Five players withdraw from French Open qualifying after two players and a coach test positive for Covid-19.
Five players withdraw from French Open qualifying after two players and a coach test positive for Covid-19.
Fourth seeds own 16-1 record on clay this year
Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos are the only team to win multiple ATP Tour trophies this year. They captured their third team title of 2020 on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Competing in their fourth final in as many clay-court tournaments this year, the fourth seeds overcame Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 to capture their second ATP Masters 1000 trophy as a pair. Last year’s Coupe Rogers titlists made the crucial move at 8/8 in the Match Tie-break, earning championship point when Zeballos struck a forehand return winner. Granollers clinched the trophy with a pinpoint forehand volley.
“This is one of the best moments in my career,” said Zeballos. “This tournament has a lot of history. I watched it for many years, since I was a little kid, so this tournament is really important. Winning Rome is a huge thing for me and for sure for Marcel too, so what can I say? I am so happy. You could see it in our faces when we finished the match.”
Granollers and Zeballos improve to 16-1 on clay this year. The Spanish-Argentine duo claimed back-to-back trophies at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires and the Rio Open presented by Claro in February. Granollers and Zeballos also reached the championship match at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel last week (l. to Krajicek/Skugor).
This is Granollers’ second Rome crown from four finals in the Italian capital. The 34-year-old claimed the title in 2012 alongside Marc Lopez and finished as a runner-up in 2015 (w/M. Lopez) and 2017 (w/Dodig). Granollers levels his tour-level finals record at 21-21.
“Before the first clay tournament of the year in Buenos Aires, I was a long time without winning one match on clay. Last year, I didn’t win a match in all of the clay season,” said Granollers. “After Buenos Aires and Rio, I think we felt very good on court playing together. We both [grew up] playing on clay when we were young and we feel very good on clay. I think we can play very good and we are very happy to win our third title of the year on clay.”
Zeballos extends his unbeaten record to 3-0 in Masters 1000 finals. Last year, alongside his victory with Granollers in Montreal, the Argentine also was victorious at the BNP Paribas Open with Nikola Mektic.
Chardy and Martin were attempting to claim their first Masters 1000 trophy. The Frenchmen own a 3-3 team record in tour-level championship matches, with their most recent title coming on clay at last year’s Millennium Estoril Open.
Granollers and Zeballos earn 1000 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €58,860 in prize money. Chardy and Martin collect 600 points and share €49,000.
The ATP Tour heads to Germany this week for the Hamburg European Open, an ATP 500 event.
Three former singles champions are in the draw, which includes nine of the Top 20 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch at the clay-court tournament.
1) Medvedev’s Momentum: Daniil Medvedev will begin his clay-court swing in Hamburg fresh off his run to the US Open semi-finals. The Russian competed at this ATP 500 in 2016 as a 20-year-old, when he qualified and advanced to the second round of the main draw. Medvedev was No. 215 in the FedEx ATP Rankings at the time. Now he is World No. 5. He will open against Frenchman Ugo Humbert.
2) Will Stefanos Shine? Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas is making his tournament debut in Hamburg. The Greek will try to replicate his previous clay-court success. Tsitsipas triumphed in Estoril last year and reached the final of the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event. The second seed begins his run in Hamburg against Daniel Evans.
3) Gael Goes For Glory: Gael Monfils owns a 4-4 record in Hamburg. But the 2011 quarter-finalist will try to make a splash at this edition as the third seed. The Frenchman, who lifted the 2005 Sopot trophy on clay, will play Kitzbuhel finalist Yannick Hanfmann in the first round.
4) Former Champ Fabio: Fabio Fognini won his second ATP Tour title in Hamburg seven years ago. The Italian also made the final in 2015, falling short against Rafael Nadal. But he will chase a third title in Germany (also 2013 Stuttgart) starting with his opening match against wild card Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Fabio Fognini” />
Photo Credit: Hamburg European Open/Witters
5) The Start Of Rublev’s Ascent: Andrey Rublev has been one of the most in-form players on the ATP Tour this season, tallying a 20-6 record. The Russian credits some of his momentum to his run to last year’s Hamburg final.
