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An 'A' For Alcaraz: Carlos Aces Opening Test At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

An ‘A’ For Alcaraz: Carlos Aces Opening Test At Roland Garros

Sixth seed will next play fellow Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas

All eyes were on Carlos Alcaraz at Roland Garros, where the 19-year-old Spaniard passed his first test on Sunday with flying colours.

The sixth seed eliminated lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 after one hour and 50 minutes to reach the second round at the clay-court major. Alcaraz will next face countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

“It was difficult at the beginning, but it’s always special to play in such a great stadium, a great court,” Alcaraz said. “I’m really happy with the performance in my first match in Philippe Chatrier, and hope to play more matches [on] this court.”

A lot has changed for the teen over the past year. At Roland Garros 12 months ago, Alcaraz was No. 97 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and had to qualify (which he did, advancing to the third round of the main draw). Now he is one of the leading favourites at the tournament, having won two of the season’s first five ATP Masters 1000 events.

One of those triumphs came in Madrid, where Alcaraz ousted Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in consecutive matches to stake his claim as a contender in Paris. His victory on Sunday did nothing to change that status, but he is not worrying about the attention.

“I am trying to be focussed just on the tournaments, on the matches, and [not] trying to be a part of the social media and everyone talking about you,” Alcaraz said. “[I] just focus on what I have to improve, what I have to do [in] the matches, what I have to do… every day to be ready in the tournament.” 

Alcaraz faced an experienced opponent in Londero, who advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros three years ago on his Grand Slam main draw debut. But the 28-year-old Argentine was unable to find enough consistency to put his younger opponent, who won the final 10 games of the match, into much difficulty.

In the first set, Londero played with far more aggression than normal to prevent Alcaraz from dominating their baseline exchanges. And for the most part, that strategy proved sound.

But after missing a forehand long to give Alcaraz set point, Londero dumped a backhand into the net to relinquish the first break of the match and with it, the opening set. Alcaraz roared “Vamos!” and never looked back, taking full control from there.

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The Spaniard never played outside of his typical game on Court Philippe Chatrier, relying on his powerful groundstrokes and deft drop shot. Londero missed a forehand wide to go down 2-4 in the second set and his level slipped from there.

Alcaraz, who struck 22 winners in the match, gave his team a quiet fist pump after watching a final Londero backhand sail long. He did not face a break point in his victory and converted six of his 12 chances.

It will not get easier against Ramos-Vinolas, who battled past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) after four hours and seven minutes.

Ironically, Alcaraz faces Ramos-Vinolas in his first ATP Tour main draw match two years ago in Rio de Janeiro. That day, the teen emerged victorious after three hours and 37 minutes on the Brazilian clay. Alcaraz also defeated Ramos-Vinolas in last year’s Umag semi-finals en route to his first tour-level title.

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Felix Survives Varillas Scare, Earns First Roland Garros Win

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

Felix Survives Varillas Scare, Earns First Roland Garros Win

First time Canadian has won from two sets down

Felix Auger-Aliassime survived a major scare Sunday at Roland Garros, rallying from two-sets-to-love down for the first time in his career to reach the second round in Paris for the first time.

The World No. 9 recovered from a slow start to overcome Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in a dramatic opening day encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier.

In a tight match, the Canadian struggled to cope with the World No. 122’s variety and intensity in the first two sets, with the Peruvian visibly pumped on what was his Grand Slam debut. However, Auger-Aliassime managed to turn the tables as he cut down on errors. The ninth seed found more first serves and hit with greater power, forcing Varillas into mistakes to advance after three hours and 13 minutes.

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The 21-year-old is making his third appearance in Paris and will next play Aslan Karatsev or Argentine qualifier Camilo Ugo Carabelli. Earlier this month, the Canadian reached the quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome in May.

In their first ATP Head2Head meeting Varillas made a fast start against Auger-Aliassime, quickly finding his range to break immediately. He hit his consistent groundstrokes with depth and precision for the opening 90 minutes, committing just seven unforced errors across the first two sets to take control.

However, Auger-Aliassime refused to go away, raising his level in the third set as he cut down on mistakes and started to take the ball earlier to remove time from the Peruvian, who started to tire.

The Canadian won 100 per cent (12/12) of his first-serve points in the fourth set to level the match, before he gained the crucial break in the eighth game of the fifth set to eventually break Varillas’ resistance. He then held serve to triumph, letting out a roar in relief.

