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From 'Tough' To Triumphs, How Alcaraz Embraced The Biggest Stages

  • Posted: May 26, 2023

From ‘Tough’ To Triumphs, How Alcaraz Embraced The Biggest Stages

The World No. 1 shares how his game is different compared to last year

Carlos Alcaraz’s historic rise on the ATP Tour has often put him under bright lights and on the biggest stages of the sport. Now the 20-year-old will face a new spotlight, being the top seed at a Grand Slam for the first time, at Roland Garros. While Alcaraz has made his breakthrough look easy, the Spaniard admitted that it has come with challenges.

The World No. 1 stated that being on the ‘big stage’ is something he needed to grow accustomed to.

“At the beginning when I played against the best [players], in the best stadiums, it was tough for me to get used to that and to stay calm,” Alcaraz said in his pre-tournament press conference. “But I learned from those moments. I remember against Rafa for my first time in Madrid, it was really, really tough. I can name a lot of matches that I didn’t feel comfortable playing on that. 

“But as I said, I learned from that, and I always wanted to play in those stadiums, in those tournaments, and I tried to feel comfortable playing on that. Right now I feel great playing in the great stadiums.”

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Alcaraz has shown nerves of steel rather than fear on the big stages, such as last year’s US Open, where he claimed his maiden Grand Slam title in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium. He later became the youngest year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

In 2022, Alcaraz was a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros. When asked how his game today compares to a year ago, the World No. 1 stated his improvements have been more in the mental side of the game.

“I would say I’m the same player as last year, only change that I would say is that I’m more mature. Mentally I’m better,” Alcaraz said. “I can read what happened on court better than last year. For me, it’s really, really important, and I would say it’s the most different than last year.”

Boasting a 30-3 season record, Alcaraz has claimed four titles this year: Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid. After a disappointing third-round exit at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, Alcaraz enjoyed some downtime before preparing for his quest for a second Grand Slam title.

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“I played golf one day, of course had time with friends, family. Quality time at home is really helpful for me,” Alcaraz said. “I took some days off. Doing nothing, just chilling.

“I had like five days practising in the academy at home. That is really helpful for me, to be away from tournaments a little bit, have more intensity practice. [This year] I didn’t have more than four days to practise, just to play matches and matches, and for me [it was good to] have this time to prepare for Roland Garros as good as I did these past days.”

In the Roland Garros opening round, Alcaraz will face Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli. Alcaraz won their lone meeting at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Todi, Italy in 2020.

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Dimitrov Reaches First Final In 5 Years, Jarry Upsets Zverev In Geneva

  • Posted: May 26, 2023

Dimitrov Reaches First Final In 5 Years, Jarry Upsets Zverev In Geneva

Dimitrov chasing first title since 2017

Is this the week Grigor Dimitrov ends his six-year wait for a tour-level title?

The Bulgarian defeated second seed Taylor Fritz 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(2) on Friday at the Gonet Geneva Open to snap an 11-match losing streak in tour-level semi-finals.

In an epic clash at the ATP 250 clay-court event, Dimitrov battled hard to earn his first Top 10 win of the season. The 32-year-old demonstrated great agility to hang in points, before he turned the tables with his dynamic shotmaking to advance after two hours and 52 minutes.

“It was a crazy match. I am very pleased with the way I fought and the fans were amazing today,” Dimitrov said. “It feels great [to reach the final] but the job is not over. I don’t take any matches lightly. I came here with a purpose and I intend to finish it up tomorrow.”

Dimitrov is chasing his first tour-level title since 2017, when he triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Bulgarian, up four spots to No. 29 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, will meet Nicolas Jarry in the championship match.

With his 15th tour-level victory of the season, Dimitrov has reached his first final since Rotterdam in 2018. Earlier this week he overcame Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets and Christopher O’Connell in three sets.

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In the second semi-final of the day, Jarry upset Alexander Zverev 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach his fifth ATP Tour final.

The Chilean, who defeated Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals, produced an impressive serving performance against third-seeded German Zverev. He won 90 per cent (43/48) of points behind his first delivery and did not face a break point to advance after one hour and 48 minutes.

“I have been playing good tennis and working a lot,” Jarry said. “To be able to play like this against Casper [Ruud] and today against Sascha, I am so happy with all the work.”

Jarry is aiming to win his third tour-level title this week and second of the season, having triumphed on clay in Santiago. The 27-year-old, currently No. 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, also reached the championship match in Geneva in 2019, falling against Zverev.

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#NextGenATP Frenchman Fils Reaches Lyon Final

  • Posted: May 26, 2023

#NextGenATP Frenchman Fils Reaches Lyon Final

Cerundolo downs Norrie

#NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils advanced to his maiden tour-level final on Friday at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, where he clawed past Brandon Nakashima 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5).

In a semi-final thriller, the 18-year-old Frenchman overcame heavy hitting from the American and cramp deep in the third set to earn the biggest win of his career after two hours and 54 minutes.

Fils, who is making his debut in Lyon, struck the ball with aggression throughout his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Nakashima. The wild card recovered from squandering a match point at 5-4 in the third set and also overcame cramp to reach his first tour-level final.

“It is amazing,” Fils said. “I am really happy with the win today. It was a tough match against a really good opponent. I am looking forward to the next match.”

Fils has enjoyed a breakthrough season on the ATP Tour, having advanced to semi-finals on home soil in Montpellier and Marseille. With his victory against Nakashima, Fils has climbed one spot to fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race. He will face Francisco Cerundolo in the final.

