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Ruud Earns Revenge In Rome, Ousts Cerundolo For SF Spot

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Ruud Earns Revenge In Rome, Ousts Cerundolo For SF Spot

Fourth seed will next play seventh seed Rune

Casper Ruud continued his Rome resurgence on Wednesday evening.

The fourth seed defeated 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo 7-6(5), 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The Norwegian has advanced to the last four at the Foro Italico in three consecutive appearances and will next face Holger Rune, who upset Novak Djokovic earlier in the day.

“I’m just very happy to play good tennis and be in the semi-finals,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “It’s going to be a very, very fun one, hopefully.”

Ruud stepped onto centre court having lost two consecutive matches against Cerundolo, including a straight-sets defeat just weeks ago in Barcelona. But the 24-year-old earned revenge on the Roman clay after two hours and five minutes.

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The 2022 Roland Garros finalist has rounded into form in recent weeks. He claimed his first ATP Tour title of the season in Estoril and is now two victories from earning his first ATP Masters 1000 title.

“Tennis is a strange sport, as we all can tell. And I think I’ve really lived through it the last 12 months or so, some of my best moments of my career and some tougher losses in the past couple of months,” Ruud said. “But here we are back in Rome and I feel great. I know that I’ve had success in Italy before in my career, here [I made] two times [the] semi-finals, Turin last year was amazing for me… It’s something in the food maybe, I don’t know.”

Cerundolo made him work hard for his triumph on the Italian clay. Both players made plenty of unforced errors — 28 for Ruud and 47 for Cerundolo — as they attempted to find an edge in rallies.

The players were largely content to battle from behind the baseline, lacing heavy balls back and forth. Ruud earned more opportunities on return, with 14 break points, but Cerundolo saved 11 of them.

After squeaking through a tight tie-break, Ruud made the critical move at 4-4 in the second set. Cerundolo missed an aggressive inside-out forehand wide and the Norwegian served out his victory.

The fourth seed will next face Rune, against whom he owns a 4-0 ATP Head2Head advantage. Their most recent clash came in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals.

“He’s improved so much. I played him a couple times in 2021 and a couple of times in 2022, and his improvement is just really, really good,” Ruud said. “You can see that his confidence is good on court and [he] really deserves [to be] where he is at the moment.

“He has big goals for his career and is going through one goal by another so I’m just going to try to think about what I’ve done well against him before — I have a winning record against him. Tennis is always open, it’s never over until it’s over, and I’m just going to try to fight.”

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Federer Visits Lesotho: ‘All Children Deserve Quality Early Education’

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Federer Visits Lesotho: ‘All Children Deserve Quality Early Education’

Swiss’ foundation works to improve education opportunities in African nation

Roger Federer may have brought his ATP Tour career to a close, but the Swiss great’s hard work off the court continues.

In his role as President of the Roger Federer Foundation, the 103-time tour-level titlist this week visited Lesotho to see the impact of projects designed to help vulnerable children in the southern African nation access early formal schooling.

Federer met with key stakeholders in early childhood care and education, including His Majesty King Letsie III and Her Majesty Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso, Minister of Education Ntoi Rapapa and representatives from the corporate and non-profit sectors.

His Majesty King Letsie III, Her Majesty Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso and <a href=''>Roger Federer</a>
Roger Federer poses with His Majesty King Letsie III and Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso at the Royal Palace in Matsieng, Lesotho, on 15 May 2023. Photo: Roger Federer Foundation.

He also visited primary schools that have already participated in the foundation’s School Readiness Initiative, where he interacted with children and parents who are benefitting directly from the programme.

“This is my first time visiting Lesotho,” said Federer, addressing an audience that included Lesotho Prime Minister Sam Matekane. “It is a great honour and a moment of extreme excitement for me and my family to be here. I was eager to visit Lesotho as a country and also to see the School Readiness Initiative my foundation has been implementing since 2020 in partnership with you.

“The good reports about the positive results from our joint interventions and the excellent collaboration my team has experienced working with your government and other partners, has encouraged this urge to visit Lesotho.”

<a href=''>Roger Federer</a>

Roger Federer reads to some of the preschool children from a Semonkong school that benefitted from his Foundation’s School Readiness Initiative, 16 May 2023. Photo: Roger Federer Foundation.

The Roger Federer Foundation started its work in Lesotho in 2020 and aims to reach vulnerable children in 800 preschools by 2025 though the investment of 3 million USD. As part of its work, the School Readiness Initiative takes advantage of innovative technology to provide teachers with a tablet containing digital resources and Android applications.

“All children in Lesotho deserve access to equitable quality early education in public primary schools, yet the majority of ECCE is still being provided by the private sector,” said Federer. “This results in children from economically marginalised families being left out of schooling… The task at hand is therefore enormous and urgent if we are to avoid more generations of children missing out on quality foundational early learning.”