After coming through qualifying at a Slam for the first time in his seventh attempt, Varillas was aiming to earn just his second tour-level win of the season and first Top 10 victory of his career. The four-time ATP Challenger Tour champion defeated Facundo Bagnis in the first round in Cordoba in February.

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‘Privileged’ Nadal In Relaxed Mood For Roland Garros Bid

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

‘Privileged’ Nadal In Relaxed Mood For Roland Garros Bid

Legendary Spaniard chasing a record-extending 14th title in Paris

On the hunt for major title No. 22, Rafael Nadal is not feeling the pressure as he prepares for his latest Grand Slam campaign in familiar surroundings at Roland Garros.

“I just enjoy, and I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am,” said the 13-time champion in his pre-tournament press conference. “I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport.

“Here I am in Roland Garros [for] another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.”

The legendary Spaniard’s performances in Paris are renowned, but Nadal acknowledges his unrivalled Roland Garros record is part of a wider success story on clay.

“I think I won 12 [titles] in Barcelona, 10 in Rome and 11 in Monte Carlo, so probably there is not a big difference between here and the rest of the places,” said the 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion. “It’s true that here I won maybe a couple more than the rest of the places, but I think my level of tennis on clay has been high during a long period of time in my tennis career, without a doubt. That’s what the numbers say.”

Despite owning a 105-3 match record at Roland Garros and lifting a record 21st Grand Slam trophy at January’s Australian Open, Nadal is taking nothing for granted as he begins his bid for a record-extending 14th title on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard was beaten in the semi-finals by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in 2021, and he knows he must find his best form if he wants to taste success once again in the French capital.

“Unfortunately here I didn’t have the preparation that I would like…but in sport, things can change quick,” said Nadal. “The only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens.

“Today looks difficult and [it] looks [like] there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, but you never know what can happen in the next couple of days. The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance. Here is no different. The only thing I have to do is believe in my chances, believe in my daily work, and then stay positive.

“The results say that I am not [the favourite], but it is something that never worried much to me. Probably when I was a favourite, I never considered myself the favourite.”

If Nadal is to add another successful chapter to his storied Roland Garros history, he must battle through a stacked top half of the draw that also includes World No. 1 Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev. Yet the Spaniard is not looking past his opening round clash with Australian Jordan Thompson.

“Mentally for me it doesn’t matter,” said Nadal. “In terms of tennis, of course in the top of the draw you see the names, of course it is a very tough one. But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen.

“I am probably humble enough to just be focussed on my first match. It doesn’t matter if I know where I am exactly and what possible opponents I can have.

“Let’s see. The only thing that I would like is to be one of the players that you think can face these other great players.”

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Nadal’s chronic foot injury flared up during his third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome 10 days ago, but the 35-year-old says he is not unduly concerned about the issue impacting his Paris campaign.

“There is nothing to recover,” said Nadal. “What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices. I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That’s why I’m here.

“I talked after the match very openly about what’s going on. But at the same time, I said it is something that can be better in the near future. And I hope that’s the case here.

“It is something that I live with every day, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. If I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here.”

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Day 1 Preview: Alcaraz, Zverev, Felix Open Roland Garros Campaigns

  • Posted: May 21, 2022

Day 1 Preview: Alcaraz, Zverev, Felix Open Roland Garros Campaigns

Two-time finalist Thiem also in action Sunday

The Sunday start of Roland Garros includes opening-round matches for Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Paris. The year’s second Grand Slam begins exclusively with singles action, with 20 men’s matches on the slate. looks at some of the matches to watch on Day 1 in the French capital. 

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[6] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [LL] Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG)

The first ATP Head2Head meeting between this pair will close play on Court Philippe Chatrier, with Alcaraz one of the men to watch in his second appearance at Roland Garros. The Spaniard enters the clay-court major with a tour-leading four titles in 2022 — three on clay — and a 28-3 season record. He sits at a career-high of No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as a result of that breakout success.

After reaching the third round as a qualifier in a successful Roland Garros debut last year before losing to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, Alcaraz returns as one of the favourites to lift La Coupe des Mousquetaires in two weeks’ time. He brings a 10-match winning streak into the event after completing a Spanish title double in Barcelona and Madrid, downing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches on his way to glory in the latter.

