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Grand Prix Hassan II In Marrakech Postponed

  • Posted: Feb 17, 2021

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix Hassan II has been postponed from its traditional April date. Consideration will be given to rescheduling the tournament later in the year.

Last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Frenchman Benoit Paire won the most recent edition of the tournament in 2019.

The Grand Prix Hassan II was inaugurated as an ATP Challenger Tour event in 1984 and as an ATP Tour tournament in 1990. The tournament is entirely funded by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. Marrakech, relocated from Casablanca in 2016, is the only ATP Tour stop on the African continent.

Two Moroccans have won the title in their home country: Hicham Arazi in 1997 and Younes El Aynaoui in 2002.

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Secret To Tsitsipas Success: 'Playing, Not Thinking'

  • Posted: Feb 17, 2021

In a rare turn of events, fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas was left speechless on Wednesday night at Rod Laver Arena. 

Hours later after his epic quarter-final battle, the usually eloquent Greek player was still struggling to put into words exactly what he accomplished against Rafael Nadal inside Rod Laver Arena: Down two sets against the World No. 2, Tsitsipas rallied to take the third set in a tie break before coming back from the brink to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5.

“I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court, my tennis speaks for itself,” said Tsitsipas in his on-court interview. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a high level and leave it out on the court. I started very nervously. I don’t know what happened after the third set. I flew like a bird and everything worked for me.” 

With the victory, Tsitsipas earned his second semi-final berth in Melbourne, and added his name to some elite company. He became only the second player after Fabio Fognini at the 2015 US Open to recover from two sets down to beat Nadal at a Grand Slam.

“The thing is that I wasn’t really thinking about a lot of things,” Tsitsipas told press afterward. “Nothing was going through my head. How would I describe myself? Nirvana. Just, like, there. Playing, not thinking.

“I was mainly focused on each single serve, each single shot. I think at the very [end of the] third set I changed [a] few things… I may have put my brain a little bit, I brainstormed and I said, ‘What is going wrong, why is it not working my way?’ But then it just took off by itself. 

“I didn’t really have too much to think of. I think that’s the way I feel it. I just played more flawless… I played with no care, and that increased the level of tennis that I put out there.”

But as is the nature of tennis, Tsitsipas’ brain won’t have much time to process what would be a career-defining moment for most other players. Standing between the Greek player and a shot at a maiden Grand Slam title will be fourth seed Daniil Medvedev. 

It will be a tough matchup for Tsitsipas for more than just his 1-5 win-loss record in their ATP Head2Head. Medvedev will come into their Friday semi-final relatively fresher after cooling off the red-hot Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 during the day match. 

“I can see that maybe as I got the opportunity to play longer, feel the court, understand the environment that I’m in,” Tsitsipas said.  “So that could probably be seen as something positive.
On the other hand, okay, I might have spent a bit more time on the court, put my body in more stress and difficult tasks to complete, but overall I feel pretty well.

“I don’t feel completely exhausted. I think with experience I have realised how to preserve my energy and when I really have to put in the hard work in the match.” 

Tsitsipas also will be looking to finally get over the last-four hump and reach his first major championship match. Tsitsipas has been to the semi-finals twice, falling to Novak Djokovic at 2020 Roland Garros, and to Nadal in 2019 at Melbourne Park. Medvedev, on the other hand, will come armed with the experience of having reached the 2019 US Open final. 

“Medvedev is going to be [a] difficult task,” Tsitsipas said. “I played him last year at the Nitto [ATP Finals]. It was a good match from my side. He’s in very good shape, playing good tennis, playing accurate, playing simple.

“[I] might have said in the past that he plays boring, but I don’t really think he plays boring. He just plays extremely smart and outplays you. He’s somebody I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press.”

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Tsitsipas Completes Epic Comeback, Stuns Nadal In Melbourne

  • Posted: Feb 17, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas became only the second player to recover from two sets down to beat Rafael Nadal at a Grand Slam on Wednesday, as he recorded a 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 victory at the Australian Open.

