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Tsitsipas Charges Past Medvedev Into Roland Garros SFs

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2021

Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was in superb form as he charged past Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-5 on Tuesday night to book a place in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

The FedEx ATP Race To Turin leader overcame the surging Medvedev, who was into this stage in Paris for the first time, to earn his first victory over the Russian since 2019 and improve to 2-6 in their ATP Head2Head.

Both players came in with perfect 3-0 records in Grand Slam quarter-final matches. But after two hours and 21 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier it was Tsitsipas who went on to reach the semi-finals in Paris for the second year in a row and his third consecutive Grand Slam semi-final (also 2021 Australian Open). 

“I’m playing good, and I think if I keep repeating the process, keep repeating the everyday hustle that I put, for sure there’s going to be a reward, and why not,” Tsitsipas said.

Tsitsipas will next face sixth seed Alexander Zverev as he seeks to reach the championship match at a major for the first time. He leads the German 5-2 in their ATP Head2Head (1-0 on clay courts). The clash between 22-year-old Tsitsipas and 24-year-old Zverev will be the youngest Grand Slam semi-final since 22-year-old Andy Murray defeated 21-year-old Marin Cilic at the Australian Open in 2010. It is also the youngest Roland Garros semi-final since Rafael Nadal, 22, defeated Novak Djokovic, 21, here in 2008.

The second seed’s defeat also ended his bid to unseat Novak Djokovic at World No. 1. Medvedev would have risen to the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings by reaching the final if Djokovic did not, or by winning his maiden Grand Slam title in Paris. 

Tsitsipas was clinical in the opening set, bossing the rallies and exposing Medvedev’s lacklustre movement on clay courts. The Greek only lost four points on his serve – no more than one point per game – and won 85 per cent (17/20) of points behind his strong first delivery. 

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That left Medvedev under pressure as Tsitsipas regularly pulled him into the court with smart approaches: Tsitsipas won 9/10 points at the net to Medvedev’s 1/3. Tsitsipas broke early for a 3-1 lead and never looked back as he took the opening set in just 30 minutes.

Medvedev finally found his footing in the second, and employed a bit more variety – everything from the serve-and-volley combo, to a successful tweener lob – to keep Tsitsipas on his toes. The Russian recovered after going down another break at 2-1, and responded by raising his level and taking control of the rallies with his groundstrokes. 

Increasingly coming to the net – where he won 100 per cent (9/9) of points – and looking more comfortable moving around the court, Medvedev got them back on serve at 3-3 and stayed toe-to-toe with Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas found some big first serves when Medvedev worked his way to two set points at 5-4, and took them into a tie-break. But the fifth seed was clinical in the deciding tilt to take a two-set lead. 

The pair were locked into a tense battle as Medvedev looked to make a fast start after dropping the second set. He created five break opportunities on the Tsitsipas serve, and finally converted to take a 4-2 lead. But Tsitsipas never let Medvedev race ahead, and responded by winning eight of the next nine points to break straight back and take back control for 5-4.

Down match point at 6-5, Medvedev inexplicably served and volleyed behind an underarm serve that popped up into Tsitsipas’ strike zone, and the Greek player gleefully spanked a down-the-line topspin backhand winner to seal the match.

“I felt like there was something coming up, so at that point I think I got prepared for it,” Tsitsipas said of Medvedev’s underarm serve. “It’s that less of a second when you realize something is about to change from a regular [serve]. It was fine. I mean, I [did] what I had to do.”

Did You Know?
At 22 years 305 days, Tsitsipas is bidding to become the youngest Grand Slam men’s singles champion since Juan Martin del Potro won the 2009 US Open aged 20 years 355 days. (Ages calculated at the end of the tournament.)

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Zverev: 'I Was Putting Bricks On Myself'

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2021

It is not long ago that Alexander Zverev struggled in Grand Slams, failing to reach the quarter-finals on his first 11 attempts. Now the German, who advanced to the Roland Garros semi-finals on Tuesday, has become a fixture deep in the majors. The sixth seed said that he has learned from his early-career mistakes.

“The Grand Slams are the tournaments that we want to win the most. Before maybe the past few years, I was putting too much pressure on myself,” Zverev said. “Before [Daniil] Medvedev and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas arrived, I was seen as this guy who was going to all of a sudden take over the tennis world. I was putting pressure on myself as well.

