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Will Murray Earn Revenge Against Tiafoe In Antwerp?

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

Frances Tiafoe beat Andy Murray less than two months ago in Winston-Salem. At the European Open in Antwerp, Murray will have a chance to earn revenge against the American.

Murray will play Tiafoe for the third time in their ATP Head2Head series, it was revealed when the draw for the ATP 250 was made this weekend. The former World No. 1 triumphed in their first clash last year at the Western & Southern Open.

“My level is around 50 or 60 in the world. It’s frustrating because if wasn’t moving great and not feeling good physically then I would be a bit easier on myself,” Murray said. “But when I’m winning a low percentage of second-serve points, that’s got nothing to do with the physical side of things.”

Murray won just 47 per cent of his second-serve points against Tiafoe in August, and will try to turn that around on the indoor hard courts of Antwerp, where the Scot memorably claimed his 46th tour-level singles title — and his first after his most recent hip surgery — two years ago. The winner will face second seed Diego Schwartzman.

Another intriguing first-round match will see Belgian wild card Zizou Bergs challenge seventh seed Lloyd Harris. In 2019, Bergs upset Ramos-Vinolas on home soil and pushed Karen Khachanov in a tough three-setter.

Eight seed Dusan Lajovic will have his hands full against former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet. In their only previous clash three years ago in Madrid, Lajovic needed two tie-breaks to dispatch Gasquet.

Former Champions To Meet In Moscow Opener
Marin Cilic and Damir Dzumhur have both emerged victorious at the VTB Kremlin Cup, but only one will advance to the second round. Cilic, the two-time tournament champion and Dzumhur, the the 2017 champion, will meet for the second time (Cilic leads 1-0).

Top seed Andrey Rublev received a bye into the second round, in which he will play countryman Roman Safiullin, a wild card, or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Rublev defeated Mandarin 6-4, 6-0 in the Moscow final two years ago.

Although both men are unseeded, one of the most intriguing first-round matches at the VTB Kremlin Cup is between Australian John Millman and Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.

Millman, last year’s Nur-Sultan champion, is one of the toughest outs on the ATP Tour due to his fighting spirit and physical game. Bonzi, however, is full of confidence thanks to winning six ATP Challenger Tour titles this year.

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Scouting Report: Sinner Top Seed In Antwerp, Rublev Leads Russians In Moscow

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

The ATP Tour moves to Europe this week, where there will be two ATP 250 events on indoor hard courts. Jannik Sinner leads the way as the top seed at the European Open in Antwerp, and Andrey Rublev will try to retain his trophy in Moscow at the VTB Kremlin Cup. looks at five things to watch at each tournament.

View Draws: Antwerp | Moscow

1) Sinner’s Turin Push:
Washington champion Sinner is still in contention for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. The Italian trails ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz, who currently sits in the last qualifying position [Rafael Nadal, eighth in the Race, will not compete in Turin due to a foot injury] by 360 points.

Sinner will play a countryman — Gianluca Mager or #NextGenATP Lorenzo Musetti — in the second round. The 20-year-old made the semi-finals on his Antwerp debut in 2019.

2) De Minaur & Schwartzman Chasing Title: Australian Alex de Minaur enjoyed a run to the championship match in Antwerp in 2020 and will look to go one step better this year and capture his third tour-level title of the season. Seeded sixth, he faces a qualifier in the first round.

Argentine Schwartzman, who reached the final at the ATP 250 event in 2016 and 2017, arrives in form after advancing to the quarter-finals in San Diego and Indian Wells.

3) Murray Accepts Wild Card: Former World No. 1 Murray will compete in Antwerp, where he went on a magical run to the title in 2019, overcoming Stan Wawrinka for the trophy. The 34-year-old arrives at the European Open off the back of advancing to the third round in Indian Wells, where he beat #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. The Scot will play American Frances Tiafoe in the first round, with Schwartzman looming in the second round.

