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Tsitsipas Edges Shelton In Cincinnati, Purcell Upsets Ruud

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Tsitsipas Edges Shelton In Cincinnati, Purcell Upsets Ruud

Fourth seed Tsitsipas faces Hurkacz or Coric next

There was little to separate Stefanos Tsitsipas and Ben Shelton on Wednesday in a sharp-serving shootout on the lightning-fast courts of Cincinnati.

It was the fourth-seeded Tsitsipas who ultimately raised his game in a pair of tie-breaks for a hard-earned 7-6 (3), 7-6(2) victory at the Western & Southern Open. The Greek made his experience count against his #NextGenATP opponent, staying consistent at the tailend of both sets to wrap a one-hour, 43-minute triumph.

“He’s still relatively young and he has that free spirit in the way he approaches his game,” said Tsitsipas. “It came down to two tiebreakers and I was very confident if I made a few returns back and got him to rally a bit, things might go my way, and it ended up so. I was tough, for sure. I was tough as nails, and that gave me the win today.”

There may be some contrasts between Shelton’s kicking lefty serve and Tsitsipas’ flatter delivery, but both proved extremely effective in the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. The American won an impressive 84 per cent (36/43) of points behind his first serve but was still outdone by Tsitsipas, who won 93 per cent (37/40) of points behind his first delivery. Neither player faced a break point in the match.

“Most of my service games, I felt like had that flow, that rhythm that I was seeking from the very beginning of the match,” said Tsitsipas. “It sort of progressed more and more. I’m happy with how I handled the rallies that I got to play after serving… He hits big, can serve big, so with these kinds of players you have to be 100 per cent there. There isn’t much of a gap that you can give them.”

Tsitsipas now holds an 11-5 record at the Western & Southern Open, where he enjoyed semi-final runs in 2020 and 2021 before reaching the championship match in 2022. He will next face Hubert Hurkacz in Ohio, after the Pole ended Borna Coric’s reign as Cincinnati champion with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 second-round win.

Wednesday’s triumph, combined with Jannik Sinner’s defeat to Dusan Lajovic, was a boost for Tsitsipas’ Nitto ATP Finals qualification hopes. The 25-year-old is fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, 660 points behind Sinner, and he will look to gain further ground on the Italian with another deep run in Cincinnati this week.

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Casper Ruud could not join the Greek in the third round. Max Purcell downed Ruud 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 for his maiden Top 10 win.

The World No. 70 Purcell arrived in Cincinnati fresh from claiming his maiden ATP Masters 1000 main-draw win in Toronto. Just as had against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Canada, Purcell kept his cool to defeat a higher-ranked opponent. The Australian qualifier powered 38 winners, including 12 aces, to outlast the World No. 7 Ruud across two hours.

Now up 16 spots to No. 54 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his run in Cincinnati, Purcell’s next test in Ohio is a third-round clash with 10th seed Frances Tiafoe or Stan Wawrinka.

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Medvedev Completes Musetti Double With Cincinnati Win

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Medvedev Completes Musetti Double With Cincinnati Win

Third seed to meet Zverev for 16th time in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series

Two clashes in the space of six days, two commanding victories for Daniil Medvedev against Lorenzo Musetti.

The third-seeded Medvedev produced a dominant 6-3, 6-2 triumph against the Italian on Wednesday at the Western & Southern Open to book his third-round spot in Cincinnati. Having also prevailed against Musetti at last week’s National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto, Medvedev now leads 2-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

“I think it’s tough for anyone to be comfortable [quickly] here,” said Medvedev of the fast Cincinnati courts. “Tough conditions here, they changed the court. But then it comes to being the better in the tough conditions, and that’s what I managed to do today.

“We both made some mistakes, we both made some double faults and stuff like this, but I managed to be a little bit better in important moments and actually I felt like I was playing better and better during the match. So that’s a positive thing for the next round.”

Aside from dropping serve in his opening game of the week in Ohio, Medvedev was rock-solid on the way notching his Tour-leading 23rd ATP Masters 1000 win of the season. He outhit Musetti by 25 winners to 10 in a 78-minute victory on Grandstand.

