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Zverev Races Past Nishikori To Reach QFs In Paris

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2021

In the battle between US Open finalists, sixth seed Alexander Zverev triumphed over Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 on Sunday to race into the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

Zverev improved to 16-5 at Roland Garros, his joint-most successful Grand Slam in terms of matches won alongside the Australian Open (16-6). He also improved his ATP Head2Head lead over the Japanese player to 5-1, and 3-1 on clay courts. 

“I hope I continue playing the same way I did this match. Maybe even better,” Zverev said. “Now we’re in the quarterfinals, there’s only eight of us left, and the opponents are not getting easier. You need to perform at your best, play at your best.”

The German arrived in Paris after lifting an ATP Masters 1000 trophy on the clay courts of Madrid, recording head-turning wins over Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini en route to the title – along with a first-round win over Nishikori. Zverev’s Mutua Madrid Open victory marked his 15th tour-level title, and his second of the season after clinching the ATP 250 event in Acapulco in March.

Both Zverev and Nishikori have seen their five-set records tested during this Parisian fortnight. Zverev was taken the distance by qualifier Oscar Otte in the first round, and improved his record in Roland Garros five-setters to 7-0. Nishikori had two five-set marathons under his belt coming into their fourth-round clash, improving to 26-7 in fifth sets, the best winning percentage among active players. 

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But Zverev ensured they would not go the distance on Sunday after making a strong start to their Court Philippe-Chatrier night session clash. The German was going to the down-the-line backhand regularly with great success, getting to a 3-0 lead before Nishikori found his footing. That set the tone for the rest of the match as Nishikori found himself making up for lost ground across the one-hour, 57-minute match.

Zverev’s first serve let him down as the former World No. 4 earned his only break of the match at 3-1, consolidating to level the score at 3-3. Zverev never let him get comfortable, dragging the Japanese player from end to end with his heavy groundstrokes. He earned the break back late in the set at 5-4 to close out the opening tilt.

Zverev sped through the second set at the expense of just one game, opening up a 5-0 lead with a double break. In the third, Nishikori dug his heels in after going down another double break for 0-3, running after every ball and returning with interest. He earned unforced errors from Zverev to earn one of the breaks back, but Zverev took back control after a lengthy battle for 4-1. The German reeled off the last two games comfortably to seal his spot in the quarter-finals.

The sixth seed booked a last-four meeting with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after the 22-year-old Spaniard battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 earlier in the day. The German leads their ATP Head2Head 2-0 going into their first clay-court match-up. 

“No matter who you’re playing, they already won four matches,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to that, of course. I know it’s not going to be any easier from this moment on.”

Nishikori was vying to become the 51st player in history to record 100 men’s singles match wins at the Grand Slams. He is now 13-11 on the season.

Did You Know?
Zverev is now the second German man in the Open Era to reach three quarter-finals at Roland Garros. He follows in the footsteps of Boris Becker, who advanced to this stage on four occasions between 1986 and 1991.

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Tsitsipas' Key: ‘Less Thinking, More Action’

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas revealed that his relaxed mindset enabled him to play his best tennis against Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday as the Greek eased through to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

“I think I’ve played some of my best tennis when I don’t think much on the court, when everything is being done automatically, on autopilot,” Tsitsipas said. “I felt also my performance was at the top [against Carreno Busta]. So, yes, less thinking, more action.”

The 22-year-old reached the semi-finals in Paris last year and has also advanced to the last four at the Australian Open twice (2019, 2021). With Tsitsipas making another deep run here at Roland Garros, he is becoming accustomed to what is required to have success at Grand Slams.

“I think it is just adapting and getting used to things. In the beginning, you’re not, I would say, fully in the thing yet. You try and see what things work, the surface, the balls and everything,” Tsitsipas said. “Of course, you might have some knowledge from the previous years that you’ve played there. But in Grand Slams, it’s all about the endurance and being able to show up and do your job once every two days and do it well.

“It’s demanding. It takes a lot of attention, a lot of effort. I’ve grown up into loving that process and wanting to repeat that.”

The FedEX ATP Race to Turin Leader has recorded a Tour-leading 37 victories this season with 20 coming on clay. Tsitsipas will face a difficult test next against second seed Daniil Medvedev. The Russian leads their ATP Head2Head Series 6-1.

“He does serve extremely well, I have to say. He has improved over the years with his serve. This is going to be something that I will have to face,” Tsitsipas said. “Of course, myself playing well, I feel like I don’t have to think about who I’m facing or not. I just have to play my game, let the rest be witnessed.”

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Tsitsipas Storms Into Roland Garros Quarter-finals

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas recorded a Tour-leading 37th victory of the season on Sunday as he cruised past Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to the Roland Garros quarter-finals.

Tsitsipas, who reached the semi-finals in Paris last year, prevailed in two hours and six minutes and has dropped just one set through four matches. The FedEx ATP Race to Turin leader hit 41 winners and only made 17 unforced errors in an impressive display to improve to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head against Carreno Busta.

It was the Greeks’ 20th clay-court victory of 2021, with a maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Rublev) a high point. He will face second seed Daniil Medvedev or clay-court stalwart Cristian Garin for a spot in the semi-finals.