The Greek was handed a route back into the match as Nadal committed three uncharacteristic errors at the start of the third-set tie-break, and he took full advantage of his opportunity. Tsitsipas won 84 per cent of first-serve points (36/43) and struck 27 winners in the final two sets to clinch his first victory against the World No. 2 on hard courts (1-4).

“I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court, my tennis speaks for itself,” said Tsitsipas, in an on-court interview. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a high level and leave it out on the court. I started very nervously. I don’t know what happened after the third set. I flew like a bird and everything worked for me.”

Tsitsipas joins Fabio Fognini in the exclusive club of players to beat Nadal from two sets down at a major championship. The Italian claimed a 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Nadal at the 2015 US Open.

“I focused on staying calm and holding my nerves today. I have failed to do so in some of my matches [in the past],” said Tsitsipas. “I stayed calm in the tight moments and I kept everything to myself. I am really happy with the attitude that I showed on the court.”

Tsitsipas gains revenge for his straight-sets loss to Nadal at this event in the 2019 semi-finals. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion is through to his third Grand Slam semi-final, having also reached the final four at Roland Garros last year.

Rafael Nadal is making his 16th appearance at the Australian Open.

Nadal entered the third-set tie-break on a 35-set winning streak at Grand Slam events, but Tsitsipas halted that run with three consecutive sets to record his second win in eight ATP Head2Head meetings with the Spaniard.

Tsitsipas has survived two five-set battles en route to the semi-finals in Melbourne. The 24 year-old also needed a deciding set to overcome home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round.

Tsitsipas will meet red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev for a place in the championship match. Medvedev extended his winning streak to 19 matches on Wednesday, when he defeated ATP Cup teammate Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. Medvedev owns a 5-1 ATP Head2Head advantage against Tsitsipas, but it was the Greek who won the pair’s most recent encounter en route to the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals crown.

“[Medvedev] plays very well and has been very consistent, with lots of consecutive wins,” said Tsitsipas. “I need to recover and have a good ice bath. I am looking forward to the match and each match I play here is an opportunity to play my best tennis. It will be amazing to see the crowds again.”

From 0/30 down on serve at 3-3, Nadal raised his game to clinch the first set. The five-time year-end World No. 1 served his way out of danger and opened the court with multiple aggressive cross-court backhands to clinch the only break of the set.

Nadal carried his momentum into the second set, and his backhand caused his rival further problems in the opening game. The 2009 champion needed just one opportunity to break serve, as he pushed Tsitsipas into his backhand corner and changed his forehand direction to rip a winner down the line. Nadal struck winners and forced Tsitsipas into uncomfortable positions with his forehand to earn a double break at 3-1 and he soon clinched a two-set lead with a comfortable service hold.

In a third set dominated by serve, only four points were won on return. Nadal, who claimed five love service holds en route to the tie-break, committed three costly errors in the tie-break to gift Tsitsipas a route back into the match. The second seed missed two overhead attempts and fired a mid-court forehand into the net, before Tsitsipas played with aggression from the baseline to force a Nadal backhand error and a fourth set.

After ending the World No. 2’s 35-set winning streak at Grand Slam events, Tsitsipas earned his first three break points of the match in the opening stages of the fourth set. Nadal hit his targets on serve and trusted his overhead abilities to erase those chances and stay ahead in the score. Tsitsipas kept applying pressure, as he increased his forehand aggression and defended with skill to earn his first service break. Nadal committed back-to-back forehand errors to drop serve at 4-4 and Tsitsipas clinched the fourth set with a quick service hold.

In a tight deciding set, Tsitsipas held serve comfortably and rushed Nadal into four groundstroke errors at 5-5 to serve for the match. The fifth seed struggled to close the match, as Nadal fought from behind the baseline to extend rallies and extract errors. But Tsitsipas converted his third match point with a backhand winner down the line.

Nadal was aiming to capture a record 21st Grand Slam title this week. The World No. 2, who owns a 69-15 record at Melbourne Park, has fallen in the Australian Open quarter-finals in three of his past four visits to the tournament (2018, ’20-’21).

