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Germany Faces Russia, Spain Meets Italy In Blockbuster ATP Cup Semi-finals

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

After three thrilling days of group ties, four nations — last year’s finalist Spain, Russia, Germany and Italy — remain in contention for the ATP Cup trophy.

Can Russia’s two Top 10 stars — Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev — continue their strong performances and beat Germany, led by Alexander Zverev? Mischa Zverev’s line-up are proving that team unity and arcade fun each evening can lead to on-court success and a place in the semi-finals.

Spain will look to Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta to fly the flag, with vocal support on the sidelines from Rafael Nadal, in its quest to break down the Italian potency of Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, who completed Group C with a perfect 2-0 record.

Both semi-finals will be contested simultaneously at Melbourne Park. Russia meets Germany on Rod Laver Arena, while Spain takes on Italy on John Cain Arena. The final Group D tie between Japan and Argentina will also be held on Rod Laver Arena.

Can Germany Stop Russia?
After eliminating defending champion Serbia with a dramatic 2-1 victory on Friday, Germany will enter its semi-final against Russia high on confidence. The Group A winners have shown great team spirit in their opening two ties at this year’s tournament, with singles stars Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff leading the pack.

Across two editions of the ATP Cup, Struff has claimed five wins from seven matches. The No. 2 singles star has been in top form at this year’s event, with two singles wins and a crucial doubles Match Tie-break victory (w/Zverev) against Serbia.

Struff will need to be at his best level if he is to add another victory to his name on Saturday. One of the biggest strengths of semi-final rival Russia is its ability to field two Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. In his role as Russia’s No. 2 singles star, World No. 8 Rublev will face Struff in the opening match of the tie.

Rublev has been in a hurry so far this week. The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier dropped a combined seven games and spent a total of two hours and four minutes on court during Group D action, where he defeated Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka. 

Alexander Zverev may own a 5-3 ATP Head2Head record against Medvedev, but he will be looking for revenge when the pair meets in the No. 1 singles match. The German claimed victories in his opening four matches against Medvedev, but he has since suffered final losses to the Russian at the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters and the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters, as well as a round-robin defeat at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals.

Alexander Zverev has already beaten World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov and pushed World No. 1 Novak Djokovic deep into a third set at this year’s tournament. But can he stop the Russian’s 12-match winning streak?

Medvedev has recent history on his side when he meets Alexander Zverev and he will be chasing his ninth Top 10 victory in his past 13 matches. The World No. 4 is yet to drop a set this tournament, with Group D wins against World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori to his name.

“We want to do well. We want to win. We’re in the semi-finals now,” said Alexander Zverev. “We’ve got probably the toughest team that is left in the draw ahead of us with Russia, with two Top 10 singles guys. We’ve got to perform at our best to give ourselves the chance tomorrow. Who knows how it will go.”

If neither team can sweep the singles matches, the tie will be decided by a winner-takes-all doubles match. Two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies are scheduled to face player/captain Evgeny Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev in that encounter. Both captains can make changes to those teams, as Germany’s Mischa Zverev did to great effect against Serbia.

Will Spain Return To The Final?
Spain’s bid to claim its first ATP Cup title continues on Saturday, when the 2020 runner-up nation meets Group C winner Italy on John Cain Arena.

Carreno Busta will aim to earn his third singles victory of the tournament when he faces Fognini in the opening match of the tie. Carreno Busta owns an unbeaten 7-0 ATP Head2Head record against Fognini, but the Italian has forced four of those matches to a deciding set.

Carreno Busta has played a crucial role in Spain’s success at this year’s event. The Gijon native claimed singles and doubles (w/Granollers) wins in his nation’s opening tie against Australia on Tuesday and confirmed Spain’s spot in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis on Friday.

After falling to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat against Dennis Novak on Tuesday, Fognini will look to build on his decisive doubles win against Austria (w/Berrettini) and a 6-1, 7-6(2) triumph against Benoit Paire in Group C.