As well as Lesotho, the Roger Federer Foundation works to improve structured learning opportunities for pre-school age children in five other countries in southern Africa: Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It also supports a range of educational programmes in Switzerland. The organisation’s work has already impacted 2.5 million children in southern Africa and Switzerland.

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Vintage Wawrinka Downs Murray At Bordeaux Challenger

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Vintage Wawrinka Downs Murray At Bordeaux Challenger

Turin top seed Baez cruises to QFs

Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have combined for six Grand Slam titles and have met 22 times in their ATP Head2Head series. But on Wednesday, they battled on the intimate clay courts of the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Bordeaux, France.

The 38-year-old Wawrinka displayed vintage play from the baseline, firing hefty forehands to earn a commanding 6-3, 6-0 second-round victory against the Scot at the BNP Paribas Primrose.

In the opening set, Wawrinka earned an early break and had five set points at 5-2 in a marathon return game that featured seven deuce points. The Swiss then held his nerve to close the set on his own serve.

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The World No. 84 Wawrinka, who has been as high as No. 3, won 22 of 27 first-serve points and forced second-seeded Murray to cover all corners of the court as the Swiss stayed aggressive, often working his way forward to win the one-hour, 15-minute contest. It was a frustrating day for Murray, who was aiming to follow his title run at the Aix-en-Provence Challenger, where he defeated World No. 17 Tommy Paul in the final to claim his first title at any level since 2019.

Wawrinka will next meet Ugo Humbert or qualifier Gauthier Onclin in the Bordeaux quarter-finals.

In other Bordeaux action, home favourite Richard Gasquet rallied past Thanasi Kokkinakis 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 in a three-hour, four-minute thriller.

In the final set, Gasquet earned a decisive break in dramatic fashion. After Kokkinakis lobbed Gasquet, who was at the net, the Frenchman brought the crowd to its feet by hitting a backhand skyhook winner to seal a break at 5-5, 30/40. The 36-year-old proceeded to close the marathon match and book his ticket to the last eight.

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Corentin Moutet’s variety helped lift him past Dominic Thiem 7-6(5), 6-1. The Austrian served for the opening set at 5-4 before Moutet fought back and gave up just two games the remainder of the match. The Frenchman Moutet incorporated underarm serves and troubled Thiem from the baseline by using hefty slice forehands.

Moutet will next face top seed Jan-Lennard Struff, who cruised past qualifier Kyrian Jacquet 6-3, 6-3. Seventh seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry survived wild card Arthur Cazaux 7-6(0), 7-5 and Albert Ramos-Vinolas escaped Adrian Mannarino 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 after three hours, 30 minutes.

The top two seeds, Sebastian Baez and Daniel Elahi Galan, cruised to victories in the second round of the Piemonte Open Intesa Sanpaolo.

Baez downed Italian Riccardo Bonadio 6-4, 6-2 after fending off nine of 10 break points faced and winning 74 per cent of first-serve points. The Argentine, who is World No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, awaits the winner of Thiago Seyboth Wild and fifth seed Taro Daniel.

<a href=''>Sebastian Baez</a> in action at the Challenger 175 event in Turin, Italy.
Sebastian Baez in action at the Challenger 175 event in Turin, Italy. Credit: Francesco Panunzio

World No. 94 Galan also secured a commanding victory Wednesday at the Challenger 175 event, where the Colombian cruised past qualifier Stefano Napolitano 6-2, 6-1 in just 63 minutes.

German Dominik Koepfer upset third seed Juan Pablo Varillas 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 to maintain his strong form at the Challenger level. The 29-year-old has competed in three Challenger finals this year, including his triumph at the Mexico City Challenger in April.

Koepfer will clash against wild card Edoardo Lavagno in the quarter-finals after the Italian moved past countryman and qualifier Salvatore Caruso 6-4, 6-1.

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Rune Joins Exclusive Group With Winning Record Against Djokovic

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Rune Joins Exclusive Group With Winning Record Against Djokovic

Kyrgios among players on the list

Holger Rune joined an exclusive club on Wednesday when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

The Danish star is one of only three active players to defeat the Serbian multiple times in tour-level matches and own a winning record against him. The other players are Nick Kyrgios (2-1) and Jiri Vesely (2-0).

Players w/Winning Record vs. Djokovic

 Players  Record
 Andy Roddick  5-4
 Marat Safin and Jiri Vesely  2-0
 Fernando Gonzalez, Ivo Karlovic, Nick Kyrgios & Holger Rune  2-1

 Carlos Alcaraz, Taro Daniel, Antony Dupuis,
 Daniel Evans, Dennis Van Scheppingen, Filippo Volandri


Rune is now 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head series with the 38-time ATP Masters 1000 champion. Last year, aged 19, he stunned Djokovic in the final of the Rolex Paris Masters for his first Masters 1000 title.

