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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Holger Rune

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Holger Rune

19-year-old will break Top 50 in ATP Rankings for first time on Monday

Holger Rune’s rapid rise hit new levels this week, as the #NextGenATP Dane clinched a maiden ATP Tour crown at the BMW Open by American Express in Munich.

The World No. 70 only broke the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings in January, but he looked more than comfortable on the big stage as he took the title in Germany without dropping a set all week after Botic van de Zandschulp retired in the first set of Sunday’s championship match.

The Dane’s impressive march to the final included taking out top seed Alexander Zverev for a maiden Top 10 win and a blistering 6-0, 6-2 quarter-final victory over Emil Ruusuvuori on Friday, Rune’s 19th birthday. sat down with Rune after his breakthrough run in Munich to find out more about his life on Tour, on and off the court.

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What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It means a lot. It was my ultimate goal for this year to be able to win my first ATP 250 title. It happened today and I’m super happy about that and excited about the future. This can only bring good things out of me and I’m going to stay working hard and just try to achieve more things.

How did you start playing tennis? What are some of your early memories playing the sport?
I started playing when I was six years old, and it was with my sister. That’s the first memory I have, playing with my sister in the club. We played with the soft balls, mini-tennis, and we had a lot of good fights together, tie-breaks and stuff. She was obviously better than me because she’s four years older, but she kept pushing me and I got better and better.

What do you consider to be your biggest passions outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about those interests?
I like sports in general, like football and basketball. Honestly, I’m pretty lazy, so I like to watch a good movie and watch some Netflix.

This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory? You’re not playing next week, that’s well planned!
It’s really nice. It’s always so nice when you win a tournament to not play the next week. I’m going to see my family and I’m so excited for it. These are the ones who are always with me and I appreciate that so much.

We didn’t plan anything yet, but for sure we will celebrate all together, with my coach, my mum, everybody, so it’s huge.

You are such an energetic presence on the court. How would you describe yourself off the court?
I’m very relaxed actually, very down-to-earth. I try to be like this all the time because mainly I’m just happy and I’m doing what I love. I love playing tennis, I love travelling, and this is what I’m doing. I’m actually living my dream right now and I’m really enjoying that.

We have heard your secret talent is juggling. How did you discover that and how good are you?
Actually my coach was in the circus. He can do all these things, and he taught me how to do it. I can do it with three or four balls. I’m good at it, but not unbelievable!

What has the reaction been to your success in Denmark? Do you have a message for your fans back home?
I want to say a huge thanks to these [fans], because it means so much when you’re on the court that you know, even at the side [of the court] and at home, there are so many who only want you to play the best that you can. It’s really a good feeling stepping on the court.

You are still quite new to the Tour. Away from the tennis, what are you enjoying most about travelling around the world?
I would say probably seeing new tennis courts every time! It’s a fun one, but I like to play in different conditions every week and this what we have to do. We have to adapt, and I really like that challenge.

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Alcaraz On Mentality: 'I Have Grown Up So Much'

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Alcaraz On Mentality: ‘I Have Grown Up So Much’

Spaniard aiming to capture fourth title of the season in Madrid

#NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has consistently broken records and hit new heights in 2022, with his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami and Top 10 breakthrough two standout moments.

Speaking before his opening singles match at the Mutua Madrid Open Sunday, the 18-year-old revealed that the fundamental factor behind his rapid rise on the ATP Tour has been his mental fortitude.

“”I think that as a player I have grown a lot, [and also] as a person,” Alcaraz said in his pre-tournament press conference. “Last year I came here to live these kinds of matches, to be able to gain some experience, to be able to level myself against the best players in the world. Now I consider myself one of them.

“I would say my fitness has been important but definitely the most important part has been the mental game. I feel I have grown up so much in that part. That is why I am the World No. 9 right now and that is why I am playing at a good level. That is why I have been able to win great matches, so I think [my mentality] is the most important thing.”

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Alcaraz arrives in Madrid off the back of capturing his third tour-level title of the season in Barcelona. With the seventh seed now 23-3 on the season and third in the ATP Race To Turin, expectation levels have increased for the teenager.

However, the World No. 9 feels that he can cope with the pressure and is just relishing the opportunity to compete on Spanish soil again this week.

