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Fils, Kokkinakis Headline Wimbledon Qualifying Field

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2023

Fils, Kokkinakis Headline Wimbledon Qualifying Field

Former Top 10 stars Goffin, Pouille to compete, Chung makes major return

A spot in the main draw at Wimbledon is hard-earned, and this year will be no exception.

The entry list for qualifying at the upcoming grass-court major in London has been announced and includes a number of high-profile names. #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils, the big-hitting Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis and former Top 10 stars David Goffin and Lucas Pouille are among those set to compete at the Community Sport Centre Roehampton from 26-29 June.

Wimbledon debutant Fils is the highest-ranked player on the list. The 18-year-old Frenchman is at a career-high No. 63 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after lifting his maiden tour-level trophy in Lyon last month. His more experienced countryman Pouille will also hope to build on some promising recent performances. The 29-year-old reached the second round at Roland Garros as a qualifier and has pedigree on the lawns of SW19, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2016.

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The World No. 108 Kokkinakis won his first main draw match at Wimbledon in 2022 and will look to deploy his free-hitting game to good effect as he chases his seventh consecutive main draw appearance at major tournaments. Goffin competes in Wimbledon qualifying for the first time since 2011: The Belgian has reached the quarter-finals at the Championships in each of the past two years, and holds a 16-8 record at the event.

Also joining the qualifying action will be a pair of former World No. 19s, Pablo Cuevas and Hyeon Chung. South Korea’s Chung, a semi-finalist at the 2018 Australian Open, has struggled with injuries for the past three years and will be competing at a Grand Slam for the first time since he competed in qualifying at Roland Garros in 2020.

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Chinese Star Yunchaokete Bu: From Idolising Murray To Playing The Scot

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2023

Chinese Star Yunchaokete Bu: From Idolising Murray To Playing The Scot

The 21-year-old will face Murray Wednesday at the Surbiton Challenger

A dream year keeps getting better for Chinese #NextGenATP star Yunchaokete Bu.

The 21-year-old, who claimed his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in April, earned his first grass-court victory Tuesday at the Lexus Surbiton Trophy. Yunchaokete ousted Briton Harry Wendelken to set a second-round clash against his idol, three-time major champion Andy Murray.

“He’s my idol. When I was nine or 10, I started to love him,” Yunchaokete told “The dream has come. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, it’s pretty special.”

Yunchaokete recalled one Murray match in particular that he will forever remember.

“I think the [2012 London] Olympics match against Roger, that was a big one,” Yunchaokete said. “Because a month before, he just lost the Wimbledon final against him.”

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Perhaps Wednesday’s encounter at the Surbiton Challenger will become Yunchaokete’s fondest memory of the Scot, who will be standing across the net.

Tied at his career-high No. 164 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Yunchaokete has made rapid progress within the past year. After winning six titles on the ITF Men’s World Tennis Tour last season, Yunchaokete graduated to the ATP Challenger Tour, where he boasts a 14-9 match record in 2023.

When Yunchaokete triumphed at the Seoul Challenger in April, he became the third Chinese player to win an ATP Challenger Tour title aged 21 and under. Wu Yibing (2017) and Shang Juncheng (2022) both did it aged 17.

World No. 54 Wu made history by becoming the first tour-level titlist from China at the Dallas Open in February. A month prior, the teenager Shang became the first man from the Asian nation to win an Australian Open match in the Open Era.

Another Chinese star, Zhang Zhizhen, reached the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open last month. The 26-year-old became the first Chinese male to crack the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings last October.

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Yunchaokete, who is tenth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race, is drawing inspiration from his countrymen’s record-breaking runs.

“Before I played the final in Seoul, they gave me a lot of confidence and they sent messages to me saying, ‘Just be confident!’” Yunchaokete said. “Also after today, [Wu] just said ‘Believe in yourself!’ because he knows that tomorrow I play my idol.

