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Preview: Nadal-Djokovic Doubleheader On Chatrier

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

Court Philippe-Chatrier is the place to be on a stacked Tuesday that will see World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal hit the court in back-to-back matches to start their Roland Garros campaigns. 

Before the tournament, Nadal told press that he is ‘not worried’ about landing in Djokovic’s half of the draw, a result of being seeded third behind Daniil Medvedev. That means Nadal and Djokovic, who have contested three championship matches in Paris, including as recently as last year, could meet in the semi-finals.

Nadal will indeed have a long way to go before having to worry about that potential second-week clash, as he starts against the ‘dangerous’ Alexei Popyrin in the first round. The 21-year-old Aussie has shot up the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2021, peaking at career-high World No. 61 after claiming his maiden tour-level title in Singapore.

“He’s young, he has the power. He has big shots. As always, I need to be ready for it,” Nadal said. “I need to keep practising the next couple of days [to] try to be in the best shape possible for the beginning. I know every round is tough and I [always] respect every opponent. I respected everyone since the beginning of my career, and Popyrin is a dangerous one. So I need to play well and I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen.”


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Nadal, who owns a 100-2 record at Roland Garros, has played his way into form during the clay-court season after capturing titles at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The winner of Nadal and Popyrin will face French opposition in the second round: either wild card Hugo Gaston or veteran Richard Gasquet.

Top seed Djokovic hits the court next to headline the new night session on Chatrier, which was outfitted with floodlights in 2020 for the first time.

“I know there’s a buildup potentially for that matchup [against Nadal] in the semis,” Djokovic said before the tournament. “There are a lot of obstacles to overcome for both of us. If we get there, of course I know what expects [of] me and I know what I need to do.”

The first obstacle for Djokovic will be Tennys Sandgren. The American’s reaction to the draw could be summed up in one succinct tweet, with the ‘F’ meme signifying condolences after a tragic event: 

But Sandgren knows what it takes to take down top players on the big stages, evidenced by his runs to the 2018 and 2020 Australian Open quarter-finals. In 2018, he defeated Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, while in 2020 he took down Matteo Berrettini and held seven match points against Roger Federer.

Djokovic arrived in Paris in high spirits after delighting Serbian fans by winning his 83rd tour-level title at the Belgrade Open, where he also enjoyed spending quality time with his family in his hometown. The World No. 1 owns a 20-3 record on the season, including a record-extending ninth Australian Open title and a run to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final (l. Nadal).

The 2016 champion, who also landed in the same quarter of the draw as 2009 champion Roger Federer, owns a 3-0 lead in the ATP Head2Head against No. 66-ranked Sandgren. Sandgren famously took a set off him at the US Open in 2018, but they will be meeting on clay for the first time. Frenchman Lucas Pouille or experienced clay-courter Pablo Cuevas awaits the winner.

Novak Djokovic celebrates his 83rd tour-level title in Belgrade. Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Around the grounds, there will be plenty more seeds in action on Tuesday as seventh seed Andrey Rublev is set to return to action for the first time since the Rome quarter-finals (l. Sonego). He will take on Jan-Lennard Struff, whom he defeated in the first round in Rome to improve to 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head, on Court 14. Frenchman Gael Monfils, the 14th seed, will start on Court Suzanne-Lenglen against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who owns 17 clay-court wins on the season – more than Nadal (14) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (16) coming into the tournament.

Ninth seed Matteo Berrettini, 10th seed Diego Schartzman and #NextGenATP Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 20th seed, will also start their Roland Garros runs on Tuesday. Berrettini, one of 11 Italians who began in the main draw, will face qualifier Taro Daniel for the second time this year. Berrettini defeated Daniel en route to the Serbia Open title to bring their ATP Head2Head to 1-1. Schwartzman will be aiming for his first victory over Yen-Hsun Lu (trails 0-1 in their ATP Head2Head), while Auger-Aliassime will meet Andreas Seppi for the first time.


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It’s not often that a first-round clash between a tournament debutant and a qualifier draws much attention, but tennis fans will want to keep an eye on Court 8 as Aslan Karatsev takes on #NextGenATP Jenson Brooksby for the first time. The 20-year-old American’s never-say-die attitude has turned heads after saving three match points to qualify for the main draw of a Grand Slam for the second time (also 2019 US Open). He will meet 24th seed Karatsev, who made a strong start to the season after posting a run to the Australian Open semi-finals and lifting his first ATP Tour trophy in Dubai.

Read More: Jenson Brooksby’s Breakthrough: Meet The #NextGenATP Star Who Refuses To Lose

Men’s doubles also kicks off on Tuesday, with second seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah starting their Roland Garros campaign with an intriguing clash against the reunited Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski. 

