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Russia, Italy Ready For ATP Cup Final Showdown

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

After four days of competition, only two countries remain in the battle to be crowned ATP Cup champion. Russia and Italy enter the championship match with undefeated 3-0 tie records, but which team will emerge with the trophy?

Described as the two-headed monster of this year’s competition, Russia will aim to extend its perfect 6-0 singles record to take the trophy in Melbourne. Russia is the only team in the tournament to feature two Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings: Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

Italy’s hopes of winning rest in the hands of Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini. The Italians, who both cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in 2019, own a combined 5-1 record in singles this week.

Should the two nations split the singles encounters, team captains Evgeny Donskoy and Vincenzo Santopadre will both have a big decision to make. Do they stick with their selected doubles team or bring in their singles stars? Russia may own an unbeaten 6-0 record in singles this week, but they are yet to claim a win in three doubles matches. Italy owns a 1-1 record in contested doubles matches at this year’s event.


Rublev Seeks Rare Fognini Win
In the opening match of the final, World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will attempt to continue his dominant singles run this week. Across his two Group D matches, the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier dropped a combined seven games against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka.

Despite Rublev’s red-hot form, his opponent — Fabio Fognini — will have a reason to be confident when he walks onto Rod Laver Arena. The 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion owns a 5-1 ATP Head2Head record against Rublev, which includes wins in his three most recent encounters with the Russian.

Since losing his opening match of the tournament, the World No. 17 has claimed three straight victories. Fognini combined with Berrettini to clinch a tie-deciding doubles win against Austria and has also picked up singles wins against Benoit Paire and Pablo Carreno Busta.

“Fabio is really a great player. Everyone knows that he’s really talented,” said Rublev. “When he’s at his best, [it is] really tough to beat him… It’s going to be interesting. I have nothing to lose. He has all the pressure because he beat me more times than I [beat him]… It’s going to be a challenge for me. I will try to do my best and give my everything. I think it’s going to be great match from both of us.”

Rublev and Fognini will both be eager to deliver their teammates an opportunity to clinch the trophy. The title will be on the line in the No. 1 singles match, when Medvedev meets Berrettini.

Can Medvedev Or Berrettini Clinch The Title?
Medvedev enters the championship match on a 13-match winning streak. The Russian’s run began last year, when he claimed 10 straight victories to lift trophies at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. The World No. 4 has added three straight sets wins to that tally this week. Remarkably, during his 13-match winning run, Medvedev has overcome nine Top 10 opponents.

The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals titlist can take that statistic into double figures on Sunday, when he faces World No. 10 Berrettini. With a combined 4-0 record in singles and doubles, Berrettini has been one of the standout players of this year’s competition. The Rome-born star has already beaten a player ranked higher than Medvedev in the FedEx ATP Rankings at this event. In his opening match of the tournament, Berrettini claimed a 6-2, 6-4 win against World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

“Italian tennis is amazing… It’s an amazing tennis nation,” said Medvedev. “They had maybe, for some time, just a little bit of a downfall, but just a little one. Now they’re back at it, especially [with] Matteo [and] Fabio playing amazing here.”

Both men have come a long way since they contested their only previous ATP Head2Head match at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. On that occasion, World No. 57 Medvedev outlasted World No. 108 Berrettini 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4. The prize? A third-round encounter with Pablo Carreno Busta. This time, the ATP Cup trophy could await the winner.

Doubles Decisions
If the destination of the trophy is not decided by Medvedev and Berrettini’s second career meeting, captains Donskoy and Santopadre will play their biggest role in the tie. Will they commit to their original doubles selections, or place one of their singles stars into the team?

As player/captain, Donskoy is slated to play the final match of the tournament alongside Aslan Karatsev. Donskoy and Karatsev own a 0-2 team record this week. Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori are scheduled to represent Italy on the other side of the net, but they lost their only match of the week against Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Italy has played just one decisive doubles match this week and, on that occasion, Santopadre brought in his singles stars. The gamble paid off, as Berrettini and Fognini clinched a 6-1, 6-4 win against Thiem and Dennis Novak to clinch a 2-1 win against Austria.

It is difficult to predict which side will emerge victorious on Rod Laver Arena, but one matter is certain. There will be a new country inscribed on the ATP Cup trophy. Serbia won the inaugural edition of the event last year, but will it be Russia or Italy that makes history on Sunday?

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Memories Of 2020 Fuel Thiem Ahead Of Australian Open

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

Dominic Thiem says memories of losing the 2020 Australian Open final lingered during lockdown, but helped him to capture the US Open crown in September.