In No. 1 singles action, Bautista Agut and Berrettini will both hope to be in a position to clinch the tie for their nation.

Bautista Agut enters the match with a 7-1 record in ATP Cup singles matches. His only loss came in his most recent match, when he fell 7-5, 7-5 to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday. The World No. 13 will face a difficult task on Saturday, when he will attempt to claim his second victory in five ATP Head2Head encounters against Berrettini.

“We are in the semi-final. We have against Italy a good tie,” said Bautista Agut. “Hopefully we can play with a good team tomorrow and get the chances to be in the final.”

World No. 10 Berrettini owns a 3-1 record against his No. 1 singles rival, which includes a final victory at the 2018 Swiss Open Gstaad. He also has form on his side, with three wins from as many matches this week.


If the tie is all-square at 1-1 after singles action, doubles will decide which nation advances to the championship match. Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori are scheduled to face Carreno Busta and Granollers in that match, but both team captains have the option to change their selections.

Bolelli and Vavassori lost their match of this week 6-3, 6-4 to Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Carreno Busta and Granollers enter the semi-finals with one doubles victory, following their 6-4, 7-5 win against Australia’s John Peers and Luke Saville.

The Final Group Tie
Argentina and Japan both suffered losses to Russia in Group D. They will meet in the final group stage tie on Road Laver Arena. The No. 1 singles match has great potential to be a thriller, with Kei Nishikori playing Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman is currently the higher-ranked of the two at World No. 9, but Nishikori leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1. They are two of the purest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, which will make for exciting baseline rallies. In their most recent clash at the 2019 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Schwartzman emerged victorious.

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Shapo or Sinner? Five Australian Open First-Round Matches To Watch

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

This year’s Australian Open draw was revealed on Friday at Melbourne Park, with eight-time champion Novak Djokovic drawn in the same half of the draw as the man he beat in last year’s final: Dominic Thiem. There will be plenty of hurdles for both men to overcome to reach that potential semi-final clash, but fans will not need to wait until the second week to witness dramatic encounters. The draw has already produced many thrilling first-round matches.

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[11] Denis Shapovalov v Jannik Sinner
In the pick of the first-round matches, 11th seed Denis Shapovalov will meet 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner for the first time. Shapovalov and Sinner are two of the most exciting young stars on the ATP Tour, but only one will make it through to the second round in Melbourne.

Shapovalov has experience on his side. The Canadian is making his fourth straight appearance at Melbourne Park, with his best result coming in 2019 when he fell in four sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the third round.

A lack of experience has not stopped Sinner from overcoming previous challenges and he will enter his first meeting with Shapovalov in peak form. The Italian claimed his place in the Great Ocean Road Open semi-finals with his eighth consecutive ATP Tour win on Friday. Sinner’s winning streak began in 2020, when he claimed five consecutive wins to lift his first tour-level trophy at the Sofia Open.

[18] Grigor Dimitrov v Marin Cilic
In terms of matches won, Grigor Dimitrov’s most successful Grand Slam is the Australian Open. If the 2017 semi-finalist wants to improve his 24-10 record in Melbourne this year, he will need to get past 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic.

Dimitrov, who has reached the quarter-finals or better on three occasions in Melbourne, owns two wins from six ATP Head2Head matches against Cilic. In the pair’s most recent meeting, the Bulgarian twice recovered from a set down at 2019 Roland Garros to defeat Cilic 6-7(3), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 in four hours and 23 minutes.

Cilic has also enjoyed plenty of success throughout his career at Melbourne Park. The former World No. 3 has reached the Round of 16 or better on seven occasions at this event, including the past three years. After failing to convert five match points against Jeremy Chardy in his opening match at the Murray River Open, Cilic will need to snap a three-match losing streak to overcome Dimitrov and add another chapter to his Melbourne success story.