“They give me a lot of confidence because I didn’t think I could be Top 50 or something, but now they’re close so I feel I can make it also. We have a good relationship, we text a lot. When Wu won the 250 tournament [in Dallas], I texted him and said ‘Congrats!’ and when he did well on the clay also.”

With his colleagues cheering him on from afar, Yunchaokete will be full of confidence — and excitement — when he aims for the highest-ranked win of his career against his idol, World No. 43 Murray.

Watch Andy Murray vs. Yunchaokete Bu (Third match on Centre Court Wednesday)

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QF Preview: Ruud, Rune Set For Roland Garros Rematch; Zverev vs. Etcheverry

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2023

QF Preview: Ruud, Rune Set For Roland Garros Rematch; Zverev vs. Etcheverry

Scandinavians Ruud, Rune meet in Paris QFs for second straight year

The Roland Garros quarter-finals wrap up on Wednesday, with two more players set to join Novak Djokovic/Karen Khachanov and Carlos Alcaraz/Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis. 

In a battle of Top 10 seeds, Casper Ruud and Holger Rune will contest a rematch of their memorable quarter-final from one year ago at the clay-court Grand Slam, while Alexander Zverev faces Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who entered Paris with just one major victory. breaks down the two men’s matches on the Wednesday schedule.

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[4] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. [6] Holger Rune (DEN)

One year ago, the two Scandinavians squared off in a four-set quarter-final won by Ruud on the terre bateau. The 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 victory extended the Norwegian’s perfect ATP Head2Head record to 4-0 against Rune and helped him on his way to his first Grand Slam final.

Rune was playing in just his third major last year in Paris, and he has since established himself among the ATP Tour’s elite. Returning to the French capital last November for the Rolex Paris Masters, Rune beat five Top 10 players in a row — including Djokovic in the final — to win his first ATP Masters 1000 crown and break into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings himself. 

He entered his second Roland Garros at World No. 6 and is up to No. 5 — one spot ahead of Ruud, who is defending runner-up points — in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. Rune also came into the major with his first win against Ruud in tow, a three-set triumph two weeks ago in the Rome semis. (All six of their matches have come on clay.)

Looking ahead to the Ruud quarter-final rematch, Rune recalled a high-quality encounter from both sides last season in the French capital.

“I think last year it was a great match also. It was really close second and third set,” the Dane said. “He played great. He played I think one of his best tournaments last year here. So it’s going to be a tough match.”

He also added: “Obviously I lost last year. And it’s going be the same scenario, we play in a quarter-final, maybe night session again, maybe not. We’ll see. Hopefully I can turn it around and make it different this year.”

Rune was coming off of a four-set upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round last year when the two met on the Paris clay. This time, he reached the quarters with a dramatic win against 23rd seed Francisco Cerundolo in a fifth-set tie-break. With roughly 48 hours to recover, Rune will hope to be recharge for a match that could easily go the distance against Ruud.

The 20-year-old was able to play freely last year as he rose up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but he now expects to be in these positions deep in majors. So too does Ruud, who admitted to feeling the pressure of backing up his stellar 2022 season that saw him rise as high as World No. 2.

“I can be just a little defensive with all my shots really, because I don’t want to make mistakes. I don’t want to hand my opponent victory when I know the importance of every point, every match,” he shared. “But sometimes you just have to sort of go for it and be a little bit more aggressive than what I have been this year.”

Ruud also said that the five-set format at the majors gives him more freedom to recover from mistakes or early deficits, and he has made a conscious effort to hit through the ball more this fortnight. That’s something that Rune has never had a problem with – though fitness issues have plagued the Dane at times this season, his body occasionally showing the effects of many deep runs on the ATP Tour.

With patience and power in equal measures, Ruud succeeded in blunting the power game of Geneva champion Nicolas Jarry in a straight-sets fourth-round win. On Wednesday, he will face even more firepower against Rune.

[22] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG)

Zverev is competing in the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the fifth time in six years as he seeks a third straight semi-final at the event. Etcheverry entered the major with a 1-5 record at the Grand Slams.

