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Monfils Reaches Double Figures With Dubai Victory

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Monfils Reaches Double Figures With Dubai Victory

Rublev through in straight sets

Gael Monfils extended his winning streak to 10 matches on Monday with a 6-4, 7-5 win against Marton Fucsovics at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The third seed needed just under two hours to record his sixth victory in nine matches at the ATP 500 tournament. Monfils, who reached the semi-finals at this event last year, improves to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Fucsovics.

Monfils has won 14 of his 16 matches this year, highlighted by trophies earlier this month in Montpellier and Rotterdam. The only players to beat the Frenchman this year are Australian Open finalists Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. Monfils will meet Yasutaka Uchiyama or Yen-Hsun Lu in the second round.

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Djokovic Makes Winning Return In Dubai

Andrey Rublev began his own bid for a third title of 2020 with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Lorenzo Musetti. The sixth seed won 84 per cent of first-serve points (26/31) to earn his 14th victory in 16 matches this season.

The 22-year-old made an impressive start to the season with title runs in Doha and Adelaide, becoming the first man since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to open the year with two ATP Tour trophies in as many weeks. Since the start of the year, Rublev has risen nine positions to a career-high No. 14 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

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The four-time ATP Tour titlist will meet Joao Sousa or Filip Krajinovic for a place in the quarter-finals. Rublev has reached the quarter-finals or better in three of his four tournament appearances this year.

Two-time semi-finalist Richard Gasquet also advanced on Monday. The 33-year-old withstood 13 aces to beat Lloyd Harris 7-6(5), 6-4. Gasquet will face countryman Benoit Paire or former World No. 3 Marin Cilic in the second round.

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Venus/Peers Book Quarter-Final Spot In Dubai

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Venus/Peers Book Quarter-Final Spot In Dubai

Kontinen/Struff also claim first-round win

Michael Venus and John Peers began their bid for a first team title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday, beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4 in 61 minutes.

In their fourth event as a team, Peers and Venus saved three of four break points to improve to 3-3 this season. Last month, the unseeded duo made its team debut at the ASB Classic and also reached the Australian Open third round.

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Venus and Peers will meet defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury or Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic for a place in the semi-finals. That first-round match will begin Tuesday’s evening session on Court 1.

Rotterdam finalists Henri Kontinen and Jan-Lennard Struff beat Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares 7-6(2), 7-6(4) to continue their run of form. The Finnish-German team will meet second seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek or wild cards Matthew Ebden and Leander Paes in the quarter-finals.

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Djokovic Makes Winning Return In Dubai

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Djokovic Makes Winning Return In Dubai

Khachanov through in straight sets

In his first Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships appearance since 2016, Novak Djokovic extended his unbeaten start to the 2020 ATP Tour season with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Malek Jaziri.

The World No. 1 landed 22 winners and did not face a break point to improve to 14-0 this year after exactly one hour. Djokovic quickly found the level he showcased throughout the opening month of the season, where he won each of the 13 matches he contested during title runs at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open.

“It’s a great way to start out the tournament,” said Djokovic. “As I’ve said in the press conference prior to the tournament, I miss playing here. I really enjoy it. I enjoy night sessions… I think I’ve done everything as well as I imagined it to be for the first match. Of course, there’s things that always can be improved, things that can be better. But I have to be satisfied with the performance.”

Djokovic is chasing his fifth title in Dubai this week. The 32-year-old owns a 37-6 tournament record, highlighted by tournament victories in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. In Djokovic’s only previous ATP Head2Head clash against Jaziri in 2016, he also defeated the Tunisian 6-1, 6-2 at this event.

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Djokovic will face 2014 semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber for a spot in the quarter-finals. Kohlschreiber recovered from a set down to move past Egyptian wild card Mohamed Safwat 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Djokovic leads the German 11-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, which includes three victories from four encounters in 2019. At last year’s BNP Paribas Open, Kolschreiber stunned Djokovic in straight sets to reach the Round of 16.

“I lost to him in straight sets in Indian Wells last year. I am aware of what he’s capable of,” said Djokovic. “He likes actually playing top players on a big stage. He has lots of experience. He’s very fit. He keeps on playing even at that age on a high level.

