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Gonzalez/Molteni Save Championship Point To Claim Cincinnati Crown

  • Posted: Aug 20, 2023

Gonzalez/Molteni Save Championship Point To Claim Cincinnati Crown

Argentine pair lifts Tour-leading fifth title of the season

For the second time in two days, Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Western & Southern Open. This time around, it earned the Argentine duo its maiden ATP Masters 1000 triumph.

Gonzalez and Molteni saved championship point to down Jamie Murray and Michael Venus 3-6, 6-1, 11-9 on Sunday in Cincinnnati for the biggest title of their careers. Having also saved two match points in their semi-final win against second seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, it capped an emotional weekend for the unseeded pair, which has now won a Tour-leading five titles in 2023.

“It means a lot. We have worked very hard for many years, not only this year, so it’s a great accomplishment,” said Molteni. “It was a very tough week, final, everything, so we are very happy with this title. It’s the biggest title we have, so we are very happy.”

Gonzalez in particular thrived under pressure at the tailend of the 84-minute final. The 40-year-old sent down a second-serve ace when facing championship point at 8/9 in the Match Tie-break, and two points later he struck the decisive return off a Venus serve as the pair improved to 5-0 in tour-level finals for the year.

“They started better than us, but we always keep fighting,” said Gonzalez. “We know each other, we know we are a team that fights for every ball. We knew we would have a chance, and we took it in the second set. We are used to playing Match Tie-breaks, and we are really, really happy for this title.”

With their title run in Cincinnati, Gonzalez and Molteni have risen seven spots to third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings. The pair is now 32-14 in 2023, with their latest triumph a significant boost as both Gonzalez and Molteni chase a debut appearance at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.

“I think [it helps that] we can practise together in our home, Buenos Aires,” said Molteni. “We have a very good relationship. We are friends, so that is easier during the season, travelling all the weeks together. We have a good atmosphere between us. I think that’s the key for playing good on the court as well.”

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Will Lightning Strike Twice For Fils On Winston-Salem Debut?

  • Posted: Aug 20, 2023

Will Lightning Strike Twice For Fils On Winston-Salem Debut?

#NextGenATP Frenchman is seventh seed in North Carolina

Arthur Fils will compete for the first time this week at the Winston-Salem Open, where he hopes a happy experience from earlier this year will benefit him at the hard-court ATP 250.

“The last time I played the week before a Slam, it was great for me,” Fils told on Saturday. “I played in Lyon, and I won [the title] just before Roland Garros. So I want to do the same [in Winston-Salem] just before the US Open. It’s a great tournament. I want to take all the experience I can.”

The #NextGenATP Frenchman has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough year on the ATP Tour. After starting 2023 at No. 251 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the 19-year-old will step on court against Brandon Nakashima or Jason Kubler at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex at a career-high No. 46. Has the speed of his rise taken the 19-year-old, seeded seventh in North Carolina, by surprise?

“A little bit [faster than expected], but it was in my mind for a long time,” said Fils. “Last year, I was playing some Challengers, but I was felt that I had the level for playing some ATP tournaments. And with a good start of the year like [I had], I can dream of big things. So it’s not in my mind that something crazy has happened to me.”

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As well as claiming his maiden ATP Tour crown on the Lyon clay, Fils has reached semi-finals in Montpellier, Marseille and Hamburg this year. He is clear about the specific improvements in his game that have powered his improved results.

“My movement on the court, because I’m moving pretty good now,” said Fils. “Last year it wasn’t that good, but now I’m really happy about it and I would say with my serve too, I improved a lot. I’m trying again and again to improve.”

“If I can be Top 30 in a few months I will be [happy], but I have some good tournaments to play, so let’s see.”

Fils has put himself in a good position to qualify for the season-ending Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time. The Frenchman is currently fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race, but he is not resting on his laurels as he looks to establish himself in the Top 50.

“Always keep pushing at training,” said Fils, when asked about the biggest lesson he had learned from his short career on Tour so far. “I’m practising with some guys who are like 100 per cent or 150 per cent at training, so I’m trying to do the same to be really good in matches.”

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Preview: Will Djokovic Strike Back Against Alcaraz In Cincinnati Final?

  • Posted: Aug 20, 2023

Preview: Will Djokovic Strike Back Against Alcaraz In Cincinnati Final?

Alcaraz leads Lexus ATP Head2Head series 2-1

Was the Wimbledon final the passing of the torch from Novak Djokovic to Carlos Alcaraz? The Western & Southern Open championship match will be an opportunity for Djokovic to prove it was not.

All week, fans have waited for the potential of a blockbuster showdown between Alcaraz and Djokovic, the clear top two players in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. That is exactly what they will get Sunday in Cincinnati.

“It’s great. It’s amazing for the sport, No. 1 and No. 2 in the world facing each other again in the final of a big event,” Djokovic said after defeating two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. “This is I guess what everybody wanted and expected in the beginning of the tournament, so here we are.”