But both players have been in tremendous form this fortnight, Zverev losing just one set in his four wins and Etcheverry yet to drop a set.

After a topsy-turvy four-set win against Frances Tiafoe in the third round, Zverev raised his level in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 win against 28th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Monday night — his third straight evening outing on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The German appears to be nearing the tennis he showed last year on that same court, when he gave Rafael Nadal all he could handle before a gruesome ankle injury deep into the second set.

Despite the straight-sets win against Dimitrov, Zverev was not completely happy. He returned to the practice court to hit some serves before speaking with the press, disappointed in the way he let Dimitrov back into the third set.

“I felt like at 3-0 in the third set I got very unfocused,” he said. “I kind of thought the match was over before having it over, and I was not concentrated anymore, and my serve went missing a little bit. So I just wanted to get the feeling of having that back, because it’s going to be important for after tomorrow, I think.”

Etcheverry was all smiles after beating Yoshihito Nishioka in three sets, running away with the final two after saving a set point in the opening-set tie-break. 

“For me I have a lot of emotion right now. I think I am really, really happy. The best moment of my life,” he said. “Of course, in the next round it’s going to be tough. Sascha Zverev, I think he has a lot of more experience than me, but I feel really good to play against him. I am playing incredible tennis this week, and just I have to focus on my game and try to do the same like I am doing every day.”

The Argentine, whose only previous major win came in the Australian Open first round earlier this year, knocked off 18th seed Alex de Minaur and 15th seed Borna Coric prior to his victory against Nishioka. By the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the 22nd-seeded Zverev is the third toughest opponent he’s faced this week. By form, the German may be his toughest out yet.

In reaching the quarters, Etcheverry has soared 18 places to No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. That puts him three places ahead of Zverev, who is defending semi-final points. Wednesday’s winner will move into the Top 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, with Etcheverry set for a new career-high regardless of the result.

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'Game On!' Tsitsipas Relishes Alcaraz Battle; Djokovic vs. Khachanov

  • Posted: Jun 06, 2023

‘Game On!’ Tsitsipas Relishes Alcaraz Battle; Djokovic vs. Khachanov

Alcaraz aims to stay perfect vs. Tsitsipas in evening showdown

The quarter-final stage is set at Roland Garros, and the high-stakes action will begin on Tuesday with three of the Top 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings set to compete.

In the Court Philippe-Chatrier evening session, world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz will take on fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, against whom he holds a 4-0 ATP Head2Head record. The day session on the show court will see two-time Roland Garros champ Novak Djokovic face Karen Khachanov, who is bidding for his third straight Grand Slam semi-final. breaks down the two marquee matchups on the Tuesday schedule, which also includes two men’s doubles quarter-finals.

[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Alcaraz’s path to superstardom took a major leap at the 2021 US Open, when he announced himself at the game’s highest level with a five-set stunner against Tsitsipas, sealed with victory in a final-set tie-break. Since then, Alcaraz has won three more matches against the Greek, including a straight-sets result six weeks ago in the Barcelona final.

When the Roland Garros draw was revealed, a potential rematch in the quarter-finals was one of the most hotly anticipated possibilities in the men’s singles draw — not least for Tsitsipas himself.

“The clash we’ve all been waiting for,” the 24-year-old said with a laugh to open his presser following a straight-sets win against Sebastian Ofner. Asked to elaborate, Tsitsipas remained succinct: “I think I said everything I had to say. I think everyone was expecting it, weren’t they? And it’s here. It’s game on.”

Alcaraz did not yet know his opponent when he spoke with the media following his dominant win against Lorenzo Musetti — a result which earned him a measure of revenge after a defeat to the Italian in last year’s Hamburg final. But the Spaniard shared his respect for the game of Tsitsipas, who has taken just one set off him in their past three meetings. 

