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18-Year-Old Italian Musetti Stuns Stan In Rome

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

18-Year-Old Italian Musetti Stuns Stan In Rome

This is the #NextGenATP player’s first ATP Tour win

#NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti earned the biggest win of his young career Tuesday evening at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, stunning three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6(2) in the first round. This is the 18-year-old’s first ATP Tour victory.

Musetti had only played one tour-level match before facing the former World No. 3 in Rome. But the teen, who won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, showed few nerves at the Foro Italico. He displayed an aggressive all-court game to oust Wawrinka after one hour and 24 minutes.

“I have seen him play on television and I know he is a very tough player,” said Musetti, who will play Kei Nishikori in the second round. “I’m going to enjoy the victory before I start thinking about my match against Nishikori.”

After a first set full of unforced errors off Wawrinka’s racquet that led him to lose the first eight games, the Swiss raised his level in the second set. The World No. 17 played heavier, safer groundstrokes to work his way back into the match, overcoming an early break deficit to get back on serve. But Musetti was undeterred, showing no fear from the baseline or in the forecourt.

The teen, at a career-high World No. 249, rose to the occasion in the second-set tie-break. Musetti held his ground on the baseline and controlled points against the 35-year-old, finishing off his victory with a winning cross-court forehand passing shot. 

“First set was almost perfect. Second set he tried to play better,” Musetti said. “He was focussed on the match and he wanted to win the set, but I served really good. I mixed a lot with the wide serve, T and body serve. I think the serve was the key to have the lead of the game.”

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Musetti has a free-swinging forehand and an artistic one-handed backhand, which differs from countrymen Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner, who hit a two-handed backhand. Throughout the match Musetti showed great variety on his backhand wing, adding a lot of shape to the ball to push Wawrinka back or taking it early to hit winners down the line.

“This kid’s backhand is incredible!” said former World No. 1 Jim Courier, who broadcasted the match for Tennis Channel.

Musetti also was comfortable coming to net and he used his forehand drop shot in key moments. The 18-year-old also showed good feel for points, guessing the right way on multiple occasions to retrieve Wawrinka overheads.

When Musetti was born, Wawrinka already had earned FedEx ATP Ranking points. The Italian is the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP Tour match. Musetti won 49 per cent of his return points and broke Wawrinka’s serve four times.

Former junior World No. 1 Musetti won the 2019 Australian Open boys’ singles championship, defeating Emilio Nava in the final by winning a 26-point tie-break in the third set. He is the youngest player competing in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Wawrinka, the 2008 Rome finalist, won an ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague last month. This was his 16th consecutive appearance in this event.

Did You Know?
Wawrinka, 35, and Musetti, 18, were the oldest and youngest players in the Rome draw, respectively.

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Koepfer Saves 1 M.P. To Edge De Minaur In Rome

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Koepfer Saves 1 M.P. To Edge De Minaur In Rome

No. 12 seed Shapovalov plays Pella later today

Qualifier Dominik Koepfer completed a remarkable comeback, which included saving one match point at 4-5 in the third set against Alex de Minaur, on Tuesday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

De Minaur looked set for a routine win, when he led by a set and 3-0, but Koepfer found a way back for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory in two hours and 33 minutes. Koepfer, who is making his ATP Masters 1000 tournament debut at the Foro Italico this week, will now challenge fifth seed Gael Monfils in the second round.

Koepfer won seven straight games before De Minaur broke in the third game of the decider, one of 13 service breaks in the match. De Minaur held a match point at 5-4, with Koepfer serving at 30/40, but the Australian overhit a forehand. In the next game, a poor forehand volley on break point cost De Minaur, and Koepfer then held to 15 for a 6-5 lead. The World No. 97 kept fighting and held his nerve in the tie-break.

Last week, 21-year-old De Minaur became the youngest Australian to reach the US Open quarter-finals since former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, 21, in 2002.

Denis Shapovalov, the No. 12 seed, takes on Guido Pella on Centrale, the main stadium court, later today. The winner plays qualifier Pedro Martinez, who defeated Sam Querrey 6-3, 7-6(3).

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Rublev Records 20th Win Of Year On Rome Debut

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Rublev Records 20th Win Of Year On Rome Debut

Russian continues run of form at Foro Italico

Ninth seed Andrey Rublev made a winning start on his Internazionali BNL d’Italia debut on Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over qualifier Facundo Bagnis in one hour and 38 minutes. He now plays Hubert Hurkacz in the Rome second round.

Rublev, who hit 25 winners for his 20th match win of the season (20-5), took a 3-0 lead in the first set and proved to be too strong in baseline rallies. He broke Bagnis at 3-3 in the second set and finished with a drop shot winner.

Last week, 22-year-old Rublev advanced to his second US Open quarter-final (also 2017), losing to Daniil Medvedev. Prior to the suspension of the ATP Tour, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rublev had won two ATP Tour titles this year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (d. Moutet) and at the Adelaide International (d. Harris).