”I certainly will not underestimate him… I will prepare myself. I’m feeling good on the court. Tonight was another testament to the way I feel. [I have] confidence. [I am] obviously striking the ball well. Hopefully that can continue in the next match.”

Karen Khachanov was tested in the early stages of his opening match, before charging to a 7-6(2), 6-1 victory against Mikhail Kukushkin. After recovering from a break down on two occasions in the first set, the 23-year-old dropped just one point behind his first serve in the second set (10/11) to complete the win after 90 minutes. Khachanov improves to 8-5 this season with his second victory in four appearances at the ATP 500 event.

“There were some difficult moments during the match,” said Khachanov. “I was a break down two times. That’s really great to keep that first set. I think it was [an] important one.”

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Rublev Earns First Dubai Victory

The World No. 17 levels his ATP Head2Head series against Kukushkin at 1-1. The Kazakh beat Khachanov in the pair’s only previous tour-level ATP Head2Head clash at the 2014 VTB Kremlin Cup.

“It was not [an] easy opening match. Always first round is pretty tough… I’m really happy I could get the win,” said Khachanov. “I have another match, another opportunity to play better, like always, to improve.”

Khachanov advances to a second-round encounter against wild card Prajnesh Gunneswaran or Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak. The Russian is competing in the top quarter of the draw, which is headlined by World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic.

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Fifteen-year-old Coco Gauff breaks into world's top 50

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

American teenager Coco Gauff has broken into the world’s top 50 for the first time.

Now ranked 49th in the world, Gauff is the first 15-year-old in 15 years to reach the women’s top 50.

Gauff’s breakthrough was when she defeated Venus Williams on her way to reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019 in her first Grand Slam.

Last month she lost to Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open fourth round in only her third Grand Slam appearance.

Gauff finished 2019 ranked 68th, having also reached the third round at the US Open where she lost to defending champion Naomi Osaka and winning her maiden WTA title at the Linz Open in October.

She has climbed the rankings at a rapid rate, having started 2019 ranked number 686.

Bulgaria’s Sesil Karatantcheva, now 30, was the last 15-year-old to break the world’s top 50 in August 2005.

Australian Ashleigh Barty, 23, remains number one in the world.

Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff will be 16 on 13 March 2020.

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Garin Breaks Into Top 20, Mover Of The Week

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Garin Breaks Into Top 20, Mover Of The Week looks at the top Movers of the Week in the FedEx ATP Rankings, as of Monday, 24 February 2020

No. 18 Cristian Garin (Career High), +7
The Chilean extended his winning streak to a personal-best nine matches to capture his second ATP Tour title in three weeks at the Rio Open presented by Claro. After lifting his third tour-level crown at the Cordoba Open, Garin continued to produce his best tennis in South America to beat Andrej Martin, Federico Delbonis, Federico Coria, Borna Coric and Gianluca Mager and claim his maiden ATP 500 crown.

Just 10 months ago, Garin did not own an ATP Tour trophy. The 23-year-old, who improves to 4-1 in tour-level finals, leaps seven positions to crack the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 18. Read More and Watch Highlights.

No. 39 Reilly Opelka, +15
As the fourth seed, Opelka became the fourth American champion in the past five editions of the Delray Beach Open presented by The 6’11” right-hander overcame two-time champion Ernests Gulbis, Mackenzie McDonald and Soonwoo Kwon to reach the semi-finals.

Due to rain, Opelka was forced to contest his semi-final on the same day as the championship match. The American saved match point against Milos Raonic in that contest, before completing double duty to take the title against Yoshihito Nishioka. Opelka climbs 15 spots to No. 39 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Read More.

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No. 48 Yoshihito Nishioka (Career High), +15
The Japanese star reached his second ATP Tour championship match at the Delray Beach Open presented by Nishioka defeated fifth seed John Millman, Noah Rubin, Brandon Nakashima and sixth seed Ugo Humbert to reach the final. After his three-set loss to Opelka in the championship match, the 24-year-old jumps 15 places to a career-high No. 48 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

