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In-Form Zverev Makes Good Start In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

One year after reaching the final of the Rolex Paris Masters, Alexander Zverev appears poised to go one step further at the season’s final ATP Masters 1000 event.

The German got off to a good start at Paris-Bercy on Wednesday when he defeated Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 7-6(5) in one hour and 40 minutes to reach the third round. The fourth seed will next face 16th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who eliminated 2018 champion Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Zverev is playing some of the best tennis of his career, having won 26 of his past 28 matches dating back to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, where he claimed the singles gold medal. Nineteen of those 26 victories have come in straight sets.

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It was not a stress-free win for Zverev against Lajovic, though. The Serbian battled hard to stay in contact in the second set, and came within two points of sending the match to the decider. But loose errors that landed beyond the baseline late in the tie-break cost the World No. 34, who was pursuing his first ATP Head2Head win against the five-time ATP Masters 1000 champion.

Zverev will try to play even better against Dimitrov, whom he has not faced since the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, when the German had just turned 19. The fourth seed has triumphed in two of their three previous meetings.

Did You Know?
Zverev is second on the ATP Tour this season with 53 tour-level wins (53-13). He only trails Stefanos Tsitsipas (55-18), who retired during his second-round match in Paris on Wednesday due to injury.

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Peers/Polasek Eliminate Djokovic/Krajinovic In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

John Peers and Filip Polasek maintained their impressive form on Wednesday with a 7-6(2), 6-4 win against Novak Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic in the second round of the Rolex Paris Masters. 

The sixth seeds, who became partners in August, have won 15 of their past 18 matches, including a run to the BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells. Peers and Polasek saved five of the six break points they faced to triumph after one hour and 25 minutes.

Djokovic was playing doubles for the third time this season after doing so at the ATP Cup and the Mallorca Championships. The No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings was pursuing his second ATP Tour doubles title and his first since the 2010 cinch Championships with Jonathan Erlich.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares continued their push for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals with a 7-6(2), 6-2 victory against Mexican Santiago Gonzalez and Argentine Andres Molteni. The British-Brazilian tandem are eighth in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings, putting them in the final qualifying spot for the season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

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Alcaraz Dents Sinner's Quest For Nitto ATP Finals Spot

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz showcased his growing confidence on Wednesday by denting Jannik Sinner’s chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals.

In the first match of what is sure to be a great rivalry, the 18-year-old Spaniard outclassed his fellow #NextGenATP opponent in an intense 7-6(1), 7-5 victory over two hours and eight minutes.

“I’m so happy for this win as Jannik was fighting for a spot at the [Nitto] ATP Finals,” said Alcaraz. “It’s my third Top 10 win of the year. I think Jannik and I will have a great rivalry in the future… I think that I played really, really aggressive, more than him. I think that was one of the keys.”

With Alcaraz’s victory over Sinner, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz is now up to eighth position — and the final automatic qualification spot — in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. Hurkacz, who beat qualifier Tommy Paul earlier on Wednesday, is battling to clinch one of the two remaining singles spots up for grabs at the season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour from 14-21 November.

Alcaraz, who came into the ATP Masters 1000 tournament on the back of a semi-final run at last week’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna (l. to Zverev), will meet French qualifier Hugo Gaston in the third round. Gaston produced an inspired performance earlier on Wednesday to beat 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5.

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After a nervous start from both players, it was Alcaraz’s consistency that reaped dividends with a strong performance in the first-set tie-break. Sinner twice recovered three break points in the second set — at 1-1 and 2-2 — but the eighth-seeded Italian couldn’t create opportunities on Alcaraz’s serve.

Having come up with big serves earlier in the second set, Sinner’s defences were finally broken at 5-5, 15/40, when the Italian struck a forehand into the net. Alcaraz, who had beaten Sinner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 as a unranked 15-year-old on his ATP Challenger Tour debut at Alicante in April 2019, coolly closed out his 27th match win of the year (27-16 overall).

“Today was not my day, but I hope we can play some more matches,” said Sinner. “I knew that he was going to be top [player] already when I played him in 2019 on the clay on the [ATP] Challenger Tour. Because these kind of players you feel that they have something special, for sure.”

Alcaraz recorded his first Top 10 win over No. 3-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the US Open quarter-finals in September and beat World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini in the Vienna quarter-finals last week.

Sinner, who broke into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time this week, has enjoyed a career-best season with a 45-20 match record and four ATP Tour trophies. 

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Alcaraz & Dybala On Success & Pressure

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Juventus footballer Paulo Dybala have both enjoyed major highs over the past year.

Alcaraz captured his first tour-level trophy in Umag and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open, while Dybala won his fifth Serie A title in Italy in 2020. The pair caught up to discuss the similarities between tennis and football, including their pre-match routines, fighting nerves and much more in part one of a three-episode series in which Dybala also speaks with Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman.

