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Safwat Claims Egypt's First Title Since 1996

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Safwat Claims Egypt’s First Title Since 1996

29-year-old captures maiden Challenger crown in Launceston

Winning your maiden ATP Challenger Tour title is always a significant achievement. Whether it’s a teenager breaking through or an established veteran finally putting it all together, it is a massive moment for any player in their careers.

Words cannot describe the feeling of ecstasy and elation that comes with a first piece of silverware. And it’s not just the players that enjoy their moment in the spotlight. The impact can often extend to the country they represent, especially if that nation is first emerging on the tennis scene.

For Mohamed Safwat and his native Egypt, that moment finally arrived on Sunday. Safwat became just the second Egyptian to win a Challenger title and first since 1996, when Tamer El Sawy went back-to-back in The Bronx, New York. The long 24-year drought came to a close as Safwat fired a service winner out wide to clinch the title in Launceston, Australia.

“I can’t really describe how I feel,” Safwat told Egyptian sports journalist Reem Abulleil. “It’s something I’ve been chasing for a long time. I’ve been working hard towards it. Multiple times in the past I got very close to it but I couldn’t take it. This time, I never expected to win it in Launceston, never ever.

“I feel good and I think it’ll give me a push and confidence for the rest of the year. For me it’s good that all this is happening at the start of the year because that will give me a push for the rest of the year. I played four tournaments already and a lot happened for me.”

Read Reem’s full interview with Mohamed

Safwat defeated Alex Bolt 7-6(5), 6-1 to prevail on the hard courts of the Launceston International, capping an impressive week down under. He dropped just one set all tournament, having rallied from a set down to beat Kimmer Coppejans in the semis.

Safwat has been flying the flag for Egypt for the past decade, as the only player from his country in the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Fellow North African nations of Tunisia and Morocco have both featured Challenger champions in that span. For a nation without a rich tennis history, a moment like this can provide a significant boon and inspire a new generation of Egyptian players.

“I took a different path than the generation before me,” Safwat added. “I committed to what I do, I didn’t give up on my dreams, I had a rough time throughout the years, ups and downs, and frustration and sadness but thankfully I was always surrounded by the right people.

“What I’m doing now will be good for kids back home and should motivate them that they can do it, with the right knowledge and the right people around you, you really can achieve it.”

The impact for Safwat personally cannot be understated. Nearly 10 years after making his Challenger debut, he finally lifted a trophy for the first time. A total of 133 tournaments came and went without tasting victory. Until now. And it comes just a few weeks after qualifying for a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open. He did not drop a set in three matches to reach the main draw.

After suffering three previous final defeats, a composed Safwat needed just 72 minutes to triumph on Sunday. Runner-up in Kenitra, Morocco in 2016; Anning, China in 2018 and Helsinki, Finland in 2019, it was just a matter of time before the 29-year-old entered the winners’ circle.

“A lot of things are changing and this one feels very special. I probably can’t express how I feel and I can’t find the correct words to describe all this. This for me is a special thing. And because it comes with a career-high ranking, I’ll be 130 in the world.”

Currently sitting at a career-high of No. 157 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Safwat is projected to rise to No. 130.

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Monfils Captures Third Montpellier Crown

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Monfils Captures Third Montpellier Crown

Frenchman improves to 6-0 against Pospisil

Gael Monfils equalled Richard Gasquet’s record of three Open Sud de France titles on Sunday, beating Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday.

The World No. 9 saved all four break points he faced to become the eighth French champion in 10 editions of the ATP 250 event. Alongside three-time winners Monfils and Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2019) and Lucas Pouille (2018) have also delighted home crowds with a title run in Montpellier.

Monfils improves to 19-4 at the event after winning his third title in four final appearances. The 33-year-old also extends his unbeaten ATP Head2Head record against Pospisil to six matches.

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Pospisil was aiming to lift his first ATP Tour trophy in his second final. The 29-year-old defeated second seed David Goffin in three sets to reach the championship match.

Monfils will now attempt to successfully defend his ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament title in Rotterdam. The 33-year-old beat Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy last year.

Monfils earns 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and €89,435 for lifting the trophy. Pospisil collects 150 ATP Ranking points and €47,105.

