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Lucky Loser Struff Stuns Tsitsipas To Reach Madrid SFs

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Lucky Loser Struff Stuns Tsitsipas To Reach Madrid SFs

German will next play Karatsev in qualifying rematch

Jan-Lennard Struff’s run at the Mutua Madrid Open appeared to be short-lived when he lost in the final round of qualifying last Tuesday. Nine days later, he is into his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

The lucky loser upset fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3 to reach the last four at the Caja Magica. The German will next face Aslan Karatsev, who ousted him in qualifying.

“It feels amazing. It was a very, very hard battle. I knew before I needed to perform at my best,” Struff said in his on-court interview. “Very, very happy that I played this well today. The crowd was amazing. It was an unbelievable atmosphere and really, really happy that I won.”

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Struff is the third lucky loser to advance to the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 event, joining Thomas Johansson (2004 Toronto) and Lucas Pouille (2016 Rome). He has now split six ATP Head2Head matches with Tsitsipas and is two victories from hoisting his first ATP Tour trophy. Struff knows he must refocus for his rematch with Karatsev.

“Aslan is playing amazing this week so far and he beat me pretty easily in qualies I need to say. I didn’t play the best tennis in that match, but he made me play not good I feel like,” Struff said. “I think we need to analyse it now, focus on the match tomorrow and I hope I can do better.”

It is the high point of a strong comeback for the 33-year-old. Earlier this year, Struff was as low as No. 167 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after suffering a right foot injury last season in Miami.

Struff has leveraged his powerful game throughout the tournament in the Spanish capital and he is now up to No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The German has lost just five service games in the main draw and dropped just one to the fourth seed.

Both players were in good form inside Manolo Santana Stadium, using their serves to take control of points and backing it up by bludgeoning groundstrokes and often coming to net on the red clay. When Struff double faulted away the first break of the match at 5-5 in the second set, it seemed the moment was potentially affecting him.

But the German had a short memory and immediately clicked back into gear. Having faced the first nine break points of the match, he earned his first break point of the match at 2-1 in the third set. The Warstein-native seized the opportunity with both hands, crushing back-to-back backhands, which his opponent was unable to handle. Struff’s down-the-line backhand proved especially useful, often putting the Greek into difficulty.

Tsitsipas entered the match with an 8-1 record in deciding sets this season and 9-2 on clay in his career, so it was no surprise that he continued to put pressure on the German, who was pursuing the biggest win of his career.

But Struff had an answer for every question the German asked, saving break point at 4-2 with huge hitting to get out of trouble after misfiring with his forehand earlier in the game. He also trailed 15/30 when serving for the match. But after Tsitsipas saved one match point with a jaw-dropping forehand passing shot, Struff won two consecutive points, completing his victory when the fourth seed missed a backhand return long.

“He was serving so good the whole match and it was so tough to get into points. But I somehow won the first set,” Struff said. “I felt like he was better in the first set. I got out of many tricky situations. He was 4/1 up in the tie-break.

“I thought I played [in] the second set a very, very good set, but I played a bad game at 5-all. And in the third set I came out aggressive again and it was a huge win for me.” 

Since gaining entry into the main draw as a lucky loser, Struff has defeated Lorenzo Sonego, 32nd seed Ben Shelton, Banja Luka champion Dusan Lajovic, Pedro Cachin and Tsitsipas.

Did You Know?
Struff has earned five wins against Top 5 opponents. Two of those victories have come in the past month, having upset World No. 4 Casper Ruud en route to the Monte-Carlo quarter-finals.

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Paul Reaches Challenger 175 QFs; Nishioka Falls In Cagliari

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Paul Reaches Challenger 175 QFs; Nishioka Falls In Cagliari

Kokkinakis advances in Italy

The action at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour 175 events heated up Thursday, when Aix-en-Provence top seed Tommy Paul advanced to the quarter-finals in southern France. Daniel Elahi Galan’s victory against World No. 34 Yoshihito Nishioka was one of several upsets at the Cagliari Challenger.

American Paul cruised past Frenchman Geoffrey Blancaneaux 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole.

“Tough conditions today, it was windy. But overall I’m happy with how I played, I wish I would’ve served better,” Paul said in his on-court interview. “More first serves in the court would’ve been better, but I’m happy to walk away with the win.”

World No. 17 Paul is the first Top-20 player to be competing at a Challenger Tour event since Stan Wawrinka played the Prague Challenger in 2020. The 25-year-old Paul will face Jurij Rodionov in the last eight. The six-time Challenger champion Rodionov advanced after outlasting Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5).

