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The King Of Cologne: Zverev Beats Schwartzman For Second Consecutive Title

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

Alexander Zverev’s nickname is ’Sascha’, but for now you can call him ‘The King Of Cologne’.

The World No. 7 won his second title in as many weeks in the German city on Sunday, defeating second seed Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 for the bett1HULKS Championship crown.

“It’s getting better,” Zverev said of his form during the trophy ceremony. “I think we’re going to be on top of the game very soon.”

When Zverev arrived at the bett1HULKS Indoors last week, he was fresh off a disappointing fourth-round loss at Roland Garros against Jannik Sinner. But the German made himself at home in more ways than one in Cologne, winning all eight of his matches to double his ATP Tour title count in Germany to four. The 23-year-old is now a 13-time tour-level champion.

In both Cologne ATP 250s, Zverev saved his best tennis for the championship match. Last Sunday, he cruised by Felix Auger-Aliassime. But his best performance from his two tournament victories came against the red-hot Schwartzman.

Alexander Zverev
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Zverev played scintillating tennis, aggressively going after the ball to hit through the speedy Argentine. The German sometimes relies on his defensive skills to win matches, but he took it to the World No. 9 without hesitation, winning all seven of his service games en route to an impressive one-hour, 11-minute triumph.

The top seed broke for the first time at 2-2 in the opening set with a perfect drop shot, which even the quick Schwartzman couldn’t get to. In the next game, the Argentine missed a forehand return wide on a break point of his own and he struggled to gain a foothold in the match after that.

“Sascha was much better today,” Schwartzman said. “He deserved to win last week here and today he was perfect on court.”

Zverev is sometimes susceptible to double faults, but he didn’t hit any against Schwartzman. The second seed however struck five, including one to go down a double-break in the first set.

Little changed in the second set, as Zverev continued punishing the ball. Schwartzman always does well to use his footwork to take the ball early and go blow-for-blow with almost anyone on the ATP Tour, but he struggled for rhythm against the German, making uncharacteristic errors. Zverev crushed a crosscourt forehand winner to go up a double-break in the second set and never looked back.

Zverev fittingly finished the match with a forehand winner, earning 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and €13,320 in prize money.

This is the third time Zverev has captured an ATP Tour title in back-to-back weeks. He also did so in August 2017 (Washington, Montreal) and May 2016 (Munich, Madrid).

Schwartzman led their ATP Head2Head series 2-1, including a four-set victory in their most recent clash at last year’s US Open. But the Argentine settled for his third runner-up showing of the season (also Cordoba, Rome). This was the first event in which Schwartzman competed as a Top 10 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

The recent Roland Garros semi-finalist departs Germany with €11,130 and 150 points.

Did You Know?
Zverev is 17-3 since the ATP Tour resumed in August.

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Klaasen & McLachlan Complete Dream Team Debut In Cologne

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

It didn’t take long for Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan to click.

Klaasen and McLachlan won the bett1HULKS Championship on their team debut, defeating two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday for the trophy.

“It was a fun match to play. I want to thank my partner Ben. It was our first week together, had a lot of fun out here,” Klaasen said during the trophy ceremony. “We were very fortunate today for things to go our way. We played probably the hottest team on Tour right now in these guys.”

The unseeded tandem did not lose a set at the ATP 250, including wins against fourth seeds Jurgen Melzer/Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Australian Open finalists Max Purcell/Luke Saville.

They faced a stiff test in the final against Krawietz and Mies, who have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. Klaasen and McLachlan let slip one break advantage in the second set and they nearly did so again when serving for the match at 5-4, 15/40 in the second set. But the champions won three consecutive points to close out their victory after 74 minutes.

“It was a pleasure to play with Raven. Today he just came up with the goods,” McLachlan said. “It’s been a lot of fun and [I] really enjoyed this one.”

Klaasen and McLachlan saved 10 of the 11 break points they faced and converted all four break points they earned against the Germans. Klaasen has now won an ATP Tour trophy in eight consecutive years, and McLachlan is a six-time tour-level titlist. They earned 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €6,030.

Krawietz and Mies lost their first ATP Tour final, falling to 4-1 in championship matches. The Germans were trying to claim their first trophy on home soil. The third seeds depart Cologne with 150 points and a share of €5,000.

