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Amazing Alcaraz: 18 Y.O. Spaniard Wins First ATP Tour Title In Umag

  • Posted: Jul 25, 2021

#NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz won his first ATP Tour title on Sunday evening in Umag, becoming the youngest champion in more than a decade.

In a triumph that tennis fans might look back to for years, the 18-year-old defeated former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet emphatically 6-2, 6-2 to triumph at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. Alcaraz is the youngest tour-level champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori emerged victorious in Delray Beach in 2008.

”It’s amazing. I have a lot of emotions. I’m really, really happy with this victory, this win, my first ATP Amazing Alcaraz: 18 Y.O. Spaniard Wins First ATP Tour Title In Umag,” Alcaraz said. “I’m going to enjoy this moment a lot.”

The Spaniard crushed a final forehand winner to close out his victory before launching a ball high into the Croatian night. Alcaraz’s coach and mentor, former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, rose from his seat and pumped his fist while sporting a wide smile across his face to celebrate his charge’s breakthrough. Shortly thereafter, the pair shared a warm embrace.

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This was an ironic matchup in Alcaraz’s first championship clash. Gasquet was also a highly regarded teenager, who claimed his first tour-level match win as a 15-year-old in 2002, more than a year before Alcaraz was born. The Frenchman remains the youngest match winner in ATP Tour history (since 1990).

Alcaraz has had plenty of eyes on him since bursting onto the ATP Tour in Rio de Janeiro in 2020, when he also won three ATP Challenger Tour titles. It was a matter of when, not if he would position himself for tour-level glory. And on his first opportunity, the teen showed no nerves. The seventh seed overwhelmed the 15-time ATP Tour titlist with impressive power and poise over one hour and 17 minutes.

“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players,” Alcaraz said. “I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future.”

Gasquet has one of the most picturesque one-handed backhands of his generation and a great ability to mix up spins and speeds to trouble his opponents. But Alcaraz was never flustered against the veteran, unleashing one lethal strike after another. He broke the Frenchman’s serve four times without losing serve himself.

The 18-year-old set the tone early in the first set, cracking a rocket-like inside-in forehand for a winner to break for a 2-1 advantage, and he never looked back. Gasquet double faulted to give his younger opponent a break advantage in the second set, and he was never able to work his way back into the match.

The Frenchman earned three break points at 1-4 in the second set, but he was never able to control the rally on big points. Gasquet, who needed three hours and 11 minutes to win his semi-final against Daniel Altmaier on Saturday, was trying to win his first ATP Tour title since ’s-Hertogenbosch in 2018.

“It was tough for me to play [with] full intensity. I had a tough match yesterday. It was tough, and especially with a guy like Carlos, who is playing really fast with a lot of energy and spin,” Gasquet said. “He’s playing unbelievable. He’s only 18 and of course he has a great future and I just couldn’t play at his level and his intensity. That was the key of the match and he didn’t lose a point. He played well, very solid. He’s a great player.”

Did You Know?
Alcaraz is the youngest Spaniard to win an ATP Tour title since countryman Rafael Nadal claimed his first trophy in Sopot in 2004. Nadal was just eight days younger that day than Alcaraz is today.

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Huesler/Stricker Victorious On Home Soil In Gstaad

  • Posted: Jul 25, 2021

Wild cards Marc-Andrea Huesler and Dominic Stricker capped a dream week on home soil on Sunday when they overcame Polish duo Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski 6-1, 7-6(7) to lift the Swiss Open Gstaad trophy.

The Swiss, who were competing in just their second ATP Tour event together, dropped only one set en route to the title. They were dominant on serve in the final, winning 34 of their 35 first-service points. Huesler and Stricker took their third match point in the second-set tie-break to record victory in 65 minutes.

“We both started off serving really well, and the return games were going our way,” Huesler said. “We almost didn’t miss a shot in the first set, but in doubles that can go very fast. Our opponents put up a fight in the second set, but we were almost untouchable on our service games and that is probably why we won the match.”

“It is something very special to win my first title at home,” Stricker added. “It is always great to win a title, but to win with another Swiss guy is different. Hopefully we can win another one.”

With the victory, 18-year-old Stricker became the youngest ATP Tour doubles champion since 18-year-old Mikael Ymer won the 2016 Stockholm Open crown (w/E. Ymer). The teen is the youngest Gstaad doubles champion in the Open Era, and the previous youngest was Roger Federer, who triumphed here in 2001 with Marat Safin.

Huesler and Stricker enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals at the Gonet Geneva Open in May. They were both competing in their first ATP Tour final on Sunday. 

Walkow and Zielinski were making their ATP Tour team debut as a team this week but own a 24-9 record on the ATP Challenger Tour level this year. They have claimed two titles at that level this season.

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Cabal/Farah Win Tokyo Opener

  • Posted: Jul 25, 2021

Third seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah comfortably moved into the second round at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The Colombian team, who have lifted two tour-level titles this season in Barcelona and Dubai, hit six aces and won 77 per cent (23/30) of their first-service points to advance in 79 minutes.

