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Granollers/Zeballos Oust Two-Time Defending Champs Mektic/Pavic

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Granollers/Zeballos Oust Two-Time Defending Champs Mektic/Pavic

Top seeds Koolhof/Skupski, second seeds Ram/Salisbury also advance

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos held their nerve for a thrilling first-round upset on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

The Spanish-Argentine pairing snapped the 10-match winning streak in Rome of fifth seeds and Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic with a 7-6(6), 3-6, 10-8 victory at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000.

Granollers and Zeballos appeared to have lost their momentum when they lost five straight points to let a 6/2 lead slip in the Match Tie-break, but they held firm for a one-hour, 46-minute win against the 2021 and 2022 champions.

There were no such problems for top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski or second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. Koolhof and Skupski defeated Matwe Middelkoop and Andreas Mies 6-7(3), 6-3, 10-4 while Ram and Salisbury beat Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 6-3, 6-2.

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Preview: Will Sonego Stop Tsitsipas In Rome?

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Preview: Will Sonego Stop Tsitsipas In Rome?

Alcaraz faces Marozsan, Tiafoe and Musetti clash

After a busy Sunday at the Foro Italico, the third round will be completed on Monday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reached the final in Rome last year, will try to hold off home hope Lorenzo Sonego. Carlos Alcaraz continues his first Foro Italico appearance against Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan and 12th seed Frances Tiafoe and 18th seed Lorenzo Musetti meet in a clash of Next Gen ATP Finals alumni. previews Monday’s action.

[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)

Tsitsipas made a deep run in Rome last year when he advanced to the final. Will Italian Sonego stop the Greek early this year?

The pair have met twice previously, with both meetings coming on hard courts in 2021. Tsitsipas won on both occasions, but needed three sets to triumph at that year’s Western & Southern Open.

Sonego has enjoyed success on home soil before. Two years ago he advanced to the semi-finals in Rome behind back-to-back Top 10 wins, two of the five he has earned in his career (5-17). Earlier this year, Sonego upset then-World No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime in Dubai.

The Italian will try to rely on his heavy groundstrokes to make Tsitsipas work hard on the clay. Due to rain Saturday, Tsitsipas also needed to briefly return to action Sunday to close out his victory over Nuno Borges. Will that play a factor?

[2] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [Q] Fabian Marozsan (HUN)

It has been a tournament of firsts for Hungarian Fabian Marozsan. The 23-year-old arrived in Rome having never competed in an ATP Tour main draw and with an 0-2 record in tour-level matches (Davis Cup). Marozsan qualified at the Foro Italico and has earned two wins in the main draw, completing an upset of 32nd seed Jiri Lehecka on Sunday.

Will the Hungarian be able to produce his biggest stunner of all against second seed Carlos Alcaraz?

It has been difficult for all the stars of the ATP Tour to compete with the Spaniard this year. Alcaraz has won 12 consecutive matches and back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid.

“I feel great even [though] the conditions were tough… Apart of that, yeah, I felt the love from the people,” Alcaraz said after defeating countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round. “It was great to have a lot of people, even [in] really tough conditions, really tough day, waiting the whole day. It was great to play my first match here in Rome.”

[12] Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs. [18] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

Tiafoe is one of the biggest fan favourites on the ATP Tour. His infectious smile and entertaining game are well-known throughout the world. But he will face a stiff test from artistic Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who also enjoys rallying the crowd to his side.

The pair have split two previous ATP Head2Head meetings, and Tiafoe’s win was a retirement in the final of this year’s United Cup. Musetti defeated Tiafoe during his breakthrough run in Acapulco two years ago. They also met twice at ATP Challenger Tour events in 2020, splitting those clashes.

Their encounter at the Foro Italico promises to be thrilling. The key will be which player is able to prevent the other from finding rhythm. Both men have proven that when at their best, they can put on a show.

More To Watch…

Earlier this year Andrey Rublev saved five match points against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Dubai. Rublev trailed 1/6 in their second-set tie-break before rallying for the victory. They will meet again as Davidovich Fokina seeks his first win in their ATP Head2Head series.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev earned his first win in Rome against Emil Ruusuvuori on Sunday and will try for his second against 31st seed Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

Italian Marco Cecchinato will try to use the support of his home fans to defeat German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, who upset ninth seed Taylor Fritz. Fifteenth seed Borna Coric faces Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the fourth round.

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Ruud Survives Bublik Test In Rome

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Ruud Survives Bublik Test In Rome

Sinner defeats Shevchenko in three sets

Casper Ruud’s best ATP Masters 1000 event has been the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The Norwegian’s confidence at the Foro Italico proved helpful on Sunday when he overcame Alexander Bublik in a third-round thriller.

