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Behind The Scenes Of An Alcaraz Win In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

It started with a fistbump and ended with a smile.

Before Carlos Alcaraz’s straight-sets win on Tuesday against Denmark’s Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the pair was waiting just outside the locker room. Brandon Nakashima, who had just won his opening match against Juan Manuel Cerundolo, walked by, and Alcaraz gave him a congratulatory fistbump.

The 18-year-old Spaniard then picked up his bag and headed for the court, where he received a loud ovation upon his arrival. The top seed was ready for the spotlight.

The match itself was a masterful display from the teen, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Umag this year. Alcaraz did not face a break point, and he showed both powerful groundstrokes and quick footspeed, showcased in the point below.

“Both of us played really well,” Alcaraz said. “I tried to stay calm, this is new for me. I was really nervous at the beginning, but I tried to be calm.”

After his post-match interview, Alcaraz walked off court and immediately headed to the gym to do his cooldown. As the jubilant Spaniard neared the gym entrance, Rune, passed by, still disappointed by the result.

Alcaraz embraced his team, including his coach, former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, before getting on the stationary bike. The teen quickly noticed young fans watching him through a glass window above, and he thanked them for their support with a thumbs up and a wide grin.

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In Special Format, Korda Overcomes Two-Set Deficit

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

A two-set deficit is typically a daunting hole to find yourself in, but Sebastian Korda showed that at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, it might not be as scary.

With the special first-to-four, best-of-five set format, Korda turned around his match in an hour on Tuesday. The 21-year-old American saved a match point to battle past Frenchman Hugo Gaston 3-4(2), 3-4(6), 4-0, 4-3(3), 4-0 in two hours and three minutes.

“[I] just stayed calm and kept thinking what I could do better,” Korda said. “I did play very well tactically in the first two sets, but I figured a couple of things out during the tie-break and I think that helped me for the rest of the match.”

Korda is the second player in tournament history to rally from two sets down at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, joining Borna Coric, who accomplished the feat in round-robin action against Karen Khachanov in 2017.

Gaston held match point on Korda’s serve at 3-2 in the fourth set, but this year’s Parma champion blasted an ace down the T to erase the opportunity. The Frenchman, who reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final last week at the Rolex Paris Masters, was clutch under pressure for most of the match, using his variety — especially the drop shot — to great effect.

But in the fifth set, Korda broke by hitting a drop shot off a Gaston drop shot, and he did not relinquish his advantage. The American is now 1-0 in Group B action.

“I just kept going to the same spot every single time and was taking advantage of the shorter balls and coming in. On my serve I was serving in the same spot instead of opening up the court,” Korda said. “The biggest thing was I started to use my forehand down the line more.”

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Murray Sets Sinner Clash In Stockholm

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray was probably hoping for a straightforward opening match at the Stockholm Open, but qualifier Viktor Durasovic had other ideas.

Murray was tested in the second set of his first match at the ATP 250 event, and he once again passed with flying colours to record a 6-1, 7-6(7) victory on Tuesday.

“I got off to a very good start, and then in the second set he started to play better. He was a lot more comfortable as the match went on,” Murray said. “At the end it was just a big fight, and I managed to get the tie-break… It feels like he is playing better than 300 or so in the world.”

Murray, who underwent hip surgery in 2019, has registered at least one main draw win in eight of his last 10 outings, facing off against the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ugo Humbert, Frances Tiafoe, and Hubert Hurkacz in first-round matches. In Stockholm, Murray had to navigate past No. 354 Durasovic, a 24-year-old qualifier who played well above his FedEx ATP Ranking in his ATP Tour main draw debut.

Murray’s win sets up a mouth-watering clash between the three-time Grand Slam champion and Jannik Sinner, the top seed in Stockholm. It will be the pair’s first meeting.

“Sinner has had a fantastic season… He was very unlucky to not make the Final Eight [at the Nitto ATP Finals] in Turin,” Murray said. “He loves playing indoors on hard courts, so it will be a big test for me.”


