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#NextGenATP Korda To Face Cecchinato For Parma Title

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda booked a spot into his second ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over countryman Tommy Paul on Friday at the Emilia-Romagna Open. 

Korda, who leads the Americans on the ATP Tour with 15 wins this season, will face Italian wild card Marco Cecchinato in his career first clay-court final. He will be aiming to become the first American since Sam Querrey in 2010 Belgrade (d. Isner) to lift a trophy on European clay. 

“It’s going to be tough [playing an Italian in Italy], but it’s probably going to be super fun,” said the 20-year-old in an on-court interview. “[It will be] another new experience. My first ATP clay-court final. I’m super excited, and whatever happens tomorrow I will give it my all. Hopefully we can play a good match.”

Korda has not dropped a set all week in Parma, and came out firing against his countryman and Davis Cup teammate. His deep returning kept Paul under pressure, and Korda created five break opportunities in the sixth seed’s first three service games. He finally broke through on his sixth opportunity at 4-3 to close out the opening set. 

The #NextGenATP American faced nine break points during the match, and saved eight. Paul broke to level the score in the second set at 1-1, but his opponent didn’t give him any other chances. Korda reeled off the last four games in a row from 2-3 to reestablish his lead, and seal his spot in the final.

It will be Korda’s first meeting with wild card Cecchinato, who needed two hours and 40 minutes to overcome a stern test against Marbella finalist Jaume Munar. Cecchinato saved five of the nine break points he faced to take down the Spaniard 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-1.


“It was a tough match. [There were] so many rallies. Every point [was] tough, every point [had] tension,” Cecchinato said. “After the first set I was down in the second set 6-1, but I was really happy because I started well in the third set.

“The result is not ‘true’ because [the third set score] shows 6-1 but every point [was] tough. I’m very happy for this match.”

Cecchinato is into his first final of the year, and the fifth of his career (3-1) in Parma. He will be aiming to become the fourth different Italian champion on the ATP Tour this season, joining Matteo Berrettini (Belgrade 1), Jannik Sinner (Melbourne 1) and Lorenzo Sonego (Cagliari). 

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Brooksby Saves 3 MPs To Qualify At Roland Garros: 'I Always Fight Until The Last Point'

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

#NextGenATP American Jenson Brooksby was on the verge of defeat Friday evening at Roland Garros. Frenchman Evan Furness led their final-round qualifying match 7-6(5), 5-4 and had three match points on his serve at 40/0 to earn a spot in the main draw. But Brooksby staged a furious comeback to triumph 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-4 after three hours and 22 minutes and make the main draw in Paris for the first time.

“I was upset in the moment for sure, but I always fight until the last point,” Brooksby said. “Obviously that was a tough situation to be in, you don’t want to be there in general, but I kept fighting. I just tried to play my game even in those points and see what would happen and it paid off, thankfully.”

Brooksby has won three ATP Challenger Tour titles this season, and his 90.4 winning percentage through the year’s first four months is second-highest in Challenger history. All that success helped the 20-year-old against Furness.

“Definitely having won a lot of matches lately helped me get through today and believe I could come back from any deficit or whatever was going on out there,” Brooksby said. “[That] definitely played a big part in my belief today.”

When Brooksby lifted his third Challenger trophy of the season last month in Tallahassee, he did so on green clay. Before that tournament, he had not played on that surface in about two years. Roland Garros was an even bigger challenge — Brooksby had never competed on red clay.

“I think it’s just a testament to our mindset that we have,” Brooksby said. “We don’t worry about surface and things like that. I just focus on what’s in my control, which is how I’m playing [and] the intentions I have going out on the court. It’s definitely paid off. I believe that I can have a good week and I have so far.”

When Brooksby spoke to the media, he did not know that he will face 2021 breakthrough star Aslan Karatsev in the first round. But the American did not seem put off by the news.

“He’s had a very strong year for sure so far,” Brookbsy said. “I’ll be pumped and ready to go going into that one. It’s a good opportunity in the main draw. I’ll rest up today and then just prepare for the next match.”

The last time Brooksby advanced through Grand Slam qualifying, at the 2019 US Open, he beat Tomas Berdych in the main draw. The American knows that while getting this far is exciting, he has to refocus on the first round.