No. 77 Gianluca Mager (Career High), +51
Mager entered the Rio Open presented by Claro with just two tour-level victories to his name. But the Italian enjoyed a breakthrough week in Brazil, winning 12 of 13 sets from qualifying to reach his first ATP Tour final. En route to the championship match, Mager stunned Buenos Aires champion Casper Ruud and World No. 4 Dominic Thiem in straight sets. The 25-year-old soars 51 spots to a career-high No. 77 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Other Notable Movers
No. 28 Borna Coric, +4
No. 32 Milos Raonic, +5
No. 47 Alexander Bublik (Career High), +8
No. 60 Pablo Cuevas, -14
No. 61 Aljaz Bedene, -14
No. 65 Egor Gerasimov (Career High), +7
No. 67 Laslo Djere, -31
No. 69 Radu Albot, -18
No. 79 Attila Balazs (Career High), +27
No. 83 James Duckworth, -12
No. 89 Mikhail Kukushkin, -20
No. 94 Hugo Dellien, -16

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How A Fan Played A Key Role In The Bryan Brothers’ Sixth Delray Beach Title

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

For most of their careers, Bob Bryan has returned in the deuce court, and Mike Bryan the ad court. But for their final season in 2020, they have swapped places.

So when the American twins won just two return points in the first set of the Delray Beach Open by final against Luke Bambridge and Ben McLachlan on Sunday, they were thinking of what to do to change the rhythm of the match. That’s when a fan got involved.

“A guy, a random fan in the crowd, yelled out, ‘Why don’t you switch to your old sides?’” Mike told “We just looked at each other and we just said, ‘Why not?’”

According to Mike, the last time the 41-year-olds pulled such a manoeuvre was at last year’s US Open.

“We have [done it] both ways, so it’s nice to have that flexibility,” Mike said. “It’s something you might see us do this year if a match is going that way.”

This was the last match the Bryan brothers played in Delray Beach, where they entered the day five-time titlists. The brothers had a choice: continue on the path they were going, or try something new — in this case, old. It worked, as the top seeds are now six-time champions at this ATP 250.

“When you don’t get a sniff, and we didn’t have any chances, we didn’t win too many points the other way, we thought we had to do something different,” Bob said. “We’ve played over a thousand matches the other way, so we’re used to those patterns.”

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Rodionov Scores Second Title In Three Weeks; Teen Machac Triumphs

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Rodionov Scores Second Title In Three Weeks; Teen Machac Triumphs

Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour, as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to the week to come…

Morelos Open Credito Real (Morelos, Mexico): The same mantra goes for every player. Have a more professional attitude on the court, focus on what you can control and the results will likely follow. In 2019, Jurij Rodionov admitted that he strugged in that department. As the calendar flipped to 2020, those issues are long gone.

Armed with a more mature approach, the #NextGenATP Austrian is hitting his stride behind two titles in three weeks. Rodionov lifted the trophy in Morelos on Sunday, rallying from a set down in both the semis and final to take the title. He defeated Argentina’s Juan Pablo Ficovich 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 for the championship.

Rodionov entered the month of February outside the Top 350 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. But thanks to titles on the indoor hard courts of Dallas and outdoor hard courts of Morelos, he will vault to a career-high No. 172 on Monday.

The 20-year-old is the first player to win multiple titles in 2020, boasting a 12-1 mark since the start of February. He now owns three crowns in total, having lifted his maiden trophy in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2018.


Challenger Banque Nationale de Drummondville (Drummondville, Canada): Sunday’s final in Drummondville was a meeting of former college standouts, as UCLA’s Maxime Cressy met Texas A&M’s Arthur Rinderknech for the title. What started with an extravagant pre-match light show and concert was capped by a Cressy triumph after two hours and six minutes.

The American became the last man standing after a marathon 6-7(4) 6-4, 6-4 win. He did not drop serve all week, riding his dominant delivery to victory. Cressy, who left UCLA to return to pro tennis in 2020, claimed his second Challenger crown. He previously prevailed in Cleveland a year ago.

“The first thing that went through my mind was that I didn’t get broken this week,” said Cressy. “That’s pretty cool and it never happened in my life. I’m super happy to win here. I battled through every single day, physically, mentally and emotionally. It was a rollercoaster this week. I’m just happy I fought through all of it.”

Cressy rises 61 spots to No. 191 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Koblenz Open (Koblenz, Germany): The future of Czech tennis has arrived. In September, Jonas Forejtek captured the US Open boys’ title, and on Sunday, countryman Tomas Machac triumphed for the first time on the ATP Challenger Tour. The Beroun native prevailed in Koblenz, defeating Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in one hour and 56 minutes.

