Madrid Open: Aryna Sabalenka wins second title with victory over Iga Swiatek
Aryna Sabalenka defeats world number one Iga Swiatek in three sets to win her second Madrid Open title.
Aryna Sabalenka defeats world number one Iga Swiatek in three sets to win her second Madrid Open title.
Nearly 24 hours after winning a four-hour quarter-final marathon, Ugo Humbert returned to court Saturday, when he advanced to the championship match at the Sardegna Open. The Frenchman will fight for the title against Laslo Djere, who rallied to upset second seed Ben Shelton at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Cagliari.
The Frenchman Humbert ousted Daniel Elahi Galan 6-2, 7-6(3). Despite holding a 5-2 lead in the second set, including a match point on serve at 5-4, the 24-year-old was pushed to a tie-break before closing out the match in one hour, 41 minutes; a sharp contrast to Humbert’s four-hour, 13-minute victory against Taro Daniel in the quarter-finals, where he saved three match points to survive.
“I was just trying to do my best every point, even if I was serving for the match,” Humbert said in his post-match press conference. “You have to stay focused and wait for a good opportunity.”
Humbert, a seven-time Challenger champion, will aim for his first clay-court title in Sunday’s final.
“Normally I only win one or two matches on clay per year, but I’m enjoying it this year,” Humbert said. “Super proud to be in the final.”
Fourth seed Djere defeated World No. 38 Ben Shelton 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first Challenger final since June 2018.
Laslo Djere celebrates a semi-final victory at the Sardegna Open. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour
This isn’t the first time the Serbian Djere has found success in Cagliari. In 2020, Djere captured his second tour-level title at the ATP 250 event on the Italian island.
In doubles action, top seeds Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni will contest third seeds Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler in the championship match.
Ready. For. This. 👊#ATPChallenger | @federtennis pic.twitter.com/dGoGLZJChG
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) May 6, 2023
Fans at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Aix-en-Provence, France are in for a treat Sunday, when three-time major champion Andy Murray and World No. 17 Tommy Paul will battle for the title.
Murray and Paul both earned straight-set victories in Saturday’s semifinals at the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole. The Briton Murray displayed superb all-court coverage and fended off all four break points faced to down home hope Harold Mayot 7-5, 6-1.
Mayot, 21, showed a variety of tactics, often deploying drop shots and working his way forward in his first Challenger semi-final of the year.
Top seed Paul, who is yet to drop a set this week, defeated David Goffin 6-4, 6-2 in the last four after the American won 54 per cent of return points.
“Goffin is an unreal player, he’s had an unreal career,” Paul said. “I think I returned really well and played the big points well. There were a couple times where I was down break point and I came up with a first serve. I was really happy with that.”
Tommy Paul in action at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Aix-en-Provence, France. Credit: Jared Wickerham/ATP Tour
Looking ahead to Sunday’s blockbuster final, both Murray and Paul feel their level has improved as the week’s gone on.
“[It will be] a great challenge for me. Tommy has had a great year so far, playing the best tennis of his career,” Murray said. “He’s played well this week also. He’s a brilliant athlete. My game I think is in a good place. I feel like I’ve played much better the last couple matches. Hope for another good performance tomorrow.”
Paul said, “The field is definitely strong here [in Aix-en-Provence]. There’s a tonne of really, really good players. I knew that every match I had to play better and better and I think every match, I have played a little better. I’m happy with how today went. Looking forward to the match tomorrow.”
In 2021, Paul defeated Murray in their lone ATP Tour-level meeting at the 250 event in Stockholm, where the American went on to win the title.
Both staples on the ATP Tour, Murray could claim his first Challenger title since winning the Binghamton Challenger in 2005. Paul last won a Challenger title in 2019, when he won the Tiburon Challenger.
Did You Know?
This season, the ATP Challenger Tour announced the all-new 175 events, which are played during the second week of select ATP Masters 1000 events. The Arizona Tennis Classic in March was the Challenger 175 event debut, which Portugal’s Nuno Borges won. Bordeaux, France and Turin, Italy will also host Challenger 175 tournaments later this month.
Andy Murray will play Tommy Paul in the final of the ATP Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence after defeating Harold Mayot in straight sets.
Long-time friends Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev captured their first tour-level doubles title together Saturday when they defeated seventh seeds Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Competing in front of a lively crowd on Manolo Santana Stadium, the singles stars produced a strong serving performance to triumph after 71 minutes. They won 83 per cent (25/30) of their first-serve points and raced away in the Match Tie-break to seal victory.
Khachanov and Rublev showed grit throughout their run to the trophy, earning Match Tie-break wins in four of their five matches. They also defeated seeds Nikola Mektic/Mate Pavic and Marcelo Arevalo/Jean-Julien Rojer.
Khachanov and Rublev were competing in their third ATP Masters 1000 final, having advanced to the championship match in Miami in 2018 and Paris in 2019. With their victory, Rublev has now won four doubles trophies. It is Khachanov’s first tour-level doubles title.
