Andy Murray is knocked out in the second round of the Rotterdam Open by world number nine Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Andy Murray is knocked out in the second round of the Rotterdam Open by world number nine Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime continued his title charge at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament on Thursday with a statement win over former World No. 1 Andy Murray.
The Canadian, who reached the final in Rotterdam in 2020, overcame the Scottish wild card 6-3, 6-4 in a dominant performance to advance into the quarter-finals after one hour and 37 minutes.
“From the start of the match I was ready and focused and I think that is why I was able to produce a high level from the first point,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “He made me bring out my best tennis and I am really happy with the way I played and that I was able to stay ahead. [To] win in straight sets is a great relief.”
Auger-Aliassime is making his fourth appearance at the ATP 500 event and arrived in Rotterdam off the back of a personal-best run to the last eight at the Australian Open, where he lost to finalist Daniil Medvedev.[FOLLOW ACTION]
The 21-year-old played with confidence throughout against Murray, stepping inside the baseline as he pulled the 34-year-old from corner to corner with his heavy hitting to improve to 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series.
In an entertaining match, Auger-Aliassime flew out of the blocks, roaring into a 4-0 lead as Murray struggled to deal with the World No. 9’s consistent power and accuracy. After clinching the first set, breaks were exchanged at the start of the second set, before the Canadian gained further control by breaking again in the fifth game as he demonstrated great footwork to dictate with his forehand. The third seed then sealed his win with a forehand volley.
The eight-time tour-level finalist is now 9-3 on the season after he helped guide Canada to the ATP Cup title in January. Auger-Aliassime will next face sixth seed Cameron Norrie.
Murray lifted the trophy in Rotterdam in 2009 and was aiming to record his third consecutive Top 10 win, having defeated Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner in Vienna and Stockholm respectively last year.
Fabio Fognini reached the quarter-finals at a tour-level event for the first time since April on Thursday, overcoming Pedro Martinez 6-4, 7-6(5) at the Argentina Open.
The Italian advanced to the final at the ATP 250 event in 2014 and set the wheels in motion for another deep run this week against the Spaniard.[FOLLOW ACTION]
The fourth seed struck the ball with great depth as he outmanoeuvred Martinez with his heavy topspin groundstrokes to advance after two hours and five minutes.
In a hard-fought match, Fognini rallied from a break down in the first set and recovered from squandering a match point on Martinez’s serve at 4-5, 30/40 in the second set to eventually triumph in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
Fognini is making his 13th appearance in Buenos Aires and will next face the 36-year-old Pablo Andujar or sixth-seeded Argentine Federico Delbonis. The last time Fognini reached the quarter-finals at a tour-level event was also on clay at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 10 months ago.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was in no mood to hang around in Rotterdam on Thursday.
The top-seeded Greek sent out a clear statement to the rest of the field with an all-round display to beat Belarusian Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-1 in one hour, 11 minutes in the second round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament.
Tsitsipas was particularly pleased with the level he reached when dominating the second set. “It’s a certain flow that you have to enter and it’s not easy to achieve that,” he said after the match. “With persistence and trying to get in the zone with your mind, these are some of the things that help you get to a really high level of intensity and play.
“Today I had opportunities from the beginning of the match, a few break points here or there, but I stayed calm, and I knew that if I continued with that kind of pace a few more opportunities were going to present themselves. They eventually did and I handled them better.”
It was Tsitsipas’ first meeting with Belarusian Ivashka, who enjoyed a stellar 2021 season during which he reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 43 and claimed his first ATP Tour title in Winston-Salem.
He came up against an opponent in an unforgiving mood in the form of Tsitsipas, however. The Greek reached the semi-finals in Rotterdam in 2021 (l. to Rublev) and his second-round display indicates he feels he has unfinished business at the ATP 500 event.[FOLLOW ACTION]
Ivashka was under pressure from the start, Tsitsipas maintaining high levels of aggression to force five break points in the opening set. He was made to wait to convert one as the Belarusian showed some of the battling qualities that earned him 31 match wins in 2021 to stick with the Greek.