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Andy Murray escaped alternate Laurent Lokoli 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Despite having four match points in the second set, three-time major champion Murray was pushed to a decider by the home hope before sealing victory after two hours, 42 minutes.

Lucky loser Harold Mayot earned the first Top-50 win of his career Thursday when he upset second seed Brandon Nakashima 7-6(2), 6-3. The Frenchman Mayot will next meet Alexander Bublik, who downed Otto Virtanen 6-4, 6-4.

Two teenagers are into the Aix-en-Provence quarter-finals. Luca Van Assche, 18, rallied from a set down to beat countryman and third seed Adrian Mannarino 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The 18-year-old Arthur Fils needed two hours, 28 minutes to oust Quentin Halys 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2).

David Goffin also advanced in Aix-en-Provence after defeating Dan Added 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

The upset of the day came when Colombia’s Galan defeated top seed Nishioka 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 at the Sardegna Open.

Galan, 26, is building off his career-best season. In 2022, he stunned World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitispas in the opening round of the US Open and reached a career-high No. 67 in November.

Galan had to rally from a set down in each of his first two matches in Cagliari, where he will next face Borna Gojo after the Croatian earned a 6-4, 7-5 victory against Yosuke Watanuki.

Also in Cagliari action, Thanasi Kokkinakis won 26 of 27 first-serve points to defeat Alessandro Giannessi 6-4, 6-2. The Aussie will meet fourth seed Laslo Djere in the last eight after the Serbian fended off all five break points faced to defeat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-2.

<a href=''>Thanasi Kokkinakis</a> in action at the ATP Challenger 175 event in Cagliari.
Thanasi Kokkinakis in action at the ATP Challenger 175 event in Cagliari. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour

Taro Daniel ousted third seed Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 6-3 to book his ticket to the quarter-finals, where he will meet Ugo Humbert.

Home hope and #NextGenATP star Giulio Zeppieri has earned back-to-back wins against countrymen. After surviving Andrea Vavassori in the opening round, Zeppieri moved past Mattia Bellucci 6-2, 6-0 to set a quarter-final clash against Ben Shelton or Fabian Marozsan.

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Bopanna/Ebden To Meet Khachanov/Rublev In Madrid Final

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Bopanna/Ebden To Meet Khachanov/Rublev In Madrid Final

Khachanov and Rublev down fourth seeds

Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden rallied from a set down Thursday to reach their second ATP Masters 1000 final of the season. The Indian Wells champions will contest the title with Top-15 singles players Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, who produced their best match of the tournament to advance.

The Indian-Australian duo ousted eighth seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 5-7, 7-6(3), 10-4 in the last four of the Mutua Madrid Open. In the Match Tie-break, Bopanna and Ebden won four of seven return points to book their ticket into Saturday’s final.

Bopanna and Ebden, seeded seventh, are aiming for their third title of the season (Doha, Indian Wells). Their strong start to the season has lifted them to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings. 

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Gonzalez and Roger-Vasselin have won titles in Marseille and Miami this season. Their last two losses have come to Bopanna and Ebden, having suffered a defeat to the team in Barcelona.

Khachanov and Rublev, who faced each other in the singles round of 16, continued their run by defeating fourth seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 6-4. Khachanov and Rublev won 31 of 37 first-serve points and fended off all three break points faced to advance. 

After dropping the opening set in each of their first three matches, Khachanov and Rublev needed just one hour, 13 minutes to reach their third doubles final together (2018 Miami, 2019 Paris Masters).

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Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2023: Draws, Dates, History & All You Need To Know

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2023: Draws, Dates, History & All You Need To Know

All about the ATP Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Rome, Italy

The third clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event of the season will see the world’s best players compete at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, and more in action.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the tournament in the Italian capital:

When is the Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

The 2023 Internazionali BNL d’Italia will be held from 10-21 May. The clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournament, established in 1930, will take place at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy. The tournament director is Sergio Palmieri.

Who is playing at the 2023 Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

The Internazionali BNL d’Italia will feature stars such as 10-time champion Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev and more.

When is the draw for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

The Rome draw will be made at a time yet to be confirmed.

What is the schedule for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia ATP Masters 1000 event?

* Qualifying: Monday, 8 May at 10 a.m, Tuesday, 9 May at 11 a.m.
* Main Draw: Wednesday, 10 May – Sunday, 21 May at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
* Doubles Final: Sunday, 21 May at 1 p.m.
* Singles Final: Sunday, 21 May at 4 p.m.
*View On Official Website

What is the prize money and points for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

The prize money for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is €7,705,780 and the Total Financial Commitment is €8,637,966.

