Top seeds Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo found themselves in familiar territory on Saturday at the Erste Bank Open, defeating third seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4 to reach their second final in Vienna.
The 2015 champions (d. Murray/Peers) haven’t dropped a set en route to their sixth ATP Tour doubles final of the season. They’ve won 16 of their past 19 matches, taking the title at the Winston-Salem Open (d. Monroe/Sandgren) and finishing runner-up at the Rolex Shanghai Masters (l. to Pavic/Soares) and China Open (l. to Dodig/Polasek).
Kubot/Melo will play fourth seeds Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury in the championship match. Salisbury prevailed here last year with Neal Skupski (d. M. Bryan/Roger-Vasselin).
Despite the loss, Herbert/Mahut secured their team berth at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals for the fifth successive year. The reigning Australian Open champions (d. Kontinen/Peers) qualified in accordance to the Grand Slam rule after Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies clinched their spot at The O2 in London from 10-17 November.
Trailing by a set and 0-3, fourth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau fought back at the Swiss Indoors Basel to win their semi-final against Ivan Dodig/Filip Polasek 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 10-5. Rojer/Tecau are aiming for their second ATP Tour doubles title of the year after prevailing in May at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Schwartzman/Thiem).
Awaiting them in the final are Taylor Fritz/Reilly Opelka, who continued their dream run with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Santiago Gonzalez/Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. They’re both seeking their maiden ATP Tour doubles crown and Opelka is appearing in his first tour-level doubles final.
Federer On Basel Memories: ‘At Heart, I’m Always Going To Be A Ball Boy’
Top seed is one win from title No. 10 in Basel
The Swiss Indoors Basel holds a special place in Roger Federer’s heart for plenty of reasons. It’s where he served as a ball boy for two years, played his first ATP Tour event and faced his first Top 10 opponent. More than 20 years after he first competed in St Jakobshalle Basel, the Swiss is still creating unforgettable memories.
Federer is one match away from his tenth title in Basel after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday, setting up a championship clash with another #NextGenATP player in Alex de Minaur. The top seed has made the final in 13 consecutive appearances at this event and 15 overall.
“I remember playing the qualifying here in 1997 and then my first [main draw] wild card here the next year, playing Andre Agassi,” Federer said. “Who would have thought that I’d go on to have this kind of career? I remember being heartbroken losing my first final here in five sets (to Thomas Enqvist in 2000), but now there’s been another 14 since. I’m just so pleased to have made it to the final again.”
With a 74-9 record in Basel and 23 consecutive wins on centre court, it’s hard to blame Federer for enjoying it here. But it’s not just his track record of success that keeps him coming back each year. The love he receives from the fans in every match provides an extra boost of motivation at the end of a long season.
“Even if I’m up a set and a break, the [crowd is] not just there when I’m down in the score and feel like I need it,” Federer said. “They enjoy when I’m playing good tennis and it pushes me to play even better, keep on trying every point and try to make something happen. That’s what you do with a home court advantage.”
Federer’s childhood memories of this event remain some of his fondest. Video footage of him shaking hands on court with Michael Stich after the 1993 final resurfaced this week and quickly made the rounds on social media. The Swiss still has the medals he received during his time as a ball boy.
“I loved being a ball boy here,” Federer said to Tennis TV. “I was able to see the best players in the world firsthand and see how they would prepare, how they would sweat, how they deal with the pressure. They’re good moments for me.”
The positive impact that Federer’s time as a ball boy had on him is something that he tries to pay forward. It’s become an annual tradition for him to have pizza with the ball boys and ball girls in Basel at the end of the tournament, where they also present him with a medal.
“I guess it means I’m still a ball boy, too,” Federer said. “Because at heart, I’m always going to be a ball boy.”
What Battle For No. 1? Djokovic & Nadal Practise Together In Paris
Top two seeds share the court on Saturday
The battle for year-end No. 1 continues at next week’s Rolex Paris Masters, but you wouldn’t know it watching Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal practise together on Saturday.
