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Murray/Skupski Make W&S Open Breakthrough

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

Murray/Skupski Make W&S Open Breakthrough

Brits to face Carreno Busta/De Minaur for trophy

Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski advanced to their first ATP Tour championship match as a team on Friday, defeating Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 7-5, 6-3 at the Western & Southern Open.

The British pairing saved both break points it faced to eliminate the Australian Open champions after 84 minutes. Murray and Skupski will attempt to lift their first tour-level team title on Saturday, more than a year after triumphing at the Arizona Tennis Classic — an ATP Challenger Tour event — on their team debut in March 2019.

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The unseeded duo has now defeated three seeded teams en route to the final. Alongside their win against Ram and Salisbury, Murray and Skupski also upset top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the first round and sixth seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies in the quarter-finals.

Murray and Skupski will meet Pablo Carreno Busta and Alex de Minaur in the final. The Spanish-Australian tandem moved past wild cards Steve Johnson and Austin Krajicek 7-5, 6-4. Carreno Busta and De Minaur are making their team debut this week. Like Murray and Skupski, the unseeded pairing has survived two Match Tie-breaks en route to the championship match.

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Raonic Makes Masters 1000 Final Return

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

Raonic Makes Masters 1000 Final Return

Canadian to face Djokovic or Bautista Agut for the trophy

Milos Raonic advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final in four and a half years on Friday with a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The unseeded Canadian won 90 per cent of first-serve points (35/39) to reach his fourth Masters 1000 championship match (0-3) after one hour and 37 minutes. Raonic is through to his first final at the level since his runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells.

“It would be incredible [to win an ATP Masters 1000 title]. Just generally as part of my career, it’s not just the past six months coming back [and] playing. Just with everything else, I want to go to heights I haven’t achieved yet and this is a part of it,” said Raonic. “This is what I’ve worked hard for with very clear, specific goals and I hope that I can get that step closer and maybe make a difference tomorrow.”

In January, Raonic did not face a break point to defeat Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2) in his first ATP Head2Head contest against the Greek. After picking up his second win in as many matches against the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, Raonic has won each of his 28 service games against Tsitsipas and faced only one break point.

Since reaching a career-high No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 21 November 2016, Raonic has consistently struggled with injuries. Last year, the Canadian withdrew from 10 events due to injury. But now, after the five-month suspension of the ATP Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a fresh Raonic has returned to peak form.

“I’m feeling good about my tennis,” said Raonic. “I took the time to train, to try to do things right, to get myself to a stage I haven’t been before with my tennis, with my health. I hope it can keep paying off for me because I’ve put in the work and let’s see what the future holds.”

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Prior to his victory against fourth seed Tsitsipas, Raonic beat Sam Querrey, Daniel Evans, two-time champion Andy Murray and Filip Krajinovic to reach the semi-finals. In his quarter-final against Krajinovic the Canadian was forced to save match point at 4-5, 30/40, in the deciding set.

Raonic will meet World No. 1 Djokovic or Roberto Bautista Agut for the title. The eight-time ATP Tour titlist owns a 0-10 ATP Head2Head record against Djokovic and is unbeaten in five ATP Head2Head encounters against Bautista Agut.

“For me I’ve got to find a way to first ball,” said Raonic. “I put a lot of pressure on guys with my serve. I’ve got to make them play, I’ve got to make them think on their serve. If I’m giving too many free things away, it makes my service game harder and also takes a lot of pressure that I build up with my service games off of them.”

In a first set which featured only one break point, Raonic ran around his backhand at 5-6, 30/40, to save set point with a series of powerful forehands. In the tie-break, the Canadian recovered from a mini-break down and hit back-to-back forehand winners at 5/5 to clinch the first set.

“[The set point] was tough. It was a long point, I didn’t get the free point on the serve. I had to play it out, but I played it right and I stuck to my intentions the whole way through and it paid off for me. I stuck to my game and thankfully things came together.”

Raonic continued to use his forehand to break through the defence of Tsitsipas early in the second set and, on his first break point at 2-1, the World No. 30 became the first player to break Tsitsipas’ serve this week with a low backhand passing shot. Raonic held his advantage and served out the match to love, claiming victory with a strong serve into his opponent’s backhand.

During the ATP Tour suspension, Raonic worked hard to return to peak fitness and elevate his game to new heights. The 29-year-old began his preparations for the resumption of the ATP Tour in March, completing three six-week training blocks across 22 weeks.

“We did a pre-season for six weeks of training and I did three blocks of that,” said Raonic. “I did one right after we got shut down on March 11 or 12. I took 10 days off, started around the 24th… I did six weeks, took two weeks off, another six weeks, took two weeks off, and another six weeks leading up to here.”