When asked by Dybala about his preparation before a match, Alcaraz said: “The day before or on the match day, I try to watch videos of the opponent to see how he plays, his weaknesses. With my coach, we talk a little about how to take advantage of the opponent’s weak spots and he helps me with that.”

In comparison to Alcaraz, who has a small team working just with him before a match, Dybala reveals there are around 70 people, including the players, that attend Juventus’ training sessions each day, with focus also around analysing the opposition.

Dybala has played for the Italian giants since 2015, winning 12 major trophies in this time. The 18-year-old Alcaraz, however, only made his main-draw tour-level debut in 2020 and admitted he still struggles with nerves ahead of matches.

In offering advice on how to handle nerves, Dybala said: “I think you need to become stronger in difficult moments. I think you are young and I have seen you play and every point you win, you celebrate as if it were the last. Seeing you so young in big stadiums says a lot about you.

“As you raise your level, the pressures are bigger and bigger and people demand more. You have to try to turn that pressure into a strength and work on all the physical and mental points, so that you can control it.”

Alcaraz is at a career-high No. 35 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, having been outside the Top 150 in January. The Spaniard will make his debut at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in November.

On his rapid rise, Alcaraz said: “I honestly did not expect these results at all. This year has been great, although there are still some tournaments left, I am very happy with the season. I started in the Australian Open qualifying at No. 160 in the rankings. My goal was to finish the year in the Top 50. It is incredible to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals, which means I have worked very hard this year.”

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Tsitsipas: 'It's Not Easy To Just Stop'

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

For the first time in his career on Wednesday, Stefanos Tsitsipas made the difficult decision to retire from a match. The Greek star later explained at the Rolex Paris Masters that his injury has been a long-standing issue.

Retiring with what appeared to be a right-arm injury at 2-4 down in the first set against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, Tsitsipas admitted: “I haven’t retired once in my life, and it was something that I had to do today… I’m trying to be cautious for the next tournament, which is the most important one for me. I have had an issue there for quite a while now.

“It has gotten bigger in the past couple of weeks, so I’m just trying to protect it. I felt the pain playing in the match, and I just don’t want for it to get worse than it is now.”

Tsitsipas, who is next expected to play at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin from 14-21 November, added, “I know how to treat it, but playing every day, going out on the court practising doesn’t make it better.

“It’s not easy to just stop, especially when you have important tournaments like this one here that I really wanted to do well [in]. It hurts a lot not to be able to play at the level that I’m expected to play, and I’m expecting myself to play.

“I’m going to have treatment. I’m going to try and have the best people treat me and give me the best advice – anything possible to recover and be 100 per cent again.”

The 23-year-old Tsitsipas has compiled a 55-18 match record on the 2021 season and won two ATP Tour titles at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Rublev) and at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco (d. Zverev). He was also runner-up at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic).

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Nitto ATP Finals Contenders Hurkacz & Norrie Win In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Two Nitto ATP Finals contenders, Hubert Hurkacz and Cameron Norrie, both worked hard on Wednesday for their places in the Rolex Paris Masters third round.

Hurkacz brushed off a first-set scare to stay in the hunt for one of the two remaining places at the season finale, when the seventh-seeded Pole struck 13 aces in a 7-5, 7-6(4) victory over Tommy Paul, an American qualifier, in one hour and 47 minutes.

Both Hurkacz and Norrie are pushing Casper Ruud and Jannik Sinner, who sit in the last two automatic qualification spots for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. Hurkacz began the week in 10th position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, while Norrie was in 11th.

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Hurkacz was in total control leading 5-0 in the opener, but Paul came within a point of claiming a 6-5 advantage on three occasions. After such hard graft, Paul dropped his level in the next game and Hurkacz took advantage of a backhand error to clinch the 51-minute set.

In the second set, Paul opened up a 5-3 lead – courtesy of a backhand into the net from Hurkacz in the seventh game – but when serving for the set, the American struck a double fault and handed Hurkacz a way back in. Hurkacz dominated the early stages of the tie-break and clinched victory when Paul hit a forehand drop shot into the net.

A little later in the day, Norrie recorded his 50th match win of the season by recovering from 1-3 down in the second set to beat Reilly Opelka 6-3, 6-4 in 74 minutes. The recent BNP Paribas Open titlist sets up a clash against another American, Taylor Fritz, who knocked out sixth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev.

Norrie gained a 5-3 lead in the 28-minute first set after Opelka struck a double fault, but was on the backfoot at 1-2 in the second set when the American hit a series of powerful groundstrokes. Opelka then lost five games in a row, saved four match points on serve at 3-5, but was unable to stop Norrie when the Briton served for the match.

Elsewhere, third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has already stamped his ticket for Turin, retired after 28 minutes of play shortly after being broken by Australian lucky loser Alexei Popyrin in the first set. The Greek star, who was trailing 2-4, appeared to be suffering from a right arm injury. Popyrin now plays compatriot James Duckworth.

