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Finals Qualifiers Salisbury/Ram Move Into Roland Garros Second Round

  • Posted: Sep 30, 2020

Third seeds Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram opened their Roland Garros campaigns on Wednesday with a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over French wild cards Gregoire Barrere and Quentin Halys in one hour and 24 minutes.

Salisbury and Ram surged to a 3-0 lead, before Barrere and Halys broke for their first game. The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers started the second set strongly, but were broken in the eighth game. They saved one set point at 5-6, 30/40 and went onto win the first six points of the tie-break.

Salisbury and Ram, who captured their first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open (d. Purcell/Saville) in January, have reached two semi-finals at the Western & Southern Open (l. to Murray/Skupski) and the US Open (l. to Koolhof/Mektic) since the resumption of the ATP Tour in August. They are now 15-6 on the 2020 season.

They will next challenge Australians Alex de Minaur and Matt Reid, who were 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) victors over Nikola Cacic and Dusan Lajovic in two hours and six minutes.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Fourth seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (above) dropped just four games in a convincing 6-2, 6-2 win over French wild cards Arthur Cazaux and Harold Mayot.

Elsewhere, top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, semi-finalists in 2017 and 2019, swept past French wild cards Corentin Denolly and Kyrian Jacquet 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 34 minutes. They await the winners of Robert Lindstedt and Jordan Thompson or Robin Haase and Joao Sousa.

Second seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, who have compiled a 21-5 record as a team this year, recovered from 1/4 down in the deciding set tie-break to scrape past Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in one hour and 49 minutes.

Granollers and Zeballos have captured titles at the Argentina Open title in Buenos Aires (d. Duran/Londero), the Rio Open presented by Claro (d. Caruso/Galo) and at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (d. Chardy/Martin) two weeks ago. They also finished runner-up at the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel (l. to Krajicek/Skugor).

They now face Daniel Evans and Hubert Hurkacz or Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop in the second round.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
US Open champions Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (above), seeded seventh, enjoyed a 6-2, 6-3 win over Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald

Fifth seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek knocked out Henri Kontinen and Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-1 in 71 minutes to set up a match against Aljaz Bedene and Dennis Novak, who were 6-4, 6-3 victors over Ricardas Berankis and Yoshihito Nishioka in 74 minutes.

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Zverev Survives In Five At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Sep 30, 2020

It was far from easy, and some of the difficulty was self-inflicted, but Alexander Zverev found a way on Wednesday evening to reach the third round at Roland Garros for the third consecutive year.

The German had to battle hard against home favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert, triumphing 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 after three hours and 59 minutes. Six of the 23-year-old’s 12 victories on the Parisian terre battue have come in five sets.

“I think I’m quite
fit, to be honest. I feel like physically I’m okay.
But sometimes I just feel like I find a way [to win],” Zverev said. “Today I was not the better player on court. I was
not hitting my forehand better, not hitting my backhand
better, not serving better. I was not doing anything better
than he did. But I found a way, which was the most
important. Sometimes I manage to do that quite well.”

In the first round, Zverev showed great form against big-hitting Dennis Novak, defeating the Austrian in straight sets. But it was apparent from the early moments against Herbert that the German had his hands full. Both men won 164 points in the match.

The Frenchman, who rushed the net 93 times, was one point from earning a 6-2, 5-1 lead against the sixth seed. But not capitalising on his early lead proved critical, as Zverev improved to 15-7 in five-setters.

“It’s something that I worked on
not in the matches, but outside the court, in the gym [during] the
offseason and the training blocks that I did. It was for
these moments,” Zverev said. “You don’t need to be lifting 170 kilos on dead
lifts or 150 kilos on squats for three-set matches. That’s
not what you’re doing it for. You’re doing it for five-set
matches, for the big moments like this.
I think that the work has been done not on the court, but
off the court.”