4) Bergs Is Back: Last year in Antwerp, Zizou Bergs made his mark as the World No. 528, stunning Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas before pushing Karen Khachanov deep into a third set in the second round before falling short. Bergs, now inside the Top 200, is back at the ATP 250 as he tries for another big showing on home soil. The Belgian, who is a wild card alongside Murray and Richard Gasquet, opens against seventh seed Lloyd Harris.

5) Malisse Returns With Pupil: Xavier Malisse, the 41-year-old Belgian who cracked the world’s Top 25 in singles and doubles, will compete for the first time in more than five years this week. The 2004 Roland Garros doubles champion (w/Rochus) will play doubles alongside the player he coaches, Harris. This will be Malisse’s first appearance at any level since the Meerbusch ATP Challenger Tour event in 2016. The top seeds in the doubles draw are Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, who made the Indian Wells semi-finals.

1) Former Champions In Action: World No. 5 Rublev is the reigning champion in Moscow and returns to defend his title as he aims to win his second tour-level trophy of the season. Croatian Marin Cilic, who captured the crown in 2014 and 2015, 2017 winner Damir Dzumhur and 2018 titlist Karen Khachanov are also in the field.

2) Home Hopes: Rublev, Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Khachanov and 2021 breakthrough star Aslan Karatsev are the leading Russian hopes in Moscow. Karatsev and Rublev will take confidence into their home tournament after reaching the doubles final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Rublev and Khachanov are former singles champions in Moscow, while Karatsev will compete at the event without having to go through qualifying for the first time. This year’s Australian Open semi-finalist is 1-4 at the ATP 250.

3) Bublik Rising: Alexander Bublik has enjoyed the best season of his career, reaching a career-high World No. 34 in September. The Kazakshtani has reached ATP Tour finals this season in Antalya and Singapore. The fifth seed will try to earn his first tour-level crown in Moscow, where he made the quarter-finals as a qualifier in 2016 and 2017.

4) Russian Wild Cards: The three singles wild cards were awarded to Russians, headlined by the country’s ATP Cup captain, Evgeny Donskoy. The 31-year-old made the semi-finals here in 2015. Roman Safiullin and Alibek Kachmazov also received wild cards, and they will play Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and Argentine Federico Coria, respectively.

5) Klaasen/McLachlan Top Seeds: The top seeds in the doubles draw are Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan, who won the Washington title together earlier this year. Although Karatsev and Rublev made the final as a team in Indian Wells, Karatsev will pair with countryman Richard Muzaev and Rublev will play alongside Khachanov. The second seeds are Andrey Golubev and Hugo Nys.

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Final Preview: Norrie & Basilashvili Seek Maiden Masters 1000 Title

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

Cameron Norrie’s breakthrough season is set to hit fever pitch on Sunday as he meets Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili at the BNP Paribas Open in his first ATP Masters 1000 final.

The Brit started the year at No. 71 in the FedEx ATP Rankings but has earned a career-best 46 tour-level wins in 2021. Norrie’s run to his sixth ATP Tour final of the season in Indian Wells will propel him into the Top 20 for the first time and see him replace Daniel Evans as the new British No. 1 on Monday.

Most Finals In 2021

Player  Finals
 Novak Djokovic  6
 Cameron Norrie  6
 Daniil Medvedev  5
 Casper Ruud  5
 Stefanos Tsitsipas  5

If this was not enough for Norrie to get excited about, a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November, is now firmly in view for the 26-year-old.

If Norrie can overcome Basilashvili and capture his second tour-level title of the season, having won his maiden trophy at this level in Los Cabos, he will soar to 10th place in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. It will see the Brit just 125 points behind ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz, who currently occupies the last qualifying spot, with Rafael Nadal, currently eighth, not competing due to a foot injury.

[FOLLOW 1000]

Before this year, the Londoner had never won a main draw match in two previous appearances in Indian Wells. Following his semi-final victory over Grigor Dimitrov, Norrie became only the fourth Brit to reach the final in California.