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Djokovic Calls Vienna 'One Of The Hardest ATP 500s We Have Ever Seen'

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

Novak Djokovic is going to have his work cut out for him if he is to claim his fifth tour-level title of the season at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. There are eight unseeded players in the draw who have made a Grand Slam final or an ATP Masters 1000 final, and Djokovic is well aware of how difficult that will make lifting the trophy.

“You have six out of the Top 10 players playing here at an ATP 500 event,” Djokovic said. “I think this must be if not the hardest or toughest men’s draw of all-time at a 500-category event, then definitely one of the hardest ones that we have ever seen, that I was ever part of. So the quality of matches from the first round will be very, very high.” 

This is Djokovic’s first appearance in Vienna since 2007, when he captured the title with the loss of only one set. The Serbian holds a 6-1 record at the tournament.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic celebrates with his 2007 Vienna trophy. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images.
“It’s great to be here. I have some amazing memories from this city. I haven’t been to Vienna and I haven’t participated in the tournament here for 13 years. The last time I was here I won the tournament and I had great support,” Djokovic said. “This is definitely one of the best tournaments in this category.”

The Serbian has still watched the event from afar over the years. He has consistently been impressed by the fan support and the tennis culture that has been created by the likes of former World No. 1 Thomas Muster and recent US Open champion Dominic Thiem.

“Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a city that is part of a country that nurtures sports and specifically tennis traditionally,” Djokovic said. “The big credit for that goes to Thomas Muster of course, who was No. 1 in the world, and Dominic Thiem, a Grand Slam champion and other successful Austrian players contributed I think to the popularity of the sport. It’s one of the big reasons why you see every year a packed house that is sold out for Dominic’s matches especially, but also for other matches.”

Thiem is the second seed this week, so Djokovic will not meet him before the championship match. The last time they clashed, in this year’s Australian Open final, Djokovic triumphed in a five-setter to lift the trophy in Melbourne.

“We had a practise this morning and we were so intense that I was thinking we were already playing the final,” Djokovic said. “I respect Dominic so much and what he has done for tennis is tremendous, especially this year obviously winning his first Grand Slam. He deserves it more than anybody else. He’s a hard worker, a great guy with a great team. Hopefully we can have that chance to play.

“Obviously that’s probably something that the people would want to see here… [but] it’s a long way [away]. Even though that’s something that we are all anticipating, we both want that, to be in the final of course. But the field is very strong, so we have to take one day at a time.”

Djokovic was surprised when he saw the draw, which revealed he will play countryman Filip Krajinovic in the first round. They are tied 1-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, with Djokovic beating Krajinovic in straight sets last month at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

“I practised with Filip for a few days in Belgrade before coming here and we joked around that we might draw each other and that’s what happened,” Djokovic said. “The odds of this happening are very slim, [having] the only two Serbian guys in the draw next to Lajovic play first round. But it is what it is. We are great friends, I’ve known Filip for a long time. He’s a very talented guy, hard court is his preferred surface. He can play very quick tennis. We have similar games actually because we kind of grew up together.

“I’m hoping I can kickstart the tournament in the best possible way. Obviously the first match, the opening match is the critical one where you have to try to start off from the blocks in the best possible fashion.”

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Humbert Downs De Minaur To Claim Antwerp Crown

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

Ugo Humbert produced an impressive attacking performance to capture his second ATP Tour title on Sunday with a 6-1, 7-6(4) victory against Alex de Minaur in the European Open final in Antwerp.

“It is one of my biggest wins,” said Humbert. “I am super happy to win my second title this year against a really great player. I was aggressive like the previous matches and I am super happy to do it.”

The 22-year-old dictated rallies with his forehand and served well throughout the one-hour, 37-minute encounter. Humbert is the third Frenchman to capture the Antwerp crown in the tournament’s five-year history, alongside 2016 winner Richard Gasquet and 2017 titlist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The World No. 38 also joins Montpellier and Rotterdam champion Gael Monfils as the second French player to capture multiple ATP Tour trophies in 2020.

Just 24 hours ago, Humbert was forced to save four match points in his three-hour, 12-minute semi-final win against Daniel Evans. The left-hander is the fourth player this season to save a match point en route to a tour-level title.

“Tennis is completely crazy sometimes,” said Humbert. “It was great to win against Evans yesterday with four match points [saved]. I don’t know what happened today, it was a really nice level, a great match.”

