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Thiem Battles Through In Tel Aviv

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Thiem Battles Through In Tel Aviv

Austrian next plays Cilic

Dominic Thiem didn’t have things all his own way Monday, but he stepped up when needed to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open.

The Austrian wild card improved on serve and found his range as the match went on to overcome Laslo Djere 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes at the ATP 250 event in Israel.

“I didn’t get off to a great start. I got the break in the second set and then I was a bit lucky I could turn the match around,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “The third set was a real grind… I am very grateful to everyone who came tonight. It is really nice to play in Israel.”

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The former World No. 3 Thiem, who reached the final at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Rennes earlier this month, will next play second seed Marin Cilic as he aims to advance to his fourth tour-level quarter-final of the season.

In a hard-fought battle, Thiem fired 25 winners and was strong on serve in the third set, not facing a break point in the decider to level his ATP Head2Head series against Djere at 1-1.

In other action, Roman Safiullin defeated Frenchman Hugo Grenier 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and four minutes to earn his first tour-level win since he defeated Mikael Ymer in Belgrade in April.

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Moreno De Alboran, Fatic Claim Maiden Challenger Tour Titles

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Moreno De Alboran, Fatic Claim Maiden Challenger Tour Titles

Monteiro wins Challenger 125 event in Genoa

Two players claimed their first ATP Challenger Tour title Sunday. American Nicolas Moreno De Alboran was crowned champion in Braga, Portugal while Bosnia’s Nerman Fatic triumphed at the Sibiu Challenger.

Moreno de Alboran won seven matches in eight days as he advanced through qualifying en route to the title at the Braga Open, defeating Brazil’s Matheus Pucinelli De Almeida 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The 25-year-old’s maiden Challenger title comes five months after he relinquished serving for a straight-sets victory in the Salinas Challenger final, eventually falling to Ecuadorian Emilio Gomez.

“I’m very happy, it’s been a very emotional week,” Moreno de Alboran said. “It’s been a tough year for me with a lot of injuries so coming here, qualifying, and then winning the tournament means a lot. I’ve put in a lot of work to be here.”

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Moreno de Alboran, who was born in New York City and played college tennis at UC Santa Barbara, now resides in Madrid, Spain. Backing up a run to the semi-finals at the Cordenons Challenger in August (l. Vavassori), this week’s title in Portugal lifts him to a career-high No. 201 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Pucinelli de Almeida, 21, was competing in his first Challenger final; a run that lifts him to a career-high World No. 190.

Fatic, 27, won the all-Bosnian clash in the Sibiu Open final, defeating Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-4.

“It was a crazy week,” Fatic said. “I was playing really well, I didn’t expect this result. I’ve been working hard all my life to achieve this.”

<a href=''>Nerman Fatic</a> celebrates his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title.
Nerman Fatic celebrates his maiden Challenger Tour title. Credit: Drogos Dumitru/Zeppelin Studio Focus Agency

In Fatic’s semi-final match, he took down top-seeded Federico Coria, to whom he dropped his only set en route to the title in Romania. In the championship match, Fatic, who now climbs to a career-high mark No. 196, defeated his close friend and former World No. 23 Dzumhur.

“Me and Damir were pretty much raised together in Bosnia,” Fatic said. “It is tough to have a tennis career there, but if you have the will and passion, doors will open and you’ll find a way.”

At the ATP Challenger 125 event in Genoa, Italy, Thiago Monteiro captured his second Challenger title of the season, taking down home favourite Andrea Pellegrino in the final 6-1, 7-6(2).

As rain halted play on Saturday, the Brazilian was forced to win back-to-back matches on Sunday to collect his eighth Challenger title. The 28-year-old’s championship run at the AON Open Challenger ties him at his career-high mark No. 62, which he reached this past month shortly after triumphing at the Salzburg Challenger.

