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Felix: 'Tonight Showed How Cruel Tennis Can Be'

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

Felix Auger-Aliassime’s bett1HULKS opener against Egor Gerasimov was understandably a difficult match for the #NextGenATP Canadian, who struggled in Sunday’s Cologne final against Alexander Zverev. But despite being on the brink of defeat against the Belarusian, Auger-Aliassime overcame his nerves and found a way to win.

Gerasimov served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but Felix, despite failing to serve out the match from 40/0 in the third set, rallied past the qualifier 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4) in two hours and 46 minutes. Auger-Aliassime hit 15 aces and saved five of the seven break points he faced in the deciding set to advance to the quarter-finals at the second ATP 250 event in Cologne in as many weeks.

“Tonight showed how cruel tennis can be sometimes,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “He had his chances serving for the match in the second set. I felt like he was playing a great level of tennis. And then I tried to stick in there, stay calm and try different things, adapt. In the end I got a bit nervous serving up three match points, but those are things that happen and I’m for sure really happy I came back in the last game to save it.”


The third set was a roller-coaster full of tension. Three consecutive service breaks sent the momentum back and forth in the middle of the set, resulting in the fifth seed taking a 4-3 lead.

Auger-Aliassime showed shaky nerves when serving out the match at 5-4. From 40/0, he made five consecutive errors — including a double fault — to relinquish his advantage, missing out on three match points in that game.

“That was tough mentally, to be honest. I didn’t see that one coming. I was serving well the whole game,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Then [I hit that] double fault and he played good points and after you get a bit nervous, I think that’s normal. At the end you try your best, you try to stay in the match, which I did mentally.”

The World No. 22 let slip a 4/2 advantage in the tie-break, but he crushed a backhand down the line at 4/4, which proved the decisive mini-break.

“I think I can be proud of my effort, because it’s not easy whenever you face a situation like this to come back and win the match in the end,” Auger-Aliassime said. “This brings me a lot of confidence and I’m for sure happy I got through.”

Auger-Aliassime will next face seventh-seeded Struff or Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka. In first-round action earlier in the day, Struff defeated Sardinia finalist Marco Cecchinato 6-3, 6-1.


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Gille/Vliegen Begin Pursuit Of Home Crown In Antwerp

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

Will this be the year that Belgian doubles stars Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen triumph on home soil?

Gille and Vliegen beat Marcelo Arevalo and Jonny O’Mara 6-4, 6-3 in 68 minutes on Wednesday to reach the second round of the European Open in Antwerp. The fifth seeds earned four service breaks and won 71 per cent of their second-serve points to advance.

Gille and Vliegen won three ATP Tour titles together last year (Bastad, Gstaad, Zhuhai) and they are pursuing their first trophy of 2020. The Belgians reached the semi-finals in Antwerp last year before losing against Nitto ATP Finals competitors Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in a Match Tie-break. They will next play Brits Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie.


In other first-round action, Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop beat fourth seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-4. Murray and Skupski began the week in eighth place in the FedEx ATP Battle For London with four spots remaining in the doubles field at the season finale in London.

Second seeds John Peers and Michael Venus reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez. The Aussie-Kiwi duo are sixth in the Battle.

Melzer/Roger-Vasselin Continue London Pursuit In Cologne
Fourth seeds Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Santiago Gonzalez and Ken Skupski 6-1, 7-6(2) to reach the second round of the bett1HULKS Championship in Cologne. Last week’s St. Petersburg Open champions are trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time as a team.

Also advancing were second seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, who ousted Tennys Sandgren and Divij Sharan 6-4, 6-2. Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald, last week’s Forte Village Sardegna Open champions, beat wild cards Daniel Altmaier and Oscar Otte 6-4, 6-1.

FedEx ATP Battle For London: Doubles Standings

 Team  Points
 5. Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic  2,145
 6. John Peers/Michael Venus  1,810*
 7. Jurgen Melzer/ Edouard Roger-Vasselin  1,535*
 8. Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski  1,500*
 9. Max Purcell/Luke Saville  1,425
 10. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah  1,350

*Points entering this week’s play

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The 'Extra Edge' That Helped Dimitrov Advance In Antwerp

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov made a successful European Open debut on Wednesday evening, battling past four-time ATP Tour titlist Pablo Andujar 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.

“I think tonight I just stayed in the match in a very good manner,” Dimitrov said. “I think a lot of that was experience playing indoors. You don’t get the chance to play a lot of matches indoors and the times that I have, I’ve always felt that I have a little bit of an extra edge, especially in the big moments during the match. I think today was also one of those matches.”

Dimitrov has won more than 64 per cent of his matches indoors (72-40) and 69 per cent of those played outdoors (248-170). This will be the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion’s third quarter-final of the year, having also made the last eight in Acapulco (SF) and Rome (QF). Dimitrov is chasing his first title since lifting the trophy at The O2 nearly three years ago.