“I won playing not good tennis, but [I made the final] just because I was fighting and I was a little bit lucky,” Rublev said. “I still won [matches]. And this sometimes is even better, because this also gives you confidence that even playing your worst tennis, you know how to win.”
6) Diego Back For More: Diego Schwartzman, who surprised nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals, is the seventh seed in Hamburg. The Argentine has reached the quarter-finals in his past two appearances in Hamburg (2017, 2018) and he will play Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round.
7) Basilashvili Goes For Three: Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili is the two-time defending champion in Hamburg. The World No. 32 has won two of this three tour-level titles at this event, and all three of his trophies have come at an ATP 500. He will face a tough test in the first round against fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
8) Felix’s Debut: Canadian #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime will compete in Hamburg for the first time. The 20-year-old will open against Italian Lorenzo Sonego.
Felix Auger-Aliassime” />
Photo Credit: Hamburg European Open/Witters
9) Wild Cards: The three main draw wild cards are eighth seed Karen Khachanov, German Philipp Kohlschreiber and Hanfmann, another home favourite. Dominik Koepfer originally received a wild card, but got into the main draw as a special exempt because he reached the quarter-finals in Rome.
10) Stacked Doubles Field: There are so many top doubles teams in Hamburg that 2019 Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies are unseeded. The four seeded duos are top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, reigning Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury, third seeds Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo and Rome titlists Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos.
World No. 1 to face Schwartzman or Shapovalov for trophy
Novak Djokovic moved one win away from a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 trophy on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory against Casper Ruud in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals.
The World No. 1 saved two set points in the first set and fired 12 aces to improve to 10-1 in Rome semi-finals. Djokovic will attempt to break a tie with fellow 35-time Masters 1000 champion Rafael Nadal when he faces Diego Schwartzman or Denis Shapovalov in the championship match on Monday.
“It is super important [to win the title]. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” said Djokovic on court after his win. “I don’t take anything for granted, even after 15 years on the Tour, I still enjoy it.
“I still have a hunger for the titles and putting myself in a position to fight for the title is exactly where I want to be.”
Most ATP Masters 1000 Titles
Djokovic equalled Nadal’s record Masters 1000 title haul by completing his second Career Golden Masters at the Western & Southern Open last month. Djokovic is a four-time champion in Rome.
The Serbian is now 30-1 in 2020. Only in 2011, when he won his opening 41 matches of the year, has Djokovic reached 30 victories quicker.
Djokovic’s Best Season Starts (After 31 Matches)
The key moment of the match came when Ruud held two set points when serving for the first set at 5-4, 40/15. Djokovic ripped a crosscourt backhand to save the first set point and reached deuce after carving a backhand drop shot. The Serbian never looked back to claim victory in his first ATP Head2Head contest against the Norwegian.
Djokovic will attempt to triumph at the Foro Italico for the first time since 2015 on Monday. The 33-year-old has finished as runner-up at the event in three of the past four years, losing to Andy Murray (2016), Alexander Zverev (2017) and Nadal (2019) in finals.
The five-time year-end No. 1 owns a combined 9-0 ATP Head2Head record against potential final opponents Schwartzman and Shapovalov. Djokovic is unbeaten in five matches against Shapovalov and owns a 4-0 record against Schwartzman. The Serbian has beaten each player once at this event.
“Both guys are in tremendous form,” said Djokovic. “Diego played the match of his life last night and he also is most comfortable on clay. Denis has improved a lot on clay over the past few years and he has got a powerful game… Whatever comes my way, I will be ready and hopefully I can get my hands on the trophy.”
Ruud was attempting to reach his third final in four clay events this year. The World No. 34 owns a tour-leading 12 wins on the surface this season (12-3). Ruud was one of the form players of February’s ‘Golden Swing’, capturing his maiden ATP Tour crown at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires and finishing as a runner-up in Santiago.
The 21-year-old made a fast start on Centrale, anticipating Djokovic’s tactics and covering the court with great speed to gain an early break. The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier played with confidence on his forehand and saved two break points at 3-2, but he failed to convert two set points when serving for the set at 5-4. Djokovic increased his aggression on his backhand side and landed a drop shot winner, a tactic he has used throughout the week, before earning his first break of the match.