The fifth seed made a roaring start on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion showcased a mixture of power and precision on his backhand and found consistent depth on his forehand return to move 4-1 ahead. While Carreno Busta worked his way into the contest, stepping into the court to fire away winners on Tsitispas’ second serve, the Greek held firm to fend off two break points at 4-2. He then sealed the set with one of the six aces he hit.

Tsitsipas continued to open his shoulders and strike the ball aggressively at the start of the second, breaking in the first game with an impressive crosscourt forehand winner. The 22-year-old reeled off the next three games to lead 4-0 as he controlled proceedings. The Spaniard’s level had dropped from the first set, as he won just 30 per cent of points on Tsistipas’ second serve, a decline from 55 per cent in the opener.

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Momentum changed at the start of the third though, with Carreno Busta breaking for the first time to lead 3-0 as he began to dictate proceedings on his forehand. However, he could not sustain his level with Tsitsipas closing to 3-4 when the Spaniard fired wide on the backhand. The Greek, who won 75 per cent of points on his first serve (47/63), then claimed four of the final five games to advance.

Carreno Busta is a two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist, and he only dropped one set on his way to the fourth round this year. However, the 29-year-old’s seventh defeat of the season (17-7) means the Spaniard’s focus will move to the grass.

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The Machine & The Artist: #NextGenATP Stars Sinner & Musetti Shining

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2021

Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti are two of the brightest #NextGenATP talents in not just their native Italy, but the world. And as they both continue their meteoric rise, you will notice that they are almost nothing alike.

Both teens on Saturday reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, where Sinner will play 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and Musetti will challenge top seed Novak Djokovic. According to former World No. 1 Carlos Moya, Nadal’s coach, fans will see that the Italians have different games and demeanours.

“[Musetti is] very different to Sinner, nothing like him. He’s more of an artist, the other a machine, with a very fast rhythm. Sinner is very cold, very calculated, in a good way. That’s the impression I get,” Moya told “Musetti is more temperamental, more inventive. They’re very different players, but I’m sure they’ll play in Grand Slam finals in the future.”

Their talent is clear. Sinner won the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2019 and has quickly proceeded to crack the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Musetti first broke onto the scene at last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he beat former Top 5 stars Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori to reach the third round as a qualifier ranked World No. 249. He has since reached three ATP Tour semi-finals and climbed to a career-high World No. 76.

But when you watch them play, Sinner is an icy machine, and Musetti is a fiery artist. Sinner is more likely to relentlessly blast through opponents without showing much emotion, while Musetti mixes up spins and speeds to outmanoeuvre opponents before unleashing a massive fist pump or even falling to the court after a big win.

Umberto Rianna, who oversees 18-and-over tennis for the Italian Tennis Federation, believes their personality differences on the court don’t necessarily make one of the teens better than the other in any way. It just is who they are.

“For sure Jannik is way more mature than any kid his age, and not only in Italy. The reaction Musetti had when he was in the semi-final of Acapulco was the most common,” Rianna said. “Jannik, the way he acts, the way he behaves and the way he walks on the court with confidence, I would say it’s more confidence. He knows that he’s growing, he knows what he’s capable of and how skilled he is. That makes him react like it’s almost a normal process what he’s going through.

Nearly every week, other players are asked about the ascent of these young Italians. Sinner and Musetti are certainly aware of that.

“Many, many people [are] speaking [about] who is better [between] me and Lorenzo. I think it’s great to see, especially for Italian fans,” Sinner said. “We have two different styles of players, two different personalities on court and off court.”

Sinner admitted that Musetti is not just “very, very talented”, but “maybe more [talented] than me]”. The 19-year-old pointed to his 18-year-old countryman’s physical strength and how “he can do whatever he wants with the ball”.

“First of all, we come from [different] parts of Italy. I have people around me who are doing one thing, he has people around him who are maybe thinking other things. I think the important thing is that everyone is different,” Sinner said. “He is different than me, I would say, but obviously in a very positive way. What he’s showing on court, [there is] nothing wrong with that.”

Musetti has been soaring this season, seizing on all the momentum he earned at the end of 2020. However, while he has never looked uncomfortable on big stages, this is his first Grand Slam main draw. Last Roland Garros, Sinner made the quarter-finals.

“Me and Jannik, I think we are the future of Italian tennis, and of tennis in general. Of course he’s a bit [ahead of] me. I don’t know, I’m just living what he was living last year, so we are growing up together,” Musetti said. “We are playing every week now together. I finally entered into the Tour. That was my goal.

“But I have to focus on myself. Of course I see and I’m happy [that] Jannik is doing well. But of course, I have to see myself. I have to improve myself.”

The #NextGenATP sensations have an opportunity to make perhaps their biggest splash yet on Monday when they play two of the greatest players in tennis history. Sinner will have a chance to hand Nadal just his third loss at Roland Garros, and Musetti will try to keep his dream major debut alive. But regardless of what happens, these Italians have proven they will be stars for years to come.

“We are too spoiled right now,” Rianna said. “We can’t expect that everybody else will be the same. It would be silly to think that it will happen like this all the time.”

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