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Five Things To Know About Aslan Karetsev, Djokovic's SF Opponent

  • Posted: Feb 17, 2021

Aslan Karatsev has been the breakthrough player of this Australian Open. The World No. 114 is into the semi-finals as a qualifier, and he will next play World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Karatsev has upset three seeded opponents during his dream run — Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov. Now the 27-year-old will try to carry his momentum into the last four at the season’s first Grand Slam.

Before Karatsev plays Djokovic, looks at five things you should know about the Russian.

1) This Is Karatsev’s Grand Slam Debut, But He Had Momentum
Before Karatsev won his three qualifying matches last month in Doha, he had never previously made it through Grand Slam qualifying. This was his 10th attempt to reach the main draw at a major, and the Russian has made the most of his successful effort by thriving at Melbourne Park. Karatsev is the first man in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut.

Karatsev’s success began after tennis resumed last August. Karatsev was No. 253 in the FedEx ATP Rankings when he entered his first ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague following a five-month Tour suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He won 18 of his final 20 Challenger matches on the season, claiming two of his three titles at that level.

2) From Russia To Israel, Germany To Spain & More
Karatsev was born in Vladikavkaz, Russia, before moving with his family to Israel at the age of three. He trained in Israel until 12, when he returned to Taganrog, Russia with his father. Karatsev practised there until he was 18, when he shifted to Moscow.

The righty moved to Halle, Germany for two years, then Barcelona, Spain and finally, for almost the past three years, Minsk, Belarus. “I was moving I would say too much,” Karatsev admitted.

Karatsev believes that working with Yahor Yatsyk, a 28-year-old Belarusian, has proven key to his surge.

“I think the key is to find the right team, the right coach [who] I found. I was really lucky to find him, and we just met in one tournament. I played futures, and we were saying, ‘Okay, let’s try to work together.’ I think it’s a big luck that we started to work together and I have a good team around me.”

3) A Knee Injury Caused A Setback In 2017
The Russian struggled with a knee injury in 2017. Karatsev suffered the injury while training in Spain, and it caused him to miss six months.

“From this moment it was really tough to get the confidence back and to feel the game,” Karatsev said. “It was not that easy.”

That stretch of time off the court sent Karatsev’s FedEx ATP Ranking as low as No. 764 in October 2017.

4) Karatsev Will Soar Up The FedEx ATP Rankings
One of Karatsev’s biggest goals last season was to crack the Top 100 for the first time. While the Russian was unable to do so, he will reach several milestones following the Australian Open, regardless of his results during the rest of the tournament.

If the 27-year-old loses against Djokovic on Thursday, he is still projected to break into the Top 50 for the first time. If he stuns the World No. 1, Karatsev will reach the Top 30. If he completes his dream run by lifting the trophy, the Russian will move into the Top 15.

Aslan Karatsev

5) He Was Russia’s “Secret Weapon” In The ATP Cup
Karatsev was part of the Russian team that won the ATP Cup alongside Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and playing captain Evgeny Donskoy. The 27-year-old’s teammates had high praise for him.

“Aslan, I’m not joking, was a secret weapon for doubles,” Medvedev said during the trophy ceremony. “He didn’t manage to show it because we didn’t have a 1-1 match, but he was our secret weapon.”

Donskoy made a prediction after they lifted the trophy, saying: ”Aslan, I am sure you are going to have a great season this year, because you are playing unbelievably.”

Karatsev has proven his captain right.

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Alcaraz Joins Felix, Tsitsipas & Zverev In Acapulco

  • Posted: Feb 17, 2021

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has accepted a wild card into the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, the tournament announced Tuesday.

The 17-year-old began his 2021 season on a high note by qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw at the Australian Open, where he reached the second round. The teen also looked impressive in an ATP 250 at Melbourne Park, upsetting top seed David Goffin at the Great Ocean Road Open.

Alcaraz joins a stacked field, which will feature three Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Leading the way are 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, World No. 7 Alexander Zverev and World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman.

Other players to watch include #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, former World No. 3s Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic, two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson and American No. 1 John Isner.

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