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Shelton, Humbert Survive To Reach Cagliari Challenger SFs

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

Shelton, Humbert Survive To Reach Cagliari Challenger SFs

Paul, Goffin to meet in semi-finals in France

It was a day of surviving for seeded players at the Sardegna Open, where Ben Shelton and Ugo Humbert advanced to the semi-finals Friday at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Italy.

Shelton held off home hope and #NextGenATP player Giulio Zeppieri 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. The 20-year-old lefty Shelton, who will next meet Laslo Djere, broke to love at 5-6 in the decider to move past the finish line in Cagliari.

Humbert escaped a four-hour, 13-minute marathon to defeat Taro Daniel 6-7(11), 7-6(7), 6-4. The Japanese player had two match points on his serve at 5-3 in the second set and another chance to close the match in the tie-break. But the sixth seed Humbert held his nerve to reach the last four, where he will next face Daniel Elahi Galan.

“I just tried to play each point 100 per cent,” Humbert said. “It was an amazing fight. I’m super proud of myself, I was mentally strong in the key moments. I’m still in the tournament, so it’s a really good feeling.

“The first set, I was a bit nervous in the key moments. I had a few set points, but after that, I tried to stay calm and focus. I was cramping a bit at the beginning of the second set. But I found my rhythm and tried my best every point.”

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Galan, 26, has needed a deciding set in all three of his matches this week to reach the semi-finals. After upsetting top seed Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarter-finals, the Colombian ousted Borna Gojo 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on Friday.

Fourth seed Djere booked his ticket to the semi-finals by rallying to beat Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Andy Murray overcame French teenager Luca Van Assche 6-2, 7-6(6) after winning 32 of 38 first-serve points at the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole. The three-time major champion Murray won four straight points from 4/6 in the second-set tie-break to advance to the last four, where he will meet lucky loser Harold Mayot.

“It was a very tough end to the match, it could’ve gone either way,” Murray said. “Had it gone to a third set, it would’ve been tough for me, after a long match yesterday. I just managed to get over the line in the end. I did quite well considering I recovered well from yesterday, which is really positive.”

<a href=''>Andy Murray</a> celebrates a quarter-final victory at the Aix-en-Provence Challenger.
Andy Murray celebrates a quarter-final victory at the Aix-en-Provence Challenger. Credit: Jared Wickerham/ATP Tour

Top seed Tommy Paul and David Goffin are set to meet in the Aix-en-Provence Challenger semi-finals after securing victories on Friday. American Paul fended off all three break points faced to down Austrian Jurij Rodionov 6-4, 6-2. Goffin rallied from a set down to oust #NextGenATP star Arthur Fils 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(6).

The Frenchman Mayot, who upset top seed Brandon Nakashima in the quarter-finals, needed one hour, two minutes to defeat Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-1.

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Lucky Loser Struff Reaches Maiden Masters 1000 Final

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

Lucky Loser Struff Reaches Maiden Masters 1000 Final

German will face Alcaraz in Madrid title match

Jan-Lennard Struff became the first lucky loser to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final on Friday when he moved past qualifier Aslan Karatsev 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Last week, Karatsev defeated Struff in the final round of qualifying to advance to the main draw. Ten days on and the players were competing in their first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final after earning a series of stunning wins in the Spanish capital.

In front of a packed Manolo Santana Stadium, Struff gained revenge to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final and move to within one win of his first title. After struggling to deal with Karatsev’s pace in the first set, the German readjusted and produced a clean-hitting and aggressive display in the second and third sets to blast a tiring Karatsev off court. The 33-year-old struck 37 winners and broke the qualifier’s serve three times to advance to his second tour-level championship match.

“It is amazing,” Struff said. “I didn’t think about this. I played one final before in Munich [2021] but there was no crowd because of Covid. Now I am here and [there is] an amazing crowd. I think on Sunday it will also be a very good crowd. I am very happy to reach a final and very happy with the win.”

With his two-hour, 18-minute victory, Struff has climbed to No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The German, who reached a previous career-high No. 29 in August 2020, will play for his first tour-level title when he faces defending champion Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday.

“We played an amazing match at Wimbledon last year and I was very close to beating him but he pulled off unbelievable shots in the tie-break,” Struff said when looking ahead to the final against Alcaraz. “This is going to be different. This is in Spain, in Madrid. I think he is 20-0 on Spanish clay courts, so it is going to be very tough. I have to go for it otherwise I will have no chance. I will try my best to beat him and win my first title.”

