Superb Simon Sends Medvedev Packing In Marseille, To Face Felix
Frenchman has won more matches in Marseille than at any other event
Gilles Simon has climbed as high as No. 6 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, captured 14 ATP Tour titles, and he is closing in on 500 tour-level wins. But the Frenchman has had more success at the Open 13 Provence than any other tournament, and on Friday he showed why.
Simon upset top seed and World No. 5 Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-0 in just 67 minutes to reach the semi-finals in Marseille. The 35-year-old has now won 29 matches at this tournament (29-11), more triumphs than he has earned at any other event.
Simon: Most Wins By Event
The World No. 58 leads the Russian star 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head series after winning 91 per cent of his first-serve points in their quarter-final. Simon broke serve five times from six opportunities and only dropped his serve once to reach the last four in Marseille for the fifth time. He will next play #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Simon lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Marseille in 2007, and he also emerged victorious here in 2015. He has won five of his 14 tour-level titles in France, with the other three coming in Metz.
The 35-year-old had not won multiple matches at the same event this season when he arrived in Marseille. But Simon has not dropped a set en route to the semi-finals. Medvedev, who reached nine tour-level finals in 2019, was pursuing his first semi-final of 2020.
Simon’s next opponent, seventh seed Auger-Aliassime, eliminated Pune finalist Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 7-5, 6-2.
Gerasimov earned his first Top 10 win on Thursday against third seed David Goffin (previously 0-3, 0-7 in sets), so the Belarusian carried plenty of momentum into his battle against Auger-Aliassime. But the Canadian, who saved multiple match points in his first two matches of the tournament, broke serve four times and won 83 per cent of his first-serve points to beat the qualifier in straight sets.
Felix is now one win from reaching his fifth ATP Tour final (0-4). The 19-year-old most recently became the youngest finalist in Rotterdam history, falling short against Gael Monfils in the championship match.
Auger-Aliassime made his first tour-level final one year ago this week, accomplishing the feat in Rio de Janeiro. He takes a 1-0 ATP Head2Head series lead into his clash against Simon, whom he defeated in Stuttgart last year 7-5, 6-4.
Did You Know? In 2019, Simon earned at least 20 tour-level wins for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons (2006-16, 2018-19).
American twins pursuing their sixth title in Delray Beach
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have long enjoyed success at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, winning the title five times. The American twins got off to a good start on Friday in their final visit to this ATP 250 event.
Bryan and Bryan, who will retire after this year’s US Open, battled past Indian Divij Sharan and New Zealand’s Artem Sitak 6-2, 4-6, 10-3 in 69 minutes to reach the semi-finals in Delray Beach. The top seeds were strong on serve in their first match of the tournament, winning 86 per cent of their second-serve points and saving four of the five break points they faced.
It is the brothers’ eighth trip to the semi-finals at this event, and each time they have made the last four, they have advanced to the final. Bryan/Bryan will next play El Salvador’s Marcelo Arevalo and Great Britain’s Jonny O’Mara, who have not dropped a set in the tournament.
In last year’s semi-finals, Bryan/Bryan defeated Arevalo and American Jamie Cerretani in straight sets before beating fellow brothers Ken Skupski/Neal Skupski for the trophy.
Second Seeds Reach Final In Marseille
Second seeds Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic advanced to the Open 13 Provence final with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen and German Tim Puetz. It will be Koolhof and Mektic’s first final as a team. Koolhof won the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open alongside Indian Rohan Bopanna.
Koolhof and Mektic will face the winner between top seeds Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies and Nicolas Mahut/Vasek Pospisil for the trophy.
Tsitsipas Steps Up In Marseille; Bublik Battles Past Shapovalov
Bublik reaches third ATP Tour semi-final
Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his title defence at the Open 13 Provence on Friday after a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Vasek Pospisil in 87 minutes. He will now play Alexander Bublik for the first time in the semi-finals.
“It wasn’t easy, I knew I’d have to fight and be dynamic,” said Tsitsipas. “He plays a very aggressive brand of tennis, so every point has to be treated respectfully. I played with passion and patience, and my fighting spirit, when I’m in the right zone, means good things can happen.”
There was little to choose between both players in the first set, which turned at 5-5 when Pospisil hit a backhand long to hand Tsitsipas a break. The Greek closed out the 45-minute opener with an ace.
Second seed Tsitsipas hit a backhand return at the feet of a net-rushing Pospisil at 3-3 in the second set to earn a service break for a second time. He didn’t look back, winning 10 straight points. Tsitsipas hit eight aces and won 26 of 30 first-service points in the pair’s first tour-level meeting.