The top two seeds put aside the magnitude of what’s at stake and had a two-hour practice on centre court, closing out their early afternoon session with competitive match play. Nadal led Djokovic 6-4, 2-2, before they moved to a tie-break that the Serbian won. Nadal and Djokovic carried themselves with the intensity that fans have come to expect, but still shared a few lighthearted moments on court.
“I’m not sure if we can see this in any other sport, but here we like to keep things simple,” said Nadal’s coach, former World No. 1 Carlos Moya. “Why couldn’t we practise with Djokovic? We’ve tried on many occasions, but weren’t able to do it due to scheduling issues.”
Nadal holds a healthy 1,280 point-lead over Djokovic in the ATP Race to London, which acts a barometer for who will finish the year at No. 1. If the Spaniard can clinch his first title in Paris, he will put the battle out of reach and ensure he finishes as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time. Meanwhile, Djokovic is seeking a record-tying sixth year-end No. 1 finish.
Four-time champion Djokovic will start his week against local favourite Richard Gasquet or fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic. Nadal begins his campaign against a qualifier or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
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Top seed Roger Federer continued his quest for a 10th Swiss Indoors title with a 6-4 6-4 semi-final victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
Federer, 38, has won his home title in four of the last five years.
In his 16th Basel semi-final, the world number three saw off seventh-ranked Tsitsipas, 21, in one hour, 18 minutes.
He faces 20-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur in Sunday’s final, after he beat USA’s Reilly Opelka 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-3) in two hours, 33 minutes.
World number 28 De Minaur maintained his 100% record against the 6ft 11 American 22-year-old with his fourth victory against him this year.
Seven of the 10 sets they have contested have gone to tie-breaks.
Since his surprise defeat to Tsitsipas at the Australian Open in January, Federer has beaten Tsitsipas in their last two matches.
Whilst he conceded only six games in his two previous wins in the event and received a walkover in the semi-finals following an injury to Stan Wawrinka, Tsitsipas had contested two tie-breaks and his last two matches both went to a deciding set.
A single break was enough to give Federer the first set and he made an immediate break at the start of the next in building a 2-0 advantage.
Tsitsipas had a point to level at 5-5 but Federer soon secured his 50th victory of the season with a typically assured serve and volley.
The 20-time Grand Slam singles champion has won titles in Halle, Miami and Dubai this year.
Diego Schwartzman recorded a big win in his bid to reach the Nitto ATP Finals on Saturday, defeating fellow London contender Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 at the Erste Bank Open.
The Argentine saved all four break points he faced to overcome the 2008 runner-up after 74 minutes. The victory is Schwartzman’s 39th tour-level win this year, which equals his personal-best tally achieved in 2017.
“I am very, very happy,” said Schwartzman. “It was not the best few weeks before here, with China and Antwerp. Now I am feeling really good again on court. [I am] feeling solid, patient, aggressive and focussed.
“[I am] trying to do everything good. It is really nice for me to get the confidence again. Having this kind of tournament at the end of the year is really nice.”
Schwartzman adds 120 points to his ATP Race To London score, increasing his total to 2,115 points. The World No. 15 currently sits in 14th position in the Race, 545 points behind eighth-placed Matteo Berrettini (2,660 points). If Schwartzman lifts the Vienna trophy on Sunday, he will collect another 200 points and rise to 12th position in the Race.
Schwartzman will be attempting to win multiple ATP Tour trophies in a single season for the first time. The 27-year-old lifted his third ATP Tour trophy at the Abierto de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemex in Los Cabos two months ago.
Schwartzman will face home favourite Dominic Thiem in the championship match. The Buenos Aires native owns two FedEx ATP Head2Head victories from six encounters against the World No. 5.
”Tomorrow is not going to be the same with the crowd cheering for me every time in these four matches,” said Schwartzman. “Tomorrow is the home guy. We played this year in Buenos Aires and it was crazy. It was a big match and I beat him. Now I play him in his home, for the third time this year, against my friend in the final of this kind of tournament. Everything is so nice for us and I am really going to enjoy it.”
