Britain’s Andy Murray defeats France’s Mathias Bourgue in straight sets to reach the final of the ATP Challenger in Biella, Italy.
Britain’s Andy Murray defeats France’s Mathias Bourgue in straight sets to reach the final of the ATP Challenger in Biella, Italy.
Novak Djokovic is facing a race to be fit for his last-16 match against Milos Raonic on what should be a thrilling day seven of the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal earned his 68th win at the Australian Open on Saturday, as he beat Cameron Norrie 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park for the 14th time. The Spaniard’s three-set win confirmed his spot in the second week at the opening major championship of the year, but it was not the greatest victory that he achieved during the sixth day of the tournament.
For the first time in more than two weeks, Nadal noticed an improvement to the stiffness in his back that forced him to skip playing duties at last week’s ATP Cup.
“The back [had not been] getting better each day. [It was] getting better today,” said Nadal. “Today is better. [It is the] first day I [have] felt an improvement, and that’s the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing.”
Following his first-round victory against Laslo Djere, the 2009 champion shared that he had been forced to change his service motion to relieve pressure on his back. Two rounds later, Nadal was able to return to his usual technique.
During his third-round victory against Norrie, Nadal landed seven aces and won 74 per cent of his service points (61/82). Nadal faced just one break point throughout the two-hour, 14-minute encounter.
“I was not serving my normal serve for the past 15 days. Today is the first day that I started to serve again [with] my normal serve,” said Nadal. “Yesterday, I didn’t practise. Today, [I was] just warming up with the normal movement. I didn’t serve bad, but I can do better. I’m looking forward to doing it better. [It] has been an important victory for me. The biggest victory is the back is better for the first day. That’s the most important thing.”
Nadal’s win against Norrie confirmed a 17th ATP Head2Head clash against Fabio Fognini. The Italian, who played a key role in Italy’s run to the ATP Cup final last week (l. to Russia), defeated Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Round of 16 in Melbourne for the fourth time.
Nadal will be wary of the challenge that lies ahead. Fognini is one of only four men (Djokovic, Thiem, Gaudio) to own three or more clay victories against the Spaniard and he is the only man to defeat Nadal from two sets down at a Grand Slam (2015 US Open).
“He’s one of the most talented players on Tour with a lot of amazing things,” said Nadal. “When he’s playing well, he’s one of the most dangerous opponents on Tour without a doubt. He had an amazing victory against a great opponent [in De Minaur], so [it] will be a very tough match. I hope to be ready for it.”
If Nadal can claim a 13th win in 17 ATP Head2Head matches against the Italian, he will move three wins away from Grand Slam history. Nadal is aiming to lift a record 21st Grand Slam crown and become the first player in the Open Era (since 1968) to win each of the four major championships on multiple occasions. With the condition of his back improving, Nadal has ended his first week in Melbourne with an important victory.
Rafael Nadal beats an impressive Cameron Norrie to reach the Australian Open fourth round and end British interest in the singles.
Rafael Nadal arrived at the Australian Open without any match practice in 2021, after skipping playing duties at the ATP Cup due to stiffness in his back. But that hasn’t stopped the Spaniard from making a strong start to his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam crown.
The 2009 champion completed a dream first week at Melbourne Park on Saturday, as he defeated Cameron Norrie 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 to claim his third straight-sets victory in as many rounds. Nadal won 79 per cent of second-serve return points (22/28) to move past the Brit in two hours and 14 minutes and advance to the Round of 16 in Melbourne for the 14th time.
Nadal was handed his biggest test of the week by Norrie on Rod Laver Arena, but he rose to the challenge to recover from a break down in the first set and clinch his 68th win at the opening major championship of the year (68-14). The 34-year-old is four wins away from lifting a record 21st Grand Slam title and becoming the first man in the Open Era (since 1968) to win each of the four major titles on multiple occasions.
Norrie maintained consistent depth on his groundstrokes and attacked Nadal’s backhand to claim the first break of the night on Rod Laver Arena. However, Nadal’s response was emphatic. The Spaniard earned eight of the next nine points, as he flattened his groundstrokes and dominated the centre of the court to force his opponent into uncomfortable positions. Nadal continued to move Norrie across the baseline as the set progressed and he dropped just one point from 5-5 to clinch the opener.
Nadal reduced his unforced error count in the second and third sets and found his rhythm to wear Norrie down from the back of the court. As he did in the first set, Nadal broke at 6-5 in the third set to earn his place in the second week in Melbourne.
Norrie equalled his best Grand Slam run by reaching the third round this week. The 25-year-old, who also reached the third round at last year’s US Open, beat Murray River Open champion Daniel Evans and Roman Safiullin in four sets to book his first ATP Head2Head encounter against Nadal.
Nadal will face Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarter-finals. Fognini needed just under two hours to defeat Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on Margaret Court Arena.
Fognini’s win came just two days after he was forced to save match point in an epic fifth-set Match Tie-break against countryman Salvatore Caruso. With his straight-sets win against De Minaur, Fognini equals Andreas Seppi’s record for most Round of 16 appearances at Melbourne Park by an Italian man (4).
Fognini has made an impressive start to his 2021 campaign, after finishing 2020 with one win from five matches following arthroscopic surgery on both his ankles last May. The 33-year-old was an integral part of Italy’s run to last week’s ATP Cup final (l. to Russia).
Fognini has made Italian history with his win over De Minaur. The Sanremo-born star and his ATP Cup teammate, Matteo Berrettini, are only the second Italian duo in the Open Era to reach the Round of 16 in Melbourne. Fognini also achieved the feat alongside Seppi in 2018.
