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Musetti Downs Gaston In Magical Milan Display

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

With the pressure on, home favourite Lorenzo Musetti delivered Wednesday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals to record his first victory in Milan in front of a raucous crowd.

The Italian showcased a combination of flair and grit, overcoming Hugo Gaston 4-3(4), 4-3(6), 2-4, 3-4(7), 4-2 to keep alive his hopes of qualifying as he moved to 1-1 in Group B.

“It was tough physically as we ran a lot,” Musetti said. “We had some really, really long and great rallies at at the end. I was empty. My hole in my stomach finally went away and I laid down to rest and enjoy the moment.”

In a battle of two of the most talented players on Tour, exquisite shot-making was the order of the day, with drop shots and flicked backhand winners frequent as both players demonstrated great to touch in a high-quality match.

“I am really tired right now because I played really late yesterday,” Musetti said. “I recovered as I had today to rest and prepare for this match. Hugo came back with some really great tennis and he showed this last week in Paris. I took revenge on him because I lost against him in the last round of qualifying. It was a great battle, but I am really proud of this win.”

Musetti lost to Argentine Sebastian Baez on opening night at the Allianz Cloud. But he did not let it deter him against Gaston, recovering from squandering two match points at 6/4 in the fourth-set tie-break as he chased down everything the Frenchman threw at him to advance after two hours and 33 minutes in the longest match in the tournament’s history.

The 19-year-old, who is the youngest of nine Italians in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, reached tour-level semi-finals in Acapulco and Lyon earlier this year and enjoyed a run to the fourth round at Roland Garros.

The World No. 58 will face Group B leader Sebastian Korda in his final round-robin match on Friday as he looks to qualify for the semi-finals. Korda leads the way on two victories, while Baez, like Musetti, holds a 1-1 record. Baez faces Gaston on Thursday.

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Murray Topples Sinner In Stockholm Stunner

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Andy Murray claimed his second Top 10 win of the year in dramatic fashion as he took down top seed Jannik Sinner 7-6(4), 6-3 on Wednesday to move into the Stockholm Open quarter-finals.

The victory over World No. 10 Sinner was Murray’s second win over a Top 10 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, after he also defeated No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz in Vienna.

In a match packed with lengthy all-court rallies and fascinating angles, Murray managed to stave off the only break point he faced to close out Sinner in two hours and 10 minutes.

“It was a very tough match. He hits the ball huge from the back of the court so there were a lot of long rallies and a lot of running. But it’s probably my best win this season. I want to keep it going now,” Murray said in a post-match interview.

Top seed Sinner, who will serve as first alternate after narrowly missing direct qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals, was not able to make many inroads into Murray’s serve as he let a break point slip away in the opening set. Murray outlasted Sinner in a tie-break after 74 minutes, and held firm in the second to take his spot in the quarter-finals.

Murray’s victory wasn’t the only upset of the day in Stockholm. Tommy Paul also knocked off a seed after defeating his good friend and doubles partner, fifth-seeded Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-4. Paul will meet Murray in the quarter-finals for the first time.

US Open quarter-finalist Botic van de Zandschulp also defeated No. 7 Marton Fucsovics, weathering 10 aces from the Hungarian to win 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-5.

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Korda Closes In On Milan SFs

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Sebastian Korda was made to work hard for his opening victory against Hugo Gaston at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. But he found the going slightly easier on Wednesday, overcoming Sebastian Baez to move to 2-0 in Group B in Milan.

The 21-year-old effectively used his flat and powerful groundstrokes to defeat Argentine Baez 4-3(3), 4-2, 4-2 in 75 minutes, moving to the verge of qualification.

Korda, who became just the second player alongside Borna Coric in tournament history to rally from two sets down when he defeated Gaston, will secure his semi-final place if the Frenchman overcomes home favourite Lorenzo Musetti in the last match of the day in Milan.

“I trusted my game and the way I am playing right now and my body,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “Physically I am doing really well, so all things were good today.”

In a tight first set, Korda rallied from 1-3 as he began to find his rhythm to impose his big-hitting game on the Argentine, closing the net more often to cause Baez problems. The American, who dominated the short rallies, remained focused throughout in front of a lively crowd at the Allianz Cloud to secure his victory.

“It was very tricky at the beginning,” Korda said. “I came out with the wrong tactic as he was loving the pace I was giving him. I adapted really well, changed my game up as I started to come to the net more and sliced more. That was a decision I made. I am really happy with the way I played.”

