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Bublik Frustrates Murray In Newport QFs

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2022

Bublik Frustrates Murray In Newport QFs

Third seed faces Kubler in semi-finals

Alexander Bublik and Andy Murray have become familiar opponents this season on the ATP Tour. Their Friday meeting at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open was their fourth of the season, with Bublik securing a split of those matchups with a 7-5, 6-4 victory in Newport.

The Kazakh third seed earned a measure of grass-court revenge after Murray defeated him in straight sets in Stuttgart last month. The Briton went on to advance to the final in Germany, and now Bublik will hope to do the same in Rhode Island, where he reached the title match in 2019.

“It’s great to be in the semi-finals again. I never lost before,” he said with a smile, alluding to his 1-0 record at that stage in Newport. “I came here only for one week, so I have to [be engaged]. I’m engaged to play, I’m engaged to try to get as many matches as I can.”

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Bublik was in command against the former World No. 1, pulling Murray around the court with strong serving and aggressive ground strokes as he won 80 per cent of his first-serve points. While his drop shot was not firing on all cylinders, Bublik did his damage with power rather than touch.

He claimed a late break in the opening set by firing a backhand winner to cap a marathon point. After an early break in the second, Bublik looked set to run away with the match before Murray instantly levelled, both breaks coming on untimely double faults.

Bublik then saved a break point to hold for 3-3 before securing a decisive break in the following game as he continued to pressure Murray off the ground. The Briton fought off two match points in the final game — including one on a lung-busting rally — but could not prevent Bublik from securing his place in the semi-finals.

Murray’s quarter-final run moved him up three places to No. 49 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He is now 19-11 on the 2022 season, including a 7-3 mark on grass.

Jason Kubler will meet Bublik in Saturday’s semi-finals after he won an all-Australian matchup against eighth seed James Duckworth 7-5, 7-6(3). Kubler continues his red-hot form after reaching the Wimbledon fourth round, achieving his best major result at age 29.

“It’s a good mental victory for me today,” Kubler said in his on-court interview. “I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my mental side. I’m happy that I was able to stay consistent throughout the match.”

After upsetting top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday for his first career Top 10 win, finishing a match that began Wednesday evening, Kubler followed it up with another victory in his first tour-level quarter-final. He improved to 25-4 since the start of May, including qualifying, ATP Challenger Tour and tour-level matches.

Duckworth won all four of the pair’s previous four professional meetings, including their lone match on the ATP Tour in Washington in 2018.

Currently positioned at World No. 102, Kubler is up to No. 94 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and could enter the Top 70 with the Newport title. He owns a career-high ranking of World No. 91, achieved in 2018 after five knee surgeries from 2012-16.

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Cahill: Hewitt's Journey From 'Little Mongrel' To Hall Of Famer

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2022

Cahill: Hewitt’s Journey From ‘Little Mongrel’ To Hall Of Famer

Cahill pens ‘My Point’ essay on Hewitt’s evolution from 12-year-old into champion

There are days when you just know.

It doesn’t happen often and to be perfectly honest, most of the time it is an educated guess when predicting the future of an athlete.

It was the early ’90s in Adelaide, Australia. I’d heard the whispers and chatter. It had started bouncing around tennis circles like a boom-boom Boris Becker serve. A young, skinny blond upstart who came from an elite sporting family was causing quite the stir with his level of play and unique desire to win that not everyone was completely fond of.

His name was Lleyton Hewitt. He was 12 years old.

My doorbell rang and I was expecting him. I knew of his parents Glynn (AFL football) and Cherilyn (Netball), but it was a first meeting, and it left a lasting impression that has stayed entrenched through the years.

There was Lleyton. Steely eyed and focused. He looked small for his age, and he was. Dressed in Agassi Nike clothing from head to toe, cap on backwards, zinc across his snozza, and carrying a Prince racquet bag over his shoulders full of frames.

“G’day mate, I’m Darren,” I said as I held out a hand.

“Hi, I’m Lleyton, are we going to play?” was the reply with a firm handshake.

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To be honest, it wasn’t really a reply but more like a demand. I didn’t care though. Already at this point, I was amused, intrigued and intimidated all at the same time.