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Musetti After Goffin Win: 'This Is Proof I Have The Level'

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

Lorenzo Musetti made a splash in his Grand Slam main draw debut Monday evening when he beat 13th seed David Goffin 6-0, 7-5, 7-6(3) to reach the second round at Roland Garros.

Nine months ago, the #NextGenATP Italian was still outside the Top 250 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. But now the World No. 76, he has proven a tough foe for any opponent, dismissing 2016 quarter-finalist Goffin after two hours and 18 minutes.

“I think this is the proof that I have the level. Sometimes when I am not focussed and not playing really good, of course my level is not like today.
For sure I am playing better when I’m without pressure because today, I was playing really relaxed,” Musetti said. “Of course, it was not easy to win even if I was relaxed. When you play against the [No.]13 in the world, it’s not the same thing [like] playing [someone] worse than you [in] the rankings that you must [beat].”

Despite a slow start, Belgian put pressure on the 19-year-old, breaking the Italian when he served for the match twice in the third set. But Musetti did not fold, aggressively finishing the match with impressive shotmaking to advance in Paris.

“I was a little bit under pressure when I was serving for the match. He was always returning from the baseline really close to the line. He was giving me a lot of pressure,” Musetti said. “I just stayed calm and tried to think at each point, like the last one. I tried to [not] speak, [not] talk. It worked. I am happy about that.”

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Musetti broke serve six times and saved six of the eight break points he faced. Goffin, who made it to at least the third round here in five of the past six years, made 48 unforced errors, nearly doubling his opponent’s count (27). The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up felt the level on both sides was best towards the end of the match.

“I think the match started too late on my side. And then of course when you start too late and you have an opportunity and you just have one, if you don’t take it, then it’s too late,” Goffin said. “Then he finished it really well in the tie-break. But I think at the end, he was just solid. He played high, he served well, played higher with some spin and waiting for the mistake or the opportunity just to go for his shot.”

The #NextGenATP star will next play former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka.

Did You Know?
This was Musetti’s fifth win of the season against a Top 20 opponent.

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Federer Still Learning At 39: 'I Have To Tell Myself To Slow Down'

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

Roger Federer used the disappointment of an early exit at the Gonet Geneva Open to trigger a positive response on his first appearance at Roland Garros for two years.

“I just felt overall much clearer, much better,” said Federer, who beat Denis Istomin 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round. “I think [I’m] getting used to tournament and match rhythm again, the whole thing – the towels there, the shot clock there and everything that goes with it. I really felt like I didn’t find the rhythm [in Geneva].”

Two weeks ago, Federer lost to Pablo Andujar at the ATP 250 tournament in Geneva. It was just his third tour-level match of the season, following two right knee surgeries last year.

“I always struggle early on with my returning a little bit on clay,” admitted Federer, the 2009 Roland Garros champion. “Funny enough, you would think it’s the easier surface to return [on]. I don’t mind the grass-court and hard-court returns, as I’m blocking it more than hitting it.”

“I felt today I really made a bigger effort of going more in swings and not going through [the motions] like in the practice, where you just go point for point for point – let’s play a maximum amount of points. I sometimes have to tell myself, ‘Take a little bit of time, walk to the towel, do something different’. You might think it’s silly, but it’s true.”

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Federer, who is tied with joint record-holder Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam singles each, reached the 2019 semi-finals (l. to Nadal) when he last played on Parisian clay.

“For me coming back after many months or over a year of rehab, the light at the end of the tunnel or the measuring stick was always: Can I come back to a good level against good players? I hope Wimbledon is going to be that place. Maybe there’s going to be even something here in Paris. We’ll see.”

The 39-year-old is in the same half of the Roland Garros draw as his great rivals, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.

“I hope I can stay healthy from now on forward,” said Federer, who plays Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the second round. “I’m quite confident that’s going to stay that way. I’ve also been getting better every month that’s [gone] by, which has been really positive. I didn’t have any setbacks in a year.”

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Medvedev: 'I'm Capable of Doing Big Things'

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

Daniil Medvedev got a much-needed confidence boost on Monday that he can replicate his hard-court success on the clay of Roland Garros.

“I feel really hopeful,” said Medvedev, after a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Alexander Bublik. You could see it today in the match, I’m feeling that here, at least this year with this weather, with these balls, I can play like on hard courts. It doesn’t feel different than the Australian Open for me coming into this tournament.

“Now, when I’m coming to these big tournaments feeling like this, I know I’m capable of doing big things. [At the] Australian Open I was in the final. If I lose here in Roland Garros, it’s probably going to be because my opponent will play really good. As I said, I feel very confident, I move well, slide well… So I’m feeling great.”