Murray cruised through the 29-minute opening set with little trouble, but he was in for a bigger fight as Durasovic settled into the contest. The qualifier erased Murray’s early lead to take them into a second-set tie-break, but Murray’s experience showed through in the tight moments. He saved set point and sealed his third match point with a blistering rally.

Fifth seed Taylor Fritz needed an hour and 14 minutes to claim the final spot into Stockholm’s second round. The American converted three of his eighth break point opportunities against lucky loser Egor Gerasimov to win 6-4, 6-4. 

Fritz will next face his good friend and regular doubles partner Tommy Paul for the second time in three weeks. The fifth seed defeated his countryman 7-6(3), 6-4 when they met at the St. Petersburg Open.

Pedro Martinez and Botic van de Zandschulp also advanced, booking second-round clashes with seeded players as a result. Martinez will face eighth seed Frances Tiafoe after the Spaniard edged past Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4), while van de Zandschulp defeated Croatian wild card Nino Serdarusic 7-6(5), 7-6(5) to earn a matchup with seventh seed Marton Fucsovics.

Also in action, Arthur Rinderknech moved past sixth seed Alexander Bublik. Rinderknech was leading 6-1, 2-0 before the Kazakh player retired.

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Alcaraz Downs Rune In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz showed why he is the top seed at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals Tuesday when he defeated Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune 4-3(6), 4-2, 4-0 to get his Milan campaign underway.

The Spaniard produced big-hitting tennis as he crushed forehands and hammered backhands in a high-quality match against Rune to secure his victory after 75 minutes in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.

“It was a really tough match,” Alcaraz said. “The first set was so close. He had the chance to win the set and I think it was a great match. Both of us played really well. I tried to stay calm, this is new for me. I was really nervous at the beginning, but I tried to be calm.”

The 18-year-old now holds a 1-0 record in the round-robin stage and joins Brandon Nakashima on one victory in Group A after the American defeated Juan Manuel Cerundolo 4-1, 3-4(3), 4-2, 4-0 earlier at the Allianz Cloud.

“To do many different things on court is very important,” Alcaraz added. “I am trying to go to the net and play aggressively in the important moments and stay calm. I am trying to do this every match.”

Alcaraz started the year No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings but arrived in Milan at a career-high No. 32 after a standout season. In a year of firsts, Alcaraz captured his maiden major title in Umag and upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

The top seed, who is making his debut in Milan, also reached tour-level semi-finals in Marbella, Winston-Salem and Vienna in 2021.

In an exciting match between the two 18-year-olds at the 21-and-under event, Alcaraz demonstrated his confidence as he manoeuvred Rune around the court with his powerful groundstrokes. The Spaniard regularly took encouragement from Juan Carlos Ferrero, with courtside coaching allowed at the event, and shared a smile with Rune after the Dane’s hat fell off during a point in the second set.

Alcaraz, who won 88 per cent (28/32) of his first-serve points, also demonstrated strong defensive skills as he soaked up Rune’s hitting to record his win.

Rune arrived in Milan in form, having won his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title in Bergamo last week. The World No. 109 also took a set off 20-time major champion Novak Djokovic at the US Open in September.

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Nakashima Makes Winning Start In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

Brandon Nakashima made a strong opening statement Tuesday in the first match of the fourth edition of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.

The American, who is making his debut at the 21-and-under event in Milan, played aggressively to overcome Juan Manuel Cerundolo 4-1, 3-4(3), 4-1, 4-0 to move to 1-0 in Group A.

“It was super fun out here,” Nakashima said in his on-court interview. “The atmosphere was electric right from the beginning. It is an amazing feeling playing in front of these fans. I am really happy with how I played in front of all these fans. [It was important] to stay there mentally. A lot of crucial points out there with the no-Ad and then in the second set he kind of picked up his level and I had to battle.”

Nakashima arrived in Milan in form, having captured his second ATP Challenger Tour title of the season in Brest in October. The 20-year-old has now won 10 of his past 11 matches and played with such confidence against Cerundolo as he quickly adapted to the first-to-four best-of-five set format.

