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The Pouille Renaissance Continues At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 28, 2023

The Pouille Renaissance Continues At Roland Garros

No. 1 Frenchman Humbert also advances

This year’s Roland Garros is proving a renaissance for Lucas Pouille.

No. 675 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the Frenchman entered the tournament far from the level with which he once cracked the world’s Top 10. But inspired by his home crowd, the 29-year-old has shown he has plenty of top-level tennis left in him.

Pouille defeated Austrian lucky loser Jurij Rodionov 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the second round. The Frenchman is the lowest-ranked player to win a first-round match at Roland Garros since World No. 762 Pablo Cuevas in 2013.

Pouille qualified for the main draw on Thursday when he rallied past Rodionov. The Austrian was given a second chance to oust the home favourite when he moved into the draw as a lucky loser, but was unable to overcome the five-time ATP Tour titlist.

“It was special. It was the first time for me that I was playing against the same opponent in three days in the same tournament,” Pouille said. “I was quite stressed when I saw the draw, but then I realised also that it was a good draw. Good first round in Roland Garros when you see Alcaraz playing a qualifier or Medvedev or some other player.

“I sais, ‘Okay, you beat him in the qualies, so he is afraid of you, and just take this advantage for you and just give 100 percent, and you’ll see.'”

After the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist sealed his victory in one hour and 56 minutes, he sang La Marseillaise in unison with the crowd. The moment will be one of the most memorable of the tournament.

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Humbert Wins Second Challenger 175 Crown; Koepfer Rallies To Turin Title

In the evening match on Court Philippe Chatrier, No. 1 Frenchman Ugo Humbert cruised past countryman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. It was the 24-year-old’s first Roland Garros win on his fifth attempt.

“It’s really special. I’ve been trying for four to five years, and I’ve never managed to actually relax on court here until I was very first on centre court, on Philippe-Chatrier Court,” Humbert said. “I had a wonderful time, and I’m really satisfied with my first match.”

The lefty has found great success on the ATP Challenger Tour in recent weeks. He lost in the first round in Madrid to Emil Ruusuvuori before winning the Challenger 175 event in Cagliari. After again falling to Ruusuvuori in the first round in Rome, he lifted another Challenger 175 trophy in Bordeaux.

“It was a mental process. Jeremy [Chardy], my coach, tried to convince me that I could win. In the previous seasons I had only had two to three wins on clay,” Humbert said. “And so he told me, ‘All right, well, trust me. You are going to try to play differently, even if you’re not going to succeed at the beginning’. That’s what I did in Cagliari, it implied some questions about my game and how to adjust it to play on clay and to protect yourself on clay. It’s crucial.

“I’m really enjoying it out there. Now it’s the surface on which I’ve won the most points, so I’m really glad.”

In another all-French match, Corentin Moutet defeated #NextGenATP Arthur Cazaux 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

“[I was] trying to be aggressive and trying to reproduce what we do when we practise. I was trying to play my game. Anyway, I don’t have 1,000 more options when I play,” Moutet said. “I didn’t know him really well, so I was trying to discover what I had against me.”

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Ferrero On Alcaraz: 'The Pressure Will Always Be There'

  • Posted: May 28, 2023

Ferrero On Alcaraz: ‘The Pressure Will Always Be There’

2003 Roland Garros champion discusses his pupil’s chances

On 8 June 2003, Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Martin Verkerk to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros, in what was one of the highlights of his career. Twenty years later, the former World No. 1 is back at the season’s second major on the bench of one of the favourites for the title in Paris.

On Monday, Carlos Alcaraz will play his first-round match against Flavio Cobolli of Italy with the peace of mind knowing that his coach has already been there and done that in Paris.

“During the pandemic he watched a bit of the final,” said Ferrero of Alcaraz and his Roland Garros championship match. “Kids today are much more about highlights than entire matches. We joke a lot, and he tells me that I didn’t used to hit the ball very hard. At the end of the day, I try to get him to see the body language, the mannerisms and the way to handle moments in that kind of match.”

Alcaraz arrives at Roland Garros as the first seed, and with something of a target on his back as the man to beat on clay. Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud, for example, were quick to name the Spaniard as the man most likely to get his hands on the trophy come the competition’s closing Sunday.

“Carlos has played better than anyone during the clay season, but you have to do that every day at every tournament, as I tell him,” revealed Ferrero. “We saw that in Rome; you have an average day, your opponent plays well and you lose. Everything points to Carlos as the favourite, we’ve heard it many times and we know that.”

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Ferrero explained that the team has tried to prepare for Roland Garros as well as possible and that there are positive ways to look at his early Rome loss to Fabian Marozsan.

“The rest after losing in Rome was good for him to reset on a mental level by being at home for a while,” Ferrero said. “We hope everything goes well. If there are no mishaps, I think he’s one of the favourites for the title. Will it happen? We don’t know.”

World No. 1 Alcaraz is playing in his first Grand Slam since winning last season’s US Open (he missed the 2023 Australian Open due to injury). Having already walked that path should help him, according to his coach.

“He’s a better player this year,” Ferrero said. “The experience of winning the US Open and going through what came after it has matured him more. The injuries have also made him think that it’s not all a bed of roses, that bad things can happen.

“In any case, he’s more mature as a person. He’s 20 and, also, when you’re in a team where people are older, I think you grow up a little quicker than you would with people who are your age.

“The whole team is very experienced, each in their own field. Carlos has an advantage in that respect: we’ve been with him for a while and we’ve worked hard to get him organised and on the right path.”

