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Harris Takes His Chance, Beats Nishikori On 'Home Court' In Dubai

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

South African Lloyd Harris continued his dream week on Thursday by becoming the first qualifier to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals.

World No. 81 Harris advanced to his first ATP 500 semi-final with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori in one hour and 37 minutes.


Having saved two break points in the deciding set, the match turned in the eighth game when Nishikori overhit a forehand to hand Harris a chance to serve for a place in the semi-finals.

“I have a few matches under my best now,” said Harris. “It’s starting to feel like my home court. I am really enjoying it out here and played really well on the break points [in the third set].”

Nishikori admitted, “He took the chance at the end and served well for sure. I have a couple of chances, but he hit his forehand and backhand well.”

The 24-year-old hit 22 of his 34 winners off his serve for his fourth win of the week. He will now play third seed Denis Shapovalov on Friday at the Aviation Club.

When asked about what he put his good form down to, and his next opponent, Harris said: “I think I’ve spent more time on the Tour now and built confidence. Denis has played some fantastic, dynamic tennis and it will be a tough challenge.”

Harris, who earned the biggest win of his career over top seed Dominic Thiem in the Dubai second round, won the first five games of the match, but it was a different story in the second set when Nishikori took a 4-0 lead. He is projected to break into the Top 70 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.

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Mektic/Pavic Edge Into Dubai Semi-finals; Cabal/Farah Save 1 M.P.

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

Second-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic improved to 19-2 on the season with a 6-7(3), 7-6(7), 10-6 victory over Frenchmen Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin on Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

So far this season, Mektic and Pavic have lifted ATP Tour trophies at the Antalya Open (d. Vesely/Weissborn), the Murray River Open in Melbourne (d. Brkic/Qureshi) and the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (d. Krawietz/Tecau). They also finished runners-up at the Australian Open (l. to Dodig/Polasek).

Top-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah saved one match point to book their places in the semi-finals.

Cabal and Farah saved one match point at 8/9 in the Match Tie-break to beat Italian qualifiers Lorenzo Sonego and Andrea Vavassori 6-4, 6-7(7), 11-9. The Colombians recovered from 1-4 down in the second set, but could not convert a match point at 6-5 in the second-set tie-break.

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Karatsev Stops Sinner For Dubai Semi-final Spot

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

Aslan Karatsev continued his strong start to the season on Thursday by reaching his first ATP 500 level semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The Russian wild card hit 41 winners to earn a hard-fought 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 16 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy in two hours and 30 minutes. The 27-year-old is only the second wild card since 1998 to reach the Dubai semi-finals, following in the footsteps of Malek Jaziri three years ago.


“It was tough at the beginning as he is a really talented guy,” said Karatsev, who will next play second-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary. “In the tie-break I was a little unlucky. I felt more comfortable in the second set and knew how to play against him.”

Last month, Karatsev became the first player in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam championship main draw debut at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic). Having started the year at No. 112 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Karatsev could break into the Top 30 on Monday if he goes on to lift the Dubai crown.

Sinner took a 4-1 lead in the first set and did well to remain focused after Karatsev had recovered to 4-4. The 19-year-old Italian needed three set points and a strong tie-break performance to clinch the 61-minute opener.

In a reversal of fortunes in the second set, it was Karatsev who won the first three games and grew in confidence. After an early exchange of breaks in the decider, Karatsev won five straight games from 1-2 down.

World No. 32 Sinner, who captured his second ATP Tour title last month at the Great Ocean Road Open (d. Travaglia), is now 9-4 on the season.

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Shapovalov Hitting Top Form, Reaches Dubai Semi-finals

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

Denis Shapovalov booked a place in his first ATP Tour semi-final for five months on Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The third-seeded Canadian struck 26 winners and looked fresh in a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Jeremy Chardy of France at the Aviation Club.

“It was a tough match as Jeremy was serving and playing well,” said Shapovalov. “I am really happy that I was able to convert the break points. It helps to play three straight sets matches and I feel fresh and ready to go.”


