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Djokovic Survives Fucsovics Scare, Makes Winning Return In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

Novak Djokovic made a winning return to Tour on Tuesday at the Rolex Paris Masters in his first singles match since his US Open final defeat in September. But the Serbian was not immediately in peak form as he was made to work hard for his victory.

The 34-year-old, who is a record five-time titlist in Paris, recovered from a second set dip to overcome Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours to reach the third round in Paris.

“It was great to be back on the court after almost two months without competition,” Djokovic said. “I did not expect anything but I knew this was not going to be an easy match. Marton is a very talented player, he has a lot of quality. It was a great fight. I couldn’t break his serve, he was playing with a lot of precision and we pushed each other to the limit. It was a great opening match for me. I am very pleased.”

Djokovic’s Grand Slam hopes were ended by Daniil Medvedev in New York but he is chasing more history this week in Paris. If the top seed wins the title in Paris, he will clinch his seventh year-end No. 1 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings, which would break his tie with Pete Sampras for the most year-end No. 1 finishes in history.

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In a tight match, Djokovic struggled to find his rhythm consistently from the baseline, with Fucsovics striking the ball aggressively and with great depth, which caused the 34-year-old problems. However, as is so often the way, Djokovic found a way to advance, improving his ATP Head2Head series record against the Hungarian to 4-0.

“It is just about spending time on court, finding that match play intensity and playing more points,” Djokovic added. “The more matches I play, I think I am going to get better. I know myself well, I was in this situation before, quite a lot of times, so hopefully experience can play a role in doing the job well.”

The 85-time tour-level champion will next face Adrian Mannarino or Gael Monfils as he continues the pursuit of his fifth tour-level trophy of the season. Djokovic is also competing in doubles for just the third time this season in Paris alongside countryman Filip Krajinovic. The wild cards won their opening match against Alex de Minaur and Luke Saville on Monday.

Earlier this year, Djokovic triumphed at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon to draw level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 major titles. He also captured the Belgarde Open on home soil.

In a fast start against Fucsovics, it looked like Djokovic had never been away, racing into a 3-0 lead and not facing a break point in the first set to move ahead. However, after fending off a break point in the second game of the second set, Fucsovics grew in confidence as his level raised. The Hungarian hit 13 winners and committed just seven unforced errors in the set to force a decider.

In a tight beginning to the third set, breaks were exchanged before Djokovic begun to gain his focus to move 5-2 ahead. After squandering one match point at 5-2, 40/30 on Fucsovics’ serve, Djokovic sealed victory in the following game.

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Thiem Targeting Australian Open Return

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

Dominic Thiem is set to return from injury in time to compete at the 2022 Australian Open, the Austrian announced on social media Tuesday.

The former World No. 3 has been recovering from a right wrist injury that he sustained at the Mallorca Championships in June. Thiem revealed last month that he would not require surgery on his wrist, which prevented him from defending his US Open title in September, with his recovery stepping up in recent weeks.

“I am very happy to announce that my recovery is going well,” Thiem wrote on social media. “The MRI I did today showed that my wrist injury has improved significantly. A couple of weeks ago I started playing with soft balls and was able to switch to normal tennis balls during yesterday’s practice session…the objective [is] to return to the Tour for the 2022 Australian Open.”

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Baez Qualifies For Milan

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

Following Jenson Brooksby’s withdrawal due to an abdominal injury, Sebastian Baez has qualified for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, to be played from 9-13 November. The Argentine joins countryman Juan Manuel Cerundolo in the field.

The 20-year-old, who started the year at No. 309 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, is at a career-high No. 111 thanks to his historic efforts this year.

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Alcaraz Sets Up Sinner Clash In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz, the youngest player at the Rolex Paris Masters, extended his run of good form on Tuesday with a hard-fought comeback win over wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The 18-year-old Spaniard let slip a 4-2 lead in the first set, but regained the momentum when he clinched six straight points in the second-set tie-break en route to a 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 7-5 victory over two hours and 53 minutes.

Alcaraz will next challenge fellow #NextGenATP and eighth-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner, who is attempting to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. Alcaraz beat Sinner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in an ATP Challenger Tour event in Alicante in April 2019.

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Herbert converted the 57-minute opener with a forehand approach winner on his third set point opportunity, but in the second-set tie-break saw a 2/0 lead evaporate as Alcaraz won 11 of the next 12 points.

Alcaraz fought off two break points at 1-1 in the decider and was later gifted a 4-2 advantage, courtesy of a Herbert double fault. The Frenchman broke back to love, with his best game of the match, and delivered again at 5-6, when he saved two match points, just as Alcaraz’s groundstroke power was earning rewards. The match ended with consecutive double faults.