Schwartzman claimed two service breaks in each set to advance to his seventh tour-level championship match (3-3). The three-time ATP Tour titlist soaked up the pressure from Monfils with consistent play from the baseline and held his ground on break points, moving the Frenchman across the court to create space and extract errors.
Monfils was aiming to boost his own chances of booking a spot at The O2 in London. With 2,350 points, the Frenchman travels to the Rolex Paris Masters in 10th place in the Race. Monfils trails Berrettini by 310 points.
Roger Federer made it clear on Saturday that he wants to pick up a 10th title at the Swiss Indoors Basel. The top-seeded Swiss booked his place in the final with a sterling 6-4, 6-4 performance against third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“It was nice to come out strong. It was a really intense 35 or 40 minutes to start. I had a good middle section which gave me the first set and the lead in the second set, and never looked back,” Federer said. “It’s hard to believe that I’m in another Basel final. It’s super exciting.”
Federer added to his staggering numbers in Basel by reaching his 13th consecutive final and 15th overall. He moved to 74-9 at this event and has won his past 23 matches on centre court. The 38-year-old is through to his sixth ATP Tour final of the season, second only to Daniil Medvedev (9), and picked up his 50th tour-level win of the year.
“Even if I’m up a set and a break, the [crowd] are not just there when I’m down in the score and feel like I need it,” Federer said. “They enjoy when I’m playing good tennis and it pushes me to play even better, keep on trying every point and try to make something happen. That’s what you do with a home court advantage.”
Awaiting him in the championship match is #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur, who defeated American Reilly Opelka earlier in the day. Federer will have experience on his side when they meet for the first time on Sunday. The Swiss is competing in his 157th ATP Tour final (102-54), compared to six for De Minaur (3-2).
Federer was 0-12 on break points during his loss to Tsitsipas at this year’s Australian Open and couldn’t convert his first five in their latest clash. But with Tsitsipas serving at 2-2 in the first set, Federer let out a roar of approval after getting over the line with a strong forehand approach.
The Swiss looked to move forward whenever possible and was nearly flawless when he did, winning 9 of 10 net points in the opening set. Serving for the set at 5-4, he fired three aces and a delicate drop volley winner to grab the early advantage.
Tsitsipas was left to ruminate over hitting more winners than unforced errors (11 to 9), yet still coming up short. The Greek felt the pressure in the second set, hitting a double fault and a pair of wild baseline errors in the opening game to give Federer two break points. The top seed converted on his second with a forehand winner and jogged to his chair.
Federer’s outstanding serving led to little resistance from Tsitsipas, with the Swiss dropping just eight points in his first nine service games. The third seed earned his first break point with Federer serving for the match at 5-4, but played it tentatively and pushed a forehand long. Two points later, a swinging forehand volley winner closed out play after 79 minutes. Federer finished the day with 28 winners to 11 unforced errors.
Despite the loss, Tsitsipas can be pleased with another strong week. He’s prevailed in 10 of his past 13 matches and reached at least the semi-finals at his past three ATP Tour events.
Reilly Opelka added another milestone to his breakout year on Saturday at the Swiss Indoors Basel, reaching 1,000 aces in a season for the first time during his semi-final against Alex de Minaur.
The 22-year-old had 988 aces going into the match and hit an additional 26 on the day, becoming the eighth player (since stats began being recorded in 1991) to hit the 1,000 ace mark. Opelka has averaged 21 aces per match this season.
Players With 1,000+ Ace Seasons
Number Of Seasons
8 (2010, 2012, 2014-2019)
4 (2007, 2014-2016)
4 (1994, 1996-1998)
2 (2015, 2018)
2 (2012, 2014)
His strong week in Basel also pushed him past John Isner in this season’s ace tally (1,014 to 1,007). But with Opelka not competing in next week’s Rolex Paris Masters, a strong serving day from Isner in Paris will likely see him finish on top for the fourth year in a row.