Having finished 2020 with three opening-round losses and gotten off to a slow start this year, Shapovalov is attempting to get back to his best form this week in Dubai, where he seeks his second ATP Tour title and his first at ATP 500 level. The World No. 12 is also fighting to maintain his status as the No. 1 Canadian, leading Felix Auger-Aliassime by less than 400 points in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Milos Raonic also features in the Top 20.

“I’ve focused on my serve a lot in the past couple of weeks,” said Shapovalov, who is coached by former World No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny. “I have worked on placing it and tried out different types of serves to have more variation. I hope I can continue that. I’ve also worked on my footwork and positioning during rallies. I am feeling the ball well on both sides. If I am moving well, everything goes into place.”

Shapovalov will now play South African qualifier Lloyd Harris, who beat top-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem earlier in the week, or Kei Nishikori of Japan in Friday’s semi-finals. Shapovalov practised with Harris two weeks ago in Dubai.

Shapovalov extended his perfect record to 3-0 against Chardy with the match turning in favour of the 21-year-old at 5-5 in the first set when he struck a backhand return winner at Deuce. Chardy’s first serve deserted him and Shapovalov took advantage to break en route to clinching the 46-minute opener.

Shapovalov thrived in the hot and quick conditions, returning deep to the feet of Chardy at 4-4 in the second set. Chardy sprayed Shapovalov’s forehand approach long. Shapovalov won 44 of 50 service points, including 10 aces, for a place in his first semi-final since October 2020 at the St. Petersburg Open (l. to Rublev). 

Chardy, 34, had been bidding to reach his third ATP Tour hard-court semi-final of the year after deep runs at the Antalya Open and Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne.

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'Mamma Mia! My Heart Is Dead!' Musetti's Memorable Moment

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

After two hours and 44 minutes of play Wednesday evening in Acapulco, Lorenzo Musetti fell to the court on Cancha 3 in celebration. Frances Tiafoe had just missed a backhand volley to give his #NextGenATP Italian opponent a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) win and with it a spot in the quarter-finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.

Musetti laid on the court for nearly 15 seconds in disbelief before jogging to embrace Tiafoe. The 19-year-old is into the last eight at an ATP 500 event for the first time.

“It was a really, really tough match,” Musetti said. “At the end, every point was a fight and I had some tears when I finished the match.”

When the teen fell to the court his coach, Simone Tartarini, leapt out of his seat and pumped his right fist twice. After Musetti met Tiafoe, the World No. 120 quickly jogged over to hug his coach.

“Obviously I wanted to share the victory and all the amazing feelings that I have right now and that I had in that moment with my coach,” Musetti said. “I consider him like a second father, so it’s really important for me and he was really proud of me and it’s really incredible tonight.”

Tartarini has worked with Musetti for more than a decade. The teen is more than just a student to him; he is like family.

“Mamma mia!” Tartarini told shortly after the match. “My heart is dead.”

Tartarini has two sons, and Musetti is like a third. He lives with his pupil in Monaco and shares double rooms with him on the road, including in Acapulco. “It’s normal for us,” Tartarini said.

That is what makes moment like Musetti’s big win Wednesday night even more special. Just four days ago, Musetti lost the first set in his first round of qualifying in Acapulco before overcoming World No. 883 Juan Alejandro Hernandez, a Mexican wild card.

“Before the tournament, in Italy, Lorenzo practised very good. Lorenzo is very, very emotive. The first match in qualifying, in the first set the other player played good and Lorenzo had more tension,” Tartarini said. “Then every game and every match got better.”

Musetti earned his first Top 10 win on Tuesday against Diego Schwartzman. He did not suffer a letdown in the second round, rallying from 3-0 down in the third set to oust Tiafoe.

“Today it was not easy to play, because Tiafoe is very strong and very quick,” Tartarini said. “Lorenzo today brought the best mentality. In the third set, 3-0 down, bravo, Lorenzo. I am very, very happy.”

