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Medvedev's Secret Soft Spot: McDonald's!

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Three years ago, Daniil Medvedev was outside the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. At the time, the Russian wasn’t focussed on winning big tournaments like ATP Masters 1000 events like he is this week at the Mutua Madrid Open. Instead, he was more worried about fixing his diet and post-match routines.

Fewer croissants, more porridge was his motto at the time. But on Wednesday after defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Medvedev admitted that while fixing those things greatly helped his career, he still has a soft spot for a certain fast food restaurant.

“Many times when I lose a match or when I finish a tournament, I take McDonald’s. I like McDonald’s because it’s really good in Russia,” Medvedev said. “It’s much less good in USA and Europe. I don’t know for which reasons [that is], so I many times regret taking it, but that’s kind of a child’s dream. Many times if I lose a match, like when you are [down], I don’t know, you take ice cream, I take McDonald’s.”

Medvedev certainly does not chow down on fast food during tournaments. That discipline is part of what has helped propel the World No. 3 to the top of the sport. The Russian does not regret making that choice.

“I was always saying, until I was 21 if I’m not mistaken, I was not really paying too much attention to small details,” Medvedev admitted. “I could enjoy life because I just thought that it wouldn’t affect my tennis. Now I can say that when I sacrificed my life to tennis when I was 21, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to bed early, I’m going to eat well.’ If I had a day off, I’m not going to walk for 10 kilometres to the beach. I’m going to rest and prepare for practice the next day. That’s when the results came, so I [do not] regret it.”

On other off-court topics, a reporter asked Medvedev if he is superstitious, to which the 25-year-old said, “I feel like I’m not very superstitious. Just a little bit.” The third seed believes that many players’ superstitions simply come from routine.

“We need a good rhythm to play good, and to have a good rhythm you need to have a routine. The routine may be considered as a superstition,” Medvedev said. “For example, is it superstitious that I usually practise, of course if it’s not a first match at 11:00, three hours [and] 30 [minutes] before? No, it’s just to eat two hours [and] 30 [minutes] before [my match].

“But somebody [who] is more superstitious, [if] he’s going to win his first ATP title eating three hours [and] 30 [minutes] before, he’s going to say, ‘Okay, all my life I’m going to eat 3:30 before the match. We are all superstitious, some more, some less.”

Medvedev, whose victory against Davidovich Fokina was his first in Madrid, will next play 16th seed Cristian Garin for a spot in the quarter-finals.

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Bopanna/Shapovalov Stun Top Seeds Cabal/Farah

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Unseeded Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov closed out a day of upsets at the Mutua Madrid Open with the biggest one of all after taking down top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in straight sets on Wednesday.

The Indian doubles veteran and the 22-year-old Canadian have been a regular partnership on the doubles tour since 2019. They paired up for the first time since Roland Garros in 2020 in Madrid, where they are now into the quarter-finals.

One break of serve in each set made the difference for Bopanna and Shapovalov, who closed out the 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 13 minutes. The pair didn’t drop serve once against the two-time Grand Slam winning Colombians, and they created eight chances en route to the win.

In the quarter-finals, Bopanna and Shapovalov will face Tim Puetz and Alexander Zverev after the Germans pulled off a surprise of their own in the second-round. Puetz and Zverev took down former Madrid champions Marcelo Melo (2017, w/ Kubot ) and Jean-Julien Rojer (2016 and 2019, w/ Tecau) 6-4, 6-4.


Also in action, third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos dodged the upset bug as they took down Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-2 in the second round. Marcelo Demoliner and Daniil Medvedev saved match point in the second set against Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot, but the seventh seeds were victorious in a Match Tie-break, 7-5, 6-7(4), 10-3.

Sixth seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut defeated countrymen Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-3, 6-3 to reach the second round. Fifth seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury weren’t so lucky against Alexander Bublik and Cristian Garin. The Kazakh-Chilean duo edged past Ram and Salisbury 7-6(5), 7-5.

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How Alcaraz ‘Grew Up As A Player’ After Unforgettable Nadal Clash

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz’s 18th birthday celebration didn’t exactly go as planned. The teenager won just three games against Rafael Nadal in their second-round clash at the Mutua Madrid Open.

But despite the one-sided scoreline, the #NextGenATP Spaniard was all smiles in his post-match press conference after receiving the ultimate present from his childhood idol.

Playing the five-time champion on Manolo Santana Stadium, wild card Alcaraz stayed toe-to-toe with Nadal for the opening exchanges but wasn’t able to keep pace as the top seed got going. An abdominal injury early on jolted Alcaraz out of his rhythm, requiring a medical timeout, and the 13-time Roland Garros champion cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 victory. 