The 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Nakashima was aiming to reach his first championship match of the season at the ATP 250 clay-court event. The 21-year-old defeated Diego Schwartzman, Arthur Rinderknech and Tommy Paul en route to the last four.

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Earlier, Cerundolo reached his first tour-level final of the season when he defeated defending champion Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-0.

The Argentine was in control throughout the 73-minute clash. The fourth seed opened his shoulders to hit his explosive groundstrokes with power to improve to 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Norrie, who beat Cerundolo en route to the Lyon title last year.

“I think I played one of the best matches of the season,” Cerundolo said. “Yesterday I started not that well and finished really well and that gave me a lot of confidence and today I showed it. I am super happy because it was a tough match. Cam is a great player and I think I played amazingly and I am happy to be in the final.”

Cerundolo is seeking his second tour-level trophy this week, having captured the trophy in Bastad last year. The 24-year-old is up one spot to No. 27 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings following his 20th tour-level win of the season.

Norrie was aiming to reach his third consecutive final in Lyon, having lost against Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2021 before defeating Alex Molcan last year.

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Alcaraz Chases Maiden Crown, Djokovic Seeks To Make History At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 26, 2023

Alcaraz Chases Maiden Crown, Djokovic Seeks To Make History At Roland Garros

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the clay-court major

The ATP Tour’s finest head to Paris for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros, where the main-draw action takes place from 28 May-11 June.

Carlos Alcaraz arrives in the French capital as World No. 1, but Novak Djokovic (chasing a record 23rd major title), Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas could both usurp the Spaniard by the end of the fortnight. looks ahead at some of the key storylines across the singles draw and doubles draw at the 2023 edition of the clay-court Grand Slam.

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1) Djokovic Eyes Record 23rd Grand Slam: Victory at January’s Australian Open drew Djokovic level with Rafael Nadal on 22 major singles titles and the Serbian has the chance to set a new record in his rival’s absence this fortnight in Paris. Djokovic has not won a title since his Melbourne triumph, but the 36-year-old is a two-time Roland Garros champion and enters this year’s draw with a 20-4 record for the season.

2) Alcaraz Seeks Second Slam Crown: Alcaraz has barely put a foot wrong this season. Despite a shock third-round defeat in Rome to an inspired Fabian Marozsan, the Spaniard has racked up a 30-3 record and lifted four ATP Tour titles. Three of those have come on clay, and the 20-year-old World No. 1 will now aim to transfer his red-hot form onto the surface at the Grand Slam stage.

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3) Red-Hot Medvedev To Roll On?: Medvedev completed his emergence as a bona fide clay-court threat by lifting his maiden ATP Tour crown on the surface in Rome. The World No. 2 has won a Tour-leading 39 matches and claimed a Tour-leading five titles this season and has seemingly never been better placed to advance past the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the first time.

4) Four-Way Battle For No. 1: Alcaraz, Medvedev, Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas are all eyeing a double reward in Paris. The current No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings Alcaraz, No. 2 Medvedev and No. 3 Djokovic can all guarantee they occupy top spot on 12 June by lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

Tsitsipas needs to win the title to give himself a chance of reaching No. 1 for the first time, but would also be relying on Alcaraz falling by the third round and Medvedev by the quarter-finals.

5) Top 10 Threats: Former finalists Casper Ruud (2022) and Tsitsipas (2021) hold fond memories of Paris, and both will see Roland Garros as a big opportunity to push for their maiden Grand Slam crown. The same is true of Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev and World No. 9 Taylor Fritz, who has already reached three semi-finals on clay for the year.

6) Young Contenders: A surprise quarter-finalist as a teenager a year ago, Holger Rune returns to Roland Garros at a career-high No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The 20-year-old Dane is 13-3 on clay for the season, a tally which includes a run to his fourth ATP Tour title in Munich in April.

In 2020, Jannik Sinner also reached the last eight on debut at Roland Garros, where the 21-year-old has reached at least the fourth round on all three of his appearances. The Italian is another consistent performer on the ATP Tour seeking his maiden major triumph.

7) French Out In Force: Ugo Humbert leads a host of home favourites seeking to become the first French men’s singles Roland Garros titlist since Yannick Noah in 1983. Among the locals joining the World No. 38 in the draw are Richard Gasquet and former semi-finalist Gael Monfils.

8) #NextGenATP Hopefuls: Home players also spearhead the #NextGenATP charge in Paris. Eighteen-year-old Arthur Fils and 19-year-old Luca Van Assche are fifth and sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race, respectively, and both make their Roland Garros main-draw debuts.

Another top talent from the 21-and-Under category, Ben Shelton, is also set for his first appearance at the clay-court major. The American, who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, had not competed on red clay in his life prior to April. He now has two tour-level wins to his name on the surface.

9) Opening Salvos: The singles draw has thrown up some intriguing first-round encounters. Felix Auger-Aliassime, who pushed Nadal to five sets in Paris a year ago, has won only one match on clay so far this year. The Canadian 10th seed meets another former quarter-finalist, the entertaining Fabio Fognini, first up.

The 14th seed Cameron Norrie will try to maintain his focus in front of a likely partisan crowd when he takes on home favourite Benoit Paire, while big baseline hitting is guaranteed when Madrid finalist Jan-Lennard Struff faces rising Czech star Jiri Lehecka.

10) Stacked Doubles Draw: Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut have not played a tour-level event together since June last year, but the two-time Roland Garros champions reunite for their home Slam. Their rivals in Paris include top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, who are chasing their maiden major crown, and defending champions Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer.

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