“It’s not easy to play at home. There is a lot of expectation, a lot of people that want to see you doing it well,” Alcaraz said. “But I’m a player that turns things around. I take that as a motivation, as an extra punch, extra help.

“I am really excited to be competing here. It is great to play in Spain in front of my home crowd. I try not to think about the pressure. I just try and think about myself and play my best on court. I am trying to have a great time with the crowd pushing me up. I don’t try and think about the expectations.”

Alcaraz, who faces Nikoloz Basilashvili or Fabio Fognini in his opening singles match, took to court in the doubles earlier on Sunday with countryman Marc Lopez for the first time.

Alcaraz said that he was honoured to partner the 39-year-old, who has won 14 tour-level doubles titles in his career.

“I have known Marc for a long time. It is pretty amazing to play with him,” Alcaraz said following their Match Tie-break win against Lukasz Kubot and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. “I am so proud to share the court with him and learn from him. I thought it was a great match and I enjoyed every single second on court.

“It was his idea. He texted me and he said he was going to play his last tournament here in Madrid. He was real excited to play this doubles with me.”

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Britons Draper, Evans Advance In Madrid

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Britons Draper, Evans Advance In Madrid

Draper draws Rublev in second round

#NextGenATP Briton Jack Draper earned the second ATP Masters 1000 win of his season and career on Sunday at the Mutua Madrid Open. The 20-year-old wild card was a 6-4, 6-3 winner over World No. 27 Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Draper dropped serve just once in the Madrid opening-round match, but it came at a crucial time as he served for the first set. After missing out on a set point, he bounced back to break for the set. The Briton again faced a break point as he served out the match, but was able to close it out for the straight-sets victory.

The World No. 124 has won four ATP Challenger Tour events in a strong start to the 2022 season, and defeated Gilles Simon at the Miami Open presented by Itau in March. He next faces sixth seed Andrey Rublev.

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Daniel Evans joined his countryman in the second round after a 6-3, 6-4 win over Federico Delbonis as he looks to kickstart his clay swing.

“I think all of it was pretty good,” Evans said of his performance against the Argentine, who reached the last 16 as a qualifier last year in Madrid. “I played pretty well throughout the match. I served well, I mixed it up well.

“I’ve played well this year on clay,” he added, “just haven’t got my head in front really.”

New Conversion and Steal Insights from Tennis Data Innovations reveal how Evans won the match despite Delbonis being the more aggressive player. The left hander won the Balance of Power decisively, hitting from an attacking position 31 per cent of the time to Evans’ 20 per cent.

Match Insights

But the Brit was much better at converting from attacking positions, boasting a Conversion score of 82 per cent. In contrast, Delbonis won just 61 per cent of points when he worked his way into offense.

Evans also enjoyed an emphatic edge over Delbonis in the new Steal score metric, winning an impressive 39 per cent of points in which he found himself in a defensive position, handily above the clay average of 35 per cent.

Learn more about Conversion & Steal scores

In the only other main-draw singles match on Sunday, John Isner defeated Filip Krajinovic, 7-6(8), 6-4.

In Madrid doubles action, Carlos Alcaraz teamed with Marc Lopez for a 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4 win in what was the youngster’s Madrid doubles debut. Another Spanish pairing — Pablo Carreno Busta and Pedro Martinez — also advanced via a Match Tie-break, beating Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov, 6-7(6), 6-3, 10-1.

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Djokovic Hopeful Of Further Progress In Madrid

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Djokovic Hopeful Of Further Progress In Madrid

Serb preparing for his third event of European clay swing

Novak Djokovic, the top seed this week at the Mutua Madrid Open, has been eager for competitive match play as he ramps up his activity on the ATP Tour. He got that and more in Belgrade, where he played four three-setters in a runner-up finish at his hometown Serbia Open. 

Though he lost to Andrey Rublev in a three-set final — “running out of gas”, as he described it — Djokovic left the ATP 250 event happy with his performance.

“I was looking to spend more time on the court, and that’s what I got. So of course playing finals is a good result and I have to be positive about it,” he said in a Madrid pre-tournament presser.

“I like a lot of things about the way I was hitting the ball. Of course it’s not at the level still where I wish it to be. It is a process, and I have to be patient. Hopefully things will progress in the right direction also this week.”