More than 15 per cent of Opelka’s aces this year came during his maiden ATP Tour title run at the New York Open. The American finished that week with 156 aces, including 43 in the championship match against Brayden Schnur. He landed 72 per cent of his first-serves (312 of 436), won 88 per cent of his first-serve points (276 of 312) and closed out the week with 68 consecutive service holds.
Opelka started this year at No. 99 in the ATP Rankings, but is projected to crack the Top 35 for the first time when the newest standings are released on Monday.
Thiem Ends Berrettini Run, Reaches First Vienna Final
Austrian to meet Monfils or Schwartzman for title
In his 10th straight appearance at the Erste Bank Open, Dominic Thiem reached his first final in Vienna on Saturday with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win against Matteo Berrettini.
In front of a packed crowd at the Wiener Stadthalle, the home favourite once again found his best level in crucial moments to advance after two hours and 33 minutes. Thiem is the first Austrian to reach the championship match at this ATP 500 event since Jurgen Melzer defeated Andreas Haider-Maurer in the all-Austrian 2010 championship match.
“I never experienced such a great atmosphere here,” said Thiem. “It was full from the first point on. Such a loud atmosphere as well. It was perfect to play in and the match was on a very high level from the first to the last point… With all the support and home advantage, I was able to pull through.”
Thiem, who broke Berrettini on five occasions, improves to 8-0 in Austria this year. The World No. 5 lifted his maiden title on home soil at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel without dropping a set in August.
The Austrian will face Diego Schwartzman or Gael Monfils in the championship match. Thiem leads Schwartzman 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and is unbeaten in five matches against Monfils.
“I am very confident now,” said Thiem. “It was a tough match mentally and physically but it was not too late. There is going to be an amazing energy again tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to that. It was a big dream from the first time I came here when I was five or six years old to be there on Sunday and tomorrow is that day. I am going to be very ready.”
Among players who have contested 10 or more deciding sets this season, Thiem leads the ATP Tour with an 11-2 record. The 26-year-old’s comeback win also snaps Berrettini’s streak of 28 straight victories after winning the first set.
Berrettini made a fast start on Center Court, dictating with his forehand and capitalising on uncharacteristic errors from Thiem to establish a 2-1 lead. Despite dropping serve at 3-2, Berrettini maintained his attacking game plan. The Italian ran around his backhand and charged the net to claim two further service breaks and the opening set.
Returning from a deep position behind the baseline, Thiem attacked Berrettini’s backhand to claim the first break of the second set. Despite the Italian ripping a series of powerful returns to level the score at 4-4, Thiem managed to extend rallies and impose his game to break once more for a 6-5 lead. Thiem forced a decider with his second set point, ripping a forehand up the line to raise the roof at the Wiener Stadthalle.
After a competitive opening six games in the decider, Thiem claimed three straight games to reach his 24th tour-level championship match (15-8). The two-time Roland Garros finalist turned the tables on his opponent, overpowering Berrettini with his forehand to make the crucial break. Two games later, Thiem broke for a fifth time with a backhand up the line to claim victory.
Berrettini was aiming to boost his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals. The Italian currently occupies the eighth and final qualification position for the elite eight-man event with 2,660 points.
Did You Know?
Since the beginning of the 2016 ATP Tour season, Dominic Thiem has reached 20 finals. Only Novak Djokovic (25), Rafael Nadal (23) and Roger Federer (21) have reached more championship matches in the same period. Federer will aim to reach his 22nd when he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Swiss Indoors Basel semi-finals today.
De Minaur Dials In Under Pressure, Survives Opelka Epic In Basel
#NextGenATP Aussie into second ATP 500 final
#NextGenATP Aussie star Alex de Minaur reached his fourth ATP Tour final of the year on Saturday, eliminating American Reilly Opelka 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 7-6(3) after two hours and 34 minutes to reach the championship match of the Swiss Indoors Basel. The wild card will try to claim his fourth title of the season against nine-time Basel champion Roger Federer or third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I can’t wait. It’s my first time here in Basel and it’s been a hell of an experience,” De Minaur said. “I’ve got my friends with me, so it’s a little bit different and it’s been paying off. I’m really looking forward to coming out tomorrow and having some fun.”
