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Alcaraz Warns The Field: 'I'm A Better Player Than A Year Ago'

  • Posted: Aug 25, 2023

Alcaraz Warns The Field: ‘I’m A Better Player Than A Year Ago’

Spaniard is defending champion

Last year, Carlos Alcaraz enjoyed his breakthrough moment at the US Open. The Spaniard captured his maiden major title and rose to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.

Twelve months on and the defending champion returns to New York, chasing his third Slam title. The top seed fired a warning to the rest of the field ahead of his opening match against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.

“I feel that I’m more mature on court. I feel that I’m a better player than I was a year ago,” Alcaraz said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I got my first Grand Slam last year, but I feel like I’m more mature and I’m better.”

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Alcaraz’s 53-6 record this season backs up his statement, with the 20-year-old clinching a Tour-leading six titles. The World No. 1 has demonstrated his ability to deal with pressure in 2023, clawing past Novak Djokovic in five sets to win Wimbledon in July.

As defending champion, Alcaraz is ready to deal with raised expectations again.

“I try to do exactly the same thing that I did last year, trying to practise the same way that I’m going to play, and focus on that. I’m not focus on the defending champion, the points, whatever,” Alcaraz said. “I’m just focused on showing my best level, trying to improve in every practice, and let’s see how it is going to be in the tournament.”

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Alcaraz is seeded to meet sixth seed Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals in what would be a rematch of their epic clash at last year’s event. The Spaniard, who is also in the same half of the draw as 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev, is likely to have NBA star Jimmy Butler in support. Alcaraz and Butler have developed a close friendship since they first met a year ago.

“I started to know him one year ago, to have a close relationship that is pretty good,” Alcaraz said. “He’s a really huge fan of tennis. He trying to play. I think it’s great for tennis to have Jimmy coming to tournaments and supporting us. It’s great. Talking about me having him supporting me, a great athlete, NBA star, so it’s for me almost crazy to have a good relationship with someone like Jimmy.”

The 20-year-old arrives in New York as the World No. 1, but is unlikely to leave the event on top spot. If Djokovic, who beat Alcaraz in an epic Cincinnati final, wins his opening match, he will gain 20 points and guarantee his return to No. 1 on Monday 11 September. The Serbian is not defending any points, having not played last year’s event. The Spaniard is defending 2000 points.

Alcaraz, who did not win either of the ATP Masters 1000 events in Toronto or Cincinnati this month, is aiming to become the first man to successfully defend their US Open title since Roger Federer in 2008.

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Delayed, But Not Defeated, Top Seed Coric Marches On

  • Posted: Aug 25, 2023

Delayed, But Not Defeated, Top Seed Coric Marches On

Croatian faces first-time Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with Baez, whom he will also meet at US Open

Top seed Borna Coric advanced to his third semi-final of the year after waiting out a four-hour thunderstorm delay before taking the court against 21-year-old Juan Manuel Cerundolo Thursday night in Winston-Salem.

The storm, initially with heavy rain and later with thunder and lightning, pushed back the start of the night session to around 10.30 pm, leaving officials with no option but to play the two remaining quarter-finals concurrently on Stadium and Court 2.

Coric claimed an early break in the first set against the left-handed World No. 100, who had just three tour-level wins this season coming into the tournament, and pushed on to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

“I was serving really well and I was much happier with my return today,” said Coric. “Even though we had to wait four hours I wanted to play the match tonight so now I get to rest rather than playing two times tomorrow.”

The Croatian is chasing his fourth career title and first since he claimed the biggest title of his career just over a year ago at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati.

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In Friday’s Saturday night semi-final, Coric faces a first-time Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with Argentine Sebastian Baez, who is on the cusp of his second consecutive final after defeating Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-0.

Making his first appearance since winning the Kitzbuehel title on clay, the sixth seed came up clutch in the first set, rallying from 0/40 in the opening game of the match and ultimately saving all five break points he faced in the set.

Baez, who is up to No. 35 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race, is chasing his fourth career title.

“The first set was difficult for both of us but I tried to be focussed for every point,” Baez said. “He’s a very good player so I’m very happy to be through to the semi-finals.

“In Argentina I practised two weeks before this tournament and was with my family and my friends, which has given me confidence for this tournament.”

Coric and Baez will also play in the first round of the US Open.

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Korda's Joy Turns To Despair At Winston-Salem Open

  • Posted: Aug 25, 2023

Korda’s Joy Turns To Despair At Winston-Salem Open

American took tumble midway through third set

Sebastian Korda’s delight at saving a match point to reach the Winston-Salem semi-finals Thursday has been shattered by his forced withdrawal from the tournament due to an ankle injury.

The 23-year-old American injured his left ankle when he slipped and fell midway through the third set of his 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7) victory over veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the first quarter-final match of the day.

Although he completed the match, after receiving treatment he announced his withdrawal shortly after 8pm. The withdrawal results in his would-be semi-final opponent, Czech Jiri Lehecka, advancing to the final.

“I have taken the tough decision to pull out. The ankle wasn’t getting any better,” Korda said. “Hopefully it gets better in the next couple of days. It was a tough decision but a necessary one. I’ll keep my head up and hopefully recover for next week.

“I’m very grateful for having being given a wild card and the chance to play a tonne of matches. It’s a great facility with great fans.”

Korda, who captured his only tour-level trophy in Parma in 2021, recovered from failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set. He struck two double faults in the game, but responded in the decisive tie-break, saving one match point at 6/7 before converting on his third opportunity to advance after two hours and 31 minutes.

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The 23-year-old, currently No. 30 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, now leads Gasquet 2-0 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

Lehecka, who will now advance to Saturday’s final, ousted Australian Max Purcell 7-6(4), 6-4. Purcell challenged the Czech by often moving forward, but the 21-year-old Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up stayed steady from the baseline and won 84 per cent of his first-serve points to advance moments before heavy rain in North Carolina.

“Super happy with my win today. After two three-setters, to finally finish in straight sets against a player like Max is always special,” Lehecka said. “To [finish] before the rain came is a bonus. I’m very happy with my performance today.”

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Lammons/Withrow Reach Winston-Salem SFs

  • Posted: Aug 25, 2023

Lammons/Withrow Reach Winston-Salem SFs

Second seeds Glasspool/Skupski save MP

Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow continued their Winston-Salem Open run on Thursday when they booked their ticket to the semi-finals.

After ousting top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the opening round, the Americans cruised past Simone Bolelli and Mate Pavic 6-3, 6-2 in just 64 minutes. Lammons and Withrow, who are aiming for their third tour-level title of the season (Newport, Atlanta), will next clash against third seeds Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski.

Second seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Neal Skupski also advanced to the last four Thursday after they saved a match point to down Australians Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith 7-5, 4-6, 11-9. The British duo won three straight points from 8-9 in the Match Tie-break to set a meeting against Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop or Romain Arneodo and Ariel Behar.

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