Fifth seed Joao Sousa took another step in turning around his season on Tuesday, beating Belgian Steve Darcis 6-4, 6-4 at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad.
The Portuguese saved both break points and will meet Italian qualifier Gian Marco Moroni, who dismissed Spanish wild card Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-2.
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Sousa improved to 17-21 on the season, but he’s 6-2 in his last eight matches. The 30-year-old right-hander reached his second Round of 16 at a Grand Slam at Wimbledon (l. to Nadal) and the quarter-finals at the Swedish Open in Bastad last week.
Spain’s Jaume Munar will meet countryman and top seed Roberto Bautista Agut after rallying from a slow start against Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Munar, a semi-finalist at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, fell to the Wimbledon semi-finalist last year in Gstaad in three sets, their only FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.
In other action, Japan’s Taro Daniel won 71 per cent (10/14) of his second-serve points to beat Italian qualifier Filippo Baldi 6-4, 6-4 and will next face 2014 champion Pablo Andujar of Spain.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas will meet fellow Spaniard and second seed Fernando Verdasco for a second straight week after routing Swiss Henri Laaksonen 6-0, 6-3, and Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin will try to slow down Dusan Lajovic, last week’s Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag champion, after holding off Swiss wild card Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-3, 7-6(0).
Nadal Does This Better Than Anyone, Including Djokovic, Federer
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers explains how Nadal rules second-serve points
The “Second-Serve Club” has just 18 eligible players so far in 2019, and Rafael Nadal is once again the runaway patriarch.
To be included, players need to have a winning percentage for the season on both Second-Serve Points Won and Second-Serve Return Points Won. It’s no easy task and highlights a specific area of our sport where players can forge an advantage against their opponents.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers breakdown of second-serve performance, when both serving and returning, uncovers just how impressive World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is in this specific area.
He leads the Tour in 2019 in both statistical categories by a significant margin.
Rafael Nadal: 2019 Season No. 1: Second-Serve Return Points Won – 56.46% No. 1: Second-Serve Points Won – 61.3%
When you add both of those percentages together, Nadal’s combined total equals 117.76. That’s head and shoulders above Novak Djokovic, who sits at 111.84. Hot on Djokovic’s tail is World No. 3 Roger Federer, with a combined total of 111.07.
Any time you see Nadal, Djokovic and Federer head a statistical category, it’s time to pay attention. These three players have dominated our sport for a generation, and are showing no signs of slowing down as they currently also occupy the top three spots in the ATP Rankings.
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Fresh off the heels of a semi-final run at Wimbledon, Roberto Bautista Agut sits in the fourth spot with a 109.48 combined total. The Spaniard excelled when points started with second serves, winning 58 per cent (102/177) of his second-serve points and 59 per cent (146/249) of second-serve return points at SW19 this year.
Performance around second serves, whether serving or returning, takes into account more of the shots that immediately follow it, as second serves elicit far fewer return errors than first serves. For example, at Wimbledon, almost double the amount of first serves were unreturned over second serves.
2019 Wimbledon Unreturned First Serves = 39% (6983/18020) Unreturned Second Serves = 20% (1897/9502)
So when you see outstanding metrics around second serves or second-serve returns, you know the player is very strong defensively in Serve +1 and Return +1 situations. The server is typically on defence with his first shot after a second serve, while the returner is typically on offence with his return from a second serve.
It’s in these moments where Nadal shines the brightest.
2019 Season: Players With A Winning Record On Second- Serve Points Won & Second-Serve Return Points Won
Alexander Zverev broke down the game of in-form Chilean Nicolas Jarry on a sun-kissed Tuesday in an eagerly-anticipated first-round encounter at the Hamburg European Open. The second-seeded German, who made his big breakthrough at the ATP 500 tournament as a 17-year-old in 2014 when he reached the semi-finals, knocked out Jarry 6-4, 6-2 in 72 minutes.
“I had decided to go into the match much more aggressive than in the last encounters we played,” said Zverev. “If you let him into the match he is unbelievably good and can play very aggressively. When he has to move and run a bit, he might become a little worse, but all-in-all it was a very positive first round for me.”
Zverev broke twice in the first set, but could not convert three set points and was broken by last week’s Swedish Open titlist at 5-2. He then won 20 of 25 points from 1-2 in the second set en route to his 26th match win of the year. He will now prepare to face Italian Marco Cecchinato or Federico Delbonis of Argentina.