2020 Champions To Save Match Point

Player Tournament Opponent Round M.P. Saved
Jiri Vesely Pune Ilya Ivashka
Ricardas Berankis
2 M.P.
4 M.P.
Reilly Opelka Delray Beach Milos Raonic SF 1 M.P.
Novak Djokovic Dubai Gael Monfils SF 3 M.P.
Ugo Humbert Antwerp Daniel Evans SF 4 M.P.

Humbert attacked De Minaur’s serve with consistent depth on his return and stepped inside the court to rip multiple forehand winners down the line in a dominant 37-minute first set. With Humbert unable to convert the only break points of the second set at 4-4, a tie-break was needed. The Frenchman played with aggression from the baseline to overpower his opponent and he converted his first championship point with a forehand drop volley. Humbert sunk to his knees and screamed with joy after claiming the trophy.

“I think I played very nicely on key points,” said Humbert. “In the tie-break, I tried to play [point-by-point], stay really focussed and I did it. I am super proud of myself.”

De Minaur was bidding to clinch his first title of the 2020 season. The #NextGenATP Australian, who captured the first three titles of his career in 2019, beat former champion Gasquet, Feliciano Lopez, Marcos Giron and Grigor Dimitrov to reach his seventh ATP Tour final (3-4).

“This was a very important week for me,” said De Minaur during the trophy ceremony. “I have managed to get back to the level I wanted to play at and play another final, which is great for me. I am very happy with where I am. This is a huge step in the right direction.”

Humbert (22) and De Minaur (21) were contesting the fifth-youngest final on the ATP Tour this year. The youngest final of 2020 was held at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, where Stefanos Tsitsipas (21) defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime (19) to claim the title. Four of the five youngest finals on Tour this season have been won by the older finalist.

Humbert earned 250 FedEx ATP Rankings points and €30,160. De Minaur collected 150 points and €24,000.

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Thiem: 'Defending The Vienna Title Is Not Mission Impossible, But Almost'

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

On his day, Dominic Thiem can compete against anyone in the world with his baseline power and all-court game. But the 2019 champion knows that defending his Erste Bank Open title will be a difficult task. Six of the Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings are competing this week in Austria.

“It’s always special to start as a defending champion at a tournament, but this year is unreal, the whole draw,” Thiem said. “It was strong and then Novak arrived and it got unreal even [more]. [It is] probably the best [ATP] 500 tournament ever. Defending the title is not mission impossible, but almost.”

Thiem will try to use the memories of last year’s emotional triumph to propel him to his best form. Nine years after his qualifying debut at the tournament as a 17-year-old, the home favourite broke through to lift the trophy.

“I would say of course after the US Open that’s still the biggest title of my career,” Thiem said. “[It is] probably one of the most emotional ones as well because I’ve been here since I was a four or five-year-old kid every year as a spectator who didn’t understand tennis, then as a spectator who was super interested in tennis.

“From one year to another all of a sudden [I was] a player qualifying then [in the] main draw with a wild card, main draw directly, first time seeded. Everything that can happen in a tennis career happened here in Vienna for me and then to win the title in 2019, a childhood dream came true.”

In three of Thiem’s five matches at the ATP 500 last year, the Austrian had to rally after losing the opening set 3-6. Then the World No. 5, he was able to battle back on each occasion, defeating good friend Diego Schwartzman in the final.

“I think back almost every day to that because every match was sold out, [it was a] tremendous atmosphere,” Thiem said. “Three of the five matches were three-setters, [it was] really dramatic as well.”

Watch 2019 Vienna Final Highlights:

Thiem feels well ahead of his first tournament since reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals. He will begin his run against former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-2.

“I feel pretty good again. It was a pretty short period in between the US Open and French Open, but I handled it well. I gave everything I had. Obviously I was completely done after the French Open, so I took off a week where I did nothing and I also had to still reflect on the US Open title,” Thiem said. “Then [I] set myself new goals, of course looking forward to the tournament in Vienna, which every year [has been] a special highlight since I [was] a young kid, since I played here for the first time.”

Thiem put a lot of pressure on himself to win a Grand Slam title, especially after falling short in a five-setter against Novak Djokovic in the championship match at this year’s Australian Open. He felt that pressure even more once Djokovic was out of the US Open. But now that Thiem is a major champion, he feels freer to soar to even greater heights.

