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Victory For Valkusz: Hungarian Claims Maiden Challenger Title In Skopje

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

Victory For Valkusz: Hungarian Claims Maiden Challenger Title In Skopje

The 24-year-old rises to a career-high No. 224 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings

Mate Valkusz enjoyed a breakthrough moment this week at the Skopje Challenger, where he advanced through qualifying en route to claiming his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title.

The Hungarian won seven matches in as many days and defeated Argentine Francisco Comesana 6-3, 6-4 in Saturday’s final at the Macedonian Open. Valkusz ousted three of the top five seeds at the clay-court event, including a quarter-final victory against top seed Aziz Dougaz.

The 24-year-old Valkusz adds to the promising young talent hailing from Hungary. Zsombor Piros, 23, has captured two Challenger titles this year while Fabian Marozsan won the Antalya Challenger in March and stunned Carlos Alcaraz en route to a fourth-round appearance at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

At a career-high No. 224 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Valkusz was also a finalist at last month’s Ostrava Challenger.

Comesana was competing in his third Challenger final and first of this year. The 22-year-old collected two Challenger titles in 2022, in Corrientes and Buenos Aires.

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Djokovic: 'History On The Line Very Motivating'

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

Djokovic: ‘History On The Line Very Motivating’

Serbian chasing record 23rd Grand Slam

Novak Djokovic arrives at Roland Garros chasing history. If the Serbian triumphs in Paris, he will clinch a record 23rd Grand Slam trophy, moving one clear of Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic is relishing the opportunity to set another record when he takes to court at the clay-court major.

“It’s no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis,” Djokovic said in his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday. “That’s extremely motivating and inspiring for me… History being on the line is something that is very flattering and is very motivating, no doubt about it.”

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

The third seed Djokovic arrives in Pairs holding a 5-3 record on clay this season. The 36-year-old suffered a third-round exit in Monte-Carlo before he lost against Holger Rune at the quarter-final stage in Rome. He also missed Madrid due to injury.

Despite recent setbacks, the two-time champion Djokovic is confident he can produce his best in the French capital.

“I don’t have any physical issues that worry me. So that’s most important for me,” Djokovic said. “I want to feel good coming into a Grand Slam… I know how to approach the Grand Slam. I know how to live during these few weeks, in a way day in and day out, and I hope that I’ll have a few weeks. It would mean that I went far in the tournament.”

Djokovic is in the same half as Top 5 stars Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal is one rival the Serbian won’t be facing, though, after the 14-time Roland Garros champion withdrew due to injury last week.

The World No. 3 shared his thoughts on Nadal’s absence and his title contenders.

“Obviously Nadal not playing in the tournament here is a big loss for tennis. It is a big loss for Roland Garros, because he’s by far the most successful player to play in this tournament in the history,” Djokovic said. “Of course it opens up, you know, a chance and opportunity for the rest of us to try to get a title, because whenever he plays he’s an absolute favourite here or any clay court tournament, for that matter.

“You have Alcaraz, he’s No. 1 and probably the biggest favourite in the tournament. Tsitsipas and [Daniil] Medvedev, they have started playing great on clay. And Rune, [Casper] Ruud and [Alexander] Zverev, knows how to play big events, can always do damage against anybody.”

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Djokovic is seeded to meet Spaniard Alcaraz in the semi-finals. Alcaraz won their only previous tour-level meeting in Madrid last year and Djokovic was full of praise for the 20-year-old and his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“With Alcaraz, you have Juan Carlos Ferrero who is a former World No. 1. Someone who had the reputation of always being very serious, very disciplined, and he went about his business in a proper manner. I think him being with Alcaraz from I the age of 14 or 15 was a fantastic decision for Alcaraz. To have somebody who is going to mentor and guide you and introduce you to the professional tennis. It is obviously working extremely well.”

Djokovic will begin his campaign against American Aleksandar Kovacevic.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Arthur Fils

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Arthur Fils

Frenchman third first-time winner this season

#NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils became the youngest tour-level champion of the season on Saturday when he captured his first title at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon.

The 18-year-old, who is up to third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race, caught up with following his breakthrough at the ATP 250 clay-court event.

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What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
I’m really happy. It’s been a great week for me in France with the home crowd so I’m really happy with the win.

