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Federer makes Halle semis but Zverev goes out

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Roger Federer survived a mid-match scare to beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the Halle Open quarter-finals but world number five Alexander Zverev was knocked out by Belgium’s David Goffin.

Federer, chasing a 10th Halle title, beat the Spaniard 6-3 4-6 6-4 to reach the semi-finals for a 15th time.

He faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert next after 2018 champion Borna Coric had to retire because of a back injury.

German Zverev served nine double faults as he lost 3-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) to Goffin.

Eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer also dropped a set against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round.

“My body is reacting well to the grass, so I would prefer the matches to be shorter,” he said. “But if not, it’s no problem. I have enough time to recover before Wimbledon.”

Home favourite Zverev, 22, has struggled with a swollen knee after slipping and hurting himself in the first round and will hope to rediscover his form and fitness in time for the beginning of Wimbledon on 1 July.

Goffin will face Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals after the Italian overcame Russian third seed Karen Khachanov 6-2 7-6 (7-4).

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Felix: 'How Do I Explain It?'

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Felix: ‘How Do I Explain It?’

#NextGenATP Canadian star explains his rise

One year ago this week, Felix Auger-Aliassime was No. 172 in the ATP Rankings with just one tour-level win to his name. Then 17, the Canadian was still battling his way through the ATP Challenger Tour.

Flash forward to Friday, and the World No. 21 beat top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to become the youngest player in 20 years to reach the semi-finals of the Fever-Tree Championships, putting himself within one victory of cracking the Top 20 for the first time. He can accomplish that feat by defeating former champion Feliciano Lopez on Saturday.

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“How do I explain it?” Auger-Aliassime asked. “I think it’s the result of a lot of work behind years and months. I think even last year I was having wins that I’m having this year, like, beating Top 20 players, but I just couldn’t find a way to repeat that over the weeks and in a full tournament.

“I think this year is just the fact that everything added up, all the work that I have done, because I felt like for a year now I have been playing pretty well, but I think this year I just kind of found my rhythm, I just found my beat, and I think I have been on the right track. I haven’t left sight of it. I think that’s how I explain my rapid rise this year.”

Felix is only 18, but he has accomplished plenty in 2019. The #NextGenATP star has made his first three ATP Tour finals, including one at the ATP 500 tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February. He also advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami. There have been few if any signs that Auger-Aliassime is afraid of big moments.

“That’s what I work for. I think I kind of visualise myself — whenever I’m training, whenever I’m working in the gym — I’m visualising myself to be playing these type of matches and winning these type of matches,” Auger-Aliassime said. “So I think when the day comes, I feel prepared, I feel ready, and as well with the experience I have gained over this year and last year with different situations, playing finals now, so obviously that adds also a lot of things and a lot of positive things, because now I feel better. I handle these situations better and I stay more calm. That’s obviously been a big key mentally for me this year.”

Auger-Aliassime has won both of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Tsitsipas, last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals champion. The Canadian also triumphed in all three of their singles clashes in the juniors, leading Tsitsipas to say Friday that not only does he believe Felix will win Grand Slam titles, but, “I might never beat him”.

“It’s humbling. I appreciate that from him, especially coming from him, because he’s beaten these players and he’s been playing good against these top players,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think for me that’s obviously the next challenge with winning, winning tournaments, is to beat players like Rafa, Novak, Zverev, or Nishikori. I think I have been playing well also on clay, but I haven’t found quite the way to beat these guys.”

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Not only has Felix earned the respect of fellow players, but he has also impressed some of tennis’ legends. The teen met Boris Becker in Paris while he recovered from a groin injury that kept him out of Roland Garros.

“He just said that I have been doing good work, that he’s following me, and to keep on doing what I was doing and that good things would happen,” Auger-Aliassime remembered. “I think you have to really understand what he says. I think it’s important to know that it’s not something light. It’s something that I think the best players have done, trying to just take all the not important things outside and just focus on really what you have to do every day. I think that’s what made the difference for the top guys.”

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Murray doubles quarter-final halted because of bad light

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Andy Murray will return on Saturday to complete his doubles quarter-final at Queen’s Club after his second comeback match was halted because of bad light.

Murray and Spanish partner Feliciano Lopez led British duo Dan Evans and Ken Skupski 6-4 4-5 when they were called off at 20:50 BST.

The two-time Wimbledon champion, 32, is making his return in London five months after career-threatening hip surgery.

The match will resume after the singles semi-finals, which start at 13:00 BST.

Should Murray go on to win, the semi-final will be played straight after but he will not face his elder brother after Jamie Murray and fellow Briton Neal Skupski lost their last-eight match 7-5 7-6 (8-6) to Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Lopez, 37, faces the possibility of playing three matches in a row – he takes on Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second singles semi-final at the Fever-Tree Championships.

But there is only a maximum of three games and a potential champions tie-break still to play in the doubles quarter-final.

