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Nadal Celebrates Birthday With Gasquet Win In Paris

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2021

Rafael Nadal had never played a night session en route to his record 13 Roland Garros titles, but he didn’t miss a beat in his first venture under the lights on Thursday night. The Spaniard celebrated his 35th birthday on Court Philippe-Chatrier with a hard-fought victory over Richard Gasquet 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the third round. 

Nadal improved to 17-0 in his ATP Head2Head against Gasquet, one of the most one-sided match-ups in Open Era history. The last time Gasquet took a set off the Spaniard was back in 2008 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto – since then, Nadal has recorded 31 sets in a row against the Frenchman. 

Most Dominant Tour-Level Head2Head Records (Open Era)

Player Opponent Head2Head
 Bjorn Borg Vitas Gerulaitis 17-0
 Novak Djokovic Gael Monfils 17-0
 Roger Federer David Ferrer 17-0
 Roger Federer Mikhail Youzhny 17-0
 Ivan Lendl Tim Mayotte 17-0
 Rafael Nadal Richard Gasquet 17-0

“I respect [him because] I know how good Richard is,” Nadal said. “I know he’s coming back after a tough period of time. I think he played smart, playing aggressive. I just went on court with highest respect, with the highest focus possible, and that’s what I try to do every day against everyone.”

Gasquet was the last French man standing out of the 18 who began in the main draw in Paris, and one of only three who reached the second round alongside 14th seed Gael Monfils and wild card Enzo Couacaud. His defeat to Nadal marks the first time in the Open Era that no French man has gone on to contest the third round at Roland Garros. 

Four-time defending champion Nadal was nearly untouchable in a masterclass opening set, which saw him win 100 per cent of his first serve points (8/8). Gasquet, who was standing well behind the baseline for his returns, was out-rallied by Nadal as the Spaniard bossed the points with his heavy topspin forehand. 

“I think I played a great first set, one of the best of the clay court season, in my opinion. No mistakes, high intensity, winners, playing long,” Nadal said. “In the second, still good… Then, of course, Richard is a great player. He had some good serves in the next game, and then [it] was tough.”

Gasquet adjusted his tactics and raised his level to challenge Nadal in the second set. The Frenchman recovered from an early break and a 1-4 deficit, finding his range as the match went on. He stepped into the court and stood closer to the baseline, applying the pressure on Nadal to earn his first break of the match at 3-5.

Nadal, who held set point on Gasquet’s serve at 5-2, stayed calm and continued to find forehand winners, homing in on the Frenchman’s one-handed backhand. He finally broke through late in the set, converting his second set point to claim the set at 7-5.

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The third seed reestablished his dominance in the third set, and again didn’t face a break point as he took control with his forehand. He reeled off the last four games of the match to close out the victory after two hours and 16 minutes. 

In the third round, Nadal will next face Cameron Norrie after the Brit recovered from a set down to take down Lloyd Harris 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Nadal owns a 2-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head, with both wins coming this season including a straight sets win en route to the Barcelona trophy.

“Every week he’s making good results, winning against very good players,” Nadal said of Norrie. “I know it is going to be a tough one. I need to be ready to play my best. I know he has a style of game that is not easy to play against. I need to play well.”

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Federer: 'No Way I'm Going Past The Novak Section', But…

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2021

Roger Federer had to battle through a tough four-setter on Thursday against former World No. 3 Marin Cilic. Normally, needing to squeeze through a second-round match would not be great news for the 20-time Grand Slam champion. But the 39-year-old was pleased after his victory.

“I feel like I surprised myself a little bit,” Federer told Tennis Channel. “I didn’t expect myself to play that well or to have the energy left at the end like this and being able to keep on serving so consistently at the end was great.”

In the first round, Federer needed just one hour and 33 minutes to defeat qualifier Denis Istomin. But against Cilic, who gave the Swiss less time and space, the eighth seed needed to claw through a third-set tie-break to avoid falling behind two sets to one.

“This is what I need right now. Actually, I think I felt really good on the court,” Federer said. “For me it will be interesting to see how I will feel tomorrow, because clearly it will feel very different from Istomin, [having] two days off to Cilic, [having] one day off. That will be a good test for me.

“Overall I’m very happy how I’m feeling and also confident that tomorrow I’ll feel fine somehow.”

This is Federer’s third tournament since the 2020 Australian Open because of two right knee surgeries he had last year. But fans are excited to have the 103-time tour-level titlist back and to watch him dance across the court again. Even Federer noticed a video on social media focusing solely on his movement.

“We rarely see those shots of a tennis player because usually it’s always the whole body and they talk about what they do with the hand. Yes, you talk about movement, but not in detail like this. That’s why also I thought it would be nice to retweet,” Federer said. “I even mentioned it to my kids. When I tell them in tennis about footwork, I tell them, ‘Look how much I move my feet for one shot or for one point.’