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Ferrero added that the team is trying to help Alcaraz improve technically, like on his return and serve, as well as on his focus. “He is on a steep upward curve,” he said.

However, having won a major last year in New York does not guarantee anything, and there is history to prove it.

“You have to learn how to win a tournament like that one,” warned Ferrero. “I think a Grand Slam is always much more difficult than the others because you have to play seven matches and they’re best-of-five. It is more within reach for us Spanish players because we watch Roland Garros from a very young age. We have the examples of [Sergi] Bruguera, [Álex] Corretja, [Carlos] Moyà, myself… That makes you believe you can do it.”

Thus, the Spaniard will set out on his campaign ready for anything the tournament can throw at him. Ferrero knows it, and so does Alcaraz. From this moment on, the lion’s share of the spotlight, and everything that comes with it, will be on the 20-year-old.

“The pressure will always be there,” accepted Ferrero. “I think people expect a lot from many players, so we try to stay on our path and believe in ourselves. Of course, he won a Grand Slam at 19 and that will help him believe he can do it again.

“We’re ready to have a great tournament. Anyone can lose in the first round, but we’re having a great season on clay. We’ll give our all to have the best tournament possible.”

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Rublev Roars Past Djere At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 28, 2023

Rublev Roars Past Djere At Roland Garros

Seventh seed is a two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros

Could Roland Garros be where Andrey Rublev makes his breakthrough at a major?

The seventh seed made a good start on Sunday when he defeated Laslo Djere 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round. The 25-year-old hit 37 winners to move on after two hours and 32 minutes.

“I think I started normal and Laslo didn’t start really well. I was able to win quite easy [the] first set and then the second set I think I was too calm,” Rublev said. “I was very relaxed, without energy. In the end, the game was more or less equal [until] the moment when he took a medical break and he played a good game. There was the set.

“Then in the third set when I lost my serve I tried to, I don’t know, bring back the energy. I was trying to move to pushing myself. I was little by little getting better and better, and in the end, I was able to turn around the match.”

Rublev appeared in difficulty when Djere moved ahead by a service break in the third set, level at one set apiece. But the 13-time ATP Tour titlist buckled down from there to avoid a second first-round exit at the clay-court major in three years.

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His confidence is as high as ever. Earlier this clay swing, Rublev captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo and reached the final at the ATP 250 event in Banja Luka.

Rublev is also comfortable on the Parisian clay, having reached the quarter-finals here twice. He will next play a Frenchman, Corentin Moutet or Arthur Cazaux.

Djere was a tricky opening opponent, as the Serbian won an ATP 500 on clay in 2019 at Rio de Janeiro. But Rublev limited his unforced errors to just 24, which proved critical.

The seventh seed will not play a seeded opponent until at least the fourth round. That is because 30th seed Ben Shelton, his projected third-round opponent, fell in the first round on Sunday.

Lorenzo Sonego defeated the American 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Court 13. The Italian avenged a three-set loss to Shelton last year in Cincinnati. He took advantage of 49 unforced errors from the lefty to move on after two hours and 53 minutes.

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Wawrinka's Note To Self: 'Failure Is Not Negative'

  • Posted: May 28, 2023

Wawrinka’s Note To Self: ‘Failure Is Not Negative’

The 38-year-old shares key insight in the ATP Uncovered series

“For me, failure is not negative. It’s part of your career, especially in tennis.”

Those are the words of three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who sat down with ATP Uncovered for the latest edition of the ‘Note To Self’ series.

The former World No. 3 spoke on a variety of topics from his early days. The Swiss explained whether he enjoyed practice and fitness workouts as a junior, and revealed advice he would give to his younger self.

What trait does Wawrinka wish he would’ve had more of at the start of his career? Why was 2013 “a turning year” for him? Wawrinka leaves the episode by writing three important words on a whiteboard. Learn the answers to all that and more by watching the full video feature above.

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Tsitsipas Holds Firm For Vesely Win At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 28, 2023

Tsitsipas Holds Firm For Vesely Win At Roland Garros

2021 finalist to play Carballes Baena or Nava next in Paris

Stefanos Tsitsipas passed a stern first-round test on Sunday at Roland Garros, where the fifth seed overcame Jiri Vesely 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) at the clay-court major.

The fifth seed appeared set for a routine victory on Court Philippe Chatrier after claiming the first two sets but Vesely, playing in his first tour-level tournament since the US Open last September, battled hard. The Czech sealed the third set with a late break of his opponent’s serve and led 6/3 in the fourth-set tie-break, but Tsitsipas kept his cool to dig out a three-hour, 13-minute victory.

“He was a difficult obstacle today, I won’t lie,” said Tsitsipas of the former World No. 35 Vesely. “He gave me a hard time. I’m happy I overcame it in such a fashion. I was able to bounce back from all those difficulties that were being thrown at me constantly. Today’s win is very important for me.”

Tsitsipas outhit Vesely by 57 winners to 31 but the Czech consistently raised his level at key moments to keep the fifth seed on his toes in the pair’s maiden ATP Head2Head meeting. Tsitsipas’ dominance on serve ultimately proved key: The Greek won 83 per cent (71/86) of points behind his first delivery overall.

Tsitsipas now holds a 19-6 record at Roland Garros, where he reached the championship match in 2021. His second-round opponent in Paris will be Roberto Carballes Baena or qualifier Emilio Nava.

More to follow…

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