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No matter who wins, Alcaraz will depart the Lindner Family Tennis Centre as World No. 1, having secured his standing by reaching the final. But another triumph over the 38-time ATP Masters 1000 champion will send a clear message — he is the standalone favourite heading into the US Open.

The last time the two tennis titans stood across the net from one another, just more than a month ago, Djokovic was as confident as ever. The 36-year-old was eight wins from becoming the first man to complete the Grand Slam — winning all four majors in the same season — since Rod Laver in 1969. Up a set and with a set point in the second-set tie-break, the Serbian seemed well on his way.

Djokovic is a man who thrives on chasing history. But that day, Alcaraz refused to serve as a stepping stone to the record books. Instead of capturing a 24th major trophy and further cementing his legacy, Djokovic suffered a setback that has been rare for him over the past decade. On 16 July, he met his match.

Just weeks earlier, Alcaraz was so tense during his Roland Garros semi-final against the Serbian, he suffered from cramp and stood no realistic chance of posing a threat because he was physically compromised.

But Djokovic, who never blinks, blinked. Having won 15 consecutive tie-breaks at majors, he lost one in the second set. That proved the only opening Alcaraz needed. Already a major champion at the 2022 US Open, the Spaniard knew what it took to win at the highest level. But defeating Djokovic in a Slam final is an even greater challenge, and he rose to the occasion, winning a captivating five-setter.

Alcaraz’s game is no replica of Djokovic’s. But that day, the World No. 1 showed he is developing similar traits. The 23-time major winner has spoken about the mental edge he owns over most opponents because of what he has achieved.

But the same way Djokovic had no fear of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal when he was on the rise, Alcaraz did not shy away from the challenge of going blow for blow with the seven-time Wimbledon champion. It did not matter that it was just the fourth grass-court tournament of his career.

So often, the 94-time tour-level titlist has escaped inescapable positions in matches by finding a way to win the biggest points, giving himself a shot to find his best tennis later in the match. Alcaraz essentially Djokovic’d Djokovic that day on Centre Court and in doing so, pierced the Serbian’s aura of invincibility with a wide smile on his face.

“It’s not the first [nor] the last match that I lost, so I was over it in a day,” Djokovic said before beginning his run this week in Cincinnati.

But Djokovic surely has not forgotten and is eager to make a statement of his own in Ohio, where in 2018 he completed the Career Golden Masters. No other player has won all nine Masters 1000 tournaments, and the Serbian has already done so twice. By winning Sunday, he will own at least three titles at all events at that level except Monte-Carlo. This is only Alcaraz’s third appearance in Cincinnati.

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The World No. 1 enters their showdown with a 2-1 lead in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series, but this will be their first clash on a hard court. And although Djokovic is playing his first tournament since Wimbledon this week, he has been in better form than his younger opponent.

The two-time Western & Southern Open champion has not lost a set en route to the final. Djokovic has had his game face on since his first practice at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre. His intensity has been clear. Outside of one funny moment with a fan during his second-round match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, he has been a man on a mission.

On the other side of the draw, Alcaraz has needed to win a deciding set in each of his four matches. After pulling his latest Houdini act Saturday against Hubert Hurkacz, against whom he saved a match point, the 20-year-old looked at his team, led by former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and held his arms out as if to say, “Are you surprised?”

“I feel good. Probably the people can think that I’m going to be tired in the final. But I feel good,” Alcaraz said. “It doesn’t matter if I play in third sets, long matches. I’m recovering really, really well with my physio, with my team. I feel like I’m going to play the first match of the tournament. I feel great.”

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Players have spoken about the relative speed of the court in Cincinnati, so it will be interesting to see if either superstar will be able to earn an advantage with a big serving day. At Wimbledon, neither player dominated with their delivery, with Alcaraz leading the way by winning 70 per cent of his first-serve points.

That day, Alcaraz hit 66 winners to Djokovic’s 32, so the Serbian will likely try to find a way to neutralise the Spaniard’s offence and perhaps take the initiative himself.

There is only one player who owns at least three victories over Djokovic and a winning record against him: former World No. 1 Andy Roddick (5-4), who retired when the Serbian was just a five-time major champion. Alcaraz can join Roddick on the exclusive list Sunday.

But Djokovic has won more than double the number of Masters 1000 tournaments (38) as Alcaraz has played (18). As much momentum as the 20-year-old earned by winning Wimbledon, this is Novak’s chance to strike back.

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Djokovic Overcomes Zverev, Sets Alcaraz Clash In Cincy Final

  • Posted: Aug 20, 2023

Djokovic Overcomes Zverev, Sets Alcaraz Clash In Cincy Final

The Serbian is aiming for a record-extending 39th Masters 1000 crown

A Wimbledon final rematch is in the cards at the Western & Southern Open after Novak Djokovic defeated Alexander Zverev in the Cincinnati semi-finals on Saturday.

The 36-year-old overcame Zverev 7-6(5), 7-5 in a baseline slugfest under the lights at the ATP Masters 1000 event, where the 23-time major champion Djokovic will next clash against World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz for a fourth time (1-2).