Machac is the first teenage winner on the Challenger circuit this year and joins Rodionov as the only #NextGenATP champions (born 1999 or later). It also marks the first time a Czech teen has lifted a trophy since Jiri Vesely in 2013.

“I knew that it will be tough today, as our previous two matches [both won by Van De Zandschulp] were also very close,” Machac told Florian Heer of “I was so nervous and I am really tired right now. It was really great to see that a lot of fans came to watch this match. It was special for me today and I am very happy.

“I will next get back to Prague to see my parents before heading for Trento, Italy, to compete in an ITF tournament. Then I will enjoy one week off, having some practice and rest.”

Machac was making just the ninth Challenger appearance of his young career, but the Czech was hitting top gear from first ball. He did not drop a set in reaching the final. Having entered the week just inside the Top 350 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, he is projected to soar nearly 100 spots to a career-high No. 251.


Trofeo Perrel – Faip (Bergamo, Italy): Government suspension of all sporting events in the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy, due to the coronavirus, forced the cancellation of the Bergamo final. Illya Marchenko and Enzo Couacaud split honours, with both receiving finalist points and prize money for the week.

Earlier in the week, 16-year-old Leo Borg, son of former World No. 1 and tennis legend Bjorn Borg, made his professional debut. He fell to Chun-hsin Tseng in straight sets.

Last year, Jeremy Chardy launched a Challenger tournament in his hometown of Pau, France. Now, the Terega Open Pau-Pyrennes is back for a second edition. Jiri Vesely, Norbert Gombos and Sumit Nagal lead the field.

In 2018, Ivo Karlovic became the oldest champion in Challenger history, triumphing in Calgary, Canada. Seeded third, Karlovic is back as the tournament welcomes a second edition. Home hope Vasek Pospisil leads the pack.

And in Columbus, 10th seed Peter Polansky looks to retain his trophy. He is joined by leading men Christopher O’Connell, Marc Polmans and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Scouting Report: 15 Things To Watch In Acapulco, Dubai & Santiago

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Scouting Report: 15 Things To Watch In Acapulco, Dubai & Santiago

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour

Thirteen of the Top 20 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings will be in action this week, spread across the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is competing in Dubai, and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is in Acapulco.


Stream live on Tennis TV or watch on your local TV channel – see more information on the ATP Tour TV Schedule.

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

1) Rafa Going For No. 3:
Top seed Rafael Nadal has won the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC twice, in 2005 and 2013. He will try this week to win a tour-level title for the 17th consecutive year. The Spaniard plays countryman Pablo Andujar in the first round.

2) Defending Champ: Nick Kyrgios went on a memorable run in Acapulco last year, including victories over Nadal and 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev. Kyrgios is 6-2 on the season, and he will play his first match since the Australian Open against 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor Ugo Humbert.

3) FAA Has Momentum: Felix Auger-Aliassime reached his fourth and fifth ATP Tour finals in Rotterdam and Marseille in the past two weeks. The Canadian is still pursuing his maiden tour-level crown, and he will try to lift the trophy at this ATP 500 event. The #NextGenATP star, who is the fourth seed, will begin his tournament against lucky loser Alex Bolt of Australia.

4) Zverev Back Again: Could this be the year Zverev breaks through in Acapulco? Two years ago, he reached the semi-finals. Last year, he fell in the championship match. The second seed, chasing his 12th ATP Tour title, will try to get off to a good start to this edition of the tournament against qualifier Jason Jung.

5) Zverev Brothers In Doubles: Zverev and his brother, Mischa Zverev, won the Acapulco doubles title last year, and they are back to defend their trophy. The top seeds are Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, the second seeds are Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo, and third seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos are fresh off a title at the Rio Open presented by Claro.

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1) Novak Leads The Way:
World No.1 and four-time Champion Novak Djokovic returns to Dubai for the first time since 2016 with a 13-0 record in 2020. Djokovic, fresh off leading Team Serbia to ATP Cup glory and winning a record-extending eighth Australian Open title, is the top seed at this event for the seventh time.