How does it feel to win on home soil in Lyon?
It’s great. During the semi-final, the crowd was amazing. It helped me a lot, I am so happy to play here.

How did you handle the occasion today?
I was trying just to keep my energy up because yesterday my match was long so I was trying my best and was trying to serve well because when we’re in the points, Cerundolo has got a great forehand. I tried to serve well and make every return I could, so I’m happy with this one.

Who are the people in your life who helped you to get this far in your career?
My family first because they’re here from the start and there is my coach of course, who helped me. He helped me and I’m happy and I want to say thanks to them.

You are now up to third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race. How big of a goal is it to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals this season?
It would be really great. There are great players at the event every year. I’m trying my best to get there.

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Countrymen Luca Van Assche and Arthur Cazaux are also coming through at the moment. What do you think that says about French tennis at the moment?
French tennis is always in a good place. With Luca and Arthur it is amazing because we are training together and then when we are looking at each other it is amazing from where we were when growing up and now we are here.

You are set to crack the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. How does that feel?
I’m happy but it does not mean a lot because I am looking for more. But it is great and I will keep trying my best to reach higher.

What’s your biggest interest outside of tennis?
I would say going out with my friends and listening to music and playing some football.

How will you celebrate?
I’m going to take the train to Paris today, so I will celebrate during the train journey.

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Tsitsipas' Surprising Secret To Clay-Court Success

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

Tsitsipas’ Surprising Secret To Clay-Court Success

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analyses the Greek’s clay strategy

Stefanos Tsitsipas has a certain “Je ne sais quoi” on a clay court. Once you study his match metrics on the terre battue, you begin to uncover what it is.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Stefanos Tsitsipas assembling 10 match victories in Monte-Carlo, Madrid and Rome last season identifies the subtleties of clay-court dominance, where power and winners take a back seat to getting the ball out of your opponents’ strike zone to extract errors.

The following five areas of Tsitsipas’ 10 match victories shine a light on the intricate layers of clay-court dominance. The Greek will surely be looking replicate this winning formula at Roland Garros over the following fortnight.

1) Rally Winners & Errors

The first thing to identify is that Tsitsipas won all 10 of his matches in this data set. Surprisingly, he hit fewer rally winners than his opponents.

Rally Winners

  • Tsitsipas = 149
  • Opponents = 169
  • Total = 318
  • Difference = -20

Rally Unforced Errors

  • Tsitsipas = 193
  • Opponents = 231
  • Total = 424
  • Difference = +38

Tsitsipas dominated the larger data set of unforced errors. The only match in which he hit more winners than his opponent was a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory over Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals of Monte Carlo. Tsitsipas clubbed 26 winners to the Argentine’s 21. The biggest deficit was hitting only 15 winners to Alexander Zverev’s 24 when he defeated the German 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome.

2) Forehand & Backhand Average Speed

Hitting the ball harder does not always equate to better. Power is just one of the qualities that will force errors or produce winners. You also have consistency, direction, depth, height, spin, court position and taking time away from your opponent to correctly prepare for the shot. As we see below, Tsitsipas was not trying to blow his opponents off the court with raw power.

Average Forehand Speed

  • Tsitsipas = 119 km/h
  • Opponents = 126 km/h

Average Backhand Speed

  • Tsitsipas = 104 km/h
  • Opponents = 116 km/h

Combined Groundstroke Speed

  • Tsitsipas = 112 km/h
  • Opponents = 119 km/h

The data suggests Tsitsipas uses many tools in his bag to claim his clay-court victories.

3) Average Net Clearance

Height is a weapon that takes on more importance on a clay court, as you are able to spin the ball up above your opponent’s strike zone. Tsitsipas is definitely a proponent of using height as one of his many strategic assets.

Average Net Clearance

  • Tsitsipas = 89 cm
  • Opponents = 75 cm

Tsitsipas averaged playing higher than his opponent in all 10 matches in the data set. The highest average was 1.01 metres against Alexander Zverev in Monte-Carlo. Zverev averaged 80 cm above the net. Tsitsipas won 6-4, 6-2 in their semi-final encounter.