The constant struggle finally became too much in the tenth game as some loose groundstrokes from the World No. 48 handed Tsitsipas the game he needed to take the set.
The Greek was clinical throughout, finishing with 21 winners including nine aces as he overpowered his lower-ranked opponent. He roared into a 5-0 lead in the second set as Ivashka had no answer to the Greek’s brutal hitting.
Tsitsipas attributed his comfortable victory to a positive mentality right from the start of rallies. “[I played a] good first ball, really aggressive and I was able to stay close to the line, apply a lot of pressure from the very first balls that came to me,” said the Greek.
Tsitsipas’ quarter-final opponent will be Alex de Minaur, who defeated Mackenzie McDonald in his second-round match on Wednesday. The Greek will be looking to extend a 6-0 ATP Head2Head lead over the Australian.
“He [de Minaur] has a lot of intensity in his game, moves really well, so that is going to be the ultimate challenge against him,” said Tsitsipas. “[I will try] to put a lot of intensity from my side and approach this [match] with patience as well.”
Reigning champion Andrey Rublev continued his love affair with the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament Thursday, moving past Soonwoo Kwon 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals in Rotterdam.
The Russian, who has now won his past seven matches at the ATP 500 event, looked in control against Kwon as he crushed forehands and hammered backhands in a brutal ball-striking display to advance after 79 minutes.
“The first set was a high level with long, high intensity rallies,” Rublev said in his on-court interview. “My heart was beating fast. I am happy I was able to win the match in straight sets. He likes to play from the baseline and from the first point we had long rallies. You quickly realise it is going to be a tough match and that you are going to need to run a lot.”[FOLLOW ACTION]
The second seed arrived in Rotterdam aiming to build momentum following his disappointing third-round defeat against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open in January. Rublev, who fired 17 winners against Kwon, has yet to drop a set at the indoor-hard tournament this week.
With his victory, the 24-year-old now leads Kwon 1-0 in their ATP Head2Head series and will next play World No. 38 Marton Fucsovics or Dutch wild card Tallon Griekspoor.
Nur-Sultan champion Kwon was aiming to reach the quarter-finals at an ATP 500 event for just the second time, having advanced to the last eight in Acapulco in 2020.
Earlier, Czech qualifier Jiri Lehecka continued his dream run by defeating Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 after one hour and 59 minutes.
The World No. 137 earned his maiden tour-level win over World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov in the first round and backed this up against van de Zandschulp, firing four aces to triumph in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. Lehecka will play #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the quarter-finals.
“I tried to play my best and as we saw in the second and third sets, it was good,” Lehecka said in his on-court interview. “In the first set, they were many bad choices from my side and my serve didn’t work well. In the second set I focused on improving my serve and first few shots after the serve and return. It was a pretty good match and I am happy with the win.”
Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas has won six ATP Tour titles in his career, but one stands out above the rest. The 36-year-old won three straight titles in Sao Paolo from 2015-17, but it was another Brazilian triumph—in Rio de Janeiro in 2016—that proved most memorable.
“Winning that tournament was the most beautiful title that I won,” he reflected. “Winning a tournament—and that one in particular, in the way I did it and with the opponents that I faced—it gives you a sense of power. You feel almost invincible.”
After losing to Rafael Nadal in a three-set semi-final at the 2015 Rio Open presented by Claro, Cuevas again met the Spaniard for a semi on the red clay the following year. In the rematch, the Uruguayan pulled out a 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4 win that finished close to 1 a.m after nearly three-and-a-half hours.
“To face Rafa on a clay court is without doubt one of the greatest challenges that exists in tennis,” Cuevas, who was ranked World No. 45 at the time, said in a Spanish-language interview as he reflected on the match.
After forcing a deciding set, he got the crucial break at 3-all in the third and was able to close from there—but not without a healthy dose of nerves.
“When I got the break in the third set, I started to think that I had a real chance to win the match… You start to forget about tactics and strategy. You think more about [winning], and you forget a little about the ‘how’. That’s what makes you feel tenser.