“It was a perfect week,” Monteiro said. “I’m really happy to win in Genoa, it’s a beautiful city and a beautiful tournament. I’d like to dedicate this victory to my family and to all my team that works with me.”

Monteiro is riding a 10-match winning streak at the Challenger level and boasts a 18-6 Challenger match record in 2022. When the lefty made his ATP Tour debut in 2016, he defeated then-World No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Rio de Janeiro.

<a href=''>Thiago Monteiro</a> in action during the Genoa Challenger final.
Thiago Monteiro in action during the Genoa Challenger final. Credit: Tiziano Meoni

In Genoa doubles action, German Dustin Brown teamed up with Italian Andrea Vavassori to win their third doubles title this season at the Challenger level (Cordenons and Szczecin). Brown also paired with American Evan King to collect the Troisdorf title in May.

On the hard-courts in Columbus, Ohio, Australian Jordan Thompson didn’t drop a set en route to claiming his second Challenger title of the season, taking down Emilio Gomez 7-6(6), 6-2 in the championship match.

During a nine-match winning streak this summer, Thompson dropped just one set to triumph at the Surbiton Challenger and finished runner-up in Nottingham the following week (l. Evans).

In 2018, The Sydney native collected 52 Challenger match wins (including reaching the final in Columbus, l. Mmoh), a Challenger Tour season record that is only behind Carlos Berlocq’s 57 Challenger match wins in 2010.

Thompson reached a career-high No. 43 in July 2019, shortly after reaching the final at the ATP 250 event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Argentine Nicolas Kicker won his first Challenger title since 2017 on home soil, defeating countryman Mariano Navone 7-5, 6-3 to win the Challenger Dove Men+Care Villa Maria.

Kicker, 30, finished runner-up at the Todi Challenger in July (l. Cachin) and is a four-time tiltist on the Challenger Tour: Perugia, Guayaquil, Buenos Aires, and this week in Villa Maria. Players from Argentina have combined for a season-leading 18 Challenger titles.

Argentine <a href=''>Nicolas Kicker</a> is crowned champion in Villa Maria.
Argentine Nicolas Kicker is crowned champion in Villa Maria. Credit: Challenger Dove Men+Care Villa Maria

In 2017, Kicker made his Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros, where he claimed a first-round victory (d. Dzumhur), which propelled him to a career-high No. 78. The following season, the Argentine reached the third round at the Australian Open.

Navone took out three of the Top-8 seeds en route to the final, defeating countrymen Camilo Ugo Carabelli, Juan Manuel Cerundolo, and Facundo Bagnis. The 21-year-old climbs to a career-high No. 265.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Ivashka Outlasts Ymer In Sofia Marathon

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Ivashka Outlasts Ymer In Sofia Marathon

Bulgaria’s Lazarov earns first win at an ATP Tour event

Ilya Ivashka and Mikael Ymer closed Monday’s play at the Sofia Open with the match of the day. After three hours and 22 minutes, Ivashka emerged victorious, 7-6(8), 4-6, 7-5, at the ATP 250 in Bulgaria.

The two men split 10 breaks of serve across 24 combined break points, Ivashka sealing victory by battling through deuce to break in the final game. Both men struggled on serve, posting matching 57 per cent win rates on their deliveries, while Ivashka saved eight of 13 break points.

The World No. 71, who reached the fourth round at the US Open before losing a five-setter to Jannik Sinner, will face third seed and home favourite Grigor Dimitrov in the Sofia second round.

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In other Monday main-draw action, Kamil Majchrzak defeated Ricardas Berankis 7-5, 6-2 and Bulgaria’s Alexandar Lazarov downed Czech #NextGenATP star Jiri Lehecka 7-5, 6-3 in front of his home fans.

For Lazarov, the World No. 334, it was his first win at an ATP Tour tournament and his first Top 100 triumph.

“I was waiting a long time for this win,” said the Miami-born Bulgarian. “I’m playing this tournament since [2016]. I always dreamed to pass the first round in front of the Bulgarian crowd and I finally made it, so I’m very, very happy.