I was 28 years old and had just retired from the tour because of knee issues. But playing a 12-year-old kid was no problem. As it turned out, that was a slight miscalculation on my part.

We warmed up and I was amazed at his beautiful technique from the ground. Even his net game was solid and considerable work had been done to give him a strong foundation. That work had been done by one of SA’s best coaches, Peter Smith.

After 15 minutes I asked Lleyton what he’d like to do, and he replied “Let’s play sets”.

Perfect. Time to teach this little mongrel a bit of a lesson.

The first two sets went by without drama as a kick serve from a 188cm former pro was proving a little difficult for the talking garden gnome to handle. But something unusual started to happen.

His dad, who had stuck around to watch, went to offer a little advice to his charge, and Lleyton stopped him in his tracks and said “Zip it Glynny boy, I’ve got this”.

Like a velociraptor, he had started to work me out and probe for weaknesses. He stood in on my serve and took it early. He started to serve to my forehand, which I hated. And instead of allowing me to come to net on my terms, he dragged me in on junk balls and then proceeded to backhand topspin lob me to death. With every winner that came from little Hewitt’s racquet you could hear that now trademark war cry of, “C’monnnn” at least five streets away.

After the practice I walked back into my house and my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, had been watching and smiling. The first thing she said to me was, “What do you think of that kid?”

I said, “Damn, this kid is good. He’s going to be something special”

This was a rare day when you just know.

Two years later when Lleyton was 15, I took him and two other Australian juniors to Switzerland to compete in the Junior Davis Cup, a prestigious event where all the best juniors came to represent their home nations.

There was another 15-year-old competing and representing Switzerland. His name was Roger Federer.

I knew Roger because my best mate, Peter Carter — who was based in Basel coaching and playing club tennis for TC Old Boys — had introduced me to Roger 12 months earlier and asked me to watch him practice.

I watched him. I was impressed, but not mind-blown impressed. Clearly a bad scouting day for me.

But now 12 months on and up walks Roger & Peter all dressed in their red and white (Swiss) tracksuits. Roger had grown and was now a gangly little man where Lleyton was still wearing shorts three sizes too big for him. Australia has drawn Switzerland in the first tie, and it’ll be Lleyton Hewitt vs Roger Federer in the first rubber. Peter was grinning like he had just stolen another one of my girlfriends (true story), but now I’m nervous that I’ve misread how good Lleyton is, and we are going to get sat on our backsides.

Lleyton didn’t let me down. The match was simply epic.

Federer walked away with the win 7-6 in the third set. Australia walked away with the team win 2-1. The first of many great battles between these two good mates.

<a href=''>Lleyton Hewitt</a>
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Allsport
Fast forward to 2001.

It takes many qualities to be an elite athlete and not everyone is blessed with great speed, strength, or height, but there are certain qualities that are non-negotiable to be a great champion.

They are work ethic, belief, resilience and purpose. They all matter and you need them all. This is what separates the great players from the good.

All these qualities, plus a little luck, were called upon during Lleyton’s run to his first major title at the US Open. He endured maybe his most challenging professional moments early in the tournament, which ended up defining him later in the event, and for the rest of his career. He matured. The man playing in the second week was not the same man who started the tournament.

When Lleyton swaggered on court for his semi-final clash against Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the stars had lined up for him to deliver his most comprehensive performance on the biggest stage to send the two-time major winner packing in straight sets. Y-Man left the court shattered.

Lleyton left the court to prepare for his first major final against the great Pete Sampras.

The morning of the final, Lleyton was surprisingly calm. He was given a sighter as to what to expect as they had played in the semi-finals at the US Open the previous year. Pete won in straight sets, but it was close.

Today, Lleyton was different. He was excited, not nervous. You could hear the 23,000 strong crowd getting rowdy nearing game time. The New York crowd doing its best to be heard through the corridors and locker rooms. He wanted a full Arthur Ashe Stadium and he wanted it to be an American on the other side of the court. He knew he’d have very little crowd support, but that’s just the way he liked it. As I said, Lleyton was different.

The players were called to enter the court, Lleyton’s cage was swung open, and the tiger was let loose onto Ashe Stadium.

