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Alcaraz Lights Up The Madrid Night, Sets Zverev Rematch

  • Posted: Apr 30, 2023

Alcaraz Lights Up The Madrid Night, Sets Zverev Rematch

Spaniard earns 17th straight win on Spanish soil

After escaping Emil Ruusuvuori in a three-set comeback to begin his title defence at the Mutua Madrid Open, Carlos Alcaraz advanced to the last 16 with a thoroughly entertaining win on Sunday against Grigor Dimitrov. In a 6-2, 7-5 victory, the stylish Alcaraz imposed his athletic game to make a fast start then showed his grit to instantly recover a break in the second set.

He will next face Alexander Zverev in a rematch of last year’s Madrid final, won by Alcaraz in straight sets. Zverev leads the ATP Head2Head 3-1, including a win in their most recent meeting in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals.

“I really want to play that match. We played a few times, head-to-head he is up,” Alcaraz said of the showdown encounter. “I really want to show my great level here in front of my home crowd. I have great memories from last year in the final but obviously I have to be really focussed in that match. I know that Sascha is a really good player, a really aggressive one with good serves. I have to show all my skills.”

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Alcaraz is seeking to complete the Barcelona-Madrid double for the second straight season after retaining the title at the Barcelona ATP 500 last Sunday. He has won 17 straight matches on Spanish soil across four campaigns and must push that number to 21 to earn the title in Madrid.

Picking up where he left off in closing out Ruusuvuori, Alcaraz used his all-action game to take command against Dimitrov in a one-sided opening set on Manolo Santana stadium.

Alcaraz spoke before the tournament about feeling motivation rather than pressure from the expectant Spanish crowd, and he showed it by playing freely against the Bulgarian. A highlight moment came early on when he brandished his racquet like a magic wand, feigning a cross-court slice before lifting a down-the-line pass beyond his stranded opponent.

Alcaraz continued to thrill his home crowd throughout the match, with the aggressive Dimitrov playing his part by forcing the Spaniard to rely on his world-class speed and defensive skills. The top seed kept a smile on his face throughout the 90-minute contest and raced through the finish line by winning five of the last six games.

The opponents are good friends and have practised together this week in Madrid, an experience Alcaraz said helped him fine-tune his tactics.

“When we practised, it helped me a lot in the tactical game, what I had to do,” he said. “Obviously I was focussed on myself all the time, trying to hit the ball really clear and with a lot of power. That was the goal at the beginning of the match, trying to play aggressive all the time.”

Dimitrov was seeking to repeat his heroics from 2013 in Madrid, when he beat then-World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for his biggest win. He was denied a fourth win against a Top 2 opponent and stopped two rounds short of matching his Madrid quarter-final run from 2015.

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Arevalo/Rojer Overcome Fritz/Tiafoe

  • Posted: Apr 30, 2023

Arevalo/Rojer Overcome Fritz/Tiafoe

Auger-Aliassime/Shapovalov advance

Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer overcame Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 at the Mutua Madrid Open to reach their fifth tour-level quarter-final of the season.

Chasing their third tour-level title this year, the fourth seeds won 90 per cent (28/31) of their first-serve points to move past the Top 15 singles stars and improve to 14-6 as a team on clay. Arevalo and Rojer, who triumphed at Roland Garros last season, will next face Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov.

The Canadians, who advanced to the last eight in Indian Wells, downed sixth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara 6-4, 6-2.

In other action, Jamie Murray and Michael Venus defeated Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow 3-6, 6-3, 10-4 in one hour and 21 minutes. Murray and Venus have now won six consecutive matches after lifting the trophy in Banja Luka last week.

Eighth seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin also advanced, defeating Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski 6-4, 6-2.

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Zverev Cruises Through In Madrid

  • Posted: Apr 30, 2023

Zverev Cruises Through In Madrid

German is a two-time champion in Spanish capital

Alexander Zverev continued his love affair with the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday when he wasted little time in reaching the fourth round. The German overpowered French qualifier Hugo Grenier 6-1, 6-0 in 55 minutes.