De Minaur now leads the big-serving Opelka 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with all four of their matches coming in 2019. The 20-year-old is the first Aussie to reach the Basel final since Mark Philippoussis finished runner-up in 1997. No Australian man has won this tournament since its inception in 1970.
Although Opelka blasted 26 aces to surpass the 1,000-ace milestone this year and pass John Isner for the ATP Tour-lead with 1,014 aces in 2019, De Minaur’s consistency proved too difficult to overcome. The Aussie made zero unforced errors in the second and third sets, putting constant pressure on the American to hit clean winners, which led to errors off of his racquet in crucial moments.
“Probably the most important thing is not to get frustrated. You’ve got to know that he’s going to serve at least 40, 50 aces against you,” De Minaur said. “The way I like to look at things is I guess one way and commit to that way and if I guess right, make sure I make the return, don’t waste that opportunity.”
It’s been a strong three months for De Minaur, who earlier in the year struggled with a groin injury. He missed nearly two months after the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, and then lost seven of 10 matches upon his return. But De Minaur has bounced back in a major way, winning titles in Atlanta and Zhuhai before his deep run this week in Basel.
The two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier will try to capture his first ATP 500 title from his second final at this level. Last year, he fell short against Alexander Zverev at the Citi Open.
De Minaur let slip a break in the first set, with Opelka rallying to force a tie-break. But the Aussie was too consistently solid, winning his first two return points of the tie-break to help him earn a 6/1 lead. At 6/2, Opelka blasted an approach shot down the middle to try to jam De Minaur, but the World No. 28 showed incredible reaction speed, finding a way to not only get his racquet on the ball, but to place a lob over the head of 6’11” Opelka.
There were no breaks of serve in the second set, and this time it was Opelka who got off to a strong start in the tie-break. The tall American showed his range with a cross-court backhand passing shot that even a diving De Minaur could not reach. Another mini-break made it seem this semi-final was on its way to a deciding set.
But De Minaur recouped both mini breaks and hit a big serve to recover from 1/4 to 4/4. Opelka quickly regrouped, though, using another critical backhand pass to help push the match to a third set.
“I knew coming in this was the match to expect. In the second set I did everything right, he just came up with two very big points, very big backhand passes on crucial points,” De Minaur said. “I knew I just had to say, ’Too good’, and get ready for another third set and hopefully take care of my serve and come the tie-break, guess right a couple times and make a couple of returns.”
In their only previous match that went to a deciding set, earlier this year in Atlanta, De Minaur found his range off the return to earn a break and ride his serve to victory. But this time, Opelka forced the 15th all tie-break match of 2019 — and his fourth of the year. The American was unable to capitalise on looks at the Aussie’s second serve, making mistakes early in the tie-break, and that allowed De Minaur to triumph, blasting a final big serve of the day to force an error, pointing to his camp with a massive smile in celebration.
De Minaur hit 14 aces himself, but he won a higher percentage of service points than Opelka, 80 per cent to 70 per cent.
Did You Know? De Minaur is now 7-0 in tour-level semi-finals and finals in 2019.
Herbert/Mahut Secure Nitto ATP Finals Berth For Fifth Straight Year
Australian Open champions qualify per Grand Slam rule
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will attempt to go one better than last year’s runner-up finish at the Nitto ATP Finals, having secured their team berth at The O2 for the fifth successive year.
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The Frenchmen, who have compiled a 5-8 record at the prestigious season finale in London, became the eighth team in tennis history to complete the career Grand Slam with their first Australian Open title in January.
Herbert and Mahut qualified in accordance to the Grand Slam rule, after Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies clinched their spot at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Individually in 2019, Herbert lifted the Qatar ExxonMobil Open trophy with David Goffin in January, while Mahut won the recent Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title with Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Mahut and Roger-Vasselin also finished as runners up at Wimbledon and the Moselle Open.
Only three spots in the doubles draw at The O2 remain, with Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo and Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus having already qualified.