“It’s extra special. I’m a late bloomer, what they call, because I’m 24. But I think that hard work beats talent and I hope I get to realise what I can do.”

In the final day of qualifying, top seeds Ugo Humbert, Jan-Lennard Struff and Geoffrey Blancaneaux advanced to the main draw, as did Sweden’s Dragos Nicolae Madaras.

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Arnaldi Pushing For 2022 Goals On Challenger Tour

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Arnaldi Pushing For 2022 Goals On Challenger Tour

The 21-year-old is one of six Italian #NextGenATP stars who have claimed a Challenger title this season

It’s been a dream year for Italian Matteo Arnaldi.

In May, the 21-year-old practised with his longtime idol Novak Djokovic at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome. It must’ve prepared them both well. Djokovic went on to capture a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown in Rome while Arnaldi collected his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title the following week in Francavilla al Mare.

“It was incredible,” Arnaldi said. “I played the week before in Rome, my first Masters 1000 event (l. Cilic). My coach and I didn’t know whether to go to Francavilla or not, I was also in qualies at the Geneva ATP event. We decided to go to the Challenger and I played very well the whole week, I didn’t drop a set until the final.”

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The Sanremo native took down countryman Francesco Maestrelli 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-4 to triumph on home soil, claiming the title at the C.T. Francavilla Sporting Club. That was just the start of Arnaldi’s breakthrough on the ATP Challenger Tour. Now, after reaching four Challenger semi-finals this season, including San Marino, where he was a finalist (l. Kotov), the World No. 157 is nearing his 2022 goal.

“I started the year so-so,” Arnaldi said. “It’s my first year playing just Challengers. Last year, I played Futures and I tried to improve my ranking. Until April, I was losing a lot of first rounds, so I didn’t start how I wanted. When the clay season began, where there’s a lot of Challengers at home in Italy, I started to play very well. When you play a lot of matches, you feel better and feel more comfortable.

“My goal for this season was to be Top 150. I’m very close to my goal and I have two or three months to go up more. Everything that comes now is something more than we expected.”

Matteo Arnaldi celebrates his first Challenger Tour trophy with coach Alessandro Petrone (left). Credit: Challenger Francavilla al Mare

Arnaldi is one of six Italian #NextGenATP youngsters who have claimed a Challenger title in 2022. Luca Nardi, Flavio Cobolli, Lorenzo Musetti, Francesco Maestrelli, and Francesco Passaro have also triumphed this season.

Arnaldi, who is 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan, now sets his sights on being at the eight-player Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, which hosts the world’s Top 8 21-and-under players (8-12 November).

“The Next Gen Finals is my goal for the rest of the year. But I don’t like to check the points every week. I just like to play and do my best.”

Arnaldi hopes to be in Milan with Passaro, who is ninth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan. Arnaldi and Passaro teamed up to reach the semi-finals at the ATP Challenger 80 events in Sanremo and San Benedetto Del Tronto earlier this season.

“I’ve known Francesco since I was 11 or 12,” Arnaldi said. “We played all the juniors and played doubles together. We are very close, his team and my team are like a big family.”

In June, Arnaldi made his Grand Slam qualifying debut at Wimbledon, falling short to Portugal’s Nuno Borges. This past month, the Italian made the final round of qualifying at the US Open, losing to Daniel Elahi Galan, who upset fourth seed Stefanos Tstisipas in the opening round.

Boasting a 28-20 Challenger match record in 2022, Arnaldi will next play the Alicante Challenger, 3-9 October.

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Kovacevic Stuns Kecmanovic On Tour Debut In Seoul

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Kovacevic Stuns Kecmanovic On Tour Debut In Seoul

24-year-old upsets World No. 32 at ATP 250 event in South Korean capital

When the time came for his ATP Tour main draw debut, things couldn’t have gone much better for Aleksandar Kovacevic.