Zverev survived an opening-round scare against Roberto Carballes Baena but faced no such problems against Grenier. He struck 26 winners, won 86 per cent (17/20) of net points and broke Grenier’s serve six times to earn his 12th win of the season.

“Today I felt great,” Zverev said. “Maybe Hugo was a bit nervous, first time in the third round at a [ATP] Masters [1000] and that is big for any player. In general I am happy that I kept my composure and that I am through.”

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The 13th seed has often produced his best level on the Madrid clay, holding a 21-3 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event. He has reached at least the quarter-finals in all five of his previous appearances, lifting the trophy in 2018 and 2021.

Zverev will continue the quest for his first tour-level title of the season when he takes on top seed Carlos Alcaraz or Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round.

“Both of those players are great players,” Zverev said when asked about playing Alcaraz or Dimitrov in the fourth round. “It is going to be difficult no matter who it is against. Of course with Carlos that would be a matchup people would look forward to. We played in the final here last year, played a massive match at [Roland Garros] before I got injured.”

The 27-year-old Grenier was making his ATP Masters 1000 debut and earned upset wins against Diego Schwartzman and Sebastian Korda to reach the third round. The Frenchman is up nine places to No. 119 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

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Zizou Bergs: Challenger Tour Star Who Donates Gear To Africa

  • Posted: Apr 30, 2023

Zizou Bergs: Challenger Tour Star Who Donates Gear To Africa

The 23-year-old won this month’s Tallahassee Challenger

Players on the ATP Challenger Tour often carry impactful stories that go relatively untold.

Such is the case with Belgian Zizou Bergs, who has been donating tennis equipment to the African country Burundi for eight years. A five-time Challenger Tour champion, the 23-year-old recently triumphed at the Tallahassee Challenger just a few weeks after his grandfather passed away. Bergs’ life off the court is a story within itself.

Following an eye-opening trip to Burundi at age 15, the Belgian No. 2 quickly developed a contact, Marcel Van der Haegen, in the East African country and has since donated tennis clothes and equipment.

“I still have that project going on,” Bergs told “We’re not always aware about it, but you have so much and sometimes feel like you have little. You grow up in a very good culture, in a very good country and you think everything is quite normal that you have all these clothes, shoes, racquets, you can string whenever you want, get great food at the table every day. That is not common [there], it really opened my eyes. They would play with my [stuff], even if it was like five sizes too big, they would still play with it. That really touched me.”

<a href=''>Zizou Bergs</a> first started donating tennis clothes and equipment to Burindi in 2015.

Earlier this month, Burundi hosted an ITF Women’s 25K event. Bergs received word from a friend at the tournament that while she was there, she noticed several guys around the capital city Bujumbura who were wearing his clothes and playing with the racquets he’s donated over the years.

“That was heartwarming that they’re so grateful for that,” Bergs said. “I definitely have enough clothes to keep sending them every year. At a certain point, Yonex [started] helping us too. We’re definitely grateful that Yonex is also willing to support me and the project I have, even though it’s very small. It’s important to me that it’s not only taking, because tennis has given me a lot. It’s giving back and I really like that in this project.”

This season has been bittersweet for Bergs. The first two months of the year, the Lommel native qualified for the Australian Open and reached a career-high No. 112. Last week, Bergs triumphed at the Tallahassee Challenger, where he didn’t drop a set en route to the title.

As he lifted the trophy in Florida, one person was on his mind; his grandfather, who passed away just a month prior.

“It was very emotional actually,” Bergs said. “Never experienced tears in my eyes after a win, but this one was a little different because my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago when I was in Miami. Ever since, I didn’t have the chance to go home, so I had to follow his funeral from a distance. He was my biggest fan, he would text me after every match.