“I think I could have done more in this match, but at the end of the day, it’s Rafa,” Alcaraz reflected in his post-match press conference. “Playing against Rafa for the first time is never easy. The first or the hundredth time, it’s never easy. But honestly, just to be able to play against Rafa was super special.

“I think the next time we play it will be totally different. I will know more about how to play and how to carry myself on the court. I think this time I was too anxious to finish the points quickly. At some point I even forgot that I had Rafa across the net from me, and then he returned ball after ball. I could have been more patient. But it was an unforgettable experience for me that I will always have.”

The 18-year-old’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Nadal, who was generous with his praise of the teenager in his own press conference. But the top seed did more than just compliment Alcaraz’s forehands and backhands.

When asked to quantify Alcaraz’s potential for greatness, Nadal instead pointed to the teen’s work ethic and good character as his best attributes.

“I’ve spoken a few times when I’ve seen him at tournaments… I see a lot of great qualities in him already,” Nadal said. “For example when playing a match like today, he didn’t complain a single time and had a great attitude despite losing the way he did. In Australia, he had a 15-day quarantine, and he accepted it without complaint.

“When it’s time to train, every time I’ve seen him practice he has a great attitude and good energy. This is what I see from him on a day-to-day basis and I can see how he treats the people around him. To me, this shows that he has great character.”

Alcaraz, who also received a birthday cake from Nadal and tournament director Feliciano Lopez after the match, broke into a grin after hearing Nadal’s comments.

“For me it means a lot. For one of the guys who has been at the top for so long to laud you like this and say that you’re doing things the right way means a lot,” Alcaraz said.

“I’ve always said that Rafa is my childhood idol, and I am trying to follow in his footsteps. I never see Rafa make a bad gesture on court or complain, and these are things that can affect you on the court. I try to follow his example. I’m doing things the right way, and if I continue like this I think I can go down the right path.”


Despite the bittersweet ending, Alcaraz was determined to focus on the positives from his run in Madrid. The No. 120 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 win in the previous round to set up the meeting with his favourite player, and he is eager for more matches like these against the top players.

“This match made me learn a lot, because I have to know how to manage the tough moments and know how to play against these kinds of players,” Alcaraz said.

“[These are] tough matches, tough players, and I have to learn how to play against them. I think if I could play more matches like this, I will grow up faster as a player.”

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Tsitsipas Storms Past Paire In Madrid

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas has been a force on the ATP Tour this season, and the Greek showed that on Wednesday evening in a convincing 6-1, 6-2 victory against Benoit Paire in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open.

The Frenchman battled hard despite an apparent abdominal injury. But anything Paire tried, Tsitsipas had an answer for, and he moved into the third round after 54 minutes. The 22-year-old is now tied with Andrey Rublev for the most tour-level wins in 2021 with 27.

Tsitsipas, who recently won his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, played his typically aggressive game to storm into the early lead as his opponent struggled to consistently find the court.

After the first set, Paire received a visit from the trainer and the Frenchman removed kinesio tape he had on his abdominal region. Tsitsipas quickly broke to add to his lead, but the World No. 35 fought back. 

Paire, a three-time ATP Tour champion, showed the beautiful artistic game he is capable of with a variety of drop shots and cat-and-mouse play at the net. But too often the Frenchman was unable to harness his groundstrokes when trying to be aggressive from the baseline, and that allowed Tsitsipas to surge ahead.


The fourth seed leads the FedEx ATP Race To Turin by 350 points over second-placed Rublev. The Greek star is now 10-1 on clay this season. His only loss came after holding championship point against Rafael Nadal in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell final last month.

Tsitsipas will next play Monte-Carlo semi-finalist Casper Ruud, who beat Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 6-2 to back up his first-round victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime. It will be Ruud and Tsitsipas’ first ATP Head2Head meeting.

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Isner Gets Revenge, Saves 1 M.P. In Third Set Tie-break

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

John Isner lived dangerously on Wednesday at the Mutua Madrid Open, saving one match point in yet another third-set tie-break against Roberto Bautista Agut.

Five weeks on from the Spaniard saving one match point in a 7/6(7) third-set win over Isner at the Miami Open presented by Itau, it was the American’s turn to savour victory in spite of a partisan crowd on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.

Isner hit 32 aces to book his place in the Madrid third round with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(6) victory over Bautista Agut in two hours and 23 minutes.

Isner saw a 5/2 lead evaporate in the deciding set tie-break as Bautista Agut won four straight points. The Spaniard served for the match at 6/5, but struck a forehand into the net as Isner remained clutch in baseline rallies. Isner then hit a huge forehand winner and went on to fire a kick serve to Bautista Agut’s backhand to complete a memorable win.

