Great Britain’s Andy Murray beats America’s Frances Tiafoe in three sets in the Western & Southern Open first round at Flushing Meadows.
Great Britain’s Andy Murray beats America’s Frances Tiafoe in three sets in the Western & Southern Open first round at Flushing Meadows.
In his first match of the year, Andy Murray made a winning return to the ATP Tour with a hard-fought 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-1 victory against Frances Tiafoe at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday.
Making his first appearance at an ATP Tour event since capturing his 46th tour-level trophy at the European Open in Antwerp last October, the former World No. 1 saved a set point in the first set tie-break and charged through the deciding set to book his place in the second round after two hours and 28 minutes.
“I thought I moved well today. That was probably the thing I was most happy with and probably the thing I was most apprehensive about going into the match,” said Murray. “I thought I moved pretty well. My tennis could have been better. I did some things well at the end, but I could definitely improve in terms of my game.”
Murray will face World No. 7 Alexander Zverev for a place in the third round. The two-time champion (2008, ’11) owns a 1-0 ATP Head2Head record against the German, following a first-round victory against Zverev at the 2016 Australian Open.
“[Zverev has] obviously been up at the top of the game for a number of years now,” said Murray. “It will be a good test for me, for sure… He moves well for a big guy, solid off the ground. [He] has struggled at times with his serve. When he’s serving well, he’s obviously one of the top players in the world.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
In an opening set dominated by serve, a double fault from Murray allowed Tiafoe to move into a 5/2 lead in the tie-break. After battling back into contention, Murray was forced to save a set point behind his second serve at 5/6 as Tiafoe failed to find the court with his return. Two points later, Murray fired a forehand passing shot up the line to clinch the set.
Like the first set, Tiafoe managed to create a single break-point chance in the second set. This time, he took his opportunity. After trading cross-court forehands with Murray at 4-3, Tiafoe attacked his opponent’s backhand and moved forward to break serve with a low backhand drop volley.
Tiafoe, who finished the contest with a 17/22 success rate at the net, was unable to carry any momentum into the decider as Murray raced to a 3-0 lead. The 33-year-old played with depth and capitalised on a series of errors from his opponent to gain a crucial advantage. Murray claimed a second service break at 4-1 with a backhand return winner and served out the match to love to earn his 32nd victory at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime finished off his 6-4, 6-1 victory on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Western & Southern Open when his opponent, big-hitting Nikoloz Basilashvili, smothered a forehand return into the net.
There was no loud eruption of cheers from the Court 17 crowd at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There was no crowd at all. Auger-Aliassime typically throws the ball he has in his pocket to a fan, but not this time.
“It was weird… I actually threw a ball at my coach,” said Auger-Aliassime, who was the first player to advance to the second round.
Auger-Aliassime briefly looked around as he normally would, seemingly ready to wave to the crowd. He then changed course and gave the on-court camera a quick thumb’s up and a fist pump before walking to the corner of the court to retrieve his towel.
“I was looking around because when there are so many people you don’t really look around… Whenever I saw one or two players coming to look or people that I knew, I was like, ‘Out of the 15 people here, who do I know? Who came to watch?’” said Auger-Aliassime, who walked onto the court wearing a mask and put it back on after his win. “The smallest noise or the smallest movement was even more of a distraction because there was no noise and you just heard every noise or every movement around. It was weird.”
But the show must go on at the first ATP Tour event since play was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The players certainly notice that there aren’t fans, but they are excited to be back competing. Jan-Lennard Struff was the second player to advance on Saturday, earning his first ATP Head2Head victory against Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4.
“[It was] quite a different feeling to be out there competing in a real match, being back on Tour,” Struff said. “[But] I’m very happy with the win… I’m pretty happy with my performance.”
Jan-Lennard Struff claims his first victory in three ATP Head2Head matches against Alex de Minaur.” />
On the match’s stream, you could see 2019 Roland Garros men’s doubles champion Kevin Krawietz sitting alone, watching Struff, his countryman, compete on Court 11.