In their first ATP Head2Head meeting, Nakashima opened his shoulders and struck the ball with great power to pin the Argentine back behind the baseline. After dropping the second set, the fourth seed raised his level, not facing a break point in the third and fourth sets to secure victory after one hour and 32 minutes.

“It is different from the practise court now to the matches,” Nakashima added. “Also with the crucial points. It is tough sometimes, but you have to stay focused as much as possible and take every opportunity out there. I just tried to stick to my game plan and hopefully I will be able to continue.”

During a standout 2021 season, Nakashima became the youngest American since Andy Roddick in 2001-02 to advance to multiple tour-level finals when he reached back-to-back championship matches in Los Cabos and Atlanta aged 19. He then defeated Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus Alex de Minaur en route to the quarter-finals in Antwerp last month.

The World No. 63 will also play Umag champion Carlos Alcaraz and Dane Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune during the round-robin stage in Milan, with Alcaraz and Rune facing each other later on Tuesday in Group A.

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Baez Excited To Test Himself Against Fellow Milan Competitors

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

Sebstain Baez has become the ATP Challenger Tour king this season, capturing five titles at this level in 2021.

The Argentine is currently at a career-high No. 111 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and is one of two South Americans, alongside Juan Manuel Cerundolo, competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan this week.

Ahead of making his debut at the 21-and-under event, Baez spoke to

A lot of the #NextGenATP players have been doing amazing things this year. How much does it motivate you, seeing other young players doing well? Is there anyone in particular who has really impressed you?
Qualifying is a good sign. At the same time, I can’t slow down. It’s not like I’ve arrived and this is the top, there is another level. I think all the players who got here understood that. We are the same age, we all crossed paths at junior tournaments and always wanted more. There are even players in this tournament that are already in the Top 50. It’s a good tournament, not just to test yourself, but also to try and compete and feel that we’re all close again. There is still more. I can use it more as motivation, and not so much about winning or losing, or my career depending on this tournament. If I do well, it doesn’t guarantee anything for me either. The most important thing is to keep improving and making the most of it.

When you were growing up there were Roger, Rafa and Novak, who created great rivalries. As you’re competing with other #NextGenATP players, have you thought about your budding rivalries and playing against them for many years?
It would be wonderful to have great rivalries. Roger, Nadal and Novak are three legends and I doubt we’ll see that in tennis again. Three guys with 20 Grand Slams each… I don’t think that’ll ever happen again. But who knows if I might have a great rivalry with one of the players here when, hopefully, we are higher up. I shared a lot of my junior tennis with six of the eight players here. We all motivate each other. When one progresses, the other says, ‘why can’t I do the same?’ That rivalry makes you hungrier every day.

Have you watched the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals before and if so what were your thoughts?
I always thought it was an interesting tournament, more than anything because it’s not played with tramlines. It’s also good that the best eight young players are playing. I really was surprised by the level at this tennis tournament. It was new players on their way up. There are a few that are so good that they don’t play in it. It’s a great opportunity to come and compete head to head. I can be here, share and be in the same place. The conditions are a leveller and whoever is hungriest on the day will take the match.

The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals always includes many innovations. Were there any that you particularly enjoyed and look forward to using and if so, why?
I would say the coaching. I think it would make the sport more comfortable. I think it’s impossible for your coach not to try and tell you something when you’re playing. It’s natural. He’ll want to slow you down, maybe not say anything very tactical. Often at tournaments, when they don’t understand your language, when they say something a bit long, which may well just be encouragement, it comes across as something tactical. That’s not good. It means you can’t say anything at all and it creates unnecessary tension on court. That’s the rule I like best in Milan. Ultimately, any coach and player can say something to each other on court.

When you think of Italy, what do you think of?
First, I think of the food, which is amazing. The wallpaper on my phone is Diego Maradona, who was a Napoli legend. Whenever I think of Italy, I remember good and beautiful things. It’s a country I feel comfortable in, I like the language and I would love to learn it. It’s a language that’s very canchero [cool], as we say [in Argentina]. I really enjoy Italy and I also saw some of Rome. I really liked it a lot.