“I was not very patient with myself, which I feel like now maybe I learned how to deal with the situation a little bit better. I’m maybe a little bit calmer at the tournaments. But the end goal hasn’t changed.”

It was not that Zverev was not playing well overall. He lifted three ATP Masters 1000 trophies before reaching his first major quarter-final.

“For a long period of time I was winning [ATP Masters 1000s], the [Nitto ATP] Finals, but I couldn’t get quite deep in Grand Slams. I was putting bricks on myself,” Zverev said. “In a way I was not performing to the level that I was in other tournaments. I was not playing the same level. I was very impatient with myself.”

Since breaking through to the last eight at Roland Garros in 2018, Zverev has made it at least to the quarter-finals in six of his 12 Grand Slam appearances, including this tournament.

“Very rarely does anybody come in and all of a sudden perform his best at Grand Slams. Yes, we’ve seen Rafa do it, but Rafa is sometimes not human [with] what he’s achieved,’ Zverev said of 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal. “I think for young guys it is a learning curve. Hopefully I can say that slowly but surely I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
This year’s Madrid champion did not pay much attention that Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic are on the other half of the draw. Zverev paid respect to the likes of World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and the dangerous opponents he had to deal with.

“It’s nice that I didn’t play Rafa or Novak in the quarter-finals,” Zverev said. “[But] I think playing Rafa here in the finals, for example, is even worse. It’s even more difficult. But I also [need] to get there first.”

Zverev began this tournament down two sets in the first round against Oscar Otte. But now, he has a chance to reach his second Grand Slam final.

“I’m in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam and I’ve played solid so far. I know that the matches [from] the semi-finals on are not going to get easier,” Zverev said. “I think the opponents there are extremely difficult to beat, so I’ve got to play the same or raise my level even higher to have a chance.”

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Cilic Moves Into Stuttgart Second Round

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2021

Marin Cilic recorded his first victory of the grass-court season on Tuesday as he overcame German youngster Rudolf Molleker 7-5, 6-3 to move into the second round at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart.

The Croatian, who lost to Roger Federer in the second round at Roland Garros last week, fired 20 aces and saved all five break points he faced in the match that lasted 78 minutes.

The 32-year-old’s reward is a meeting against Nikoloz Basilashvili, after the fifth seed defeated Dustin Brown 6-3, 7-6(4). Basilashvili won 55 per cent (12/22) of points on the German’s second-serve and saved two set points in the second set at 4-5 and 5-6.

World No. 32 Ugo Humbert also progressed at the ATP 250 event, where Denis Shapovalov is the first seed, beating Marton Fucsovics 6-3, 6-1. The sixth seed won 64 per cent (14/22) of points behind his second-serve and broke the World. No. 44 four times.


The Frenchman, who came through in 65 minutes, is now 8-12 on the season and will face compatriot Jeremy Chardy or German wild card Yannick Hanfmann next.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Lloyd Harris roared back from 2-4 down in the second set to move past Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-5. The 24-year-old won 79 per cent (15/19) of points on his first-serve to set up an encounter against third-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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Cabal/Farah Set Up Herbert/Mahut Semi-Final At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2021

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah have reached the Roland Garros semi-finals for the fourth time in the past five years (also 2017, ’19-20) after the top-seeded Colombians scraped past ninth seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5 in two hours and 29 minutes on Tuesday.

Cabal and Farah, who won the first four games of the match, trailed Krawietz and Tecau 2-4 in the deciding set, but worked their way back to continue their bid for a third major trophy. Two years ago, the Colombians captured the Wimbledon (d. Mahut/Roger-Vasselin) and US Open (d. Granollers/Zeballos) crowns.

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They now play Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who remained on course to capture their fifth Grand Slam doubles title after they knocked out Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic 7-6(5), 6-1 in 83 minutes. The sixth-seeded Frenchmen won 31 of 38 first-service points, struck eight aces and secured the first five games of the second set.

Herbert and Mahut captured the 2018 Roland Garros crown (d. Marach/Pavic) and went on to complete the Career Grand Slam with the 2019 Australian Open title (d. Kontinen/Peers).

In the other semi-final, Spaniard Pablo Andujar and Pedro Martinez will take on Kazakhstanis Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev in the top half of the draw.