Twelve months ago, Thiem beat Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev en route to the Australian Open final, his third Grand Slam championship title match, where he lost to Novak Djokovic 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“It was a hell of a run, hell of a tournament in general just with [that] last little step missing,” the Austrian said on Saturday. “I always love to look back at the 2020 edition and can’t wait [for] the tournament [to] start on Monday for me.

“I was thinking so much about that tournament, especially about the lost final in the first part of the lockdown. [When] the lockdown started, I had so much time to think about everything, to reflect on everything, what was happening.

“It was not a nice thought because maybe it was the best tournament I’ve ever played, six amazing matches, especially [the] quarter-finals against Rafa and [the] semi-finals against Sascha. They were outstanding matches. Also, the final against Novak was so good. I didn’t win it, so that was so painful.”

But winning his first major title in September, with a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory over Zverev in the US Open final, erased the doubts.

“The US Open title deleted everything, somehow,” said Thiem. “I wouldn’t have won it probably [without losing in Melbourne]. I was probably way stronger in my mind. But now I just try to recall all the positive memories and positive energy from last year. It was an outstanding two weeks for me.”

Thiem begins his Australian Open campaign on Monday when he faces Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the first round. It will be his eighth tilt at the title, but the 27-year-old still believes World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the title favourite.

“He’s the top favourite for the title, no doubt,” said Thiem. “I think conditions are suiting his game perfectly. Then obviously if you win a tournament so many times… you get automatic confidence somehow.”

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Murray/Soares Earn Back-To-Back Wins, Reach Great Ocean Road Open Final

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

On an action-packed day of doubles at the Great Ocean Road Open, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares claimed back-to-back wins to reach the championship match in their comeback event.

The 10-time tour-level team titlists claimed a 6-4, 4-6, 10-7 quarter-final win against Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev and doubled their Saturday win tally with a 6-2, 7-6(0) victory against Antlaya finalists Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek.

Murray and Soares are competing together for the first time since 2019 Roland Garros this week. The second seeds are chasing their fourth title as a team on Australian soil, with past title runs at the Australian Open (2016) and Sydney (2016, ’19).


Murray and Soares will meet top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for the trophy. Cabal and Farah started the day with a 6-3, 6-4 win against sixth seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Matwe Middelkoop and returned to the court later in the day to defeat Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-finals.

The Colombians will attempt to capture their first trophy since the 2019 US Open in Sunday’s championship match. Cabal and Farah finished as the runner-up team in Acapulco (l. to Kubot/Melo) and Sardinia (l. to Daniell/Oswald) last year.

Unbeaten Mektic/Pavic Reach Murray River Open Final
Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic extended their unbeaten team record to seven matches on Saturday, as they claimed two Match Tie-break wins to advance to the Murray River Open final.

The Antalya champions were tested throughout the day in Melbourne, as they beat Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-6 in the quarter-finals and then overcame Delray Beach titlists Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar 6-7(4), 7-5, 10-7 in the semi-finals.

The Croatian duo will attempt to add a second crown to their 2021 collection on Sunday, when they face Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin in the final. The Frenchmen upset second seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot 7-6(8), 6-3 in the quarter-finals and claimed a 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 10-8 semi-final win against Marcelo Demoliner and Santiago Gonzalez.

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Advantage Argentina: Pella Claims Nishioka Win At ATP Cup

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

Guido Pella earned his first victory of the 2021 ATP Cup on Saturday, as he defeated Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 7-6(4) to claim a 1-0 lead for Argentina in its Group D tie against Japan.

The 30-year-old won 11 of 15 net points and struck 24 winners to improve to 1-1 in this year’s tournament. Pella is unbeaten in two ATP Head2Head matches against Nishioka. The World No. 44 also beat the Japanese 6-3, 6-0 win at last year’s Generali Open in Kitzbühel.


Argentina and Japan are both attempting to finish Group D in second place. Both nations lost their opening ties of the tournament 2-1 to group winners Russia.

In the No. 1 singles match, Diego Schwartzman will attempt to clinch the tie when faces former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori. The 31-year-old Nishikori owns a 3-1 ATP Head2Head record against Schwartzman.

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Sinner Saves M.P., Gains Khachanov Revenge At Great Ocean Road Open

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

Jannik Sinner ended his 2020 season by lifting his maiden ATP Tour title. After a dramatic semi-final at the Great Ocean Road Open on Saturday, the #NextGenATP Italian is just one win away from starting his 2021 campaign in similar fashion.