[9] Matteo Berrettini v Kevin Anderson
With a quarter-final run at the Antalya Open and group stage singles wins for Italy against Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils, Matteo Berrettini has started 2021 in strong form.

The World No. 10 will need his best level from the first match in Melbourne, when he meets two-time Grand Slam runner-up Kevin Anderson. Berrettini will aim to put past Australian Open visits behind him this year. The Italian has suffered two first-round losses in his three previous appearances at the event.

Anderson will also be bidding to turn a corner at the Australian Open. After three consecutive runs to the Round of 16 between 2013 and 2015, the South African has picked up just two wins from six matches at the tournament.

[4] Daniil Medvedev v Vasek Pospisil
Daniil Medvedev is a man in form. Heading into the ATP Cup semi-finals, the World No. 4 is on a 12-match winning streak, which includes eight wins against Top 10 opposition. Medvedev will enter the Australian Open as one of the tournament favourites, but could he fall at the first hurdle?

The Russian has contested three previous ATP Head2Head encounters against first-round opponent Vasek Pospisil and, on each occasion, he has been heavily tested. During his stunning 2019 run of six consecutive final appearances, Medvedev was forced to save five set points against Pospisil at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. It was the closest any player got to taking a set off the Russian that week, as he claimed his second ATP Masters 1000 crown.

When the pair met at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last year, Pospisil gained his revenge with a 6-4, 6-3 win. The Canadian also took the opening set in their most recent encounter at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Pospisil has experience of causing upsets at hard-court Grand Slam championships. At last year’s US Open, the 30-year-old claimed back-to-back wins against Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the fourth round.

[21] Alex de Minaur v Tennys Sandgren

Alex de Minaur missed the 2020 Australian Open with an abdominal injury, but comes into the 2021 edition in rich form having picked up the fourth ATP Tour title of his career at the Antalya Open (d. Bublik) and posted solid performances at the ATP Cup for the host nation.

While the 21-year-old hasn’t played Tennys Sandgren before, the American’s pedigree at Melbourne Park is well known, having twice reached the Australian Open quarter-finals. De Minaur will draw upon the experience of reaching last year’s US Open quarter-finals (l. to Thiem).

In 2018, making his main draw debut at the major, Sandgren beat 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round, marking his first Top 10 match win. He overcame then-World No. 5 Dominic Thiem in his first five-set match, before falling to Hyeon Chung.

Last year, Sandgren knocked out Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini en route to the last eight, where he could not convert seven match points against Roger Federer, the six-time former champion.


[15] Pablo Carreno Busta v Kei Nishikori

At the 2019 Australian Open, Pablo Carreno Busta and Kei Nishikori contested one of the matches of the tournament. In the first edition of the event to feature a 10-point final-set tie-break, Nishikori recovered from two sets down to seal a 6-7(8), 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-6(8) victory in five hours and five minutes. Two years later, the pair will meet again at Melbourne Park.

Carreno Busta has made a strong start to his 2021 season. En route to the ATP Cup semi-finals, the Spaniard has claimed straight-sets victories against John Millman and Michail Pervolarakis. Nishikori has played just one match so far this year, and he showed glimpses of his best level in a straight-sets loss to Medvedev.

The Japanese has enjoyed far more success than his opponent at Melbourne Park, having reached the Round of 16 or better in his past seven visits. But Carreno Busta is no stranger to success at hard-court major championships. The Gijon native is a two-time singles semi-finalist and doubles runner-up at the US Open. Could this be the year he replicates those results in Melbourne?


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Mahut/Roger-Vasselin Claim 2-1 Victory For France

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

Nicolas Mahut led his nation to its first Group C victory on Friday, as he claimed wins in singles and doubles against Austria at the ATP Cup.

Following his 7-6(2), 6-2 win against Dennis Novak in No. 2 singles, Mahut returned to the court with Edouard Roger-Vasselin to earn a 6-3, 6-3 win against Philipp Oswald and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn. Mahut and Roger-Vasselin’s straight-sets win clinched second place for France in Group C. France lost its opening tie of the team event 2-1 to group winners Italy on Wednesday.


