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Carballes Baena Wins Belgrade Marathon Against Monfils

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

Spanish qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena claimed the second Top 20 victory of his career with a dramatic 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(4) win over Gael Monfils in a late-night marathon on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Belgrade Open. 

“It was a very tough match and a very physical match,” Carballes Baena said in an on-court interview. “Gael is a top player and he is so good. He is not playing his best tennis, but for me it is a great win.”  

Carballes Baena, who won the ATP Challenger Series event at this same venue last month (d. Dzumhur), came out on fire against World No. 15 Monfils. He led 4-0 in the opening set and by a break in the second but the Frenchman, who was looking for his second match win of the season (1-3), never stopped fighting. 

The Spaniard was in trouble – and on the brink of defeat – in a rollercoaster third set, as he trailed by a break and then 1/4 in the deciding tie-break. Carballes Baena stayed patient and took his chances, reeling off six points in a row to turn around the tie-break and claim victory after a two-hour and 35-minute battle.

Carballes Baena booked a quarter-final clash against eighth seed Federico Delbonis as he seeks his second tour-level title. The Spaniard will be looking to improve his ATP Head2Head record against Delbonis, who has won all four of their encounters, including most recently in Marbella earlier in the season. 

“Tomorrow is going to be a very tough match. I played four or five times against Delbonis, and I lost all of the times. I think it will be very tough, but right now I want to enjoy this victory and tomorrow I will prepare [for] the match.”


Fifth seed Dusan Lajovic claimed the only straight-sets win of the day to move past Jeremy Chardy and book a spot into the quarter-finals. The Serbian won 72 per cent of points (28/39) behind his first serve, and kept the pressure on the Frenchman by creating 18 break opportunities. Lajovic converted on four occasions en route to a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Lajovic will next face qualifier Andrej Martin, who similarly faced 18 break points in his battle with third seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. Martin saved 10 of those points, and in turn broke serve nine times to claim a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(4) win over the Munich champion after two hours and 29 minutes. 

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Sabanov Brothers Move Closer To Belgrade Double

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

One month ago, Ivan Sabanov and Matej Sabanov won their first ATP Tour title in Belgrade. Now the twins are two victories from claiming their second trophy at the same facility.

The Croatian wild cards beat Federico Delbonis and Artem Sitak 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Belgrade Open. The Sabanov brothers have not lost a set in five of their six matches at the Novak Tennis Center.

They will next play Jonathan Erlich and Andrei Vasilevski, who advanced on Tuesday. On the other half of the draw, Britons Luke Bambridge and Dominic Inglot eliminated fourth seeds Marcelo Demoliner and Santiago Gonzalez 6-4, 6-4. They will face Swede Andre Goransson and Brazilian Rafael Matos for a spot in the championship match.


Top Seeds Advance In Parma
Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen advanced to the quarter-finals of the Emilia-Romagna Open on Wednesday with a 7-6(5), 6-4 triumph against Francesco Passaro and Stefanos Travaglia of Italy. The top seeds are pursuing their sixth ATP Tour title as a team and their second crown of the season (Singapore).

Also moving on in the Parma doubles draw were 2020 Australian Open finalists Max Purcell and Luke Saville, who beat home favourites Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi 7-6(5), 6-4.

In other action, two of the top three seeds were upset. Oliver Marach and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi ousted second seeds Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan 6-3, 6-4, and Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez beat third seeds Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald 6-2, 6-4.

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#NextGenATP Alcaraz, Brooksby One Win From Roland Garros Main Draw

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

Last year, Carlos Alcaraz lost in the first round of qualifying at Roland Garros. This edition, the #NextGenATP star is one win from reaching the main draw on the terre battue for the first time.

Alcaraz defeated Italian Andrea Pellegrino 6-1, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the final round of qualifying in Paris. The 18-year-old has lost a total of nine games through the first two rounds after beating Slovakian veteran Lukas Lacko on Monday.

The World No. 94, who is the youngest player in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, will next play Chilean Alejandro Tabilo, who eliminated Indian Sumit Nagal 6-3, 6-3.

Another #NextGenATP star, American Jenson Brooksby, rallied past Switzerland’s Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 to move to within a win of qualifying. The 20-year-old, who did not play a professional match in 2020, has already won three ATP Challenger Tour titles this season. He owns the second-highest winning percentage (90.4%) through the first four months of a Challenger season.

Brooksby will play World No. 329 Evan Furness in the third round of qualifying after the Frenchman beat American Denis Kudla 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4. The home favourite made his first Challenger semi-final in Portugal this April.

Read Brooksby Challenger Q&A

One match lasted three hours and 39 minutes, with 12th seed Hugo Dellien battling past Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-4. The Bolivian is trying to compete in the main draw here for the third consecutive year. In two other clashes that lasted nearly three hours, Buenos Aires finalist Francisco Cerundolo clawed past American Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(5) and 16th seed Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru ousted Austrian Sebastian Ofner 6-7(10), 7-5, 6-3.

Second seed Daniel Elahi Galan continued his impressive clay-court season with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph against Turkey’s Altug Celikbilek. The Colombian successfully qualified for Roland Garros last year and advanced to the third round of the main draw. 