Nadal will enter his 17th ATP Head2Head match against Fognini with a 12-4 record. Fognini will attempt to earn his second Grand Slam win against Nadal, following his memorable comeback from two sets down against the 13-time Roland Garros champion at the 2015 US Open.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios may have fallen in dramatic five-set singles clashes earlier this week at the Australian Open, but the Aussies safely made it through their opening doubles match on Saturday.
The wild cards lost just four points behind their first serves (25/29) to move past Lloyd Harris and Julian Knowle 6-2, 6-4 in 61 minutes. It was Kokkinakis and Kyrgios’ first team win at the Australian Open, following first-round losses at Melbourne Park in 2013 and 2015.
“We know how to play doubles together,” said Kyrgios. “We had some success in juniors, and it’s just basically been about having the chance to play. Obviously it’s nice [that Thanasi is] getting his body right and things [are] linking up… It’s good that we got a win today. I think it was good just to get our bodies moving as well, especially me after last night. Anything is possible if we get a bit of momentum. We’ll see what happens.”
Kokkinakis and Kyrgios will meet fourth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot for a place in the third round.
Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev stunned top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-4, 6-4 to reach the third round. The Kazakhstani pair claimed 73 per cent of second-serve return points (11/15) to advance in 71 minutes.
Defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury needed three sets to win their second-round match. The fifth seeds converted four of their five break points to defeat Tomislav Brkic and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Marcelo Melo and Horia Tecau landed 23 winners and did not face a break point en route to a 6-1, 7-6(2) win against Radu Albot and Daniel Evans. The seventh seeds will meet Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek for a place in the quarter-finals. Dodig and Polasek won 91 per cent of their first-serve points (31/34) to beat Luke Bambridge and Dominic Inglot 6-4, 7-5.
John Millman and Thiago Monteiro also overcame British opposition to reach the third round. The Australian-Brazilian tandem recovered from a set down to beat Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Millman and Tiafoe will meet second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in the third round.
Nicholas Monroe and Frances Tiafoe recovered from 2-6, 1-4 down and saved two match points to defeat Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov 2-6, 7-6(9), 6-2 on Court 7. The Americans will face Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald in their next match. Daniell and Oswald overcame Dominik Koepfer and Tennys Sandgren 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 6-2 in two hours and six minutes.
Karolina Pliskova smashes two racquets and argues with the umpire in her third-round loss to Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open.
Britain’s Katie Boulter loses to Daria Kasatkina for the second time in a week at the Phillip Island Trophy.
Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram continue their Australian Open title defence with a second-round win over Tomislav Brkic and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.
Andrey Rublev completed a flawless first week at the Australian Open on Saturday, as he defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Round of 16 in Melbourne.
The seventh seed ripped 33 winners, including five on his return, to advance after one hour and 32 minutes. Rublev is yet to lose a set at Melbourne Park this year. The Russian has dropped 34 games en route to his second straight appearance in the Round of 16.
“I have known Feliciano for a long time. We have practised a lot and we are good friends,” said Rublev, in an on-court interview. “I knew it was going to be a tough match because of the way he is playing. He has an amazing serve, an amazing slice and volley, so I knew he was not going to give me rhythm.”
Rublev extends his unbeaten start to this year to 7-0. The 23-year-old opened his 2021 campaign with four wins en route to the ATP Cup title.
Rublev joins ATP Cup teammates Daniil Medvedev and Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round. This is the first Grand Slam to feature three Russian men in the Round of 16 since 2007 Roland Garros (Andreev, Davydenko, Youzhny).
Lopez started the match strong on serve, which frustrated Rublev as he failed to convert his first three break points at 3-2 in the first set. The Russian found himself under pressure in his next service game, but escaped danger with strong serving and aggressive play from the baseline.
Rublev found a way past Lopez’s net-rushing tactics to take the first set with a late service break and he charged to victory from that point. Through the second and third sets, Rublev faced just one break point and earned three service breaks to clinch victory. The seven-time ATP Tour titlist closed the match with a love service hold, as Lopez fired a backhand return beyond the baseline.
“The first set was [a] really nervous [one]. I had a couple of chances and he had a couple of chances but, in the end, I made it,” said Rublev. “After the first set, I started to feel a little bit better and I think he was a little bit more down because he had tough matches in the first two rounds. He was maybe a bit more tired and I felt confident. I was playing better and better.”
Rublev will attempt to reach his maiden Australian Open quarter-final on Monday when he meets 24th seed Casper Ruud — for the third time in their ATP Head2Head rivalry (Rublev leads 2-0) — in the Round of 16. The 22-year-old reached the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Radu Albot.
“It is going to be really tough [against Ruud]. Casper is a really great player,” said Rublev. “We played a couple of times and it was always a great match, with great intensity. He is in great shape, he won really great matches, so we will see what is going to happen. I need to prepare mentally and physically, there are going to be long rallies and it is going to be high intensity.”
Ruud has been knocking on the door of a breakthrough since the ATP Tour’s resumption last year. The Norwegian reached back-to-back Grand Slam third rounds at the US Open and Roland Garros, and toppled the likes of Karen Khachanov and Matteo Berrettini at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on his way to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.
Ruud continued breaking new ground in the new year, recording his best Australian Open result with victories over Jordan Thompson and Tommy Paul to reach the third round.
Taking on Albot in their second career clash, the Norwegian cruised in the opening set, but faced strong resistance from his Moldovan opponent as he battled back to take the second set. Ruud recovered to take it in four after nearly three hours on court, finishing the match with 45 winners and nine aces.
Ruud’s victory marks a major milestone for Norwegian tennis. The 2020 Buenos Aires champion is now the second player from Norway to reach this stage at a Grand Slam, following in the footsteps of his father, Christian Ruud, who achieved the same feat at the 1997 Australian Open.
🎾 @CasperRuud98 is the second 🇳🇴 to reach R4 at a Grand Slam.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 13, 2021