2017. And I didn’t play for nearly two years on the dirt. It’s great to be back out here. I think it’s all about how I prepare for each surface. It takes me more time to get comfortable on hard. I grew up on green clay and have been playing on clay my whole life.

You are in the lead for the USTA’s French Open Wild Card Challenge. How much is that in your mind?
It’s definitely in my mind, but I don’t want to think about it too much. I’m going to Tallahassee to try to do well and keep the lead. I’m just taking it one match and one point at a time. We’ll see.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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