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Shapovalov On Big Three: 'Sooner Or Later, We're Going To Dethrone Them'

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Shapovalov On Big Three: ‘Sooner Or Later, We’re Going To Dethrone Them’

Canadian reflects on state of his game as well as rise of fellow young stars

Denis Shapovalov will compete in an ATP Tour final for the first time on Sunday at the Intrum Stockholm Open. But based on recent results in the sport, the #NextGenATP Canadian star feels that a changing of the guard is in order.

“I’m sure that next season there are going to be a lot of upsets,” Shapovalov said. “Obviously the Big Three, they’re still playing really well. But I think sooner or later, we’re going to dethrone them. So we’ve just got to stay patient.”

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Shapovalov Surges In Stockholm, Reaches First ATP Tour Final

Earlier this week, Shapovalov qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the third consecutive year. Although it would take a herculean effort for the Canadian — who started the week placed 30th in the ATP Race To London — to earn a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, fellow Milan alumni Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have already done so. They will make their debuts at The O2 from 10-17 November.

“I think slowly the players are starting to rise through the [ATP] Rankings,” Shapovalov said. “Medvedev’s really made a push the past couple of months. I’m sure a lot of players are following. There are so many talented guys. There’s Frances, there’s Tsitsipas playing well, of course always Zverev.”

As for Shapovalov, his form has snowballed — in a good way — since the start of the Winston-Salem Open towards the end of August. The Canadian made his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami this March, but proceeded to lose 12 of his next 16 matches.


A semi-final showing in Winston-Salem sparked a turnaround, though, and he has gone 13-6 since then. Even though some may have believed Shapovalov would have made a final before this week considering his magical run to the 2017 Coupe Rogers semi-finals, Shapovalov has not gotten overly keen. He has remained patient, and that has proven key.

“I think everyone has his own route. For me, I feel like I shot up through the [ATP] Rankings so quickly with a couple big results. But to be honest my game wasn’t there,” Shapovalov said. “I was really flashy, really big tennis, but also really up and down. So worked really hard the past couple years to strengthen other parts of my game and really try to make it complete.”

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Regardless of whether Shapovalov triumphs on Sunday or not, the dynamic lefty has taken a step in the right direction in Stockholm. On Monday, trophy or not, Shapovalov will return to the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since July, and he is as motivated as ever to continue climbing.

“I still feel like there’s a lot of room to grow, so I’m happy to be doing so well at the end of this year,” Shapovalov said. “But hopefully I can keep going so that a couple years down the road I can potentially be a Grand Slam contender.”

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Demoliner/Middelkoop Ride Revenge To Maiden Team Title In Moscow

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Demoliner/Middelkoop Ride Revenge To Maiden Team Title In Moscow

Brazilian-Dutch team recently reached Zhuhai final

Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop have not been playing together for long, but they have certainly enjoyed plenty of success.

The Brazilian and Dutchman, competing at a tour-level event together for just the third time, defeated Italian Simone Bolelli and Argentine Andres Molteni 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday to claim the VTB Kremlin Cup title.

“I think it confirms what we believed, it confirms in the title. We have a great team, we have a great fight together and we believe in something,” Middelkoop said. “You don’t always get lucky to win a title, which gives you confidence, and we got the title.”

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Demoliner had previously struggled in finals, entering Saturday’s match with a 1-9 record with a title on the line. But the Brazilian lifts his second ATP Tour trophy, and Middelkoop earned his eighth.

Just three weeks ago, they made the Zhuhai final, falling just short of victory. But last week, they lost in the first round of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Mouilleron le Captif, France against Romain Arneodo and Hugo Nys. That proved key, as they were even more motivated against the same team in the second round here in Moscow, riding the momentum of a victory against them to the title.

“That was like set in stone, ‘Hey, we can win this because we can beat them with good tactics and great execution,’” Middelkoop said. “From that moment we were cruising through the tournament.”

In the final, the fourth seeds saved all three break points they faced and won 51 per cent of their return points to triumph after 55 minutes. Demoliner and Middelkoop add 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points to their tallies and split $47,520.

“We had a good plan for this match and we executed very well,” Demoliner said.

Bolelli and Molteni were trying to win the title in their tour-level team debut. They earn 150 points each and will share $24,350.