Bopanna and Ebden were chasing their third tour-level title of the season together, having won in Doha and Indian Wells. The Indian-Australian tandem are first in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings.
Typically you call someone a loser at your own peril.
But in tennis, when a player is told by tournament officials that he is a ‘lucky loser’, those two words are music to his ears.
A lucky loser is a player who lost in the qualifying rounds but later was given passage into the main draw following a player’s withdrawal from the main draw, typically due to illness or injury.
On Sunday, German Jan-Lennard Struff will attempt to become the first lucky loser to win an ATP Masters 1000 title when he plays top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the Mutua Madrid Open final. In the semi-finals, Struff also had the rare satisfaction of avenging his defeat in the final round of qualifying to Aslan Karatsev.
So how does the lucky loser process work?
The timing of a player’s withdrawal from the main draw determines which qualifying losers have the chance to gain entry to the main draw as a lucky loser.
If a main-draw withdrawal occurs after the completion of qualifying, then the highest-ranked player who lost in the final round of qualifying moves into the main draw as a lucky loser. If a second main-draw withdrawal occurs after the completion of qualifying, the second slot is awarded to the second highest-ranked loser from the final round of qualifying.
If one main-draw withdrawal occurs before the completion of qualifying, then the two highest-ranked losers in the final round of qualifying go into a random draw for the main-draw spot. If two main-draw withdrawals occur before the completion of qualifying, then the three highest-ranked losers in the final round of qualifying go into a random draw for two main-draw slots.
After falling to Karatsev in qualifying 11 days ago, Struff has been on a tear, defeating fast-rising American Ben Shelton, Banja Luka champion Dusan Lajovic, Pedro Cachin and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas before exacting revenge against Karatsev to become the first lucky loser to reach the final at an ATP Masters 1000 event (since 1990). If he beats Carlos Alcaraz and wins his maiden tour-level title on Sunday, the 33-year-old will become the second lucky loser to triumph at a tour-level event this season.
Soonwoo Kwon lost against Tomas Machac in the final round of qualifying in Adelaide in January before he defeated the Czech in the main draw en route to the trophy at the ATP 250.
Back in 2003, a then-16-year-old Andy Murray made his ATP Challenger Tour debut when he competed in Manchester. Since then, the Scot has gone on to reach the pinnacle of the game. He has risen to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and lifted 46 tour-level titles, including 14 ATP Masters 1000 crowns and three Grand Slams.
This week, the Scot is once game competing on the ATP Challenger Tour, advancing to the semi-finals in Aix en Provence in France. While at the Challenger 175, Murray took time to reminisce on his early Challenger Tour days.
A launching pad to greatness 🏆🥇@andy_murray takes a stroll down Challenger memory lane 🤔#ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/oYDuxC728A
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) May 5, 2023
“My first memories of playing on the Challenger Tour were in Manchester,” Murray said. “I played a grass-court challenger there and I had my dad there as my tennis coach. He is not a tennis player or a coach but he was there with me.
“I remember being unbelievably shy. I didn’t ask anyone to warm up with me before my match, so I had my dad throwing balls to me out of a shopping bag and I ended up actually getting a couple of good wins there.”
Armed with a full support team today, Murray will aim to win his third ATP Challenger Tour title and first since 2005 this weekend in France.
Carlos Alcaraz and lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff will chase history when they meet in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz triumphed in the Spanish capital 12 months ago and is trying to become just the second player alongside Rafael Nadal to clinch consecutive crowns at the clay-court event. On the other side of the net, the 33-year-old Struff is aiming to become the first lucky loser to win an ATP Masters 1000 title since the series began in 1990.
Despite being 13 years his junior, Alcaraz has the edge against Struff when it comes to big-match experience. The four-time ATP Masters 1000 champion is competing in his 13th tour-level final and is chasing his 10th title. In contrast, Struff is making just his second appearance in a tour-level final, having lost in the Munich title match in 2021.
If Alcaraz wins the trophy, he can seal his return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, 22 May simply by playing a match later this month at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. With an expectant home crowd set to roar the Spaniard on inside Manolo Santana Stadium, Alcaraz is relishing the chance to shine on the big stage once again.
“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.”
Executing in attack & defence ⚔️🛡️@carlosalcaraz is heading into the final on Sunday with a 77% #Conversion & 41% #Steal ‼️
Seriously impressive, especially alongside his shot location; no part of the court going unused ✊#TennisInsights | @atptour | @MutuaMadridOpen pic.twitter.com/RdjnJS72E9
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) May 6, 2023
The 33-year-old Struff fell against Aslan Karatsev in the final round of qualifying 11 days ago before he received a spot in the draw as a lucky loser. The German has taken full advantage of his second chance, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals before he gained revenge against Karatsev to become the first lucky loser to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Aiming to become the oldest first-time Masters 1000 winner and fourth player to win their first tour-level title at a Masters 1000 event, Struff will have to be at his big-hitting best if he is to upset the top seed, who is on a 20-match winning streak at Spanish ATP Tour events.
“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.”