Earlier in the day, Bublik booked a place in the third ATP Tour semi-final of his career by beating fourth-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes. It was his biggest match win since overcoming then No. 13-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut in October 2016 at the VTB Kremlin Cup.
“He’s a great player and server,” said Bublik, in an on-court interview. “It was our first match, but I’ve known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I’m very happy.”
Bublik, who saved a total of four break points in the first set, including from 0/40 at 4-4, got his reward at 6-5 when he drew Shapovalov to the net only for the Canadian to hit a forehand volley wide at 30/40 to end the 45-minute opener. Bublik had lost just three of his first-service points.
The pair exchanged service breaks early in the second set, before there was a 10-minute suspension in the sixth game when a female spectator fainted in the stands. Bublik missed three opportunities to take a 4-2 lead, notably hitting a forehand approach into the net on his first break point, and paid the price when Shapovalov anticipated a drop shot to break serve in the next game. Shapovalov closed out the set with his third ace.
Bublik, who let slip a 2-0 lead in the decider, was gifted a 5-3 advantage when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide and closed out the match with a hold to love.
Kevin Anderson announced today that he underwent a procedure on a right knee injury in Miami on Wednesday.
The former World No. 5, who has experienced a series of injuries over the past four years, wrote on Twitter, “Midway through December last year, during my off-season training, I injured my right knee. I tried to push through both in training and on the match court, but it didn’t get better.
“I had scans done in Australia, and they unfortunately showed that I had suffered a medial meniscus tear. After consulting with medical professionals and my team, we decided that having surgery was the best way forward. I had the procedure done on Wednesday.
“It is beyond difficult and frustrating to have to deal with this, after the setbacks I had last year. But I know it’s the right decision for me to get back [to] where I want to, and rest assured I will do everything in my power to get there.”
The South African underwent ankle surgery in March 2016 and right knee surgery in September 2019. He returned at the inaugural ATP Cup and has compiled a 3-3 match record in the 2020 season.
This week’s breakout teens Carlos Alcaraz and Brandon Nakashima cut their teeth on the ATP Challenger Tour in recent months
It was one of the more raucous, riveting scenes of 2019. Thousands of fans were screaming in full throat as a 16-year-old Carlos Alcaraz stood on Center Court at the Copa Sevilla. The line extended for blocks outside the tournament site as they hoped to catch a glimpse of their much-hyped native son.
With the sangria flowing, they danced, sang and screamed even louder. In other words, it was your typical Thursday evening on the ATP Challenger Tour in Spain.
Ranked outside the Top 500 at the time, Alcaraz soaked up the energy and emotion from his countrymen, vaulting to a surprise quarter-final appearance. It was on that day in September that Alcaraz became the youngest player to reach the last eight of a Challenger since Felix Auger-Aliassime in 2015. Having primarily focused on junior tournaments last year, the Spaniard took the next step at the Challenger level on only six occasions. But he would make the most of those opportunities.
At that age, signature victories over in-form players like Jannik Sinner, Christopher O’Connell and Pedro Martinez, can inject a surge of confidence and momentum for the coming weeks and months. And for Alcaraz, the ability to compete in front of legions of Spaniards proved to be equally as critical in his early development.
For someone as young as Alcaraz, playing in such an energetic atmosphere akin to a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 event, can serve as essential preparation for life at the next level. Flash forward to this week and Alcaraz was meeting World No. 41 Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the Rio Open presented by Claro. What did the 16-year-old identify as a source of confidence in his ATP Tour debut? His time on the ATP Challenger Tour.
“Those experiences helped me a lot, to become more comfortable in big matches like these,” said Alcaraz. “They helped me to manage the nerves. I remember that in those tournaments I was very nervous. There were some matches that made me doubt how I was performing, but those moments made me learn to just enjoy the moment. That removed the nerves.”
The crowd is going crazy for Carlos Alcaraz in Sevilla, as the 🇪🇸 16-year-old becomes the youngest to reach a quarter-final since a 14-year-old @felixtennis in 2015. pic.twitter.com/UB1QGLkYZS
Alcaraz says the biggest lesson learned on the Challenger circuit has been managing his nerves in the big moments. That was on full display on Tuesday, as he edged Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2), capturing his ATP Tour debut after nearly four hours on court. It was a rollercoaster affair that saw the Juan Carlos Ferrero pupil battle back from 0-3 down in the deciding set. For a 16-year-old to remain composed and relaxed in such a moment is a testament to the work he has put in at the lower level.
