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Griekspoor Relishing Top Seed Status: 'It's A Bit Surreal'

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Griekspoor Relishing Top Seed Status: ‘It’s A Bit Surreal’

The Dutchman has won two tour-level titles this season

Tallon Griekspoor finds himself as the top seed at an ATP Tour event for the first time this week at the Astana Open.

And the Dutchman is fully aware of it.

“Yeah, I know,” Griekspoor said ahead of his opener on Saturday against Japanese qualifier Sho Shimabukuro on the indoor hard courts of the National Tennis Center. “It’s something special. If you look at the draw, you see some big names and you see your name on the first line.

“It’s something you worked for all your life. It’s a bit surreal at this point and maybe a little extra pressure here. I think it’s a good sign to see your name at the top of the list.”

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The 27-year-old entered Astana at a career-best No. 24 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, with second-seed Sebastian Baez at a career high, too, of No. 27. Both Baez and Griekspoor have bagged multiple titles in 2023. Griekspoor will want to avoid the Astana fate of the Argentine, however, who fell to a qualifier Jurij Rodionov on Friday.

Griekspoor gets recognised a little more now, which he light-heartedly said doesn’t hurt when trying to land football or concert tickets.

Winning the first tournament he played of the new season — at the hard-court Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune — did wonders for his confidence. So did what happened in the next few tournaments.

Griekspoor made the third round at a major for the first time at the Australian Open before beating Alexander Zverev on the way to the semi-finals of February’s ABN AMRO Open at home in Rotterdam. It took Jannik Sinner to stop him in two tight sets, 7-5, 7-6.

“The first six weeks of the year were probably a turning point for my mental side,” said Griekspoor, who acknowledged he is ‘maybe working a bit harder’ than before. “For me the most important thing was the belief to have this ranking, the belief to win tournaments. That’s something that this year was really there and helped me a lot.”

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If he wasn’t far off from triumphing indoors in Rotterdam, Griekspoor did get his hands on a trophy at home by claiming June’s Libema Open on grass in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Given he won six of his unprecedented eight ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2021 on clay, he is an all-rounder. Which surface does he enjoy the most? Griekspoor chuckled when asked.

“I always said it was clay until I started winning ATP [tournaments] on hard courts and grass,” he said. “I enjoy playing on all surfaces and I think that’s a good thing.”

Griekspoor is ready to make a charge the rest of this season after taking extra rest post-Wimbledon and the US Open. The opportunity to gain Pepperstone ATP Ranking points certainly exists since he last year lost five straight matches from the end of September to the end of October.

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“Schedule wise, I did a lot better this year,” he said. “As I’m feeling now, I’m feeling great. Now it’s an advantage that I didn’t win anything last year. Back then it was different.”

Griekspoor opens against Shimabukuro, who edged countryman Taro Daniel in three hours, 33 minutes to make the main draw and then toppled Roberto Carballes Baena in the opening round.

Alexander Bublik, Kazakhstan’s highest-ranked men’s player at No. 35, defeated Griekspoor last year in the first round in Astana, but it didn’t stop the Dutchman from returning.

“It’s a really nice tournament, which made me come back,” said Griekspoor.

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Koolhof/Skupski Cruise In Beijing Opener

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Koolhof/Skupski Cruise In Beijing Opener

Haase/Van De Zandschulp advance in Astana

Second seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski wasted no time Friday when they cruised past home hopes Sun Fajing and Zhou Yi 6-1, 6-4 in the China Open first round.

Koolhof and Skupski won 23 of their 27 first-serve points and needed just 66 minutes to advance, setting up a second-round meeting with Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski or Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.

The Dutch-British duo of Koolhof and Skupski, who are second in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, have earned two titles this season: Wimbledon and ‘s-Hertogenbosch. They are aiming to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for a second consecutive year.

Glasspool/Heliovaara Upset In Astana
Ariel Behar and Adam Pavlasek upset third seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara 7-6(12), 4-6, 10-7 at the Astana Open. The Uruguayan-Czech pair will next face Gonzalo Escobar, who has won three-tour level titles with Behar, and Aleksandr Nedovyesov.

Robin Haase and Botic van de Zandschulp also advanced after they downed wild cards Egor Gerasimov and Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-2.

