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Coric Ends Altmaier's Dream Madrid Run, Sets Alcaraz Clash

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Coric Ends Altmaier’s Dream Madrid Run, Sets Alcaraz Clash

Croatian will meet Alcaraz for the first time

Borna Coric ended Daniel Altmaier’s dream run at the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday evening. The 17th seed eliminated the lucky loser 6-3, 6-3 to set a semi-final clash against top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.

“I always love to play here in Madrid. I have very, very nice memories from here and I knew I could play well,” Coric said in his on-court interview. “I came here very early to prepare myself for the tournament, as it’s, I would say, a little bit different to the next tournaments. I’m just very happy to be in the semi-finals.”

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Coric’s experience on the big stage showed inside Manolo Santana Stadium. The 26-year-old, who lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy last year in Cincinnati, earned a service break in his second return game and never looked back to triumph after one hour and 14 minutes.

Appearing in the Madrid quarter-finals for the second time — he did so in 2017 as a lucky loser — Coric took full advantage of his opportunity. The Zagreb-native dominated behind his first serve and did not face a break point against his German opponent.

Altmaier arrived in the Spanish capital with one main draw Masters 1000 win on his resume, and he lost in the final round of qualifying to Jurij Rodionov. But after entering the draw as a lucky loser, the 24-year-old surged to the quarter-finals without losing a set.

However, he struggled to find consistency from the baseline early against Coric and that proved costly. Altmaier double faulted away the first break of the match at 1-2 and struggled to get back on terms from there. The German showed plenty of power with his one-handed backhand, but with his deep return position was never able to put much pressure on the Croatian’s service games in the first set.

That changed as the match wore on, when Altmaier was able to put pressure on the Coric forehand, the less steady of the 17th seed’s groundstrokes. But after securing an early break, the three-time ATP Tour titlist made timely shots, including a beautiful backhand lob to get out of trouble at 3-2 40/40.

The quick win was a welcome reprieve for Coric, who needed three hours and 28 minutes to oust home favourite Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Tuesday’s fourth round. Coric won 90 per cent of his first-serve points and will hope to find the same level of success against Alcaraz, whom he will play for the first time.

“He’s absolutely an unbelievable player in unbelievable shape in the moment as well,” Coric said. “So he’s the favourite and I’m going to just go out there and I’m going to enjoy himself. I like to play here in this stadium and it’s going to be a very cool feeling for sure.”

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Tsitsipas Meets In-Form Struff For Madrid SF Spot

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Tsitsipas Meets In-Form Struff For Madrid SF Spot

Zhang faces Karatsev as semi-final lineup to be completed on Thursday

The remaining two quarter-finals will light up the Caja Magica on Thursday at the Mutua Madrid Open, where fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas headlines the action in the bottom half of the draw at the ATP Masters 1000.

The Greek competes in his 19th Masters 1000 quarter-final while his opponent, Jan-Lennard Struff, will be appearing in just his third. First-time quarter-finalists Zhang Zhizhen and Aslan Karatsev are the other two players hoping to join Carlos Alcaraz and Borna Coric in the semi-finals. looks ahead to Thursday’s scheduled action on the clay of the Spanish capital.

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[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. [LL] Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)

A big-serving battle kicks off the night session on Manolo Santana Stadium as 2019 finalist Tsitsipas meets the former World No. 29 Struff for the first time since 2020.

Tsitsipas leads 3-2 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series, but it was the German who prevailed in their only previous clash on clay in 2019 in Barcelona. The Greek will also be wary that he is facing a man in form: Although Struff entered the main draw at the Caja Magica as a lucky loser, he is appearing in back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finals after his run to that stage in Monte-Carlo.

Finding rhythm on serve could be decisive to the outcome of the match. Tsitsipas landed 39 straight first serves in his second-round triumph against Dominic Thiem but was broken three times by Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the fourth round. The Greek will hope to rediscover his best delivery and maintain the high level off his backhand wing that he found in the fourth round as he chases his first title of 2023.

“It’s like hitting a home run with a baseball bat,” said Tsitsipas, when asked about the series of down-the-line backhand winners he hit against Zapata Miralles. “I’m happy with how I was able to [direct] the ball. There were a few times when the ball came in deep and you’d expect a cross-court, but I was able to [redirect it down the line]. It’s something I have been working on.”

Struff, who lost to fellow quarter-finalist Karatsev in the final round of qualifying, possesses a booming delivery of his own and has defeated Lorenzo Sonego, Ben Shelton, Dusan Lajovic and Pedro Cachin so far in his personal-best run in Madrid. With the German battling to victory across three sets in three of those triumphs, the fourth-seeded Tsitsipas will be prepared for a tough challenge on Thursday in the Spanish capital.