2) Stefanos Shining: Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas arrives in Dubai after winning his fifth ATP Tour title last week in Marseille without dropping a set. It was the first time that the Greek has retained a tour-level title. Tsitsipas, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, reached the final in Dubai last year.

3) Titlists All Around: There have been 13 tour-level singles tournaments played so far this year, and six of them have been won by players in the Dubai draw. Djokovic (Australian Open), Andrey Rublev (Doha, Adelaide), Gael Monfils (Montpellier, Rotterdam, currently on a nine-match winning streak) and Tsitsipas (Marseille) are the 2020 champions in the field.

4) Musetti Magic: Lorenzo Musetti, 17, used his qualifying wild card well, winning both of his matches in straight sets to reach the main draw. He is the first player born in 2002 to qualify for an ATP Tour event. Musetti is the lone #NextGenATP player in the main draw.

5) Defending Champs The Top Seeds: Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury are the top seeds in the doubles draw, fresh off their Australian Open title. Ram and Salisbury earned their first trophy together in Dubai last year, and they did not drop a set. They will face a star-studded team in the first round in Djokovic and former singles World No. 3 Marin Cilic.

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

1) Welcome Back, Chile:
This is the inaugural edition of the Chile Dove Men+Care Open. Previously, Chile hosted another ATP Tour event in Santiago from 1993-2000 and 2010-11, and that same tournament was held in Vina del Mar from 2001-09 and 2012-14.

2) Home Favourite: Cristian Garin hopes to give home fans plenty to cheer about as the top seed. He grew up watching Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu at the tournament in Vina del Mar, and in 2013, he made an impressive tour-level debut at that event as a 16-year-old, defeating Dusan Lajovic to become the fifth player aged 16 years and under to win a tour-level match since 2000. Garin has won nine consecutive matches, lifting titles this year in Cordoba and Rio de Janeiro.

3) Ruud Rising: Casper Ruud will attempt to win his second title of the 2020 ‘Golden Swing’. The 21-year-old triumphed at the Argentina Open to become the first player from Norway to win an ATP Tour title. Ruud is the second seed.

4) Two Chilean Wild Cards: This ATP 250 has awarded home favourites Alejandro Tabilo and Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera wild cards into the main draw. Both men own one tour-level win, and Tabilo is at a career-high World No. 166.

5) Demoliner/Middelkoop Top Seeds: Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop are the top seeds in the doubles draw. They have won two ATP Tour titles together in the past four months, triumphing last October in Moscow and earlier this month in Cordoba.

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Double Duty In Delray: Opelka Wins Twice Sunday To Earn Second Title

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Double Duty In Delray: Opelka Wins Twice Sunday To Earn Second Title

American defeats Raonic and then Nishioka to triumph on home soil

Reilly Opelka had to overcome plenty of hurdles on Sunday, playing two matches against opponents — one 6’5” and the other 5’7” — with completely different game styles. But the 6’11” American literally and figuratively stood tall to win the Delray Beach Open by title.

Opelka claimed his second ATP Tour trophy behind 27 aces with a 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2 victory against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. Earlier in the day, the 22-year-old rallied past former World No. 3 Milos Raonic, saving a match point in the semi-finals to triumph 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3.

That match was postponed due to rain Saturday evening. However, Nishioka was able to finish his semi-final on Saturday, so he only needed to play one match on Sunday. Nothing could stop the big-hitting Opelka, though, as he defeated the 2018 Shenzhen champion after two hours and 10 minutes.

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The fourth seed is the fourth American champion in Delray Beach in the past five years, with Moldovan Radu Albot being the exception last year. Opelka lifted his maiden ATP Tour trophy 53 weeks ago at the New York Open.

Opelka played Nishioka for the first time in their ATP Head2Head series last week in New York, winning that match 6-4, 6-4. In those indoor conditions, Opelka saved all four break points he faced. He was broken in Delray Beach, but he saved three of the four break points he faced, playing courageous tennis under pressure.

Opelka showed no fear of engaging in rallies with Nishioka, displaying great footwork for his height by playing dogged defence when needed. But he also went for his shots when balls sat up, and that paid dividends in key moments.

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Opelka crushed a forehand at 6-5 in the opener to earn his third set point. And after playing plenty of defence on the forehand side, he hit a cross-court backhand passing shot that Nishioka couldn’t handle, sprinting to his chair and smacking his chest in celebration.