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Murray continues to impress

Murray and his playing partner Lopez had to wait until 19:40 BST to get on to a still-packed centre court on the longest day of the year.

They were quickly into their stride, with the Scot showing no ill-effects from his first comeback match on Thursday.

The three-time Grand Slam winner, who is due to play in the doubles at Eastbourne next week and then Wimbledon the following week, moved well throughout as he looks to build his match fitness before a possible return to singles later in the year.

The duo secured the first break of serve in the seventh game and former world number one Murray followed it up with a straightforward service hold.

With Lopez’s swinging left-handed serve causing problems to their opponents, the Spaniard quickly wrapped up the first set after 29 minutes.

Evans and Skupski – who like Murray and Lopez are another fledging partnership – warmed to the challenge in the second set.

After Murray was warned for a time violation, Evans broke his fellow Briton’s serve with a superb forehand pass down the line to open a 3-1 lead.

But with Murray producing some brilliant returns and one outstanding lob, the British-Spanish team took their chance to break Evans’ serve.

However, after a discussion between the players there was to be no more play and they left the court.

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Sweet Dreams: Lopez/Murray To Sleep on Queen's Doubles Lead

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Sweet Dreams: Lopez/Murray To Sleep on Queen’s Doubles Lead

Bryan brothers, Kontinen/Peers advance on Friday

Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez will complete their darkness-delayed doubles quarter-final on Saturday at the Fever-Tree Championships. They lead the British pair of Daniel Evans and Ken Skupski 6-4, 4-5.

A forehand volley winner from Lopez on Evans’ serve secured a break at 3-3 in the first set and they rode that momentum to the early advantage. Evans responded in the second set with a glorious return winner on Murray’s serve to give the British duo a 3-1 lead.

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But with Evans serving for the second set at 5-3, 40/30, Murray erased the first set point with a vintage forehand topspin lob winner. A backhand winner from Lopez on deciding point brought the set back on serve before the match was called for the evening.

Earlier in the day, Evans and Skupski won their first-round match over #NextGenATP duo Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur 6-3, 7-5.

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The three other semi-final spots have been locked in. Fourth seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan defeated Roland Garros finalists Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-3, 7-6(6). They’ll take on Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, who upset second seeds Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4.

Third seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers took out Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 7-5, 7-6(6). Jamie was seeking his 400th ATP Tour doubles match win. Kontinen/Peers await the winner of Lopez/Murray and Evans/Skupski.

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Barty beats Williams in Birmingham to close in on number one ranking

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Ashleigh Barty moved to within two matches of becoming world number one after beating Venus Williams 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

The French Open champion will overtake Naomi Osaka at the top of the rankings if she wins the title on Sunday.

Barty, 23, won five games in a row to take the first set and then broke Williams’ serve twice in the second.

The Australian will face Barbora Strycova in the semi-finals.

“You start to think ahead, it’s natural, it happens,” Barty said of the potential number one ranking. “It’s important for me to come out and focus tomorrow [Saturday]. Whatever happens, happens.”

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Strycova got the better of an all-Czech battle to beat Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 6-4.

In the other semi-final, Germany’s Julia Gorges takes on Croatia’s Petra Martic, who survived five match points to overcome former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-1.

Martic trailed 5-2 in the second set having lost the first on a tie-break, but rallied to win the next five games before taking the third 6-1.

“I still can’t believe that I won this match,” said Martic.

Gorges, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2018, beat Yulia Putintseva 6-3 6-2.

At the Mallorca Open, reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber beat French sixth seed Caroline Garcia 6-3 7-6 (7-5) to reach the semi-finals, where she will face Belinda Bencic.

American 20-year-old Sofia Kenin will play Latvian second seed Anastasija Sevastova in the other semi-final. Kenin beat Elise Mertens 1-6 6-1 6-3, while Sevastova defeated Wang Yafan 6-2 6-1.

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Tsitsipas On Felix: 'I Might Never Beat Him'

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Tsitsipas On Felix: ‘I Might Never Beat Him’

Greek star positive after loss at The Queen’s Club

Stefanos Tsitsipas has had an answer to nearly every question asked of him during his ascent up the ATP Rankings. But the #NextGenATP Greek star has struggled to solve one puzzle: Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The 18-year-old Canadian defeated Tsitsipas for the second time this year on Friday at the Fever-Tree Championships to reach the semi-finals of the ATP 500 tournament. This is a budding FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry that fans can follow for years to come, but Auger-Aliassime has had the clear edge.

“It does worry me. It’s upsetting obviously that he’s better than me. I have to accept that he’s better than me. I might never beat him, but if I think that way, just need to wait, years maybe, for that chance to come,” Tsitsipas said. “If not, then not. If yes, then fantastic. I’ll donate, I don’t know, 10,000 for that win to a charity.”