Djokovic served well under pressure to save three break points in a 12-minute game at 5-5 and, with added confidence, attacked his opponent’s backhand to reach set point in the following game. At that moment, Ruud attempted to strike his 13th forehand winner of the set, but misfired on his favoured shot to hand Djokovic a one-set lead.
Djokovic continued to serve with power and accuracy to escape danger early in the second set and gained the first break at 3-2 with powerful groundstrokes. The 17-time Grand Slam champion struck three consecutive winners into Ruud’s forehand corner and capitalised on a Ruud forehand error to move two games from victory. Djokovic earned success driving his backhand up the line in the closing stages and booked his place in the final when Ruud failed to control a backhand return.
”It was a tough two-setter today. It was over two hours for two sets,” said Djokovic. “I definitely had to work hard for most of the points and it was really anybody’s game in the first set… It was really windy.
“To be honest, it was probably the windiest day since we arrived to Rome and it was quite tough to handle that. But the second set was much better, I got used to it and started swinging through the ball better.”
World number two Simona Halep stays on course to win her first Italian Open title after beating Garbine Muguruza 6-3 4-6 6-4 in the semi-finals in Rome.
After nine-time champion Rafael Nadal’s surprising loss in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finalson Saturday evening, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite in Rome.
Djokovic, who is currently tied with Nadal at a record 35 Masters 1000 titles each, is two wins from standing alone atop that leaderboard. For now, though, the top seed will be focussed on his semi-final opponent, though. The Serbian will have to get past first-time Masters 1000 semi-finalist Casper Ruud when they meet for the first time.
“He’s a clay-court specialist. Obviously, he’s very good on different surfaces, but clay is where he feels most comfortable and where he had his best results,” Djokovic said. “He’s relatively young, as well. He’s making his way up the ranking scale. It’s really impressive to see him in [the] semi-finals, but at the same time, it’s kind of expected, knowing how well he can play on this surface.
“Hopefully we can have a good match. I’m going to have to do my video analysis and homework with my coach, with my team, and get ready for that one.”
Djokovic enters his 11th semi-final at the Foro Italico with a 29-1 record in 2020. Ruud will try to become only the second player to defeat the World No. 1 in a Rome semi-final (9-1) in the Italian capital. The Serbian’s only loss at this stage of the Italian Masters 1000 came against Nadal in 2018.
The 35-time Masters 1000 titlist has been tested in his opening three matches in Rome. Djokovic needed 87 minutes to win the first set of his third-round clash against Filip Krajinovic and was broken on four occasions in his three-set quarter-final against Dominik Koepfer.
Djokovic will hope to rely on the support of a small Italian crowd on Sunday. Up to 1,000 spectators will be allowed on site at the Foro Italico for the final two days of the tournament.
“I feel very welcomed here by people. You don’t see people in the stands, but the people who are part of the organisation, from transportation people, volunteers, grounds people, everyone is very kind to me. I happen to speak Italian, so obviously that brings me closer to them,” said Djokovic. “I feel that probably next to Serbia and maybe China, this is the place where I get the most support and where I get to feel the best, really. The results that I have had in the past  years are proving that I’m feeling great [here].”
This is arguably the biggest opportunity of Ruud’s career thus far. The Norwegian began the week with a 2-7 record at Masters 1000 events, with both of those victories coming in Rome. The World No. 34 will try to reach his third final from four clay-court events this year.
“This is my first time in the semi-finals, and today was even my first time in the quarter-finals [of a Masters 1000]. I’m just enjoying the moment,” Ruud said. “I’m in a good flow. I have gained good confidence in my game this week. Rome, I feel well here. [These are] great clay courts. It’s the way I think the clay court should be.”
With his run to the last four, Ruud has overtaken Cristian Garin to lead the clay wins leaderboard on the ATP Tour this year. Ruud has won 12 of his 14 matches on the surface in 2020.
There is a big opportunity in the bottom half of the draw, as eighth seed Diego Schwartzman plays 12th seed Denis Shapovalov. If Schwartzman lifts his first Masters 1000 trophy on Monday, he will crack the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. If anything else happens, Shapovalov will achieve that same feat.
Denis Shapovalov, Diego Schwartzman” />
“Denis [is a] great player,” Schwartzman said. “He’s a very good guy. He’s playing every week better and better. He’s going to be tough.
