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Bublik Serves Past Fils To Antwerp Title

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

Bublik Serves Past Fils To Antwerp Title

Kazakhstani lifts third ATP Tour crown at ATP 250

Alexander Bublik delivered a serving masterclass on Sunday to power to victory at the European Open.

The third-seeded Kazakhstani beat #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils 6-4, 6-4 in Antwerp to claim his second tour-level title of the season. Bublik clinched a decisive break of Fils’ serve in each set and saved all three break points he faced to improve to 3-6 in ATP Tour finals.

“I was pretty much serving all match,” said Bublik in his on-court interview. “I told Arthur I was very lucky to beat him in a final before he becomes the next big thing. That was the only option I had, and I executed it well.”

The 26-year-old maintained his rhythm behind his delivery all week en route to the trophy. After dropping just one of 37 points behind first serve to propel himself to a 75-minute victory against Fils, Bublik lifted the trophy at the Belgian ATP 250 having won 136 of 148 points behind first serve across his run.

Bublik also won a tour-level crown on indoor hard courts in Montpellier in 2022, while he added a grass-court ATP 500 trophy to his tally in June by winning in Halle. The Kazakhstani will rise six spots to No. 30 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday as a result of his Antwerp run, just five spots shy of his career-high.

“Honestly, when we won the second title, I [said to my coach], ‘Maybe that’s it, maybe we will never win another one’,” joked Bublik. “It was the greatest feeling ever, so being here again, winning another title, it means the world to me.”

Despite defeat, Fils remains an almost-certain qualifier for the season-ending Next Gen ATP Finals. The 19-year-old is fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah, and is now within 207 points of Lorenzo Musetti in fourth.

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‘I’m A Contender’: Zverev Looks To Maintain Turin Charge In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

‘I’m A Contender’: Zverev Looks To Maintain Turin Charge In Vienna

German opens against home wild card Ofner at ATP 500

After lifting his second title of the year in Chengdu in late September, Alexander Zverev made a clear statement to his ATP Tour rivals.

“I’m playing good tennis and I’m winning tournaments again which is the most important thing,” Zverev told ATP Tour Podcast in China. “I’m a contender. That’s something I missed at the beginning of the year, when I didn’t feel like I was. I’m back to the same mentality of winning tournaments and the same mentality of trying to be one of the best.”

The 26-year-old Zverev has the chance to back those words up again this week in Vienna, where he is the fifth seed in a stacked draw at the Erste Bank Open. It could prove another crucial week for the German as he continues his charge towards Nitto ATP Finals qualification. Zverev, who is a two-time champion at the prestigious season finale, is seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

“If I make Turin, if I come back after such an injury and not playing for seven months when I was really uncertain if I was ever going to come back to the level that I was… If I come back and I’m one of the best eight players in the world, it’s a great achievement, there’s no question about it,” Zverev told Chris Bowers of ATP Tennis Radio on Saturday in Vienna. “It’s a comeback year to remember, that’s for sure.”

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Zverev spent the first few months of this season reacclimatising himself to competitive tennis after he missed the second half of 2022 with a serious ankle injury sustained during his Roland Garros semi-final against Rafael Nadal. He won just three of his first nine tour-level matches this season, but gradually rediscovered his level and, perhaps more importantly, his confidence in his body.

“I think for me it’s just being healthy,” said Zverev. “I think at the beginning of the year I was still managing pain, I was still dealing with pain. I was not moving the way I wanted to move, I was not sliding around the court, if you look back at the matches that I played. It was more that for me.

“If you want to be competitive at this sport you have to be 100 per cent healthy, you need to be moving the way you want to on the tennis court. For me to be able to do that, I need to be pain-free.”

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Such has been the increase in Zverev’s level that he will step on court against home wild card Sebastian Ofner in his first-round match in Vienna seeking his 50th win of the 2023 season. Highlights of his year so far include becoming champion at his hometown ATP 500 in Hamburg for the first time in July, before he added a 21st ATP Tour crown to his collection at the ATP 250 in Chengdu.

With the good times beginning to roll once again, Zverev is starting to see some positives coming out of the testing road back from injury.

“I think you really appreciate the sport of tennis,” said Zverev. “You really appreciate the tough days, the fun days. You just appreciate being out there on the court, when it gets taken away from you. Most players realise that once they quit tennis because they don’t have this period, this injury. I realised it earlier on, so I’m thankful for that, but I want to get back to where I was.