Cincinnati holds fond memories for Medvedev, who lifted the first of his six Masters 1000 crowns at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in 2019. His third-round opponent as he chases his sixth tour-level title of 2023 will be German 16th seed and former champion Alexander Zverev, who fired 10 aces in a 7-5, 6-4 win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 

“It was my first Masters 1000 win, so always special memories [here],” said Medvedev. “Today was probably the coolest day I have ever seen in Cincinnati, so that was great and I hope all the week is going to be like this.”

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Captain Nishioka’s First Flight! Japanese Star On Off-Court Action & ‘Yoshi’s Cup’

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Captain Nishioka’s First Flight! Japanese Star On Off-Court Action & ‘Yoshi’s Cup’

World No. 45 founded annual tournament for promising juniors in Japan

Yoshihito Nishioka, Action Man.

Life on the ATP Tour involves enough time spent practising, preparing, and recovering from competing that off-court escapes have become all-important for the Japanese star. The 2023 season has been no exception for Nishioka, whose experiences this year include flying a plane through the skies above Phoenix, Arizona, in March.

“It was my first time flying [a plane],” Nishioka told earlier this year. “The person who was sitting with me, he just got a licence and he wanted me to sit by him. It was really great. I cannot do that in Japan, so it was really fun.

“I love Phoenix because the nature is beautiful. Sometimes a bit too hot and very dry, but I love nature. [I was in control of the plane] for like five minutes. We flew for two hours, but he said, ‘Okay, there is nothing around this area, so you can do it’. I tried. It was so scary, but it was a good experience.”

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A post shared by Yoshihito Nishioka(西岡良仁) (@yoshihito0927)

A two-time ATP Tour champion, Nishioka feels non-tennis activities are essential to maintain a healthy balance for players who spend much of the year on the road.

“You cannot be always focused,” said the 27-year-old. “We need some time to relax, to play the next week or the next tournament. That kind of thing is very important for us and we can appreciate it, too.”

That even applies to days off during tournament weeks. A couple of weeks after Nishioka touched down safely in Phoenix, he was gliding across the waves off the Miami coast on a jetski during his stay at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

“We’re [often] looking for something that we can do in tournament time,” said Nishioka. “I need to relax sometimes when we have a day off. So we’re always looking for something and it’s always enjoyable. I don’t want to get too tired, like doing something for the whole day. But a couple of hours or something, that should be great.”

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A post shared by Yoshihito Nishioka(西岡良仁) (@yoshihito0927)

Nishioka’s off-court activities aren’t all adrenaline-fuelled outings. As the leading Japanese player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, his desire to see his nation continue to develop top talent led to him founding ‘Yoshi’s Cup’, an annual tournament in Tokyo, in cooperation with a TV company.

“It was during COVID time. So many juniors lost many tournaments, even within Japan,” explained Nishioka. “So they were practising, but they had no motivation to practise because they didn’t have any tournaments.

“So I wanted to open up the tournament. I have a name in Japan for tennis, so I thought if I do that, maybe it will interest [the juniors]. It was only supposed to be one time, but after we did it some other people who helped with my tournament and love tennis said, ‘Actually, this is very good for tennis in Japan. So we think we should keep doing this every year and keep improving the tournament’. I can only do it one time a year, but it should be very helpful for juniors.”

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A post shared by Yoshihito Nishioka(西岡良仁) (@yoshihito0927)

With help from coaches from the Japanese Tennis Federation, Nishioka selects eight junior boys, who must all be aged 16 or under, to compete in an event that is streamed live on his YouTube channel. More than 2000 people have tuned in to watch at times and, with all expenses paid and significant prize money on offer, this is no ordinary junior event. But Nishioka says this is for a good reason.

“In Japan we are far away from anywhere. If we have to go somewhere like the U.S. or Europe, it is very expensive,” he said. “For the tournaments for juniors under 16, they cannot go by themselves, so they need someone to go with them, a parent or a coach, and the price is going to double. So I want to give support for this. I want to give a chance to somebody who is very talented. I’m not certain they can be a great player, but they can use a chance. I want to give this chance.