Medvedev led Russia to the ATP Cup crown prior to a run to the Australian Open final (l. to Djokovic) in February. He captured his 10th ATP Tour title at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (d. Herbert) one month later and is currently 19-5 on the season.

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Medvedev’s reward for a first victory at Roland Garros on his fifth visit to Paris will be a second-round meeting with American Tommy Paul.

“[It] feels great,” said Medvedev. “But most important is the level of tennis. I’ve been showing, as I said before the tournament, it was not mind games. My opponent can see I was really feeling good. I managed to play consistent today. I actually played much better in practice than today, so there is room for improvement.

“That was one of not many matches where I was really tight. Hopefully, it can be only better for the next rounds. As I say, [I’m] really happy first of all with the win and then with my level of play also.”

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#NextGenATP Alcaraz Checks Off Another First At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz notched another career first on Monday when he earned his maiden berth into the second round at Roland Garros.

The 18-year-old, who cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time last week, defeated fellow qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4). Alcaraz trailed by a break in the fourth set, but he clawed back to triumph after three hours and eight minutes.

“I think the mental game is really, really important in these kinds of matches. You have to be focussed and calm all the match, three hours and 10 minutes. It’s really important and not easy to do,” Alcaraz said. “I trust a lot in my physical [conditioning], yeah. I could play a really, really good game during the whole match.”

The teen sensation has now not just successfully qualified at the season’s first two Grand Slams, but he has also won a match in the main draw as well. Alcaraz earned momentum heading into the clay-court major by claiming an ATP Challenger Tour title in Oeiras, Portugal two weeks ago.

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Alcaraz showed impressive resilience against his countryman, who beat him in a Challenger final last September. Zapata Miralles seemingly had an answer for every Alcaraz surge, but the #NextGenATP star made his stand in the fourth-set tie-break. The World No. 97 hit 41 winners and broke serve eight times to earn a match against big-hitting Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

“I think it has been a tough match against a great player like Zapata, a really tough player. I think when I won the third set, I think he [was] going a bit down on the beginning of the fourth,” Alcaraz said. “But he [was] still playing really, really well in the fourth. I had to be focussed with his shots. I think I played a really, really good game in the fourth, going down all the set. I think in the tie-break I [went] for the match.”

The 28th seed beat 2019 Monte-Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2. Basilashvili had not won a match at Roland Garros since making the third round in 2017.

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Opelka Leads American Charge Into Second Round At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 31, 2021

It’s not often Reilly Opelka breaks serve seven times in a match, but the American did just that in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win against Andrej Martin on Monday to lead several Americans into the second round at Roland Garros.

The 32nd seed is known for his booming serve, but against Martin he only hit 10 aces. More notably, the American won 50 per cent of his return points.

“I didn’t have my best serving day. I was starting to find it a little bit as the match went on, but I was kind of resting my arm leading up to it. I didn’t get the same amount of reps that I would like to on my serve. But I definitely wasn’t hitting my spots, so a lot of balls came back and I had to play a lot of tennis today,” Opelka said. “I’m very, very happy that I was able to stay aggressive. A lot of times it’s easy to lose the aggressive mindset when your biggest weapon is not firing.”

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Opelka will next play a baseliner in Jaume Munar or Jordan Thompson. The two-time ATP Tour titlist was pleased he was able to compete so well from the baseline, but he is also keen to bring all parts of his game to the court moving forward in the tournament.

“It definitely helps my confidence. Andrej Martin is a tough player, but I think it does cap out at a certain level, unfortunately. A guy like Jannik Sinner or a guy like Felix [Auger-Aliassime], it would have been a different scenario. It’s not something I want to rely on,” said Opelka, who is in second seed Daniil Medvedev’s section of the draw. “To beat a guy like Jannik here, I have to be serving well and playing well from the back and volleying well.

“I do like that the things that usually are on weren’t today and I still won and the things that usually I struggle with, it wasn’t the case today.”

Two Americans won five-setters on Monday. Steve Johnson came from two sets down to defeat countryman Frances Tiafoe 6-7(5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 after three hours and 11 minutes to reach the second round on the Parisian clay for the fifth time.

Tommy Paul was on the opposite end of the spectrum, leading Christopher O’Connell two sets to none. The 24-year-old held off the Aussie’s spirited comeback in a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 10-8 triumph after three hours and 33 minutes. Paul will challenge Medvedev in the next round.

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda arrived in Paris with momentum after lifting his first ATP Tour trophy on Saturday in Parma. The 20-year-old also made the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. But he fell against the man he defeated in the third round here in 2020. Spaniard Pedro Martinez ousted Korda 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to set a showdown against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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