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Murray reaches first ATP final for two years with battling European Open display

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Britain’s Andy Murray produced a fine comeback to beat Ugo Humbert at the European Open and reach his first ATP final for two years.

Murray, who had career-saving hip surgery in January, showed his trademark stubbornness to win 3-6 7-5 6-2 in two hours 23 minutes.

He will face fellow three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in Sunday’s final.

“It’s been a big surprise to me. I’m happy to be into the final,” he said.

Speaking to Amazon Prime, he added: “It’s been a long road to get back to this point

“I certainly didn’t expect it to come so soon since I started playing again.”

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It is 32-year-old Murray’s first final appearance since the Dubai Championships in March 2017, when he was then the world number one.

No player had ever returned from a hip resurfacing operation to play singles before Murray.

And he has managed to reach a final just two months after making his singles return, at Winston-Salem in August.

Determined Murray battles back

The Scot has played four tournaments in just over four weeks and showed signs of fatigue and frustration in the opening set.

He struggled on his serve, producing three double faults in the first six games, which allowed 21-year-old Humbert to force the first break of the match.

By contrast, Humbert wrapped up the first set with an ace, and kept up his aggressive play with some deep hitting in the second set.

The two traded breaks in the second before Humbert, serving to force a tie-break, lost his rhythm, and handed Murray the set on a double fault.

Five games in a row went to Murray, allowing him to open up a 3-0 lead in the decider, and his serving grew stronger as the match progressed.

He appeared to have some trouble with his right elbow, which may have affected his serve, but he finished the match with six aces and won 77% of points on his first serve.

Murray holds an 11-8 head-to-head record over Switzerland’s Wawrinka, 34, and both players have struggled with injuries in recent years.

The Scot injured his hip in his 2017 French Open semi-final against Wawrinka, while the Swiss had a disrupted two years with a knee injury.

“Stan’s a brilliant player. We’ve played against each other in some big matches in the past in big tournaments,” Murray added.

“He’s had his injury troubles as well the last couple of years and done great to get back to the top of the game.”

Antwerp is likely to be Murray’s last tournament of the year, with the possible exception of the Davis Cup, for which Great Britain will announce their squad on Monday.

He could still leave early if his wife, Kim, goes into early labour with their third child.

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Murray Sets Wawrinka Final Showdown In Antwerp

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Murray Sets Wawrinka Final Showdown In Antwerp

Murray rallies to three-set victory

Two years and eight months after winning his 45th tour-level trophy in Dubai, Andy Murray returned to an ATP Tour championship match on Saturday.

The former World No. 1, who returned to singles action at the Western & Southern Open in August, defeated Ugo Humbert 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 at the European Open to reach his first tour-level final since undergoing a second right hip surgery on 28 January. Since arriving at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month, Murray has won 8 of 11 matches on the ATP Tour.

“I am obviously happy to be in the final,” said Murray. “I did very well to turn that match around today. It was tough. He was playing huge from the back of the court… It was tricky today but I am obviously happy to be back in a final.”

Appearing in his first tour-level semi-final since 2017 Roland Garros, Murray rallied from a set down to overcome Humbert in two hours and 22 minutes. Murray has contested almost five hours of tennis in the past two days. After straight-sets victories in his opening two matches against Kimmer Coppejans and Pablo Cuevas, Murray outlasted Marius Copil in a two-hour, 35-minute quarter-final clash on Friday.

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The 45-time tour-level titlist will meet a familiar opponent in the final: Stan Wawrinka. Murray leads his fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka 11-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“I think it will be a nice match to play,” said Murray. “Me and Stan have played a lot against each other… It is nice that we are both able to be back playing against each other in a final.”

Murray will be hoping to become the second straight British winner of this event. Last year, Kyle Edmund defeated Gael Monfils in a final-set tie-break to lift his maiden ATP Tour crown.

After saving two break points at 2-2 with attacking play, Humbert claimed the only break of the first set in the following game. The #NextGenATP Frenchman continued to find success on his forehand side and attacked Murray’s serve, before back-to-back errors from the former World No. 1 handed Humbert a 4-2 lead. Three games later, the 21-year-old fired his third ace of the match to hold serve to love and clinch the set after 41 minutes.