American Mackenzie McDonald, who defeated Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round of qualifying, beat Argentine Renzo Olivo 6-3, 6-4 and he will face another Argentine, Marco Trungelliti, for a place in the main draw. Former junior Grand Slam champions Bjorn Fratangelo (2011 Roland Garros), Kimmer Coppejans (2012 Roland Garros) and Roman Safiullin (2015 Australian Open) also advanced.

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Tiafoe: 'We Need More People To Understand The Culture'

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

In an excerpt from Eurosport’s Players’ Voice series, Frances Tiafoe writes about empowering Black individuals, the importance of understanding culture, inspiring kids to chase their dreams and more. The American also explains how he wants to achieve success to help him make a difference in the community.

I know that there were a ton of NFL and NBA guys going out to schools in low income areas to let kids know that we see and hear them, that we were them too at one point and they aren’t alone; there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s all about uplifting those kids and reinforcing that there’s life outside the circle they’re living in. I’m a big quote guy and something Will Smith once said really stuck with me, “It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re going”, and that’s big! It’s all about empowering Black individuals.

I don’t want everyone to be a Serena Williams or a Frances Tiafoe, I just want them to find their own success in whatever shape that comes in. Whatever your lane is – find that lane! But how do we create those lanes? That’s the main conversation. How are we helping more individuals see that they can be anyone they want to be? I don’t know if that’s ploughing a ton of money into schools or putting $50 million in community projects to guarantee transportation, food or even college scholarships. Kids going to college is massive; that experience can change your whole perspective. I’m not saying that everyone has the means to do that but it’s those sort of ideas that we need executing to make real change.

But first we need more people understanding the culture to gain a sense of what it feels like to be a Black individual each and every day. It’s about changing existing mindsets and that’s tough but it goes back to the importance of using our platforms to continue creating more awareness. The more I achieve on the tennis court, the more I hope to achieve off it; the bigger the results, the bigger the platform.

When I think about my career goals, winning a Grand Slam would be the pinnacle and I’ve always had this dream about taking the trophy back to Africa. My parents both emigrated from Sierra Leone and went through a lot to ensure we had a great childhood; both working endless hours and weekends too. So for them to see me do that and bring it back home – I’m talking real home – that’s massive. I would want to get everybody involved in that moment and let all those kids see that it can happen. The struggles they face are real so that would symbolise a lot and it’s just so much bigger than me. I’d love to do well for my community in (Washington) DC, but doing it for Africa, where my parents are from, I know that would mean a lot to them. I feel like my legacy kind of depends on that and what I do for them, so that’s my ultimate goal.

Read Tiafoe’s Full Eurosport Players’ Voice Column

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Korda Finds Another Level To Topple Sonego In Parma

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda raised his level on Wednesday to take down top seed Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 7-5 and reach the Emilia-Romagna Open quarter-finals.

The 20-year-old arrived in Parma with just one clay-court win under his belt this season, but he has found his rhythm in northern Italy after defeating Andreas Seppi in the opening round. Up against another Italian, Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finalist Sonego, Korda saved all six break points faced to claim the victory. 

“I had a really tough opponent, but I had a good game plan and it worked out really well for me,” Korda said in an on-court interview. “It’s an incredible win, he’s been playing some amazing tennis on the clay this year. He’s beaten me earlier this year, so I’m super happy with the win.”

Korda was nearly untouchable in the one-sided opening set, reeling off the first five games before Sonego found his footing. The American faced five break points at 4-0, but some big first serves bailed him out of trouble. In the second set, Sonego raised his level stayed on serve with Korda, powering his way to a set point on Korda’s serve at 5-4. But the American responded in kind, and broke in the next game to take a 6-5 lead before serving out his spot in the quarter-finals.

The American will next face eighth seed Yoshihito Nishioka, who needed an hour and 21 minutes to take down #NextGenATP Lorenzo Musetti in a hard-fought 6-3, 6-2 battle.

“I knew today was going to be [a] very, very tough match,” Nishioka said in his on-court interview. “I know that he played a very good tournament last week, so I know he was tired as well, mentally as well. It was not his best performance, but there were many close games and many deuces. This was a 3 and 2 [win], but it was a very tough match today.”

The Japanese lefty held his nerve after trailing by a break twice in the opening set, raising his level to win the last five games in a row. He weathered the 19-year-old Italian’s full range of variety – and came up with some magic of his own – to save six break points across two tight games in the second set before closing out the victory. 

Lucky loser Norbert Gombos scored the upset of the day to knock out third seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The Slovakian saved 10 of 13 break points he faced to seal the 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2 win after nearly two hours and 40 minutes. He will face wild card Marco Cecchinato after the Italian defeated seventh seed Aljaz Bedene 7-5, 6-2.


Jaume Munar booked a quarter-final clash with Richard Gasquet after moving past second seed Benoit Paire 7-5, 3-1 (ret). Munar needed 65 minutes to edge through the tightly contested opening set and worked his way to a break lead in the second before the Frenchman retired due to illness. He will take on another Frenchman in fifth seed Gasquet, who took down Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. 