“I think it’s very special, especially looking at the other names, Greg, Tim and Andy, all British tennis icons and legends. To be added to that list is extremely special for me,” Norrie said. “The last two days have been the biggest matches of my career, so I’m going to go out there and it’s going to be my biggest match of my career again.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to the occasion. Feeling all the nerves and all the pressure, it’s definitely great to experience that.”

Norrie is aiming to become the first Brit to win the Masters 1000 hard-court event and will carry a 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead into his meeting with Basilashvili, having defeated the World No. 36 in Rotterdam in March.

Basilashvili will also be competing for the biggest title of his career on Sunday after he moved past American Taylor Fritz in straight sets to advance to his maiden Masters 1000 final and become the first Georgian to reach the championship match at this level.

The 29-year-old had suffered five first-round defeats from six appearances at Masters 1000 level this year, but has enjoyed a dream run in the desert. Basilashvili upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and will be aiming to clinch his third tour-level crown of the season against Norrie after triumphing in Doha and Munich.

On facing Norrie, Basilashvili said: “[He is a] really interesting player. He’s playing very well at this tournament. He had previous really good weeks. I will study him today and come up with a plan.

“But overall, he’s not so nice to play against from the baseline. He’s been playing really, really smart and very good tennis. I’m looking forward. If I can play my game and be relaxed, I think I can play well.”

Did You Know?
Norrie or Basilashvili will become the sixth different player to win a Masters 1000 title this season, joining Hubert Hurkacz, Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev (twice), Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev.

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Peers & Polasek Win Indian Wells Doubles Title

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

John Peers and Filip Polasek survived a rollercoaster second set to edge Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev 6-3 7-6(5) to win the BNP Paribas Open doubles title Saturday night.

The Australian-Slovakian duo was unable to convert two match points on Rublev’s serve at 5-3 and then dropped serve in the following game when trying to serve out the match. The teams then traded breaks before entering a tie-break, in which Peers and Polasek rallied from 3/5 down to clinch the title.

“It’s always great fun getting back to the desert and playing here,” Peers said. “To be able to say we have won the title here is very special. We started pretty slow as a team but we put in some good work pre-US Open.

“It’s been a lot of fun since and we’ve continued to work and enjoy playing together. We’re riding the doubles rollercoaster and will try to get results like this more often. We’re looking forward to continuing together.”

Peers, 33, and Polasek, 36, continued their strong recent form, having reached the final at the San Diego Open leading into the tournament.

Peers won his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title (first since Canada 2018) and his 25th career title. Polasek won his 16th title and second Masters 1000 (Cincinnati 2019).

”I’m really happy the way we played,” Polasek said. “We came here early, which helped us to adapt to the conditions. It was very different to play in the day than in the night sessions, which we played in our last matches, and we were probably able to adapt the best of all teams.”

Karatsev, 28, and Rublev, 23, were on an eight-match winning streak. They won the Doha title earlier in the year.

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Basilashvili Holds Nerve To Beat Fritz

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

After a season of discontent at ATP Masters 1000 level, Nikoloz Basilashvili is one win away from the biggest title of his career after fending off Taylor Fritz in the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals Saturday.

The Georgian, who had suffered five first-round losses from six appearances at Masters 1000 level this year heading into Indian Wells, saved three sets points in the first set and all seven break points he faced – including two in the final game – to defeat the 23-year-old American 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach his first final at this level.

Basilashvili had to wait until the sixth game of the second set to earn a break point chance but capitalised fully to break Fritz for a match-breaking 4-2 lead. In Sunday’s final he will play in-form British left-hander Cameron Norrie.

The 29-year-old World No. 36 swung for the fences from the back of the court, ripping 26 winners (including 14 off the forehand) against 32 unforced errors.

“It means a lot [to make my first Masters 1000 final] especially at Indian Wells, which people call it like a fifth Grand Slam… to get through so many matches is very important,” Basilashvili said. “I’m at the top of my game now and feeling the best.