“I didn’t want the injury to happen, obviously, but it did make me grow, it did make me realise what tennis actually means. If I’m back to the level, if I win Grand Slams and become World No. 1, maybe I’ll look back and say ‘It was all worth it’.”

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Monfils Makes History With Stockholm Title

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

Monfils Makes History With Stockholm Title

Frenchman wins 12th tour-level trophy

Gael Monfils became the oldest champion in the history of the BNP Paribas Nordic Open on Sunday when he overcame qualifier Pavel Kotov 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 to win his first title of the season in Stockholm.

The 37-year-old demonstrated great athletiscm to hang in points against Kotov, who was the first qualifier to reach a tour-level final since Jiri Vesely in Dubai in 2022. The Frenchman stood deep behind the baseline throughout the two-hour, 35-minute clash to absorb Kotov’s power, while he demonstrated great touch to disrupt his opponent’s rhythm in the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting.

“Credit to Pavel,” Monfils said. “He has had an unbelivable week and he was pushing me on the court. I ran a lot today. When I had to save break points in the second set, I tried to push through. I don’t know how I pulled up but I kept believing and fighting.”

Monfils arrived in Stockholm at No. 140 Pepperstone ATP Rankings after struggling with injuries in the first half of the season. Fully fit again, he dropped just two sets en route to his 12th tour-level trophy, becoming the lowest-ranked tour-level champion since then-World No. 152 Borna Coric won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati in 2022.

The Frenchman, who is up to No. 89 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, is just the fourth player above the age of 37 to win an ATP Tour title since 1990, joining Roger Federer, Ivo Karlovic and Feliciano Lopez.

Kotov was aiming to win his first tour-level title on Sunday. The 24-year-old, who was competing in his maiden final at this level, is up 28 spots to No. 81 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings following his dream run.

Did You Know?
Monfils has triumphed in Stockholm twice, having won the title at the ATP 250 event in 2011. He is the 11th player to win the trophy twice, with his 12-year gap between titles the biggest in history.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Ben Shelton

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Ben Shelton

American shares his biggest passions outside of tennis

Ben Shelton’s standout season on the ATP Tour went up a gear on Sunday when he clinched his first tour-level title at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships.

After becoming the sixth first-time winner of the season, the 21-year-old Shelton caught up with to discuss his triumph at the ATP 500 event in Tokyo.

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It means a lot. It is not something I thought I would accomplish when I started playing tennis. To be able to be in a position to compete for a title and hold my nerve and win one is really special for me and my team and something I will remember for the rest of my life.

How did you handle the occasion today, playing in your first final?
It was interesting. I expected to be a lot more nervous going into the match, but I felt pretty calm and at peace and clear minded when on court. I am not sure what came over me and gave me the calmness and confidence that I had out there, but it felt like another day at the office.

How much confidence and self-belief did your semi-final run at the US Open last month give you?
I think the semi-final run at the US Open gave me a huge amount of confidence that I could compete against the best in our sport and that I could continue to make deep runs in tournaments, doing it in three out of five sets. I showed myself that I was fit and in shape to go the distance, so it is something that has helped me a lot in the tournaments I have played after the US Open and hopefully I can carry on that momentum in the next year.

Who are the people in your life who helped you to get this far in your career?
My parents and my sister are the three who have helped me the most. Sacrificed the most. Invested the most into my career and me as a person. All my other coaches that helped me in college and the University Of Florida have been a huge part of my development and helped me grow as a player and a person. Shoutout to all of them as well.

You started the season at No. 96 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Now up to No. 15 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. What are your overall reflections on the season so far and have you surpassed your expectations?
I have surpassed my expectations for the year. It has been a dream year for me and being able to do well at tournaments and now win a tournament and also take loses and learn things about myself. Play on different surfaces, being introduced to new and different cultures. It has all been a blessing and I have really enjoyed my first full year on Tour.

American tennis is in a strong position at the moment, with four players in Top 15 of the Live Rankings. What is that like to be a part of?

It is cool to be part of American tennis at this time. We have Taylor [Fritz], Tommy [Paul] and Frances [Tiafoe] leading the way and behind we have so many great guys playing great tennis right now. Like Sebi Korda, who beat me last week. Chris Eubanks, who made the quarters at Wimbledon. Mackenzie McDonald and Marcos Giron. I know I am missing a few but there are so many names in the Top 100 right now who are making waves.