“There were not many fans, so you recognise guys. I think Dennis Novak was sitting there, Kevin Krawietz. Some other guys were sitting there. But for us, it’s much better to play with fans for sure,” Struff said, before noting the perks of emptier grounds. “For us it’s nice [to have the ability to walk around]. Like this we can explore the site a bit more… you can [always] go for practice, but you cannot [normally] watch a match. Once you sit down somewhere [and] someone recognises you, it’s not that easy. For me it was quite okay, but for the top guys it must be impossible to walk around the site.”
Not all players are walking around the venue to watch their friends or potential opponents play, though. American Reilly Opelka got his Tour resumption off to a good start with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph against qualifier Cameron Norrie. His close friend, Taylor Fritz, was still on court during his own first-round win against Lloyd Harris. But Opelka wasn’t in a rush to get out there.
“I’ve seen Fritz play enough,” Opelka said cracking a laugh. “I’ll watch from the air conditioning and that’s about it. I’ll watch in the air conditioning from the locker room on my phone and that’s only if there’s not a tight [NBA] game on. The [NBA] playoffs get all my attention.”
South African star to face Tsitsipas in second round
There may have been a little taping on his right knee and multiple shirt and shoe changes in the hot conditions, but it mattered little to Kevin Anderson on Saturday afternoon. The former World No. 5, playing at the Western & Southern Open for the 10th time, got the win in an empty stadium after almost three hours of toil.
For all of the South African’s injury woes over the past four years, including right knee surgeries in September 2019 and February 2020, Anderson has never given in and at the age of 34 is on the comeback trail once more.
His 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3 first-round victory over Kyle Edmund at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York was his first match win at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament since March 2019, when he lost to Roger Federer in the Miami Open presented by Itau quarter-finals.
Anderson first recovered from 3-5 down in the first set, then again from a 1-3 deficit in the tie-break to earn six straight points and keep Edmund on the back foot. Anderson bounced back after handing Edmund the break at 2-2 in the second set by hanging tough in the decider — twice saving break points at 2-2 and 3-3. Once Edmund mis-timed a forehand long in the eighth game, Anderson didn’t look back for his fourth match win of 2020. He hit 20 aces among his 38 winners.
The reward is a fourth ATP Head2Head meeting against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the fourth seed. The Western & Southern Open, traditionally played in Cincinnati, is being held behind closed doors at the venue of the upcoming US Open this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Matches feature no line judges and players have to pick up their own towels.
Uruguayan wins Todi title alongside Andrey Golubev
It’s never too late to make your mark on the ATP Challenger Tour’s doubles circuit. At the age of 30, Ariel Behar is discovering that with authority.
Behar picked up where he left off before the COVID-19 break, adding yet another title to his burgeoning haul. He teamed with Andrey Golubev to triumph in Todi on Saturday, as the Uruguayan-Kazakh duo did not drop a set all week.
Projected to rise to a career-high of No. 68 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings, Behar is the hottest player on the Challenger doubles circuit. His victory at the Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi marked his fifth title in his last eight Challenger appearances. In that span, he has amassed a staggering 26-3 record, mostly with Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar.
“It’s very important that we’re back playing now,” said Behar during Saturday’s trophy ceremony. “The safety measures and security in Todi were very well organised and I thank the tournament for that. We hope that the circuit will be this successful in the coming months.”
Behar has now lifted seven Challenger trophies in the last 12 months. Exactly one year ago, he triumphed in Prague and proceeded to prevail in Genova, Santo Domingo, Lima, Guayaquil and Newport Beach – all with Escobar.
Hanfmann, Zapata Miralles To Battle For Singles Crown
The singles final at the Tennis Club Todi 1971 will feature Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann and Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles.