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Pavic/Cacic Lift Title On Team Debut In Montpellier

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Pavic/Cacic Lift Title On Team Debut In Montpellier

Debut team dropped only one set en route to trophy

Nikola Cacic and Mate Pavic completed their team debut week with a trophy at the Open Sud de France, defeating Dominic Inglot and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4, 6-7(4), 10-4.

The Serbian-Croatian team saved all four break points they faced and won 86 per cent of first-serve points (44/51) to take the title after 89 minutes. Cacic and Pavic dropped just one set en route to the trophy, which includes a straight-sets victory against top seeds Kevin Krawietz and Nicolas Mahut in the second round.

“It is the first time we were playing together,” said Pavic. “Considering that we were playing for the first time, I think we played good matches… We actually played all the matches pretty good. There was some good quality tennis and, in general, it was a good week.“

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Cacic improves to 2-0 in ATP Tour finals, having lifted his maiden crown at last year’s Chengdu Open (w/Lajovic). Pavic adds a 16th tour-level trophy to his collection and has now won an ATP Tour event in each of the past six seasons.

“At the last moment, he asked me to play… It was a great week,” said Cacic. “I think I played very good and I helped him a lot. He has much more experience in doubles. Going home with the title, I couldn’t be more happy.”

Inglot and Qureshi were appearing in their first final as a team, having joined forces at the start of the 2020 ATP Tour season. On their team debut, the British-Pakistani duo reached the ASB Classic quarter-finals (l. to Krajicek/Skugor).

Cacic and Pavic receive 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and share €30,690. Inglot and Qureshi collect 150 points and split €15,730.

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Vesely Joins Exclusive Club After Lifting Pune Title

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Vesely Joins Exclusive Club After Lifting Pune Title

Czech lifts second ATP Tour title

Five years after capturing his maiden ATP Tour title in Auckland, Jiri Vesely added a second trophy to his collection on Sunday to complete a dramatic week at the Tata Open Maharashtra.

The Czech fired 26 aces to beat Egor Gerasimov 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 and become only the eighth player since 2013 to save match points in two matches en route to an ATP Tour crown. Vesely saved two match points to overcome Ilya Ivashka in a final-set tie-break to reach the semi-finals and advanced to the championship match after surviving four match points in another final-set tie-break against Ricardas Berankis.

Players To Win A Tournament After Saving Match Points In Two Matches (Since 2013)

Year Player Tournament Round/Players Defeated
2020 Jiri Vesely Pune QF (Ilya Ivashka) & SF (Ricardas Berankis)
2018 Bernard Tomic Chengdu 2R (Lloyd Harris) & F (Fabio Fognini)
2017 Victor Estrella Burgos Quito 2R (Ivo Karlovic) & F (Paolo Lorenzi)
2017 Feliciano Lopez London/Queens’s Club QF (Tomas Berdych) & F (Marin Cilic)
2016 Dominic Thiem Rio de Janeiro 2R (Gastao Elias) & SF (Rafael Nadal)
2016 Martin Klizan Rotterdam QF (Roberto Bautista Agut) & SF (Nicolas Mahut)
2015 Rajeev Ram Newport 1R (John Isner) & QF (Adrian Mannarino)
2013 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Marseille QF (Bernard Tomic) & F (Tomas Berdych)

The 6’6” left-hander improves to 2-1 in ATP Tour finals after winning his maiden ATP Head2Head match against Gerasimov. Vesely reached his first two championship matches in 2015, lifting the trophy in Auckland (d. Mannarino) and finishing as runner-up in Bucharest (l. to Garcia Lopez).

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Gerasimov was aiming to become only the second Belarusian to win an ATP Tour singles title. In 2003, Max Mirnyi defeated Raemon Sluiter to lift his only tour-level singles trophy at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

Vesely receives 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and collects $91,625 in prize money. Gerasimov gains 150 ATP Ranking points and earns $50,710.

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Tsitsipas: 'I Took It Too Seriously At Times'

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Tsitsipas: ‘I Took It Too Seriously At Times’

Greek star learning to love the game, the process

The Rotterdam Ahoy, nestled in a vast concrete park in the south of the city centre, has not been a happy hunting ground for Stefanos Tsitsipas. Three years on from his first ATP Tour match, when he was fresh out of juniors, having been awarded a wild card by Tournament Director Richard Krajicek, the Greek is still waiting for his first win at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.