Korda began the year No. 118 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but now is No. 39 after a standout 2021 season. The American clinched his first tour-level title in Parma in May and overcame Alex de Minaur and Daniel Evans en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon in July.

Baez captured his first tour-level hard-court win against Musetti on Tuesday and could qualify for the semi-finals if he beats Gaston in his final round-robin match. The World No. 111 was in constant contact with his coach during his clash against Korda, with courtside coaching allowed at the 21-and-under event. But he could not find a way to stop the second seed.

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Gaston Relishing Future Rivalries With Milan Competitors

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Fresh off his quarter-final run at the Rolex Paris Masters, Frenchman Hugo Gaston is competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan this week following a breakthrough 2021 season.

The 21-year-old advanced to his first tour-level final at the Swiss Open Gstaad and arrives in Italy in form, after defeating Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and fellow Milan rival Carlos Alcaraz en route to the last eight in Paris. caught up with the World No. 67 at the 21-and-under event.

A lot of the #NextGenATP players have been doing amazing things this year. How much does it motivate you, seeing the other young players doing well? Is there anyone in particular who has really impressed you?
For me to be here at the [Intesa Sanpaolo] Next Gen ATP Finals is great. It is always good to play against the best younger players in the world. It is an honour to be in the top eight and it is going to be a great week for us.

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?
I hope we can have the same rivalries with the players that Novak, Rafa and Roger had. The Next Gen players had a lot of good results this year and next year we are going to play each other more than this year, so it is going to be a whole different level.

Have you watched the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals before and if so what were your thoughts?
I saw it two years ago. It is a different event. The rules are totally different, but it is also good. It is really fun and I think it is going to be really nice where we are playing with great support.

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?
I am looking forward to speaking to my coach on court and when we can see the stats of our opponents. I think it is something different, but it is going to be cool and helpful.

When you think of Italy, what do you think of?
I have never been in Milan, but I played in Rome and it is always nice to play in Italy. I like to play in this country, I feel good here and I hope I can play well in Milan. The crowd in Italy is nice to play in front of. I am lucky to be in the same group as Lorenzo [Musetti]. It is going to be a great atmosphere for sure.

What’s your favourite Italian food?
In Italy the pizza is pretty good and the tiramisu. I just love the tiramisu! The food in Italy is really good.

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The Service Edge: Isner Breaks Down The Turin Contenders

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Having hit more than 13,000 aces in 15 seasons as a pro, it’s safe to say that John Isner knows a thing or two about serving.

While service performance is often overlooked, when you witness the all-round games of the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Isner believes it may be a key factor at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

Speaking to, the 6’10” American, who qualified for the season finale in 2018, analyses the service prowess of some performers at the 14-21 November event.

Novak Djokovic (2021 Infosys ATP Stats: 420 aces, 76% first-service points won)
The Serbian superstar, who overcame early service issues in his career, returned to his old motion after he recovered from a right elbow injury in 2017. With the help of Goran Ivanisevic in recent years, Djokovic has made it a consistent weapon. So far in 2021, the World No. 1 has compiled a 48-6 match record and lifted five trophies 

“He’s actually someone who’s definitely improved his serve as his career has gone on,” says Isner. “He’s also someone who got to World No. 1 and is always trying to get better. In the case of the past few years, he’s tried to improve his serve. Hiring Goran Ivanisevic is a big part of that. He has improved his serve. We saw at the Australian Open him holding serve with relative ease right throughout that tournament.

“Of course, when you hold serve like that and everything else in your game is the best in the world, you’re going to win a lot of matches. His serve has certainly improved. He’s probably serving better now than he ever has. He has a lot more confidence to go for big second serves and he’s winning a lot more free points on his serve. Not that he really needs to. But he does play a lot of gruelling rallies, so occasionally gets a free point here or there. It definitely helps him out a little bit.”

Daniil Medvedev (599 aces, 78% first-service points won)
Over the past four years under the guidance of coach Gilles Cervara, the Russian has increased his ace count and winning percentage on first serve. This year, the 25-year-old has a 54-12 match record and four titles.

Isner says, “The thing that gets lost with a lot of these guys that are No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the world is their serves aren’t really looked at as their weapons because everything else in their game is so solid. It’s kind of like these guys have no weaknesses so people like to focus a lot on Djokovic’s speed and Medvedev’s speed and their backhands. Rightfully so, but at the same time they serve exceptionally well and the stats back that up also.