“[There is] no time to celebrate. [I’m] still in the tournament, there’s another match coming up,” Brooksby said. “I didn’t play my best today, and I’m just happy to have another opportunity. We’re going to go over, look at what I can improve for the next one and hopefully play better next time.”

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Federer 'Realistic', But A Dangerous Foe At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

After Roger Federer lost his opening match at the Gonet Geneva Open last week against Pablo Andujar, the Swiss admitted it is likely he will not win Roland Garros.

“I’m just realistic that I know I will not win the French and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” Federer said. “Of course crazier things might have happened, but I’m not so sure in the past 50 years at the French Open somebody just rocked up at 40 years old being out for a year and a half and [went] on to just win.”

However, the Swiss has enjoyed plenty of success on the Parisian clay throughout his career. And if the 39-year-old is able to play his way into form as he continues his comeback from two arthroscopic right knee surgeries, he will still be a dangerous opponent.

Federer has advanced to at least the quarter-finals here in 11 of his past 12 appearances, and in 2014 he lost in the fourth round. The 103-time tour-level titlist completed his Career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2009 and made the championship match on four more occasions.

Although Federer’s best surfaces have been grass and hard courts, the 20-time Grand Slam champion has been one of the best players on clay on the ATP Tour.

Federer is third on the all-time list for the most match wins at Roland Garros with 70, only trailing 13-time winner Rafael Nadal (100) and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (74). The 39-year-old also has the third-most clay-court titles among active players with 11, trailing only Nadal (62) and Djokovic, who can win his 16th on the surface Saturday in Belgrade.

That is not just a function of how long Federer has played, either. He has won 75.9 per cent of his clay-court matches, which is also good for third among active players behind Nadal (91.6%) and Djokovic (79.7%).

There was more good news for Federer when qualifiers were placed in the Roland Garros draw on Friday evening. The eighth seed learned he will play a familiar foe in Denis Istomin, against whom he has a 7-0 ATP Head2Head record. Federer will hope to play his best and get off to a good start at his first Grand Slam since the 2020 Australian Open.

“I feel like in practice I’ve been playing better,” Federer said in Geneva. “But then again as we know, matches are a different animal.”

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Djokovic On Loaded Roland Garros Draw: ‘It’s Going To Be A Great Thrill’

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

After reaching his third ATP Tour final of the year at the Belgrade Open, Novak Djokovic told press that he feels ‘very close’ to the level he is looking for ahead of Roland Garros.

That will be just what the World No. 1 will need, as the year’s second Grand Slam unveiled a loaded draw that saw Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer land in Djokovic’s half. The top seed could face defending champion Nadal in the semi-finals, and eyes a potential meeting with Federer as early as the quarter-finals.

“I saw the draw,” Djokovic said with a wry chuckle in his post-match press conference. “It’s the first time, I think ever, where Roger, Rafa and myself are in the same half of the draw in any Grand Slam. “It’s going to be very interesting for sure. Only one of us can make the final. I’m going to obviously do my best to be that guy who reaches the final match.”

The top seed in Belgrade cruised into the semi-finals at his home event without dropping a set, but was pushed to a decider by qualifier Andrej Martin. Djokovic regrouped emphatically to secure a 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 victory to reach his first final on home soil since 2011. 

“I take out the positives from this match,” Djokovic said. “I think I played very well in the first and the third sets. It’s very important for me to finish the match in that kind of tempo and that kind of rhythm, that kind of sensation. I feel like this will give me confidence not only for tomorrow’s final but also Roland Garros.”

“I’ve been building my form, and performance-wise I’ve been playing very close to where I want to be for Roland Garros,” he added. “I’m not concerned about anything, except for those few games and few letdowns that I had today. That should not happen tomorrow or in Paris, but if they happen they happen. What can you do? It’s one of these things that you have to deal with as a tennis player. It’s important to bounce back, which I’ve done in the right way.”

Djokovic, who begins his Roland Garros campaign against the big-serving Tennys Sandgren, will be seeking his second Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy next week in Paris. A victory would make him the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam championship twice.


“You have to take it step by step,” he said. “You play every second day, and I have [as much] experience as Roger and Rafa, of course. We’ve been on the Tour many, many years and we know how to deal with these situations.