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Bryans On Fast Track To Hall Of Fame Ballot

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

Bryans On Fast Track To Hall Of Fame Ballot

Bryans claimed 10 year-end No. 1 finishes in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan will be the first ATP Tour players to automatically qualify for inclusion on the International Tennis Hall Of Fame ballot.

Due to policy amendments that were instituted in 2018, the most accomplished team in doubles history will be on the Class of 2025 ballot. This is the first possible ballot for entry into the Hall Of Fame for the Bryan brothers, who captured 119 tour-level trophies as a team, due to the organisation’s five-year retirement policy.

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The Automatic Inclusion Policy states that players whose record of achievement meets the following criteria will be automatically placed on the first eligible ballot: 

Singles: Must have won three major singles titles and have been ranked World No. 1 for a minimum of 13 weeks; Or, have won five major singles titles.

Doubles: Must have won 12 major doubles titles and have been ranked World No. 1 for a minimum of 52 weeks; Or, have won 15 major doubles titles.

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As a pairing, the Bryans lifted a team record 16 major doubles titles and spent 438 weeks atop the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings.

The brothers will still have to be voted in by the International Tennis Hall Of Fame voting group, but they will not be subject to the multi-level nomination process and committee review that takes place ahead of getting on the ballot each year.

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David Mercer, Tennis Commentator & Umpire, Dies Aged 70

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

David Mercer, Tennis Commentator & Umpire, Dies Aged 70

Mercer was part of the Wimbledon commentary team for 35 years

David Mercer, the sports commentator and 1984 Wimbledon final umpire, passed away suddenly on Wednesday aged 70. He was part of the Wimbledon commentary team for 35 years and, from 1994 until 2019, was also emcee at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, an ATP 500-level event.

In an 11-year career as a chair umpire, he took charge at Wimbledon of the 1983 men’s doubles final and the 1984 singles final. He also officiated at numerous other tournaments — including at The Queen’s Club — and Davis Cup ties.

As a freelance sports broadcaster for BBC Wales from 1979, by the time he umpired the 1984 Wimbledon final, he was in line to become one of the first two professional touring umpires. But as he officiated over John McEnroe’s 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jimmy Connors, he’d already accepted a full-time job with the BBC as a sports correspondent.

He joined BBC Television in 1992 and remains the only person to have umpired a Wimbledon final and subsequently commentated on the finals for both radio and television. McEnroe, who later worked with Mercer as co-commentators for the BBC, once said: “My God, they’re giving me an umpire!”

Mercer also worked for BT Sport and Eurosport, co-founded the Tennis Radio Network, and reported from every major tennis tournament. He was a former chairman of the Lawn Tennis Writers’ Association and member of the Sports Council for Wales.

Mercer won the Welsh junior doubles title in 1968 and captained the tennis team at Nottingham University, where he graduated with a law degree. He began practising in Swansea, south Wales, in 1973, the year he first umpired at The Championships, and ran his own law firm for nine years.

Mercer was almost elected to Parliament in 1979, as a Conservative candidate in the safe Labour seat of Swansea West. He came within 401 votes, nearly winning it on the tide that swept Margaret Thatcher to power, second to long-time MP Alan Williams. During the 1983 General Election, he assisted in the Prime Minister’s private office.

A keen sportsman, who also commentated on badminton and rowing for the BBC at Olympic and Commonwealth Games, he enjoyed going to the theatre with his wife, Sue, who survives him, along with one daughter, Caroline, and two step-children, Liz and Chris.

David Mercer, solicitor, sports commentator and umpire, born April 1950, died 27 August 2020

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Preview: Tsitsipas Seeks Raonic Revenge

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

Preview: Tsitsipas Seeks Raonic Revenge

Greek looks to overcome big-serving and confident Canadian

Stefanos Tsitsipas has already overcome big servers this week, but it’s the memory of Milos Raonic’s performance in January that gives the fourth-seeded Greek food for thought ahead of their Western & Southern Open semi-final on Friday.

Raonic has proven time and again this week that when he’s fully fit, he is a major force. And if their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting is anything to go by, tennis fans globally could be in a for a treat when they watch their semi-final at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Raonic hit 55 winners, including 19 aces, to knock out Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2)  in the 2020 Australian Open third round. Read Match Report

“I had a lot of trouble returning Raonic’s serve at the Australian Open,” admitted Tsitsipas this week in New York. “[The win] was very well deserved from his side because he played unbelievable that day. I was very upset I wasn’t able to find solutions that day. His serve was really a weapon, causing a lot of damage.”