Murray and Humbert traded breaks early in the second set, before finding their rhythm on serve to head towards a tie-break. But Murray avoided that scenario, breaking at 6-5 as nerves began to creep into Humbert’s game. The 32-year-old earned three set points as Humbert began to misfire and was gifted the set as the World No. 70 committed his third double fault of the contest.

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From 0/40 down in the opening game of the decider, Murray showcased his best court coverage skills to earn a 2-0 lead. Unlike the second set, the 6’3” right-hander maintained his advantage before securing his fourth break of the match to reach the final. Murray moved up the court to convert his first match point, volleying into the open court after outmanoeuvring his opponent.

“It was obviously big for me to get that [6-5] game in the second set, but the game that won me the match was the first game of the third set,” said Murray. “When I was 0/40 down, I think I played a couple of good points. It was a huge game to get out of. I felt like the momentum was with me… Once I won that game, I felt like that was what set me on my way.”

Humbert was aiming to reach his first ATP Tour final and boost his chances of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The #NextGenATP Frenchman entered the week in eighth position in the ATP Race To Milan, with only seven automatic qualification spots available for the 5-9 November event.

Did You Know?
Murray’s win ends a run of French finalists at this event. In each of the previous three editions of the tournament, France has been represented in the final. Richard Gasquet (2016) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2017) claimed the first two European Open titles, before Gael Monfils’ final run last year.

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Mannarino Returns To Moscow Final

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Mannarino Returns To Moscow Final

Frenchman to face Cilic or Rublev for title

Adrian Mannarino advanced to a personal-best third ATP Tour final of the season on Saturday, beating Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 at the VTB Kremlin Cup.

The Frenchman, who is yet to drop a set this week, converted two of three break points to advance after 75 minutes. Mannarino is through to his second straight final in the Russian capital and will look to go one step further than 2018, where he fell to Karen Khachanov in the championship match. The World No. 44 improves to 10-3 at this tournament with his fifth victory in nine FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters against Seppi.

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Mannarino will be aiming to capture his second ATP Tour trophy after lifting his maiden crown at the Libema Open in June. This will be Mannarino’s second championship match in four weeks, following his runner-up finish at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month.

Mannarino will meet third seed Marin Cilic or home favourite Andrey Rublev for the title. The 31-year-old trails Cilic 1-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has never met Rublev at tour-level.

Former champion Seppi was bidding to reach his second final in Moscow. The 2012 titlist has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his six most recent appearances at the ATP 250 event (2012-‘14, ‘17-‘19).

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Shapovalov Surges In Stockholm, Reaches First ATP Tour Final

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Shapovalov Surges In Stockholm, Reaches First ATP Tour Final

#NextGenATP Canadian to face Krajinovic for the title

#NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov has accomplished plenty in his young career. But entering his match Saturday against Yuichi Sugita at the Intrum Stockholm Open, he had never reached an ATP Tour final.

The 20-year-old carried an 0-7 record in tour-level semi-finals into his clash with the Japanese lucky loser, and his frustration showed after misfiring from the baseline in the early going to trail by a break. But Shapovalov recovered well, defeating Sugita 7-5, 6-2 to make his breakthrough in Sweden.

“It feels amazing. Kind of a tough beginning. I think he played really well at the beginning,” Shapovalov said. “I was a little bit nervous, so I’m really happy to turn the match around.”

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It was a long time coming for Shapovalov, who has climbed as high as No. 20 in the ATP Rankings and earned two victories against Top 10 opponents. He made three of his previous semi-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events.

“I’ve played a lot of semis it feels like, so it’s really exciting to be into my first final. I’ve had some bad luck, some tough matches in the semis,” Shapovalov said. “But on the other side making the semi-finals is a good sign, so I knew sooner or later the win was going to come, so I’ve stayed pretty patient.”

Once Shapovalov recovered the early break he let slip, the Canadian began to play much more measured tennis, using his aggression, but being more patient to avoid giving Sugita free points via unforced errors. The Japanese player was unable to find the energy to battle back after needing more than three hours on Friday evening to defeat Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals.

Shapovalov will face Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who is also pursuing his first ATP Tour crown, for the title. Krajinovic arrived in Stockholm on a three-match losing streak, but the World No. 60 has reversed his fortunes in a major way. Krajinovic rallied past fifth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the championship match of the Intrum Stockholm Open.

