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Carreno Busta Races Past Nardi To Kick-Start Hamburg Title Defence

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2022

Carreno Busta Races Past Nardi To Kick-Start Hamburg Title Defence

Fognini edges Bedene to clinch 400th tour-level win

After a dream run to the title in 2021, Pablo Carreno Busta did not take long to find his groove once again on Tuesday at the Hamburg European Open.

The defending champion eased to a 6-2, 6-1 first-round win against #NextGenATP Italian Luca Nardi in northern Germany. Carreno Busta, whose triumph in Hamburg a year ago was his first at the ATP 500 level, converted five from seven break points against his 18-year-old opponent to set a second-round meeting with Alex Molcan.

Carreno Busta now holds a 10-3 record in Hamburg, where he also reached the semi-finals in 2019. The World No. 23 arrived in Germany off the back of a strong run last week in Bastad, where he reached the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Francisco Cerundolo.


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A trio of seeded players suffered early exits on Tuesday in Hamburg. Emil Ruusuvuori upset third seed Diego Schwartzman with an impressive 7-5, 6-4 victory on tournament debut. The win brought the Finn level at 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series with Schwartzman, after the Argentine prevailed in the pair’s first meeting in Indian Wells in March. Ruusuvuori’s second-round opponent in Germany will be #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who defeated Dusan Lajovic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-3 on Monday.

The other seeded players to fall were Nikoloz Basilashvili and Holger Rune. Aslan Karatsev downed sixth seed Basilashvili 6-4, 6-0 in the pair’s maiden tour-level meeting, while Tallon Griekspoor took out eighth seed Rune 7-6(8), 7-5.

Also on Tuesday, Fabio Fognini held off a fierce challenge from Aljaz Bedene to notch his 400th tour-level win.

Fognini claimed the only break of the first set to move ahead at the ATP 500 event in northern Germany, but he was made to dig deep after Bedene responded strongly to force a decider. Fognini saved five break points in the opening game of the deciding set before prevailing in a tie-break to seal his 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory.

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Fognini Earns 400th Win In Hamburg

The win improved Fognini’s lead in his ATP Head2Head series with Bedene to 10-1. The 35-year-old Italian is a nine-time tour-level titlist but is chasing his first crown since claiming his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in 2019.

Fognini, the 2013 champion in Hamburg, is now 14-13 for 2022. That record includes runs to the semi-finals on the clay in Rio de Janeiro and Belgrade. His second-round opponent in Germany will be seventh seed Karen Khachanov.

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Fognini Earns 400th Win In Hamburg

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2022

Fognini Earns 400th Win In Hamburg

Italian becomes the 14th active player to reach the 400-wins milestone

The Fabulous One looks out from his enigmatic photo on the ATP Tour website with a slightly raised eyebrow and a Mona Lisa half-smile. It’s the perfect image for a guy, who like a jalapeno-laced martini, is somehow simultaneously fiery and irresistibly cool.

On Tuesday in the Hamburg European Open, Fabio Fognini won a typically taut, fraught first-round match over Aljaz Bedene, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5). And while the flamboyant Italian has earned a reputation for the sheer style of his performance art, this one underlined the undeniable substance. It was the 400th tour-level match win of his career.

Coming up in juniors, did he ever imagine this possibility?

“Well, no, no,” he said afterward. “I’m 35 and, looking back, I have to say this is a great milestone achievement for me. For sure, I am happy.”

Fognini, that swashbuckling pirate of the high seas, is only the 14th active player to win 400 matches in his career and the first Italian man in the Open Era with 400 tour-level wins. Adriano Panatta is next with 392 wins, followed by Andreas Seppi with 386 wins, second-most among active Italians.

<a href=''>Fabio Fognini</a>
Fognini celebrates his 400th win in Hamburg. Photo Credit: Hamburg European Open/Alexander Scheuber

There is currently some breathtaking young talent coming out of Italy. Matteo Berrettini, a Wimbledon finalist a year ago, has already been to the Top 10. Jannik Sinner — at the impressionable age of 20 — is there right now. Lorenzo Musetti, also 20, and Lorenzo Sonego are formidable talents as well. Based on this year’s points, remarkably, eight of the 17 top-ranked players aged under 21 are from Italy. It seems more than a coincidence that the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin ends in Fognini’s homeland. 

They all owe a debt to the example carved out by Fognini.

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Three years ago in Monte Carlo, at the age of 32, Fognini defeated Rafael Nadal on his way to the title. He became the first Italian ATP Masters 1000 champion ever and, eventually, the oldest male player to crack the Top 10 for the first time. He was also the first Italian man among the Top 10 since Corrado Barazzutti.

Fognini has always gotten up for the big matches. He’s beaten Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, no fewer than three times. At Rome in 2017, he upset World No. 1 Andy Murray. He was a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros in 2011 and reached the fourth round in majors – including four at the Australian Open – seven times. He’s also won nine singles titles.