[FOLLOW 1000]

“This was my first time in a Masters 1000 semi-final so I was a little bit tight. I just tried to get rid of [the tension] as much as I could because if I just focus on my game I can play good tennis.”

Although he won just 68 per cent of first-serve points, Basilashvili’s ability to dig in and win extended points, coupled with a 59 per cent winning percentage on second serves, proved telling.

Fritz acknowledged that Basilashvili’s power made it difficult for him to convert his break chances. “I had a lot of chances. It’s tough because I got all those chances and break points kind of from being solid and him missing,” Fritz said. “It’s kind of tough on those break points then to just pull the trigger on balls that I didn’t really feel comfortable with. I didn’t feel like I had good looks to kind of pull it on a big point.

“His backhand, he definitely hits harder than anybody on tour. The way that it comes through the court so hard and flat and deep, nothing you can really do. Usually I’m pretty good at fighting off the balls at the backhand. It was a bit tough today. He hit a lot of good backhand lines.”

As he looks to avenge his crushing 6-0, 6-3 loss to Norrie in Rotterdam earlier this year, Basilashvili know he faces a stern test. “He’s very uncomfortable to play and he’s in really good shape right now. He’s playing a very interesting game.”

Basilashvili has won five ATP Tour titles, with his first three coming at the 500 level.

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Norrie Charges Into First Masters 1000 Final

  • Posted: Oct 17, 2021

Cameron Norrie’s shot at the Nitto ATP Finals kicked into top gear Saturday when he dismissed Grigor Dimitrov to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the BNP Paribas Open.

The 26-year-old Londoner broke Dimitrov at the beginning of both sets to underpin his 6-2, 6-4 win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“It was the biggest match of my career, following on from yesterday, which was the biggest match,” Norrie said. “There was even more pressure today. I came out and played really physical. Grigor was maybe a little tired from the other matches, but he fought hard and made it physical at the start of the second set, which wasn’t easy.”

Norrie began the tournament 14th in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin but displaced Felix Auger-Aliassime in 11th by reaching the final. Should he win his first Masters 1000 title Sunday – against either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Taylor Fritz – he will move past Jannik Sinner in 10th position and to within 125 points of ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz, who currently sits in the last qualifying position. [Rafael Nadal, eighth in the Race, will not compete in Turin due to a foot injury.]

Most Finals In 2021

Player  Finals
 Novak Djokovic  6
 Cameron Norrie  6
 Daniil Medvedev  5
 Casper Ruud  5
 Stefanos Tsitsipas  5

The defining battle of the match centred around Dimitrov’s backhand. The Bulgarian used his slice in earlier victories against Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to great effect, but it was a different ballgame against the left-handed Norrie.

With his cross-court slice feeding directly into Norrie’s forehand, Dimitrov was forced to hit much closer to the baseline and to hit a greater percentage of topspin backhands, both riskier prospects that in part led to an elevated error count.

Norrie, who toed the baseline in an attempt to dictate play, notched his 46th match win of the year and is now within reach of his second title of the season to back up his triumph in Los Cabos.

“I’ve been playing a lot of big matches this year, which has helped. I feel like I am used to the big moments and the big matches,” Norrie said. “I’m feeling more and more comfortable and I feel like I am playing on my terms in key moments.”

Coming into the match there was a question mark over the fitness of Dimitrov, who looked physically spent after his draining fourth-round win over Medvedev, when he rallied from a set and a double break down to upset the US Open champion. He then survived a third-set tie-break against eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals, which extended his time on court during the tournament to seven hours and 39 minutes. The 30-year-old has also suffered from allergies during the tournament.

In contrast, Norrie is known as one of the fittest players on Tour and had plenty left in the tank after enjoying a quick 6-0, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.

Norrie began the year No. 71 in the FedEx ATP Rankings but is now guaranteed to break into the Top 20 and become Briton’s No. 1 player for the first time in his career.

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