Alexander Zverev
Photo Credit: Getty Images
There was a moment when it seemed Zverev would run away with a four-set victory after digging out of his early hole. The German rallied to take the second set, hitting a forehand lob winner to secure the crucial break. He then won six of the final seven points in the third-set tie-break to take the lead.

But Herbert, who has triumphed at all four Grand Slams in doubles with countryman Nicolas Mahut, put his doubles experience on display by continuing to move forward. The Frenchman won 11 of 13 net points in the fourth set and Zverev missed a backhand to send the match to a decider.

Zverev immediately went up a break in the fifth set and even after letting slip that advantage, he broke to serve for the match at 5-3. Herbert never gave up, but he could only battle back so many times. Zverev, the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion, hit a perfect backhand lob to earn his sixth service break and secure his triumph.

Zverev has reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals in back-to-back years. He will try to move one step closer to doing so again when he plays Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato, who eliminated Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

The German beat Cecchinato in straight sets at this year’s Australian Open. However, Cecchinato is a dangerous clay-court opponent who advanced to the semi-finals at Roland Garros two years ago.

In the same section of the draw, reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory against home favourite Benjamin Bonzi. 

With Sinner advancing, there are four Italians into the third round at Roland Garros, marking the first time four Italian men have reached the third round of a Grand Slam in the Open Era. The 19-year-old is fresh off a strong performance in Rome, where he upset Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Sinner will next play Argentine Federico Coria, who ousted 23rd seed Benoit Paire 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. Coria is the brother of 2004 Roland Garros finalist Guillermo Coria.

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You Have Rafa At 0/40 In Paris; That's A Good Thing, Right?

  • Posted: Sep 30, 2020

You have managed to get Rafael Nadal down 0/40 on serve on Court Philippe-Chatrier at Roland Garros. Three break points are your reward. The game is yours, right? No. The game is his.

An Infosys Insights deep dive into Nadal’s past three title runs at Roland Garros (2017-2019) reveals five startling statistics from his 21 matches played, which include 277 service games and 263 return games.

1) Nadal Has A Winning Record Serving From 0/40
Nadal has only dropped to 0/40 when serving at Roland Garros from 2017-2019 in six service games out of 277, which equates to one out of every 46 service games. That’s twice as good as his ATP Tour average. In the same period from 2017-2019, outside of Roland Garros, he has found himself at 0/40 74 times from 1690 service games, which is one out of every 23 service games.

Getting Nadal to 0/40 is almost impossible in Paris. What’s even more startling is that of the six service games he has yielded a 0-40 start, he has roared back to win four of them.

2) Nadal Has A Winning Record Returning From 0/15
When opponents have won the opening point of their service game and surged to a 15/0 lead, they have gone on to win 70 per cent (86/122) of their service games against Nadal at Roland Garros the past three years. But if they lost the first point and fell behind 0/15, Nadal has instantly surged to become the favorite to win the game, breaking exactly two out of three times (94/141). It’s just one point, but it contains a substantial 37 percentage point swing from 70 per cent to 33 per cent for the server.

3) Nadal Unstoppable From 40/0
At Roland Garros over the past three seasons, Nadal has raced to a 40/0 lead in one out of every three service games he has played (102/277). When he gets to 40/0, he is an unstoppable force, winning all 102 service games from this dominant point score.

4) Nadal Another Level Holding From 0/30
Losing the first two points on serve and dropping to 0/30 is typically cause for alarm bells. The Top 100 on the ATP Tour own an average 42 per cent success rate in holding serve from this position on all surfaces, with the Top 10 owning a 48 per cent record. Both of those percentages are a losing proposition for the server. Nadal has fallen behind 0/30 just 24 times at Roland Garros over the past three tournaments and surged back to win an astonishing 71 per cent of those games (17/24). It’s almost like he is playing another sport.

5) Even Equals Advantage Nadal When Returning
When Nadal has returned serve over the past three years at Roland Garros and moved the point score along to the even moments in time at 15/15, 30/30 and Deuce, he actually becomes the favourite to win the game.