What’s your biggest interest outside of tennis?
I have a few. I would say watching other sports and getting to know other athletes from other sports. I really like cars, they are a passion of mine. I am always scrolling and looking at on social media. I would say I like to watch movies and read. Anything that occupies my free time when I am on the road.

How will you celebrate?
I am going to eat a cheese burger and then pack and get ready for my flight.

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Shelton Captures Maiden Title In Tokyo

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

Shelton Captures Maiden Title In Tokyo

American is sixth first-time ATP Tour champion this year

Ben Shelton’s breakthrough season hit new heights on Sunday at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships, where he defeated Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1 to win his first ATP Tour title.

The American rallied from a set and 2-5 down to come through his semi-final match against Marcos Giron and he used that momentum in the final in Tokyo, where he consistently took the ball early on return to rush Karatsev, triumphing after 84 minutes.

“That meant a lot to me and my team,” Shelton said. “We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately. You see the great champions, they finish weeks off. They win titles, they don’t just get to finals. They are able to maintain their level throughout the week. I am not saying I am anywhere there yet, but to be able to do it for one week, put together five matches in a row in Tokyo is really special.”

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The American is the sixth first-time tour-level winner of the season and the first player since Lorenzo Musetti in Hamburg in 2022 to win their maiden ATP Tour title at a 500 event. He will rise to a career-high No. 15 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, having started the season at No. 96.

“I am really looking forward to this tail-end stretch of the year,” said Shelton, who is third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah. “I think it is a great opportunity for me. Earlier in the season I was losing early in weeks, so my match count is not that high, so I am feeling fresh. I am looking forward to finishing the season strong.”

Shelton played with freedom against Karatsev in his maiden tour-level title match. The 21-year-old struck 18 winners and caused Karatsev problems with his swinging lefty serve, winning 80 per cent (32/40) of points behind his first delivery.

He now leads Karatsev 2-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series, while he is the second consecutive American to triumph in Tokyo after Taylor Fritz won the crown in 2022.

Earlier this season, Shelton advanced to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, before he reached the semi-finals at the US Open, becoming the youngest American man to advance to the last four in New York since Michael Chang in 1992. He now owns a standout 14-2 record in his past 16 matches, having also reached the quarter-finals in Shanghai last week.

Karatsev was chasing his fourth tour-level title and first since he beat Andy Murray in Sydney in 2022. The 30-year-old used his forehand to great effect in the first set, but struggled to find consistency from the baseline as the match went on, committing 20 unforced errors.

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Hijikata/Purcell Clinch Tokyo Title

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

Hijikata/Purcell Clinch Tokyo Title

Australians were teaming for first time this week

Rinky Hijikata and Max Purcell capped a dream debut week as a team on Sunday at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships, where they defeated Jamie Murray and Michael Venus 6-4, 6-1 to win the title.

The Australians upset third seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer to reach the championship match and backed up that standout win with a dominant display against Murray and Venus. Hijikata and Purcell saved both break points they faced and were impressive on return, winning 47 per cent (28/59) of points on Murray and Venus’ delivery to seal victory after 73 minutes.

It has been good,” Hijikata said. “It was the first time pairing together in doubles and I think we got better as the week went on. We enjoy playing with each other and I feel we played some really good tennis.”

With their title run, Hijikata and Purcell became the first Australian team to win the Tokyo doubles title since Jordan Kerr triumphed with Swede Robert Lindstedt in 2007.

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Hijikata, 22, holds a 2-1 tour-level record in doubles finals, while Purcell improved to 4-6 in title matches. Sunday’s triumph was Purcell’s first crown on hard courts. The 25-year-old won Wimbledon earlier this year with Matthew Ebden.

Murray and Venus are eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings as they seek a qualification spot at the Nitto ATP Finals. They may need to finish in the Top 7 to clinch a spot in Turin, though, as 17th-placed Hijikata and Jason Kubler triumphed at the Australian Open in January. If they finish inside the Top 20, they will qualify having won a Grand Slam title in 2023.