“So, this tournament has prize money. Every year, it’s improving by $10,000. This year’s winner can get $30,000, so it is huge money for a junior if they get it. I also give an [ITF World Tennis Tour] Futures wild card in Japan. So it’s not only for a junior, but one who wants to be a pro. I want to give the chance to play some professional tournaments.”

As he prepares to take on Alexander Zverev in the second round at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, some may ask why Nishioka has already started such a big off-court project that could potentially distract him during the peak of his pro career. In fact, says the 27-year-old, his current status as a Top 50 player makes it the perfect time.

“I’m doing it now because I have a profile in Japan right now for tennis,” said Nishioka. “So if I ask someone [for something], they might listen to what I say. But if I finish my career, maybe they don’t listen, or other players will have a stronger profile. Now I have value [to make things happen] and I want to move [the project along], so I’m asking many companies to invest in tennis.”

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Alcaraz Notches 50th Win, But It's Not All Plain Sailing

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Alcaraz Notches 50th Win, But It’s Not All Plain Sailing

Spaniard improved to 12-0 in his opening-round matches this year, but only after a major scare

Carlos Alcaraz has captured his 50th match win of the year in personal-best time after defeating Jordan Thompson 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in his opening match at the Western & Southern Open Wednesday night.

But the speedy season journey to the half-century mark stands in stark contrast to what was generally a flat performance in the first two sets of a rain-interrupted match against the World No. 55 net-rushing Australian, who took the second set after having had game points for a 5-2 lead in the first.

It took Alcaraz, who made 26 unforced errors in the first set, until the start of the third set shortly before 12:30 a.m. to find his spark after his earlier sluggish performance, which also kept fans in a subdued mood for large portions of the match.

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“It wasn’t an easy match but I found my best level at the end,” Alcaraz said. “We were waiting around all day to play the match and then when you step on the court you have to start with the rain, so it wasn’t easy.

“But you have to find a way to win these matches in this type of situation.”

Coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who missed his charge’s below-par quarter-final run last week in Toronto in his first outing since winning Wimbledon, is on deck in Ohio this week and will be looking for ways to get Alcaraz back to his best as he seeks to defend his hold on World No. 1 against a challenging Novak Djokovic this week.

The match, which began Tuesday night and finished just after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, meandered over three hours and two minutes, due in part to the match clock continuing to run during a 20-minute rain delay at 1-1 in the first set when the players remained on court. Alcaraz failed to convert four break points either side of the interruption and needed a ninth break point in the eighth game of the first set to break through for the first time.

He finished the match 5/17 on break chances after breaking Thompson in the final game and by playing significantly better tennis than in the first two sets. The Australian challenged Alcaraz throughout the match with 52 net approaches, of which he won 30.

The Cincinnati top seed reached the 50-wins milestone in his 12th tournament of the year. Last season his 50th match win came in the semi-finals of the US Open, his 14th tournament of the season. 

The 20-year-old Spaniard, who improved to 50-5 on the year, is looking for his seventh title of 2023 to add to crowns won in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Queen’s and Wimbledon.

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Alcaraz must reach the final this week at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre to be guaranteed of continuing his run atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for a 34th week on Monday. Anything less than a run to the final leaves open several scenarios under which Djokovic could reclaim top spot.

On the 28-player list of most weeks spent at No. 1, Alcaraz is already in 16th position. He needs another 11 weeks to move past Gustavo Kuerten in 13th position.

Alcaraz awaits a third-round showdown with the winner of Frenchman Ugo Humbert and American Tommy Paul, who upset the reigning US Open champion last week in Toronto.

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Davidovich Fokina On Djokovic: 'He Has Everything Of Nadal & Federer'

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Davidovich Fokina On Djokovic: ‘He Has Everything Of Nadal & Federer’

Spaniard fresh off run to Toronto semi-finals

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina grew up following the career of Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard watched as the Serbian star battled against the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, ultimately clawing from consistent World No. 3 to the man with the most weeks atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in history (389).

On Wednesday evening, the 24-year-old will face Djokovic in the second round of the Western & Southern Open.

“I wanted to one day play against him and obviously if I can beat him, for me it would have been a dream. I think it is the same now,” Davidovich Fokina told “If I can win this match tomorrow, for me it’s a dream because in the end you don’t win against these guys every day.”