Nishioka was under pressure in the second set, needing to save three set points — Opelka faced none — but he hung around to force a tie-break, where his solid play helped him force a decider. The 24-year-old continued to make Opelka move, putting the American in awkward positions, which led to mistakes.

But a lapse of concentration in the first game of the third set proved deadly for Nishioka. He double faulted to give Opelka the break, and that was all the champion needed. Nishioka later missed a backhand down the line wide to give the home favourite a second break in the set, and Opelka finished off his win with his 27th ace.

Opelka adds 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points to his total and earns $97,585, while Nishioka leaves Florida with 150 points and $53,615.

Did You Know?
Opelka hit a total of 46 aces on Sunday, striking 27 against Nishioka and 19 against Raonic.

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Garin Glorious In Rio de Janeiro!

  • Posted: Feb 24, 2020

Garin Glorious In Rio de Janeiro!

Chilean wins his second title of the year and his fourth tour-level trophy overall

Ten months ago, Cristian Garin didn’t own an ATP Tour trophy. Just more than a year ago, he had never reached a tour-level final.

But after beating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 7-6(3), 7-5 on Sunday in a physical battle to win the Rio Open presented by Claro, Garin is now a four-time ATP Tour titlist. The Chilean has won a personal-best nine consecutive matches after also triumphing earlier this month at the Cordoba Open in Argentina.

“I think this is a gift from all those years working hard, suffering. This is my dream. I’m enjoying it,” Garin said. “I didn’t expect this ever in my life. I’m so, so happy.

“I’m really emotional and winning the Rio Open means a lot to me. It’s hard to describe this past week. I slept only four or five hours and woke up nervous this morning and it ended up being one of the best days of my life.”

Watch Garin Hot Shot:

With rain suspending play in both singles semi-finals on Saturday evening, Garin had to do double duty in Brazil on Sunday. He needed only four games to finish off a straight-sets victory against fifth seed Borna Coric. The third seed then returned to Quadra Guga Kuerten later in the afternoon to beat Mager in one hour and 35 minutes for the trophy.

“He played an amazing match. I didn’t feel my tennis today, I just tried to give my 100 per cent. He was hitting as hard as I can and it’s very tough for me to play against people like that,” Garin said. “Gianluca had an amazing tournament.”

This is Garin’s first ATP 500 crown. Not only does he earn $355,530 for his victory, but an important 500 FedEx ATP Ranking points, which will propel him to a career-high No. 18 on Monday. He began the week at a career-best World No. 25.

“Winning an event of this magnitude motivates me even more. I will never forget this week. And receiving the trophy from Gustavo Kuerten’s hands means so much to me,” Garin said. “It’s for moments like this that I play tennis and make daily sacrifices. This means so, so much to me and I’m still really emotional. Now it’s time to enjoy a bit and tomorrow I’m back to work.

“I’m happy with my ranking and I also know I have a lot of things to get better, so that’s a good a thing. It means I still have a long way to go.”

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Garin was the favourite heading into the final, not just because of his FedEx ATP Ranking — No. 25 to Mager’s No. 128 — but because he played far less tennis on Sunday in his semi-final. Mager resumed play with a 7-6(4), 3-3 lead against Hungarian lucky loser Attila Balazs, whom he also defeated 6-0, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying. The Italian had to battle from down a break in the decider to win 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) just to reach the final.

But Mager — who was broken in the first game of the match — showed no fear of the stage, despite winning only two tour-level matches before this week. He used his first serve to elicit short balls, which he was unafraid of going after, winning 78 per cent of those points. Mager also played plenty of cat-and-mouse rallies with the Chilean, using short angles to get the third seed on the move.

Garin’s experience paid dividends, though. Mager failed to serve out the second set, and Garin capitalised, winning four straight games to clinch his victory.

It was a memorable week for Mager, who upset top seed and World No. 4 Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals. The three-time ATP Challenger Tour champion earns $178,455 and 300 points, which will see him climb inside the Top 80. Previously, the Italian’s career-high was No. 114.

“Incredible week. It’s unbelievable for me. It’s a dream to beat the No. 4 in the world, go to the final of an ATP 500,” Mager said. “I am very happy and I’ll keep working every day and fight every day.”

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