“At match point I remember I thought: ‘Should I just play it in, the first serve, or should I go for everything.’ And I said, ‘If I’m aggressive, I’ll have less [regrets].’ And I went for an ace. I think I did an ace.”
He did indeed close it out with an ace—his 10th of the match—putting him through to the final against Guido Pella of Argentina.
“It had been my best victory by far and the next day I had to put the finishing touches on that week. I felt that to complete this and to make sure this win wasn’t forgotten, I had to win the tournament. So I was enjoying this great triumph, but at the same time I still had a match to win.”
Cuevas went on to finish the job, beating Pella, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4, for his fourth ATP Tour title and the first of two in 2016.
It was a title he envisioned himself winning before the event even started, thanks to a chance encounter with David Ferrer on the plane from a previous tournament Buenos Aires, where the Spaniard beat him in three sets.
“We were on the same flight and we were seated together, and I remember some of the things that David told me,” Cuevas recalled. “Somehow he summed up the things that I did great and that forced him to bring out his best potential [to beat me]. Even though I was playing well, that was an even bigger confidence booster. It isn’t usual on the Tour that a rival tells you these kind of things, let alone a player like David.”
In August of that season, Cuevas reached a career-high ATP Ranking of World No. 19.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the image of Juan Martin del Potro’s headband hanging on the net is perhaps worth a million.
It may have marked the retirement of the Argentine legend, which came after floods of tears, a knot in his stomach and an astonishing match that was undercut by a unique atmosphere and proved difficult to play since it represented so much more than a mere sporting confrontation.
It was an emotional rollercoaster of a day for Delpo and his hordes of followers. At 8:22 p.m. on a warm night at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club, del Potro stepped out onto a Guillermo Vilas Centre Court that was packed with over 5,000 spectators.
After 965 days away from the sport, the 33-year-old Argentine was back on court, back in front of his people. No fewer than 16 years had passed since his debut in this tournament, when he lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero as a 17-year-old world No. 155.
The two most intense moments of the day came at the beginning and end of the match. First, when the stadium announcer introduced del Potro, the man from Tandil came out to a standing ovation that seemed as if it would never end. Dressed in black with white head and wrist bands, the 2009 US Open champion was given a welcome he will surely never forget.
The second came at the end of the clash, when del Potro fought to hold back the tears. He took the microphone and managed to utter: “I think I overdid it for two and half years to try and resolve the situation and be able to play, like I did so many other times. Sometimes, I too can lose and I don’t have the strength to continue. That’s kind of how I feel now,” he said.
“Today is a day I’ll remember for my whole life… I’m still yet to find a place where I feel happier than on a tennis court and now I want to be happy,” he explained, trying to make himself heard over the continuous ovation. What he said next hit harder: “I gave everything I could until the last point. I’ll always remember this day, but I feel like I have my whole life ahead of me and I can walk away in peace.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
It was a special day for del Petro. He decided to arrive at the club at 4:45 p.m. and went out for a knock up on Court No. 12. His sparring partner was Ecuadorian left-handed doubles player Gonzalo Escobar, who would attempt to emulate Delbonis. Children, adults, whole families even, jostled for a close-up glimpse of their hero through the bushes and fencing.
In fact, several hours earlier Buenos Aires was replete with banners that read ‘So great to see you again, thank you Delpo!”
The sentiment was even stronger in the immediate vicinity of the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club, where a crowd began to grow early in the day. Seeing del Potro was the only goal and the sole reason for the presence of thousands of fans on Tuesday.[FOLLOW ACTION]
Even before the doors opened for the night session (for which tickets sold out over a week ago), the queue to join the party stretched for over one kilometre.
Perhaps the most important member of the crowd was his mother Patricia, who had never watched her son in a professional tournament. She was finally able to do so in the front row in the company of his sister Julieta. Although the match was not going as she would have hoped, far from it, a smile was never far from her face. In the context, the result was unimportant.
