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Ram/Salisbury Extend US Open Winning Streak

  • Posted: Sep 03, 2023

Ram/Salisbury Extend US Open Winning Streak

Roger-Vasselin/Gonzalez save six match points to book third-round spot

Fourteen consecutive wins and counting for Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury at the US Open.

The American-British pair maintained its perfect start to the 2023 edition of the hard-court major with a 6-3, 7-6(4) victory against Ben McLachlan and Yoshihito Nishioka on Saturday. Ram and Salisbury held their nerve in the second-set tie-break to seal their second straight-sets win of the week and book a third-round clash with Mackenzie McDonald and Andreas Mies.

Ram and Salisbury are chasing their fourth major title this fortnight in New York, where they lifted the trophy in 2021 and 2022. A strong run at the final major of the year would also boost the pair’s position in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings. Last year’s Nitto ATP Finals champions are currently 15th as they chase a fifth consecutive appearance at the season finale.

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Second seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek had a less straightforward passage to the third round. The Croatian-American duo let slip three match points in the second set before beating Petros Tsitsipas and Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4. Grand Slam champions already this season at Roland Garros, Dodig and Krajicek will next take on home wild cards Denis Kudla and Vasil Kirkov, who beat Matwe Middelkoop and Mate Pavic 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Other second-round winners on Day 6 at Flushing Meadows included seventh seeds Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Santiago Gonzalez, who saved six match points in the second set before downing Nicolas Barrientos and Andre Goransson 7-6(5), 6-4. Roger-Vasselin and Gonzalez had trailed 2-5 in the second set before rallying to a thrilling two-hour, 53-minute win.

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Steely Sinner Sees Off Stan At US Open

  • Posted: Sep 03, 2023

Steely Sinner Sees Off Stan At US Open

Italian sets fourth-round clash with Zverev or Dimitrov in New York

Jannik Sinner rose to the challenge of a former US Open champion Saturday in New York, where the sixth-seeded Italian overcame Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

In a clash between two of the purest baseline strikers on Tour, Sinner stayed clutch at key moments to secure a two-hour, 58-minute triumph on Louis Armstrong Stadium. He converted five of 13 break points he earned, keeping his cool impressively after 2016 titlist Wawrinka had charged to the second set to level the pair’s sixth Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting.

The first of those clashes between Sinner and Wawrinka also took place in New York in 2019, when Wawrinka ousted a then-18-year-old Sinner across four sets on the Italian’s Grand Slam main-draw debut. Fast forward four years and Sinner showed why he is now an established Top 10 star, as he shut down Wawrinka’s revival with some razor-sharp returning that earned him two breaks of serve in each of the third and fourth sets.

“Obviously in four years a couple of things have changed, but I’m happy about my performance today,” said Sinner in his on-court interview. “I feel I wasn’t playing at my best, as he wasn’t playing at his best, but in key moments I handled it in a better way than him and I’m happy to be in the next round.”

Sinner spoke earlier in the week about how his coaches Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill had been encouraging him to work on his net game. The Italian appeared keen to heed that advice against Wawrinka, as he won 81 per cent (21/26) of points moving forward.

Victories for Sinner and top seed Carlos Alcaraz on Saturday mean a quarter-final rematch between the pair remains a possibility. Alcaraz saved match point before defeating Sinner in the last eight at the 2022 US Open, one of the most thrilling matches in recent memory.

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Sinner lifted the biggest trophy of his career at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto last month and the Italian is now 44-12 for the season. He could rise into the Top 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time after the US Open if he beats Alexander Zverev or Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, but the 22-year-old is not getting ahead of himself despite his recent good form.

“The confidence level is a little bit different,” said Sinner. “I’m very happy to be in the second week of a Grand Slam again, it always means a lot. Hopefully I can raise my level every time I play, knowing that every time I step on court I’m trying to give it my best shot. Let’s see how the next round goes.”

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Alcaraz Evades Evans To Reach US Open Fourth Round

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

Alcaraz Evades Evans To Reach US Open Fourth Round

Defending champion next meets Arnaldi, who upset 16th seed Norrie

Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open campaign hit its first speed bump Saturday in New York, but the Spaniard’s title defence nonetheless continues apace.

Faced with a seeded opponent for the first time this fortnight, the Spaniard moved past Daniel Evans 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to book his spot in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third straight year. Alcaraz needed to produce a high-class display to overcome Evans and his trademark box of tricks, but the Spaniard’s consistency and power was key as he held firm for a three-hour, 10-minute triumph.

Alcaraz and Evans produced a host of thrilling all-court exchanges to open the day’s play on Arthur Ashe Stadium in style. The 26th-seeded Evans dug deep in the third set to become the first player to take a set from Alcaraz this fortnight, but the World No. 1 was ultimately too consistent for the Briton. Alcaraz struck 60 winners to Evans’ 28 to improve to 3-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

Perhaps the moment of a richly entertaining encounter was Alcaraz’s sublime forehand pass on the run to crucially break Evans for 4-2 in the fourth set. The Briton had played an almost perfect point, pulling the 20-year-old side to side, but was left staring in disbelief as the Spaniard charged out wide to fire a down-the-line finish that clipped the back of the baseline.