Elsewhere, John Millman recovered from 2-4 down in the second set to overcome lucky loser Joao Sousa 7-5, 7-6(2) in two hours and four minutes. He now challenges eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

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Murray Receives Roland Garros Wild Card

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Murray Receives Roland Garros Wild Card

Former runner-up to play at Paris major for first time in three years

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray will take the field for this year’s Roland Garros after being granted a main draw wild card. The 33-year-old Brit will continue his comeback from hip surgery at the Paris major, where he fell to Novak Djokovic in the final four years ago.

Currently No. 110 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Murray returned to the tour in August for the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows. He scored three-set victories over Frances Tiafoe and Alexander Zverev, before the German went on to reach the US Open final.

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Eventual runner-up Milos Raonic ended Murray’s run in the third round, but he carried his promising form to an opening-round triumph at the US Open. Murray fought back from two sets down and saved a match point to deny Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, before No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime had his number.

It was his first Grand Slam tournament since the 2019 Australian Open, while he has not played at Roland Garros since he fell to Stan Wawrinka in the 2017 semi-finals. He will enter the event without any clay-court matches after he ruled out competing at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome this week.


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Raonic: 'I've Been Through This Rhythm Every Six Months'

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Raonic: ‘I’ve Been Through This Rhythm Every Six Months’

Canadian draws on past comebacks for his tour return

Milos Raonic is finding previous experiences in the art of patience and perseverance are holding him in good stead in his return to competition, following the ATP Tour’s COVID-19 hiatus. No stranger to the stop-start curve balls of injury setbacks, the Canadian came out firing from the off in his first event in six months at the Western & Southern Open.

The former World No. 3 won his first five matches to reach his fourth ATP Masters 1000 final, before top seed Novak Djokovic edged him in three sets. Despite an early second-round departure to countryman Vasek Pospisil at the US Open, Raonic quickly turned his focus to a reduced clay-court swing.

“First match was up and down, but everybody’s on the same thing,” Raonic told ATP Uncovered of his ATP Tour return. “For me, the benefit of being hurt many times before [is that] I’ve started from nothing a bunch of times. I’ve been through this rhythm every six months… so I knew what I had to focus on, to get the best of me as quickly as possible.”

Raonic’s run at the Western & Southern Open lifted him back to No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, his first time in the Top 20 since 12 August last year. It was his first event since he fell in the semi-finals of the Delray Beach Open by (l. to Opelka) in February, and there was little rust to be seen as he brushed aside Sam Querrey, Dan Evans and Andy Murray without dropping a set.

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In the quarter-finals he saved a match point to eke out a narrow win against Filip Krajinovic. Then, in the semi-finals, he landed his second upset over Stefanos Tsitsipas this season, having also beaten the Greek en route to the Australian Open quarter-finals in January.

“I worked hard in this time off we had,” Raonic said. “I’m thankful things are coming together a lot quicker than I expected, but there wasn’t a lack of trying. So far there’s a lot to be pleased with, and I hope it’s something I can make the most of for a long time coming.”

The most notable difference in the US was the absence of crowds, which made for a setting more akin to a training session behind closed doors. It did not diminish the importance of matches for Raonic.

“There’s still nerves that come with it,” he said. “You’re not sure how you’re going to step out and play that first match, that first set, that first game. 

“There’s a lot that can go wrong quickly, but you just focus on yourself and understand the other guy could be on the same ship as you and try to control the little things as much as possible. I just put in a lot of hard work and I think it allowed every single aspect of my game to improve just a bit. I hope it continues improving.”

Raonic is the No. 13 seed at this week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia. He will team up with compatriot, #NextGenATP star Felix Auger Aliassime, in doubles before he begins his 15th Roland Garros campaign.

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Who Are The World's Toughest Doubles Opponents?

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Who Are The World’s Toughest Doubles Opponents?

The Ultimate Doubles Player: Toughest Opponents

The ‘Ultimate Doubles Player’ series has examined the shots and skills that make for thrilling doubles matches on the ATP Tour. One question still remains: who is the toughest doubles opponent?

One player was mentioned most often: Henri Kontinen.

“He seems to come up with the goods when he needs it,” said four-time Nitto ATP Finals competitor Raven Klaasen. “It’s hard to plan for someone who has such a wide array of shots and different ways to beat you.”

Learn more about why players find it tough to play Kontinen as well as the Bryan Brothers, Nicolas Mahut, and more.

Henri Kontinen
“He plays a style of tennis for me that’s difficult to deal with on the power front… On any given day he could beat you with what you would consider his ‘B’ plan and he’s got the ability to play tennis at an aggressive level that sometimes feels like he’s taking the game out of your hands. That’s not nice when you’re trying to make a game plan and someone’s able to take the game out of your hands.” – Raven Klaasen

“My record against him is awful… we have a laugh and a joke about it that he’s my Krypton factor. He’s just a really tough player. He’s obviously been at the top of the game and he still is, on his day. When he hits top form, he’s someone you don’t want to face.” – Ken Skupski

“When he was at his best, that guy, when he was sharp, he could go 200 on both serves and returning bombs, so he doesn’t give you rhythm. He makes you doubt all the time because you don’t have rhythm and he was on fire all the time making shots and had the talent to make really crazy shots.” – Juan Sebastian Cabal