“Those matches taught me how to let things go on the court and stay in the moment. The small things like breathing and relaxing in the right moments are important. Just managing the moments in the right way.”
Up to a projected career-high in the Top 350 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, Alcaraz will look to continue finding that spark at the Challenger level over the coming months. There are consecutive tournaments on home soil in Madrid, Marbella, Murcia and Villena in March and April.
For Nakashima, it has been a rather similar experience. The 18-year-old took a different path than his Spanish counterpart, initially opting for the college route. The American turned pro after a successful freshman season at the University of Virginia and, like Alcaraz, enjoyed immediate success on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2019.
Poised for a breakout 2020 campaign, Nakashima has already thrust himself into the spotlight. Making his ATP Tour debut, he is into the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. Guaranteed to rise inside the Top 260 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, the unseeded wild card has defeated Jiri Vesely and Cameron Norrie without dropping a set.
If you’ve been following Nakashima in recent months, this should be of little surprise. If you haven’t, here’s all you need to know about the American teen with the steely resolve and relentless drive…
Flashback just two weeks ago, when Nakashima was making a charge at the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas. If there was ever a turning point for a young player in search of confidence and belief, look no further than this.
Competing in just the ninth Challenger event of his young career and facing his biggest foe yet, top seed Frances Tiafoe, it proved to be a seminal moment for the American on a Thursday night. Crowds in Dallas are notoriously packed throughout the week, and with NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki in the house, Nakashima and Tiafoe put on a show under the lights at T Bar M Racquet Club.
An air of tension filled Stadium court, as the Americans traded blows for two hours and 18 minutes. Neither was willing to concede an inch, as Tiafoe battled from a set and a break down to prevail 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5. It was counterpunch after counterpunch, with a bevy of baseline bombs exchanged throughout the encounter and Nakashima’s steely resolve on full display.
Last night, we were all witnesses as Brandon Nakashima introduced himself in Dallas.
The 18-year-old announced his arrival in grand fashion, in defeat to Frances Tiafoe. Poise and focus beyond his years… pic.twitter.com/ETaypdzxKg
The 18-year-old admitted he was quite disappointed after the match, but he understands that gritty encounters like these can only help him as he looks to progress beyond the Challenger level.
“What I’m doing doesn’t really surprise me, to be honest,” said Nakashima. “I know I have a good game and can compete with all these guys. Even before I went to college, I had that mindset. It’s just all about having these experiences, getting more mature and physically bigger and stronger.”
Nakashima did not back down from the Tiafoe test, even as his opponent repeatedly fought back in the second set and deep in the third. Where many 18-year-olds would acquiesce at the first sign of resistance, Nakashima is wired differently. You can call him a machine or just a teenager with an incredibly dialed-in temperament, but regardless, that attitude is paying dividends as he begins to battle the established pros.
“All my coaches have always told me that I’m playing my best when I’m aggressive. I just try to be myself on the court. I’m always going to attack on both my forehand and backhand, come to the net as much as possible and use a lot of variety in my game. That is who I am.”
With former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash joining his coaching team this week in Delray Beach, Nakashima will look to go one step further when he faces Yoshihito Nishioka in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Thiem Tremendous Under Pressure To Battle Past Munar In Rio
Austrian into the Rio de Janeiro quarter-finals for the fourth time
Dominic Thiem’s first 13 matches at the Rio Open presented by Claro ended in straight sets. So it’s only fitting that he’s now gone the distance twice in a row in Brazil.
Thiem overcame a set-and-a-break deficit on Thursday evening, battling past 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Jaume Munar 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes. The Austrian advances to the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro for the fourth time on his fifth attempt.
“All that counts is the win,” Thiem said. “That’s what I did today. I was fighting great from the first to the last point. That’s what I’m proud of today and that’s what I’m taking on [to the next round]. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Munar came out firing from the first point, showing no intention of allowing the powerful top seed to overwhelm him, even if he hadn’t won any of the pair’s four previous ATP Head2Head sets. The Spaniard gave the World No. 4 fits with his speedy defence and a heavy dose of drop shots.
It’s not too often that Thiem has to scramble for solutions, typically overpowering opponents with the tremendous pace and spin on his groundstrokes. But after badly missing a forehand drop volley to go down 0-2 in the second set, he was running out of options.