The memory brings a smile to Tsitsipas’ face. “I’m always happy to be in Rotterdam, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a win here – three years in a row,” he says.

It’s an unwanted record for a player who has been in the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for almost a year now. This time, he hopes for a big week.

“I played my first ATP Tour-level match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and I started the match really well, although I lost,” said Tsitsipas on Sunday. “I hadn’t played much on the [ATP] Challenger Tour. I was mostly playing Futures. Richard gave me the opportunity to play, with a wild card, which was really big for me at the time. It gave me my first experience of playing against the top guys… and Jo went on to win the tournament.

“I did feel like a superstar, playing at that tournament. I saw myself more as a junior. I was so excited and wanted to get the realisation of how the top guys played. It was my first good experience. In a way it does feel like a long time ago, but time has flown by so far. It’s not long really. I’m now playing here for a fourth time. I keep learning week-by-week and I can see a much different Stefanos to the first time I played here.”

Tsitsipas, Tsonga

Certainly, much has changed for the 21-year-old, who followed his 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals title success with a career-best 2019 season, which included the Nitto ATP Finals crown. What the past 12 months has taught Tsitsipas is the need to conserve energy, to not adhere so strictly to his perfectionist nature and let things go for future benefit.

“I am managing my energy wiser now, knowing when to push and when I need to conserve some energy,” said Tsitsipas, who has used a sports psychologist since the age of 12. “It was around this time last year when I felt exhausted… I think your mindset changes, sometimes you want to play more or play smarter and conserve energy. It’s about getting to understand the game better and processing certain things.”

The humbling nature of Tsitsipas’ 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 semi-final loss to Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open lingers in the memory and the Greek, who won three ATP Tour titles last year, continues to take lessons from that experience in Melbourne.

“Tough losses are important for my career as they make me want to come back stronger, and without them I feel like I’m perfect: which I’m not,” Tsitsipas told “They are crucial for everyone. That semi-final loss was painful, even though it was in three sets. I came so close to reaching a Grand Slam final, something I have always dreamed of doing. I also didn’t deliver much in that match, he played well. It was a shame, as I’d played well in the two weeks. I went back to the court two days [later] and started to improve.

“You can’t hit winners and aces all of the time, but I had this let-down [last] summer. I was trying to get better and better, but I started to go backwards — when you put in so much work and effort, but it has the reverse effect. But that’s what happened, and I knew I had to loosen up and not to expect too much. I had to enjoy the game, and not go out to get a big lead and win. You can’t get everything perfectly done.”

Having contested 28 tournaments last year, Tsitsipas hopes that better scheduling will prevent another burnout in 2020. He remained in Melbourne last month for a couple of days after his third-round exit to Milos Raonic, before returning to the south of France to train.

“Burnout is a mixture of a lot of things – stress before and after the match, and trying to reach your goals,” said Tsitsipas, who had a 4-6 match record in August and September last year. “It’s mostly mental, rather than physical, but it’s about just having a good balance on and off the court. Not so much seeing tennis as a job, more as a game. I feel like I took it too seriously at times, I expected too much, demanded too much. The more matches you have, with that mindset, the closer you are to burnout.

“I feel like I need to loosen up sometimes and enjoy the game. I also think I can’t play at 100 per cent every single point. I had a pretty spectacular year [in 2019] and the toughest thing will be doing the same this year, through different formulas. I don’t want to duplicate, but I want to do better. I am always aiming for more.”

This week, Tsitsipas will be hoping that Hubert Hurkacz, his first-round opponent, doesn’t continue his unwanted Rotterdam losing streak. Four of their five ATP Head2Head meetings came in 2019.

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Goransson/Rungkat Capture Maiden Team Title In Pune

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Goransson/Rungkat Capture Maiden Team Title In Pune

Unseeded team clinches trophy in Match Tie-break

Andre Goransson and Christopher Rungkat completed their first appearances at the Tata Open Maharashtra in style on Sunday, beating third seeds Jonathan Erlich and Andrei Vasilevski 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 to lift their maiden ATP Tour title as a team in Pune.

The unseeded pairing saved six of seven break points in a tense championship match, with Rungkat firing a forehand return winner to clinch the trophy after 71 minutes. Goransson and Rungkat were making their fifth appearance as a team, with a runner-up finish at the 2019 Hyogo Noah Challenger in Kobe marking their previous best result.