“When it was over, I was able to give mum a hug that I’ll always remember. We’re not used to that being public, but it was really wonderful,” explained an emotional delpo before also speaking of his father Daniel, who passed away in 2021.
There were also a number of del Potro’s childhood friends in the throng who had come by car from Tandil to cheer on ‘Palito’ (‘Stick’), which they have called him since they were 13 or 14 because of his skinny frame.
Those same fourteen friends were with him in New York in 2018 when he reached the US Open final; they are his old classmates, who call themselves “The Salamín Squad” after their city’s traditional salami. They were ready to enjoy themselves, and to endure anything the match might throw at them.
Accompanied by snare drums, they could be heard chanting for their man, not only after every one of the Argentine’s winning forehands, but also to lift him when things were not going his way.
The players’ box was packed to the brim too as nobody wanted to miss a moment of del Potro’s comeback. Argentine players Guillermo Coria, Gabriela Sabatini and the majority of those who have shared this week with the man of the moment tagged in and out of their places so that they all had the opportunity to “watch Delpo for a while,” as one of them explained.
Del Potro may have lost a match, “probably” the last of his career, but his legacy and unique bond with his fans will live on forever. Tuesday night was one final gift in an always-astonishing, fairy-tale career.
John Isner expected a tight battle in his opening match at his hometown Dallas Open on Wednesday against Kevin Anderson. That is exactly what the American got.
But despite letting slip an opportunity to close out the match in straight sets, Isner triumphed 7-6(1), 6-7(7), 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals at the Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex.
“It was a good atmosphere for sure and very happy to win that match, especially when I truthfully kind of choked in the second set. Just great to win and I knew it was going to be a coinflip match,” Isner said. “I told my friends, ‘This is a coinflip, this is what it is.’ I haven’t played much, he had a match under his belt. It just was going to be tough the whole way, so hopefully I can build on this.”
Isner had match point on his serve in the second-set tie-break, but hit a double fault (his third and final one of the clash). But the home favourite, who trains at this facility when he is home in Dallas, fought until the end in front of a raucous crowd.[FOLLOW ACTION]
The third seed, who lives within walking distance of the venue, let out a massive roar after delivering a booming serve out wide to complete his victory. Isner hit 30 aces, won 89 per cent of his first-serve points and did not face a break point.
Next up for Isner will be one of two qualifiers. Canadian Vasek Pospisil will face Austrian Jurij Rodionov to earn a chance at taking down the American.
In other action, seventh seed Marcos Giron rallied from a set and a break down to eliminate British qualifier Liam Broady 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 after one hour and 40 minutes. Giron will play top seed Taylor Fritz or another countryman, wild card Jack Sock, in the last eight.
Australian Jordan Thompson also reached the quarter-finals with a 7-5, 7-6(1) win against eighth seed Brandon Nakashima.
In first-round action, fifth seed Adrian Mannarino battled through a final-set tie-break. The Frenchman clawed past American Steve Johnson 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-6(2) and will play Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka.
Jenson Brooksby did not take much time during the offseason to reflect on his 2021 success. The ATP Newcomer of the Year briefly discussed it with his family at home in December, but he is not one to rest on his laurels.
“In tennis you have to focus on the next moment because at the end of the day, this year is a new year,” Brooksby told ATPTour.com. “You have to prove yourself and keep getting better. There are things in the moment that I do enjoy, but you have to keep your focus on.”
The American missed the Australian swing due to a positive Covid-19 test, which prevented him from travelling Down Under. After competing in an ATP Challenger Tour event in Columbus, he is playing his first tour-level event of the year this week at the Dallas Open.
“I’m really excited. Even my couple months of offseason after Paris, I was coming back from an ab injury and then I had some other things going on, so I only really got three to four days of full training when I was feeling good on court, which is not ideal,” Brooksby said. “Then Covid hit right before Australia and I was also sick [with something else] during Columbus, so that wasn’t nice.
“But since Columbus, the past week of training here, I’ve gotten more hours, better tennis training, which I’ve wanted. I’m hoping and working to stay healthy and excited to see how I can improve this year.”