It will be the pair’s fifth Lexus ATP Head2Head clash, but the opportunity to face someone like Djokovic never gets old for the World No. 23. He will also take confidence from a three-set upset of the Belgrade native last year in Monte-Carlo.

“I remember that I was dominating him very good. And in the middle of the second set, he broke me back. When he won the second set, he was on fire. But I just was [focussed] on being on court, to play against him and to be focussed on every ball,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I think that the key to win was to be focussed in every point.

“It doesn’t matter the result, you forget about the result. You have to play against him because at the end, he’s a legend. And you don’t play every day with these types of guys.”

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Davidovich Fokina paid the ultimate respect to Djokovic when describing his game.

“He has everything of Rafa and Federer. His body is so elastic and he can be very, very solid and he has the weapons to push you to make errors. Then he has winners. He’s very good serving,” Davidovich Fokina said. “But the key of his is that he sees the match very good. The moment of the match, he knows how to [judge what he needs to do] very good.”

The 2022 Monte-Carlo finalist has watched countless matches played by Djokovic. But he has learned from experience that watching the 23-time major winner is a lot different than facing him.

“When I watch on TV, I don’t have that pressure. And when I’m on court, at the end I want to win badly,” Davidovich Fokina said. “Now I’m more focussed on enjoying every point and to keep pushing myself to the limit and to see what I can do.”

Last week in Toronto, Davidovich Fokina explained how important reading has become to shaping his more positive mindset. The Spaniard feels it is important to smile on the court, for example.

That attitude paid off at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers, where he advanced to the semi-finals with victories over Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud.

“It helped to give me a lot of confidence to beat the top guys. It gives you a lot of power, a lot of confidence, a lot of strength to focus for the next match,” Davidovich Fokina said. “This week for me, it’s like a new challenge. Because always when I do a good result, the week after is a little bit tougher for me. But I think I am prepared because I am better mentally.

“I know that it’s going to be Novak Djokovic next and it’s going to be a very, very tough match. But I think I’m prepared now to face him and to try to beat him.”

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If reading books helped Davidovich Fokina in Toronto, perhaps chess will be his lucky charm in Cincinnati. The Spaniard has enjoyed games over the board in the players’ lounge and also recently began playing the game on his phone.

“I quite like it. It’s a lot of strategy and it’s more similar to tennis. In the end you have to move one piece to know what to do in the next one. It’s like in tennis: You will go forehand cross to go down the line after,” Davidovich Fokina said. “It’s a lot of strategy and [you learn] to be more patient, to not rush to one movement.

“If you are anxious or you are not that calm to play that point, you’re going to have mistakes that aren’t forced.”

Davidovich Fokina knows he cannot afford an abundance of unforced errors Wednesday against Djokovic. No matter the challenge, he is looking forward to the opportunity to play the Serbian again.

“[My win] was last year and on clay. On hard it’s different, but it’s going to be fun,” Davidovich Fokina said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. And for sure, we will enjoy playing against each other.”

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The Hidden Benefit Of Medvedev's Deep Return Stance

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

The Hidden Benefit Of Medvedev’s Deep Return Stance

Former World No. 1 is better at defending short returns than any other player… by quite some margin!

Depth is Daniil’s diamond.

Daniil Medvedev’s unconventional, ultra-deep return position often sees him standing six metres or more behind the baseline to return first serves. What looks like a distinct disadvantage at first glance is actually a cleverly disguised trap. Medvedev is a peak performer at winning points against first serves compared to other elite players.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of return depth against first serves from the current Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings uncovers Medvedev’s paradoxical performance. Standing deep is not hurting him from returning deep, and in fact, he leads the Top 10 in one critical first-serve return statistic.

The data set comes from the Infosys ATP Return Tracker from the 2023 season (prior to Toronto) and focuses only on first-serve returns that land between the service line and baseline. Missed returns and returns in the service box are omitted.

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First-Serve Return Depth
The first thing to understand is that once the first-serve return has made it back past the service line, most of these returns land closer to the service line than the baseline. The current Top 10 average 61 per cent of their first-serve returns closer to the service line and 39 per cent closer to the baseline. Even though Medvedev returns from an ultra-deep location, he was tied for third best in this category.