“I don’t know him much. Obviously I’ve seen him play here and there, but he looks like he’s got a pretty big serve. He likes to go for his shots, pretty similar to me. I think it’s going to be an exciting match,” Shapovalov said. “To be honest, I’m just happy to be through to my first final. The rest, I just get to enjoy. Obviously I’d love to win the match and win my first title, but if not, it’s a big step to make the final this week, so I’m really happy with where I stand.”


Krajinovic has a career-high 27 tour-level wins this year, including a trip to his second ATP Tour final in Budapest, where he was a qualifier. Almost two years ago, he enjoyed a stunning run to the championship match of the Rolex Paris Masters, an ATP Masters 1000 event, where he fell to Jack Sock with the trophy on the line.

“Thanks guys for coming to watch this match, it means a lot to me,” Krajinovic told the crowd. “Playing in the Stockholm final, it’s a dream come true.”

It looked in the early going like he would not get a chance to lift his maiden trophy, with Carreno Busta going up an immediate break. Even after Krajinovic recouped that break, Carreno Busta got it back at the end of the set when the Serbian hit an ill-advised drop shot to allow the Spaniard to rush the net.

But from the second set on, Krajinovic began to increasingly get the first strike in rallies and run Carreno Busta around the court. He won 47 per cent of his return points and broke serve five times in the match to triumph after two hours and nine minutes, earning himself a chance to battle for all the Stockholm glory.

“For sure I will give my best. It’s my third ATP final,” Krajinovic said. “I hope tomorrow it’s going to be my first [trophy], but I know it’s going to be very difficult.”

Did You Know?
With a first-time ATP Tour champion guaranteed on Sunday, it will mark the 15th first-time titlist this season. That is the most first-time winners in a season since 1999, when there were 16

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Federer's Path To 10th Basel Title Revealed

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Federer’s Path To 10th Basel Title Revealed

Second-seeded Zverev opens against Fritz

Roger Federer was once a ball boy at the Swiss Indoors Basel, where he hoped of one day joining the players he assisted like 1994 champion Wayne Ferreira. The Swiss has certainly made those dreams come true, and this coming week he will chase a 10th title at his home ATP 500 event.

Federer will begin his tournament against a qualifier, before potentially facing Moldovan Radu Albot or Serbian Dusan Lajovic, neither of whom he has lost to. The 38-year-old defeated Albot in three sets in Miami this year in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, and he beat Lajovic at Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018.

Depending on how the results play out, there could be a blockbuster quarter-final pitting Federer against countryman Stan Wawrinka, the seventh seed, who begins his run against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas. Federer leads their rivalry 23-3, including a straight-sets victory in the 2011 Basel semi-finals. But Wawrinka is gaining momentum, reaching the championship match in Antwerp for his first final since Rotterdam in February.


Federer has been at home in more ways than one in Basel, winning 20 consecutive matches at the event and reaching the final in his past 12 appearances. The last time he lost to a player ranked outside the Top 10 in Basel was in 2003, when he fell to World No. 47 Ivan Ljubicic, who is now his coach.

The second seed is reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, who is trying to gain crucial points in the ATP Race To London. The German, currently in seventh place in the Race, is fresh off a trip to the Rolex Shanghai Masters final, his best result at an ATP Masters 1000 this year. Zverev will play American Taylor Fritz in the first round. Although the 11-time ATP Tour champion has won both of their previous matches, Fritz pushed him to five sets at Wimbledon last year.

Zverev could face another challenge in the second round if recent Zhuhai champion Alex de Minaur gets by a qualifier. If they clash, the Aussie will try to earn his first win against Zverev on his fifth attempt. Zverev made the semi-finals in Basel last year, losing to Marius Copil, who received a wild card into this year’s main draw.

View Singles Draw | View Doubles Draw

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who guaranteed his London debut with a strong run in Shanghai, is the third seed. The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion will play Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas for the second time — having defeated him in Barcelona last year — and for the first time on a hard court. The Greek star, who made the quarter-finals in Basel last year, has fifth seed Fabio Fognini in his quarter.

The Italian is making a late push to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in singles for the first time. Fognini, who opens against a qualifier, is in 11th position in the Race, trailing eighth-placed Matteo Berrettini by 290 points.