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Zhang Zhizhen (CHN) vs. [Q] Aslan Karatsev

An intriguing quarter-final matchup between two players enjoying a hot streak on the Madrid clay, the World No. 99 Zhang takes on No. 121-ranked Karatsev in the first match of the day on Manolo Santana Stadium.

Both are playing in their maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final, but Karatsev is the more experienced on the big stage. The 29-year-old is a three-time ATP Tour titlist and became the first man in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on Grand Slam debut at the 2021 Australian Open.

As clean a ballstriker as anyone on Tour, Karatsev is chasing his seventh straight win in Madrid after coming through qualifying to earn a spot in the main draw. His stunning straight-sets victory against Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round, a display full of trademark baseline winners, was a reminder of his ability to take the racquet out of his opponent’s hand.

On the other side of the net on Thursday, however, will be the history-making Zhang. The No. 66 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, he will become the first Chinese player in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history to break the Top 50 should he defeat Karatsev. The 26-year-old has upset 11th seed Cameron Norrie and eighth seed Taylor Fritz en route to becoming the first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist from his country.

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Alcaraz's Dream: 'Become One Of The Best Tennis Players In History'

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Alcaraz’s Dream: ‘Become One Of The Best Tennis Players In History’

Spanish star turns 20 on Friday

The fire still burns within Carlos Alcaraz.

The Spaniard has accomplished historic feats in his young career. The 19-year-old, who turns 20 on Friday, became the youngest World No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history last year. He won his first major title at the US Open and has already earned three ATP Masters 1000 crowns.

After defeating Karen Khachanov in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals, the teen made clear he is still hungry for more.

“My dream in tennis right now is to become one of the best tennis players in history,” Alcaraz said. “I know that this is a big dream, [it] probably is too big. But in this world, you have to dream big and you have to think big, as well.”

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Alcaraz played his 150th tour-level match on Wednesday, and is now 117-33 according to Infosys ATP Stats. He has won 78 per cent of his matches, which is better than the career marks of legends including Pete Sampras (77.4%), Boris Becker (76.9%), Guillermo Vilas (76.2%), Andre Agassi (76%), Arthur Ashe (75.4%), Andy Murray (75.2%) and Stefan Edberg (74.8%).

The Spaniard became the youngest champion in Madrid history last year and is two victories from successfully defending his title on home soil.

It would mark the first time he has won a Masters 1000 event two years in a row. Alcaraz does not take such opportunities for granted as he continues his journey.

“I want to be part of the the best tennis players in history,” Alcaraz said. “And I will work for it.”

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Murray Downs Monfils At Aix-en-Provence Challenger

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Murray Downs Monfils At Aix-en-Provence Challenger

Galan survives to meet top seed Nishioka in Italy

Fans in Aix-en-Provence, France were treated to a blockbuster first-round match Wednesday, when Andy Murray and Gael Monfils met at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event.

The three-time major champion Murray stayed steady from the baseline and drew errors from Monfils’ backhand to earn a 6-3, 6-2 victory at the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole.

“I’m glad to be back on the court competing again at a high level,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I’m hoping I can get some more matches here and keep building to get ready for Roland Garros.”

While the opening set featured three consecutive breaks of serve, Murray stayed in charge on the French clay to advance after one hour, 22 minutes. The former World No. 1 didn’t face a break point in the second set. 

It was Murray and Monfils’ first clash since the 2014 Roland Garros quarter-finals, which the Briton won in five sets. All six of their tour-level meetings have been at ATP Masters 1000 events or higher.

“Obviously a very tough opponent in the first round,” Murray said. “He’s just coming back from a very long injury, it’s not easy especially at our age, we’re not young anymore… He’s been a good friend of mine on the tour. I think we first played each other 25 years ago when we were 11 or 12 years old.”

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Murray will next meet another Frenchman, Laurent Lokoli, who kicked off Wednesday’s action with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

In other action in southern France, eighth seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry edged Serbian teen Hamad Medjedovic 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Home hope Geoffrey Blancaneaux ousted qualifier Ivan Gakhov 6-3, 6-2 to set up a second-round meeting against top seed Tommy Paul. French teen Arthur Fils also advanced, after rallying from 3-5 in the deciding set to overcome countryman Gregoire Barrere 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4). 

Sixth seed Ugo Humbert began his Cagliari campaign by defeating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 6-4, 6-3. Despite both players serving less than 50 per cent, Humbert fended off seven of nine break points to advance at the Sardegna Open.

World No. 100 Daniel Elahi Galan rallied from a set down to survive Italian wild card Flavio Cobolli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. The Colombian will next meet top seed and World No. 34 Yoshihito Nishioka at the ATP Challenger 175 event.

