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Thiem Passes Early Test In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

Dominic Thiem was made to work hard in his opening match at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday, but fought well to overcome Vitaliy Sachko 6-4, 7-5 in Vienna.

The World No. 3 landed 20 winners and won nine of 13 net points to improve to 14-8 at the ATP 500. Thiem was regularly tested from late in the first set by Sachko, who broke the second seed on four occasions on his tour-level debut.

“The match was not easy at all. I heard pretty late last night that I was not going to play Kei [Nishikori] and that I was going to play Vitaliy,” said Thiem. “Of course, the past days I was practising towards Kei, preparing for Kei. I know him, we already had five matches. Suddenly, [I was] playing against an opponent who already had two good matches in qualifying, who maybe I only saw for two minutes on TV.”

Thiem is competing for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month. The 6’1” right-hander is seeking his third straight trophy in Austria, following consecutive title runs on home soil last year in Kitzbühel and Vienna.

“I wanted to present myself well in front of the home crowd and to find the right match intensity,” said Thiem. “The high match intensity was not easy and he was playing well, especially from the moment I was 5-1 up in the first set. From that moment on, I thought it was a pretty close and decent match. I am very happy with how I closed it out and how I found a pretty good intensity towards the end of the match.”


Thiem will next face the winner of the final match of the day between Stan Wawrinka and Cristian Garin. The 27-year-old owns a 1-3 ATP Head2Head record against Wawrinka and is yet to meet Garin at tour-level.

Thiem began the match in peak form, as he ripped groundstroke winners from the baseline and overpowered his opponent to stride into a 5-1 lead. But the Austrian lost his concentration and was dragged into a battle by Sachko, who began to find his range on his return to break Thiem’s serve on three consecutive occasions.

The US Open champion raised his level in the second set, as he varied the pace on his backhand and attacked with his forehand to open a 4-1 lead. Despite dropping serve for a fourth time, Thiem produced an impressive finish to close the match at 6-5. The second seed ended consecutive rallies with backhand winners up the line to book his spot in the second round.

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London Contenders Purcell/Saville Advance In Nur-Sultan

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

Max Purcell and Luke Saville boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday at the Astana Open.

The Australians dominated on serve, winning 40 of their 45 service points to defeat Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-4, 6-4 in 69 minutes. Purcell and Saville are currently in ninth position in the FedEx ATP Battle For London. Four teams have already booked their places at The O2 in London, with the remaining four slots still available.

The second seeds are chasing their first ATP Tour team title in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Purcell and Saville’s best team result came at the Australian Open this year, where they reached the championship match (l. to Ram/Salisbury).

The Aussie duo will next face Luke Bambridge and Divij Sharan or Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar for a place in the semi-finals.

Farah/Martin Eliminate Koolhof/Mektic In Vienna
Robert Farah and Fabrice Martin were clinical in crucial moments at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday. The Colombian-French tandem saved all seven break points they faced and converted both of their break points to earn a 7-5, 6-3 win against Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic.

Koolhof and Mektic were attempting to improve their position in the FedEx ATP Battle For London. The US Open finalists entered the tournament in fifth position with 2,145 points. Farah and Martin will face Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals. The Russians dominated their Match Tie-break against fourth seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut to earn a 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-2 win.

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Djokovic Earns Tricky Opening Win In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

In his first appearance at the Erste Bank Open since his 2007 title run, Novak Djokovic passed an early test to defeat countryman Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 on Tuesday.

Djokovic dropped serve twice in the first set and was forced to save set point at 5/6, before coming back to earn his place in the second round. The World No. 1, who struck 39 winners against Krajinovic, has now won 38 of his 40 matches this year.

Djokovic added 45 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his tally with his second ATP Head2Head victory in three matches against Krajinovic. The Serbian is attempting to tie Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 finishes this year.

Djokovic was competing for the first time since his runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). The 33-year-old will next face Borna Coric for a place in the quarter-finals.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion owns a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Coric. The pair most recently met in the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters final, which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4. Coric earned his place in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Taylor Fritz on Monday.

In a first set that featured four service breaks, Djokovic and Krajinovic entertained the crowd in Vienna with their all-court skills and attacking tennis. Krajinovic took the initiative and hit his targets to earn set point at 6/5 in the tie-break, but Djokovic held firm with consistency from the baseline to extract crucial errors and earn a one-set lead.

Djokovic raised his game in the second set and earned an early break to take control of the match. The 2007 champion returned with depth and attacked with his forehand to close the match in just under two hours.

Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the second round in Vienna for the second straight year with a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory against Karen Khachanov. The Bulgarian converted three of four break points against the two-time Vienna quarter-finalist to improve to 17-10 in 2020.

