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Alcaraz: 'I Have To Take Lessons From This Match'

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Alcaraz: ‘I Have To Take Lessons From This Match’

Spaniard reflects on early exit in Astana

Carlos Alcaraz’s first ATP Tour event as the No. 1 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings came to an early end on Tuesday at the Astana Open, where he lost in straight sets to David Goffin. The 19-year-old gave full credit to his Belgian opponent.

“He has played great matches, a lot of matches. He has a lot of experience as well. He played better than me, really, really aggressive,” Alcaraz said. “I couldn’t handle that pressure that he was pushing on me and of course it’s something that I have to learn and take lessons from this match.”

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Goffin Upsets Alcaraz In Astana

It took until Alcaraz’s 63rd match of the season to lose in straight sets. He had won at least one set in every match he had played since last year’s Rolex Paris Masters.

It was always going to be a tricky match against Goffin, a lucky loser who had earned two previous victories against World No. 1s. The former World No. 7 has the ability to counterpunch, but also to play aggressively, using his footwork to take the ball early.

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Alcaraz praised the 31-year-old’s level after falling short in one hour and 47 minutes.

“It was a tough match as you can see. He was playing really, really well,” Alcaraz said. “Coming back to competition is never easy. He played two matches here on this court. It’s not easy to get used to, it’s really, really slow. It was really tough on me, for my confidence.

“I tried to get used to this court so quickly, but I couldn’t and he was better than me in this match.”

Alcaraz is next scheduled to compete in Basel the week of 24 October.

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Medvedev Back On Track In Astana

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Medvedev Back On Track In Astana

Second seed eases past Ramos-Vinolas

Daniil Medvedev showed no ill effects on Tuesday from his opening-round loss in Metz. The second seed bounced back with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round of the Astana Open. 

“The court is pretty slow. Albert is kind of a slow player [tactically], he likes to put the ball in the court. I felt like I didn’t need to force myself to play faster because that could make me miss,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “I was a little bit less confident than in my best tournaments, so I knew that I had to start slow and try to get into the rhythm. Finally, great match. Hopefully I can raise my level in the next ones.”

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The 26-year-old made a nearly flawless debut at the Kazakhstani ATP 500, ousting the former Top 20 player in 79 minutes. Medvedev saved the only break point he faced in the match and won 48 per cent of his return points. 

In a clash that featured many lengthy rallies, Medvedev showed great patience to frustrate the Spanish lefty. Ramos-Vinolas even tried to come into the net often to take the second seed out of his comfort zone, but the World No. 4 was undeterred.

Medvedev remained consistent throughout and used a number of drop shots to successfully change the rhythm of points. That helped him break Ramos-Vinolas’ serve four times and set a second-round encounter with Sofia champion Marc-Andrea Huesler or Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori.

The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion is also next in line to qualify for the season finale, currently fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Medvedev is trying to earn his place in the year-end championships for the fourth consecutive year. Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas have already qualified for the event, which will be held at the Pala Alpitour from 13-20 November.

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Work In Progress: Rublev's Quest For Calm

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Work In Progress: Rublev’s Quest For Calm

Rublev is competing in Astana this week

Tennis players, in the very public crucible of the arena, often grow up before our eyes. Their brilliance is in plain sight – but so are the challenges of overcoming youthful emotion. Maturity, hopefully, comes sooner rather than later. For some, it may never come at all.

This, Andrey Rublev –a junior World No. 1 and Roland Garros Boys’ champion at the age of 16 – knows as well as anyone.

Back in March, playing Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Indian Wells, Rublev’s emotions burst into view, creating a viral moment. Down 5-6, he hit a shot into the net that cost him the first set. Furious, the fiery redhead smashed a ball high into the air and proceeded to punish the offending racket. He punched the strings with such force that he opened up a gash on his right hand; the blood led to a medical timeout before he dropped the second set and, ultimately, the match.

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Four months ago, the 24-year-old posted on social media that big changes were coming.

At this week’s Astana Open in Kazakhstan, he spoke openly in an ATP Media interview about his continuing education in the pursuit of maturity. He is especially proud of the way he carried himself in a volatile third-round match at this year’s US Open against Denis Shapovalov.

“Everyone has their own weaknesses,” he said. “My weakness is mental and little by little there are some improvements. [Before] I would already explode and because of that lose the match. But even in the moment it looks impossible to [maintain composure], I was able to do it. It was giving me a turning moment and I was able to win the match. I was feeling a bit proud of myself after the match, I’ll be honest. I showed on court I was better as a person. But I don’t want to focus on that. It’s like `OK, go back to reality, and you still have this problem there – go fix it.’”