“If it comes to the possible match-up between me and Roger in the quarter-finals, of course it’s going to be a great thrill and a great challenge to play him. But it’s still a long way to go to that possible matchup.”

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Medvedev Taking Hard-Court Mentality Into Paris

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

Second seed Daniil Medvedev is delighted with the conditions in Paris ahead of Roland Garros as he aims to replicate his strong form on hard courts and progress past the opening round at the tournament for the first time in his career.

“I have to say coming here was my first practice yesterday, I was playing amazing so far. I didn’t feel that it was clay. I was playing like on hard courts, and hopefully, have some expectations,” Medvedev said. “I really like the conditions here so far, and looking forward to making a great tournament, to be honest. I feel amazing. I feel happy about life. I feel happy about tennis. First time in two months. So that’s just a great feeling.”

In September, Medvedev lost in the first round at Roland Garros to Marton Fucsovics, with clay being a surface he has struggled on in comparison to hard courts over the years. The Russian holds a 148-59 record on hard and his 10 titles have all come on the surface, including last year’s Nitto ATP Finals crown and three ATP Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati (2019), Shanghai (2019) and Paris (2020).

This is in comparison to an 11-20 record on clay, with Medvedev recently losing to World No. 26 Aslan Karatsev in Rome and Cristian Garin in the Last 16 in Madrid. However, the 25-year-old is focused ahead of his opening round clash against World No. 37 Alexander Bublik.

“For me being in the zone basically means not missing the ball, because that’s where I’m strong. That’s when I know that, for my opponents, it’s going to be tough to beat me. Even of course sometimes they will succeed, sometimes the best ones when they play well. But it makes it tougher for my opponent,” Medvedev said. “For me it is to just practise hard, try to make the routine good, not make stupid decisions outside of the court, and then like this, the zone will come on the court one day.”

On Thursday this week, Roland Garros revealed a statue of 13-time champion Rafael Nadal. This prompted Medvedev to be asked where he would want his monument to be placed in the future if he were to have the success that the Spaniard has had. For Medvedev, the answer was clear.

“Oh, in Russia. That’s an easy answer, because that’s my home country, and of course if I manage to do something amazing on the court, and when I say ‘amazing,’ I find that yet I have not done anything to have a monument, so I need to do better,” Medvedev replied. “Then, I would be really proud if it was somewhere in Russia, of course better in Moscow but tougher in Moscow, there is going to be a monument of Daniil Medvedev.”

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Felix Says Uncle Toni 'Adds Calm & Confidence, Not Pressure'

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

Felix Auger-Aliassime garnered plenty of attention at the start of the clay-court season when he announced that Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former longtime coach, was joining his team. But even though “Uncle Toni” has plenty of experience helping his nephew lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, Auger-Aliassime isn’t adjusting his expectations.

“My expectations haven’t changed since I started working with him. I’ve always had very high expectations all my life and Toni hasn’t added to that,” Auger-Aliassime said. “What I’m trying to do is [reach] the Top 10 and try to win Grand Slams, there is nothing better than that. Adding [someone] that has done it before adds calmness and confidence, rather than pressure.”

The #NextGenATP Canadian has often raved about how much respect he has for Nadal, who is on his team alongside Frederic Fontang. Auger-Aliassime’s best result since their relationship became official was in Barcelona, where Felix made the quarter-finals. This will be the 20-year-old’s second Roland Garros main draw.

“I chose to work with him and I believe he can help me reach my goals and my potential. That’s what we’re working on every day,” Auger-Aliassime said. “The preparation isn’t any different from any tournament or Grand Slam. We try to work with very high commitment, intensity and focus, and every day try and do a little better for when the first day of the tournament comes. We have a lot of good work to do.”

The World No. 21 has already proven that when he is on his game, he can compete with the world’s best. Auger-Aliassime owns three victories against Top 10 opponents, and he has reached seven ATP Tour finals. He will try to find his “zone” on the Parisian clay.

“Every player looks to be in the zone. I have found it before and it’s a great feeling. The balance between being aggressive and consistent, a perfect balance and feeling of being in control of the rallies,” Auger-Aliassime said. “[In] your mind, you feel able to play every point as if it’s the last. You’re not affected by the stakes or the shot.

“It starts from practice, consistency and being close to the zone is difficult, but at least attempting to do so every time. And that starts with practice.”