Cabal and Farah will next face Austrian duo Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald, who moved past Australians John Millman and Luke Saville 7-5, 6-2.

Italians Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego also advanced as they beat Spanish tandem Pablo Andujar and Roberto Carballes Baena 7-5, 6-4. #NextGenATP star Musetti and Sonego broke the Spaniards three times and they will next play top-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.

Another Croatian team, Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig, also booked their spot in the second round. They defeated Japanese pair Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-4. Americans Rajeev Ram and Frances Tiafoe await next.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Cameron Norrie

  • Posted: Jul 25, 2021

Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie did not drop a set all week en route to his first ATP Tour title at the Mifel Open on Saturday.

The 25-year-old is enjoying a career-best season this year, having now notched 35 tour-level wins this year. The lefty was competing in his fourth ATP Tour final of the season in Los Cabos, after enjoying runs to the championship match in Estoril, Lyon, and London. caught up with the World No. 30 after his maiden title in Los Cabos.

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
I feel very happy. I couldn’t be more proud of myself, proud of my team and how I handled the week. I am happy how I improved every match. I used my experience a little bit today and I think it showed in the match… I think it’s a huge bonus. It was always a goal of mine to get my first title. Obviously I’d lost three finals this year, so it was very nice to get over the line today. I’m going to enjoy it tonight and then [go] straight back to work.

This was your fourth final of the year and fifth overall. What did you learn from those first chances that helped you win tonight?
I think I was always the underdog in the other finals this year. I played Albert [Ramos-Vinolas] in the first one then Stefanos Tsitispas in the next and [Matteo] Berrettini in the other one. They were all tough matches, and I was close to getting over the line with Albert and I think I relaxed a little bit there. I learned there to keep the foot on the other guy’s neck and keep pressing and taking it to the other guy. I managed to really step it up today in the second set and kept Brandon Nakashima penned to the corners. Also, to be a bit calmer in some of the bigger moments.

When we asked you before the start of the season who will make a big breakthrough in 2021, you picked yourself. What did you know then that we didn’t?
I think I am doing the fundamentals very well, serve and return. Also, playing the big points well. Just focusing in on big games and executing my game when I need to. Finding a first serve or finding a good passing shot or the one being aggressive. Physically, I am feeling great. I am moving well and trusting my body, especially out in the corners. I think I have kept my momentum going really well.

How special is your relationship with your coach, Facundo? What did you first think of him when you first met him at TCU and how important has he become to you both on and off the court?
Facundo is a great guy. I played on the team with him for one year and asked him to coach me in my first year turning pro in 2017. I think he is a good balance of being a friend and a professional. He is very passionate about tennis, and he is always willing to learn and do more, going above and beyond. I think he really gets the best out of me. It is nice to have someone who knows you well off the court. I can tell him anything, how I am feeling before the match, and I think it is important you can have someone you can speak openly with about how you are feeling. Facundo has been a very good role model for me.

Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and tennis playing career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
Big thanks to my parents back in New Zealand. They have sacrificed a lot. I remember my mum driving me to tennis early in the mornings for 6:15 a.m. practice and she had everything prepared. Then moving to London when I was 16-years-old, James Trotman really helped me throughout my time there. He still helps me and overlooks my tennis with Facundo and the rest of my team. TCU tennis, Devin Bowen and David Roditi set me up well. I made a lot of mistakes in college, so it was nice to learn there and have those role models. Then all my friends and family that have made a positive impact on me. Also, my team right now, and big thanks to my girlfriend for putting up with everything.

How much do you remember from playing tennis in the driveway as a kid and how surreal is it that you’re now here as an ATP Tour champion?
I would never have thought I would have got here, but here we are and I could not be more pleased. It was very special for me to get on the Tour and do this for a living.

What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
Watching sport. NFL, football, a little bit of basketball, cricket as well, and watching tennis. So, all sports, and with Covid, I have had a lot of time to follow everything and have been involved in a lot of fantasy leagues.

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Zverev Begins Tokyo Campaign

  • Posted: Jul 25, 2021

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev got his Tokyo Olympics campaign underway on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu.

The German, who was making his Olympic debut, hit nine aces and won 85 per cent (22/26) of his first-service points to advance to the second round in 61 minutes. Zverev will next face Daniel Elahi Galan, after the Colombian defeated Mohamed Safwat 7-5, 6-1.

View Order Of Play     View 2020 Tokyo Olympics Results

Seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz also advanced as he defeated Australian Luke Saville 6-2, 6-4 in 60 minutes. The Pole, who lifted the Miami Open presented by Itau trophy in April, will meet Great Britain’s Liam Broady in the second round after the lefty battled past Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2.

The ROC’s Karen Khachanov rallied back to beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 to book his spot in the second round. Khachanov broke the World No. 55 four times to set up a meeting with Australia’s James Duckworth.

Two-time Olympic singles gold medallist (2012 and 2016) Andy Murray was forced to withdraw ahead of his opening match against #NextGenATP Felix Auger-Aliassime due to a right quad injury. Australian Max Purcell has replaced the Brit in the draw.

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