It was the 60th time in Isner’s career that he has won a deciding-set tie-break (60-49). The 36-year-old has now struck 60 aces in two matches this week, following 28 aces against Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round on Monday.


Isner won’t be able to rest on his laurels. The former World No. 8 now prepares to face sixth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev, who has a 27-6 match record on the season. Isner won their only previous match 6-3, 6-4 in Miami six years ago.

Bautista Agut, who saved nine of 10 break points against Isner, is now 2-4 lifetime against Isner in their ATP Head2Head series. The 33-year-old lost to Jannik Sinner in the Miami semi-finals last month and is now 16-11 on the season.

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Popyrin On Nadal Showdown: 'I Don't Mind Being The Underdog'

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Alexei Popyrin will have one of the biggest opportunities in his young career on Thursday when he faces top seed Rafael Nadal for the first time at the Mutua Madrid Open. For those who aren’t familiar with the Aussie, he will not be defeated mentally before the match begins.

“I’m not going to go out there thinking I’m going to lose one and one. I’m going to give it my all, put in a fight. I’m going to go out there believing that I can actually play because I believe I do have the level to play with him, even if it is his favourite surface, [even] if he is playing at home,” Popyrin said. “All the cards are in his favour right now, but I don’t mind being the underdog. I have been the underdog for most of my career, so I’m glad to be able to be one [here].”

This year’s Singapore champion doesn’t plan to let the moment get to him, and he won’t be intimidated by the legend across the net. Instead, Popyrin is going to focus on having fun.

“He’s the greatest of all-time on clay courts. I would have preferred to play him maybe on grass or hard courts, but that’s not the chance here,” Popyrin said, cracking a laugh. “I’ve got to play him on his favourite surface and he’s the greatest of all-time on this surface and one of the greatest of all-time [period].

“I’m just going to go out there, have fun, going to  [use] a little bit of tactics, maybe watch a little bit of his 2009 loss against Soderling. Maybe I can get some tips from there. Other than that, I’m just go out there and have fun.”

Popyrin doesn’t just want to watch that memorable Soderling victory from Roland Garros in 2009 because it was a match Nadal lost on clay. The Aussie believes there are similarities between his game and the Swede’s.

“I see big serve, big forehand. I’m not going to watch how Thiem beats him or how anybody else who is not big [plays him]. Maybe Del Potro, but I don’t know if he beat him on clay,” Popyrin said. “That’s a match I can think of from the top of my head that the games are pretty similar, and that’s what I want to watch. Hopefully I can do what he did, but that’s going to be tough.”

The World No. 76 was certainly not handed a spot in the third round. Popyrin earned it with exceptional play in the second round, taking the action to Jannik Sinner, who is one of the biggest hitters on the ATP Tour.

“I think my game is up there with the people who are ranked inside the Top 20. It’s just a matter of time until I figure it out and not give away cheap points when I don’t have to,” Popyrin said. “I think that’s been my main downfall and that’s something I have been trying to work on. When it does come together, I’m not surprised.”

This won’t be Popyrin’s first big challenge against a top player this year. In Miami, he had Daniil Medvedev against the ropes. But despite cramping, the Russian found a way to win 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 after two hours and 37 minutes.

“I came into the match against him feeling confident I could match his level. That’s what I did, apart from a few sloppy points what I said earlier that I want to get rid of in my game. In important moments, [playing] sloppy points, that’s what cost me the match against him,” Popyrin said. “That’s something that I want to get rid of in my game, and once I do that, I think I’ll be fine.”

Popyrin admitted that when he arrived in Madrid, he didn’t carry much confidence on clay. The 21-year-old had not made it past the second round of the main draw in three previous clay-court events this year. But that hasn’t stopped him from finding his form at the Caja Magica.

“It’s just a matter of getting everything to click together, not to lose that belief. But going into this week, I didn’t have the best confidence, especially playing the first round [of] qualifying,” Popyrin said. “I think that was my hardest match mentally to kind of get the motivation to qualify again and then to play on clay courts. But I think I brought my confidence back now, to be honest. I’m just excited for tomorrow.”

Did You Know?
Popyrin is at a career-high No. 76 and he will climb to a new career-high after his performance this week regardless of whether he defeats Nadal. The Aussie is not defending any ranking points in Madrid or Rome (where he is entered in qualifying), and is only defending 45 points at Roland Garros.

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Nadal On Alcaraz: 'I Really Believe He Is Going To Be A Fantastic Player'

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Rafael Nadal only lost three games on Wednesday at the Mutua Madrid Open against Carlos Alcaraz, the 18-year-old who many believe might be the next great Spanish player. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Nadal had many positive things to say about his #NextGenATP countryman.