4) Backhand Hit Point

Tsitsipas prefers to stay deep in the court to lift his one-handed backhand high over the net to make it land deep on the other side. Some players prefer to step in and rip backhands. That’s not how the Greek goes about his business. He uses his backhand more to push opponents back and get the ball out of their strike zone. Another benefit is that he has now has more time to hit run-around forehands in the Ad court.

Tsitsipas Average Backhand Hit Point

  • Inside The Baseline = 10%
  • Within 2 Metres Of The Baseline = 47%
  • Past 2 Metres = 43%

Opponents Average Backhand Hit Point

  • Inside The Baseline = 17%
  • Within 2 Metres Of The Baseline = 54%
  • Past 2 Metres = 29%

5) Rally Length / Points Won

Tsitsipas shows versatility in his game by dominating both short and long rallies on clay. This helps when playing different game styles that either demand more aggression or patience to get ahead in the point.

Points Won Under Nine Shots

  • Tsitsipas = 686 (55%)
  • Opponents = 562 (45%)
  • Total = 1248

Points Won In Nine Shots Or More

  • Tsitsipas = 102 (56%)
  • Opponents = 79 (44%)
  • Total = 181

Tsitsipas looks at home on a clay court. It offers him the time and space he enjoys to craft an advantage. Harder is not necessarily better. He is a master tactician when using height and depth.

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Jarry Triumphs In Geneva

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

Jarry Triumphs In Geneva

Chilean clinches third tour-level crown

Nicolas Jarry is an ATP Tour titlist once again.

The Chilean overcame fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(1), 6-1 on Saturday at the Gonet Geneva Open to clinch his third tour-level trophy and second of the season.

In a dominant performance, Jarry’s power proved too much for Dimitrov, who was competing in his first final since Rotterdam in 2018. The 27-year-old hammered eight aces and won 89 per cent (33/37) of his first-serve points to earn his 17th win of the season after one hour and 36 minutes.

“I feel amazing,” Jarry said. “It has been a great year. After all the work with my team and family we are having a great year and I am very happy for that. It is very special. Two finals, one title here. I am very happy.”

Jarry, who lifted the trophy in Santiago in March, upset former Geneva champions Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev en route to his second final in Geneva. Jarry lost against Zverev in the 2019 title match at the ATP 250 clay-court event, but ensured history would not repeat against Dimitrov.

Jarry is up 19 spots to No. 35 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He reached a previous career-high No. 38 in July 2019.

Dimitrov was aiming to win his ninth tour-level title and first since 2017 when he triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals.

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#NextGenATP Fils Captures Maiden Title In Lyon

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

#NextGenATP Fils Captures Maiden Title In Lyon

18-year-old is youngest ATP Tour champion this season

Arthur Fils has arrived on the biggest stage.

The #NextGenATP Frenchman captured his first tour-level title on Saturday at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, where he defeated Francisco Cerundolo 6-3, 7-5 to become the youngest champion in tournament history.

“I will remember this forever,” Fils said. “It has been a great week. It has been amazing. I am happy with the win and now I want more. It was a tough semi-final match. Today I came onto court with not lots of energy, but I was focused on my game and trying my best.

“I was feeling that I was playing well earlier [this week] but I didn’t maybe expect that I would win the tournament.”

The 18-year-old, who overcame Brandon Nakashima in three sets in the semi-finals, played aggressively throughout the one-hour, 36-minute final. He showed great agility and opened his shoulders to overpower the fourth-seeded Argentine in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. Fils dropped to the floor after sealing victory on his first championship point, with the vocal home crowd roaring in support of the Frenchman.

With his 10th tour-level win of the season, Fils has become the youngest champion on the ATP Tour this year. He is also the third teenager to win a trophy in 2023, joining Carlos Alcaraz (Indian Wells, Barcelona, Buenos Aires) and Holger Rune (Munich).

Fils reached semi-finals on home soil in Montpellier and Marseille earlier this season. He found another level in Lyon, though. With his title victory, he climbed to third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race.

The Frenchman is also set to crack the Top 100 for the first time, rising 49 places to No. 63 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. Fils and countryman Luca Van Assche, 19, are the only teenagers inside the Top 100 heading into Roland Garros.