The 19-year-old saved match point with all-out aggression at 5-6, 30/40 in the decider to beat Karen Khachanov 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) in three hours and seven minutes. It was the second time in as many ATP Head2Head meetings between the pair that a final-set tie-break was required. At last year’s US Open, Khachanov recovered from two sets down to beat Sinner 6-3, 7-6(7), 2-6, 0-6, 6-7(4) in three hours and 44 minutes.

“A lot of credit [goes to Khachanov]. We had a great battle at the US Open as well, 7-6 in the fifth. He is a great player… and I am very happy to be in the final,” said Sinner, in an on-court interview.

Sinner extends his unbeaten record on the ATP Tour to nine matches. The World No. 36 ended 2020 with five consecutive wins en route to the Sofia trophy and has picked up four wins this week in Melbourne.


For the third match in a row, Sinner was forced to save a set point in the first set. Khachanov landed a powerful second serve at 4-5, 30/40 to stay in the set and created a set point opportunity of his own two games later. Sinner reacted quickly to a net cord and flicked a forehand winner to escape danger, before taking the first set in a tie-break. The #NextGenATP Italian returned with depth and extracted multiple forehand errors from his opponent to clinch the set after 62 minutes.

Sinner appeared to be closing in on victory in the second set, when he ripped a cross-court forehand winner to break serve at 3-3. But Khachanov responded emphatically, as he broke serve in back-to-back return games with aggressive forehand play.

Sinner opened the third set with two inspired cross-court forehand passing shots from deep positions to claim a 1-0 advantage. The Sofia titlist held his nerve to save four break points en route to a 5-3 lead, but he failed to serve out the match as Khachanov attacked Sinner’s backhand to extract errors.

The momentum had shifted firmly in Khachanov’s favour and the Russian earned a match point at 5-6, 30/40. In an extended rally, Sinner ripped a series of forehands to keep Khachanov on the run and finished the point with an overhead winner. In the final-set tie-break, Sinner clinched victory with the same tactic as he came to the net behind his forehand to drive an overhead winner down the centre of the court.


It is the latest success story in a remarkable week for Italian tennis. At the ATP Cup, Italy has claimed three tie victories to reach the championship match. Sinner will face countryman and first-time ATP Tour finalist Stefano Travaglia in the championship match.

“It’s great to see for Italy many players, many great players. I think everyone pushes each other a little bit,” said Sinner. “Everyone is playing very, very good tennis. Everyone is different as player, so I think it’s great to see… having quite a big amount of players.”

Travaglia recovered from a slow start to beat Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 in 86 minutes. It will be a moment to celebrate for the Italian, almost 10 years on from a freak accident at his family’s apartment in Ascoli Piceno. Travaglia slipped in his flip-flops, fell down a staircase, put his right arm through a plate-glass window and severed an artery. He was rushed to hospital by his parents, with his father stemming the bleeding.

Travaglia, then ranked outside of the Top 300 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, told the New York Times in 2017, “My tennis career, of course, was over. But in that moment I think about my hand and my arm — because it’s tough to live without a hand.” The Italian spent 18 days in hospital after surgery and it was eight more months until he was able to hold a racquet once again.

Four of Travaglia’s five wins this week at the Great Ocean Road Open, an ATP 250 tournament, have come in straight sets.

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Rublev Rallies To Give Russia Early Lead In ATP Cup SFs

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

World No. 8 Andrey Rublev responded emphatically after dropping his first set of 2021 ATP Cup to Germany’s No. 2 Jan-Lennard Struff, rallying to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and giving Russia an early lead in the semi-finals.

Rublev came into the tournament as one of the hottest players on Tour, winning the the most titles (five) and joint-most matches (41) last year as he soared into the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He carried that momentum into Melbourne, cruising to victory in his rubbers against Guido Pella of Argentina and Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan to put Russia back into the semi-finals.

He faced his biggest challenge of the tournament against Struff, who amassed three victories in singles and doubles in the group stage. Struff imposed his big-serving game to cool off the Russian’s rhythm, keeping the points short and not allowing his opponent to control the rallies from the baseline. The strategy paid off as a frustrated Rublev served up two double faults in the same game to hand Struff the opening break, and a way to take the opening set.

But Rublev responded by doubling down in his attacking strategy, and he left Struff shell-shocked as he powered his way back into the match with a double break to start the second set. Rublev stayed aggressive, firing 37 winners off both wings as he dropped just three games across the next two sets to take the victory after an hour and 34 minutes.