Mahut and Roger-Vasselin found consistent success behind their returns to place their opponents under pressure on Rod Laver Arena. The Frenchmen won 58 per cent of their first-serve return points (18/31) and converted six of their seven break points to earn the win in 73 minutes.

In the first match of the tie, Mahut struck 12 aces and saved three of four break points to defeat Novak in 88 minutes. Mahut was contesting his first singles match in a year. Prior to his win against Novak, the 31-time tour-level doubles titlist had not contested a singles match since failing to qualify for last February’s Open Sud de France in Montpellier.

Nicolas Mahut owns a 2-0 record at this year's ATP Cup.

Mahut owns a 3-0 record at this year’s ATP Cup. The 6’3” right-hander earned France its first point of the competition on Wednesday, with another doubles victory alongside Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The seven-time ATP Tour team titlists defeated Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori of Italy 6-3, 6-4.

The tie was forced to a decisive doubles clash when Austria claimed victory in the No. 1 singles match. After 22 minutes, World No. 3 Dominic Thiem was leading Benoit Paire 6-1 when the Frenchman retired from the match.

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Auger-Aliassime, Moutet Close In On Murray River Open Final

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

Third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime will attempt to reach his seventh ATP Tour final on Saturday when he plays Corentin Moutet of France at the Murray River Open.

Auger-Aliassime, who saved one match point against Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory over two hours and 12 minutes earlier on Friday, earned his place in the last four when Czech Jiri Vesely retired due to a left shoulder injury. Auger-Aliassime had won the first set 7-6(3) in their quarter-final.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime compiled a 23-19 match record in 2020, which includes three runner-up finishes at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils), the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas) and the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne (l. to Zverev).


Moutet recorded his second straight win over second-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 6-2 to reach his first ATP Tour semi-final in 13 months. The 21-year-old Frenchman advanced to the Qatar ExxonMobil Open final (l. to Rublev) in January 2020.

Auger-Aliassime leads Moutet 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including victories at 2019 Wimbledon and the 2020 US Open.

Earlier on Friday, Moutet had advanced to the last eight with a 7-6(4), 6-4 third-round victory against Australia’s James Duckworth. Dimitrov knocked out Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 in two hours and 23 minutes.

Koolhof/Kubot Through To Doubles Quarter-finals
Second seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot overcame Radu Albot and Gerasimov 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 for a place in the quarter-finals. Koolhof partnered Nikola Mektic to the Nitto ATP Finals title (d. Melzer/Roger-Vasselin) in November 2020.

Koolhof and Kubot will next challenge fifth seeds Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, who saved one set point at 5-6, 30/40 in the first set of their 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over Divij Sharan and Igor Zelenay.

Elsewhere, Britons Cameron Norrie and Jonny O’Mara beat third seeds and last year’s Australian Open titlists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 4-6, 6-3, 10-7. They now prepare to play Marcelo Demoliner and Santiago Gonzalez.

Fourth seeds Marcelo Melo and Horia Tecau saved one set point at 5/6 in the first set tie-break of their 7-6(6), 6-2 win over Americans Nicholas Monroe and Frances Tiafoe.

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Evans Puts In Double Shift, Reaches Murray River Open Semi-finals

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

Eighth seed Daniel Evans put in a double shift on Friday to book a place in the Murray River Open semi-finals, where he will challenge France’s Jeremy Chardy.

Having first overcome American Marcos Giron 6-4, 7-6(5) in the third round, the 30-year-old Briton returned to edge fourth-seeded Croatian Borna Coric 7-5, 7-6(1) in two hours. Evans struck 14 aces and won 84 per cent of his first service points. He broke Coric’s serve at 5-5 in the first set, but needed to save one set point when serving at 4-5, 30/40 in the second set.