Rublev won in a fifth-set tie-break in an epic match that ran longer than four hours before falling to Frances Tiafoe in the quarter-finals. That was the last match he played before arriving in Astana.

On Monday, the fifth seed dispatched qualifier Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-3 and will play Zhang Zhizhen, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 comeback winner over Aslan Karatsev, in a second-round match on Wednesday.

By most standards, 2022 has been a terrific year for Rublev. He’s already won 40 matches and three titles – in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade, defeating Novak Djokovic in that final. And yet, considering his high aspirations, quarter-final berths at Roland Garros and the US Open were disappointing.

If the seeds had held into the quarter-final round, Rublev would have had an immediate opportunity to prove himself at the elite level, for he would have faced Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old World No. 1. As it turned out, his friend and frequent practice partner was stunned by lucky loser David Goffin in a straight-sets first-round upset.

Goffin, along with Pavel Kotov, is one of two lucky losers to win a first-round match. Qualifiers Zhang and Luca Nardi also made it through the second round.

Rublev says he’s serious about self-improvement. You could see it after his first-round match at the National Tennis Center. Nearly 30 minutes after defeating Djere, he was still signing autographs and taking selfies with the fans.

He understands that emotions are part of being a human being. Rublev offered the examples of a waiter bringing the wrong dish, or a car cutting you off on the highway.

“You say all the bad things about the guy,” Rublev said. “Most of the people in life are like this. That’s how athletes are, too.

“I have a good game to be on the next level – and I’m the one who stopped myself from this. [In New York] I was better on court as a person, better as a player, more professional. I was able to handle tight moments. It takes time.”

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Kyrgios Cruises On In Tokyo

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Kyrgios Cruises On In Tokyo

Australian seeking second title of the season

A lover of Japanese food, Nick Kyrgios cleansed his palate of a disappointing US Open quarter-final loss with a stellar start at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

The Aussie saved a break point in his opening service game, then ran away with a 6-3, 6-1 victory against Chun-Hsin Tseng in Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum. After navigating that early hold, Kyrgios dropped only four further service points, finishing with an 86 per cent win rate (25/29) behind his first delivery.

“I played really solid,” the fifth seed assessed. “I came out a bit slow, but I don’t play many matches so it’s hard to just get straight back into that competitive flow. But as soon as I held the first game I kind of found my form again and played really well.”

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Kyrgios said he struggled to breathe early in the match as he adjusted to the humidity and different air compared to Sydney. But the conditions also speed up the court, which suits his big-hitting game.

“The court is obviously playing faster compared to normal hard court events. I’m not complaining about that, to be honest,” he said. “I think big servers and guys who like to take the ball early and have flat backhands, I think it suits our game style.

“It’s fun tennis to watch, people playing aggressive and coming to the net and serving big. I think that’s the type of tennis that fans like to see sometimes. The court’s probably faster than average, but I like it.”

Kyrgios, who holds a 36-10 record on the season, will next play Pole Kamil Majchrzak. Earlier this season, the World No. 20 reached the final at Wimbledon before lifting the trophy in Washington.

Did You Know?
In addition to his 2016 Tokyo title at the ATP Tour level, Kyrgios also won junior events in Japan in both Osaka (2012) and Nagoya (2011).

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Goffin Upsets Alcaraz In Astana

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Goffin Upsets Alcaraz In Astana

Belgian will next play Mannarino

Lucky loser David Goffin made the most of his second chance at the Astana Open on Tuesday, upsetting World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz 7-5, 6-3 to earn the biggest win of his season.

The Belgian squandered two match points in his qualifying match against #NextGenATP Italian Luca Nardi on Sunday, but earned a place in the draw as a lucky loser. With the pressure off, the former World No. 7 Goffin rolled back the years as he outplayed Alcaraz to reach the second round after one hour and 46 minutes.

“I always believe that I have the level to cause some trouble against those guys,” Goffin said. “Of course it has not been my best period, I haven’t been playing really well in the past few tournaments, but I always believe and practice and you never know.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice. You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today. I always believed I had it and I am happy you can still it there.”

Goffin now holds a 3-8 record against players sat at No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, having defeated then-World No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2017 and the ATP Cup in 2020.

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The 31-year-old, who captured the crown in Marrakech earlier this season, will next meet Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Alcaraz has enjoyed a historic season, capturing ATP Masters 1000 crowns in Miami and Madrid before he lifted his first Grand Slam trophy at the US Open in a victory that propelled him to No. 1. He is the youngest player to rise to the top in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973).