“Karen is such an excellent player, such a heavy hitter,” said Dimitrov in an on-court interview. “In conditions like that, the court favours him quite a bit but I was able to just play a very solid game and take the right decisions at the right time.”

Hubert Hurkacz broke serve on four occasions to beat Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-3, 7-5. The 23-year-old will face Dusan Lajovic or Lorenzo Sonego for a place in the quarter-finals.

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Vesely Takes His Chances, Beats Sandgren In Nur-Sultan

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

Czech Jiri Vesely worked hard to break down fifth-seeded American Tennys Sandgren’s game on Tuesday for a place in the Astana Open second round.

Vesely saved all five break points he faced and hit nine aces in a 6-4, 7-6(7) victory over one hour and 40 minutes. He saved one set point at 6/7 in the second set tie-break with a big serve. Sandgren won 36 of 43 first-service points overall and hit 13 aces.

“It was a very tough match, as Tennys has had very good results on hard courts,” said Vesely, in an on-court interview. “He was a tough opponent for the first round, but I’ve been feeling good. I just focused on my serve and waited for my chance. The surface is pretty fast, so it’s difficult to return and I waited for one or two chances in the tie-break. I was a little bit lucky at the end.”

The World No. 66 next plays Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, the player he beat 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3 in the Tata Open Maharashtra final on 9 February. Gerasimov knocked out Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3) in just over two hours in the Nur-Sultan first round.


Elsewhere, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita saved seven of 10 break points to beat fellow qualifier Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes. He now challenges third-seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori, who broke into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on 24 August, recorded his fourth tour-level win of the year over Kazakhstani wild card Timofey Skatov 6-2, 6-0 in one hour and now faces eighth seed Jordan Thompson of Australia.

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Greatness Revisited: Djokovic Reflects On Hero Sampras

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

The following is an excerpt from Steve Flink’s new book ‘Pete Sampras Greatness Revisited’, which will be officially released on 1 September. Flink reflects on Pete’s sparkling career and his extraordinary domination of the 1990s, writing extensively about the American’s 14 major titles and his record six year-end finishes at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The author interviewed Sampras for many hours, but also spoke with more than 20 other notable individuals in the game including Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Patrick Rafter and Novak Djokovic. He interviewed coaches Paul Annacone, Tom Gullikson and Robert Lansdorp. This portrait of Sampras reaffirms why he was one of the central figures in the history of tennis and what set him apart as a champion, who, in many ways, was larger than the game he played.


In this excerpt, Flink writes about Sampras’ first Wimbledon title in 1993 and the impression it left on Novak Djokovic, who watched on television at home.

The 1993 Wimbledon final between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier took place on a stiflingly hot day. Sampras — much like Novak Djokovic in later years — was uncomfortable in the extreme heat. He could play through it with his own will and stout heart, but it was a tougher task. The heat complicated his challenge against Courier, a fighter through and through with astounding physicality.

Watching the match from his home nation in Serbia was a six-year-old Djokovic, a kid with a large imagination and even a sense of destiny about his future in the sport.

Djokovic recalled when he spoke to me for my book ‘Pete Sampras — Greatness Revisited’, “I was six and watching Pete play this Wimbledon final. The first video image of professional tennis I had was Pete winning this final over Courier in 93’. I was so amazed with his skills and his composure and the whole setting of watching him play on the most sacred court of the sport. I just fell in love with everything. When you are that young, you believe in everything. You live through your dreams and your dreams are your reality. You have that moment of, let’s say, a revelation when you just know that one day it is going to be you holding that trophy.”

Elaborating on that theme, Djokovic said, “I really felt that day watching Pete that it was kind of a higher power instilled in me. I just kind of received that information from above. It is just one of those things that you can’t explain. You just feel it and know it deep inside. But for me, Pete was the guy. I was actually doing my impersonations from very early stages of my tennis career and by the time I was seven, a year after the Wimbledon final Pete played against Courier, I started impersonating the top players and taking the best shots from each one of the top guys. But with Pete, even though our tennis styles were quite different, I still looked at him as my idol. And what impressed me the most about watching him that day in the Wimbledon 93’ final — and later on — was his ability to stay present and stay calm at the most decisive moments, to be mentally tough when it matters the most. That is what separates him as one of the greatest tennis players ever to hold a racquet.”

Djokovic came away from observing Sampras beat Courier in that Wimbledon final of 1993 with a lasting admiration for his hero. He explained, “I was his big fan. I remember when my Dad and I would watch tennis, he would cheer for Agassi and Courier even though he liked Pete more at the time. That was because of me and my feelings. He was purposefully cheering for Agassi and Courier so he could provoke me and trigger me. In those days especially, I was such an avid fan of Pete and I kept following his results. When I got the chance to hit a few balls with him at Indian Wells in 2010 it was amazing when I saw him coming my way because I felt a flashback of my entire childhood and all those moments of supporting him and looking up to him. Here was my idol coming up to me, shaking my hand and acknowledging me.”