“We have played great matches. I won every match that we have played,” said Alcaraz, who is seeking his first Roland Garros semi-final. “But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to win every match that we are going to play. I have to be really focused. He’s a really tough opponent. But of course his game is a good game from my side.”

Alcaraz has overwhelmed Tsitsipas with his power from the baseline in his victories, with the Greek saying he had never seen someone hit the ball so hard after their US Open meeting. His power has also opened up the drop shot as a particularly effective weapon against Tsitsipas, as it has proven to be against all comers on the ATP Tour.

Data from Tennis Insights explains some of the key factors in the wins and losses this season for both players. For Alcaraz, he is at his best when his forehand is firing and he is able to attack. In his wins this season, he has spent 24 per cent of rallies in attacking positions, compared to 18 per cent in defeats.

For Tsitsipas, his best results have come when he is able to steal points from defensive positions. The Greek has stolen 35 per cent of points from defence in his wins this year, compared to 28 per cent in losses.

Putting those numbers together, we can anticipate one key factor that will go a long way to deciding Tuesday’s winner: How often will Alcaraz be able to gain an attacking advantage in the rallies, and how often will Tsitsipas be able to fend off those attacks to steal points?

Of course, the Greek will be keen to attack as well. He said that he likes the bouncy conditions of the day sessions in Paris, when the ball has more “acceleration and pop” to aid his aggressive swings. But those same conditions benefit Alcaraz’s power game, leaving Tsitsipas unsure as to who the evening air will favour.

“I can’t answer whether that would be more beneficial for me or him,” the Greek said, noting that the pair has never played at night. “I will still need to find ways to bring my A game against him and do the best I can.”

[3] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [11] Karen Khachanov

As is always the case with Djokovic at the Grand Slams, there is a lot on the line for the Serbian this fortnight. He is chasing not only a record 23rd men’s singles major title — which would break a tie with Rafael Nadal at 22 — but also the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, which he would reclaim with his third Roland Garros title. 

Through to a record 17th quarter-final at the clay-court major, Djokovic has no interest in looking that far ahead.

“My attention is already in the next match. Obviously quarter-finals, Khachanov, I know what my goal is here,” he said. “I’m trying to stay mentally the course and of course not look too far.”

The rest of his response will not make for easy listening in the Khachanov camp: “Obviously the performance of today gives me a great deal of confidence about how I felt, about how I played,” he continued. “So I’m looking forward to the next match.”

After a tough three-setter against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round, a match that needed three hours for two opening sets decided by tie-breaks, Djokovic levelled up against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas with his best performance of the tournament in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory.

While Djokovic has earned all four of his victories this fortnight in straight sets, Khachanov has only one such result. He escaped a two-set hole against France’s Constant Lestienne in the opening round and won four-setters against Thanasi Kokkinakis and Lorenzo Sonego to reach the quarters.

Now up against his first seeded opponent, the 11th seed will seek to snap a seven-match losing streak against Djokovic, who owns a decisive 8-1 edge in their ATP Head2Head.

“Against him, you need to play really good chess,” Khachanov said, carrying on the theme of a previous response. “He’s one of the toughest tasks, toughest opponents, and you cannot count him out. So at the same time I have ultimate respect, but I’m focused, I’m pumped to do well, and let’s see if I can make it or not this time.”

The 27-year-old reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and the Australian Open for his two best major appearances. To make it three in a row, he will need to beat a Top 10 seed for the first time across those three events.

Doubles QFs

Two doubles quarter-finals will be played on the Roland Garros show courts. On Court Simonne-Mathieu, top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski meet 10th seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos. Koolhof/Skupski have not lost a set in their three victories as they bid for the first Grand Slam title overall and first tour-level crown of 2023.

On Court Suzanne-Lenglen, fourth seeds Austin Krajicek and Ivan Dodig face 11th-seeded Germans Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz. Krawietz won back-to-back Roland Garros titles with fellow German Andreas Mies in 2019 and 2020 and is seeking his first title with Puetz.

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