Last year, Evans reached three ATP Tour semi-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Tsitsipas), the European Open in Antwerp (l. to Humbert) and the Erste Bank Open in Vienna (l. to Sonego). Earlier in the day, Coric had ended Australian No. 13 seed Nick Kyrgios’ return tournament with a solid 6-3, 6-4 third-round victory.


Chardy, who beat sixth-seeded American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4 in the third round, moved into the semi-finals after top seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland withdrew due to fatigue. Former World No. 3 Wawrinka had rallied from the brink of defeat on Friday to reach the quarter-finals, defeating Australian Alex Bolt 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) after two hours and 23 minutes.

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Nadal Learns Australian Open Draw Fate, Chases Record 21st Major Title

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2021

Rafael Nadal will begin his quest to win a record 21st Grand Slam championship title against Laslo Djere of Serbia at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. Nadal, who picked up the 2009 trophy in Melbourne, has been drawn in the same half as Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will need to come through a minefield if he is to capture his ninth Australian Open crown, potentially needing to beat 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev and last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem en route to a 28th major championship title match.

Nadal, who equalled Roger Federer’s haul of 20 majors with a 13th Roland Garros crown in October last year, could face Italian Fabio Fognini in the fourth round. Fognini memorably beat Nadal in five sets in the 2015 US Open third round. Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the 2019 semi-finals, or Matteo Berrettini are potential quarter-final opponents.

Nadal won his first hard-court major at the 2009 Australian Open, but despite adding four US Open titles since then, he has failed to add to his trophy haul at Melbourne Park. The 34-year-old has finished as runner-up on four occasions – in 2012 (l. to Djokovic), 2014 (l. to Wawrinka), 2017 (l. to Federer) and 2019 (l. to Djokovic). Should Nadal win this year’s tournament, he will join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only players to have won all four majors at least twice. Nadal has a 65-14 record at the Melbourne major.

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Top seed Djokovic opens his campaign against France’s Jeremy Chardy, but may need to beat big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic or Wawrinka, who defeated Djokovic in the 2015 Roland Garros final and the 2016 US Open title match, in the Last 16. Wawrinka has won their past two matches, including at the 2019 US Open, when Djokovic retired when he was down two sets. The Serbian, who won the first of his eight Australian Open titles as a 20-year-old in 2008 and has a 75-8 match record at the tournament, could potentially reunite with Zverev in the quarter-finals, so soon after their epic singles and doubles group stage clashes at the 2021 ATP Cup on Friday.

Third seed Thiem, who beat three Top 10 players including Gael Monfils, Nadal and Zverev, en route to his third Grand Slam championship final last year, will attempt to get his title bid off to a strong start when he plays Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round. Last year’s US Open titlist has been drawn in the same quarter as eighth-seeded Argentinean Diego Schwartzman, No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada and No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Fourth seed Medvedev starts with a tricky test against Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, and if the Russian is to improve upon two consecutive fourth round showings (2019-2020), he may need to overcome No. 13 seed David Goffin in the fourth round. His compatriot and seventh seed Andrey Rublev, who captured five ATP Tour titles and recorded 41 match wins in a standout 2020 season, could stand in his way in the quarter-finals. Rublev takes on Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann in the first round, with No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain a potential fourth-round opponent.

There will be some outstanding first-round clashes, including Shapovalov challenging 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner for the first time. Ninth-seeded Italian Berrettini meets former World No. 4 Kevin Anderson, Dimitrov tackles 2018 finalist Marin Cilic of Croatia and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta takes on Japan’s Kei Nishikori in other eye-catching opening matches.

In 2019, the Australian Open began to feature deciding set tie-breaks at 6-6, with the first player to score 10 points – and leading by two points – winning the match. The men’s draw will also continue to implement its heat policy, with the potential for a 10-minute break for the heat after the third set. Main draw play will get underway on 8 February.

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