Winner: €1,105,265 / 1,000 points
Finalist: €580,000 / 600 points
Semi-finalist: €308,790/ 360 points
Quarter-finalist: €161,525 / 180 points
Round of 16: €84,900 / 90 points
Round of 32: €48,835 / 45 points
Round of 64: €27,045 / 25 points
Round of 96: €16,340 / 10 points

DOUBLES (€ per team)
Winner: €382,420 / 1,000 points
Finalist: €202,850 / 600 points
Semi-finalist: €108,190 / 360 points
Quarter-finalist: €54,840 / 180 points
Round of 16: €29,300 / 90 points
Round of 32: €15,780 / 0 points

How can I watch the Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

Watch Live On Tennis TV
TV Schedule

How can I follow the Internazionali BNL d’Italia?

Hashtag: #IBI22
Facebook: @internazionalibnlditalia
Twitter: @InteBNLdItalia
Instagram: #IBI22

Who won the last edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in 2022?

Novak Djokovic won the 2022 Internazionali BNL d’Italia singles title with a 6-0, 7-6(5) victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the championship match (Read & Watch). Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic lifted the doubles trophy in Rome with a 6-2, 6-7(6), 12-10 triumph against John Isner and Diego Schwartzman in the final (Read More).

Who holds the Rome record for most titles, oldest champion, youngest champion and more?

Most Titles, Singles: Rafael Nadal (10)
Most Titles, Doubles: Brian Gottfried, Raul Ramirez, Daniel Nestor, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan (4)
Oldest Champion: Novak Djokovic, 34, in 2022
Youngest Champion: Bjorn Borg, 17, in 1974
Highest-Ranked Champion: No. 1 Ivan Lendl in 1986, 1988, Jim Courier in 1992, Pete Sampras in 1994, Rafael Nadal in 2009, Novak Djokovic in 2015, 2020, 2022
Lowest-Ranked Champion: No. 47 Felix Mantilla in 2003
Last Home Champion: Adriano Panatta in 1976
Most Match Wins: Rafael Nadal (69)

View Who Is Playing, Past Champions, Seeds, Points & Prize Money Breakdown

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Qualifier Karatsev Ends Zhang's Run In Madrid

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Qualifier Karatsev Ends Zhang’s Run In Madrid

29-year-old second qualifier in history to reach Madrid semi-finals

Aslan Karatsev reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final at the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday when he overcame China’s Zhang Zhizhen 7-6(3), 6-4 to become the second qualifier to advance to the last four in tournament history.

In an intriguing clash between two first-time Masters 1000 quarter-finalists, it was Karatsev who held his nerve at key moments inside Manolo Santana Stadium. The 29-year-old saved all three break points he faced in the first set and produced a clean-hitting display in the second set to triumph after one hour and 40 minutes.

“I am happy with my condition. Back to the top level,” Karatsev said. “Playing well and feeling well. From the qualifying, match by match, it has got harder, so mentally you have to be there more. Because your opponent doesn’t give you any free points so you have to be there yourself. The important thing is now recover well.”

Having dropped as low as No. 129 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 17 April, Karatsev has refound his best form in Madrid, defeating seeded players Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev.

Playing with confidence against Zhang, Karatsev stuck his groundstrokes aggressively in the fast conditions, hitting 29 winners to improve to 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Zhang. With his ninth tour-level win of the year, Karatsev has jumped to No. 51 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

“I started the year inside the Top 100 then I dropped and lost some matches. You have to keep going and believe and I have a team behind me that is always supporting me and believing in me,” Karatsev said.

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The qualifier will aim to continue his run when he takes on fourth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas or German lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff in the semi-finals.

Former World No. 14 Karatsev has a history of producing on the big stage. At the 2021 Australian Open, he moved past seeds Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov to become the first man to reach the semi-finals on Grand Slam debut.

History-making Zhang was the first Chinese man to reach the quarter-finals at an ATP Masters 1000. The 26-year-old earned upset wins against Denis Shapovalov, Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz in the Spanish capital to advance to his third tour-level quarter-final. He leaves the clay-court event up 33 spots to No. 66 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

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Zhang's Unlikely Journey To Stardom

  • Posted: May 04, 2023

Zhang’s Unlikely Journey To Stardom

Zhang is first Chinese ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist

In March 2011, 14-year-old Zhang Zhizhen played a junior tournament in Haikou, China against 15-year-old Cameron Norrie. The result was lopsided: Norrie eased past Zhang 6-2, 6-0. The lefty standout enjoyed a distinguished junior career, dominated college tennis for Texas Christian University and surged into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

The path to stardom was not as direct for Zhang, who never climbed higher than World No. 166 as a junior. But it was almost fitting that just more than 12 years after that match in China, Zhang earned the biggest win of his professional career against Norrie, eliminating the Briton 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(2) on Monday at the Mutua Madrid Open to become the first player from his country to reach the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 event.