Having come into the 2021 season with just one tour-level win, Alcaraz lifted his first ATP Tour title at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag (d. Gasquet) in July. Five weeks later, he became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist in the Open Era after an inspired run that included a third-round upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The World No. 35, who has compiled a 26-16 match record this year, will compete at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held in Milan from 9-13 November. Last week, he reached the Erste Bank Open semi-finals in Vienna (l. to Zverev).

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Felix Digs Deep In Paris, Maintains Nitto ATP Finals Hopes

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

Felix-Auger Aliassime lived to fight another day on Tuesday in his quest for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals after a battling win at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Qualifier Gianluca Mager competed at a high level for 80 minutes to make Auger-Aliassime’s life difficult, but once the ninth-seeded Canadian broke serve in the final game of the second set, it was one-way traffic and he completed a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory in one hour and 57 minutes.

Auger-Aliassime, who currently sits in 12th position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin on 2,465 points, must win the biggest title of his career and hope that Casper Ruud and Jannik Sinner don’t reach the latter stages of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

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World No. 66 Mager needed three set points to wrap up the opener, which ended with a smash winner after 37 minutes. Auger-Aliassime came under pressure at 3-3, 0/30 in the second set, but he recovered and was rewarded for his patience when Mager hit a double fault in the 10th game. Further errors started to creep into the Italian’s game and Auger-Aliassime went on to record his 36th match win of the year (36-22) and remain in the hunt for a place at the season finale.

Two singles places remain up for grabs at the Nitto ATP Finals, which will be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. Ruud, Sinner, Hubert Hurkacz and Cameron Norrie also remain in contention.

Auger-Aliassime will next face Andy Murray’s conqueror, lucky loser Dominik Koepfer of Germany, in the second round in south-west Paris.

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All On The Line As Felix Begins Paris Campaign

  • Posted: Nov 02, 2021

It could be make or break for Felix Auger-Aliassime’s Nitto ATP Finals chances this week at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The 21-year-old sits 12th in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin – 11th in Rafael Nadal’s absence – and remains in contention for the 14-21 November season finale at the Pala Alpitour with a deep run. A loss to Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager on Tuesday in a first-time ATP Head2Head meeting would end his Turin hopes.

The ninth seed has compiled a 35-22 record this season, including two finals at the Murray River Open in Melbourne and Stuttgart, and reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open. He found success in doubles at Paris-Bercy last year when he teamed with Hubert Hurkacz for the title over Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares.

Since his defeat to eventual champion Medvedev in New York, the Canadian has compiled a 2-3 record. He is attempting to make up ground in Paris, following a costly opening-round defeat to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Indian Wells, but has a confidence-boosting win to his name over fellow Nitto ATP Finals hope Cameron Norrie in Vienna last week. 

Five-time champion Novak Djokovic will play his first match since falling to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final when he takes on Marton Fucsovics in the second round. The top seed holds a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against the Hungarian, including a win in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this year, en route to his 20th Grand Slam singles triumph.

Djokovic has made clear his intentions of a record seventh year-end FedEx ATP No. 1 finish, which would break the tie he holds with Pete Sampras. His only challenger, Medvedev, must reach at least the quarter-finals in Paris to keep the battle alive, while a sixth Paris title for Djokovic would seal top spot for 2021.

“I have had plenty of success in Paris-Bercy over the years, so that gives me enough reason to believe that I can do well, and I can go far in the tournament,” Djokovic said. “But having said that, the lack of match play could be dangerous, so I have to really make sure that I start off my first match very well with a good intensity and build my form as that match passes on and hopefully get a win and get myself more comfortable on this court and just getting that match play in.”

World No. 40 Fucsovics landed a second win from five ATP Head2Head meetings against Fabio Fognini in a third-set tie-break in the opening round. The 29-year-old remains within reach of his best year-end FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 36, which he achieved three years ago.

Casper Ruud currently holds down seventh spot in the FedEx Race To Turin and could book his berth with a strong showing in Paris. The five-time titlist this season is just 90 points ahead of eighth-placed Jannik Sinner and begins his campaign against Alexander Bublik, a narrow winner over Daniel Evans. Ruud, who could book his Turin ticket with a run to the final in Paris, has won both prior ATP Head2Head encounters with Bublik.

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz arrives in Paris after reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final in Vienna last week. The 18-year-old beat Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini back-to-back before he fell to eventual champion Alexander Zverev.

The World No. 35 faces Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the first time in the opening round. Alcaraz was among the first four players to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan after he reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open, a run which included a win over World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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