Musetti’s all-court game has been on full display. The qualifier has used his variety, especially with his crafty one-handed backhand. He has also shown no fear of attacking his opponents and storming the net, where at times he has shown great feel. According to Tartarini, that has always been a part of Musetti’s game.

“He played tennis the same [as a kid], with a lot of extra spin, drop shots. I don’t want to change his feeling, just structure it,” Tartarini said. “I like when he plays different. Drop shots, serve and volley, I like it. It’s not good for my heart, but I like it.”

The teen broke onto the scene by qualifying for last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where aged 18 he beat Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in the main draw. What was noticeable then and perhaps moreso this week in Acapulco is that he leaves his heart on the court in every match.

“Every year [there has been] more pressure and more pressure. In [2018], he played the final at the junior US Open. At 16, [in 2019], he won the junior Australian Open. Lorenzo always played with pressure,” Tartarini said. “Lorenzo inside is very strong. He’s very, very emotive. During the US Open, Australian Open, two times I called the doctor because it was impossible for him to breathe because it was too much stress. Lorenzo is very emotional. Inside the court and outside the court, it’s the same.”

Lorenzo Musetti
Photo Credit: Hector Vivas/Getty Images
When Musetti fell to the court after beating Schwartzman and again after defeating Tiafoe, it was an emotional response. Tennis means the world to him, and the teen greatly values his achievements. That’s why a month-and-a-half ago, he got a tattoo of a heartbeat with a tennis racquet on his left tricep.

“You can imagine how important tennis is in my life,” Musetti said. “I decided to tattoo this and I think it’s really cool and I really like it.”

Musetti will try to keep his run going on Thursday against 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov. Regardless of the result, it will be a tournament the teen will remember for years to come.

“I fell asleep at 1 a.m. [after beating Schwartzman] because it was really tough to fall asleep and tonight it’s going to be the same for sure,” Musetti said. “I’m exhausted, but I will try to recover my best and physically, I feel good. I have no injuries, no problems. I will be okay for tomorrow and let’s see what happens.”

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Tsitsipas Soars Past Isner To Set Felix Clash In Acapulco

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has set a blockbuster quarter-final showdown with leading #NextGenATP contender Felix Auger-Aliassime in Acapulco. The Greek barely put a foot wrong as he dismantled big-serving John Isner in just 57 minutes on Wednesday night.

Tsitsipas advanced to his fourth straight quarter-final of the season, following his 6-3, 6-2 victory at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. It was his third straight triumph over the World No. 27 from five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

“I mean things worked out pretty well,” Tsitsipas said. “I think I had good return games today and that was very important. You don’t want to get into tie-breaks with this guy, it can get really dangerous.

“Today I just managed to stay composed and concentrated on all moments. I had opportunities, I won actually most of my break point opportunities… which was important. It gave me so much confidence throughout the whole match.” 


It was a ruthless performance from the 22-year-old as he struck 23 winners to only three unforced errors. He dropped only one point on his first serve, only four on his second serve, and did not face a break point. 

Isner – playing only his second ATP Tour event since last year’s Roland Garros – was broken to love in his opening service game and his opponent wasted very little time on his own serve. The Greek took 12 of the first 13 points in just six minutes and had dropped only one point on serve as he held for 5-2 on a perfect backhand drop-shot winner, well out of reach of the 6’10” American.

The first set was in the bag on his fourth ace in less than an hour. It was a dominant display as he had not hit an unforced error and won every point when he found his first serve.

“It adds a little psychology when you’ve broken once, when you’ve broken twice,” Tsitsipas said. “Coming into matches like this I try to work on my return a lot and in the practice sessions before the match, I had a player [stand] in the service box today serving so that definitely helps.” 

Isner was bidding to reach his third straight Acapulco semi-final, but he faced an uphill battle when Tsitsipas threaded a forehand passing shot to bring up break points in the opening game of the second set. The top seed secured it with another pass down the line and was in complete control when Isner’s netted half-volley conceded the double break.

While Isner saved two match points on serve to stay in the hunt at 1-5, it was a momentary reprieve. Tsitsipas will carry a 2-all ATP Head2Head record into his showdown with Auger-Aliassime.