“In the first set I was really nervous, and plus he was playing really good,” Rublev said in his on-court interview. “He was attacking a lot and he was all over me. I couldn’t answer. And then in the second set I said, ‘If I’m going to play like this, I’m going to lose 6-3. 6-3 and that’s it.’ So I need to change, go for the shots, start to hit as well. I raised my level, I started to play more aggressive, I started to move better. That was the change.”


The victory puts Team Russia one step closer to its first ATP Cup final. Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev will look to get the job done in the No. 1 singles match against Alexander Zverev next under the roof on Rod Laver Arena. 

More to follow…

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Berrettini, Fognini Send Italy To The ATP Cup Final

  • Posted: Feb 06, 2021

One year ago, the Italians did not advance out of the group stage of the ATP Cup. Now, they are into the championship match against Russia.

Matteo Berrettini sealed his country’s spot in the final on Saturday with a 6-3, 7-5 victory against Roberto Bautista Agut, giving Italy an insurmountable 2-0 lead against Spain. Earlier in the day, Fabio Fognini clawed past Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Berrettini said in his on-court interview. “Last year I couldn’t make it, so I’m really happy that the first time that I played we are into the final. The job is not done yet, but we are really happy for what is happening.”

Berrettini has been a star for Italy in this ATP Cup, going 3-0 in singles and partnering Fognini in a deciding doubles victory against Austria in Group C play. The World No. 10 has beaten three of the top 13 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings without losing a set.

“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling pumped. I’m feeling great to play not just for me, but for my team and for Italy in general. That’s what matters the most,” Berrettini said. “I’m really looking forward to playing tomorrow.”

Team Italy

The 24-year-old used a combination of controlled aggression and finesse to battle past the Spaniard after one hour and 26 minutes. The Italians jumped up and down in a huddle in their Team Zone after the match, celebrating their triumph. Russia, led by Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, awaits in the final.

“For sure it’s a final, so we are the two best teams. These two guys, they played unbelievable at the end of 2020. They’re still playing really good, but it’s a final, anything can happen,” Berrettini said. “They are great players, but we also have a great team, so it’s going to be a tough one.”

Berrettini now leads Bautista Agut 4-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, with each of his four victories coming in straight sets. Bautista Agut took a medical timeout after the first set, but that did not stop the Spaniard from battling hard. The 32-year-old added more pace to the groundstrokes to try to push the Italian back.

But Berrettini, who bulldozed his way through the opening set with his power, used his backhand slice and drop shot to great effect, and seized the deciding service break with a tremendous forehand passing shot. 


Fognini responded to every challenge thrown his way in the No. 2 singles match to give Italy a 1-0 lead in its ATP Cup semi-final against Spain.

Fognini clawed past Carreno Busta 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in a roller coaster battle that lasted two hours and 21 minutes. The Spaniard had won their seven previous ATP Head2Head meetings.

“I’m happy because of course this week I started slowly and I’m getting better and better,” Fognini said on court. “The sensations are good.” 

After getting broken in the first game of the match, Fognini appeared concerned as he had the trainer visit to re-wrap his left ankle. But while the number seven was a bad omen for the Italian against Carreno Busta entering their No. 2 singles match, it proved a lucky number for Fognini at Melbourne Park.

Fabio Fognini

The World No. 17 won seven seven consecutive games to seemingly take control of the match. Fognini was playing with controlled aggression, while the always steady Carreno Busta was making uncharacteristic unforced errors.

However, the rain threw a wrench in Fognini’s plans. At 1-0 in the second set, a delay of about 30 minutes changed the momentum. The players switched roles upon the resumption of play, with Carreno Busta back to his steady self and Fognini misfiring.

“I was playing really good tennis in the first set and then thats when we closed the roof. But I think I played three, four games in the second set really, really tight,” Fognini said. “I was feeling really great even if I was losing those games. In the third set I think I played good tennis again.”

With national pride on the line, the Italian maintained his composure and found his game early in the deciding set. He began showing the jaw-dropping shotmaking that helped him crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2019. But Carreno Busta, who was advised by captain Pepe Vendrell, coach Samuel Lopez and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal in Spain’s Team Zone, rallied from a double-break down in the third set to get within two points of getting back on serve.

While the Spaniard saved three match points on his serve, he was unable to hold off Fognini. The Italian’s firepower proved decisive, and he finished off his victory with a perfect backhand drop volley. Fognini began his week with a straight-sets loss against World No. 100 Dennis Novak of Austria, but he has found his rhythm at Melbourne Park.

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