Hanfmann, a former World No. 99 and ATP Tour finalist at the 2017 Swiss Open Gstaad, has dropped just one set in reaching the championship match. He dismissed home hope Gian Marco Moroni in Saturday’s nightcap, needing one hour and 36 minutes to prevail 7-6(4), 6-1. Hanfmann, who is hoping to rediscover his Top 100 form as 2020 rolls on, is back in a Challenger final for the second time this year. He finished runner-up to Taro Daniel in Burnie in January. The former University of Southern California standout owns a 5-2 record in Challenger finals.
Photos: Marta Magni/MEF Tennis Events
Zapata Miralles, meanwhile, is enjoying a breakout week at the age of 23. The World No. 212 is into his second Challenger final, having previously fallen to Botic van de Zandschulp in Hamburg last year. The Spaniard has dropped just 15 games en route to the final, culminating with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Antoine Hoang in the semi-finals. Earlier in the week, he routed top seed and countryman Roberto Carballes Baena for his third Top 100 win.
“I really like Todi’s playing conditions,” said the Valencia native. “I love this clay and I am happy with the balls we use. The results show that it was easy from the first round, but the truth is that I gave my best to reach the final. At this point, to win the title I will have to do this once again, putting aside the tension of the final and without thinking about the result.”
Hanfmann and Zapata Miralles will meet for the first time, with the final scheduled for 8:30pm CET in Todi.
As tennis returns at the Western & Southern Open, will Daniil Medvedev shine brighter than ever before?
The World No. 5 made waves beginning with last year’s American hard-court swing, reaching the final of six consecutive tour-level events he played. The Russian won his first two ATP Masters 1000 titles (Cincinnati, Shanghai) and made an incredible run to the US Open championship match, in which he pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets. But after winning his first four matches of 2020 at the ATP Cup, Medvedev’s momentum slowed, losing three of four matches before the ATP Tour was suspended due to COVID-19.
According to former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, the time off might have been a blessing in disguise.
“Maybe the break will help him regroup because he didn’t look like the same player he was last summer,” Gilbert said. “I think maybe the break will help him because he played a lot of tennis last year. He was one I thought about [who can do well as tennis returns]. He makes a lot of balls, moves well and maybe he had overplayed.
“He’s somebody who definitely wouldn’t surprise me if he won the tournament. It will be a good opportunity to regroup and he had such a great run last summer. He’s definitely someone who I put in the mix as one of the favourites to win it now, definitely.”
Patrick McEnroe, the former doubles World No. 3, believes that while Medvedev’s abilities are clear, it might take time for him to get into a rhythm because of his physical, grinding game style.
“He strikes me as the kind of guy who needs matches and needs to play a lot… Obviously he’s got unbelievable upside, we know that,” McEnroe said. “He reminds me a little bit of Jim Courier where Courier needed to play a lot of matches. He’s got a little more feel for the ball, he’s not quite as physical. That’ll be interesting to see. To me he’s more of a guy who could get upset than a Djokovic or a Thiem early on. If he gets a couple matches in, then look out.”
In a normal year, Medvedev would be facing the pressure of needing to defend the points he earned last year. The FedEx ATP Rankings traditionally operate on a “Best 18” results basis over 52 weeks, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now covering a period of 22 months (March 2019 – December 2020).
“All of a sudden maybe psychologically he’ll be able to relax more and just go out there and try to win matches,” Gilbert said.
Medvedev isn’t looking too far ahead and thinking about lifting titles. He is taking it one match at a time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, starting with his opening-round match at the Western & Southern Open against Marcos Giron or Mackenzie McDonald.
“I just want to see first where my game is at a tournament level, competitive level in ‘Cincinnati’, because we’re going to almost 100 per cent see some unbelievable results, maybe some really bad games or some really good ones,” Medvedev said. “I don’t know what to expect, because it’s not usual that there are 150 players that didn’t play a match in six months… I’m really curious [what will happen] and I am going to do my best to win as many matches as possible.”