Two hours later and Lleyton was holding the trophy aloft, winning in straight sets 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1.

I was sitting next to Australia’s Davis Cup Captain John Fitzgerald for the final, and all he kept saying was, “Oh my God, this is incredible. I can’t believe he is actually going to win this”. We were both in awe of the young man.

<a href=''>Lleyton Hewitt</a>
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Allsport
Just a few months later he became the youngest player in history to reach World No.1, and finished 2001 with victory at the Nitto ATP Finals, capturing the year-end No.1 ranking.

A remarkable achievement.

Lleyton’s DNA was different to most. He took an individual sport and turned his matches into a team sport environment, pulling on his Aussie Rules background to rally the people around him like team-mates. There was nothing solo about his performances and he wasn’t scared to get involved in a scrap. Maybe there’s a hint of Connors, McEnroe and Nastase in him, but there’s also a lot of Newcombe, Laver, Emerson and Rosewall flowing through his veins. That true Aussie spirit with a hint of mischief just to stir things up.

When it came to Davis Cup and representing his country, that’s where he truly defined himself and his character. In his eyes, there was no greater honour and he played with his heart and soul every single time he donned the green and gold. Many years, he sacrificed his personal ranking and income to prioritise Davis Cup in his schedule. His Davis Cup record speaks for itself, and Australia’s next generation is fortunate that he continues to give back to the game by continuing as our Australian captain.

A winner of two singles majors (US Open & Wimbledon), Lleyton was the year-end No.1 two years in a row (2001 & 2002) and lifted 30 tour-level singles titles. He led Australia to two Davis Cup wins (1999 & 2003), and don’t forget the US Open doubles title with Max ‘The Beast’ Mirnyi (2000).

Lleyton etched out a remarkable career. He got unlucky with several injuries in his mid 20s that halted adding to his resume and going head-to-head with two all-time greats in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in their prime made it challenging.

Regardless, he will always be able to look back on his career and be proud with no regrets. As Lleyton would often say, “I left it all out there, mate”. Yes, you did young fella. And more.

Most importantly, Lleyton left an important legacy in competing for Australia and setting a standard of training and competition that every generation should look up to. He’s a role model for believing in the impossible, and then making the impossible a reality. He left nothing to chance and loved every single second of his journey. He had purpose, he bounced back through resilience, he oozed belief and he had an unmatched work ethic. And yeah, he had the heart of a lion and the mind of a velociraptor.

His reward? A well-earned induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Well done, Rusty!

<a href=''>Darren Cahill</a>

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Blumberg/Johnson Reach Newport Doubles Final

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2022

Blumberg/Johnson Reach Newport Doubles Final

Blumberg won 2021 Newport title with Sock

Americans William Blumberg and Steve Johnson continued their run on home turf at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open on Friday, scoring a 6-4, 6-4 win against Ramkumar Ramanathan and John-Patrick Smith to advance to the Newport title match.

A single break decided the opening set, with Blumberg/Johnson converting on the only break point of the set. The Americans surrendered an early break advantage in the second but closed out the match by winning its final three games. After their third break of the contest brought up an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4, the pair won a deciding point to secure its final berth.

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After surviving a Match Tie-break in the opening round, the fourth seeds have now won four consecutive sets on the Rhode Island lawns. They await the winner of Saturday’s semi-final, which pits top seeds Raven Klaasen and Marcelo Melo against Americans Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson.

Blumberg, the former North Carolina Tar Heel, is seeking to repeat as the Newport doubles champion. The 24-year-old won the 2021 title alongside Jack Sock for the lone tour-level trophy of his career. Johnson is also seeking his second doubles crown; he paired with Sam Querrey for a Geneva triumph in 2016.

Fognini/Bolelli To Face Matos/Vega Hernandez In Bastad Final
Friday’s doubles semi-final action at the Nordea Open produced two thrilling matches, both decided by Match Tie-breaks.

Second seeds Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli battled back from a set down to edge Nikola Cacic and Aleksandr Nedovyesov 5-7, 6-4, 10-7 in a match that saw 12 break chances but just two breaks of serve. The Italians also won a Match Tie-break in their opening-round victory against Ariel Behar and Tomislav Brkic.