Nadal Returning: Breaking Serve Percentage (2017-2019)

Serving Point Score Hold Percentage Games Won/Total
15/15 52% 62/119
30/30 53% 51/97
Deuce 57% 43/76

Nadal is looking to add a 13th Roland Garros title to his illustrious trophy cabinet over the next two weeks. His first-round opponent is 27-year-old Egor Gerasimov from Belarus, who advanced to the second round at the Australian Open and US Open this year. Winning the opening point when serving and returning will be more consequential in this match than any other Gerasimov has played in his career.

2017-2019: Nadal Holding Serve (Point Score)

Serving At Hold % Games Won/
0/15 85% 68/80
0/30 71% 17/24
0/40 67% 4/6
15/15 87% 96/110
15/30 71% 42/59
15/40 43% 12/28
30/30 90% 60/67
30/40 72% 28/39
15/0 93% 183/197
30/0 97% 138/143
40/0 100% 102/102
30/15 94% 103/110
40/15 98% 111/113
40/30 96% 77/80
Deuce 94% 45/48

2017-2019: Nadal Breaking Serve (Point Score)

Returning At Break % Games Won/
0/15 67% 94/141
0/30 83% 57/69
0/40 92% 34/37
15/15 52% 62/119
15/30 70% 58/83
15/40 86% 57/66
30/30 53% 51/97
30/40 78% 63/81
15/0 30% 36/122
30/0 15% 11/75
40/0 5% 2/39
30/15 35% 36/104
40/15 9% 5/58
40/30 22% 15/69
Deuce 57% 43/76

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McDonald Couldn't Walk; Today He Faces Nadal At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Sep 30, 2020

Mackenzie McDonald departed Roland Garros last year with a devastating injury. In a doubles match, the American tore his right proximal hamstring tendon. Returning to health was a massive undertaking.

“It took a really serious team and a lot of hard work. The surgery was pretty big. I have a massive scar underneath my butt and I wasn’t able to walk for the first month-and-a-half, two months. Time was going by really slowly,” McDonald said. “I didn’t leave my apartment. I was barely able to shower, go to the bathroom. I couldn’t walk.”

The injury caused the former UCLA Bruin, who won the 2016 NCAA Singles and Doubles titles, to lose a lot of muscle mass in his leg.

“I was able to put one pound down on my foot lightly tapping [it at] around 10 per cent. Then the next week it was 20, the next week it was 30, 35, 40. Then it was a one-pound weight three times a week. Then it was two pounds, then it was three. It was gruelling. You make one mistake and you can rupture it again,” McDonald said. “I had to be very patient, something that really taught me a lot. From there, you just slowly creep back. The [work on] court goes from hitting from the centre to two feet around you to three feet around you. We took every step extremely carefully.

“We worked really hard and I really pushed myself… to keep knowing that I was ready for the next step. I can do everything with my hamstring now. All good.”

McDonald’s body will be put to the ultimate test on Wednesday when he faces 12-time champion Rafael Nadal in the second round at Roland Garros.

“[It is] probably one of the biggest challenges you can face in sports, playing him here. I think this year I have the best chance of any year,” McDonald said. “I think with the balls, with the speed, with how much lower it’s bouncing [that will help]. I think I’m playing the best clay-court tennis I have played and he hasn’t played too much this year. I think it’s a tough challenge, but I have to believe that I can beat him.”

Fifteen months ago, McDonald faced a gruelling rehab that kept him out of competition for the rest of 2019. He tried to stay occupied by taking five UCLA classes and doing media work. At the US Open, he created video content for the tournament. While the American was working hard to get healthy, the idea of positioning himself to play the likes of Nadal at a Grand Slam was far from his mind.