“When you make a salad and you are putting ingredients inside the salad, he has plenty of ingredients to become a great player,” Nadal said. “That’s the main thing. Then of course, nothing is easy.

“You’re going to have big opponents in front. Nothing is easy in this life. Being one of the best players in the world and fighting for the most important titles is something very difficult, but I really believe that he’s one of the guys [who] can do it.”

Nadal discussed Alcaraz’s aggressive game and how much potential the teenager has.

“He’s a young and good guy,” Nadal said. “He already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he is going to be a fantastic player in the near future.

“I wish him all the very best. [As a] Spanish player and [as a] Spanish fan, I really believe that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”

Already World No. 120, Alcaraz is the youngest player in the Top 500 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Nadal explained how rare it is to see a player that age with the Murcia-native’s skills.

“When somebody at his age is able to do the things that he’s doing, it’s because you have something special. And at the same time, he’s humble enough to keep working. He’s passionate about the game,” Nadal said. “I really believe that he’s a complete player. He’s brave, he’s able to go to the net very often. Great forehand, great backhand. Of course, [he] needs to improve a little bit the serve, but he’s just 18 today, so he has plenty of time.”

Nadal won 63 per cent of his return points on Wednesday. The five-time Madrid champion is always fully focussed on the player in front of him, so he will quickly turn his attention to Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who defeated Jannik Sinner in the second round.

“He has a huge serve, great forehand, young, another tough opponent. But here we are in a Masters 1000, so we can’t expect another thing,” Nadal said. “I hope to be ready to play well. That’s what I’m going to need every single day if I want to have chances to keep playing. Tomorrow is another tough battle. I hope to be ready.”

The top seed is happy to be competing at the Caja Magica, where he is enjoying the support from his home fans.

“[I] enjoyed a lot being back [at] this very important place in front of probably the most loyal crowd in the world for me, so I enjoyed playing in front of them,” Nadal said. “Even if it was not a comfortable start against a very young and great player like Carlos, I think I played a solid match and I did what I had to do to be through. [I’m] very happy about the performance today.”

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Popyrin Beats Sinner To Earn Nadal Clash In Madrid

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Alexei Popyrin passed a tough test on Wednesday, defeating Miami finalist Jannik Sinner 7-6(5), 6-2 to reach the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open. Now an even tougher challenge awaits: five-time champion Rafael Nadal.

The Aussie advanced to the Round of 16 at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time to earn his first shot at the legendary Spaniard. This will be just his second match against a member of the Big Three — Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer — after losing against Djokovic in Tokyo two years ago. 


For the first 45 minutes of his clash against Sinner, it appeared the 22-year-old would not get that chance. Sinner, who is at a career-high No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, served for the first set and seemed comfortable in rallies. 

But the Italian made an unforced error to allow Popyrin back on serve, and from there the tone of the match shifted. Although Sinner took the early lead in the first-set tie-break, Popyrin often found himself on the front foot in key moments, using his powerful game to keep the 19-year-old from taking control.

Popyrin, a qualifier in Madrid, will have to do the same against Nadal with a quarter-final spot on the line. The 21-year-old, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy earlier this year in Singapore, is 1-6 against Top 10 opponents. He advanced past Dominic Thiem in the second round at the 2019 Australian Open.

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Medvedev Gets His Wish, Off To Winning Start In Madrid

  • Posted: May 05, 2021

Daniil Medvedev got his wish on Wednesday to win at least one match this week at the Mutua Madrid Open. The second-seeded Russian broke a six-match tour-level losing streak on clay with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain in two hours and 13 minutes.

“I am happy with the win,” said Medvedev. “The first set wasn’t easy and I thought it was going to be where I had another 25 break points and I wouldn’t win. I finally played quite well and did well in the third set. I think Madrid is a little faster than other clay tournaments, so better for my game.”

Medvedev, who was playing his first match since losing to Roberto Bautista Agut on 31 March at the Miami Open presented by Itau, improved to an 18-3 match record in 2021 and will next challenge Chilean No. 16 seed Cristian Garin, who was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Dominik Koepfer of Germany.

Following an exchange of breaks midway through the first set, Davidovich Fokina clinched the 53-minute opener when Medvedev struck a backhand long. Medvedev broke to lead 3-1 in the second set, before Davidovich Fokina worked his way back and led 3-3, 40/15. From there, it was all Medvedev, who reduced his error count. The 25-year-old finished their first ATP Head2Head meeting with an ace, his 19th winner, and is now 5-0 in deciding set match this season.


Medvedev finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final and went on to capture his 10th ATP Tour title at the Open 13 in Marseille (d. Herbert) in March. He has a chance to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings if he captures the Madrid title, reaches at least the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals and other results go his way.

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