“Before the match I didn’t even think I was going to be here in the second week of Madrid,” Zhang said after that match. “Now I made it!”

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The 26-year-old’s journey at the Caja Magica did not stop there. Zhang then won his third consecutive final-set tie-break on Tuesday when he upset eighth seed Taylor Fritz for a place in the quarter-finals. A win against Aslan Karatsev on Thursday will see him become the first Chinese player in history to crack the world’s Top 50.

It is a massive accomplishment for a player who was never expected to be here. Zhang’s close friend Wu Yibing, the highest-ranked Chinese man in history, was junior World No. 1, as was 18-year-old countryman Shang Juncheng. They were much more highly touted than Zhang, according to Chinese tennis reporter Zhang Bendou.

“What makes Zhizhen unique and different is first, he was never a prodigy, let alone junior World No. 1 like Wu and Shang,” he said. “He never played a junior Grand Slam, he didn’t have a high junior ranking. However, he is not a small-town boy either. He comes from Shanghai. His father is a famous soccer star.”

Zhang’s father is Zhang WeiHua, who was a defender for Shanghai ShenHua. When he was young, his father gave him three options: study, swim or play tennis. Studying was too boring and his swimming coach was too tough. Zhang’s life in tennis began by process of elimination.

As Wu Di, one of the best Chinese male tennis players in history said, Zhang was never the best singles competitor in his age group. If anything, he enjoyed more success on the doubles court.

Zhang Wuj
Zhang Zhizhen and Wu Di in Zhuhai in 2019. Photo: ATP Tour
But having secured his first ATP Tour main draw singles win in 2015 just before his 19th birthday, there has always been potential in Zhang’s game.

“He has for sure the shots for Top 50 or Top 30. But sometimes he did not know how to use [them],” Wu said. “He’s a smart guy, but too smart. Good serve, forehand and everything is okay, but you have to adapt.”

Zhang’s first several years on Tour were filled with inconsistency, which prevented him from making himself a constant presence at the top level.

“He thinks he can beat anybody. But every day is different. Sometimes [you] do, sometimes [you] don’t. But he only wants it to be a nice day,” Wu said. “[It is not nice] every day. Today’s rainy. Tomorrow is sunny. But you have to compete quietly.”

The Chinese star slowly made progress. He cracked the world’s Top 200 in 2019 behind his first two ATP Challenger Tour titles. Two years later, Zhang qualified for Wimbledon, becoming the first Chinese man to compete in the main draw at the tournament in the Open Era. Last year he accomplished the same feat at the US Open (as did Wu Yibing).

His consistency improved and with it came a surge up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Last October Zhang became the first Chinese player to break into the world’s Top 100, a significant moment according to Zhang Bendou.

“Many Chinese are very proud of what our country has achieved in the past 30 years. However, if you talk about sports, men’s tennis seemed like it was our ‘black hole’ forever,” he said. “We’ve achieved so many great things, but we couldn’t even produce one ATP Top 100 player for such a long time, which is really unthinkable.

“For ZZZ finally conquering that goal, it was a big success and relief as well for Chinese people, especially sports fans here, that yes, Zhizhen and Yibing have both proven that Chinese men can also do it.”

Wu Yibing, Shang Juncheng and Zhang Zhizhen
Wu Yibing, Shang Juncheng and Zhang Zhizhen this year in Melbourne, where they all played in the main draw. Photo: ATP Tour
The Chinese player has trained in various locations throughout the world in an attempt to improve his game. He has also remained close to his Shanghai team. Earlier this year, Wu Di spent several weeks traveling with him to help as needed.

“Mentally he’s strong because otherwise another Chinese guy cannot stay out of China for years,” Wu said. “He can.”

As Zhang has shown in Madrid, he has the game to compete with some of the best players in the world. It would be difficult to beat former Nitto ATP Finals competitors and Masters 1000 champions like Norrie and Fritz otherwise.

“For many years, people here were always talking about if Asian men are not strong enough to compete with Western players,” Zhang Bendou said. “Even if they could, they are usually injury-prone. ZZZ is different with Wu and Shang in this sense. He is tall and strong and he is all about power. Just look at how big his forehand and serve could be in Madrid.”

Zhang will try to use those assets again in the quarter-finals against big-hitting Aslan Karatsev, whom he admitted defeated him 6-0 in a practice set.

“I’ll do my best,” Zhang said after his last match. “Here everyone is a great player, huge player. They all have some very good results. [I will] try to do the best what I can do.”

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