<a href=''>Zizou Bergs</a> triumphs at the <a href=''>Tallahassee Tennis Challenger</a>.
Zizou Bergs triumphs in Tallahassee, Florida. Credit: Tallahassee Tennis Challenger

“Every match he would give me a whole analysis of what happened and give me things to work on. I really hoped he would continue doing that just in a different way, and it definitely happened. He was present that week, I won that with him. It was very emotional and special.”

Full of passion and emotion on court, Bergs chooses to remember his grandfather by living out core values he saw in his life. As he followed his grandfather’s funeral from a different continent, Bergs noticed three principles that consistently came up when loved ones reflected on his grandfather’s life.

“I got to know him better as I was getting older and was more conscious about what was happening,” Bergs said. “Also the time he was sick, I got to know him better. The first value was positivity. He would always be positive that there was something that would help him, thinking everything was going to be okay. He wasn’t worried at all, he was a happy man.

“The second one was being combative, because he was always ready to fight. He was struggling for years with his health and for everything that came up, he would be ready to fight and do anything necessary that was needed.

“The third one was solution-oriented. He was always finding solutions in his job, with the family, he would not be complaining. If something wasn’t working in my career, I’d go to his home with my parents and we’d talk about it. He’d come up with possible solutions. I felt like these core values could be really good in tennis. They were great values to learn from and stick with me in the future.”

While Bergs will always remember his grandfather, it’s safe to say that there are tennis players in Burundi who will always be aware of the Belgian star.

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Khachanov Wins Madrid Thriller, Sets Rublev Clash

  • Posted: Apr 30, 2023

Khachanov Wins Madrid Thriller, Sets Rublev Clash

Rublev improves to 10-1 on clay this season

Karen Khachanov reached the fourth round at the Mutua Madrid Open for the first time on Sunday when he clawed past Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in a Madrid thriller.

Competing in front of a packed crowd inside Manolo Santana Stadium, both took large cuts at the ball as they looked to impose their powerful games. After a tight first two sets, Khachanov hit a purple patch in the decider. He struck 20 winners in the third set compared to four from Bautista Agut and won three straight games from 3-3 to triumph in two hours and 53 minutes.

Khachanov, who is making his sixth appearance in Madrid, reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January before he advanced to the last four at the Miami Open presented by Itau in March. The 26-year-old is chasing his fifth tour-level crown and first since 2018 this fortnight in the Spanish capital.

With his 18th win of the season, Khachanov improved to 3-6 in his long-running ATP Head2Head series rivalry against Bautista Agut. Up one spot to No. 11 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Khachanov will next meet fifth seed Andrey Rublev.

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Rublev moved past Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 7-5 to continue his red-hot clay-court form in Madrid.

The fifth seed hit with relentless power in the fast conditions, blasting 35 winners to improve to 2-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against Nishioka. Rublev now holds a 10-1 record on clay this season, having lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Monte-Carlo and advanced to the final in Banja Luka.

Rublev reached the quarter-finals in Madrid last season and will aim to match that when he takes on Khachanov in the fourth round. Rublev defeated long-time friend Khachanov en route to the title in Monte-Carlo, with the pair locked at 2-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.


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In other action, Jaume Munar reached the fourth round at an ATP Masters 1000 for the first time, ending Italian qualifier Matteo Arnaldi’s run with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory.

The Spaniard fell to Arnaldi in Barcelona last week but gained his revenge in the Spanish capital to set a fourth-round meeting against Daniel Altmaier or German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. Munar is up 19 spots to No. 69 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

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Preview: Alcaraz & Rublev Continue Title Quests In Madrid

  • Posted: Apr 29, 2023

Preview: Alcaraz & Rublev Continue Title Quests In Madrid

Rune, Khachanov, Zverev in action

Third-round action begins on Sunday at the Mutua Madrid Open, where Carlos Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev and Holger Rune continue their title quests at the ATP Masters 1000 clay-court event.