Also in action, fourth seed Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Italian wild card Flavio Cobolli 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2). He will meet sixth seed Tommy Paul, who needed two hours and 48 minutes to move past Jiri Vesely 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3.

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Coria: To Play Against Djokovic In His Home City Is ‘A Dream’

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

When Federico Coria reached the Belgrade Open quarter-finals with a victory over Pablo Cuevas, there was only one thought in his mind: his next opponent was going to be World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

But the prospect did not fill him with anxiety or nerves, as it would have done in the past. Playing for his second tour-level quarter-final of the year (also Cordoba), Coria instead embraced the challenge – even letting it serve as ‘extra motivation’ to get over the finish line in his 6-3, 6-2 victory. 

“During today’s match [against Cuevas], honestly it gave me a bit of extra motivation,” Coria told press afterwards. “I tried to run after every ball knowing that I could earn the chance to play against one of the greatest tennis players in history. 

“Life and tennis are giving me this beautiful moment, no matter what the result. I feel like I’ve already won by having an experience like this at this point in my life, and that’s how I’m going to approach it.” 

The 29-year-old Argentine has long been candid about his career-long struggle with anxiety and self-sabotage – and the pressure that comes along with having to live up to a big legacy. 

The younger brother of Guillermo Coria, a nine-time ATP Tour titlist and 2004 Roland Garros finalist, Federico previously admitted that there were times during his career when he didn’t allow himself to put in his maximum effort out of fear of failing to meet expectations. As a result, Coria spent much of his career outside the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, and even considered hanging up his racquets for good. 


But armed with a new coach, a psychologist and a strong support team around him, at 29 years old Coria now sits inside the Top 100 after reaching a career-high World No. 83 earlier this year. He’s into his third ATP Tour quarter-final in Belgrade, and will now get a meeting with one of the Big Three – Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – for the first time.

“I consider these to be small victories: to be able to play against Djokovic in his home city, in the quarter-finals of an ATP event, and to share that experience with my team,” Coria said. “To me, it’s a victory that at 29 years old I can still achieve my dreams in tennis. 

“Now, the idea of facing Nole brings only a big smile to my face because for much of my career, this matchup was unthinkable. I spent a long time on the outside [of ATP main draws and Top 200 of the FedExATP Rankings] or not playing, and now to be playing against Nole? I was running after every ball like a maniac today only thinking that this possibility was so close, and thankfully I will have the chance.” 

While it will be Djokovic and Federico’s first meeting, it won’t be Djokovic’s first experience playing against a member of the Coria family. The World No. 1 played his older brother Guillermo – who was nicknamed ‘El Mago’ (the Magician) for his clay-court prowess – four times between 2005-06, and amassed a 2-2 ATP Head2Head record against the Argentine. 

“How he walks, he reminds me a lot of his older brother on the court,” Djokovic said in his own post-match press conference. “He’s a fighter like his brother and doesn’t doesn’t give up, not even one point. He’s got that spirit of fighting and making sure that the player beats him rather than he beats himself.”

Djokovic, who was pushed to a second-set tie-break by World No. 253 Mats Moraing on Tuesday, will be prepared for a battle as he faces the Argentine on his opponent’s favourite surface.

“He will not have much to lose,” Djokovic added. “I’m sure he’s really motivated to play his best tennis and he’s probably going to [get] some really good advice from his older brother. But I’m looking forward to that.”

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Ahead Of Roland Garros, Ruud Hits Courts & Greens With Nadal In Mallorca

  • Posted: May 26, 2021

Casper Ruud is still waiting on his invite on Rafael Nadal’s yacht, but in the meantime, he’s enjoying quality time with the Spaniard on the court and on the golf course.

After winning the Gonet Geneva Open, Ruud is preparing for Roland Garros by practising with Nadal at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in Mallorca.

“I think he’s eager to play a little bit next week, so I have to enjoy maybe a day or two off and then be ready for tough practices with him in Mallorca,” Ruud said in Geneva, where the 22-year-old won his second ATP Tour title.

Ruud has trained at Nadal’s academy since he was 19, so the Norwegian has plenty of familiarity with the World No. 3 and expects a round of golf this week, at the very least. The two also share a love for the sea with Ruud often boating in Norway and Nadal purchasing a new yacht in 2020.

“He hasn’t invited me on the new boat yet so we will see what happens,” Ruud said. “It would be obviously nice to go, but we’ve been playing golf a couple of times. We are both eager to play golf and to challenge each other.”


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Though Ruud and Nadal have yet to face off on the ATP Tour, they have battled on the fairways.

“Rafa is a scratch [golfer] or even under zero so that’s very good,” Ruud said. “I am a 1.8 [handicap], so it’s very close, but he is still winning for the moment. Next time I will try to beat him.”

Maybe one day they’ll go fishing together, though not in Mallorca as Ruud, a big fan of sushi, thinks his home country has a better selection.

“They don’t have salmon in Mallorca so I don’t really want to do any fishing,” Ruud said. “But I know that he likes to fish and I think he should probably come to Norway to go fishing for salmon because it’s a very nice thing to do.”

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