Struff gets the better of De Minaur
Felix Auger-Aliassime overcame a nervous start at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday as the ATP Tour returned after a five-month suspension due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The 20-year-old Canadian extended his winning streak to 3-0 against big-hitting Nikoloz Basilashvili with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over 76 minutes, but he didn’t have things all his own way in a match that featured no line judges or fans at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
“I am the first winner of 2020 part two, post COVID… I am happy to be playing again and to get a win,” Auger-Aliassime told ATPTour.com. “I felt really good. Even though I had some nerves, starting again in different conditions than we are used to, I did the work in the last month and I felt like I had the resources in me to get the win today.”
Auger-Aliassime, who has reached two ATP Tour finals in 2020 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils) and at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas), will next challenge Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Tennys Sandgren in the second round.
Auger-Aliassime started his first match since 27 February with an ace, but then proceeded to hit three double faults to fall behind. While the No. 15 seed recovered to win three straight games from an 0-2 deficit, including an 11-minute fifth game, Basilashvili came within one point of taking a 5-3 advantage in the first set.
Two double faults from the Georgian at 4-5 handed Auger-Aliassime the 48-minute opener and Basilashvili made the same mistake at 1-2 in the second set to hand his opponent a crucial advantage. Auger-Aliassime grew confidence on serve and finished the match having won five straight games.
“Nerves got to me a little bit in the first [set],” said Auger-Aliassime. “I didn’t have such a great start… It was nerve-racking because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
“The feeling I was missing was really the winning feeling. That is what you play for. Obviously we love to play, compete, hit good shots but, at the same time, we are competitors. We want the final result. We want the win. To be able to get that from my first match back, there is no greater feeling. That confidence, that feeling inside of you, there is nothing that compares to it.”
Elsewhere, Jan-Lennard Struff recorded his first win in his third meeting against Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in 81 minutes.
Struff, who awaits the winner of No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov and 2016 champion Marin Cilic, broke serve twice in a first set that ended with De Minaur hitting a backhand into the net. The German took advantage of a double fault from De Minaur at 3-3 in the second set to break with a powerful forehand.
Former World No. 3 prevails in Prague
Stan is the man in Prague!
For the first time in 2020, Stan Wawrinka has his hands on a trophy. The Swiss dismissed Aslan Karatsev to capture the title at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague on Saturday, earning a hard-fought 7-6(2), 6-4 victory.
Having entered the I.CLTK Prague Open by Moneta in search of match play and confidence following the COVID-19 hiatus, Wawrinka made the most of his time in the Czech capital. The former World No. 3 claimed his first title since 2017, when he triumphed on home soil at the ATP Tour stop in Geneva.
“I’m really happy,” said Wawrinka. “It was the best match of the week and the level was good. The focus was there, I was serving well and I’m really happy to get the trophy today. It was nice to come back here and play a Challenger at the Prague Open, especially after so many months away.”
Competing in his first Challenger tournament in more than a decade, Wawrinka added a seventh title at that level and a 23rd professional crown in total (Tour-level and Challenger combined). It did not come easy for the Lausanne native, who rallied from a set down on three occasions during the week, before earning a more routine victory in Saturday’s championship.
Wawrinka faced a break point immediately as proceedings got underway against Karatsev, but the Swiss would settle into a groove from there. He reeled off 18 of his last 20 service points in the first set, before eventually taking the opener in a tie-break. The only break of the match came early in the second set, when Karatsev sent a volley into the net. Wawrinka edged ahead 2-1 and never looked back, emerging victorious after one hour and 44 minutes.
“I feel good, but I know I’m not at my best yet,” Wawrinka added. “But that’s the reason why I came here. I wanted to get some matches. Every match I was playing better and this was the best of the week. I’m happy to keep going next week.”