“So Medvedev is a tall guy, he goes after a serve. He goes after a lot of big second serves, so he’s got a lot of confidence with that shot. I think that’s one thing we’ve seen him improve also over the last few years.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas (475 aces, 76% first-service points won)
After suffering a leg injury in the latter part of the 2020 season, Tsitsipas refined his serve and has compiled 50+ match wins for the second time in three years.

“Lately, this year, from what I’ve seen, he’s serving a lot higher percentage first serve,” says Isner. “His serve’s a little bit different. He’s a guy that his toss gets behind him a little bit. I don’t necessarily like that, but he’s made it work because he serves incredibly well. I think his first-serve percentage has improved a lot this year.

“I think when I’ve played him in years past, three, four years ago, it was rarely over 60 per cent. We’ve seen a lot of times his serve being over 60 per cent and sometimes even 70 per cent first serve. Again, he’s another guy who has so much game apart from his serve, that’s it’s something you don’t really think about. He’s another guy who’s improved his serve.”

Alexander Zverev (688 aces, 77% first-service points won)
The German says, “My serve is the key to my game [and] when it’s working, I’m playing great.” In 2021, Zverev has collected five tour-level titles and won 28 of his past 31 matches heading into the Nitto ATP Finals.

Isner says, “It’s all a confidence thing. A lot of it is very, very mental. In my opinion he’s got a very pure motion, but we have seen him double fault a lot in the past and he’s taken a lot of heat for that. But right now, he doesn’t seem to be doing that at all. I’ve played him where he’s not thinking about his second serve at all. Of course, he’s going after his first serve. When he’s doing that he’s one of the toughest players in the world.

“We saw that in Vienna. He didn’t have any matches where he was throwing in 10 or more double faults. If he can keep that at bay he’s going to be incredibly tough to beat. His first serve is massive. He’s a big guy and he really goes after it. He’s got a nice motion. I played him at the Laver Cup and I think he served over 70 per cent. I’ve seen him play a lot of big matches in the past. He played in a lot of these [ATP] Masters 1000 runs he’s been on, he’s serving consistently at over 70 per cent first serve and if he does that, there’s maybe one or two players that could possibly beat him – Djokovic, maybe Medvedev. When he’s confident on his serve, everything else behind it is so solid. He’s very tough. He showed that in Vienna.”

Andrey Rublev (489 aces, 76% first-service points won)
The Russian, one of the hardest hitters off the ground, broke into the Top 5 for the first time in September and is close to compiling 50 wins in 2021.

“His serve is not one that is as big as those other guys, but he definitely has a good first serve,” says Isner. “It’s not a weak first serve by any means, but his first serve is one that it could get him on the front foot just a little bit, and that’s all he needs because he’s one of the best and most aggressive baseliners we have in the world.

“He can hit his spots on his serves, but he’s not going to serve 130mph. He might get it 125 [mph], but all he needs is to be on the offence just a little bit. He always seizes that opportunity to go on his front foot and go after the ball, [and] really go after his groundstrokes. It’s something over the years that I’ve seen him do on the practice court. He never, ever relents on a single groundstroke and it’s certainly paying off.”

Matteo Berrettini (609 aces, 79% first-service points won)
The Italian, one of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour, won two ATP Tour titles and reached the Wimbledon final this season to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

Isner says, “He’s a guy, of all the players who have qualified, where the first thing you talk about is his serve. Berrettini has an incredible first serve, one of the top five first serves in the game, I think. He holds serve with a lot of ease. I wouldn’t say his groundstrokes are as good as some of the other players. He makes up for that with that incredible serve.

“We also know how big of a forehand he has on top of that. He really goes after it. He’s got a live arm. I like his motion. Just one of those guys. The ball goes up and he just pops it. He’s just got this super live arm that some people are blessed with. He’s got the ability to hit a serve in the high 130s [mph]. It’s a huge weapon.”

Two other qualifiers, who will compete at the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time this year, have also impressed. Norway’s Casper Ruud has won 74 per cent of his first-service points in 2021 and struck 310 aces, earning him five ATP Tour titles and a 53-15 match record, while Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz has fired 553 aces in 56 matches this year.

Editor’s note: spoke with Isner before Ruud and Hurkacz had qualified for Turin.

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Alcaraz Secures SF Berth In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz became the first player to book their semi-final spot at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing American Brandon Nakashima 4-3(4), 4-1, 4-3(4) in Milan on Wednesday.