Some context: Fognini’s first ATP Tour victory came in 2006 at Amersfoot, over Juan-Pablo Guzman. No. 100 came against Edouard Roger-Vasselin at the 2012 US Open. The 200th was a second-round win over Grigor Dimitrov in Rome 2015.  His 300th career victory happened in Rome 2018 against Gael Monfils.

The win over Bedene, Fognini said, reminded him of another Hamburg achievement. In 2013, he won the title there amid a 13-match win streak that included the title in Stuttgart and a final in Umag.

“We are in Hamburg, so I have to say something about this beautiful tournament,” Fognini said. “A long time ago, I made a really good memory, playing really good tennis. This, too, is one of the best.”

His game is flashy and fast – sharp angles and extraordinary defense – but he makes it all look so utterly effortless. He is not blessed with massive weapons but his hands, particularly at net, are magnificent. In 2015, when Fognini focused briefly on doubles with countryman Simone Bolelli, they won the Australian Open, reached three ATP Masters 1000 finals and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals.

Clay, where his record is 228-164 (.582), is by far the best surface for his unique talents. His relatively late career success continues. Fognini is 14-13 for the year and reached semi-finals in Belgrade and Rio de Janeiro, where he lost, respectively, to Andrey Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz.

After Bedene drew even by winning the second set, Fognini opened the third set with some vintage Fognini. In the process of saving five break points, he cracked his racquet in frustration, then managed to prevail in a 14-minute game. The tie-break ended with the familiar flourish of a crosscourt forehand winner.

Fognini, son of Fulvio Fognini and brother to Fulvia, was born into a family that placed special emphasis on the letter F. He continued the trend when he married 2015 US Open champion Flavia Pennetta. Their three children are, not surprisingly, named Federico, Farah and Flaminia.

He sees a time, probably in the not-too-distant future, when he’ll be spending more time with them.

“With COVID-19 and injuries, this has been the tougher period of my career,” he acknowledged. “Because after all the victories, the bad matches, the good matches, the trophies that I won, I’m more at the end of my career than before.

“My biggest dream is now to try and enjoy as before, running without pain, fighting to the end — and then decide when it’s time for the family. I know it’s going to be difficult, but let’s see. Let’s see.”

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Thiem Saves MP, Wins Gstaad Opener In Third-Set Tie-Break

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2022

Thiem Saves MP, Wins Gstaad Opener In Third-Set Tie-Break

Austrian has earned tour-level victories in consecutive weeks

Playing at the EFG Swiss Open Gstaad for the first time since his 2015 title run, Dominic Thiem won a dramatic opening match on Tuesday against seventh seed and 2021 Gstaad finalist Hugo Gaston.

The Austrian picked up his third tour-level victory of the season with a 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(7) win in Roy Emerson Arena, using a big serve to erase a match point in the tie-break as he claimed the final three points of the contest.

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“It’s always really challenging. That tie-break in the third set was very, very tough,” said Thiem, who hit a dipping return on his second match point to thwart his opponent’s serve-and-volley attempt.

“The first two sets were very one-sided, the first for Hugo and the second for me. Then the third set, no breaks so the tie-break had to decide it. Tie-breaks in deciding sets are always somehow 50/50. It was so close… Really happy that I got the win.”

One week after earning his first match wins since his right-wrist injury in Bastad, Thiem made a slow start in the mountains of Gstaad before finding traction with his ground game in set two.

“I had some troubles to get used to the conditions,” Theim said, referencing the Gstaad altitude. “Also he played well. [He was a] finalist last year so he gave me a lot of troubles. When I made that first break in the second set, from then on I loosened up a little bit. I started to play better and better and it paid off at the end.”

Thiem advances to face Federico Delbonis, who was a 6-4, 7-5 winner against Mikael Ymer on Tuesday.

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Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann upset sixth seed Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-4 after winning a pair of three-setters to qualify for the main draw. The 32-year-old earned his first tour-level win since he reached the Santiago quarter-finals in February, while Garin was competing for the first time since his Wimbledon quarter-final run.

Richard Gasquet was also victorious on Tuesday, earning a 7-5, 6-4 result against Roberto Carballes Baena to set up a second-round meeting with second seed Matteo Berrettini.

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Alcaraz Survives Kuhn Scare In Hamburg

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2022

Alcaraz Survives Kuhn Scare In Hamburg

Top seed advances to face Baez or Krajinovic at ATP 500 event in Germany

Carlos Alcaraz endured a rocky start to his Hamburg European Open debut on Tuesday afternoon, but the #NextGenATP Spaniard dug deep to complete a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) first-round win against German wild card Nicola Kuhn.

Alcaraz rallied impressively after he dropped the opening set to the World No. 259 Kuhn, whose aggressive tactics paid off in the early stages in northern Germany. The Spaniard combined consistency with some trademark moments of brilliance to level the match before holding his nerve in the deciding-set tie-break to improve his record on clay in 2022 to 21-2.