Fogini and Bolelli are seeking their second tour-level title of 2022 (Rio de Janeiro) and their fifth title as a team. They also reached the Sydney final earlier this season.

Fourth seeds Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez won their second consecutive Match Tie-break in a 6-1, 6-7(1), 10-7 decision against Argentines Francisco Cerundolo and Tomas Martin Etcheverry. Despite the defeat, Cerundolo is still alive in the singles draw, where he is set to face Pablo Carreno Busta in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Vega Hernandez and Matos won the first two titles of their partnership this season in Marrakech and Mallorca and also reached the final in Munich.

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Baez Ends Thiem's Bastad Run, Faces Rublev In SFs

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2022

Baez Ends Thiem’s Bastad Run, Faces Rublev In SFs

Rublev downs Djere in straight sets

Sebastian Baez advanced to his third tour-level semi-final Friday, overcoming Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4 in a hard-fought clash at the Nordea Open in Bastad.

The Argentine soaked up Thiem’s heavy ball striking and recovered from squandering a match point on the Austrian’s serve at 5-4 in the second set to eventually advance after two hours and 51 minutes.

“It was such a tough match. So close,” Baez said in his on-court interview. “Dominic played well today and I hope to see more of him because he is a great player, so I hope he can return to the level we know. I am happy I won today and to stay in the tournament.

“I think we both played well today, I enjoyed the fight. The tournament and the grounds are good, so I am happy to stay here. The people are so nice, I feel comfortable. I now need to recover as best as I can.”

The former World No. 3 Thiem earned his first tour-level win in 14 months when he defeated Emil Ruusuvuori in the first round, before he eliminated fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

However, the Austrian, who missed the second half of last season due to injury, was unable to cope with Baez’s intensity in the third set, with the 21-year-old triumphing in his first ATP Head2Head meeting against 2020 US Open champion Thiem.

Baez clinched his maiden tour-level title on clay in Estoril in April and is now up to No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The Argentine is making his debut in Bastad and will next face second seed Andrey Rublev.

Rublev advanced to the semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-4 win against Laslo Djere in the final match of the day. Djere provided strong resistance for much of the one-hour, 35-minute match, particularly in its final game.

Ultimately, the Serbian could not break Rublev’s serve a second time after doing so to love in his first return game. Djere created four break points as his opponent attempted to serve out the match, but the World No. 8 stood strong to clinch victory on his third match point.

Rublev is through to his sixth tour-level semi-final of the season after improving his record to 6-2 in quarter-finals. Seeking his fourth tour-level title of 2022 (Marseille, Dubai, Belgrade), he also improved to 10-0 at the ATP 250 level on the year.

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Carreno Busta Sinks Schwartzman, Reaches Bastad SFs

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2022

Carreno Busta Sinks Schwartzman, Reaches Bastad SFs

Spaniard next plays Cerundolo

Pablo Carreno Busta produced one of the best performances of his season Friday, dispatching third seed Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-0 to reach the semi-finals at the Nordea Open in Bastad.

The Spaniard, who is making his fourth appearance at the ATP 250 clay-court event, dominated from the baseline as he pulled the Argentine from corner to corner with his heavy hitting to ease through after 67 minutes.

“I played my match of the season,” Carreno Busta said in his on-court interview. “I was very focused all the time, every point. I tried to be aggressive and controlled the points. I didn’t make many mistakes and it was perfect. It is really good to play like this on court with the full crowd. I just need to continue like this.”


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The fifth seed now leads Schwartzman 4-1 in their ATP Head2Head series after defeating the 29-year-old on clay in the semi-finals in Barcelona in April. Carreno Busta is aiming to capture his first tour-level title of the season this week, with his last triumph on Tour coming at an ATP 500 event in Hamburg last July.

The 31-year-old will face Francisco Cerundolo in his second semi-final of the season after the Argentine sunk Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1 in one hour and 34 minutes.

Cerundolo shocked top seed Casper Ruud in the second round and has now earned a career-best 15 tour-level wins this season. The 23-year-old reached semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro and in Miami earlier this year.

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