Only three other active players have a winning record against Djokovic, and they all are 1-0 against him. Carlos Alcaraz, Daniel Evans and Taro Daniel have upset the 35-year-old once.

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Djokovic only owns a losing record against just 13 players, active or inactive. Of that group, only one player has more than two wins. Former World No. 1 Andy Roddick won five of his nine matches against the Serbian.

Rune has risen to the occasion against the world’s best, tallying a 12-9 record against Top 10 players in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. 

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Koolhof/Skupski Cruise To Rome SFs

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Koolhof/Skupski Cruise To Rome SFs

Granollers/Zeballos also advance

Is this the week Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski capture their first title of 2023?

The Dutch-British duo, who collected seven team titles last season, advanced to the semi-finals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday after they downed Australians Jason Kubler and Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-4.

Koolhof and Skupski won 81 per cent of second-serve points, compared to Kubler and De Minaur’s 56 per cent, to set up a semi-final contest against Dutchmen Robin Haase and Botic van de Zandschulp.

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Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos also advanced to the last four Wednesday, when they survived Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-4, 5-7, 10-6. In the Match Tie-break, the Spaniard-Argentine pair jumped to an early 4/1 advantage to down the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals champions.

Earlier in the tournament, Granollers and Zeballos upset two-time defending champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.

Granollers and Zeballos, who won the Rome title in 2020, will next face Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski. The Spaniard Granollers also partnered countryman Marc Lopez to win at the Foro Italico in 2012.

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Djokovic: 'A New Generation Is Here Already'

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Djokovic: ‘A New Generation Is Here Already’

Serbian reflects on three-set defeat in Rome quarter-finals

Novak Djokovic lost to Holger Rune in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday, but the Serbian remains undeterred.

After the six-time Rome champion’s title defence came to an end, a journalist asked the 38-time ATP Masters 1000 champion if he is still confident for Roland Garros.

“Yes,” Djokovic replied. The 35-year-old was also asked what else he needs going into the clay-court major.

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“Nothing. I mean, just training and getting ready for the most important tournament of the clay season for me,” Djokovic said. “I know I can always play better. Definitely am looking forward to working on various aspects of my game, of my body, hopefully getting myself in 100 per cent shape. That’s the goal. I always like my chances in Grand Slams against anybody on any surface, best-of-five. Let’s see how it goes.”

Rune now leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-1, with both of his victories coming at Masters 1000 events. Djokovic was highly complimentary of his 20-year-old opponent.

“Obviously in these kind of conditions, it’s very difficult to get the ball past him. He’s very, very fast, very quick. Great anticipation. Just a very talented, dynamic player, all-around player,” Djokovic said. “Yeah, he was just better. He played too good for me for most parts of the match. I did have a bad start of the third set. I think that’s where match kind of shifted to his side. He kept his nerves and deserved to win.”

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Does the Serbian have any tips for the Dane?

“I’m going to ask him tips,” Djokovic said. “He beat me twice we played against each other, so… I have no tips for him. So far he’s doing very well.”

There are several younger players who have competed against and beaten Djokovic and other superstars on the ATP Tour, with Rune and another 20-year-old, Carlos Alcaraz among them. Daniil Medvedev, the 27-year-old who will play his Rome quarter-final on Thursday, leads the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

“Obviously, a new generation is here already. I mean, Alcaraz is No. 1 in the world from Monday. Obviously he’s playing amazing tennis. I think it’s also good for our sport that we have new faces, new guys coming up. It’s normal,” Djokovic said. “We’ve been saying this for years, that we can expect it to come, that moment to come when you have [a] kind of shift of generations.

“I’m personally still trying to hang in there with all of them. I’m happy with — of course, very happy with — my career so far. I still have the hunger to keep going.”

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Djokovic Forces Deciding Set Against Rune After Rain Delay In Rome

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Djokovic Forces Deciding Set Against Rune After Rain Delay In Rome

Quarter-final finely poised at ATP Masters 1000 event

A dramatic quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Holger Rune is into a deciding set at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where the Serbian levelled the match soon after a rain delay of just over an hour in Rome.

Rune was under pressure serving to stay in the second set when the weather forced play to be suspended in Rome at 6-2, 4-5, 0/30. Upon resumption, Djokovic immediately claimed the two points he needed to level proceedings and force a third set.

The 20-year-old Rune had earlier raced to the opening set at the Foro Italico, where defending champion and top seed Djokovic appeared physically under par and was treated by the physio at 2-1 in the second set.