The 24-year-old American stunned seventh seed Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 6-4 at the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships on Monday. Kovacevic had fallen in the final round of qualifying at the ATP 250 hard-court event in Seoul, but he took advantage of a lucky loser spot in style as he broke the World No. 32 three times en route to an impressive 93-minute first-round victory.

“[It is] a little bit surreal,” said Kovacevic, who will meet Christopher O’Connell or Chun-Hsin Tseng in the second round. “I watch these matches on TV every day. I consider a lot of these guys my peers and I feel like I’m playing at a pretty good level, but just being out there in an ATP event in the main draw… I thought that I needed a little more experience to be honest before I did well.

“I played really well out there. There’s something about big matches for me. For Miomir this is obviously not a huge moment because he’s been here for a while, but for me it is a big deal, so it brings out some of my best tennis. [I’m] really glad for this one, but hoping to continue it during the week. Definitely happy to get this first one, but not fully satisfied yet.”

Born to a Serbian father and Bosnian mother and raised in New York City, Kovacevic has just completed his first year as a pro after playing college tennis at Florida Atlantic University. After reaching his maiden ATP Challenger Tour final in Indianapolis in August, Monday’s win represents an instant reward for the World No. 222’s decision to take the trip to Seoul.

“I don’t really travel the world much,” said Kovacevic. “I graduated from college about a year ago, so this is my first kind of year on Tour, and I’ve been mainly playing tournaments in the US so it is definitely a change. I kind of came here to get myself a little bit out of my comfort zone, and that’s exactly what these past few days has been.

“[It has been] kind of rough, I came down with a cold the first day I was here and been trying to accustom myself to the conditions and sleep and all that. But South Korea is amazing, I’ve been loving it. I’m here for four weeks, I’ve committed to doing that, and I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Also on Monday, Radu Albot marked his Seoul debut with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win against Japanese lucky loser Hiroki Moriya. Albot will meet American Steve Johnson or home wild card JiSung Nam in the second round as he seeks to reach his second tour-level quarter-final of 2022.

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Felix Remains In Turin Contention, Mover Of Week

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Felix Remains In Turin Contention, Mover Of Week looks at the top Movers of the Week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, as of Monday, 26 September 2022

With just seven weeks to go until the Nitto ATP Finals, the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin is heating up.

Following their standout seasons, Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal have already booked their spots at the end-of-year finale, leaving six remaining places. looks at those in contention to join the Spaniards as we enter the last week of September.

View Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin Rankings

No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime
The Canadian is currently seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin and will be aiming to build on his strong recent form over the next month as he looks to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. Auger-Aliassime defeated World No. 1 Alcaraz at the Davis Cup Finals earlier in September, before he downed Novak Djokovic to help guide Team World to Laver Cup glory at the O2 in London.

No. 3 Casper Ruud
The 23-year-old can strengthen his position in the Race To Turin with a deep run this week at the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships in Seoul, where he is the top seed. The Norwegian, who reached his second Grand Slam final at the US Open in September, advanced to the semi-finals on debut at the Nitto ATP Finals last year and is on the brink of qualifying again this season.

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No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas
Tsitsipas will be aiming to make his fourth appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, having won the title on debut in 2019. The Greek, who holds a 49-18 record on the season, can boost his qualification hopes with strong results at his next tour-level event in Nur-Sultan at the start of October.

No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz
The Pole enjoyed a run to the semi-finals in Metz last week as he continued his quest to qualify for the year-end event for the second consecutive year. Hurkacz defeated Dominic Thiem and Arthur Rinderknech before falling to eventual champion Lorenzo Sonego.