Highest-Ranked Challenger Champions (since 2000)
|Winner||FedEx ATP Ranking
|Joachim Johansson||No. 12||Luxembourg 2004|
|Sjeng Schalken||No. 13||Prague 2003|
|Ivan Ljubicic||No. 14||Zagreb 2005|
||No. 17||Prague 2020
|Martin Verkerk||No. 17||Hilversum 2003|
At No. 17 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Wawrinka is the highest-ranked player to win on the ATP Challenger Tour since 14th-ranked Ivan Ljubicic in Zagreb in 2005. Moreover, he is one of just eight players inside the Top 20 to win on the Challenger circuit since 2000.
As he continues his quest to find his top form and gather momentum entering the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome and clay-court Grand Slam at Roland Garros, Wawrinka will next compete at the second Prague Challenger, starting Monday. He is the top seed at the RPM Open by Moneta and will open against either Malek Jaziri or Goncalo Oliveira.
Karatsev, meanwhile, was competing in his sixth Challenger final and second of the year. Also the runner-up in Bangkok in January, the World No. 253 is projected to rise 58 spots to return to the Top 200.
“I played against a big champion today,” said Karatsev. “I started well, but he was better today in the end. I made too many mistakes today. To beat this guy, you have to play your best. I will take a lot from this week for the future and the end of the year.”
Frenchmen Win Doubles Title
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Arthur Rinderknech did not drop a set all week, culminating in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Zdenek Kolar and Lukas Rosol on Saturday. It was the first team title for the French pair.
Herbert, a four-time Grand Slam doubles champion alongside Nicolas Mahut, claimed his second trophy of the year. In February, he triumphed with Mahut at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam.
Rinderknech, who leads the Challenger circuit in singles wins this year (16), added a second doubles title to his haul. He previously prevailed with another Frenchman, Manuel Guinard, in Drummondville, Canada, in February.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori tests positive for coronavirus for a second time, 10 days before the start of the US Open.
German topples second seed Cecchinato
Players returning to action at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Todi, Italy, understand that it’s taken a team effort to make this all come together.
Operating a professional tournament amid a global pandemic is no simple task. From establishing protocols and policies to make everyone feel safe and secure, while maintaining world-class Italian hospitality, credit goes to the organisers for making this a possibility.
With frequent temperature checks, mask wearing enforced throughout the grounds and social distancing in effect, players have shown their appreciation for the tournament’s efforts. After booking his spot in Saturday’s semi-finals, Yannick Hanfmann had nothing but praise for the 12th edition of the Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi.
“I think that for the first tournament of the ATP Challenger Tour restart, you guys are doing a fantastic job,” Hanfmann exclaimed. “Everybody feels pretty safe here. All the players are following the protocols and we’re just lucky that it’s possible to play here with all the rules in place.”
Doubles finalist Andrey Golubev added: “We’re all excited to be back on the court and I’m very thankful for the organization of these Challengers. We know that organizing these events is the hardest part and especially with these protocols, everyone needs to be careful. Hopefully it will be better and better in the coming weeks.”
Hanfmann defeated second seed and former World No. 16 Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-4 to reach his second semi-final of the season. He will face the last remaining Italian hope, Gian Marco Moroni, on Saturday. Moroni overcame Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 later in the day.
“He was the second seed and playing at home in Italy, so I expected to be the underdog,” added Hanfmann. “The conditions today were very hot, so my serve was going to have a good effect. I know that he struggles a bit on the backhand side, so I just tried to convert as much as I can from my serve and play really aggressive. I think that worked today.”
In the other semi-final, Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles will square off against Antoine Hoang of France. Zapata Miralles advanced when Facundo Bagnis was forced to retire due to a leg injury, while Hoang prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 over third seed Federico Gaio.
“It was a really tough match and a really tough week, winning in the third set in each match,” said Hoang. “I’m really happy to win in the end. Today, I was 4-2 down and I fought and found a way to win. It’s really satisfying. I kept a good mindset to fight until the end.”