Prior to the tournament, Alcaraz had spoken of how he was using the extra pressure of playing as a top seed at an ATP Tour event for the first time as a source of motivation. Those words were put to the test immediately in Hamburg, where the 22-year-old Kuhn pushed Alcaraz the distance despite suffering some physical struggles in the final set.

“It was tough. I mean, the first round in every tournament is tough,” said Alcaraz, who was playing his first match since his run to the fourth round at Wimbledon. “I came from the grass, and the difference was too much. I’m really happy to be [through to] the second round. I’m sure that I will be better in the next round, but I’m really happy with the win.”

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After triumphing in Rio de Janeiro in February and Barcelona in April, Alcaraz is chasing a clean sweep of this season’s clay-court ATP 500 events in Hamburg, while the 19-year-old has also lifted ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid in a stellar 2022 season. Despite struggling to find his best level against Kuhn, the Spaniard was pleased with how he had reacted after a lacklustre first-set showing.

“I knew that I wasn’t playing well, so I knew I was going to have my chances to get better in the second set,” said Alcaraz. “Try not to miss as much as I did in the first set. I’m really happy with the change that I put in in the second set.”

Alcaraz’s next assignment in Hamburg, where he is the top seed, is a second-round meeting with Sebastian Baez or Filip Krajinovic.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Maxime Cressy

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2022

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Maxime Cressy

Serve-and-volley proponent clinched maiden ATP Tour crown on Newport grass

Maxime Cressy’s bid for a maiden ATP Tour title appeared over halfway through the championship match at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open in Newport on Sunday, but the 25-year-old American engineered one of the comebacks of the season to secure his first tour-level crown.

The 25-year-old American recovered a 2-6, 0-3 deficit against Alexander Bublik on the grass in Rhode Island to cap an impressive week in which he also defeated countrymen Mitchell Krueger, Steve Johnson and John Isner en route to the title at the ATP 250 event.

Having been outside the Top 150 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as recently as twelve months ago, Cressy’s run in Newport lifted him to a career-high No. 33 on Monday. After his remarkable triumph in Rhode Island, caught up with the American as he reflected on the latest milestone in his rapid rise.

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What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
I think it’s the most incredible feeling that I’ve had in my entire life. It’s difficult to describe. I’ve been looking forward to that first title for a very long time.

How did your experience in previous finals against Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz prepare you for this match?
Those matches were also nerve-wracking, just like today! Playing Nadal was beyond belief, it was more like, ‘Is it actually happening?’ I think that was one reason I wasn’t able to beat him. Against Fritz, it was close margins as well.

As everyone says, the third time is the charm. It’s a big step forward for me, because I don’t think I’m going to be as nervous for the next finals that may come. The first title is definitely the most difficult one.

You’ve previously shared that your family assists you with some of your off-court business. Your mother is your manager, and your brother helps build your social media presence. What does it mean to share your tennis journey with your family?
My mum has been helping me out with some off-court stuff, the finances or talking with brands, because I don’t have an agent yet. I am actually looking into it, but I am still debating in my mind. My brother has been helping me with the social media as well, because I don’t want to deal with it!

My family has been an integral part of my success. They’ve always been there for me, so I consider them very important for my career.

How did your international upbringing, growing up in France before coming to the U.S. to attend college at U.C.L.A., shape you as a person?
To be a citizen of both worlds is incredibly special, and it shaped me. I became so much more independent by going to the States on my own. I had that belief that I could live the American dream, that my life could be much better, because my tennis game was suffering then. I thought that going to the States could give me a fresh start, and that is what it has done.

Being recruited at U.C.L.A. was the most incredible thing that happened to me, and as soon as that happened, my desire went through the roof. At the beginning I didn’t have any professional aspirations, but that quickly changed when I became an integral part of the team. Starting my junior year, that’s when I started to think about going pro, and being with players like Mackenzie McDonald and Marcos Giron on the team also helped those professional aspirations.

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With this victory you will be just outside the Top 30 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but you have been very bold in saying that your goal is to be No. 1. Have you mapped out a timeline for that goal?
Regardless of the ups and downs, my ranking has just skyrocketed really fast in the past two years. Considering all the failures that I’ve had, it’s been kind of crazy, because I definitely feel like I’ve fallen down a lot. But I rose back up quickly, I never gave up and I stayed resilient. Being just outside the Top 30 that quickly is a huge indication [to me] that I have what it takes to be World No. 1. I don’t think that belief is ever going to change.

My dream is to really make serve and volley great again, and inspire many people to start playing that game style. I’ve seen other players do it a lot more, like Rafa [Nadal]. If I can impact the tennis world, and make serve and volley a game style that people enjoy and want to play, it’s going to be big.

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