The magnetic Kazakhstani Bublik rallied the crowd to his side with his inimitable brand of shotmaking and shot selection. But Ruud was rock solid when it mattered most to triumph 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(0) for a place in the fourth round at an event where the 24-year-old has made the semi-finals in his past two appearances.

“It’s been a very good tournament for me in my career. I’ve reached the semis here twice and twice I lost to Novak in the semi-finals, so it sort of shows that I’ve been beating a lot of good players up until facing one of the best ever,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “I have a lot of good memories from here and the Italian fans are incredible, even though today they were maybe cheering even more for Bublik. It’s an incredible experience playing out here on this court, Pietrangeli.

“It’s a very special court and you can see it’s full almost every single match no matter who plays, so it was really fun and it gives me good vibes being here in Rome.”

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As always Bublik used every shot up his sleeve to try to put Ruud into discomfort. After going down an immediate mini-break in the final-set tie-break, the Kazakhstani stood almost up to the service line to return his opponent’s serve.

But in the most critical moment, Ruud locked down from the baseline and allowed Bublik to misfire.

“In the tie-break I just played luckily very good, didn’t do any mistakes and it was very nice to have a 6/0 lead there at the end,” Ruud said.

It was an entertaining match and the pair shared a lengthy, friendly exchange at the net. The crowd chanted Bublik’s name as he walked off the court.

“I take every point serious no matter what the score is. Then you play Sascha, who has unbelievable talent and I’m up 5-0 after 17 minutes on court where he just sort of does mistakes and I’m just there putting the ball in,” Ruud said. “At least he still has fun with it because at 0-5 he starts hitting underarm serves and gets the crowd involved even though he’s down. From then on he’s serving great.

“He can do everything from a 40 km/h drop shot underarm serve to 220 out wide, a bomb. So it’s very difficult to know what’s coming. And as long as the score is kind of close, you feel like he’s fighting and giving it all.”

In the last match of the evening, home favourite Jannik Sinner clawed past lucky loser Alexander Shevchenko 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2.

Shevchenko positioned himself well in the second set by playing aggressive tennis to push back the powerful Italian. The No. 93 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings let slip an opportunity to serve out the set. But despite his disappointment, Shevchenko recovered well in the tie-break to force a decider.

Sinner did not panic, earning an early break in the third set to halt his opponent’s momentum and continue his pursuit of a maiden Masters 1000 title.

“I think I was quite in the zone, trying to play every point in the maximum,” Sinner said in his on-court interview. “I missed a couple of points, especially in the second set and in the tie-break, but you have to cut this part away and then try to be ready for the third set, which I’ve done. I reacted very well.

“Trying to take all the positives. Obviously I won the match so I’m very happy and happy that I can play one more match here in Rome.”

The eighth seed will next play 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo.

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Djokovic Holds Off Dimitrov, Reaches Round Four In Rome

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Djokovic Holds Off Dimitrov, Reaches Round Four In Rome

Rune ends home favourite Fognini’s run

Novak Djokovic overcame second-set frustration with a high-class third-set showing on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he overcame Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in Rome.

The top seed and defending champion had appeared set for a routine third-round victory when he led Dimitrov by a set and a break at 6-3, 4-2. An inspired run of four games from the Bulgarian forced a decider at the Foro Italico, but Djokovic expertly raised his level to reach the fourth round with his 1050th tour-level victory.

“[I was] very solid. I think I could have won in straight sets,” said Djokovic. “I was a set and 4-2 up and had a pretty decent forehand in the middle of the court at deuce on his serve and missed that. He held his serve well, we had new balls the next game, I did a double fault, the crowd got into it and got behind him and of course the energy of the place and the of the match changed.

“I dropped my level a bit, but luckily I managed find it right away in the first game [of the third set], made that crucial break and kind of shifted the momentum to my side, so I’m really pleased with the way I closed out the match.”

With his two-hour, 20-minute win, Djokovic improved to 11-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Dimitrov. The 35-year-old will next take on 13th seed Cameron Norrie or Marton Fucsovics as he bids to reach the quarter-finals for the 17th time in as many appearances in Rome.

“Luckily for me in my career I managed to win more matches than those that I lost when I was facing difficult circumstances,” said Djokovic when asked about his ability to produce his best under pressure. “I also lost a lot of matches, particularly in the beginning of my career. For a few years, whenever I needed to make that final step or win a Slam, I didn’t manage to do that, so I learned a lot.

“I got stronger because of the rivalries, particularly with [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal and [Andy] Murray. Just staying the course, staying patient and believing in the process and the journey… Understanding what works for you best, what’s your winning formula mentally and also physically and emotionally, and then sticking to it.”