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan
“We played many times against each other. They were always the toughest matches. We always had to play the best to beat them. The Bryans for sure, for most of the players they were the toughest ones.” – Marcelo Melo

“I can’t separate the two. Not only have they done so much for doubles as a sport and helped us continue having this sport and making it thrive and trying to make it successful, so I forgive them for always beating me. It’s tough not to pick them as toughest opponents. They’ve been unbelievable, outstanding, ever since I met them for the first time in ‘97.” – Robert Lindstedt

Nicolas Mahut
“He’s the guy who is always bringing a really high level. When he is on, especially in the later rounds of tournaments, he is always bringing his best. Definitely he is tough to play. He was a great singles player, and he does not have many weaknesses. It’s challenging to play against him.” – Filip Polasek

“He’s just an all-around great player and I’ve never beaten him. It’s just tough to know the best way to play against him. He’s got all the shots. He’s the toughest one I’ve played.” – Joe Salisbury

Marcel Granollers
“There are so many great players out there, but he brings a super high level of energy and intensity every single match, every single tournament, that’s pretty much unmatched in doubles. Even if you’re beating him and having a good day, and you feel like he’s maybe going to go away, he just doesn’t. He competes and fights until the very end.” – Rajeev Ram

Leander Paes
“He was a guy who bothered me a lot because he had a huge presence at the net and one of my best shots is my return, something that I trust a lot. Lee was always putting me to the test, always putting a lot of pressure, never leaving me space. He was always getting in front of you, so it was always very tough for me to play against him, because he never left me comfortable to hit returns and put pressure on the guys.” – Bruno Soares

Pierre-Hugues Herbert
“I don’t like playing against Pierre-Hugues Herbert. When he’s playing really well I feel like he’s a very tough opponent. I feel like he can do everything well: serve well, return well, volley well, groundstroke well. He has a very good partner usually with Nico. If I play against Bruno, I can say, ‘Okay, I can go here and I’ll still have a shot’, or if I play with this other guy, there’s always something you can go to and maybe he’s going to miss there. But when Pierre is playing well, I don’t feel like there’s a spot to go to.” – Robert Farah

Ken Skupski
“It will be one of the toughest matches. It’s not going to be nice. We’re not going to be able to relax and just play. I played a match last year in Cincinnati with Jamie against Andy Murray on the doubles court. You could just feel the tension on the court, it wasn’t nice. In the future I’m sure me and Ken will play against each other at some point, so not looking forward to that.” – Neal Skupski

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Preview: Wawrinka makes return to clay in Rome

  • Posted: Sep 15, 2020

Preview: Wawrinka makes return to clay in Rome

Swiss one of two former World No. 3s in action

Stan Wawrinka begins his 16th straight Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign in Rome on Tuesday, when he meets a local 17 years his junior, Lorenzo Musetti. In a showdown between the oldest and youngest players in the field, the former World No. 3 looks to build on his winning return to clay in Prague last month.

In his first outing since March and his first at ATP Challenger Tour level in more than a decade, the Swiss won five matches – including four straight three-set clashes – to win the title in the Czech capital. His best run in the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome came in 2008, when he was runner-up to Novak Djokovic.

Italian Musetti was only three when Wawrinka made his Rome debut against Tomas Berdych in 2005. The 18-year-old World No. 249 won through three rounds of qualifying to book his home Masters 1000 main draw berth this week.

He will meet Wawrinka for the first time in just his second tour-level match. Should he beat the Swiss, he will be the first player born in 2002 with an ATP Tour win.

Another former World No. 3, Milos Raonic, makes his Rome return, having reached the semi-finals there in 2014. The 13th-seeded Canadian reached the Western & Southern Open final at Flushing Meadows leading into the US Open (l. to Djokovic).

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On Tuesday, he takes on Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Raonic leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-1, but the last meeting came nearly two years ago in Tokyo.

Three US Open quarter-finalists make the switch from hard to clay courts on Tuesday with Russian No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev, Canadian No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov and Australian Alex de Minaur all in first-round action. Following his second Grand Slam quarter-final appearance at Flushing Meadows, 22-year-old Rublev makes his Rome debut against first-time opponent, Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis.

Rublev claimed two ATP Tour titles to begin 2020 (Doha and Adelaide) and carried a 15-match winning streak to the fourth round of the Australian Open before he fell to Alexander Zverev. He arrives in Rome at a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 12 on the back of his US Open run.

Following his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in New York, Shapovalov faces Argentine World No. 37 Guido Pella in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. All three of the 21-year-old Shapovalov’s quarter-final showings in 2020 were on hard or indoor hard courts while fellow left-hander Pella’s lone quarter-final came on clay in Buenos Aires.

As the youngest Australian since Lleyton Hewitt to reach the US Open quarter-finals, De Minaur bids to carry his momentum to the Foro Italico, where he aims to win a match for the first time. The 21-year-old meets German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head clash.

Fresh from becoming the fourth first-time ATP Tour champion in Kitzbuhel on Sunday, Serb Miomir Kecmanovic brings clay-court form to Rome. The 21-year-old takes on Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka for the first time.

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