“I felt a little bit tight at the beginning and I think when I was a set and a break down a little bit of pressure fell off and then I raised my level a little bit,” Thiem said. “When I made a break for 1-2 in the second set I felt this little kick coming through my body and I was able to raise my level and from that moment I was putting a little bit more energy and I was able to turn the match around.”
Thiem did not panic, however, breaking back in the next game. And the 2017 champion increasingly backed away from the baseline to take even bigger cuts at the ball, hitting heavier shots to force Munar to drop the ball short, tilting the rallies in his favour.
It seemed Thiem had the match under control when he broke for 4-2 in the decider. But Munar never faded, forcing Thiem to put him away. The World No. 99 broke back and levelled the score at 4-4 with incredible defence, making the favourite go for more and more.
But once again, Thiem raised his level, limiting his errors in gruelling points. Munar saved one match point with a monstrous forehand down the line that was in by mere millimetres. But Thiem was too good on his second opportunity. The Austrian forced Munar to volley up, allowing him to put away a backhand passing shot.
“I think he’s ranked worse at the moment than he’s playing. He played a good match, didn’t give me any free points. For sure I wasn’t at my best again. For sure I’m not yet at my level again which I had in Australia. But it’s normal. I’m back on clay for the first time since August.”
Thiem will next play Italian Gianluca Mager, who upset Buenos Aires champion and eighth seed Casper Ruud in the first round.
Mager scored the biggest result of his career on Thursday by dismissing Portuguese Joao Domingues 6-3, 7-6(5) in a battle of qualifiers. The 25-year-old Italian saved a set point on his serve at 4-5 in the second set before eventually moving into his maiden ATP Tour quarter-final. He is projected to surpass his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 114 on Monday.
Second seeds Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo encountered few problems on Thursday at the Rio Open presented by Claro, charging into the doubles semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Roman Jebavy/Igor Zelenay. Kubot/Melo saved both break points and cruised to victory after 75 minutes.
Third seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos prevailed in a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7(3), 10-8 clash with Maximo Gonzalez/Fabrice Martin. They are on a six-match winning streak after taking the title last week in Buenos Aires (d. Duran/Londero).
Awaiting them in the semi-finals are Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves/Thiago Monteiro, who defeated Orlando Luz/Rafael Matos 6-3, 7-6(7) in a battle of Brazilian wild cards. Rodrigues Alves/Monteiro erased two set points at 4/6 in the tie-break before converting their third match point. This is the first tour-level doubles semi-final for either player.
At the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, top seeds Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies moved past Benoit Paire/David Vega Hernandez 6-2, 7-6(5). Next up is a semi-final clash with Nicolas Mahut/Vasek Pospisil, who upset fourth seeds Jurgen Melzer/Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 6-4.
Quarter-final action at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com saw fourth seeds Luke Bambrdge/Ben McLachlan take out Nicholas Monroe/Jackson Withrow 6-2, 7-6(5). They’ll face Nikola Cacic/Hugo Nys for a place in the final after the Croatian-French duo defeated Taylor Fritz/Tommy Paul 7-6(4), 6-4.
Marcelo Arevalo/Jonny O’Mara broke serve three times in their 6-4, 6-4 victory against Christian Harrison/Dennis Novikov. Arevalo/O’Mara await the winner of top seeds Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan and Divij Sharan/Artem Sitak.
Italian Lorenzo Sonego produced a major upset on Thursday at the Rio Open presented by Claro, rallying from a break down in each set to defeat second-seeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic 7-6(5), 7-6(5) and reach the quarter-finals.
Sonego trailed by 3-4 in the opening set and 0-3 in the second set, but raised his level at critical moments to prevail in two hours and 10 minutes. The 24-year-old is through to his first quarter-final at an ATP 500 event and tied his ATP Head2Head series with Lajovic at 1-1. He awaits the winner of fifth-seeded Croatian Borna Coric and #NextGenATP Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild.
Gianluca Mager scored the biggest result of his career by dismissing Portuguese Joao Domingues 6-3, 7-6(5) in a battle of qualifiers. The 25-year-old Italian saved a set point on his serve at 4-5 in the second set before eventually moving into his maiden ATP Tour quarter-final. He is projected to surpass his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 114 on Monday.
#LoveYourPetDay: Bautista Agut & Zverev Show Off Four-Legged Friends
Hashtag trending on Thursday
#LoveYourPetDay, celebrated each year on 20 February, is trending on social media as people celebrate the furry friends in their lives. From tiny dogs to large horses, ATPTour.com looks at the animals that your favourite players come home to when they’re off the road.