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While Djokovic attributes the gaps in his game to his lack of match play, he feels his fitness struggles are due to lingering effects from an illness he had prior to Monte Carlo.

“But [it was] different in Belgrade than it was in Monaco,” he explained of his fitness level. “Knowing that I played four almost-three-hour matches and long, three-set battles gives me enough reason to believe that it’s headed in the right direction.

“I had a very good week of training now, put more emphasis on fitness and building the stamina and endurance, because that’s what’s going to be necessary in order to compete with top guys on the slowest and physically most demanding surface in our sport.”

Djokovic will open his Madrid campaign against Gael Monfils or Spanish wild card Carlos Gimeno Valero. His last-16 matchup promises to be an enticing one against one of Dominic Thiem, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov and Ugo Humbert.

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Baez Wins First ATP Tour Title In Estoril

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Baez Wins First ATP Tour Title In Estoril

Argentine tops Tiafoe in second ATP Tour final

Sebastian Baez capped a dream week at the Millennium Estoril Open with one of his most dominant performances of the tournament to claim his first ATP Tour title. Playing in his second tour-level final, the 21-year-old defeated Frances Tiafoe, 6-3, 6-2, in the championship match. 

The Argentine collapsed to the court in celebration as he capped the week of his life by winning the last five games of the final. During the trophy ceremony, he shared his thoughts during that moment: “A lot things, a lot of words,” he said, “but I think we best words were ‘so proud’.”

Baez’s victory caps a banner day for young stars on the ATP Tour following #NextGenATP Dane Holger Rune’s maiden tour-level title in Munich earlier on Sunday. The Argentine was a semi-finalist at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, but just misses the cutoff for eligibility this year due to turning 22 on 28 December.  

After entering the week at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 59, Baez is projected to rise into the top 40 on Monday.

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In the Estoril final, Baez dropped the first two games of the match and saved three break points to avoid going down 0-3. But after holding serve in a six-deuce game — the longest of the one-hour, 14-minute contest — he sprinted to a 5-2 lead before closing out the opening set with ease. It was a similar story in set two, with Tiafoe unable to cope with the aggressive tennis from his opponent.

“I started so nervous. He started good, I think,” Baez assessed. “After the third game, it was so important for both. I started to play better…. The key was trying to be in the game every time, try to think what I had to do, and that’s the difference today.”

Baez defeated three former champions on his way to the final: Jaoa Sousa in the opening round, Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals and defending champ Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the semis. Alongside sixth seed Ramos-Vinolas, he also beat third seed Marin Cilic and fifth seed Tiafoe.

Tiafoe provided inspiration for Baez throughout the week after the Argentine noticed his bracelet which reads “Why not me?” Baez wrote those words on the camera lens after his victories this week. After his title-clinching win, he wrote “Yes it’s me” alongside his signature.

“Unbelievable job by Sebastian. He deserved it. He played better than me today,” Tiafoe said during the ceremony, before addressing the Portuguese fans. “I just want to thank you guys, honestly. You guys made it an unbelievable week for me. I played some crazy, crazy matches and I hope you guys really enjoyed it. I tried to give everything I had this week. Unfortunately I didn’t have much today, but you guys were unbelievable. I hope I can come back for many years and we can keep putting a show on this court. It’s one of my favourite courts to play in.”

After receiving the trophy, Baez said to Tiafoe: “Why not me? And why not you, man?”

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Borges/Cabral Win Home Title In Estoril

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Borges/Cabral Win Home Title In Estoril

Portuguese team remains undefeated at tour-level

The Portuguese doubles duo of Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral made the most of a wild card into the Millennium Estoril Open by winning the ATP 250 title on Sunday. The 25-year-olds defeated Maximo Gonzalez and Andre Goransson, 6-2, 6-3, in the championship match.

“It’s an unreal feeling winning on home soil,” Cabral said during the trophy ceremony. “First ATP event, first main draw, first title with Nuno, my childhood best friend. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Thank you for everybody who made it here to make this moment a little more special than anything I had before,” added Borges, addressing the home crowd.

Both making their ATP Tour debut this week, Borges and Cabral improved to 5-0 as a team at tour-level events following a Davis Cup victory earlier this season. They are 13-1 across all levels on the year, winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles in Oeiras in April, and finished the 2021 season on a 15-match winning streak at the Challenger level. The pair won six Challenger titles and reached two finals last season.