Tsitsipas has shown he’s not afraid of big servers, demonstrating in victories over Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Reilly Opelka en route to his fifth ATP Masters 1000 semi-final, that he will readily use his slice and block returns in order to work his way into points. If he can get the better of Raonic, he’ll reach his third Masters 1000 final (after 2018 Rogers Cup in Toronto and the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open).

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But Raonic has played with tremendous focus this week and used his biggest weapon to his advantage. Incredibly, the Canadian has hit 76 aces in four matches and won 140 of his 165 first-service points.

Speaking earlier this week, Raonic admitted he treated the Tour suspension like an off-season in Florida and the Bahamas, saying, “I started treating it like we did pre-season for six weeks of training, and I did three blocks of that. I did one right after we got shut down on March 11 or 12, took 10 days off, started around the 24th. I did six weeks, took two weeks off, another six weeks, took two weeks off, and another six weeks leading up to here.”

Raonic, who recorded the 350th match win of his career over Sam Querrey in the Western & Southern Open first round, has also overcome Daniel Evans, two-time former champion Andy Murray and saved one match point against Filip Krajinovic at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. Following his loss, Murray praised Raonic, saying: “He serves big and he’s aggressive. It’s not easy. Once you let him get ahead, like I did at the beginning of the match, he plays very well and it’s tough to put pressure on him.”

Raonic also knows what it takes to advance to a Masters 1000 final, having played in three title matches before at the 2013 Coupe Rogers in Montreal, the 2014 Rolex Paris Masters and at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. He will be attempting to reach his first hard-court final since February 2017 at the Delray Beach Open by

Prior to the Tour suspension in March, Tsitsipas had lifted his fifth ATP Tour crown at the Open 13 Provence (d. Auger-Aliassime) and finished runner-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Djokovic). He’s delighted to be back in tournament action, saying, “It’s great being back on court. I really feel the joy of being able to compete again and play against the rest of the ATP players. It’s good to be back in my natural habitat, being able to compete at such a high level [and] strive for so much. It’s the adrenaline, the everyday routine that fulfils me, makes me feel like I compete for something important.”

Tsitsipas or Raonic will meet World No. 1 and 2018 champion Novak Djokovic or eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who play in the second semi-final.

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Preview: Will Novak's Perfect Season Give Way To RBA?

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

Preview: Will Novak’s Perfect Season Give Way To RBA?

Bautista Agust has won his past three hard-court matches against the Serbian.

Only a select group of players has achieved the rare feat of defeating Novak Djokovic three times in a row on hard courts. If the No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings is to maintain his unbeaten (21-0) streak in 2020, he’ll need to beat one of them when he faces Roberto Bautista Agut in semi-final action on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open.

Bautista Agut defeated Djokovic in their past three hard-court meetings at 2016 Shanghai and 2019 Doha and Miami. Although the Serbian leads their ATP Head2Head series 9-3, he’s been made to work even in victory against the Spaniard. Bautista Agut has taken a set in three of Djokovic’s past four wins in their rivalry.

“His style of play is just so consistent. He doesn’t give away much at all. He doesn’t make many unforced errors. He doesn’t drop his level of tennis much at all on any surface.”

Bautista Agut didn’t lose any of his trademark resilience in his return to competition this week, rallying from a set down in his third-round win against No. 11 seed Karen Khachanov and quarter-final victory against third seed and defending champion Daniil Medvedev. The 32-year-old started off this year in top form by going undefeated (6-0) in ATP Cup action and has displayed that same form in New York.

“I’m happy. I think I have been practising hard [and] doing a lot of great things at home,” Bautista Agut said. “It’s never easy to come back and play good in the first tournament. I think I have to be patient and try to enjoy every single match I play here after six months without competing. I’m just pleased and happy to be in the semi-finals. 

“Novak is a great player. It’s true that I played really good matches against Novak, [but] he didn’t lose a match this year. He is the favourite. I will try to play my game and try to enjoy another good match against him.”

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Djokovic may have experienced déjà vu if he watched how the Spaniard’s 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback against Medvedev unfolded. The Serbian found himself in a similar position last year in Miami, but Bautista Agut continued to tirelessly chase down balls and pounced on the limited opportunities presented to him, clawing his way back to a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 triumph.

Although many people saw the match as an upset, Djokovic viewed it as a textbook example of what the Spaniard does best.

“I was winning comfortably, [up a] set, having some chances in the second set and then things turned around. But that’s what he does,” Djokovic recalled. “He slows you down. He wears you down and tries to, in a way, suffocate you on the court and wait for his chances, and then he takes it.”