The 20-year-old Alcaraz’s next challenge as he chases his third Grand Slam crown is a clash against Matteo Arnaldi. The Italian upset 16th seed Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time.

More to follow…

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Djokovic Recovers Two-Set Deficit, Downs Djere At US Open

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

Djokovic Recovers Two-Set Deficit, Downs Djere At US Open

World No. 2 will next meet Gojo

Second seed Novak Djokovic scored a memorable comeback in the US Open third round Friday against Laslo Djere to keep his hopes alive for a record-extending 24th major title.

Djokovic recovered from two-sets-to-love down for the eighth time in his career, clawing past his countryman 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 after three hours, 45 minutes.

“Unbelievable. It’s almost 2 a.m., a large number of people stayed,” Djokovic said when addressing the crowd. “I hope [the fans] enjoyed the show, it was definitely not so enjoyable for me, especially in the first two sets. It was one of the toughest matches I’ve played here in many years. Huge, huge credit to Laslo for playing some of the best tennis that I’ve ever seen him play.”

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For the first 90 minutes of the match, Djere held the advantage in extended rallies as he produced fearless, heavy-hitting from the baseline and often hit behind Djokovic to put him off balance. The 95-time tour-level titlist regrouped, quickly raising his level in the third set as he drew errors from Djere’s forehand to pull the match back within reach.

“I did a little pep talk in the mirror. I kind of laughed at myself because I was so pissed off and annoyed with the result,” Djokovic said when asked about leaving the court following the opening two sets. “I had to force myself to lift myself up, lift the spirits up a little bit. I’ve done it a few times before in my career, it worked. A few times it didn’t work, but tonight it did and I’m grateful.”

The turning point came when Djokovic broke serve for the first time at 1-0 in the third set by winning an exciting 26-shot rally. The Serbian then lifted his hands in the air as if he were asking the New York crowd for more support.

Despite the lopsided score in the final three sets, Djere was still putting Djokovic to the test under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic earned a gut-punching break after a marathon 10-minute game at 1-1 in the fourth set, in which the 32nd seed had earlier struck a stunning one-hand backhand flick past the three-time US Open titlist.

Djokovic then earned more looks on return and found top-tier defence in the latter stages of the match, deflating Djere’s hopes of earning the biggest win of his career. When the clock hit 1:32 a.m., Djokovic booked his place in the fourth round after fending off a break point while serving for the match.

“If he was getting tired, it didn’t take away much from his game to be honest. I think he played better in the fifth than he probably did in the third and fourth because he just started swinging through the ball,” Djokovic said. “He was behind a break and he served very well. He was hitting his spots so well.

“It was very difficult for me to find a solution. He is a very complete player, all-around quality serve, return, forehand, backhand. So I didn’t have many options at the beginning but in the third, I kind of lifted myself up and the crowd got into it.

“Once I got the break in the third I thought, ‘Okay, I have a chance, I might as well go after it.’ I started to play a bit more aggressive, started to read his game slightly more than I had in the first two sets. It worked well but trust me, it was nerve racking all the way until the last shot.”

Djokovic’s Two-Set Comebacks

Event  Round Opponent Score
 ’23 US Open R3 Djere 46 46 61 61 63
 ’22 Wimbledon* QF Sinner 57 26 63 62 62
 ’21 R. Garros* F Tsitsipas 67 26 63 62 64
 ’21 R. Garros* R4 Musetti 66 67 61 60 40 ret.
 ’15 Wimbledon* R4 Anderson 67 67 61 64 75
 ’12 R. Garros R4 Seppi 46 67 63 75 63
 ’11 US Open* SF Federer  67 46 63 62 75
 ’05 Wimbledon R2 G-Lopez 36 36 76 76 64

* Won title

Boasting a 41-5 match record this season, Djokovic improved to 2-0 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Djere, whom he also beat last year at the ATP 250 event in Belgrade despite being two points from defeat.

Should the 36-year-old Djokovic claim his third major title of the season this fortnight, he will become the oldest men’s champion in US Open history (Open Era).

Djokovic will next meet Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo, who is unbroken this week. The 25-year-old defeated Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday to reach his maiden major fourth round. Up 29 spots to No. 76 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Gojo is guaranteed to crack the Top 100 for the first time following the season’s final major.

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How Rublev Found His Softer Side

  • Posted: Sep 02, 2023

How Rublev Found His Softer Side takes a closer look at Rublev’s personality

Thwack. Crack. Pop. Bweh.

Those sounds often make up the soundtrack of Andrey Rublev’s matches. The 25-year-old is one of the biggest ball-strikers in the sport, putting everything he has into nearly every shot. His powerful game has led to a lot of success, including 14 ATP Tour singles titles, a career-high No. 5 Pepperstone ATP Ranking, 22 Top 10 wins and three appearances in the Nitto ATP Finals.