If there is one word that describes Brooksby, it is focussed. The American is a maximiser who puts everything he can into every practice, training session and match. Besides staying healthy, which he said is his number one priority, the 21-year-old aims to boost his physicality on the court.
One match that stuck out to Brooksby last year was at the US Open against Novak Djokovic. The home favourite battled through three tough matches and in the Round of 16 took the opening set from World No. 1 Djokovic 6-1 before the Serbian rallied behind unrelenting physical play.
“That’s why all these things — the process — are so important, because they can all make a big difference to last even longer. That’s how I feel I’ll get the most confidence with myself. If I’m doing everything I think I can to get through longer and not have the body affect me later on in matches and not allow me to play how I want to play [that will help my confidence], because it’s disappointing,” Brooksby said. “I want to win tournaments and at least I had the opportunity last year to see what it takes.
“There’s no tougher feeling than losing that way for me. I think it’s key that I’ve learned well, will continue to learn and do the things that will hopefully help me win titles and get through those weeks body-wise.”[FOLLOW ACTION]
Brooksby added that there is always something to improve on.
“[It is about] just really being physical in my playing and learning new things in the game, too. But also [it is] getting my mind to really just focus on a few things on court and compete, not overthink, which is what I do well,” Brooksby said. “Sometimes it can be easy to get out of it. I think those few areas, at least right now, are what I’m hoping to improve on.”
The World No. 54 reached his first ATP Tour final last year in Newport, made the semi-finals in Washington, D.C., and ascended from outside the world’s Top 300 to the fringe of the Top 50. Although he appreciates all the positive feedback he has gotten following his breakthrough season, he is locked in on performing even better.
“I can’t be a fan of it. That’s the tough part back home,” Brooksby said. “I’m happy that everyone is proud of me, but it’s my job.
“I think it does take a lot of discipline to not look things up or be distracted by other things, but I’ve done it enough lately where it’s become simpler for me and I’m sure that’ll be the case as I keep doing that. All that matters for me at least is how I’m focussed on my process and how I’m getting better.”
Casper Ruud made a successful return to action on Wednesday following an ankle injury that forced his late withdrawal from the Australian Open. Playing his first match since the ATP Cup, the 23-year-old Norwegian defeated Roberto Carballes Baena, 7-6(2), 6-3, in Buenos Aires.
Ruud won his first ATP title as the eighth seed at the 2020 Argentina Open, and enters this year as the World No. 8. The top seed extended his perfect record to 6-0 at the event with the win over Carballes Baena.
“It was a good start. First time playing on clay in six months, so everything is a bit new again,” he said post-match. “Of course I prefer to play on clay, but it takes some time to get used to the court and playing points.”
Now with six ATP titles to his name, including five in 2021, Ruud is attempting to back up his maiden trophy. (He did not play the 2021 event, won by Diego Schwartzman, the second seed this year.)
“I feel, obviously, very good in Buenos Aires. I was a bit nervous coming back because it’s the first time I have to defend a title,” he said, before thanking the fans for their support.
“Everything is a bit different since two years ago. When I won here it was a surprise. I was young.”
Ruud will face Federico Coria in the quarter-finals, after the Argentine scored a comeback 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over fifth seed Dusan Lajovic. Coria trailed 3-5 in the second set, but stormed back to win the final four games of the set in front of his home fans.
In the decisive set, he used a run of 12 straight points to turn a 0-1 hole into a 3-1 lead from which he never looked back. The match featured nine breaks of serve, with five for Coria.
“I know Federico well,” Ruud said, previewing their Friday quarter-final—a rematch of the 2021 Swedish Open final, won by the Norwegian. “Last year we played in Bastad, so it was my home court, and now we’re playing here in Buenos Aires, so it’s his home. It will be tough for me, and I hope I can play a good match and of course feel again the good energy from the stadium.”
Fernando Verdasco was also a come-from-behind winner against Thiago Monteiro, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. The unseeded Spaniard will face the winner of Wednesday’s nightcap between third seed Lorenzo Sonego and Argentina’s Sebastian Baez.