On 25 May, Zverev saved two championship points to beat Jarry at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open for the 11th ATP Tour title of his career. The 22-year-old is currently in ninth position in the 2019 ATP Race To London for a spot at the eight-match Nitto ATP Finals, where he is the defending champion. The season finale takes place at The O2 from 10-17 November. Buy Tickets
Zverev’s countryman Jan-Lennard Struff, the seventh seed, struck 10 aces and lost five of his first-service points to sweep past Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro 6-1, 6-3 in 70 minutes. He will next play Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who defeated wild card Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 7-6(5), 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes.
Dominic Thiem recorded the 250th match win of his career on Tuesday at the Hamburg European Open by beating 2016 runner-up Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-3, 7-6(3) in one hour and 41 minutes. The top-seeded Austrian, who came within one point of taking a 4-0 lead in the first set, has now beaten Cuevas on three occasions this year — including at the Argentina Open and at Roland Garros. He next faces Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in the second round.
Thiem is now 24-10 on the season, having bounced back from a Wimbledon first round exit (l. to Querrey). The 25-year-old lifted his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the BNP Paribas Open (d. Federer) in March and at the 500-level Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Medvedev) in April. Last month, he finished as runner-up to Rafael Nadal for the second consecutive year in the Roland Garros final.
“I wish that the grass court season would have been longer,” said Thiem. “I also love this surface, but it was only one match unfortunately. So, I hope that I can do it better next year. I’m back on clay for two weeks and the two last weeks of the year, so I’ll try to enjoy them as much as possible.”
Fourth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili began his quest to retain the Hamburg crown with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien in 67 minutes. He will now prepare to challenge Cordoba Open champion Juan Ignacio Londero, last week’s Swedish Open finalist, who won 82 per cent of his first service points to beat Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-2 in 66 minutes.
Richard Gasquet, the 2005 runner-up, set up a clash against fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy after beating Sumit Nagal, an Indian qualifier, 6-2, 7-6(3) in 90 minutes.
Roddick On Federer, Nadal & Djokovic: ‘I Hope People Appreciate Every Last Shot That These Guys Hit’
Former World No. 1 also reflects on success in Atlanta
If any retired player knows that it’s like to compete against the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, it’s Andy Roddick. And as he nears the seven-year anniversary of his retirement at the 2012 US Open, the former World No. 1 marvels at how some of his greatest rivals are still going strong.
“I think there’s such an appetite with the news cycle that’s out there and the availability of content, I think the natural shift is to what’s next. Everyone always wants to know what’s next. A story sits for two hours and then something happens the next day and it’s gone. Tennis is no different,” Roddick said before playing Robby Ginepri in an exhibition at the BB&T Atlanta Open on Monday evening. “I hope people sit back and enjoy, take a moment with these guys and the way they’re playing and what they’re doing to the record books. I hope people appreciate every last shot that these guys hit.”
At Wimbledon, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated eight-time champion Roger Federer in a thrilling five-set final that went to a fifth-set tie-break at 12-12. Djokovic saved two championship points in the classic, becoming the first titlist at The Championships to save match points in the final since Robert Falkenburg in 1948.
“I was yelling at the TV, I was in the drama, I felt like a total fan. It’s hard to think that 10 years ago I was kind of having that same afternoon, but I just sit back and try to appreciate it,” Roddick said. “I’m watching and trying to figure out what they’re doing, what their strategies are, the adjustments that are being made and all the while I wish it was just talked about more in real time as far as what adjustments are being made, what’s different in the fifth set than what was going on in the second set, so it was interesting. I thought it was great.”
Roddick, who won five of his nine FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Djokovic, pointed out that the Serbian’s accomplishments have perhaps flown under the radar given Federer and Nadal’s success, when they should be recognised as well. Djokovic claimed his 16th Grand Slam title earlier this month.
“For Novak to go through Roger and Rafa [in] some of their prime years to get to where he is in the game [is impressive]. It’s been the Roger-Rafa show for a long time and now, oh, by the way, Novak’s sitting at 16 Grand Slams. So I don’t want people to undersell what he’s done,” Roddick said. “You start reeling off some of the names like McEnroe, Connors and Andre, they had seven, eight and eight Slams. Novak has 16. Then they go okay, and then the weight of those names and what he’s accomplished settles in.
“I hope people, one, appreciate what Novak has done and two, I think there’s certainly an appetite for what Roger and Rafa have accomplished.”
Although Ginepri defeated Roddick 1-6, 6-2, 10-7 at Atlantic Station, Roddick has plenty of special memories in this city. Both the first and last of the American’s 32 tour-level titles came in Atlanta. His first triumph here was when he was only 18, and his last came just about a month before announcing his retirement at Flushing Meadows.