When you think of watching Rublev play tennis, you think of intensity, for better or worse. When things are going well, the three-time US Open quarter-finalist overwhelms opponents with his fierce offensive game. Rublev wears his heart on his sleeve and in difficult moments, he is never afraid to show his emotions on court, sometimes agonising over his performance.

But in recent years, fans have come to know a different side of Rublev — call it a softer side. In social media videos, he often breaks out into fits of laughter, jokes with colleagues and shows sensitivity, whether to fans or otherwise. On an ATP Tour YouTube video titled “Andrey Rublev reacts to your YouTube comments 🥰”, the top comments are:

Petition for ATP Tour to do more of this!!


The video gets ten times better with him in it.

Andrey is the most adorable and honest person that needs to be protected at all costs.

Among the fans, Rublev has become not just a favourite, but a beacon of light. It is difficult to speak with him or watch a fun video of his without cracking a smile. But the quickest way to make Rublev blush is to remind him of his ever-growing fanbase.

“I would say obviously it’s something special that you cannot get somewhere or buy somewhere because of feelings. Of course in those moments you feel special. I don’t know. Even myself, I want to say big thanks to these [people] who are writing these things,” Rublev said at Indian Wells earlier this year. “Maybe with this stuff, you feel a bit more responsibility that you need to always improve in a better way.”

Rublev is much quicker to be self-deprecating than he is to give himself credit. He openly dislikes saying positive things about himself.

“Yeah, yeah. I have this problem,” Rublev said Thursday evening, cracking a smile. “I don’t know. Maybe some complexes, I don’t know why.”

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His actions speak louder than words, though. Whether around his practices, walking around the grounds or after matches, Rublev signs as many autographs and takes as many selfies as possible to make the fans happy. To him, it is an easy way to make people feel validated in their decision to spend their hard-earned money and valuable time to watch tennis. It is a humble attitude for a player who has plenty to do, from working on his game to off-court commitments.

But according to Rublev, he was not always embarrassed to say nice things about himself or listen to others do the same.

“When I was younger I think I was the opposite. Too much, a bit cocky when I was quite young, and then I realised how stupid I was,” Rublev said. “When I was a kid I was playing really well and I was winning a lot of tournaments. I was thinking maybe I was cool or whatever or everything will be like this in life. I don’t know, a typical kid with not really much brains and then with some things I realised that I was just stupid and that’s it.

“Then I turned out completely the opposite way.”

Rublev explained that he was still a good friend when he was younger and was “very loyal” to those around him. But there were some immaturities that he took time to get over. But he was made to grow up quickly as he embarked on his professional career and had already become close to the person he is now by his late teens. At the age of 19, Rublev made the US Open quarter-finals, at the time the youngest man to accomplish the feat since Andy Roddick in 2001.

“I remember that was a miracle, just out of nowhere. No one expected and it was obviously like a miracle because game-wise, body-wise, I was not ready,” Rublev said. “I was just lucky that I was playing some great tennis every day and I was shooting the ball and most of the time everything was going in and I was able to do the quarters.

“I realised it was a miracle because obviously I beat players like Grigor, Goffin. Grigor, he just won that year Cincinnati. Goffin was a Top 10 player. And obviously, if I would play them again, the feeling was they were much better players. It was just they never played me. They didn’t know who I was.”

Following his initial breakthrough, Rublev did not directly soar to the top, struggling through a period of injuries. But since cracking the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 12 October 2020, he has spent just three weeks outside of it.

“Inside the feeling is completely opposite,” Rublev said. “In the end, you said now this number and I feel ‘Wow, that’s great.’ So maybe there’s something that I’m doing well, but I don’t know, I don’t want to focus on this. I was focussing on the things that I need to improve so I want to keep focussing on them.”

A three-time US Open quarter-finalist and eight-time major quarter-finalist, Rublev is trying to make his biggest breakthrough yet at a Grand Slam tournament. Earlier this year in Monte-Carlo, he claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy.

The locker room would be pleased to see Rublev enjoy success. Frances Tiafoe, another 25-year-old who has gotten on well with his colleague since the juniors, had only positive things to say about this year’s eighth seed.

“He’s a super solid dude, man. Nicest dude. If you see him after practices and after matches win or lose, signing autographs forever. The dude is solid man and he’s a pro’s pro,” Tiafoe said. “He’s super professional, gets the most out of his game, has been in the Top 10 for years. I like him a lot, man.

“He’s always cracking jokes. He’s always fun. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he’s just one of the genuine real dudes.”

As much as he is becoming known for his personality, Rublev is fully focussed on chasing his biggest goal: discovering his potential.

“This is what I’m looking for. For the moment I don’t know. I feel that still in everything there is a huge room [for improvement] and that’s it,” Rublev said. “I just want to see what is the limit.”

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