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Medvedev Seeks Vienna Title Defence; Turin-Chasing Rune Leads Basel Field

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

Medvedev Seeks Vienna Title Defence; Turin-Chasing Rune Leads Basel Field

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week

With just three weeks to go until the Nitto ATP Finals, players continue to jockey for position in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. This week will see two ATP 500s provide opportunities for movement, with action at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna and the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Daniil Medvedev, who has already qualified for Turin, is set to lead the Vienna field as the top seed and defending champion. He will be joined by fellow Top 10 stars Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. Holger Rune is the best-placed of many Turin hopefuls in Basel, where Top 10 players Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz will also compete. looks at five things to watch at both events.

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1) Defending Champ Medvedev: Medvedev won the second of his two 2022 titles in Vienna 12 months ago. He enters the ATP 500 with five tour-level trophies to his name in 2023 — though he has not claimed a crown since his surprise May run on the clay of Rome. He will begin his tournament against in-form #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils.

2) Can Sinner Bring Beijing Best?: Jannik Sinner won his third title of 2023 earlier this month in Beijing and then qualified for his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals with an opening win in Shanghai. Entering Vienna at a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of World No. 4, Sinner will bid for his 10th career tour-level title. The second seed this edition, the Italian reached the Vienna semi-finals in 2021.

3) Rublev, Tsitsipas, Zverev Can Inch Closer To Turin: Rublev, Tsitsipas and Zverev occupy fifth, sixth and seventh place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. As the three highest-placed men who have yet to clinch qualification, all three have a big opportunity in Vienna. They will hope to join the already-qualified Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Medvedev and Sinner at the Nitto ATP Finals.

They are seeded third through fifth in Vienna, where Rublev triumphed in 2020 and Zverev lifted the trophy in 2021.

4) Americans Paul, Tiafoe Among Chasing Pack: Currently on the outside looking in for a place in Turin, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe could start a late surge with a deep run in Vienna. Sixth seed Paul will try to secure his first win in Vienna against a qualifier, and seventh seed Tiafoe will face a tricky test against Briton Daniel Evans.

5) Koolhof/Skupski Lead Doubles Field: Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, the second-placed team in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, will be the top seeds in an intriguing Vienna doubles draw that also includes Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow, and defending champions (and home favourites) Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler.

1) Rune Continues Quest For Turin Debut: Rune reached the title match last year in Basel, part of a run of four straight finals to close the 2022 season that included titles in Stockholm and Paris. This year, the Dane hopes to finish his season at the Nitto ATP Finals. He is currently eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, clinging to the final qualifying spot by 145 points over ninth-placed Fritz.

Having won one match since Wimbledon, Rune will hope to find his form at the Swiss ATP 500 as he battles to maintain his position. The Dane also announced in the past week that he has hired a new coach: Boris Becker.

2) Fritz, Ruud Also In Turin Hunt: Last year at the Nitto ATP Finals, Ruud reached the final and Fritz made the semis in his debut. Both players are currently on the outside looking in, but could make their move in Basel.

Fritz made the quarter-finals at this tournament in 2018, and will hope for a deeper run this edition, beginning with a clash against Max Purcell. Second seed Ruud will look to bounce back from an early defeat to Marcos Giron in Tokyo. Last year as the second seed in Basel, he was beaten by home favourite Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. He will face a tough opening challenge against Alexander Bublik.

3) Can Hurkacz Recapture Shanghai Form?: Hubert Hurkacz stepped up his late bid to reach Turin by winning the Rolex Shanghai Masters title two weeks ago, saving a match point to beat Andrey Rublev in the final. But he was beaten three days later by Zhang Zhizhen in the Tokyo opening round.

With a few days off before he returns to action in Europe, can Hurkacz get back to the level that saw him soar in Shanghai? The Pole enters the week 11th in the Live Race, 335 points behind Rune.

4) De Minaur Seeks Fifth Final: Fifth seed Aussie Alex de Minaur reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 11 earlier this month on the strength of four final appearances this season, including a title in Acapulco. Another deep run could boost the 24-year-old’s hopes of qualifying for his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. Currently 13th in the Live Race, he will need a deep run in Switzerland, where he will open against Diego Schwartzman.

5) Home Favourite Wawrinka Set For 16th Basel Appearance: Swiss legend Wawrinka has compiled a 15-14 record across 15 previous showings in Basel. He reached the quarter-finals in each of his past three appearances (2016, 2019, 2022) and twice reached the semis, in 2006 and 2011. The home hero will begin his event against a qualifier.

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