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The Swedish-Indonesian tandem defeated two seeded pairings en route to the title. Alongside their final win against Erlich and Vasilevski, Goransson and Rungkat recovered from a set down to overcome fourth seeds Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Denys Molchanov in the first round.

Erlich and Vasilevski were also bidding to capture their first team title, following a runner-up finish on their team debut at last month’s Apis Canberra International (Bendigo), an ATP Challenger Tour event. Erlich drops to 21-21 in tour-level doubles finals. Vasilevski was aiming to lift his first ATP Tour trophy after falling in his only previous final appearance at the Generali Open in 2017 (w/Podlipnik-Castillo).

Goransson and Rungkat gain 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and split $30,900 in prize money. Erlich and Vasilevski receive 150 points and share $15,840.

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Williams winning streak ended but US reach Fed Cup Finals

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Serena Williams saw her Fed Cup singles winning streak ended but the United States battled past Latvia to book their spot in April’s Finals.

Williams, 38, was unbeaten in 14 matches but was defeated 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) by Anastasija Sevastova.

That took the qualifying tie, which the US had led 2-0, to a decider after Jelena Ostapenko had beaten Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-3 2-6 6-2.

Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the deciding doubles rubber 6-4 6-0.

The US will be joined in April’s inaugural 12-nation Finals in Budapest by Spain, Russia, Germany, Belarus, Switzerland, Belgium, and Slovakia, in addition to Australia, France, Czech Republic and hosts Hungary.

  • Spain earn Fed Cup Finals place
  • GB fail to qualify for Fed Cup Finals
  • GB hope to persuade Konta to return after Fed Cup defeat

After the United States’ dominant first day of the tie in Everett, Washington, 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko spearheaded Latvia’s comeback, winning the first three games of the first set to take the early control.

Kenin, the 21-year-old who beat Garbine Muguruza to win the Australian Open earlier this month, broke Ostapenko’s serve on three occasions in the second set to take the rubber to a decider, which itself saw six breaks of serve as the Latvian eased to the win.

Williams, who had been taken to two tie-breaks against Ostapenko the previous night, lost her first four service games and hit 30 unforced errors in the first set against Sevastova, who despite the American’s battle back to a tie-break, clung on to take the opener.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion was more dominant in the second set, allowing Sevastova to hold just one service game, but lost the decider in another tough tie-break.

But despite Latvia’s resolute performance, Kenin and Mattek-Sands proved too much for Ostapenjo and Sevastova in the doubles rubber, the US pair easing to victory in one hour 15 minutes.

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Garin One Win From Glory In Cordoba

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Garin One Win From Glory In Cordoba

Chilean will face Schwartzman or Djere for the title

Chilean Cristian Garin won his first two ATP Tour titles in 2019. And on Sunday, he will have a chance to lift tour-level trophy No. 3. The World No. 31 beat Slovakian Andrej Martin 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday evening to reach the final of the Cordoba Open.

The third seed got off to a slow start on the red clay in Argentina against Martin, who was pursuing his first ATP Tour title. But Garin saved all six break points he faced in the second and third sets to triumph after one hour and 57 minutes. Martin, who was unseeded, had the crowd behind him as he went after inside-out forehands to try to put the Chilean on the back foot.

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But Garin was the stronger player behind his serve, winning 50 per cent of his return points and breaking the World No. 100 four times in his victory. The 23-year-old will play top seed Diego Schwartzman or 2019 Rio Open presented by Claro titlist Laslo Djere for the trophy.

It has been a turnaround week for Garin, who lost his first four matches of the season and then fell in the second round of the Australian Open. Garin has shown impressive grit in Cordoba, also rallying after losing the first set of his quarter-final against sixth seed Pablo Cuevas.

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Erlich, 42, Partners Vasilevski To Pune Doubles Final

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Erlich, 42, Partners Vasilevski To Pune Doubles Final

Erlich won his first ATP Tour doubles title in 2000

Jonathan Erlich won his first ATP Tour title nearly 20 years ago in Newport. Now 42, the Israeli is one victory away from lifting a tour-level trophy in three different decades.

Erlich and his partner, Belarusian Andrei Vasilevski, defeated Indians Purav Raja and Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-6(3), 6-4 on Saturday to reach the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune.