Auger-Aliassime will play Italian veteran Andreas Seppi in the first round.

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Tsitsipas: 'I Want To Be The Surprise'

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas may lead the FedEx ATP Race To Turin for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, but he still wants to be the surprise of Roland Garros.

“Whenever I play, I want to be the surprise of the tournament,” said Tsitsipas on Friday. “That’s what I like most about it.”

The 22-year-old Greek star went on to explain how he felt when he broke through the 2018 final at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto.

“When I played in Toronto, I really enjoyed that week and enjoyed that no one even considered me as the favourite, and it was a great week… I guess I surprised everyone. I just had to play my tennis and think about nothing else and just felt great overall.”

Tsitsipas, who lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Roland Garros semi-finals, comes into the second Grand Slam championship of the year with a 33-8 match record, which includes two ATP Tour titles at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Rublev) and the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon (d. Norrie).

“Consistency has always been at the top of my priorities as a player, and it has been difficult to find that kind of secret recipe where you get all the consistency and you can play consistently week by week,” said Tsitsipas, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals (l. to Medvedev) in February. “But I think it’s something you build up with confidence, with experience, and eventually you just find the pattern. You find the way it works for you.

“It has been in certain cases this year. I’m quite happy with the way I’m progressing, the way I’m generating points, the way I’m able to face the guys at the top of the [FedEx ATP] Rankings. And so far I’m at the top of the [FedEx ATP] Race to Turin. [It] feels great to be there and I wish for plenty more to come.”

Tsitsipas, who will play France’s Jeremy Chardy in the Roland Garros first round, leads Djokovic (2,920 points) by 440 points in the 2021 year-to-date standings for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

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Djokovic Returns To Belgrade Final

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

A day after achieving an Open Era milestone win at the Belgrade Open, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic marked a more personal milestone on Friday as he reached his first ATP Tour final on home soil since 2011. 

The top seed was made to work against qualifier Andrej Martin, the first player to take a set off Djokovic this week at the Novak Tennis Centre. But Djokovic regrouped and raised his level in the third set to prevail 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 and book a place in the championship match.  

Djokovic will now face qualifier Alex Molcan as he seeks his 83rd tour-level title – and his third in Belgrade. The Serbian claimed two titles on home soil in 2009 and 2011 during the event’s previous four-year run. 

“I’m super excited to play in front of a Serbian crowd. This is my home town. I’m always excited, but also nervous, coming out on the court and playing in front of my home crowd,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “It’s a very unique feeling. You feel a lot of pressure and expectations. But I’m just happy to fight for a trophy tomorrow.”

Djokovic was in full flight as he steamrolled through the opening set, but his opponent was by no means rolling over. Martin, who took down third seed Nikoloz Basilashvili and fifth seed Dusan Lajovic en route to the semi-final, did well to hang with the World No. 1 from the first point. 

The Slovakian qualifier went down a double break as Djokovic powered his way to 5-1, but Martin created five break chances in the final game. Martin wasn’t able to convert, but he took that momentum into the second set to break first for a 2-0 lead. 


The top seed continued to shut down the points at the net with inch-perfect drop shots and smart volleys, but the qualifier capitalised on a momentary letdown from Djokovic to take control of the set. Up a break at 4-3, Djokovic struck his only double fault of the match, and followed it up with a spate of unforced errors and a short, attackable first serve – giving Martin the opening he needed. The Slovakian reeled off the last three games to take a frustrated Djokovic into his first deciding set of the week.

But Djokovic regrouped emphatically in the final set, unloading on his returns to keep Martin under pressure. The Australian Open champion did not face a break point across the last six games, and broke three more times to reach the 119th final of his career in Belgrade. 

“I thought I started and finished the match really well, so I’ll try to take those positive feelings into tomorrow’s final,” Djokovic said. “I also had some letdowns in concentration towards the end of the second set, and I’ll try to correct those mistakes for tomorrow.”

Djokovic’s opponent, World No. 255 Molcan, started the week by qualifying for the main draw and recording his first ATP Tour match win. But he didn’t stop there, and after taking down eighth seed Federico Delbonis – an opponent ranked 203 places higher in the FedEx ATP Rankings – 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 he will have a shot at his first tour-level title in Belgrade. 