“As far as pivotal moments early on, these seemed like the biggest events that had ever happened. So a lot of the history was right here in Atlanta,” Roddick said. “In 2012 when I was playing here, I didn’t know it was going to be my last run through the American summer. In the moment, it was very significant because I was trying to regain form after a tough start to the year. So it was significant in the present, but then in retrospect, having it be the last time I won, which I didn’t know at the time was being a possibility based on whether I was going to retire or not [was special]. So it’s always been a very special place.”
#NextGenATP Aussie Alexei Popyrin won nearly 70 per cent of his service points and beat American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-4 on Monday at the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Popyrin, behind nine aces, improved to 7-11 on the season and will next meet fourth seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. Popyrin, No. 95 in the ATP Rankings, broke into the Top 100 and reached a career-high of No. 91 on 15 July.
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Brit Cameron Norrie fought past seventh seed Jordan Thompson of Australia 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3 and will next meet the winner between South Korean qualifier Soonwoo Kwon and Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran. American Bradley Klahn will face third seed Alex de Minaur after his 7-6(3), 7-5 win against Romanian Marius Copil.
Did You Know? Popyrin, 19, is the third-youngest player in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. Fellow #NextGenATP 19-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic, the second-youngest competitor in the Top 100, is also in the Atlanta draw. He opens his tournament against American Jack Sock on Tuesday.
Sock On Injury: ‘It Was Potentially The Biggest Blessing In Disguise’
American is returning this week from six-month layoff in Atlanta
After qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in singles in 2017, Jack Sock finished the 2018 season at No. 106 in the ATP Rankings with a 9-22 tour-level record. This January, things went from bad to worse. During a practise at the Australian Open, the American tore two ligaments in his thumb.
Positive things don’t always come the way you expect, but, in a way, the six months Sock missed before returning at this week’s BB&T Atlanta Open have rejuvenated him.
“2018 was a year to forget. January was a month to forget here. It’s never great to get injured. It’s very unfortunate to get injured obviously, but I think it was potentially the biggest blessing in disguise for my career,” Sock told ATPTour.com. “So to be able to take those months and get a new mentality, enjoy playing the sport again and get excited about playing and come back out, I’ll be ready to fire.”
From the 2014 Australian Open through his trip to Melbourne this year, Sock missed just one Grand Slam. He travelled the world week-in and week-out, capturing four ATP Tour singles trophies and climbing as high as No. 8 in the ATP Rankings. But for six months, he was back to ‘normal’ life.
“Obviously the biggest difference was just not being on the road every week. It was weird and amazing being home for months at a time. It’s weird being at home for that long and being in the United States for that long,” Sock said. “We’re usually out and about, so that was probably the biggest difference. I was able to spend time with family and friends, so it’s been amazing.”
As far as recovering, Sock’s thumb was so impaired that there were times when he couldn’t use a Q-Tip or brush his teeth with his right hand. The injury wasn’t just keeping him off the court, but it was interfering with his daily life.
“If there’s a really tight bottle cap, I still can’t open it normally,” Sock said. “It definitely gets in the way sometimes, but now I’m able to do pretty much everything.”
Sock’s biggest weapon is his forehand, which he torques with heavy topspin to either hit winners past his opponents or at least open up the court. Part of producing that stroke involves putting pressure on the grip with his thumb, which took time for him to be able to do.
“It’s still a little stiff. I was hoping to maybe start a little bit earlier than this and maybe have played a couple tournaments leading into the [US Open Series], but you don’t realise how much you need your thumb in daily life and in tennis and how I hold it, the forehand was the last thing I was able to do,” Sock said. “It’s still a little stiff. It’ll be stiff for maybe a year to 18 months they said, but I’m able to manage it and play.”
More than anything, Sock is happy to be back on the court. In the first round in Atlanta, he will face Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.
“Overall I feel very refreshed. I’m excited to play again, which I haven’t been able to say that in a long time,” Sock said. “I’m definitely excited to get out there and compete again.”
Sock is currently World No. 180. But to him, his ranking is of little consequence at the moment. In reality, the American is starting fresh.
“I’m just going to go play tennis for the first time in a while. I’m just going to go be happy on the court and enjoy playing and I’ll be the underdog now, which will be nice. I’ll be the ranking underdog and be able to go out and play free and have a smile on my face,” Sock said. “If I win, amazing. If I don’t win, I’m out there playing again. It’s not going to bother me.”