“Honestly it was hard to even think about that. My injury was so severe in my opinion that I was just like, ‘I really hope I’m going to get back.’ I wasn’t on Tour for a crazy long time. It hurt not playing tennis for that long. I never had that experience,” McDonald said. “I still was losing my mind a little bit. I love tennis, I love playing. Honestly I can’t even tell you how happy I am to be back. To be here, getting a win yesterday in singles, competing in doubles even though I lost [was amazing]. I know what it’s like on the worst end of it now, so tomorrow will be fun.”

Defeating Nadal on the Parisian terre battue has proven nearly impossible over the years. In 15 second-round matches at Roland Garros, the Spaniard has only lost one set.

“I’m going to keep doing what I have been doing in practice and in the matches. I’ve been playing well,” McDonald said. “I’m just going to keep focussing on myself a little bit. Obviously there are areas you don’t want to put yourself in with him and his game, so I’m going to try my best to work around that.”

The 25-year-old won’t take this opportunity for granted. Not long ago, McDonald was unable to walk. Now he gets to play an all-time great on Court Philippe-Chatrier, one of the grandest stages in tennis. Most importantly, his leg injury is a thing of the past.

“I definitely think I’ve moved past it. It’s extremely unfortunate what happened last year. I wouldn’t really wish that upon anyone. It was a really tough situation, honestly. But I really persevered through it,” McDonald said. “I did an incredible job to even get back to this point. I don’t think a lot of players would even be back as quick as I was, for sure. To be playing exactly if not in better condition than I was, even last year, too, I’m going to pat myself on the back for that.”

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Jurij's Journey To Roland Garros: Football's Loss Is Rodionov's Gain

  • Posted: Sep 30, 2020

As Jurij Rodionov collapsed to the terre battue on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, after four hours and 36 minutes, one thing went through his mind:

“Relief,” exclaimed the #NextGenATP Austrian. “Honestly, when I won the match and sat down on the bench, I was thinking how happy I was that it’s over. I didn’t want to play this match anymore. Mentally and physically I was over the limit.”

Exhausted and weary, Rodionov stumbled over to his chair. Never had the 21-year-old experienced such a moment in his young career. Making his Grand Slam debut on one of the biggest show courts in the world, and rallying from two sets down against home favourite Jeremy Chardy, it was all so overwhelming. On his seventh match point, Rodionov secured a victory he’ll never forget, triumphing 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 10-8 at Roland Garros.

Even two days later, for perhaps the first time in his career, the charismatic and affable Austrian was unable to express his emotions.

“I can’t put it into words. One week ago, if someone said that I would be in the second round of a Grand Slam, I would have said that they’re crazy. Suddenly I’m in this situation, beating Chardy 10-8 in five sets and from a match point down. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment right now.”

One thing is for sure: Rodionov will never forget this moment. For that matter, the same could be said about his entire 2020 campaign. Coming off a disappointing season, this was precisely what he needed to not only rediscover his top form, but re-instill belief in himself.

If Rodionov’s hometown of Matzen, Austria, had allowed him to play organized football as a child, this could have been a much different story. The World No. 170 explains that he wanted to play a sport ever since he was four, but his town would not permit children to play football until age six.

“I decided to play tennis instead. When I turned six, I played both sports at the same time. But at age 10, I stopped playing football and started focusing more on tennis. The closest tennis court was only a 10-minute walk from our house. I wanted to play a sport, so it was the logical choice. It was a good decision.”

Three years ago, at the age of 18, Rodionov made an immediate splash on the professional scene, notching his first Top 100 win in his ATP Challenger Tour debut. From a set and a break down, he stunned then-World No. 76 Jordan Thompson in Ningbo, China. And one year later, he would lift his first Challenger trophy on the clay of Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Everything was going exactly as planned for the surging Austrian teen, as he cracked the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings at the age of 19. But 2019 proved to be a reality check for Rodionov, as he struggled to develop his game and build his confidence. The experience taught him a valuable lesson: expect the unexpected.