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No Mixed Message: Karatsev, Vesnina Find Chemistry In Paris

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2021

After his breakthrough run at the Australian Open, Aslan Karatsev’s tennis career changed forever. But the Russian had just one thing on his mind: playing mixed doubles with former WTA Doubles World No. 1 Elena Vesnina.

The all-Russian duo is currently into the semi-finals at Roland Garros, their first event as a team – and Karatsev’s first mixed doubles event of his career. The pair have an eye on an Olympic berth at the Summer Games in Tokyo, with the 27-year-old having already clinched his spot in singles after rising to a career-high No. 25 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“We spoke before the tournament, like two months ago, and I asked her to try to play mixed with me,” Karatsev said. “I was asking her if she wants to play mixed because it’s a good opportunity to play [in the] Olympics together. She has a good experience. She’s had a great career in the past [and] she continues right now after she stopped for two years.”

Karatsev reached out to the 2016 doubles Olympic gold medalist when Vesnina was still taking the first steps of her comeback to tennis after maternity leave. The former WTA No. 1, who owns three Grand Slam titles in doubles, including a victory at Roland Garros in 2013, stepped away from the sport for two years after giving birth to daughter Elizaveta in November 2018.

“I was honestly surprised when I saw the message from him,” Vesnina said. “He texted me in February. I had one match in [the WTA 500 event in] Doha. He was like, ‘Oh hey, do you want to play mixed with me at the French?’ And I was like, ‘Aslan, it’s only February!’” 

The fiery Vesnina – who is ‘always pumped’, according to Karatsev – and the cool-headed Karatsev – who is ‘very, very quiet’, according to Vesnina – were a study in contrasts as they took down Rajeev Ram and Nicole Melichar en route to the last four in Paris.

“She was really pumped!” Karatsev said after their 6-7(3), 6-2, 10-8 comeback win over the second seeds. “I didn’t show that I was pumped, but I was trying to focus on the game. In the second set, she was staying pumped and she was always telling me we were playing good, ‘Keep going, keep going!’ Sometimes she tells me some advice, where I have to cover more and where I have to open more… She shares her experience.”

Elena Vesnina, Getty Images

“He is a very, very quiet guy. He’s not talking a lot, he’s more inside himself – about his thoughts, about his game,” Vesnina said, after the pair turned around a 3/6 deficit to win the Match Tie-break. “I’m trying to relax the atmosphere a little bit. I would tell him, ‘You are better. You are so much better than everybody else on the court here. Just play your game. Just go with the flow, it’s your game and you’re playing great, and you’re the best on the court right now.’ Trying to give him that self-belief.”

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Vesnina knows what a bit of self-belief can do for Karatsev, who exploded onto the scene at the Australian Open with a run from qualifying to the semi-finals (l. Djokovic) in his Grand Slam main draw debut. The 34-year-old, who remembers watching Karatsev as a promising junior, was following his results from home and said the key was Russia’s ATP Cup triumph the week before. 

“He’s a really great example of a player who didn’t give up, who keeps working hard, believing, playing smaller tournaments. He always had the game,” she recalled. “It was amazing that he broke through with this great run at the Australian Open, going from qualies to the semi-finals. 

“But I think it was a great push up that he was in the Russian team the week before that won the ATP Cup. I think this gave him some confidence and self-belief. Because when you’re on the team and you have the shots, you just need a little bit of belief.”


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Though they might have their wires crossed on who the leader of their partnership is – Karatsev, playing in his first mixed doubles event, thinks it’s him, while the experienced Vesnina knows it’s her – their common goal remains the same. 

“I have a great partner, I’m really enjoying playing with Aslan,” Vesnina said. “He’s always so confident, so serious, and I’m a little bit more relaxed on the court. It’s great to play these big matches. That’s what you need: a big stage, big points, Super Tie-break. You need these kinds of matches to grow up and improve your game.”

“I have to get some experience in the mixed game,” Karatsev added. “Sometimes [going] to the net, [learning] where to move in the right spots at the right moments… It’s something new for me. It’s good experience. I like it.”

On Tuesday Karatsev and Vesnina face the third-seeded Dutch duo of Wesley Koolhof and Demi Schuurs for a place in the Roland Garros mixed doubles final.

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