Djokovic made a sluggish start for the second match in a row at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000, where he was broken to love in the first game by the 26th seed Dimitrov. However, just as he did against Tomas Martin Etcheverry in his opening match, the Serbian responded in style. He reeled off four games in a row en route to a first set in which he made just three unforced errors.

Despite letting slip his dominant position in the second set, the decider saw Djokovic return to the level that he has frequently shown in Rome across his career. Striking cleanly off both wings and offering few short balls for Dimitrov to attack, he broke the Bulgarian’s serve three times to complete his win and improve to 66-10 in the Italian capital.

Holger Rune remains a potential quarter-final opponent for Djokovic after the seventh-seeded Dane raced past home favourite Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-2 earlier on Sunday.

The Rome debutant Rune converted four of his eight break points to advance after 77 minutes and improve to 24-9 for the 2023 season. The 20-year-old is chasing his second Masters 1000 crown after he beat Djokovic to lift the title at the Rolex Paris Masters last November. His fourth-round opponent will be Alexei Popyrin, the Australian qualifier who defeated Roman Safiullin 7-5, 7-5.

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Medvedev Downs Ruusuvuori For Maiden Rome Win

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Medvedev Downs Ruusuvuori For Maiden Rome Win

Third seed plays Zapata Miralles next in Italian capital

Daniil Medvedev arrived at this year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia with 76 ATP Masters 1000 match wins, but none of them had come in Rome.

The 27-year-old added a victory in the Eternal City to his collection in style on Sunday afternoon, when he overcame Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round at the clay-court event.

“It is a little bit [of a relief],” said Medvedev. “We can talk about all of the matches I lost here, they were different. The first one, I feel like I should have won, but it is [what it is]. Whenever I come to a tournament, I know that I can play well, so I’m happy to finally get the win here in Rome.”

Medvedev managed a potentially tricky opening match with a typically resilient display of baseline hitting. He redirected Ruusuvuori’s powerful groundstrokes to great effect on Court Pietrangeli, where he broke the Finn’s serve five times en route to an 88-minute triumph.

With his Tour-leading 32nd match win of the year, the third-seeded Medvedev improved to 10-0 in opening rounds for 2023. After tasting victory on the Rome clay for the first time in four main-draw appearances, the five-time Masters 1000 champion will seek to maintain his momentum in a third-round clash against Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

“I want to win as many matches as possible,” said Medvedev. “I know it can be a little bit trickier for me on clay, but honestly this year I am playing really well.

“The matches I lost, I lost against great opponents who [just] played better than me and not much [else] to say. I’m doing my absolute best and playing well. I already beat a lot of good opponents. Last week [in Madrid] Emil was one of only two players who won a set against Carlos [Alcaraz], so I’m feeling great and just looking forward to trying to play my best tennis until the end of the clay season.”

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Medvedev Suiting Up For Clay: ‘More Spin & Improved Sliding’

Stefanos Tsitsipas did not take long to join Medvedev in the third round. After play was suspended due to rain on Saturday evening with the Greek leading Nuno Borges by a set and a break at 6-3, 4-3, the fifth seed won eight of 11 points on Sunday to wrap a 6-3, 6-3 triumph.

The fifth-seeded Tsitsipas reached his maiden Rome final in 2022 and now holds a 10-5 record in the Italian capital. A two-time Masters 1000 champion on clay after he triumphed in Monte-Carlo in 2021 and 2022, the 24-year-old will next take on home favourite Lorenzo Sonego as he chases his first ATP Tour title of the season.

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Preview: Djokovic, Sinner In Action As Rune Faces Home Favourite Fognini In Rome

  • Posted: May 14, 2023

Preview: Djokovic, Sinner In Action As Rune Faces Home Favourite Fognini In Rome

Third-round matches begin Sunday at clay-court ATP Masters 1000

The opening Sunday at the 2023 Internazionali BNL d’Italia sees all players in the top half of the draw at the ATP Masters 1000 event battling for a spot in the fourth round, as well as the conclusion of second-round action after rain suspended play on Saturday night.

Defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic takes on Grigor Dimitrov for the 12th time at Tour level, while home hope Jannik Sinner meets Alexander Shevchenko. The local fans will also cheer on Fabio Fognini as the Italian seeks a third-round upset against seventh seed Holger Rune.

Among the remaining second-round matches, Stefanos Tsitsipas will look to see home his set-and-a-break lead against Nuno Borges, while Daniil Medvedev meets Emil Ruusuvuori and Alexander Zverev faces David Goffin. previews some of the standout matches on the Day 5 schedule in Rome.

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[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [26] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Djokovic may hold a 10-1 ATP Head2Head series lead against Dimitrov, but the pair is 1-1 on clay. Both those meetings came way back in 2013, when Dimitrov triumphed in Madrid before Djokovic gained his revenge at Roland Garros.