In typically resilient fashion, the Serbian raised his level and broke for the first time in the match en route to a 5-2 lead. Although Rune pegged the 35-year-old back by reclaiming the break, Djokovic was just two points from levelling the match when the heavens opened.

Djokovic is chasing his seventh title in the Eternal City, and a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 crown overall, while Rome debutant Rune is chasing his second title at that level after defeating Djokovic to win the Rolex Paris Masters last November.

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Fight Against ‘Internal Demons’, Sumit Nagal’s Journey To Third Challenger Title

  • Posted: May 17, 2023

Fight Against ‘Internal Demons’, Sumit Nagal’s Journey To Third Challenger Title

The Indian won last month’s Rome Challenger

Sumit Nagal returned to the ATP Challenger Tour winners’ circle after four difficult years that saw the 25-year-old undergo hip surgery, fight Covid multiple times, and battle against his ‘own internal demons’.

But the hard work began to pay off two weeks ago, when the Indian advanced through qualifying en route to claiming the title at the Roma Garden Open.

“When I won, I had a very relieving, calm feeling,” Nagal told “Calm in a way because the last few years have been pretty tough for me, on and off the court. To play seven matches in that week and have the body feel all right, it was a relief.”

Following the clay-court title, Nagal shared on Instagram some of the difficulties he’s dealt with the past four years.

“It was hard to believe that this day would come,” Nagal wrote. “I struggled with numerous injuries, came back from surgery, fought covid multiple times, endured tough matches, tougher training regimes, and my own internal demons.”

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A post shared by Sumit Nagal (@nagalsumit)

A three-time Challenger Tour champion, World No. 256 Nagal grew weary of his career being ‘start and stop’. In 2022, he once again found his back against the wall, physically and mentally.

“The worst I felt was last summer, when I was playing a match at the Heilbronn Challenger, where I suffered a tear in my left oblique,” Nagal said. “The effect it had on my mentality was very tough for the next two, three months. For the first time in my life, I think I lost 0-6, 0-6 in a qualifying match [in Luedenscheid]. After that, it just went sideways.

“I was in a very dark place where I was not enjoying tennis, couldn’t find motivation. I was always asking myself, ‘Why me? I didn’t play for seven or eight months, then I play again for four weeks and I’m out again for six weeks. What else do I need to do?’ You start asking, ‘What do I need to do to get rid of this?’ I couldn’t find answers.”

Nagal, who is based at the Nensel Tennis Academy in Germany, relied on his team for motivation. If there were any rare thoughts of quitting, Nagal quickly put those to bed as he thought of his family back home in India.

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“For me, it was not an option to quit and go home,” Nagal said. “But for sure there were times where instead of coming to the court or fitness 30 minutes early, I was coming five minutes early. Sometimes you just say, ‘What’s the point? Any way, I’m getting injured.’ These thoughts are very scary and bad because they can take you down. It was a constant fight between my head.

“I promised myself, promised my family, that one day I want to be at this place playing the Slams and if I quit now, there’s no chance I can see that. For me, the very important picture I see is my parents sitting in my match box when I’m playing the biggest tournaments. I want to see that on their faces because they’ve never been to a tournament outside India. I think that would be very big for all of us.”

In 2019, tennis fans were introduced to Nagal at the US Open, where he made his Grand Slam debut and took a set off Roger Federer in the first round. Not long after Nagal’s Flushing Meadows appearance, Nagal reached back-to-back Challenger finals, including his triumph at the Buenos Aires Challenger. The following season, Covid-19 put the Tour on pause when the Indian was playing his best tennis.

Nagal’s journey back to the winners’ circle is a testament of his personality.

“I’m just a grinder, I figure things out,” Nagal said. “That’s probably my biggest strength, I will just figure out a way. If it’s to fix a computer, a light, or whatever random thing done, I will find a way.”

<a href=''>Sumit Nagal</a> competes on home soil at the Chennai Challenger in February.
Sumit Nagal competes on home soil at the Chennai Challenger in February. Credit: Suman Chattopadhyay

If it weren’t for Indian legend Mahesh Bhupathi, Nagal may not even have a career in pro tennis.

At age 10, Nagal met Bhupathi when the former doubles World No. 1 was holding a selection for admittance into his academy. One of the cities where the selection was held was in New Delhi, just 40 kilometres from Nagal’s hometown.

“I was hitting with the other kids and there was a moment where I went to Mahesh and said, ‘Mr. Bhupathi, could you please look at my game?’ Nagal recalled to in 2019. “I knew who he was, so I grabbed his hand and asked him to look at my game. After that, it’s apparently when he told my family that they’re going to take me.

“That’s the one line that changed my life. If I didn’t tell him this, I would not be sitting here right now. My family didn’t have enough money to support me when I was young. I couldn’t have played tennis.”

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