Struff is aiming to become the second lucky loser to win an ATP Tour title this season after Soonwoo Kwon triumphed in Adelaide in January. The German, who upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals, was the third lucky loser to reach the semi-finals at an ATP Masters 1000 event, joining Thomas Johansson in Toronto in 2004 and Lucas Pouille in Rome in 2016.

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Karatsev, who reached the semi-finals as a qualifier at the Australian Open in 2021, was chasing his fourth tour-level trophy this weekend. Having dropped as low as No. 129 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 17 April, he refound his best form in Madrid, defeating seeded players Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev to become the second qualifier to reach the semi-finals in tournament history. He leaves the clay-court event at No. 51 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

After Struff raced into a 3-1 lead in the first set, he struggled to control his groundstrokes from the baseline in the fast conditions. Karatsev took the ball early on return to rush the big-serving German, ruthlessly moving forward to dispatch winners and move ahead.

Struff refused to go away at the start of the second set, though, and earned an early break. The German upped his intensity and his brand of ‘big-man tennis’ started to cause problems for Karatsev, with Struff winning 94 per cent (15/16) of his first-serve points to force a decider.

The 33-year-old, who advanced to the quarter-finals on clay in Monte-Carlo last month, continued to go after the ball in the third set. He looked the fresher of the two, grinding Karatsev down with his precise hitting to seal his 11th win of the season on his fifth match point.

“I feel Aslan had some issues at the end. Was struggling with his leg, which is very unfortunate so I wish him all the best,” Struff said. “For me it wasn’t that easy because I knew I had to put the ball in and be aggressive. I tried to get it done at 5/3. I managed to stay calm, served well and went for my shots.”

The German is up 18 spots to 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin and will rise to 10th if he wins the title.

Did You Know?
This was the first time a qualifier and lucky loser were meeting in an ATP Tour semi-final since Rio de Janeiro in 2020, when qualifier Gianluca Mager beat lucky loser Attila Balazs 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(2).

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Alcaraz Passes Coric Test For Madrid Final Berth

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

Alcaraz Passes Coric Test For Madrid Final Berth

Top seed will face Karatsev or Struff in his fourth ATP Masters 1000 final

Twenty consecutive ATP Tour wins on Spanish soil for the 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz.

The top seed celebrated his birthday with another relentless performance in his homeland on Friday at the Mutua Madrid Open, where he overcame stiff resistance from Borna Coric to complete a 6-4, 6-3 semi-final victory at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000.

Alcaraz had to be at his best to overcome a resolute display from Coric. The extra variety in the Spaniard’s game proved key to his triumph, as he frequently pulled the energetic Coric around Manolo Santana Stadium and converted four of six break points to seal victory in one hour, 41 minutes.

“It means a lot to me, playing a final again here in Madrid,” said Alcaraz. “It’s such a special place for me and I have great memories since I came here to play [as an] under-12. Of course last year was amazing.

“Turning 20 like that is special, so I will enjoy the final here and of course I will try to make all of Spain happy.”

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Having successfully defended his Barcelona crown two weeks ago, Alcaraz will bid for his fourth consecutive ATP Tour title in Spain on Sunday when he takes on Aslan Karatsev or Jan-Lennard Struff in the championship match. Should he defend the trophy at the Caja Magica, the Spaniard can return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings simply by playing a match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia later this month.

“I enjoy playing here in Madrid. I always try to make [the fans] happy and myself happy as well,” said Alcaraz, when asked about the pressure of playing at home. “I don’t think about the pressure here, I just think about playing a great game, getting good results. It’s a really special place for me, I enjoy every second here, so that’s all I think about.”

While Coric’s speed around the court could have tempted Alcaraz to veer away from his trademark drop shot on Friday, the tactic still allowed Alcaraz to disrupt the baseline rhythm of Coric. That proved crucial for the top seed to break open a tight opening set by claiming its only break in the fifth game.

With both players offering few unforced errors, the match featured a series of long exchanges that tested the physicality of the players. Although he reclaimed an early break to level the second set at 2-2, Coric’s exertions appeared to catch up with him and he had no answer to the barrage of fierce forehands sent his way by the World No. 2.