The duo did not face a break point in the Estoril title match while converting on three of their eight chances. From 2-2 in the opening set, they won eight of nine games to take command on centre court.

After winning a pair of Match Tie-breaks to open their Estoril campaign, Borges and Cabral knocked off top seeds Jamie Murray and Michael Venus in straight sets in the semi-finals before their dominant final performance.

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Nadal Seeking 'Patience' Ahead Of Madrid Return

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Nadal Seeking ‘Patience’ Ahead Of Madrid Return

World No. 4 chasing a record-equalling 37th ATP Masters 1000 title

Spaniard Rafael Nadal has played down his title expectations ahead of the Mutua Madrid Open as he prepares to return to the ATP Tour after a six-week injury layoff.

The World No. 4 will be aiming to clinch his sixth trophy at the ATP Masters 1000 event in the Spanish capital. Due to a rib injury, he has not played since Taylor Fritz ended his perfect season in the Indian Wells final in March.

“I have improved compared to when I arrived here [in Madrid], but I still have ups and downs, because it’s been a long time. It’s going to be a difficult week,” Nadal said. “That’s the reality. We have to be calm, we have to accept that things are going to be far away from perfection, but then onwards we just have to fight. I’m recovered. I feel good.

“It’s a very tight tournament for me,” Nadal added when asked about his preparation time. “We will have to take the positives and perhaps I will have good moments playing on court. We have to have some patience. We have to be humble day after day to see what happens. I will try to improve every day.”


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While the 35-year-old has found the timing of his injury setback frustrating, he stated that his body has now recovered. Nadal will face Alexander Bublik or Miomir Kecmanovic in his opening match and is seeded to meet #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in a blockbuster quarter-final.

“It’s difficult when you have these injuries in the middle of the season, it’s difficult to recover. But my ideas are very clear,” Nadal said. “I know that the moment has been negative. A goal for me is to be able to accept what happened and be able to play as best as possible. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m also confident. I know that things started very well at the beginning of the season.”

The Spaniard captured a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and also clinched trophies at the Melbourne Summer Set and Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in the opening two months of the season.

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Although Nadal is pleased with his career-best start to a year (20-1), he is, like any great champion, focusing on the future. Triumphing in Madrid would draw him level with Novak Djokovic on a record-equalling 37 Masters 1000 crowns.

“In our sport, there is not much time to think about Australia anymore,” Nadal said. “Australia was amazing, without a doubt, one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career. But during the past month, I was thinking about my injury.

“It is not a sport that you have time to celebrate a lot of victories if you want to keep being competitive for the next couple of events, and that’s what I try to do, even like this.”

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Rune Crowns Birthday Week With Munich Title

  • Posted: May 01, 2022

Rune Crowns Birthday Week With Munich Title

#NextGenATP Dane lifts trophy without dropping a set at ATP 250 event

Holger Rune became an ATP Tour winner for the first time on Saturday, after his opponent Botic van de Zandschulp was forced to retire in the final of the BMW Open by American Express in Munich.

Van de Zandschulp led 4-3 in the opening set with Rune serving at 40/15 when the Dutchman retired due to an aching chest. Both eighth-seeded van de Zandschulp and wild card Rune had reached their maiden tour-level final on debut at the ATP 250 event in Germany.

“This was probably the worst way to win a final,” said Rune after the match. “I was obviously expecting a very tough match and he came out very strong. I just wish him all the best, a speedy recovery, and we all just hope to see him back on the court very soon.”

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The run to the title caps a memorable week for Rune, who turned 19 on Friday. With the win, the Dane becomes the third-youngest Munich champion in the Open Era, and the fifth first-time winner on the ATP Tour in 2022. He notched a maiden Top 10 victory against World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the second round, also seeing off Jiri Lehecka, Emil Ruusuvuori and Oscar Otte in straight sets on his way to the title.

“I’m super happy, of course,” added Rune. “As I said, not the way I want it to end, but if I look through the week, what a week. I played some unbelievable tennis, really fighting my way through it. To be playing here in Munich and winning my first ATP title in front of such a brilliant crowd, I couldn’t really ask for more.”

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