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Start Well, End Well: Zverev Ends Cecchinato’s Run In Paris

  • Posted: Oct 02, 2020

Either side of a competitive second set, Alexander Zverev made quick progress on Friday to eliminate 2018 semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 at Roland Garros.

The 23-year-old won 85 per cent of first-serve points (40/47) and broke serve on six occasions to reach the fourth round in Paris for the third straight year. With his third-round win, Zverev improves to 15-7 at tour-level this year.

The key moment of the match came in the second set on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Zverev trailed Cecchinato 3-5, but reeled off four straight games to establish a two-set advantage. The German played with aggression on his backhand and moved up to the net well to turn the tables on his opponent and move one set from victory.

Zverev’s second-set escape could prove crucial to his title hopes at Stade Roland Garros. Just two days ago, the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion was forced to five sets by Pierre-Hugues Herbert in a match lasting almost four hours. En route to the quarter-finals at this event in 2018 and 2019, Zverev had to survive a combined five five-set matches.

“I am definitely much happier with my game [than against Herbert]. I worked on a few things yesterday. I was very unsatisfied with myself two days ago, but I still won,” said Zverev on court. “So that was more important. I know that with every round I have to play better and better, otherwise I will not have a chance.”

Zverev is aiming to capture his first Grand Slam title in Paris. The World No. 7 is enjoying his most successful year at major championships, having earned his best results at both the Australian Open and the US Open this season.

Zverev advanced to his first major semi-final in Melbourne at the start of the year and finished as runner-up at the US Open earlier this month, with both losses coming at the hands of World No. 3 Dominic Thiem. The 6’6” right-hander owns a 14-2 in Grand Slam matches this year.

Cecchinato entered the contest in fine form, having dropped just one set in five matches from qualifying to reach the third round. In the first round, the Italian upset 25th seed Alex de Minaur in straight sets and backed up the win with a four-set victory against Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina.

Zverev will need to beat reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner if he is to reach his third straight quarter-final in the French capital. Sinner booked a spot in the fourth round at a Grand Slam event for the first time with a 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 victory against Federico Coria.

The Italian struck 44 winners to complete a run of three consecutive match wins for the first time since his title run in Milan last November. Zverev and Sinner will be meeting for the first time at tour-level on Sunday.

“[Sinner] is playing incredible. I don’t think he lost a set yet, so he is somebody that is definitely coming up and playing really well right now,” said Zverev. “[He is] somebody who has a lot of power. We will see how the match goes, but I feel like I am playing better and maybe I have a little more experience. But the young guys, they have no fear, no reason to be nervous, so it can go both ways.”

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Thiem Powers Past Ruud Under Roof At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Oct 02, 2020

Dominic Thiem extended his winning streak to 10 matches on Friday with an often grueling 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 28 seed Casper Ruud of Norway at Roland Garros.

Third seed Thiem, who captured his first Grand Slam championship title at the US Open (d. Zverev) earlier this month, was forced to recover from 1-3 down in the first set against in-form Ruud for victory in two hours and 15 minutes.

“I’m very happy and it was a great match,” said Thiem, in an on-court interview with Cedric Pioline. “I didn’t make many mistakes, it was a very good match. Casper is a very good player and we had some nice rallies. He has a lot of confidence after semi-final runs in Rome and Hamburg, and has a very good attitude from beginning to the end. I didn’t want to give him any chances in the third set.”

Thiem, who has a 19-5 record in 2020 after reaching the fourth round for the fifth consecutive year, will now prepare to challenge 2015 champion and No. 16 seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland or French wild card Hugo Gaston.

“Basically I feel fine,” said Thiem. “Of course I [have] started to feel all the last weeks physically, also emotionally. I really love this tournament, and I would love to go deep [and] play well. I will do everything [for] a good recovery. Today, I had an early match. That is good, so I think I’m going to have more than 48 hours to rest. So [I will] try to [get an] easy, but good practice in tomorrow and [have] two good treatments with my physio. [Some] good food, good sleep. Then, [I will] put everything I have into the match on Sunday.”

Thiem, who saved break points in each of his first four service games, fought his way back into the first set by targeting Ruud’s backhand under a closed roof on the new Court Philippe-Chatrier. While the Austrian couldn’t convert a set point on Ruud’s serve at 5-4, in the next game Thiem struck five consecutive forehands to clinch the 58-minute opener.

“I started well and broke him,” said Ruud. “I guess he didn’t play his best or didn’t find his rhythm in the beginning of the match. So even though you’re up 3-1 in the first set, it doesn’t mean that it will go your way. And I got that, [‘m] not going to say a lesson, but I got that reminder today. He broke me right back and then I had some chances to break him back again. But he played some clutch shots on the clutch points and he showed how good a clay-court player he is and [much of a] fighter he is. It was a tough first set. It was a long first set. It was tough losing it.”

Ruud recovered from 0/40 in the first game of the second set, but Thiem’s persistence reaped dividends on his fifth break point opportunity. Ruud came close to drawing level at 2-2, but on two occasions unforced errors cost the 21-year-old on break points. He could only applaud at 3-5, when Thiem, standing just inside the baseline, struck a half volley backhand winner down the line to clinch a two sets lead.

Thiem’s greater weight of shot proved to be Ruud’s undoing in the third set, when the World No. 3 broke in the fourth game, through sheer consistency. From 1-1, he ran through the final five games, finishing with a second serve ace. Thiem hit 32 winners, including five aces, and converted six of his 15 break point chances in front of almost 1,000 spectators on the main show court.

World No. 25 Ruud, who lifted his first ATP Tour title in February at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires (d. P. Sousa), is now 22-10 on the season. He recently reached the semi-finals at both the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (l. to Djokovic) and at last week’s Hamburg European Open (l. to Rublev).

“It was another great experience for me to play here on the center court for the first time in my career,” said Ruud. “Hopefully, I will play more times on the Court Chatrier, and [I will] hopefully get some wins on it. It’s been a very good clay-court swing for me this year.”

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