One of the blockbuster matches of the first round pits two former Top 10 players against each other. Sixth seed David Goffin will play former World No. 3 Marin Cilic. Goffin had an opportunity in Antwerp to climb into the Top 8 in the Race, but he fell to #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert. Goffin is currently in 10th place, 90 points clear of Fognini.

Directly in front of him in the Race is Roberto Bautista Agut, who hopes to make his debut at The O2. The fourth seed in Basel, Bautista Agut opens against 2018 finalist Copil. The Spaniard is just 40 points behind Berrettini, who is competing in Vienna.

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Vienna Blockbuster: Thiem & Tsonga To Tango In First Round

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Vienna Blockbuster: Thiem & Tsonga To Tango In First Round

Khachanov-Hurkacz, Felix-Rublev and Raonic-Chung also matches to watch

On Friday, Dominic Thiem and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a great time on the Erste Campus roof overlooking the Vienna skyline, enjoying plenty of laughs as they played some mini tennis. Little did they know that on Saturday, they would be drawn against one another in the first round of the Erste Bank Open.

World No. 5 Thiem has never advanced past the quarter-finals at his home ATP 500 event held in Austria. And if the 26-year-old hopes to make an even deeper run in Vienna, he’ll have to get past the 2011 champion in Tsonga, who also made the championship match in 2016-17.

Tsonga leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, with their most recent meeting coming at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. At the 2013 Erste Bank Open, Tsonga needed a third-set tie-break to defeat Thiem, who was then only 20.

Go Behind The Scenes In Vienna

For whomever emerges victorious, a difficult path lays ahead. The winner will play three-time ATP 500 winner Nikoloz Basilashvili or former World No. 7 Fernando Verdasco in the second round. Also in that loaded section is eighth seed Borna Coric — who was at his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 12 less than two months ago — and in-form #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Big-hitting Karen Khachanov is the second seed, and he will face a tricky test in his opener against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz defeated Gael Monfils — the fourth seed in Vienna — in Shanghai and then pushed Stefanos Tsitsipas to a final-set tie-break.

Monfils, who is in their half of the draw, will play wild card Dennis Novak in the first round before potentially facing #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner, who opens against a qualifier. The 18-year-old enjoyed the best week of his young career in Antwerp, where he reached his first ATP Tour semi-final. And now he will try to make another run, but this time at an ATP 500 event, where he received a wild card.

View Singles Draw | View Doubles Draw

Matteo Berrettini, the US Open and Shanghai semi-finalist, leads the second quarter as the third seed. But the blockbuster of his quarter comes with a first-round matchup between sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and two-time Next Gen ATP Finals competitor Andrey Rublev. Rublev won the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head clash last year in Umag, triumphing in a three-set battle.

Former World No. 3 Milos Raonic and 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung will also meet in the first round in what will be the first clash between them. Raonic has not competed since the Laver Cup, and this will be his second event since the Coupe Rogers in August.

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Wawrinka Races Past Sinner To Reach Antwerp Final

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Wawrinka Races Past Sinner To Reach Antwerp Final

Swiss to meet Murray or Humbert in final

In the battle between youth and experience, Stan Wawrinka recovered from a slow start to move past Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-2 at the European Open on Saturday.

The 34-year-old, who trailed 0-2 in the first set, won 81 per cent of first-serve points (21/26) to record his 30th tour-level win of the season after 65 minutes. Wawrinka is aiming to lift his first ATP Tour title since the 2017 Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open. The World No. 18 reached the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final in February, falling to Gael Monfils in three sets.

“I am super happy,” said Wawrinka. “I didn’t play since the US Open, so to be in a final here after a month [away] is great for me. The most important [part] is the way I am playing, the way I am moving and the way I am feeling on the court. It has been great.”

Wawrinka will face former World No. 1 Andy Murray or #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the championship match. The Swiss trails Murray 8-11 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but defeated Humbert in their only previous encounter at last year’s US Open.

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Sinner broke through in the opening game of the match, rushing Wawrinka in a series of forehand duels to extract crucial errors. But the Swiss responded emphatically, winning five straight games from 0-2 down to take control of the match. The three-time Grand Slam champion began to find his best level on his backhand, focussing his attack on Sinner’s backhand wing to take control of baseline rallies. Wawrinka claimed the first set after 34 minutes with a powerful serve up the T.