With the young Djokovic sitting in front of a television screen watching, Sampras and Courier went out onto the Centre Court on the balmy afternoon of July 4, 1993 and both men were ready for the appointment. It was a high-quality contest as Sampras won the most important tournament in all of tennis for the first time, prevailing 7-6(3), 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3. He had at long last collected a second major title, moving past his anxiety to reward himself handsomely with a hard-earned triumph that would put him into a different sphere of the sport from that point forward.

Pete Sampras Greatness Revisited can be ordered on Amazon.

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Rublev Rolls, Shapovalov Stunned In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

It was a mixed day for Nitto ATP Finals contenders at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna on Monday, as Andrey Rublev cruised through to the second round and Denis Shapovalov exited the tournament with a straight-sets loss.

In the opening match of the evening session, Rublev added a 35th win to his 2020 total with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against Norbert Gombos. The Russian, who owns a 35-7 record in 2020, struck 11 aces and converted three of four break points to advance to the second round in one hour. #NextGenATP Austrian Jurij Rodionov eliminated eighth seed Shapovalov 6-4, 7-5 in the final match of the day.

Rublev is chasing his third ATP 500 crown and fifth overall title of the year. The World No. 8 has already picked up trophies at the 500-level in Hamburg and St. Petersburg this season.

”I was really lucky to start [well] from the beginning, it gave me more confidence,” said Rublev in an on-court interview. “Each game, I was playing better and better. At the end of the match, I finished with a good level.”

Rublev is in pole position to claim one of two remaining qualification spots at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. The fifth seed will need to reach the semi-finals in Vienna to add to his FedEx ATP Battle For London total this week. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have already qualified for the elite eight-man event, which will be held at The O2 from 15-22 November.

”I have no expectations at all [in Vienna]. Just to give my best in every match and we will see what happens,” said Rublev. “I did already a really great season, so [there is] nothing to lose.”


Shapovalov’s hopes of joining Rublev in the second round and boosting his chances of qualifying for London were ended by Rodionov, who converted three of four break points and won 12 of 17 net points to mark a memorable debut appearance in Vienna.

Rodionov has captured two ATP Challenger Tour trophies this year (Dallas, Morelos) and recently claimed his first tour-level win at Roland Garros. The 6’3” left-hander dropped just two points behind his second serve in the second set (10/12) to stay ahead in the score and the pressure told when Shapovalov served to stay in the match at 5-6. The Canadian, currently in 12th position in the FedEx ATP Battle For London, committed four errors — including two doubles faults — to exit the tournament.

Kevin Anderson saved three consecutive match points to claim his 10th tournament victory in Vienna (10-4). The 2018 champion trailed 3/6 in the final-set tie-break, but reeled off five straight points to overcome Dennis Novak in two hours and 44 minutes.

Anderson will meet World No. 15 Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round. The US Open semi-finalist was leading Gael Monfils 6-1, 2-0, when the Frenchman was forced to retire due to a neck injury.

Borna Coric extended his unbeaten ATP Head2Head record against Taylor Fritz to 4-0 on Monday. The 23-year-old saved all three break points he faced to earn a 6-4, 6-4 win and improved to 15-10 this year. Coric will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or Filip Krajinovic in the second round.

On Tuesday, three former Grand Slam champions are in action. Top seed Novak Djokovic plays fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic second match on centre court, followed by second seed and reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who tackles 23-year-old Ukrainian Vitaliy Sachko. Three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka meets Chilean Cristian Garin in the final match of the day.

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Pavic/Soares Up And Running In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2020

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares began their title bid at the Erste Bank Open on Monday with a 7-6(7), 6-3 victory against Karol Drzewiecki and Szymon Walkow.

Competing for the first time together since their runner-up finish at Roland Garros, the top seeds won 77 per cent of service points (49/64) to reach the quarter-finals in 81 minutes. Pavic and Soares could face the team which beat them in the Roland Garros championship match — Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies — in their next match. The Germans open their campaign against European Open champions John Peers and Michael Venus.


Second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury needed a Match Tie-break to defeat Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 10-6. The Australian Open titlists will meet Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski in the quarter-finals.

The Brits, who are currently in eighth place in the FedEx ATP Battle For London, boosted their chances of Nitto ATP Finals qualification with a 7-5, 6-7(1), 10-5 win against home favourites Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak.

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