Alcaraz secured two further breaks of the Croatian’s serve to close out his win and improve to 28-2 for the season. He finished with 30 winners to Coric’s 22 and was particularly effective on second-serve returns. The Spaniard won 58 per cent (14/24) of points against his opponent’s second delivery.

“It was a goal for me at the beginning of the match, trying to start the point playing aggressive,” said Alcaraz. “This is something I look for in every match, trying to attack on the return and of course trying to play with my forehand. I feel really comfortable playing with that. I think I hurt the opponent especially with the forehand and of course the drop shot, so this is a key and I’m trying to do it in every match.”

Having already lifted titles in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona this season, Alcaraz can jump above Daniil Medvedev to first place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin by claiming his fourth ATP Tour crown of 2023 in Madrid.

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Nadal Withdraws From Rome

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

Nadal Withdraws From Rome

Spaniard has not competed since the Australian Open in January

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The 10-time Rome champion has been dealing with a leg injury that he suffered at the Australian Open in January.

In Nadal’s first three appearances (2005-07) at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Italy, the Spaniard won a trio of titles and tallied a 17-match winning streak. The Spaniard last won the Rome title in 2021 and boasts a 69-8 event record.

The 36-year-old has not played since falling in the second round of the Australian Open.

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Red-Hot Alcaraz Faces Coric Semi-Final Test

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

Red-Hot Alcaraz Faces Coric Semi-Final Test

First-time ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalists Karatsev and Struff clash

Semi-final Friday at the 2023 Mutua Madrid Open sees top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz attempt to celebrate his 20th birthday by reaching his fourth ATP Masters 1000 championship match.

Standing in the Spaniard’s way is 17th seed Borna Coric. The pair’s clash on Manolo Santana Stadium will be their maiden ATP Head2Head meeting.

Aslan Karatsev and Jan-Lennard Struff, who meet in the second semi-final of the day at the Caja Magica, are also playing each other for the first time at Tour-level. Yet the pair faced off in Madrid just 10 days ago, when Karatsev downed Struff in the final round of qualifying before the German was added to the main draw at the clay-court Masters 1000 as a lucky loser. looks ahead to two intriguing matchups set for Friday’s schedule in the Spanish capital.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [17] Borna Coric (CRO)

Aside from dropping his opening set of the tournament to an inspired Emil Ruusuvuori, Alcaraz’s title defence in Madrid could hardly have gone more smoothly thus far.

The 19-year-old powered to the semi-finals without dropping another set, handling home pressure in style to extend his winning streak at ATP Tour events on Spanish soil to 19. On his 20th birthday, Alcaraz will attempt to make it 20 consecutive ATP Tour victories in his homeland by prevailing in his first tour-level meeting against Coric.

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Alcaraz’s near-flawless all-court performances against Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov in Madrid may make him favourite to book a championship-match berth on Manolo Santana Stadium, but Coric knows all about upsetting higher-ranked opponents on an ATP Masters 1000 stage. Last year in Cincinnati, the then-World No. 152 downed Top 10 opponents Rafael Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to becoming the lowest-ranked champion in Masters 1000 history.

That triumph helped Coric restablish himself in the Top 30 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after a year out with a shoulder injury. Now 11-8 for 2023 and up to No. 16 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings after reaching his maiden Madrid semi-final, the 26-year-old will hope to summon the best of his energetic baseline game in order to become just the third player to defeat World No. 2 Alcaraz on Tour this year.

“He’s absolutely an unbelievable player in unbelievable shape in the moment as well,” Coric said of Alcaraz after the Croatian downed Daniel Altmaier in the quarter-finals. “So he’s the favourite and I’m going to just go out there and I’m going to enjoy myself. I like to play here in this stadium and it’s going to be a very cool feeling for sure.”

One of the fastest movers on Tour, Coric’s speed could be crucial to countering Alcaraz’s trademark drop shot. However, the all-around nature of Alcaraz’s game and his ability to strike winners from all parts of the court gives the Spaniard the option to adapt his tactics if required against the Croatian.

Alcaraz, who has lifted titles in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona already this season, effectively has his eyes on a double prize in Madrid. Should he defeat Coric and go on to successfully defend his title at the Caja Magica, he can seal his return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings simply by playing a match later this month at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

[Q] Aslan Karatsev vs. [LL] Jan-Lennard Struff

A perhaps-unexpected semi-final meeting, and one that seemed even more unlikely when Karatsev defeated Struff in straight sets in the final round of qualifying 10 days ago. Yet both Karatsev and Struff have lit up the Caja Magica this year with a string of big-hitting performances to set the first ATP Tour semi-final between a qualifier and a lucky loser since Gianluca Mager played Attila Balazs in Rio de Janeiro in 2020.