Erlich and Vasilevski won 87 per cent of their first-serve points and they were only broken once, earning a chance to play for the title after one hour and 24 minutes. The third seeds will face Swede Andre Goransson and Indonesian Christopher Rungkat for the trophy.

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Dominic Inglot and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi ousted fourth seeds Jamie Murray 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-5 to reach the championship match of the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. They will play for their first trophy as a team against Nikola Cacic and Mate Pavic, who upset top seeds Kevin Krawietz and Nicolas Mahut in the second round.

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Third seeds Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop defeated Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes to reach the Cordoba Open final. They will face home favourites Leonardo Mayer and Andres Molteni, the fourth seeds, for the title on Sunday.

The Brazilian-Dutch team arrived in Argentina winless in three matches this season. But they enjoyed plenty of success together last year, triumphing in Moscow and reaching the Zhuhai final.

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Gerasimov On First ATP Final: 'Everyone Is Dreaming About This'

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2020

Gerasimov On First ATP Final: ‘Everyone Is Dreaming About This’

Belarusian is third man from his country to reach an ATP Tour final

Daniil Medvedev made his first ‘big’ breakthrough at the 2018 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, where he went through qualifying to win his first ATP 500 tournament. He did not lose a set in the main draw. However, the Russian lost a set in qualifying against then-World No. 250 Egor Gerasimov.

“I could have lost in the qualies here. It was a really tough match in the final of qualifying against a great player, my Belarusian friend, Gerasimov,” Medvedev said. “If he would have beaten me, I wouldn’t be standing here as the champion of Tokyo.”

On paper, Gerasimov lost in qualifying at that event, but he pushed a player who would land inside the world’s Top 5 less than a year later. The next week Gerasimov made an ATP Challenger Tour semi-final, and the week after that, he reached his second ATP Tour quarter-final in Moscow. Ever since, the Belarusian has been on the rise.

Belarusians To Reach ATP Tour Singles Final

 2020  Egor Gerasimov  Pune  TBD
 2005  Max Mirnyi  Nottingham  l. to Gasquet
 2005  Max Mirnyi  Memphis  l. to Carlsen
 2003  Max Mirnyi  Rotterdam  d. Sluiter
 2002  Vladimir Voltchkov  Tashkent  l. to Kafelnikov

Now, 16 months later, not only is Gerasimov in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, at a career-high No. 90, but he is into his first ATP Tour final at the Tata Open Maharashtra. Gerasimov is the first Belarusian to reach a tour-level singles final since Max Mirnyi at 2005 Nottingham.

“I think I was playing pretty well. My first final of an ATP [Tour event]. Everyone is dreaming about this,” Gerasimov said after beating sixth seed James Duckworth in the Pune semi-finals. “I am very happy.” 

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Gerasimov did not play between August 2017 and March 2018 due to a back injury, falling outside of the Top 300 on 30 July 2018.

“I had back problems, so I could not play consistently for two years,” Gerasimov said. “I lost like half a year recovering and in the past year and a half I was playing without any injuries.

“I had a few surgeries before, so I was waiting for these results.”

Gerasimov once told that his best quality isn’t his forehand or backhand, but his work ethic. The 27-year-old prides himself on how hard he works, and that’s what propelled him into the Top 100 for the first time last September.

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

At the 2019 US Open, Gerasimov qualified for a Grand Slam main draw for the first time on his 14th attempt, reaching the second round. He then reached the second round of this year’s Australian Open on his main draw debut, before falling to eventual semi-finalist Alexander Zverev.

“He was probably very motivated, first time for him on Rod Laver Arena,” Zverev said after the match. “It was always going to be a very difficult match. He’s playing unbelievable tennis the past 12 months, getting his ranking up very, very quickly. So I think he’s going to rise up to maybe Top 50, Top 30 very quickly.”

A victory in Sunday’s final against Jiri Vesely is projected to propel Gerasimov to a career-high inside the Top 65. And already the third Belarusian man to reach an ATP Tour final, he could make national history by joining Mirnyi (2003 Rotterdam) as the second man from his country to win a title.

“Girls are doing pretty well in Belarus, better than the boys,” Gerasimov said. “But I think we’ll also show something pretty soon.”

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