No. 10 Taylor Fritz
The 24-year-old arrives in Seoul high in confidence, after helping Team World win its first Laver Cup at The O2 in London. The American, who is aiming to make his debut in Turin, will face Mackenzie McDonald or Pedro Martinez in his opening match.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Brandon Nakashima

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Brandon Nakashima

American clinched maiden ATP Tour crown in his native San Diego

Brandon Nakashima dropped just one set last week at the San Diego Open, where he claimed his first ATP Tour title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against fellow American Marcos Giron in Sunday’s final. The trophy, which came following his third tour-level final, was made even sweeter by the setting in Nakashima’s home city.

After notching five wins on the week, the 21-year-old returned to the Top 50 and reached a new career-high of No. 48 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday. caught up with the American as he reflected on the milestone win.

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Hometown Hero: Nakashima Wins First ATP Title In Native San Diego

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It’s a super special feeling for me. Playing in two finals last year and losing at both of them, I never thought this moment was going to happen again, to be in a final… let alone in my hometown of San Diego. To be able to win my first title is super special. This whole week I played at a high level. I’m super proud of myself for all the hard work. 

How does it feel to win it in San Diego?
It feels amazing. It’s an unbelievable feeling just to come out here and have an ATP tournament here where I grew up, where I learned the game of tennis.

I have all my family to thank. They’ve done an amazing job raising me. All my coaches, I’m so thankful for all their hard work, in the juniors and up until now. There are just so many people here in San Diego that have helped me along the way and I just can’t be more grateful.

How would you describe yourself as a player, and how would you describe yourself off the court?
On the court as a player, I would describe myself as calm, composed, always trying to stay focussed out there, super solid from the baseline; I try not to give too many free points out there. Obviously I think my serve and return has been getting better throughout the year. I’m super happy with how my game’s been improving.

Off the court as well, I would probably describe myself as also pretty laid back, calm. I also like to have fun with family and friends during my free time.

This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
I don’t know yet. Of course being in my hometown, I get to go home tonight, celebrate with the team. I don’t have to fly back, if we were somewhere else. I’m sure we’re going to celebrate with all my family down here, all my coaches. Probably go out to a nice dinner and just enjoy this moment as much as possible.

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What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
I love watching and playing other sports. Golf on my days off, watching football. Baseball, I always love to support my home team here in San Diego [the Padres]. So that’s always super fun and exciting just to follow other sports as well and get a little break for the mind, away from tennis. I think it’s very important.

If you had not become a professional tennis player, which job do you think you would have done instead?
Growing up, in school and in college I’ve always loved the math/science subjects. So if I wasn’t a professional tennis player, I probably would be something like an engineer or in computer science. I think those were my best subjects in high school and college, so something along those lines.

Are there any specific ways you think your decision to go to college before turning pro helped you to reach this moment?
I definitely think so. The college life and the college atmosphere definitely helped me, prepared me for those moments on the professional tour. All those guys on the team and those coaches back there, I’m always grateful for them. I keep in touch with them, have good relationships with all of them. I think the college life definitely helped me prepare for all the travel as well.

Away from the tennis side of things, what is your favourite aspect of travelling the world on Tour?
I think it would be just meeting new people all around the world, from different countries, different cultures. Growing up, I never really experienced that too much, so to be able to do it now and do something that I love — playing tennis, travelling around the world — it’s a special feeling. Any time I’m able to travel to new countries, new places, I’m always super excited and I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more to experience in the future as well.

We’ve read your favourite movie is ‘Creed’. Do you think you share any qualities with Rocky or ‘Donnie’ Creed when it comes to your tennis?
I don’t think so, not too much. (Laughs.) Maybe just the competitiveness out there. Growing up I always loved the sports movies and that was definitely one that I enjoyed a lot.

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Hometown Hero: Nakashima Wins First ATP Title In Native San Diego

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Hometown Hero: Nakashima Wins First ATP Title In Native San Diego

#NextGenATP American wins all-American final vs. Giron

Third time’s the charm for Brandon Nakashima. The 21-year-old completed a dream week in his home city by winning his first ATP Tour title on Sunday at the San Diego Open.