“I’m really happy about today’s win,” said the 23-year-old Slovakian. “This is the biggest win of my career, of course. I will play my first final at ATP level against Djokovic, and I couldn’t be happier. I will try to enjoy tomorrow’s match [as much] as I can. I will try to have fun, and we’ll see what will happen.”

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Why Thiem Isn't Thinking About Avoiding The Big Three

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

Two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem landed on the opposite half of the draw as the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. But the Austrian star is not paying much attention to that.

“Maybe two, three years ago I would have been happy if that would be the case, but I think the way I’m coming into that tournament, the way I also played the past weeks, the only thing I can focus on is the first round,” Thiem said. “I shouldn’t focus at all on who is in my quarter or even who is in my half.

“Of course, I know that Big Three are all in the [top] half and Roger and Novak are even in one quarter. But for myself, it doesn’t matter so much. I just basically focus now on the first round.”

Thiem has proven himself a clay-court stalwart throughout his career, lifting 10 ATP Tour trophies on the surface. But the World No. 4 has not been at his very best leading into the season’s second Grand Slam, going 4-3 on the red dirt this year. The Austrian aims to build up his form as the tournament goes on.

“That’s my hope. First of all, to work myself into that tournament, I definitely need to play better than I did last week in Lyon [where I lost in my opening match]. If I do that, I’m practising and working hard to give myself a chance to play well at least. I hope I can do that in the match as well,” Thiem said. “That’s also what’s necessary. It’s definitely a little advantage for me as I’m sometimes a little slow starter that I have at least three sets instead of two.”

The 27-year-old is still working to find his game after taking nearly two months off following an opening loss in Dubai in March to reset mentally and physically.

“You need time to recover a physical injury or issue; the same sometimes, if you are mentally not in your best shape, you also need time to recover for that,” Thiem said. “That’s why I think it’s pretty normal from time to time to take some time off and to feel fresher after, and that’s exactly what I did now before I came back in Madrid.”

Although Thiem cannot play a member of the Big Three until the championship match in Paris, he reflected on the challenges of facing them before playing Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the first round.

“I think that all of them are super tough to play, and all of them have their favourite surface, as well. But in my opinion, to play Rafa here on [Court Philippe] Chatrier, it’s still the toughest challenge,” Thiem said. “But I guess also outside of tennis, it’s probably one of the most difficult things ever in sports in general to beat him here on this court.”

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#NextGenATP Alcaraz Qualifies For Roland Garros: 'I Think I'm Ready'

  • Posted: May 28, 2021

If Carlos Alcaraz felt nerves during his final-round qualifying match at Roland Garros on Friday, the 18-year-old certainly did not show them. The #NextGenATP star defeated Chilean Alejandro Tabilo 6-1, 6-1 to reach the main draw on the Parisian clay for the first time.

“I’m really, really happy. It’s a great feeling to play here in my first main draw here in Roland Garros,” Alcaraz said. “Everyone is really hungry to qualify to the main draw, so for me it’s a great feeling. I am feeling really comfortable on court and let’s see who I play in the main draw.”

Alcaraz needed just 58 minutes to dispatch his 23-year-old opponent. The teen is carrying plenty of confidence after winning his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title last week in Oeiras, Portugal. This will be his second Grand Slam main draw after making his major debut earlier this year at the Australian Open, where he advanced to the second round.

“I got comfortable last week in Portugal winning the Challenger 125, then winning these three matches in qualifying,” Alcaraz said. “I’m getting comfortable playing here and it’s not easy to play best of five sets, but I think I am ready. It’s not my first main draw of a Grand Slam, so I am going to improve what I did in Australia. I think I’m more ready than [I was] in Australia.”

The second seed in qualifying, Daniel Elahi Galan, played three times as long as Alcaraz on Friday, but the Colombian also made the main draw with a 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory against Kimmer Coppejans after two hours and 54 minutes.

Denis Istomin is currently No. 203 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he will make his 11th appearance in the Roland Garros field after eliminating German Tobias Kamke 6-4, 7-6(5) after one hour and 52 minutes.

Eighth seed Mackenzie McDonald did not lose more than four games in a set in his three qualifying matches, completing his impressive run with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph against Argentine Marco Trungelliti.

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