<a href=''>Daniel Elahi Galan</a> during opening-round action in Cagliari, Italy.
Daniel Elahi Galan during opening-round action in Cagliari, Italy. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour

Three-time Challenger champion Yosuke Watanuki held a 6-4, 4-2 lead on Thiago Monteiro when the Brazilian was forced to retire with an elbow injury. The three highest-ranked Japanese male players – Nishioka, Taro Daniel, and Watanuki – are all in the top half of the Cagliari Challenger draw. The 25-year-old Watanuki could meet Nishioka in the quarter-finals.

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Alcaraz Overcomes Khachanov Challenge To Claim SF Spot In Madrid

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Alcaraz Overcomes Khachanov Challenge To Claim SF Spot In Madrid

Defending champion meets Coric or Altmaier in final four

Carlos Alcaraz engineered a stunning second-set turnaround to overcome an impressive display from Karen Khachanov and keep his title defence on track Wednesday at the Mutua Madrid Open.

The top seed trailed 2-5 in the second set of the pair’s quarter-final clash on Manolo Santana Stadium but rallied to a 6-4, 7-5 triumph to reach his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final of the season. Frequently deploying drop shots to try and disrupt Khachanov’s heavy baseline hitting, Alcaraz hit 31 winners to prevail in what will be his final competitive match as a teenager.

“It was pretty tough. The first set as well, it was close,” said Alcaraz, who turns 20 on Friday. “I was in trouble in the second set, a break down and [he had] two break points to have the second break. So it was really tough for me to come back and he had his chances to win the second set.

“Luckily I knew I was going to have my chances. I just tried to take my opportunities and I’m really happy to get through.”

Khachanov had stuck with Alcaraz early in his bid for a first win in three attempts against the Spaniard. The top seed raised his level in the seventh game to break his opponent, however, and Alcaraz’s high-class retrieving along the baseline was a dominant feature of the first set. He dropped just two points behind his first serve en route to claiming the opener to the delight of the home crowd.

Any thoughts that Khachanov may fade after falling behind were quickly dispelled as the 10th seed was rewarded for his ferocious groundstrokes in the second set. He raced to a 4-1 lead but was made to pay for letting slip two break points for 5-1. Alcaraz erased the uncharacteristic errors from earlier in the set and reeled off five games in a row from 2-5 to claim a one-hour, 51-minute win.

“I talk with myself a lot during the match, telling myself that I have to be passive and not to be in a rush in the point,” said Alcaraz, when asked about the variety in his game. “Of course, a lot of things come to my mind, drop shots and a lot of [other] things, and sometimes it is tough to choose one.”

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The nine-time tour-level titlist Alcaraz has now reached at least the semi-finals in all five tournaments where he has played as defending champion. He successfully completed a title defence for the first time in Barcelona 11 days ago, and his 27-2 record for the 2023 season will be a source of confidence as he seeks a repeat showing in Madrid.

Alcaraz is two wins away from claiming his fourth straight ATP Tour title on home soil. He will play Borna Coric or Daniel Altmaier in the semi-finals in Madrid, where successfully defending his title would also set the 19-year-old on course to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. If he lifts the trophy on Sunday in the Spanish capital, he will usurp Novak Djokovic from top spot simply by playing a match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia later this month.

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Bopanna/Ebden Score Upset, Reach Madrid SFs

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Bopanna/Ebden Score Upset, Reach Madrid SFs

Indian-Australian duo aiming for third title of the season

Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden delivered a commanding upset in Wednesday’s quarter-final action at the Mutua Madrid Open.

The Indian-Australian duo ousted top seeds and defending champions Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last four at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Bopanna and Ebden won 23 of 29 points off their first serves and didn’t face a break point throughout the 60-minute contest.

Bopanna and Ebden, seeded seventh, move one step closer to capturing their third title of the season (Doha, Indian Wells). They will next meet Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who hold the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings. The Mexican-French duo will aim to avenge this year’s Barcelona loss to Bopanna and Ebden.

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ATP & LaLiga Launch Player Education Programme

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

ATP & LaLiga Launch Player Education Programme

Programme is designed to build ATP players’ knowledge of the sports industry

ATP has launched the ATP Business Education Programme, a new educational initiative in collaboration with LaLiga. The programme is designed to build ATP players’ knowledge of the sports industry and open professional opportunities following their playing careers.

This season the programme comprises 30 tuition hours, delivered online and in person over four months. In total, more than 20 ATP players have enrolled for its first edition. The programme launched with an in-person session at LaLiga’s headquarters in Madrid, opened by ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi and LaLiga President Javier Tebas.

The programme will be taught by various industry experts with first-hand knowledge of both the tennis world and the wider sports industry. Topics covered will range from sports marketing, sponsorship and personal branding to social media, fan engagement, event management and governance. At the initial in-person session, players also had an exclusive opportunity to learn about the rebranding of LaLiga, which will be implemented this summer.