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In an entertaining final, Fils was urged on by vocal home support, with a live band producing an electric atmosphere between points. After soaring to the first set, Fils twice let slip a break advantage in the second set. The 18-year-old eventually earned the third and what proved to be decisive break in the 11th game of the set, before he held his nerve on serve to earn the biggest win of his career.

Cerundolo was aiming to capture his second tour-level trophy, having triumphed in Bastad last season. The 24-year-old will arrive at Roland Garros holding a 13-9 record on clay in 2023, after reaching quarter-finals in Rome and Barcelona.

Did You Know?
Starting the week No. 112 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Fils is the lowest-ranked champion this season. The 18-year-old is also the third first-time winner in 2023, joining Wu Yibing and Tallon Griekspoor.

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Preview: Rublev, Tsitsipas Seek Fast Start At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 27, 2023

Preview: Rublev, Tsitsipas Seek Fast Start At Roland Garros

#NextGenATP Shelton meets Sonego on debut at clay-court major

A host of top players seek a fast start to their 2023 Roland Garros campaign Sunday as main draw play begins at the clay-court major. Top 10 stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev are in first-round action, while fast-rising American Ben Shelton makes his debut at the second Grand Slam of the season. previews some of the standout matches on the Day 1 schedule in Paris.

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[7] Andrey Rublev vs. Laslo Djere (SRB)

Having made his breakthrough into the ATP Masters 1000 winners’ circle at Monte-Carlo in April, has the time come for Rublev to make his mark on the major stage?

The 25-year-old is 12-3 for the season on clay, having also reached a championship match in Banja Luka. He is a seven-time quarter-finalist at Grand Slams, including twice at Roland Garros, and Rublev will bid to advance past the last eight at a major for the first time.

The seventh seed begins his Roland Garros run chasing a fourth win in four ATP Head2Head meetings against Serbian Laslo Djere. All three of the pair’s previous clashes took place last season, including a five-set thriller at the US Open. Djere’s ability to absorb and redirect Rublev’s powerful groundstrokes will be key if he is going to spring an early upset in Paris. The 27-year-old has proven himself on clay before, winning an ATP 500 event on the surface in 2019 in Rio de Janeiro.

[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Jiri Vesely (CZE)

The World No. 5 Tsitsipas has strong pedigree at Roland Garros. He has reached at least the fourth round every year since 2019 and led Novak Djokovic by two-sets-to-love in the 2021 final before falling in a thrilling five-setter on Court Philippe Chatrier. Having reached his second major championship match in January at the Australian Open, the Greek will enter Sunday’s clash against Jiri Vesely full of confidence about his ability to compete across five sets.

The pair’s maiden ATP Head2Head meeting will be Vesely’s first tour-level match since the US Open last September. The Czech has proven himself capable of upsetting top players before — he defeated then-World No. 1 Djokovic in the Dubai quarter-finals in 2022.

[30] Ben Shelton (USA) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)

#NextGenATP star Shelton had never competed on red clay prior to the ATP 250 event in Estoril in April. The American has made a solid start on the surface, notching two tour-level wins in the European spring so far.

The 20-year-old Shelton’s big-kicking lefty serve will be key to his chances as he takes to court at Roland Garros for the first time. Lorenzo Sonego will be out to avenge his defeat to Shelton in Cincinnati last year. The outcome of the match may depend on whether the Italian finds his rhythm behind his ultra-aggressive groundstrokes and is able to take advantage of his familiarity with the surface.

Also In Action…

Karen Khachanov has reached the semi-finals at the past two majors and the 11th seed begins his bid for another deep run against Frenchman Constant Lestienne. Thirteenth seed Hubert Hurkacz takes on David Goffin for the second year in a row at Roland Garros: The Pole prevailed in straight sets against the Belgian in last year’s third round in Paris.

Seventeenth seed Lorenzo Musetti plays Mikael Ymer, while an intriguing clash of gamestyles pitches the guile of 20th seed Daniel Evans against the free-hitting power of Thanasi Kokkinakis. Sebastian Korda, seeded 24th, is the other seeded player in action. The American will face countryman Mackenzie McDonald.

A pair of all-French affairs will be sure to draw the attention of local fans in Paris. French No. 1 Ugo Humbert plays Adrian Mannarino, while Corentin Moutet meets #NextGenATP talent Arthur Cazaux.

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