“It’s been a really phenomenal 18 months, but also a tough 18 months for myself because I really put a lot of pressure on myself,” Thiem said. “All of that was not easy and of course I’m super happy that I ended up winning the tournament and my biggest dream, my biggest goal I ever had in my tennis career became a reality. Things are a little bit easier. I’m a little bit more relaxed since that. I’m happy and excited for everything that’s coming up now.”

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Peers/Venus Capture Third Team Title In Antwerp

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

John Peers and Michael Venus added a third trophy to their 2020 collection on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop at the European Open in Antwerp.

The second seeds played well under pressure to save five of six break points and dropped just three points behind their serves (30/33) en route to a 58-minute victory. Peers and Venus, who joined forces at the ASB Classic in January, improved to 3-0 in championship matches and 21-8 as a pair.

“It is our first year playing together and to be able to win [our first three finals] straight off the bat is very good and very promising,” said Peers. “The challenge is to step it up and do it at Masters 1000-level and the Grand Slams. For us to do this in our first year together is very good.”

This year’s Dubai and Hamburg champions did not drop a set this week in Antwerp and they improved their chances of qualifying for next month’s Nitto ATP Finals. Peers and Venus currently sit in sixth position in the FedEx ATP Battle For London, with four spots in the doubles field still available.


This is Peers’ 23rd tour-level title run (23-12), while Venus improved to 13-14 in championship matches. The Aussie-Kiwi tandem earned 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €10,710 in prize money. 

“I thought we did really well to come out and play at a good level early. We took our chances from the start and that just put us on the front foot,” said Peers. “We created a couple of good opportunities early in the second set and didn’t take them, but we just stayed focussed and kept asking questions of them to actually lift their level. We played at a good level throughout the whole match.”

Bopanna and Middelkoop were attempting to clinch their first title as a pair on their team debut. The unseeded duo defeated two seeded teams — fourth seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski and fifth seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen — to reach the final. Bopanna and Middelkoop captured 150 points and share €7,820.

Did You Know?
Peers and Venus won their final three matches of the tournament by the same score. Prior to their final victory against Bopanna and Middelkoop, the team also earned 6-3, 6-4 wins against Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez in the quarter-finals and Pablo Andujar and Sander Arends in the semi-finals.

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Schwartzman Outlasts Felix To Reach Cologne Final

  • Posted: Oct 25, 2020

Diego Schwartzman’s stellar 2020 season continued on Saturday at the bett1HULKS Championship, as the Argentine defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to reach his third final of 2020.

Schwartzman, who is competing as a Top 10 player for the first time this week, converted four of five break points en route to a two-hour, 31-minute win. The Cordoba and Rome runner-up improved to 23-10 this year with his third victory from five ATP Tour semi-finals in 2020.

The 28-year-old increased his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time with his semi-final win against Auger-Aliassime. Schwartzman began the week in the ninth and final qualification position in the FedEx ATP Battle For London, 105 points ahead of 10th-placed Matteo Berrettini. The Italian will drop 200 points from his total on 9 November due to his round robin win at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals.

Only two qualification positions remain vacant for the elite eight-man event, which will take place from 15-22 November at The O2 in London. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have already confirmed their spots in the field.

Schwartzman will need to get past one of those men on Sunday if he is to lift his first ATP Tour trophy of the season. Zverev reached his second final in as many weeks in Cologne with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory against Jannik Sinner.

Schwartzman enters the final with a 2-1 ATP Head2Head advantage against Zverev. In the pair’s most recent meeting, Schwartzman beat the German in four sets to reach the 2019 US Open quarter-finals.

Auger-Aliassime was attempting to reach his fourth indoor final of the year (0-3). The #NextGenATP Canadian, who finished as runner-up in Cologne last week, owns a Tour-leading 14 indoor victories this season (14-5).

The Buenos Aires native made the perfect start, as he extended rallies to break in the first game of the match. Schwartzman served with confidence throughout the first set, as he claimed three love service holds. The 5’7” right-hander took a one-set lead with consecutive forehand winners.


Schwartzman pounced early in the second set, as Auger-Aliassime committed multiple errors at 1-1. The Argentine converted his second break point with a series of strong forehands to increase his advantage. As Schwartzman served for the match at 5-4, Auger-Aliassime took the initiative and used his forehand to wins three straight games and force a decider.

Schwartzman covered the court well to force Auger-Aliassime into errors early in the third set. The Roland Garros semi-finalist was tested as he attempted to serve out the match at 5-4, but he held his nerve to clinch victory with a strong forehand down the line.

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