In search of a renewed approach and fresh perspective, Rodionov brought on former Top 30 star and three-time ATP Tour champion Javier Frana to provide the spark he needed. The decision has paid off in a big way, allowing the left-hander to take the next step in his career.

“One year ago, I wouldn’t have been ready to win that match,” Rodionov told “But over the COVID break, I prepared my body for this, and mentally Javier has helped me a lot. I think that last year I would not have been able to get there from the mental side. He has so much experience and is a great coach for me. On and off the court, he just knows what a player like me needs. There’s a huge respect between ourselves. From a human perspective and a tennis perspective, it’s been really good. That’s the main thing.

“In the beginning of my career, I was a trickster playing a lot of drop shots and tweeners. I was playing for fun, because I liked it. But later, when I became a professional and started playing Challengers, that style didn’t work. I still love to hit a good tweener, but I needed to be more disciplined. Javier has helped me with that.”

From left: Max Mirnyi, Rodionov, Kei Nishikori and Frana practice in Kitzbuhel.

Their partnership clicked from the start. Literally. In their first tournament together, in February, Rodionov lifted the trophy on the indoor hard courts of Dallas. And just two weeks later, he would add another Challenger crown in Morelos, Mexico.

From entering Dallas with the goal of winning just one match, Rodionov enjoyed the best month of February of any player on the ATP Challenger Tour. He posted a 15-2 record, soaring to a career-high No. 166 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“He is discovering everything he is capable of,” said Frana. “When we first started, I was just finishing my time working in television. I suggested that we work for three weeks together and see what happens from there. We met in Dallas. It was our first tournament together and he won the title. It was incredible.

“Now, in a Grand Slam and against a very good player, it was exciting and a very big challenge for him. It also became an accelerated course for Jurij, for him to learn and be able to discover things that he knew he was able to achieve. These are signs that will be very valuable in the future.”

Rodionov points to Frana after punching his Roland Garros ticket from qualifying.

Under Frana’s tutelage, Rodionov understands that a match like this will benefit his progression in the long run. The Austrian faced a season’s worth of adversity in the span of four hours and 36 minutes. From trailing by two sets to none, to facing a match point in the third set tie-break, to failing to serve out the encounter on two occasions and seeing six match points slip away in the deciding set, it made Rodionov dig deep like never before. And it forced him to summon all those lessons learned under Frana in his breakthrough month of February on the Challenger circuit.

“When I was two sets down, I just wanted to enjoy it. I think I was more relaxed knowing that it could have been my last set. I started hitting bigger and was risking more. It was my first Grand Slam, so I’d be stupid to not fight for it. I wanted to take every chance I could get.”

When asked if any doubts crept into his mind after six match points came and went, Rodionov did not hesitate.

“I thought that after my first match point. It was 40/15 on my serve at 5-4 in the fifth set. Until that point, I was playing very solid and serving good and stepping into the court. Then suddenly it was match point and I started to push the ball. I thought to myself, ‘This can’t be happening, what am I doing?’ I was so tight. I could barely hit my serve. But I kept telling myself to play my game and stay solid. Luckily, on the seventh try I got through.”

Rodionov has Belarusian heritage in his blood. His parents, Sergui and Galina, are natives of Belarus and moved to Nuremberg, Germany in 1996. Three years later, Jurij was born. They relocated to Austria soon after.

One of just five players with multiple Challenger titles this year, Rodionov is hoping to continue his push towards the year-end Top 100 at Roland Garros. Next up is a second-round encounter against Norbert Gombos on Court 11 on Wednesday. It will be their first meeting.

“I’m very proud of myself, but I’m still in the tournament and I have a lot of chances to achieve more. Now I’m focusing on what to do next, rather than how well I did in the first round. After the week, I will look back on my accomplishments, but now I am looking forward to Wednesday. Step-by-step, match-by-match.”

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