However, he was unable to find his best level against Goffin as he struggled to time the ball, with the Belgian breaking five times to improve to 1-1 in their ATP Head2Head series.

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Tsitsipas Starts Strong In Astana

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Tsitsipas Starts Strong In Astana

Khachanov downs Cressy

Stefanos Tsitsipas started his quest for a third tour-level title of the season in style Tuesday, cruising past Kazakhstan wild card Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round at the Astana Open.

The third seed, who is making his debut at the ATP 500 event, overpowered Kukushkin as he quickly found his range on the hard courts in Astana. He stepped inside the baseline to strike his forehand through the court and looked comfortable at the net, closing out points efficiently to advance after 83 minutes.

Tsitsipas has now earned 50 tour-level wins this year, lifting titles in Monte Carlo and Mallorca. The Greek has also improved his ATP Head2Head series against the 34-year-old to 4-0 and will next meet Italian qualifier Luca Nardi after the #NextGenATP star defeated qualifier Alexander Shevchenko 7-6(4), 6-2.

In earlier action, Karen Khachanov made a winning return to Tour when he defeated American Maxime Cressy 6-4, 7-6(3).

The World No. 18 was competing for the first time since he reached the semi-finals at the US Open last month, but showed little sign of rustiness to triumph after one hour and 31 minutes. Khachanov will face Marin Cilic or Oscar Otte in the second round.

Lucky loser Pavel Kotov downed Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-4 to book his spot in the second round. The 23-year-old will next play Roberto Bautista Agut.

Did You Know?
Tsitsipas is seeking his first ATP 500 title this week in Astana. He has reached eight finals at this level, but has yet to prevail.

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Munar Stuns Ruud In Tokyo

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Munar Stuns Ruud In Tokyo

Coric tops Kokkinakis to break Tokyo duck

Jaume Munar matched the best win of his career with a one-sided upset of top seed Casper Ruud at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

The Spaniard’s 6-3, 6-3 victory over the US Open finalist is his second Top 10 win in 13 attempts, with his previous triumph coming in 2019 against then-World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in Marrakech. Ruud reached a career-high of No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following his US Open final run, but dropped to No. 3 on Monday.

“I think it’s one of the best [wins of my career],” Munar said post-match. “Casper is a great player. We all know that maybe this is not his best surface, not even mine. But I managed to play the tennis I needed to play today.

“I think it wasn’t a great match but from my side I did what I needed to do. Very happy to be through. Casper is one of the best players in the world right now.”

Munar struck early in both sets against an out-of-sorts Ruud, racing to a 5-1 lead in the opening set and taking command with an instant break in the second.

Ruud would make his move soon after, creating a break point at 2-1 and a 0/40 opening at 2-3, but Munar had the answer on both occasions. At 4-3, Munar escaped a three-deuce game before he clinched the match with his fourth break.

“I couldn’t find the level I needed to today,” said Ruud. “I wasn’t able to get my feet going or the game going. If I want to play well I need to move well, and that wasn’t the case today.

“[There are] many things that I can make excuses about, but at the end it was not my day and Jaume was the better player, and you saw it clearly in the score.”

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The third time was the charm for Borna Coric in Tokyo. In one of the marquee matchups in the opening round, the ninth seed defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 7-6(4) to earn his first win in Tokyo.

The Croatian would have been pleased to avoid one of the ATP record nine Japanese players in the draw in his first round — Coric lost to home favourite Kei Nishikori (2015) and Taro Daniel (2019) in his previous two Tokyo appearances, both in three sets.

“I was hoping that I’m not going to play a Japanese player this time,” he said with a smile post-match. But Australia’s Kokkinakis provided strong opposition in a two-hour match that saw just a single break of serve.

“I do feel tired a little bit, to be honest,” Coric added. “It was a very tough match, it was very hot out there. I was sweating a lot. Also towards the end I think we had a 30-ball rally. It was just very tight, also stressful, so I’m just happy to be through.”


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Six weeks after winning the biggest title of his career in Cincinnati, Coric made a confident start in his first ATP Head2Head meeting with Kokkinakis, breaking in the third game of the match. He saved a break point as he served out the opening set, but could not convert on his lone break chance of the second set, which came in a five-deuce game — the longest of the match.

He will next face Brandon Nakashima, who recently won his maiden ATP Tour title in his native San Diego. The American defeated Japanese wild card Shintaro Mochizuki 6-3, 6-2 on Monday.