Players To Win Maiden Tour-Level Title At ATP Masters 1000 Event
|Albert Portas||2001 Hamburg|
|Chris Woodruff||1997 Montreal|
|Roberto Carretero||1996 Hamburg|
Struff, who is up to No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, will look to impose his brand of ‘big-man tennis’ on Alcaraz. The German’s ability to strike clean winners off both wings will be key to his chances, while he will aim to close the net behind his first serve to pressurise the Spaniard.
Alcaraz has dropped just one set en route to his fifth tour-level final of the season, though, and has the all-round game to disrupt Struff’s rhythm. The 20-year-old could use the drop shot to outmanoeuvre the German, and has the ability to take time away from his opponent with his explosive groundstrokes.
Recent Lucky Loser Champions
|Soonwoo Kwon||2023 Adelaide|
|Marco Cecchinato||2018 Budapest|
|Andrey Rublev||2017 Umag|
|Leonardo Mayer||2017 Hamburg|
Alcaraz, who has lifted titles in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona already this season, is aiming to become the youngest player to successfully defend an ATP Masters 1000 title since Nadal in Monte-Carlo and Rome in 2005-06.
Locked at 1-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, Struff will be eager to stop the Spaniard. If he can earn his sixth Top 5 win, the German will become the second lucky loser to win an ATP Tour title this year alongside Soonwoo Kwon in Adelaide.
Watch Sunday’s final from 6:30 p.m. CET/12:30 p.m. ET.
Former pro Tony Graham, who was a long-time friend of Vitas Gerulaitis, John McEnroe and everyone in U.S. tennis circles, passed away on Tuesday aged 66.
The two-time All-American at UCLA, who reached the 1977 NCAA singles final (l. to Matt Mitchell) before a five-season pro career, was front and centre each day for more than 30 years at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and at the US Open.
Graham rose to a career-high No. 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and beat John Alexander, Jimmy Arias and Johan Kriek, en route to losing to Brian Gottfried in the 1981 Stowe singles final. He captured two tour-level doubles titles at 1980 Lagos (w/Bruce Nichols) and 1981 Maui (w/Mitchell).
Trey Waltke, who first met Graham aged 15 at the US National Indoors and later became roommates, told ATPTour.com, “He was a big guy, who had a lot of touch. He didn’t hit the ball super hard, but he had good hands and a great lob. He had a good serve; he really had no weakness. The backhand lob was special, he could put it on a dime, and he covered the net well.”
Graham started playing tennis against a wall aged 12, and later ranked in the Top 10 under-16 players in the United States. With little family support, Graham trained with the likes of Chris Lewis and Bruce Manson at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. He turned pro after the 1978 US Open, having gone 59-6 at UCLA across three seasons.
Former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, a friend for more than 40 years, told ATPTour.com, “We played in the 1982 or 1983 Alan King Tennis Classic, near the end of his career, and we had to qualify in the doubles as it was a loaded main draw. We won our first match in Las Vegas, and in the last round we were playing Matt Mitchell and, I think, Larry Stefanki, and on our match point I had a high volley on top of the net and I missed it. He forever reminded me of it, whenever I met him.”
Waltke adds, “Deep down Tony didn’t believe he belonged on Tour. When he was faced with tough matches, I felt him recoil a little bit. Once, when we played Vilas and Tiriac [at 1982 Zurich WCT], we ended up winning the match, but the whole time he was saying, ‘Look at that Vilas topspin.’ I said, ‘Will you stop looking at his game and get down to business.’
“I felt like he didn’t believe he could be a top player. He had the game. People in the Top 100 had less game than Tony, but he spent a lot of time making friends and going out at night.”
Waltke introduced Graham to Gerulaitis; he hung out with Bjorn Borg, played golf with McEnroe, and at UCLA befriended singer Kenny Rogers, who sponsored Graham in 1979 and 1980 to compete on the international circuit. He became friends with Keith Hefner, the younger brother of Playboy magazine founder Hugh, and for two decades was the pro coach at the Playboy Mansion, where Graham would teach the bunnies and celebrities.
Another former roommate, Brian Teacher, the 1980 Australian Open champion, who first experienced Graham’s joie de vivre on a blackjack table in Las Vegas, told ATPTour.com, “When Tony got out of tennis, he didn’t want the responsibility of a family. But he liked teaching and being around tennis. He watched every day at Indian Wells in the Goldstein box, and wanted to be around players. He enjoyed giant steak meals, and he was very joyful, had a big heart.”
Graham taught tennis around Los Angeles for almost 35 years, centred around the Sheats-Goldstein Residence, world renowned for its architecture and views overlooking the city and the coastline. “At some point, everyone ran into him,” said Gilbert.
Graham, who had overcome prostate cancer in recent years, passed away in his sleep. He is survived by an older brother. Long-time friend Waltke, says, “I’m going to try and do an event at my club, the Malibu Racquet Club, for the tennis community.”
Tony Graham, former player and celebrity coach, born 29 October 1956, died 2 May 2023.