Returns Landing Closer To Baseline Than Service Line
1. Jannik Sinner = 47%
2. Andrey Rublev = 46%
T3. Daniil Medvedev = 43%
T3. Stefanos Tsitsipas = 43%
5. Frances Tiafoe = 40%
6. Holger Rune = 38%
7. Novak Djokovic = 37%
8. Taylor Fritz = 36%
9. Carlos Alcaraz = 35%
10. Casper Ruud = 24%

It’s interesting to identify that Ruud is the other Top 10 player who stands in an ultra-deep location to return serve but does not average returning nearly as deep as Medvedev.

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First-Serve Return Win Percentage
Establishing that returns typically land closer to the service line than the baseline helps zero in on Medvedev’s first-serve return prowess. This is precisely where he leads this elite group of players with points won.

Points Won: Return Lands Closer To Service Line Than Baseline
1. D. Medvedev = 61%
2. C. Alcaraz = 53%
3. H. Rune = 52%
T4. A. Rublev = 50%
T4. N. Djokovic = 50%
6. F. Tiafoe = 48%
7. S. Tsitsipas = 47%
8. T. Fritz = 46%
9. J. Sinner = 43%
10. C. Ruud = 43%

Medvedev was head and shoulders above his peers with his win percentage in this category with 61 per cent of points won. The Top 10 average was just 49 per cent. Medvedev was eight percentage points clear of second-placed Alcaraz (61% to 53%) and was one of only three players to win north of 50 per cent.

Medvedev’s superior win percentage may very well boil down to his “defensive-ready” court position. When a return is hit shorter (landing closer to the service line), the server will naturally be looking to step in and attack. The returner will, in turn, look to move back to defend. Since Medvedev is already standing deep, he does not get as rushed or pushed onto his back foot as a typical returner who hugs the baseline.

Medvedev has cleverly pre-built in extra time for himself.

When the return did land closer to the baseline than the service line, Medvedev was the second-best performer in the Top 10.

Points Won: Return Lands Closer To Baseline Than Service Line
1. C. Alcaraz = 63%
2. D. Medvedev = 58%
3. N. Djokovic = 57%
T4. S. Tsitsipas = 54%
T4. A. Rublev = 54%
6. F. Tiafoe = 53%
7. H. Rune = 52%
8. J. Sinner = 50%
T9 T. Fritz = 44%
T9 C. Ruud = 44%

Medvedev’s first-serve return prowess defies standard convention. By standing so far back to return serve, he allows the ball to slow down and not rush him. He treats the return much more like a regular groundstroke than his competitors, who typically stand closer to the baseline, looking to rebound the ball quickly to the server to take their time away.

Medvedev shouldn’t be able to regularly return the ball so deep from so far back, but that’s precisely what he does. The vast expanses of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open are tailor-made for him. He has plenty of room to roam as far as he wants to return.

It seems he is reacting, but he has discovered the art of dictating from the deep. Don’t be surprised to see Medvedev adding a second US Open title in New York this year.

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Ruusuvuori Rolls Rublev in Cincy Marathon

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2023

Ruusuvuori Rolls Rublev in Cincy Marathon

Finn claims second consecutive Top 10 win

Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori picked up his fourth Top 10 win when he upset World No. 8 Andrey Rublev 7-6(10), 5-7, 7-6(3) in a three hour, 16-minute marathon at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati Tuesday night.

Avenging a four-set loss to Rublev at this year’s Australian Open to improve his Lexus ATP Head2Head record against the seventh seed to 1-2, Ruusuvuori benefitted from Rublev’s modest 50 per cent first-serve percentage.

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The 24-year-old, who also defeated Jannik Sinner in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in his previous match against a member of the Top 10, has set a first-time meeting with Australian lucky loser Alexei Popyrin.

Rublev entered the North American hard-court swing poised to consolidate his claim to a berth at the Nitto ATP Finals, but after opening-round exits in Toronto and Cincinnati, he has given the chasing pack a chance to displace him from sixth position in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

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