After missing 12 months of action from March 2021 to March 2022 following right-shoulder surgery, Coric supercharged his comeback in Cincinnati, but still must play through occasional pain.

“I do feel good. I can play tennis and extra training, way more than I was before the surgery,” he said. “Still I have sometimes a little pain and I need to manage that. But I can play. A little bit of pain, sometimes I think that’s fine.

“I’m not very young anymore so I need to be ready to have some pain sometimes, If that’s what it takes, I’m fine with it.”

Kokkinakis was making his Tokyo main-draw debut, having lost in qualifying in 2014.

In Tuesday’s opening match in the Ariake Colosseum, Soonwoo Kwon put forth a dominant performance in a 6-3, 6-2 upset of sixth seed Alex de Minaur. The South Korean did not face a break point and converted on four of his 12 break chances to secure an efficient victory in 76 minutes.

From 2-3 in the opening set, Kwon won 10 of the last 12 games to advance to the second round, where he will face Mackenzie McDonald. The American defeated Japanese wild card Kaichi Uchida 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-3 in the day’s first match in Rakuten Mobile Arena.

Kwon won his first ATP Tour title just more than one year ago in Astana, but is seeking his first trip to the third round this season on the ATP Tour. The World No. 120 has reached the second round at 15 tour-level events on the year.

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Kyrgios On What Has 'Added A Bit Of Fuel To Me'

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2022

Kyrgios On What Has ‘Added A Bit Of Fuel To Me’

Australian is seeded fifth in Tokyo

In his most recent previous media availability, a “devastated” Nick Kyrgios rued a missed opportunity in the US Open quarter-finals. After a fourth-round victory against then-World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, the Aussie lost a five-setter to Karen Khachanov in New York.

“It was heart-breaking, obviously,” Kyrgios said in a pre-tournament press conference at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships. “At the US Open I had so much expectation after I beat Medvedev. The draw kind of opened up and I just didn’t take advantage of it.”

But the defeat did little to affect the hunger of this year’s Wimbledon finalist and Washington champion, who enters Tokyo as the World No. 20.

“It kind of added a bit of fuel to me,” the 27-year-old said. “I’ve been working hard ever since I lost to Khachanov. I went back home, had a couple of days off then got straight back out on the court.”

As the lone returning champion or finalist in this week’s singles draw, the 2016 Tokyo titlist is eager to get back to winning ways at the ATP 500 event.

“There are so many opportunities to have great weeks during the year. This is, in the scheme of things, quite a big tournament,” he said.

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Kyrgios Brings The Thunder On Serve

“It’s easy to get motivated for tournaments like this. The people are great, the atmosphere’s great. I’ve had great memories here before,” he added. “I’m super excited to be here, that’s for sure. I had this circled on my calendar all year.”

Being in Japan, the fifth-seeded Australian was also asked for his thoughts on some of the sport’s local superstars.

On Nishioka, who enters Tokyo after winning his second ATP Tour title in Seoul, Kyrgios said: “I grew up with Yoshi since we were about 14 years old. He was always really talented and I always knew he was going to be a very good player on the professional circuit. His game style is very tough. If you’re not able to play big tennis and serve well, he’s got a good chance to win any match because he’s very fast, he makes a lot of balls.

“When I play him, I try to serve really big and make the points very short. I think this year he’s had a great year. He’s going to be playing with a lot of confidence this week, obviously in front of his home crowd, as well. He’s going to be definitely a dangerous player for the rest of the season, that’s for sure. He’s more than capable of winning more tournaments.”

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On Osaka, whose new sports agency, Evolve, signed Kyrgios as its first athlete in June: “Naomi, I love what she brings to the sport. I think she’s an amazing athlete. She can play some great tennis, but what she can do off the court is even more inspirational. She has so many people looking up to her. She inspires millions of people and I think that’s something that I bring, as well.”

Kyrgios also spoke about a player who is not competing this week: former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori, who withdrew from the Tokyo event as he works his way back from January hip surgery.

“I get asked so many times who I think is the hardest player to play. For me personally, Kei is a nightmare matchup for me. He returns extremely well, he plays so aggressive from the back of the court. He’s very tricky and I haven’t had much success against him at all,” Kyrgios said. “It’s unfortunate to not see him around because, as probably one of the best Asian players ever to play, you want to see these types of players in these tournaments… He’s a great guy, he’s well-liked in the locker room, he’s super friendly. I hope to see Kei back on Tour as soon as possible, he’s definitely a big part of it.”

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