The former World No. 14 Karatsev brought his brilliant best to down seeded opponents Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur and the in-form Daniil Medvedev in Madrid, before seeing off Zhang Zhizhen in the quarter-finals. His run has propelled the 29-year-old 70 spots to No. 51 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, and he will rise to No. 35 if he reaches his first Masters 1000 final.

The three-time tour-level titlist’s ability to strike clean winners off both wings will be key to his chances, although the same could be said of Struff. The German showed his ability to go toe-to-toe with the best from the baseline against World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in Thursday’s quarter-finals, and the World No. 65 will also hope his booming serve can deny Karatsev the time to find his range on return.

Struff is the third lucky loser to reach the semi-finals at a Masters 1000 tournament after Thomas Johansson (2004, Toronto) and Lucas Pouille (2016, Rome), while Karatsev is just the second qualifier in Madrid tournament history to reach the semi-finals after Fabrice Santoro in 2002. With both playing for a spot in their first Masters 1000 final, their ability to handle the scale of the occasion will likely be decisive.

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20 Stats For Carlos Alcaraz's 20th Birthday

  • Posted: May 05, 2023

20 Stats For Carlos Alcaraz’s 20th Birthday

Spaniard won nine tour-level titles as a teenager

In honour of Carlos Alcaraz’s 20th birthday, celebrates by reliving 20 facts, memories and moments that have made the Spaniard’s career historic thus far.

20 – Number of weeks Alcaraz first stayed at No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after he rose to top spot following his 2022 US Open triumph.
19 – Alcaraz’s age when he rose to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for first time. He is the only teenager in the Open Era to top the men’s rankings.
18 – Age when he lifted his maiden ATP Tour title in Umag, becoming the youngest tour-level champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won in Delray Beach in 2008.
17 – Beat Botic van de Zandschulp on Court 17 when aged 17 on his Grand Slam main-draw debut at the Australian Open in 2021.
16 – Years old when he made his tour-level debut. The Spaniard defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2) in Rio de Janeiro in 2020.
15 – Age when he beat then-World No. 140 Pedro Martinez to earn first Top 200 win. He was not only the first player aged 15 & under to upset a Top 200 opponent since Ryan Harrison in 2008, but he was just the fifth 15-year-old to do so in the past 20 years, joining Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet and Bernard Tomic.
14 – Seed Alcaraz was when he clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 crown in Miami, becoming the youngest champion in the tournament’s history.
13 – Age Alcaraz and Nadal’s paths would cross for the first time. Alcaraz posed for a picture with the Spaniard after winning a competition on the Rafa Nadal junior tour. They have since met three times on court, with Nadal leading Alcaraz 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head series.
12 – Number of tour-level finals Alcaraz has played.
11 – September 2022. The date Alcaraz defeated Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 to win the US Open title and climb to No. 1.

10 –  The Spaniard climbed into the Top 10 for the first time after winning the title in Barcelona in 2022. Aged 18, he was the youngest player to crack the Top 10 since Nadal did exactly 17 years before after he lifted his first Barcelona trophy.
9 – Number of tour-level titles the Spaniard has won.
8 – Number of five-set wins Alcaraz has earned at Grand Slams, with five coming at the US Open. He has only lost once in a fifth set at a major, coming against Matteo Berrettini at the 2022 Australian Open.
7 – Top 5 wins. The 19-year-old earned his first against then-World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open in 2021.
6 – Alcaraz will play in his sixth ATP Masters 1000 semi-final on his birthday against Borna Coric in Madrid.
5 – Consecutive matches won at the 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals to become an undefeated champion at the 21-and-under year-end event.
4 – Number of ATP Masters 1000 crowns.
3 – By defeating Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev en route to the Madrid title in 2022, Alcaraz defeated the Top 3 seeds at the event. He also became the first player to beat the Serbian and Spaniard back-to-back on clay.
2 – In Indian Wells in 2023, Alcaraz defeated Tallon Griekspoor to earn 100 tour-level wins. He was the second fastest player to reach the milestone behind John McEnroe.
1 – His ranking at the end of 2022, making him the first and youngest player to finish No. 1 in the 50 editions of the year-end Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

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