“It’s a different game than Rafa. He maybe has three, four games unreal and then you have a chance because he [makes] mistakes. But he’s playing [consistently] the past few weeks, so it’s going to be really tough.”
When a reporter asked Shapovalov about breaking into the Top 10 after he defeated Grigor Dimitrov earlier Saturday, the Canadian politely avoided responding in detail out of respect for Schwartzman. The Argentine then earned his first ATP Head2Head triumph against Nadal on his 10th attempt.
“For sure it’s my best match ever,” Schwartzman said.
The Argentine will next play another lefty in Shapovalov, who will certainly come out firing in their first meeting. The Canadian is 9-2 since the ATP Tour resumed in August, having reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open. He will hope to maintain his consistency against Schwartzman, who only made 17 unforced errors against Nadal.
“You have a lot of ups and downs. It’s fairly tough to stay consistent, I think. There are only certain players that have been able to do that throughout their career, so I’m happy to be playing this well,” Shapovalov said. “I have just been going one match at a time. And of course, I have had some lows. But I feel like that’s where working with a psychologist has helped me a lot to pick myself back up and improve my game after the drops.”
While Schwartzman has only competed in one previous Masters 1000 semi-final, last year in Rome, Shapovalov is playing in the last four at this level for the fifth time. Last year, the lefty reached the final of the Rolex Paris Masters. He has done well to make a quick change from hard courts to clay after dashing from Flushing Meadows to the Foro Italico.
“I have had a lot of difficult matches.
Dealing with jet lag and the body fatigue, it’s not easy, so I’m really happy with the way I have been able to overcome that,” Shapovalov said. “The way I felt tonight was really good, so I’m really happy and really pleased with myself.”
ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2020
CENTRALE start 12:00 pm
Not Before 2:00 pm
 Novak Djokovic v Casper Ruud
Not Before 4:00 pm
Not Before 7:00 pm
 Denis Shapovalov v  Diego Schwartzman
PIETRANGELI start 4:00 pm
Not Before 5:30 pm
Jeremy Chardy/Fabrice Martin v  Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos
Rafael Nadal entered the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarter-finals with a 9-0 record against Diego Schwartzman. But instead of looking for excuses after losing to the Argentine for the first time, the Spaniard is only seeking ways to improve.
“We can find excuses, but I didn’t play well enough. Then we have to think internally, ‘Why? How I can fix it?’” Nadal said. “Now is not the moment to find excuses. [It’s] just the moment to accept that I didn’t play well enough.”
Few players dare go toe-to-toe with Nadal in baseline rallies. But that’s exactly what Schwartzman did, especially in ad-court exchanges. The eighth seed hit 31 winners to only 17 unforced errors, while nine-time Rome champion Nadal made 30 unforced errors, including 18 on his forehand wing.
Nadal began the tournament with an 85 per cent hold rate on clay in his service games. But Schwartzman dominated his return games, winning 52 per cent of first-serve return points en route to breaking the Spaniard five times from 10 service games.
“It was not my night at all. He played a great match I think and [I didn’t],” Nadal said. “When this happens, you have to lose. These things can happen. After such a long time without competing, I played two good matches, and now today I played a bad one against a good opponent.
“That’s how it is. I just want to congratulate Diego and I’m going to keep working.”
This was Nadal’s first tournament since the ATP Tour was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Spaniard won his first two matches in straight sets to reach the Rome quarter-finals for the 15th time. But the second seed will now have to regroup before beginning his run for a 13th Roland Garros trophy in just more than a week.
“It’s a completely special year and unpredictable year. I don’t know. I probably [will] go back home and then let’s see what’s going on,” Nadal said. “I did my job here. I did a couple things well and other things bad and that’s it. At least I played three matches. I fought until the end. But losing that many [service games], you can’t expect to win a match. [It’s] something that I have to fix.
“I know how to do it. I’m going to keep working and keep practising with the right attitude and try to give myself a chance to be ready.”
Did You Know?
Nadal fell to 63-7 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The Spaniard’s has earned more victories (63) at the Italian Masters 1000 event than at all other tournaments except for Roland Garros (93), Monte Carlo (71), the Australian Open (65) and the US Open (64).