Playing in his third ATP Tour final, and his first of 2022, the San Diego native defeated third seed Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in an all-American final. It was a fitting finale at the ATP 250 event, with Giron also hailing from Southern California and living in San Diego in recent years.

“It feels like a dream out here,” Nakashima said post-match after hugging family and friends courtside. “My first ATP title in my hometown. To be able to capture my first title here, it’s unbelievable. Amazing atmosphere out here tonight, and I just really want to say thank you for coming out and showing your support.”

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Nakashima has moved up 21 places this week to No. 48 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, setting himself up for a new career-high. The American also solidifed his poisition in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan, moving up one place to sixth as he seeks to return to the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Nakashima reached the semi-finals at the year-end showcase last season.

After claiming the lone break point of a quick opening set, Nakashima was pegged back after building a 2-0 lead in the second. But after dropping serve for the first time on the night, he won eight straight points from 2-2 to regain control at the Barnes Tennis Center. Stellar serving helped Nakashima avoid a nervy finish, as he won 12 of the last 13 points on his own delivery, including a love hold to close out the victory.

After the opening set passed without a single deuce game, four games went to deuce in the second set as the finalists were deadlocked in a baseline battle. The two longest games of the match went Giron’s way, as he broke for 2-2 and later held to stay within touching distance at 3-4.

While there was little to separate both players in the rallies, Nakashima’s serve made the difference. He saved three of four break points behind a 79 per cent win rate on first serve, firing eight aces in the victory.

“No matter the score out here today, I always knew there were going to be some tough moments,” added Nakashima, who recalled practising with his “great friend” Giron in his junior days. “I knew it wasn’t going to come easy. I had to battle for every game. At the beginning of the second set, a couple of tight games. I lost my serve, but I think I regrouped pretty well in the next game. Happy to close it out on my serve.”

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Lammons/Withrow Claim First ATP Tour Title In Dan Diego

  • Posted: Sep 26, 2022

Lammons/Withrow Claim First ATP Tour Title In Dan Diego

Americans top Aussies Kubler/Saville in first tour-level final together

Second seeds Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow made the most of their home advantage this week at the San Diego Open to claim their first ATP Tour title as a team.

The Americans — Lammons from Texas and Withrow from Nebraska — earned a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory against Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville in Sunday’s final at the ATP 250. The pair made a slow start in its first title match as a team, dropping serve in the opening game. But the champions did not face another break point as they improved throughout the contest.

“Nate and I have teamed up a little bit last year and rolled into this year,” Withrow said post-match.

“[We’re] looking for this to kind of be a steady partnership that we can continue to grow and continue to get better. We feel like, after we’ve had some hard talks over the summer, we’re on the right path and ready to continue the rest of the year and hopefully end on a high note.”

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Putting the pressure on late in the first set, the Americans levelled at 4-4, then saw two set points go begging on return at 6-5. The second seeds never trailed in the tie-break after opening up a 4/1 lead and continued their momentum with an instant break in the second set.

Lammons/Withrow dropped just four points on serve in the second set, and won more than 75 per cent of points on both first and second serve overall.

“We had some good results last year and some good ones this year,” added Lammons. “We’re kind of headed in the right direction. The focus changes where it needs to and I think we’re working on the right stuff and we’re really happy with what we’re doing.”

The pair improved to 13-19 at tour-level, with its best previous results coming in semi-final runs in Montpellier and Marseille in 2021. The duo stretched its winning streak to eight matches, dating back to its ATP Challenger Tour title in Cary last week — the team’s fifth Challenger title together.

The San Diego title is Lammons’ first at tour-level and Withrow’s second after a 2018 triumph with Jack Sock in Delray Beach. They dropped just one set in four matches on the week, winning a Match Tie-break against Bradley Klahn and Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals.

The pair moved up 25 places this week to 35th in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings.

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