Have you ever been sight-seeing in Italy and if so, what was your favourite place to visit?
A while ago I was able to visit some places with my coach, Sub Gutiérrez. He knows Italy well. He really likes it and he’s an experienced traveler. He’s shown me around, told me stories. ‘This is so and so, that’s something else…’ We didn’t have time, but we went to some places. ‘This is where so and so happened…’ It’s really wonderful and I’m learning from a person who knows about the history of the place because he likes it, because of films, his knowledge and everything. Finding out about the history of all the places you go to is really interesting.

What’s your favourite Italian food?
My favourite dishes are pasta and pizza. But what I’ve really noticed is that any establishment you go to in Italy, whether it’s good or bad, whether they have one customer or 100, the food will be good. More than anything with pasta. It’s something that really surprised me and that I really admire about the Italians.

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Alcaraz: 'Your Rivals Give You Extra Motivation'

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2021

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz will lead the field at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan as he aims to capture the trophy on his debut at the event.

The 18-year-old has flourished under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero this year, clinching his maiden tour-level title in Umag, before he enjoyed a run to his first major quarter-final at the US Open.

The World No. 35, who has earned Top 10 wins against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in 2021, caught up with ahead of competing in Milan.

A lot of the #NextGenATP players have been doing amazing things this year. How much does it motivate you, seeing other young players doing well? Is there anyone in particular who has really impressed you?

I’ve watched previous editions and I know that great players have come here that are now in Turin or are among the best in the world. To me, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will join them there. But it’s a tournament that’s a bonus and an experience that’ll be worth having in the future. I was impressed with Tsitsipas and [Andrey] Rublev, for example. I think their rise was fantastic. Players like that really do grab your attention. At the moment they are among the best in the world and it’s true that they have had the experience of playing in this tournament. But I’m purely focused on my own journey. I know that one tournament isn’t going to change my career

When you were growing up there was Roger, Rafa and Novak, who created great rivalries. As you’re competing with other #NextGenATP players, have you thought about your budding rivalries and playing against them for many years?

Having good rivalries on Tour is something you always dream of. Wanting to be good enough, avoiding defeat, all of this drives you forward. Your rivals give you extra motivation every day to be an increasingly better player. At the end of the season it’s a little harder after a whole year travelling. Having these kinds of tournaments and that rivalry with your peers helps you to stay focused for a long time.

Have you watched the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals before and if so, what were your thoughts?
I’ve watched this tournament on TV and I’ve always loved it. They put on a great show, the lights and the fans create a wonderful atmosphere. The format is also conducive to a lot of excitement. Personally, I like it.

The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals always has many innovations. Were there any that you particularly enjoyed and look forward to using and if so, why?
My favourite rule is the coaching on court. It would be one of the things I would like to keep at tournaments. I think it’s a very interesting initiative. In all sports, both individual and team, there is a coach who can give you advice. It’d be good to see tennis take that step and let coaches form part of the match.

When you think of Italy, what do you think of?
Honestly, the food. The pasta, the pizza… that would be one of the first things that comes to my mind. We are careful about what we eat and after working hard in training and matches, it’s a pleasure to be in a country where the food is so good. Personally, I really enjoy it whenever I come to Italy.

Have you ever been sight-seeing in Italy and if so, what was your favorite place to visit?
I was here a couple of years ago and I was able to visit some places, although I didn’t manage to do too much. If I have some time I’d like to go out and visit something. I’ve heard that Milan has some very interesting places, although I haven’t managed to come as a tourist until now. I’ve been in a few cities on the ATP Challenger Tour, like Florence and Trieste, and I really liked what I was able to see. I hope to have the chance to see Rome properly.

What’s your favourite Italian food?
The pasta and the pizza. They are masters of it here. I have to make the most of it while I’m in the country.

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