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Alcaraz Returns To Action With Beijing Debut Win

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Alcaraz Returns To Action With Beijing Debut Win

Spaniard faces Musetti next

Exactly three weeks after he exited the US Open in the semi-finals, Carlos Alcaraz made a winning return to action on Friday at the China Open. The Spaniard defeated qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-4, 6-3 at the Beijing ATP 500 to begin his late-season charge to return to the top of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

With victory in his first ATP Tour match in China, Alcaraz improved to 14-0 this season in first-round matches and 59-7 overall, his 59 wins leading the ATP Tour. Alcaraz also leads the ATP Tour in titles (8) and finals (6) this season, both personal bests.

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He began the Asian swing behind World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, but could close that gap to 315 points by winning his first title since Wimbledon in Beijing.

“Hopefully I have a lot of years to come here to China. Creating my chapter here in China would be great for me,” Alcaraz said after receiving a warm welcome on his debut in the nation. “To finally be able to come here to China and show my tennis in front of the Chinese people is something that I wanted a long time ago and I’m really happy to do it, hopefully the first of many here.”

Alcaraz made a strong start in Beijing with an early break, but showed signs of rust as he twice lost a break lead in the opening set. At 4-4, a punishing forehand broke the resistance of Germany’s Hanfmann, who battled to save eight of 11 break points in the set.

Both players improved on serve in set two, with Alcaraz’s early and late breaks proving enough to claim the set and the match. The top seed did not face a break point in the second set as he worked through the gears, dialling in both on serve and from the ground. He finished the match with five breaks of serve in 16 chances.

Hanfmann pushed Alcaraz with powerful baseline hitting and a few successful drop shots, but Alcaraz was better in both aspects overall and ultimately won the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting in one hour, 37 minutes.

“I’m really happy to be able to win this match in straight sets,” Alcaraz assessed. “Yannick’s playing great. He’s a really dangerous player, big shots. He was playing big bombs in this match so I had to be really focussed, trying to not let him dominate the match.

“I tried to be really focussed on every part of my game. I have to improve a little bit so I’m really happy to do it and have another chance to be better in the next round.”

The Spaniard will next face Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti, a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 winner against Karen Khachanov earlier on Friday. Khachanov saw his perfect start to the Asian swing end after he won the Zhuhai title on Tuesday, beating Yoshihito Nishioka in the final.

Also in the top quarter of the draw, Casper Ruud closed Friday’s play with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win against Jan-Lennard Struff. The seventh seed will next meet Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry, with the winner of that match to take on Alcaraz or Musetti. Norway’s Ruud is now 9-9 this season on hard courts.

Andrey Rublev was also a Friday winner in Beijing. The fifth seed earned a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory against Cameron Norrie, setting up a second-round meeting with Ugo Humbert. Rublev improved to 3-2 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series against Great Britain’s Norrie with the result, gaining revenge after a defeat in Indian Wells in their most recent meeting.

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Korda Keeps Nerve To See Off Popyrin In Astana

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Korda Keeps Nerve To See Off Popyrin In Astana

Lehecka, Mannarino reach QFs at ATP 250

Sebastian Korda pulled through a tense final set against Alexei Popyrin on Friday to make a winning start at the Astana Open.

The American prevailed 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 in a first-round clash of fine margins at the Kazakhstani ATP 250 event. Korda had led 4-2 in the deciding set of the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting before Popyrin rallied to 4-4 to set up a tense climax. It was the fifth-seeded Korda who found a second break of his Australian opponent’s serve in the 11th game, however, setting him up for a two-hour, 54-minute triumph.

The win extended Korda’s solid form on hard courts in 2023. The 23-year-old American has earned 15 of his 19 tour-level wins on the surface, a tally that includes a championship-match run in Adelaide, semi-final appearances in Winston-Salem and Zhuhai, and a quarter-final run at the Australian Open.

Korda will meet Nuno Borges in the second round as he chases a quarter-final spot on event debut in Astana. The World No. 28 is chasing his second ATP Tour title and his first since lifting a trophy on clay in Parma in 2021.

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Also on Friday, Korda’s fellow seeds Jiri Lehecka and Adrian Mannarino booked their places in the last eight in Kazakhstan.