The Spaniard backed up his straight-sets victory over Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune with an impressive attacking performance against Nakashima. Alcaraz won 88 per cent (29/33) of his first-serve points and demonstrated his determination, finding his best level in both tie-breaks to advance after 86 minutes.

“I am really happy with the level I am playing at,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I am so happy. I hope to play the semi-final at this level. The serve is very important on hard court and indoor courts. I am trying to improve the serve for my game.”

In a high-quality match, both players struck the ball with great depth as they looked to dictate from the baseline. However, Alcaraz was the more aggressive of the two and lifted the roof off the Allianz Cloud in the second set when at 3-0, 0/15 up, he stretched every inch of his frame to stay alive in a point from deep behind the baseline, before scrambling to the net to flick the ball beyond Nakashima.

“Playing against a great player like Brandon, you play amazing points like we have played,” Alcaraz said. “We are looking for those points for the crowd as well!”

With his victory, the 18-year-old now holds a 2-0 record in Group A and moves to 1-0 in his ATPHead2Head series against Nakashima. Alcaraz – who was in regular contact with coach Juan Carlos Ferrero throughout against Nakashima due to the courtside coaching rule in place in Milan – will face Juan Manuel Cerundolo in his final round-robin match.

Earlier this season, Alcaraz clinched an ATP Challenger Tour title in Oeiras, before he won his maiden tour-level crown in Umag. The World No. 32 will be bidding to add to his growing trophy collection later this week in Milan.

Following Rune’s four-set victory against Cerundolo earlier on Wednesday, the Dane will play Nakashima for the second semi-final place in Group A. The American also overcame Cerundolo this week, meaning like Rune, he holds a 1-1 record.

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Shapovalov Starts Stockholm Title Defense With A Bang

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Defending champion Denis Shapovalov improved his record at the Stockholm Open to 6-1 after fighting past qualifier Andrea Vavassori to reach the quarter-finals on Wednesday. 

The third-seeded Canadian arrived in the Swedish capital looking to capture his second ATP Tour title of his career. He took a big step in the right direction as he broke Vavassori’s serve three times en route to a hard-fought 7-6(1), 6-1 victory. 

“I think he played really, really well in the first set. It’s never easy to start a tournament, but it felt amazing to be back here,” Shapovalov said in an on-court interview, recalling his run to his first ATP Tour title in 2019.

“I remember playing a lot of good tennis. It was an amazing week, and honestly Stockholm is a  very special place for me where I won my first title. I always love coming back here.”  

The World No. 18 was locked into a tight first set against Vavassori, who was making his ATP main draw debut in Stockholm. The tension grew as Vavassori finally recovered from going down a break of serve in the first game, levelling the score at 5-5. Shapovalov raised his level in the tie-break, allowing the Italian just one more point as he took the set. The third seed maintained it in the second set, breaking serve twice more to seal the battle between lefties.

Shapovalov will next face Arthur Rinderknech, who won 6-4, 6-1 against lucky loser Jozef Kovalik. It will be their first meeting. 

Eighth seed Frances Tiafoe is also through to the quarter-finals at the ATP 250 event, after edging past Spain’s Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-4. He’ll meet fourth seed Daniel Evans next, after the Brit took down Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6(5), 6-2. The pair have a 2-2 record in their ATPHead2Head, with both players owning one win apiece on indoor hard-courts – Tiafoe in Basel in 2019, and Evans in Antwerp last year.

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Rune Keeps SF Hopes Alive

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune kept his semi-final hopes alive Wednesday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, moving past Juan Manuel Cerundolo 4-1, 4-2, 1-4, 4-1 to record his first win in Group A.

The Dane lost to Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in his opening round-robin match in Milan, but bounced back against the Argentine as he imposed his aggressive baseline game on Cerundolo in their first ATP Head2Head meeting to secure victory after 78 minutes.

“I am very pleased,” Rune said in his on-court interview. “Yesterday was not easy because Carlos [Alcaraz] played very well and it was a high level. It is never easy when you play well and lose the first two sets. I learned a lot and took all the good things and experience into the match today. I played aggressively and came into the net, so I was really pleased.”

The World No. 109 used the energy from the vocal crowd that were inside the Allianz Cloud to play with great intensity from the start as he marched 3-0 ahead in the first set. And from there, Rune never looked back, thumping forehands and crushing backhands as he continued to successfully adjust to the first-to-4, best-of-5 set format.