“Always, yeah it is very difficult playing against him,” he said of the Canadian. “I think I’m going to try and approach that match the same way. Every match I get to play here in Acapulco is important. Hopefully we can have a great day tomorrow as well.”

Fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov booked a quarter-final showdown against #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the final match on Wednesday night. The Bulgarian – a champion in Acapulco seven years ago – needed 87 minutes to prevail against Serbian World No. 46 Miomir Kecmanovic, 6-4, 6-2.

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Zverev To Battle Ruud for Acapulco SF Berth

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

Alexander Zverev will contest his third Acapulco quarter-final in four years, following the second seed’s straight-sets triumph over Serbian Laslo Djere on Wednesday night. The German shook a slow start and secured his passage 6-4, 6-3 at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.

It was a wayward Zverev early on as the pair traded four straight breaks on a flurry of wild errors, before both began to find their range on serve. Luck deserted the Serbian when serving at 4-all as he completely lost grip of his racquet on a humid night to double fault and handed the World No. 7 the crucial break to serve for the set.

“I’ve known him since we were juniors and every time we played was extremely long, but that was back in the day,” Zverev said in his on-court interview. “I’m happy with today’s win and he’s improved a lot since then.”


It was an opportunity Zverev did not waste. He secured it 6-4 when Djere slapped a defensive slice forehand long and looked to assert his authority with an immediate break to open the second set. While unable to consolidate, the German made his move with a break for 4-3 and advanced when Djere pushed a backhand long.

“I think today what showed the most is that I got better with the match,” Zverev said. “I started off extremely sloppy, started off with a lot of unforced errors.

“The longer the match went on the better I started playing and this is something that is very important for me. When I get into a rhythm I feel very comfortable on court and that’s how I felt today.”

Zverev will look to equal his Acapulco run from two of the past three years when he meets Norwegian Casper Ruud for a semi-final berth. He finished runner-up to Nick Kyrgios two years ago and fell in the semi-finals to Juan Martin del Potro the year before.

“Casper Ruud is someone who’s come up the ranks extremely fast the last couple of months, couple of years,” Zverev said. “Yeah he’s somebody to look out for definitely.”

Eighth seed Ruud narrowly prevailed over Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor to reach the quarter-finals. The World No. 25 needed two hours and 18 minutes to edge through, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).

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Auger-Aliassime Holds Off Korda To Reach Acapulco QFs

  • Posted: Mar 18, 2021

In a battle between #NextGenATP standouts, it was experience that made the difference for seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime against wild card Sebastian Korda at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Wednesday.

The World No. 19 Canadian found his best tennis in the big moments as he saved four of five break points he faced to edge past Korda 6-3, 6-4 and reach his second quarter-final of the year.

“It was not easy against him, but I think I had a great start, which for sure helped to put the nerves away,” said Auger Aliassime in an on-court interview. “You never know what to expect when the match starts, but I think maybe my experience in these kinds of matches paid off.” 

Auger-Aliassime didn’t waste any time in creating opportunities on the Korda serve, keeping the American under pressure and taking a 2-0 lead. Korda did well to keep himself within touching distance as he battled from the back of the court, but Auger-Aliassime was rewarded when he came to the net.

The Canadian served out the opening set, but was pushed to the limit as Korda found another gear at the start of the second set. His forehand broke down under examination, and Korda broke through in a lung-busting rally to claim his first break of the match at 2-1. But he wasn’t able to keep the lead for long as Auger-Aliassime broke straight back. He re-established his lead with a run of four consecutive games through 5-3. 

After serving out the victory in an hour and 35 minutes, Auger-Aliassime switched out his shirt for the Mexican National Team’s red, white and green tricolour soccer shirt.

“It’s a pleasure for us to be here,” Auger-Alissaime explained. “I love playing in Mexico, I love the crowd here. To be honest, it’s a great tournament, so I thought it would be a nice touch to bring out the home jersey.”

Auger-Aliassime awaits the winner of top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and big-serving John Isner in the quarter-finals. 

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