Londero last competed in an ATP Tour event in February when he qualified and won one main-draw match in Santiago. His best 2022 result came in February, when he won six straight sets to reach the Cordoba semi-finals. The 28-year old won his lone tour-level title in Cordoba in 2019 and reached a career-high of No. 50 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings later that year.

[3] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. [Q] Sebastian Ofner (AUS)

Third on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Zverev and Sebastian Ofner meet at a Grand Slam for the second time following the German’s straight-sets win in the Wimbledon 2017 third round – their only previous matchup.

The third seed brings strong clay-court form into Paris, having reached the semi-finals or better at all three ATP Masters 1000 events on the European clay swing. In between last-four showings in Monte Carlo and Rome, he reached the final in Madrid. Zverev’s 18-6 record at Roland Garros is his best at any major by win percentage, as are his three trips to the quarter-finals or better. His best run came last year, when he reached the semis before dropping a five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas. Zverev also faced the Greek in all three of his recent semi-finals, earning a victory in Madrid.

“It’s been a consistent clay court season,” the German said ahead of his Roland Garros opener. “I thought I picked up my level of game with each tournament on the clay court season, so I hope I can play my best tennis here. Obviously [I’m] a little bit disappointed I didn’t win a title on the clay this year… If I win the title here, then I’m more than happy about my clay-court season.”

Ofner, the World No. 218, is competing in his first tour-level main draw since he reached the Los Cabos second round last July. He won an ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague in April, his best result of the 2022 season.

[9] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs. Juan Pablo Varillas (PER)

The first ATP Head2Head matchup between Auger-Aliassime and Juan Pablo Varillas is the second meeting of their professional career, with the ninth seed winning a 2016 Futures match against the Peruvian, also on clay. They will be second on Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Canadian won his first ATP Tour title in Rotterdam in February and followed it up with a trip to his 10th final in Marseille. Auger-Aliassime is 0-2 at Roland Garros, but enters Paris in tremendous form at the Grand Slams. After his loss to Andreas Seppi one year ago in the French capital, he has gone on to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the US Open semis and the Australian Open quarters. More recently, he has reached four straight ATP Tour quarter-finals, including at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome.

Varillas reached a career-high of No. 104 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings earlier this month and counts a qualifying run to the Cordoba last 16 as his best tour-level result of 2022. He has also reached four semi-finals, including one final, on the ATP Challenger Tour this season.


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Best Of The Rest

Dominic Thiem seeks the first win of his comeback from a right-wrist injury on Court Simonne Mathieu against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien. The Austrian, a two-time finalist at Roland Garros (2018-19), is also looking to bounce back from a surprise first-round loss to Pablo Andujar last year in Paris. 

John Isner, one of 15 Americans in the men’s singles draw, opens against Quentin Halys, one of 15 Frenchmen in the draw. Those two nations lead the way in terms of tournament participants, with Argentina and Spain each providing 11 main-draw competitors.

Other seeded players in action include No. 15 Diego Schwartzman (vs. qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov), No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov (vs. Marcos Giron), No. 21 Karen Khachanov (vs. qualifier Nuno Borges), No. 25 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (vs. Tallon Griekspoor), No. 26 Botic van de Zandschulp (vs. qualifier Pavel Kotov) and No. 31 Jenson Brooksby (vs. Pablo Cuevas).

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‘Need For Speed!’ Federer Meets F1 Champ Hamilton

  • Posted: May 21, 2022

‘Need For Speed!’ Federer Meets F1 Champ Hamilton

Swiss star visits Mercedes-AMG F1 Team during Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

Roger Federer took a high-octane break from the practice court in Barcelona on Saturday as the Swiss legend caught up with Formula 1 great Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Federer was at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya watching qualifying for Sunday’s race, the sixth round of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The 40-year-old visited Hamilton and the rest of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, including Hamilton’s teammate George Russell and Team Principal Toto Wolff.

“I had a need for speed. Good luck tomorrow,” wrote Federer to Hamilton and Russell via Twitter after spending time with the British duo. Hamilton is one of the most successful drivers of all time, having won a joint-record seven Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship titles, while 24-year-old Russell is considered one of the brightest talents in the sport.

Five-time year-end No. 1 Federer revealed this week that he is targeting a return to competitive action at September’s Laver Cup in London. The 103-time tour-level titlist has not played since Wimbledon last July due to two surgeries on his right knee.

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