Karen Khachanov, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Zverev also play on a day when seeded stars clash for the first time at this year’s event. looks at some of the key third-round matchups on show in the Spanish capital on Sunday across the men’s singles draw and men’s doubles draw.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [26] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Alcaraz triumphed in Madrid last year, defeating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to the crown. Twelve months on and the 19-year-old overcame a tough opening test against Emil Ruusuvuori on Friday to set a second meeting against former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov.

Alcaraz, who will boost his World No. 1 hopes if he defends his title in the Spanish capital, is seeking his fourth tour-level title of the season in Madrid. The home favourite will be aware of the threat Dimitrov holds as he chases his 17th consecutive win at Spanish ATP Tour events.

The Bulgarian is one of the cleanest ballstrikers on the Tour and quickly found his rhythm against Gregoire Barrere in his opening round to improve to 11-7 on the season. Yet with Alcaraz backed by home support and possessing an array of weapons, Dimitrov will need to be at his best if he is to upset the Spaniard and earn his second Top 10 win of the season.

[5] Andrey Rublev vs. [28] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN)

Rublev has made a red-hot start to the clay swing, winning his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo before advancing to the final in Banja Luka. The fifth seed made a winning start in Madrid, downing former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in straight sets to improve to 9-1 on the surface in 2023.

Rublev’s third-round opponent Nishioka could cause him problems, though. The Japanese star leads Rublev 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, having defeated him in their previous meeting in Washington last year. The 28th seed moved past Alex Molcan in his opening match to earn his first ATP Masters 1000 win of the season and will be aiming to recapture the form that saw him advance to the fourth round at January’s Australian Open.

Having advanced to the quarter-finals in Madrid last season, Rublev will be hoping his big-hitting game will be too much for Nishioka when they meet on Sunday.

[6] Holger Rune (DEN) vs. [29] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP)

Holger Rune survived a major scare in his opening match at the Caja Magica. He saved one match point to defeat Alexander Bublik on his Madrid debut, improving to 9-1 on clay this year. The 19-year-old, who this month advanced to the final in Monte-Carlo and lifted his fourth tour-level trophy in Munich, will look to continue his red-hot form when he takes on Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in their first tour-level meeting.

The home favourite Davidovich Fokina eased past Albert Ramos-Vinolas to reach the third round in Madrid for the first time. The 23-year-old enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals in Barcelona last week and will be seeking his first Top 10 win of the season when he takes on World No. 7 Rune.

Also In Action

Zverev holds fond memories in Madrid, having lifted the trophy in 2018 and 2021 before he advanced to the final last year. The German will look to improve to 21-3 at the ATP Masters 1000 when he takes on Frenchman Hugo Grenier.

Miami semi-finalist Karen Khachanov meets Roberto Bautista Agut and will aim to start turning the tables in the pair’s ATP Head2Head rivalry, which the Spaniard leads 6-2. Italian qualifier Matteo Arnaldi upset Casper Ruud and will look to continue his run against Spaniard Jaume Munar.

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In doubles action, Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov will take on sixth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara, while Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe meet Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer.

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Koolhof/Skupski Begin Madrid Title Defence With Win As Other Top Seeds Fall

  • Posted: Apr 29, 2023

Koolhof/Skupski Begin Madrid Title Defence With Win As Other Top Seeds Fall

Second seeds Ram/Salisbury, third seeds Dodig/Krajicek upset

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski picked up where they left off at the Mutua Madrid Open on Saturday evening. The top seeds and defending champions passed a tough opening test at the ATP Masters 1000 with a 6-2, 7-6(7) win against Germans Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz.

The Dutch-British pair saved all thee break points against them — all in the first set — and later saved a set point at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break before closing out the win on their second match point. With the help of seven aces, they won 84 per cent (32/38) of their first-serve points in the victory.

Through to the last 16, Koolhof/Skupski will face  wild cards Roberto Carballes Baena and Martin Landaluce in the second round following the Spaniards’ 6-2, 6-3 win against Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez on Saturday.