The Serbian has won four of his six Rome titles since that last clay-court clash with Dimitrov, and the top seed will hope to stay on track for a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 crown by downing the former World No. 3 at the Foro Italico. Despite some early struggles in his second-round match against Tomas Martin Etcheverry, Djokovic pulled through to improve to 65-10 at an event where he has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in 16 previous appearances.

In a match against an opponent with no recognisable weakness to target, Dimitrov’s ability to acquire free points on his serve will be key to his chances. The 31-year-old won 35 of 40 first-serve points in his opening match against Stan Wawrinka, and Dimitrov is relishing the chance to take on Djokovic as he chases his second Top 10 win of the year.

“I like those matches,” Dimitrov said. “I’ve been on Tour for so long, I feel comfortable to play against these guys. I know I don’t have the best record against him, but I like to play against him and any of the top guys to see where I’m at. You never know how it’s going to go at the end of the day. I always like my chances, so you never know how it’s going to go.”

[8] Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs. [LL] Alexander Shevchenko

The 21-year-old Sinner could hardly have made a better start to his bid to become the first Italian man to triumph in Rome since Adriano Panatta in 1976. The eighth seed breezed through a potentially difficult opener against Thanasi Kokkinakis to maintain his red-hot ATP Masters 1000 form.

The Miami finalist Sinner is now 13-3 at Masters 1000 level for the season and will hope home support can also help power him past Shevchenko on Sunday. The Italian’s consistency this year, when he has reached at least the quarter-finals in all seven ATP Tour events he has played, has propelled him to fifth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

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Will Sinner Consolidate Live Race Standing In Rome?

Sinner will be wary of the threat Shevchenko poses, however. The 22-year-old lucky loser has risen to a career-high No. 93 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings off the back of a 17-6 record at ATP Challenger Tour level and a run to the third round on Masters 1000 main-draw debut in Madrid, where he pushed Daniil Medvedev to three sets.

With both players most comfortable striking big from the baseline, the outcome of the pair’s maiden ATP Head2Head clash may depend on whether Sinner can replicate his free-hitting display against Kokkinakis. If he does, the home favourite will be a hard man to stop.

[7] Holger Rune (DEN) vs. [WC] Fabio Fognini (ITA)

A popcorn clash between one of ATP Tour’s young stars and a charasmatic home veteran promises an intriguing spectacle for fans at the Foro Italico.

The seventh-seeded Rune made an impressive Rome debut on Friday, when he eased past his #NextGenATP rival Arthur Fils in straight sets. However, the vastly experienced Fognini, who will be backed by his adoring home crowd, will provide a stern test of the 20-year-old Dane’s ability to handle one of the most vibrant atmospheres on Tour at the Foro Italico.

Rune will hope for a repeat of his straight-sets win in the pair’s only previous tour-level meeting in Montreal last year. Fognini, a 2018 quarter-finalist in Rome and a natural entertainer, will hope some more moments of magic can help him add to his opening victories against former World No. 1 Andy Murray and 30th seed Miomir Kecmanovic.

[3] Daniil Medvedev vs. Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN)

Ruusuvuori nearly knocked out Carlos Alcaraz in his previous tournament, leading the Spaniard by a set as he put on a power tennis clinic in Madrid. While he fell just short on that occasion, he will have another opportunity for a big upset in Rome against Medvedev.

Just like in Madrid, the Finn advanced to the second round by beating Ugo Humbert, this time in a third-set tie-break. But that’s where the similarities may end.

The matchup against Medvedev is very different from the one against Alcaraz, who was at home on the red clay of Spain. Medvedev has never made a secret of his struggles on the dirt, though he compiled a 4-2 record across Monte-Carlo and Madrid as he continues to work on his clay-court game.

Medvedev said that he feels great physically entering Rome, and he explained some of his efforts to adapt to the clay in recent weeks.

“[Playing with] some more spin,” Medvedev said in his pre-tournament press conference. “Especially the sliding, I think the sliding was always a problem [for me]. After Madrid, after I lost, a couple days I practised there, I tried to focus on the sliding, on the movement. I felt like I improved in these couple of days.”

Also In Action…

Fourth seed Casper Ruud and 13th seed Cameron Norrie hope to back up strong opening performances in their third-round matches against Alexander Bublik and Marton Fucsovics, respectively. Francisco Cerundolo is the other seed in action, as the Argentine takes on the in-form Frenchman Gregoire Barrere.

A quartet of players who upset seeded opponents in the second round also look to extend their stay in Rome, although only two will remain in the draw after Sunday’s play. Alexei Popyrin, who beat Felix Auger-Aliassime for his third Top 10 win of the year on Friday, plays fellow qualifier Roman Safiullin, while Cristian Garin takes on Laslo Djere.

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