The course will also feature a two-day classroom session in New York during the US Open.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: “This programme is something very close to my heart. When I reflect on my own journey, education helped me unlock career prospects post-tennis and took pressure off me as a player. It also gave me more insight into how to manage my career. We’re proud to collaborate with LaLiga to deliver this incredible opportunity to ATP players. It will no doubt be valuable for players, both during and after their time on Tour.”

LaLiga President Javier Tebas said: “It is an honour for LaLiga to co-organise with the ATP, through LaLiga Business School, this training program for professional tennis players. Training is essential for the freedom of athletes and for their professional future after their sports career. Therefore, it is great news that more and more professional athletes have access to quality training to improve their present and future experience.”

Former player and ATP’s Ambassador for the ATP Business Education Programme Michael Berrer said: “I have experienced first-hand how important education was and still is. The ATP Business Education Programme introduces players to the foundations of sport business and provides them with input from industry leaders. These skills and knowledge will help them tremendously during and after their careers.”

Programme participant and ATP Board Member Pablo Andujar said: “It is a good move from the ATP to organise these programmes for players. I think this is a great experience for players that want to develop their post-tennis careers. I’m excited for our sport to continue working in this direction.”


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Players in the featured image, from top row to bottom row, left to right: Jan-Lennard Struff, Matwe Middelkoop, Joao Sousa, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Gastao Elias, Federico Delbonis, Malek Jaziri, Marcelo Melo, Jamie Cerretani, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Pablo Andujar, Mackenzie McDonald, Gregoire Barrere, Quentin Halys, Emil Ruusuvuori and Michael Berrer. Also in the programme but not pictured: Robin Haase, Marc-Andrea Huesler, Matthew Ebden, Jamie Murray, Philipp Oswald and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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Altmaier's Waiting Game: German Star On Staying Healthy & The 'Strategy' Of Fishing

  • Posted: May 03, 2023

Altmaier’s Waiting Game: German Star On Staying Healthy & The ‘Strategy’ Of Fishing

World No. 92 plays Coric in his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid

Daniel Altmaier is the first lucky loser to reach the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals since his opponent in the last eight, Borna Coric, in 2017. The German may have needed a slice of fortune to acquire his spot in the main draw in the Spanish capital, but his dream ATP Masters 1000 run can be seen as just reward for his years of hard work battling back from shoulder and hip problems.

As an 18-year-old in mid-2017, Altmaier climbed as high as No. 210 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after reaching his first ATP Tour quarter-final in Antalya. Yet an injury-plagued 2018, during which he competed in just three professional tournaments, disrupted his progress. It was not until late 2020 that he reached that mark again, en route to his career-high of No. 53 in May 2022.

“I really got to know my body,” Altmaier told last year when asked if any positives had come out of his difficult journey back. “I really put a lot of effort into doing my research and understanding the change of the body. For example, if your calf is hurting, where is the potential? Is your ankle wrong or is it coming from the hip?

“I really started to understand those changes and I really wanted to know what was happening. Now, I think I feel much better about understanding my body.”

All that time off the court gave Altmaier more time at home to enjoy one of his favourite hobbies: fishing. An activity he mostly undertakes with his father, Altmaier cites the experience of waiting for a catch as a nice contrast to his life on the tennis court. That does not mean it is any less intense, however.

“I think most people probably think that you just go fishing and wait until something happens,” said Altmaier. “I think our fishing is different because it has a little bit of strategy. It depends on the weather and how active the fish is.

“I would say it’s kind of like professional fishing because my dad really is obsessed with those things and knows exactly about the temperature, the weather conditions, how high the water is in rivers, for example. All those things make a big difference. I find that really interesting and it’s totally something else to what we do in tennis. It’s something fantastic.”

So has he ever taken advantage of the global nature of the ATP Tour to discover other fishing spots around the world?

“I fish mostly at home with my dad, because we can fish trout,” said Altmaier. “In the ocean in Mexico or maybe somewhere in the United States [would be good], though, fishing for tuna or something like this. It would be exciting one day but so far I haven’t done it. There are a lot of countries, so let’s see.”

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The fact Altmaier has stayed healthy for the past two years may have reduced his time relaxing by the river at home, but it has allowed the 24-year-old to establish himself more securely at the top of the game. Since returning to the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in November 2021, the German has spent only seven weeks outside that group.

His run this week in Madrid, where he defeated countrymen Oscar Otte and Yannick Hanfmann before dropping just three games against home favourite Jaume Munar, has lifted Altmaier 31 spots to No. 61 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. It is a more-than-useful springboard for the rest of his 2023 season, especially considering his belief that he can do damage on all surfaces.

“Maybe I have the most experience on clay,” said Altmaier, who defeated Matteo Berrettini on the way to the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2020. “Definitely the most matches if you see my stats probably, but I do enjoy every part of the circuit because I think my game suits any surface. I really want to take advantage of this as well. I maybe have more experience on clay, but I wouldn’t pick one favourite surface.”

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