“I really want to make the top eight and be playing, competing,” said Norrie. “There’s only two spots for basically the four of us, so I think it adds another element, and I really like that. Even to be in the conversation even this late in the year, means a lot to me and shows that I have made some improvements this year in my game… I want to play and I want to keep pushing and I want to give everything I’ve got and try and make that event.”

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Fritz Upsets Rublev In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Taylor Fritz recorded his third Top 10 win of the year on Wednesday at the Rolex Paris Masters. The American held his nerve to beat fifth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6(2) in 80 minutes, raising his playing level at the end of each set.

Fritz, last week’s St. Petersburg Open finalist (l. to Cilic), has now won 10 of his past 12 matches. He will next challenge 10th-seeded Briton and Nitto ATP Finals hopeful Cameron Norrie in the third round on Thursday.

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The pair’s fourth ATP Head2Head meeting looked set for a tie-break in the first set, but Fritz broke to love in the 12th game after Rublev struck a forehand into the net. Rublev was unable to convert his only break point chance at 1-1, 30/40 in second set and paid the price. Fritz produced a strong performance in the tie-break, which ended with a forehand crosscourt winner.

Fritz beat World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, No. 14-ranked Jannik Sinner and No. 4 Alexander Zverev last month en route to the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals in Indian Wells (l. to Basilashvili).

Rublev, who is now 48-20 on the season that includes the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament crown (d. Fucsovics), will now prepare to compete at the season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. The Russian also finished as runner-up in 2021 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Tsitsipas), the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle (l. to Humbert) and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (l. to Zverev).

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Koepfer Continues Giant-Killing Run, Ends Felix's Turin Hopes

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Dominik Koepfer ended Felix Auger-Aliassime’s chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday with victory at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Making the most of his lucky loser status, Andy Murray’s conqueror knocked out the ninth-seeded Canadian with a 6-3, 7-5 second-round victory over one hour and 39 minutes.

Koepfer will next face American qualifier Tommy Paul or seventh-seeded Pole Hubert Hurkacz, who, like Casper Ruud, Jannik Sinner, Cameron Norrie and Diego Schwartzman, is in the running for the two remaining spots at the season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

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Flashy shot-making and eight double faults cost Auger-Aliassime in his first meeting against Koepfer, who broke in the sixth and ninth games of the 43-minute opener.

The German took a 3-0 lead in the second set, before Auger-Aliassime received on-court treatment for a right forearm complaint. The 21-year-old Canadian recovered a 1-4 deficit and looked set for a tie-break, but from 5-6, 30/30, Auger-Aliassime struck a double fault and a forehand approach long to hand Koepfer his 21st match win of the season (21-23 overall).

“My game level was low,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I served badly from the beginning to the end. I tried, but [it] was very low level, so I’m really disappointed.”

On Monday, 27-year-old Koepfer saved seven match points – the most by a winner on the ATP Tour in 2021 – with victory over Murray, a former World No. 1 and 2016 Paris champion.

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Catch Casper If You Can! Ruud Claims Key Paris Win

  • Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Casper Ruud shrugged off some nervous moments in the first set against the dangerous Alexander Bublik before powering home to a 6-4, 6-0 win to reach the third round of the Rolex Paris Masters Tuesday.

The Norwegian, who claimed his 52nd match win of the season, leads the chasing pack of contenders hunting the final two berths at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be played 14-21 November in Turin.

Bublik is a streaky opponent who is this year’s aces leader (809 coming into Paris-Bercy) according to Infosys ATP stats. So when the Kazakhstani claimed Ruud’s opening service game, the World No. 8 had reason to be concerned.

“I got broken in the first game, which put me under pressure right away because he’s a strong server who can hit some unbelievable returns as well,” Ruud said. “He hits big and got a couple of winners at the beginning and I wasn’t completely ready. But I fought back and played very solid from 3-4 down in the first set.”

Ruud broke World No. 36 Bublik as often as his opponent served aces (six times) and dropped serve just once more himself, winning the final nine games of the match to add a valuable 80 points to his FedEx ATP Race To Turin total. The Norwegian admitted that the dream of playing in Turin has been on his mind, but that he has managed to keep his nerves in check.

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“I was a little nervous in the beginning today but I haven’t felt unbelievable pressure. I’m just happy to be in this situation,” said Ruud, who has won five titles this season, a record he shares with Alexander Zverev. “Things are looking good but a lot can happen in the next two weeks.

“So many players behind me are playing well. Sinner has been playing great in recent weeks, Hurkacz is a great indoor player. It’s great to be part of the tight race and in two weeks we will know.”

Ruud will have a day off Wednesday before taking on the winner of Diego Schwartzman and Marcos Giron for a place in the quarter-finals.

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