“In very few of [Sascha’s] service games where I had chances, I think I played well, particularly five-all [after] he broke my serve to stay in the match,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I managed to bounce back, played a great game to break him again and seal the deal in the 12th game of the second set.

“I’m pleased. I think there’s a few things I could’ve done better, but overall it’s a straight-sets win against a great player in form, so I’m really happy.”

In Djokovic and Zverev’s first meeting since the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, both players brought a high level throughout the semi-final. An entertaining opening set featured Zverev surviving a 10-minute service game at 4-5 and later forcing a tie-break, where second seed Djokovic found greater consistency from his groundstrokes, converting his sixth set point to gain an advantage.

After being broken while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the 94-time tour-level titlist quickly recovered to earn a break of his own, closing the two-hour, four-minute contest in his ensuing service game. Djokovic lost just two points behind his first delivery in the second set and struck the ball with depth to improve to 8-4 in his Lexus ATPHead2Head series with the two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion.

With his 1,068th career match win, Djokovic moves into equal third place with Rafael Nadal and Ivan Lendl for most career victories, trailing only Roger Federer (1,251) and Jimmy Connors (1,274).

Playing in his first tournament on U.S. soil since 2021, Djokovic has not dropped a set all week. He is bidding for his third title at the Western & Southern Open (2018, 2020) and a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 singles crown. If Djokovic wins his fourth title of 2023, he would become the oldest Cincinnati champion in the Open Era, surpassing Ken Rosewall (1970).

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Djokovic first completed the Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati in 2018 and should he triumph Sunday he will have won all nine Masters 1000s three times, with the exception of Monte-Carlo, which he has won twice. No other player has won all nine Masters 1000s.

Sunday will be the Serbian’s record-extending 57th ATP Masters 1000 final. The Spaniard Alcaraz, who earlier rallied past Hubert Hurkacz, defeated Djokovic in a thrilling five-set Wimbledon final that lasted four hours, 43 minutes. Djokovic and Alcaraz are the only two players who have secured qualification for the season-finale Nitto ATP Finals, which the Belgrade native has won six times.

Although Djokovic cannot reclaim the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking by winning the final, he can draw within a mere 20 points of Alcaraz. Given that the 20-year-old has 2,000 points to defend at the US Open, which Djokovic did not play last year, the Serbian would have a strong chance of reclaiming No. 1 after the Open if he can defeat Alcaraz in the Cincinnati title match.

Zverev, 26, suffered his first loss in Cincinnati since 2020, having won the event in 2021 and missing it last year due to injury. The World No. 17 slips to 38-20 this season. By reaching the semi-finals, Zverev has climbed two spots this week to eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, inside the cut for the Nitto ATP Finals.

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Alcaraz Saves MP To Reach Cincinnati Final

  • Posted: Aug 20, 2023

Alcaraz Saves MP To Reach Cincinnati Final

The Spaniard will next face Djokovic or Zverev

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz saved a match point Saturday to survive a thrilling contest against Hubert Hurkacz in the Western & Southern Open semi-finals.

The Spaniard found his best level in pressure moments to down Hurkacz 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 and reach his eighth final of the season. Alcaraz fended off a match point on serve at 4-5 in the second set and later won six consecutive points from 1/4 in the tie-break to force a decider.

Despite failing to convert any of his first ten break points, the 20-year-old stayed focussed, earning a pivotal break in the fourth game of the third set and later closing the match after two hours, 16 minutes.

“It was a mental semi-final, I had to stay there,” Alcaraz said in his on court-interview. “I had a lot of break points, it was really tough. Obviously saving a match point is never easy but with my coach, we were talking about staying positive all the time and to stay there. We knew I was going to have my chances and I tried to take it. Every match against Hubi is really, really tough but I’m really, really happy that I was able to win.”

With his 53rd match win of the season, Alcaraz secured the top spot in Monday’s Pepperstone ATP Rankings regardless of his result in the Cincinnati final, where he will meet World No. 2 Novak Djokovic or 16th seed Alexander Zverev.

Alcaraz struck the ball with conviction to earn his third Lexus ATPHead2Head win against Hurkacz, whom he also defeated last week in the Toronto third round. The two-time major champion, who has played six consecutive three-setters, played aggressive on return, often taking Hurkacz’s second serve on the rise to rush the 26-year-old.

“It’s been a really tough tournament, all matches [have gone] three sets,” Alcaraz said. “But I’m really happy to win these kind of matches and stay strong mentally, these matches are really good for me. I grow up a lot thanks to these matches.”

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A 12-time tour-level titlist, Alcaraz is eyeing his third Masters 1000 crown of the season, having already won in Indian Wells and Madrid. Alcaraz is the youngest Cincinnati finalist since Pete Sampras in
1991. Should he remain unbeaten in Masters 1000 finals to capture his fifth title at that level, Alcaraz would become the youngest Cincinnati champion since Boris Becker in 1985.

Hurkacz, who upset World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round, is up three spots to No. 17 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The Pole was competing in his fifth Masters 1000 semi-final.

Did You Know?
Alcaraz has spent 10 hours, 38 minutes on court across his four matches in Cincinnati.

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