“In the third set I lost focus totally on my service games,” Rune said. “I was close to breaking him at 1-1 and I played to passive, and after that I struggled mentally. Then I tried to regroup as fast as possible and tried to play similar to the first two sets. I found a way and it is good to have a victory before tomorrow.”

Rune, who is making his debut at the 21-and-under event, now holds a 1-1 record in Group A and will play American Brandon Nakshima in his final round-robin match.

The 18-year-old has risen from No. 474 in the FedEx ATP Rankings at the start the year to a current career-high No. 109, after he captured his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title in Bergamo last week. Rune also took a set off World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the US Open and reached quarter-finals in Santiago and Metz.

Cerundolo, who clinched his maiden tour-level trophy on home soil in Cordoba in February, is now 0-2 in Group A action. The World No. 91 will face top-seeded Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in his final match. Alcaraz will secure his semi-final spot if he defeats Nakashima later on Wednesday.

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Day 2 Preview: Korda, Alcaraz Chase Milan Semi-Final Berths

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2021

The first winners of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for 2021 are set to square off on Day 2 as Sebastian Korda, Carlos Alcaraz, Brandon Nakashima and Sebastian Baez each have a shot at securing a semi-final berth in Milan with a win.

For the second day in a row, Korda will open the night session when he meets fellow Group B winner from Day 1, Baez. The pair has never met and at No. 39, Korda sits 72 places higher than his Argentine opponent in the in the FedEx ATP Rankings, following a season in which he won his maiden tour-level title in Parma and made the fourth round at Wimbledon.

The 21-year-old American surged back from two sets down and saved a match point against in-form fellow debutant Hugo Gaston on Day 1. Korda saw off the Frenchman 3-4(2), 3-4(6), 4-0, 4-3(3), 4-0 in two hours and three minutes.

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

The 20-year-old Baez – with five ATP Challenger Tour titles on clay in 2021 – sprung the upset against home favourite and World No. 58, Lorenzo Musetti, 4-1, 4-1, 3-4(5), 4-3(5) in 99 minutes. It was the World No. 111’s first tour-level match on hard court.

The two winners from Group A on Day 1, Alcaraz and Nakashima, will do battle in the second afternoon match. World No. 32 Alcaraz lived up to his billing as top seed with a convincing 4-3(6), 4-2, 4-0 victory over Denmark’s Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune to kickstart his Milan campaign.

Full Day 2 Schedule For Milan

The World No. 32 started the season at No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but has soared after a year that included his first tour-level title in Umag and a win over World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open. The 18-year-old has never faced World No. 63 Nakashima.

“To do many different things on court is very important,” Alcaraz said after his win against Rune. “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.”

The 20-year-old Nakashima opened his account with a 4-1, 3-4(3), 4-1, 4-0 win against Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo for a 10th win from his past 11 matches at all levels. The American arrived in Milan in form, having landed his second ATP Challenger Tour title of the season in Brest in October.

In another first ATP Head2Head meeting, Cerundolo will meet Rune with both aiming for their first win of the group stage. The World No. 91 is only 18 places higher in the FedEx ATP Rankings than his opponent and arrives after a breakout season in which he captured his first tour-level title on home soil in Cordoba as a qualifier.

Rune qualified for his maiden Grand Slam singles main draw at the US Open, where he took a set off World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the opening round on Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the second night session match, Italian Musetti bids for his first win of the event before his home fans when he meets Gaston.

The World No. 58 reached tour-level semi-finals in Acapulco and Lyon, and the fourth round at Roland Garros earlier in the year, while the Frenchman jumped 36 places in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday, following his run to a maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Singles Group A qualification scenarios after the completion of the 1st round of the event’s group stage:

Carlos Alcaraz qualifies on Wednesday if:
– Alcaraz defeats Nakashima in 3 sets.
– Alcaraz defeats Nakashima and Rune defeats Cerundolo.
– Alcaraz defeats Nakashima in 4 sets and Cerundolo defeats Rune in 5 sets.

Brandon Nakashima qualifies on Wednesday if:
– Nakashima defeats Alcaraz and Cerundolo defeats Rune.
– Nakashima defeats Alcaraz in 3 sets and Rune defeats Cerundolo in 5 sets.

Singles Group B qualification scenarios after the completion of the 1st round of the event’s group stage:

Sebastian Korda qualifies on Wednesday if:
– Korda defeats Baez and Gaston defeats Musetti.

Sebastian Baez qualifies on Wednesday if:
– Baez defeats Korda in 3 sets.
– Baez defeats Korda and Musetti defeats Gaston.

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