Djokovic also picked up where he left off at the start of this year and powered into the semi-finals without dropping a set, tying the tournament record for most appearances (8) in the last four. He’s now two wins away from creating even more history at this event. Should he take the title on Friday, he’ll equal Rafael Nadal’s record haul of 35 ATP Masters 1000 trophies.

The 2018 champion (d. Federer) has historically thrived in the rowdy atmosphere of New York and is embracing the new normal, finding ways to excel even without fans cheering him on.

“I do miss the crowd. Everyone does because that’s a very big part of what we do in professional tennis. But it is [what] it is, and I’m trying to make the most out of this situation and these kinds of circumstances,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had a terrific tournament, reached the semi-finals [and haven’t] dropped a set. I feel comfortable [and] I also like playing on this court right now. I’m used to it.”

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With All Due Respect, Players Rave About RBA

  • Posted: Aug 28, 2020

With All Due Respect, Players Rave About RBA

Learn why the stars feel the Spaniard is a difficult opponent

Roberto Bautista Agut typically flies under radar. The Spaniard is not flashy on the court, nor is he outspoken off it. But in recent years, the 32-year-old has proven himself one of the most difficult opponents on the ATP Tour, and his peers have taken notice.

“He’s probably one of the most underrated tennis players that we have in the past five years,” World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said. “He deserves, I think, more respect than he gets.”

Bautista Agut is mild-mannered, rarely showing excessive emotion on the court. He doesn’t usually crush winners out of the blue. The nine-time ATP Tour champion is methodical. He works the ball around the court and drives opponents crazy with his consistency, giving away almost no free points. Any point a player wins against Bautista Agut is well-earned.

“His style of play is just so consistent. He doesn’t give away much at all. He doesn’t make too many unforced errors. You can always expect him to play at that certain level,” Djokovic said. “He doesn’t drop his level of tennis much at all on any surface.

“He slows you down. He kind of wears you down and tries to, in a way, suffocate you on the court and just wait for his chances, and then he takes it. Mentally, he’s also very strong. He’s resilient. He’s just consistent all around.”

It’s not just his game style that is consistent. The last time Bautista Agut was outside the Top 30 of the FedEx ATP Rankings was in May 2014. Last August, he cracked the Top 10 for the first time aged 31.

He doesn’t win loudly, but he wins a lot. Bautista Agut has earned at least 40 tour-level victories in five of his past six seasons and he is off to a 12-3 start in 2020 after making the Western & Southern Open semi-finals, in which he will play Djokovic.

Just before the ATP Tour resumed last weekend, former World No. 1 Andy Murray did an Instagram Q&A in which a fan asked who the most underrated player on Tour is.

“Good question,” Murray replied. “Roberto Bautista Agut has been in the Top 20 for a long time it feels like!”

“Every time a player like Andy says a good thing about me, it’s always nice,” Bautista Agut told “He has all the respect from other players and I’m very, very pleased to listen to these words from Andy.”

Does he believe he’s underrated?

“I don’t care,” Bautista Agut said. “I just want to play.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

That’s what Bautista Agut did in his quarter-final against in-form Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev stormed through the first set 6-1 and held a 0/40 advantage on the Spaniard’s serve in the opening game of the second set. But Bautista Agut kept chipping away until he raised his level, ultimately frustrating the Russian.

“He’s really solid. He knows what he’s doing on court. He knows how to win matches. He wins a lot of matches every year. so he knows his strengths, he knows his weaknesses [and] he tries to play with [them],” Medvedev said. “He’s a smart guy on the court. He’s [been] a top player for years, so for sure he’s going to [beat] many top guys.”

Bautista Agut is never the centre of attention in a players’ lounge. But he is widely respected by everyone, including reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“He’s probably one of my best friends on Tour. We don’t really speak much, but whenever he’s around, we always have a good time, with him and his coach. He’s a really close friend of mine, a really nice guy,” Tsitsipas said. “I think on the court he’s one of the biggest fighters and one of the most consistent and calm players and at the same time, [one of the most] persistent players on the Tour.  

“He can play really well. If he’s on a good day, it’s really difficult to play against him.”

Bautista Agut will try to win his fourth consecutive hard-court match against Djokovic on Friday. By doing so, he would advance to his second Masters 1000 final.

“That’s true that I played really good matches against Novak,” Bautista Agut said, before quickly shifting the attention off himself. “I have to tell you that he didn’t lose a match this year. He is the favourite, and I will try to play my game and try to enjoy another good match against him.”

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