“I think maybe it’s really interesting for junior kids as well to see what goes into it. And even though it looks all relaxed at the top, there’s a lot of work going on at the bottom.”

Before Roland Garros, Federer declared that he would not win this tournament. After winning two matches, he said, “I still do believe there’s no way I’m going to go really, really super deep here or go past the Novak section.” Federer is focusing on his next match against German lefty Dominik Koepfer.

“The first round I didn’t surprise myself per se, but now in the second round, I did,” Federer said. “Now can I keep it up and how will the body react? We’ll see. The mind is getting stronger, I can feel it. I have more clarity, I have more confidence growing in me.”

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Alcaraz Makes History, Leads Teen Surge At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz is 18, but he’s not playing like it at Roland Garros.

The #NextGenATP Spaniard upset 28th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday to become the youngest man to reach the third round at this tournament since 17-year-old Andrei Medvedev in 1992. Alcaraz is also the youngest man to advance this far at Grand Slam since 17-year-old Rafael Nadal at the 2004 Australian Open.

The Murcia-native is not the only teen who has made his mark this week, though. Lorenzo Musetti and Jannik Sinner, both 19-year-old Italians, also advanced to the third round on Thursday. The last time three teens reached the Round of 32 on the terre battue was in 2001, when Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Tommy Robredo did it.

What makes this even more impressive for Alcaraz is that this is his main draw debut on the Parisian clay. Eight months ago, he lost in the first round of qualifying here.

After a tough four-set battle in the first round against fellow Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Alcaraz came out firing against Basilashvili. The Georgian is one of the biggest hitters on the ATP Tour, and he has enjoyed success on clay, having lifted the ATP 500 trophy in Hamburg twice (2018 and 2019).

But his teen opponent had no problem going shot-for-shot with the 29-year-old. Alcaraz was comfortable in rallies, forcing Basilashvili into mistakes. And any time the five-time ATP Tour titlist played a bit safer, the Spaniard stepped into the court and ripped the ball. He finished with 27 winners to Basilashvili’s 16.

Alcaraz let slip a break advantage at 4-3 in the third set, but he regained that edge immediately and pointed to his head as a sign of his mental strength. The #NextGenATP star consistently showed positive emotions throughout the match with fist pumps and roars of “Vamos!”, none more visible than after clinching his victory after one hour and 56 minutes.

The World No. 97, who first cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings last week, will next play another big-hitter in German Jan-Lennard Struff, who eliminated Argentine Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 7-6(1), 6-4 after two hours and 18 minutes.

Struff is a similar player to Basilashvili, and he carried plenty of confidence after beating seventh seed Andrey Rublev in the first round. The 31-year-old is trying to make the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the second time (also 2019 Roland Garros).

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Berrettini Powers Into Roland Garros Third Round

  • Posted: Jun 03, 2021

Matteo Berrettini completed his 20th match win of the year (20-5 record) on Thursday for a place in the Roland Garros third round for the third time.

The ninth-seeded Italian raced past Argentina’s Federico Coria 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in just under two hours. Berrettini hit 46 winners, securing 82 per cent of his first-service points (42/51) and winning 81 per cent of his net points (25/31).

“I knew that I could beat him,” said Berrettini. I stepped [onto court] knowing that I could hurt him tennis-wise. I was serving well, playing aggressive. Everything was working pretty fine.

Berrettini, one of seven Italian men in the second round in Paris, is now 13-3 on clay this year, since returning from a hernia/groin injury. He captured his fourth ATP Tour title at the Serbia Open (d. Karatsev) in April and also reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final in May, finishing runner-up at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Zverev).

The 25-year-old will next challenge compatriot Andreas Seppi, winner over Canadian 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round, or Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea.

After struggling with injury last year, Berrettini now feels he is in a better place on and off the court, with Thursday’s victory a further boost.

“I wasn’t in the best place on my career [last year],” said Berrettini. “I had a lot of injuries. It wasn’t an easy year for anyone. So, when I struggle, I struggle. When I’m happy, I’m happy. But before it was a little bit too dark. I have to work, and I’m proud of what I have done. Now I’m really looking forward to playing [the] next tournaments, next matches, because at the end now I feel I’m back again.”

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Elsewhere, 10th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman comfortably overcame Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes. The 28-year-old, who reached the Roland Garros semi-finals last year (l. to Nadal), improves to a 13-10 record on the season.

Schwartzman’s reward is a third-round meeting with German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who knocked out Russian 24th seed Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1 in three hours and two minutes. Before his first-round victory over Fernando Verdasco, Kohlschreiber had not won a match at ATP Tour level since February 2020 (d. Safwat) at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The 37-year-old hit 29 winners and won 76 per cent of first-service points against Australian Open semi-finalist Karatsev, who is now 22-9 for the season that includes the Dubai title (d. Harris).

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