The fourth seed let slip one of the two breaks he earned in the third set, but he had enough of a buffer to triumph after two hours and 21 minutes.

“I actually played very good in the first set, but lost it. Then I thought to myself, ‘Okay, let’s just find another way,’” Dimitrov said. “I think matches like that early on are very important and you’re into the tournament now. That is probably the thing that I’m most happy with tonight.”

The 29-year-old will next play another former World No. 3, Milos Raonic or Brit Cameron Norrie. Another seed who reached the quarter-finals was eighth seed Alex de Minaur, who ousted Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-2.

De Minaur rallied from the brink to beat Richard Gasquet in three sets on Tuesday. The Australian had an easier time against Lopez, breaking the lefty’s serve four times.

Daniel Evans also reached the last eight in Antwerp with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory against American Frances Tiafoe. The Brit saved five of the six break points he faced to advance after one hour and 41 minutes.

Evans is trying to become the third consecutive player from Great Britain to win the European Open. Kyle Edmund was victorious in 2018 and former World No. 1 Andy Murray triumphed last year.

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The Special Surprise Zverev Got After His Cologne Win

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

It might be a new week for Alexander Zverev in Cologne, but the home favorite continued winning on Wednesday. And after the top seed defeated Australian John Millman 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the bett1HULKS Championship, Zverev got a special surprise.

Tournament Dog Barnie strolled onto the court to congratulate Zverev during the German’s on-court interview. Barnie has kept a close eye on the action since last week’s event began.

“Now my dogs will be jealous!” Zverev said, cracking a laugh.

The match itself was far more tense, as Zverev hit 10 double faults. But he held his nerve under pressure to win his fifth consecutive match in Cologne after triumphing at last week’s bett1HULKS Indoors. The recent US Open finalist has now won 11 of his past 12 matches on hard courts.

“In the first set I thought I played flawlessly, but then I wasn’t focussed at the beginning of the second [set] and the match could turn around,” Zverev said. “John is someone who has beaten top players before… you’ve got to play until the end and I thought I did a poor job serving today. But I got the win somehow.”


The German knew he faced a tough foe in the unrelenting Millman, who pushed him to five sets at Roland Garros last year. Zverev had to dig deep again, overcoming second-serve difficulties in the third set to triumph after one hour and 55 minutes.

The 23-year-old earned the decisive break at 2-1 in the third set, crushing an inside out forehand and yelling ‘Come on!’ as a Millman backhand sailed long. As always, the Aussie battled until the last ball, putting pressure on the German. Zverev faced three break points at 4-2, but escaped the situation to prevail. Last week, Alexander’s older brother, Mischa Zverev, beat Millman 6-1, 6-4.

“I think my brother is much better than me, so that’s why he won more easily,” Zverev said, cracking a laugh. “I think John is someone who needs rhythm himself and against a baseliner, against a hard hitter, for me the harder you hit the ball against him the better it is for him. For me, it’s not easy to play slowly, so I think my game suits him quite well.”

Zverev will next face eighth seed Adrian Mannarino, who ousted Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 18 minutes. The top seed has won all three of their previous ATP Head2Head clashes, including a four-set victory at this year’s US Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor, beat American Steve Johnson 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach the last eight. In first-round action, seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Sardinia finalist Marco Cecchinato 6-3, 6-1 to set a second-round clash against Yoshihito Nishioka.

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Humbert Upsets Carreno Busta In Antwerp; Raonic Strikes 17 Aces

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

France’s Ugo Humbert saved 10 of 12 break points on Wednesday to cause an upset at the European Open when he battled to beat second seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 33 minutes.

Humbert won the first three games of the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting and led 5-2 in the first set before Carreno Busta fought back. Humbert saved four breaks points at 2-3 in the decider and broke at 4-4 when Carreno Busta struck three consecutive groundstroke errors.


The World No. 38, who improved to an 18-11 match record on the season, which includes the ASB Classic title (d. Paire) in January, now plays American Taylor Fritz or qualifier Lloyd Harris of South Africa in the Antwerp quarter-finals. Humbert recorded the biggest win of his career over No. 5-ranked Daniil Medvedev at the Hamburg European Open en route to his first ATP 500 quarter-final (l. to Ruud).

Carreno Busta, who was making his debut at the ATP 250 tournament, reached the US Open semi-finals (l. to Zverev) for a second time last month. The 29-year-old is now 16-10 on the year.

Seventh seed Fritz was impressive on serve by withstanding 19 aces from fellow American Reilly Opelka in a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory over 67 minutes. Fritz lost six of his first-service points (39 of 44) and won 16 of Opelka’s 21 second-serve points.


Fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic recorded his fourth straight win over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia for a place in the second round, where he will meet Briton Cameron Norrie.

Raonic struck 17 aces and won 40 of 44 first-service points to win 6-3, 7-6(4) in 86 minutes. Bedene, who hit 11 aces and won 31 of 36 first-service points, saved two match points from 15/40 when serving at 5-6 and Raonic bounced back from 1/3 down in the tie-break.

Raonic, who advanced to last week’s St. Petersburg Open semi-finals (l. to Coric) and his fourth ATP Masters 1000 final at the Western & Southern Open (l. to Djokovic) in August, is now 18-8 on the season. 

Fourth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov meets Pablo Andujar of Spain and another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, tackles eighth seed Alex de Minaur of Australia during the evening session. 

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How Sinner Is Keeping Success In Perspective During The Pandemic

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

Jannik Sinner is playing the best tennis of his young career, fresh off making his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. The Italian is still able to keep things in perspective, though. While he is enjoying success on court, there are millions in the world going through tough times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been a tough year. Every one of us is obviously playing tennis, but the most important thing is having friends, having family,” Sinner said. “It’s a little bit of a messy year, especially in Italy. At the beginning it was very, very bad. I tried to help a little bit, obviously [it was] not that much [in the big picture]. It’s tough to see the world, how it’s going on. It’s already changing, wearing the masks, keeping distance. It’s different.”

Sinner, in conjunction with his management company, StarWing Sports, and coach, Riccardo Piatti, donated €12,500 to Cesvi, a humanitarian organisation, to aid with medical emergencies in Bergamo, he announced in April.

The ATP Tour was suspended for more than five months due to the pandemic, so Sinner is thankful to be able to compete again. Action resumed in August. On Tuesday, Sinner won his first-round match at the bett1HULKS Championship against James Duckworth.

“The ATP Tour and everyone is [doing] an incredible job making these kinds of tournaments happen. Playing without a crowd, it’s not what we want at the end of the day, but I think they are [doing] an incredible job,” Sinner said. “Huge thanks to them, but it’s tough to see what’s going on.”


Sinner, the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion, is at a career-high No. 46 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Italian lost against Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Roland Garros, but he impressively held his own from the baseline against the 13-time champion for most of the match.

“[It’s] just about improving day after day,” Sinner said. “Obviously it was a great test against Rafa on clay. I played well in the first and second sets and the third set he pushed more. He was playing better in the third set.”

Most 19-year-olds would be nervous to play one of the sport’s all-time greats on Court Philippe Chatrier. Beating Nadal on that court has proven as difficult as any achievement in sports. But Sinner’s mental approach proved key, and that is one of the reasons why the spotlight on him shines brighter daily.

“I felt ready playing against him,” Sinner said. “I went on court with the right attitude, which I’m trying to do every match and trying to improve day after day.”

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World No. 528 Bergs Stuns Ramos-Vinolas In Antwerp: 'Those Are Things I Live For'

  • Posted: Oct 21, 2020

World No. 528 Zizou Bergs pulled the stunner of the week on Tuesday evening at the European Open, battling past Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-5 in his first tour-level match. To say the 21-year-old was excited would be a major understatement.

“I’m definitely a guy who loves emotions. I have amazing friends, amazing family and I’m playing at home in Belgium, in Antwerp,” Bergs said. “I just love the emotions. I love screaming it out. I love to see [the fans’] reactions. It’s just really why I want to play tennis, because I like the atmosphere… those are things that I live for. It’s the way I want to play, it’s the way I want to enjoy the games and it’s my nature, so I just love the atmosphere.”

Bergs was comfortable with his draw, despite Ramos-Vinolas having 459 more tour-level matches’ worth of experience. The Belgian felt he would have time to play his aggressive style against Ramos-Vinolas.


Although this was his first ATP Tour main draw match, he had played qualifying at the European Open on three previous occasions, facing Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Two years ago, he had two match points against Auger-Aliassime before succumbing in a final-set tie-break.

“Today I proved that I took the experience from the past times and I just kept fighting,” Bergs said. “Eventually things turned my way. It was very nice.”

Bergs saved two set points on his serve in the second set before Ramos-Vinolas, the 2017 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist, served at 5-4 to force a decider. The Belgian, who has climbed as high as World No. 386, showed no fear of the moment, crushing a forehand winner to get back on serve. He never looked back.

“I think it was a great game. I knew I could play his level. I was training really good,” Bergs said. “Sometimes I was a bit surprised when I was playing the big guys in training how good in points it was with [my] results. The belief came and I was full of confidence. Although the results lately were not what I wanted in other tournaments, but I knew the level was there and I was actually very confident I could win today.”

The home favourite will try to continue his run when he challenges third seed Karen Khachanov in the second round.

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