Fourth seed Lehecka downed qualifier Egor Gerasimov 6-2, 7-6(3) to reach his sixth tour-level quarter-final of the season. The Czech saved two set points in the 12th game of the second set before dominating the tie-break to wrap an 86-minute win. He will next face #NextGenATP Serbian Hamad Medjedovic, who downed Alexander Shevchenko 6-4, 6-4 to reach his second ATP Tour quarter-final.

Mannarino beat another qualifier, Alibek Kachmazov, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. The sixth-seeded Frenchman, who reached the final in Astana in 2020, set a last-eight clash with Austrian Jurij Rodionov.

The 24-year-old Rodionov, who advanced through qualifying, upset second seed Sebastian Baez 6-2, 6-4. Rodionov won 61 per cent of his second-serve points, compared to the Argentine’s 42 per cent, to reach his second tour-level quarter-final and first since June 2021 (Stuttgart).

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Recharged Rune Downs Auger-Aliassime In Beijing

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Recharged Rune Downs Auger-Aliassime In Beijing

Dane books second-round meeting with Dimitrov in China

Bouncing back with a bang in Beijing.

Holger Rune snapped a four-match losing streak in style Friday in the Chinese capital by surging to a 6-4, 6-4 triumph against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the China Open.

Rune arrived in Asia without a tour-level win since Wimbledon and had not competed since late August at the US Open. He may have been cursing his luck when drawn against World No. 15 Auger-Aliassime in China but the 20-year-old delivered a rock-solid display to forge an 84-minute triumph on the Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center’s Diamond court.

“It felt good. I’ve had a tough period, both with my body and match circumstances, so I’m just happy to be back feeling good,” said Rune. “Feeling mentally well on and off the court. I’m just super happy with my level today.”

A single break in each set proved enough for Rune to improve to 2-1 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series against Auger-Aliassime, who has had a moderate year by his standards but showed signs of his best in helping Team World to Laver Cup glory in Vancouver last weekend. Rune missed that event due to a back injury but was delighted with the way his body held up on the hard courts of Beijing.

“I was feeling very good. I didn’t feel anything in my body,” said Rune. “This is good. I don’t mind muscle soreness, but I’m too young to have these kinds of problems, so it’s good to feel good out there. I’m feeling healthy, taking care of my body and I’m super happy to play without pain and just enjoy myself.”

The next week in Beijing could be crucial for Rune as he seeks to reach the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. The Dane, who was an alternate at the season-ending finals last year but did not play, sits just inside the qualification spots in eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin on 3,100 points, but he is only 90 points clear of Taylor Fritz.

Rune can extend that gap and book his ninth tour-level quarter-final appearance of the year when he meets Grigor Dimitrov next in Beijing. The Bulgarian earlier sealed his second-round spot at the ATP 500 with a 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 triumph against Mackenzie McDonald.

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Medvedev Charges Past Paul In Beijing Opener

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2023

Medvedev Charges Past Paul In Beijing Opener

Second seed books clash with De Minaur at ATP 500

Daniil Medvedev made a red-hot return to China after four years away on Friday, when the World No. 3 eased past Tommy Paul 6-2, 6-1 in Beijing.

Medvedev delivered a stunning display of clean-hitting at the China Open to seal a Tour-leading 39th hard-court win of the season in just 81 minutes. The 27-year-old made just three unforced errors off the ground in his first-round triumph, a level of consistency that ensured Paul was kept under relentless pressure for the entire match.

“It’s not easy for both of us. Both of us a little jet lagged. Him maybe more, coming from Vancouver,” reflected Medvedev. “Maybe that made the difference, but if I think only about myself, I’m happy with my level.

“I played great. The start of the match was not easy, but it’s never easy first round, especially in another part of the world. Then I was playing better and better during the match, so I’m happy about my level.”

Paul regularly approached the net to try and counter Medvedev’s baseline prowess and won 79 per cent (23/29) of points moving forward, but he was still unable to gain a foothold in the encounter. Medvedev converted five of 11 break points he earned to improve to 2-0 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with the American.

Medvedev is making his debut this year at the ATP 500 in Beijing, where he will next meet Alex de Minaur. He is chasing his second title on Chinese soil and his third in Asia overall at the Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center, having triumphed in Tokyo in 2018 and at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in 2019.

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