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Not only did Auger-Aliassime beat the Greek star at Indian Wells in March, but he also won their three ITF junior circuit meetings.

“I only beat him in doubles,” Tsitsipas said. “He has the whole package to play big. I’m sure if he ever gets the difficult chance to play Nadal, Djokovic, or Federer, he’s going to beat them, for sure. I will not be surprised if he gets wins over those guys.

“We will definitely see him in the Top 5. Maybe not this year, but next year or the year after.”

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The biggest difference in their battles has been Auger-Aliassime’s performance when his serve has been under pressure. The teen faced seven break points in each of their matches this year, and has saved them all. Tsitsipas joked about how his lack of conversions against Felix could put him in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“It is very difficult, because he has one of the best returns on the tour. He has a really powerful, accurate serve, which is tough to read. He’s really quick and fast, which is rare to find all of those together, combined. Big forehand, big backhand. He can create a lot of opportunities from his backhand, but also, at the same time, he can be very aggressive from the forehand side,” Tsitsipas said. “There’s not much to come up with when you play against him. He’s pretty much solid from everywhere.”

Tsitsipas, who won last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, is only 20 himself, and he is at a career-high No. 6 in the ATP Rankings. Although he fell in the quarter-finals at The Queen’s Club, there were positives to take from winning his first two grass-court matches of the year after an opening loss in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week.

“Happy with the way I played. Did a lot of things. I can take a lot of things from that and move on,” Tsitsipas said. “I gained some experience and some understanding of the game on grass.”

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Goffin Stuns Zverev In Halle

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Goffin Stuns Zverev In Halle

Belgian will next face red-hot Berrettini

David Goffin entered the week with just a 14-14 record on the season. But if his courageous victory on Friday against second seed Alexander Zverev showed anything, it’s that the Belgian is moving closer to the form that saw him reach the championship match of the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals.

Goffin, who let slip two match points at 5-4 in the third set, stayed the course to beat Zverev 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) and reach the semi-finals of the NOVENTI OPEN. The World No. 33 saved seven of the 10 break points he faced en route to his first Top 10 victory of the year.

It appeared Zverev might use the confidence he gained from triumphing in Geneva, making the Roland Garros quarter-finals and previously advancing to two Halle finals to survive his battle against Goffin. He struck a big serve and a deep forehand approach shot to save the two match points he faced on his serve at 4-5.

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But Goffin was unrelenting, winning all five of his service points in the tie-break to put even more pressure on Zverev. And after two hours and 16 minutes, when Zverev pushed a final backhand slice into the net, the Belgian moved on.

Goffin’s best previous performance in two Halle appearances came in 2016, when he made the quarter-finals. But the four-time ATP Tour champion is now one victory from reaching his second tour-level grass-court championship match (2015 ’s-Hertogenbosch).

It won’t be easy against the in-form Matteo Berrettini, who now holds an eight-match winning streak. The Italian defeated third seed Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(4).

Berrettini has beaten Khachanov twice during his winning streak, claiming all four sets in those matches. On Friday, the Italian won 85 per cent of his first-serve points and saved all four break points he faced.

Before beginning his run at the MercedesCup last week, Berrettini had won just two tour-level grass-court matches. He is pursuing his third ATP Tour title of the year, and his first at the ATP 500-level. This will be his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Goffin.

Did You Know?
The Top 4 seeds reached the Halle quarter-finals for the first time since 2015, and for just the second time in tournament history, since 1993.

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Murray would consider singles comeback in Glasgow in September

  • Posted: Jun 21, 2019

Andy Murray says he could make his singles comeback in September at the Glasgow event renamed in honour of his family’s contribution to tennis.

The Scot, 32, played doubles at Queen’s Club on Thursday, his first match since career-saving hip surgery in January.

Murray is open to the idea of returning to singles at the Murray Trophy, an ATP Challenger Tour event.

“It’s definitely something I would consider and see where I’m at physically,” he told BBC Scotland.

“Maybe as well, starting at a slightly lower level of singles might not be a bad idea.

“That’s one of the things that’s sometimes quite hard with tennis, often when players come back you go straight back in to playing a full three-set match at the highest level. It’s not like other sports, where you can build up and play one set and pull out.

“So maybe something I’d consider is dropping down a level and building up there to try and get multiple matches in a week and see how my hip responds.”

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Murray was pleased to have “zero pain in my hip” after teaming up with Feliciano Lopez to defeat Colombian top seeds Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal at the Fever-Tree Championships.

He plans to play doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon next month and isn’t ruling out a return to Davis Cup action in November, four years after helping Great Britain win the tournament alongside brother Jamie.

“I would love to play in Davis Cup,” Murray added. “Over the last year or two, when you look back at matches you’ve played and enjoyed, the Davis Cup matches have often been the ones that have been quite special in terms of atmosphere and stuff.

“Every chance you get to compete for your country, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it with my brother a few times, is brilliant.”

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