The Swiss carried his momentum through to the second set, stepping up the court to take time away from his opponent. Wawrinka fired a series of groundstroke winners, including a ripped forehand return on break point, to earn a 4-1 advantage. The 16-time tour-level titlist converted his first match point, holding serve to love as Sinner fired long with a backhand return.

This is Wawrinka’s first straight-sets victory of the week. The former World No. 3 survived a final-set tie-break in his opening match against Feliciano Lopez and needed three sets to overcome Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals.

“Today was the best match of the week,” said Wawrinka. “I was feeling really good [and] confident with my game. I am happy to be in the final.”

Sinner’s impressive run in Belgium comes to an end. The 18-year-old was the youngest man to reach an ATP Tour semi-final since Borna Coric (17) advanced to the 2014 Swiss Indoors Basel semi-finals. Sinner was bidding to become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since Kei Nishikori (18) at the 2008 Delray Beach Open by

The Italian dropped just one set en route to the semi-finals in Antwerp. Sinner recorded straight-sets wins against Kamil Majchrzak and top seed Gael Monfils, before a three-set victory against Frances Tiafoe in the last eight.

“I won a good match against Monfils and then I played a tough one against Tiafoe,” said Sinner. “I felt confident today. I started well in the beginning and then after I was not serving so well… He played better today and I wish him luck for the final.”

Did You Know?
All four semi-finalists in Antwerp are making their debut appearance at the tournament this year.

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Alexander Volkov: 1967-2019

  • Posted: Oct 19, 2019

Alexander Volkov: 1967-2019

Amiable Russian, who recorded one of the US Open’s biggest upsets

Alexander Volkov, who reached the 1993 US Open semi-finals and was a mentor/coach to future champion Marat Safin, has passed away aged 52.

The biggest win of the Russian’s career came in September 1990, when Volkov, five months away from lifting his first ATP Tour trophy in Milan, became the first man to beat a top seed in the US Open first round since 1971.

The left-handed World No. 52 broke the 21-match winning streak of World No. 1 Stefan Edberg, the Wimbledon champion, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-2 to follow in the footsteps of Jan Kodes, who’d beaten John Newcombe in the first round 19 years earlier.

It was the high-point of 17 Top 10 career victories for Volkov, who had originally planned to return to Berlin for a club tournament at the end of the week. Volkov would later advance to the 1992 US Open quarter-finals and 1993 semi-finals, where he lost to Pete Sampras both times.

The son of an engineer started playing tennis as a right-hander at the age of 10, but five years later suffered an accident when he fell down a steep bank and broke his shoulder. Sidelined for six months, another accident soon forced Volkov to consider switching sports to ice hockey or football.

Volkov eventually returned to the Kaliningrad Tennis Club, at the request of a friend, and started to play left-handed – initially with two hands on his grip – and worked hard to develop a powerful serve. Aged 19, he reached the then-USSR National Championships final and turned pro in 1988, soon becoming a threat on all surfaces. He was coached for several years by Valeri Chklyar.

Volkov made his senior debut at Philadelphia in February 1987, and five months later reached the Wimbledon fourth round — the first Russian player since Alex Metreveli in 1975. It was one of four Last 16 appearances at the All England Club (also 1990, 1991 and 1994). Volkov led eventual champion Michael Stich 5-3, 30/15 in the final set of their 1991 clash.

He ended his playing career in 1997, having attained a career-high No. 14 in the ATP Rankings on 23 August 1993. He finished in the year-end Top 25 over five consecutive seasons (1990-1994), competed at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, and also helped Russia to the 1994 Davis Cup final (l. to Sweden).

In retirement, he joined Safin’s team, helping the future World No. 1 to titles at the 2000 US Open and the 2005 US Open, before they ended their partnership in 2007.

Volkov won his third and final ATP Tour singles title at the VTB Kremlin Cup in 1994 (d. Chuck Adams). Today, in a ceremony at the ATP 250 tournament in Moscow, all former champions were due to be honoured, including Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Safin, who will also receive International Tennis Hall of Fame rings. They will now remember their fun-loving friend.

Alexander Vladimirovich Volkov, tennis player and coach, born 3 March 1967, died 19 October 2019.

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