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Second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury were knocked out in Madrid without a match win for the second straight year. The American-British team was turned back by Banja Luka champions Jamie Murray and Michael Venus, who scored a 6-2, 3-6, 10-4 upset.

Third seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek also fell victim to an opening-round upset, with Simone Bolelli and Fabrice Martin dismissing them with a 6-4, 3-6, 12-10 win. The Italian-French duo saved a match point at 10/9 in the Match Tie-break before clinching victory on the second match point of thier own.

Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov also advanced on Satuday with a 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 win against Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, setting up a second-round showdown with fifth-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.

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Tsitsipas Lands 39 Straight First Serves In Comeback vs. Thiem

  • Posted: Apr 29, 2023

Tsitsipas Lands 39 Straight First Serves In Comeback vs. Thiem

Greek closes gap to 4-5 in ATP Head2Head series

Stefanos Tsitsipas completed a dramatic comeback against Dominic Thiem with victory in a third-set tie-break on Saturday night at the Mutua Madrid Open. In a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) triumph, the Greek used a flawless serving performance to shift the tone of the match, then battled back from 1/3 in the decisive tie-break after seeing five break points go begging on return at 5-5.

The Greek made 39 straight first serves spanning from late in the opening set to early in the third and won 88 per cent (50/57) per cent of his overall first-serve points in the two-hour, 19-minute contest.

“That’s fantastic, 39 is a lot,” Tsitsipas said of the streak. “That shows that perhaps I improved today on my serve. That’s a positive mark for me. I think I just owe it all to fluidity and just being relaxed on my serve… I think it’s just pure relaxation and focus.”

With victory in the pair’s first meeting since the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, Tsitsipas closed the gap to 4-5 in their ATP Head2Head series, including a 2-1 mark on clay. Both competitors are former finalists in Madrid, with Tsitsipas reaching the 2019 title match and Thiem finishing runner-up in 2017 and 2018.

The last man in the Madrid singles draw to book his third-round ticket, Tsitsipas will next face 25th seed Sebastian Baez, who beat Marcos Giron 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 earlier on Saturday.

“It was very physical and I think we both played our best,” Tsitsipas said of his opening win against Thiem. “I’m in a way happy that we were able to show that kind of tennis… Today sort of showed what kind of intensity two guys that play single-hand backhands can bring to tennis. I’m happy I got away with a win. Things weren’t easy at the very end but I just kept fighting.”

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A semi-finalist last year in the Spanish capital, Tsitsipas entered this year’s event on the heels of a run to the Barcelona final, where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz. But Thiem halted his momentum in the opening set with an aggressive game plan built around heavy cuts from his forehand wing. The Austrian saved three break points to consolidate his early break and build a 4-1 lead en route to claiming the first set.

Behind his stellar serving, Tsitsipas dominated the second set as Thiem’s forehand began to misfire, with the Greek driving home his advantage with a slew of well-timed drop shots.

Thiem stayed in front in the final set behind several battling holds, none more dramatic than his final service game, in which both players produced some of their best tennis with the match on the line. After five deuces and more than 11 minutes, Thiem escaped. But Tsitsipas won four straight points to lead 5/3 in the tie-break and clinched victory on his second match point.

“I had confidence in my tennis and I knew that bit by bit I would be able to fight back,” Tsitsipas added of the match as a whole. “My confidence showed in that second set where I was just serving really well and started finding my rhythm on the returns. The third set it was just pure fight. He’s not someone that’s going to give up and he hates even giving the slightest to you in terms of free points.

“I knew I was dealing with something big and that tie-break, it was just pure cash.”

The Greek denied Thiem his first Top 10 win since he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals. Thiem was also seeking his first Top 10 win on clay since beating Djokovic in the 2019 Roland Garros semis. The defeat dropped him to 7-12 on the season, while Tsitsipas improved to 21-6.

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