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Paul Earns First Two-Set Comeback At US Open

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2023

Paul Earns First Two-Set Comeback At US Open

American will next play 21st seed Davidovich Fokina

Tommy Paul accomplished something he had never done before on Wednesday at Flushing Meadows.

The 14th seed rallied from two sets down for the first time, surging past Roman Safiullin 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in three hours and 12 minutes to reach the third round of the US Open for the second consecutive year.

“It was so much fun. I didn’t really give them too much to cheer for the first two sets. I know I could feel it. Everyone was getting a little frustrated. I was getting frustrated. I wanted to give people something to cheer about,” Paul said. “After the second, I knew… it wasn’t a highlight reel kind of day. I was like, ‘I’ll give them something to cheer about with just extending points and heart for the rest of the match.’

“I think that’s really what got me through, along with everyone there was really cheering for me.”

Entering the season’s final major in 2022, Paul was 0-4 at the tournament. But he has now won four matches in New York over the past two editions. Against Safiullin he won just one more point (130-129), but his 43 winners were enough to move on.

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Four of the American’s five US Open matches since the start of last year’s tournament have gone to five sets. He has already played a five-setter this year against his next opponent, 21st seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The Spaniard maintained his good form with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 triumph against Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo. Davidovich Fokina recently made an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Toronto.

Paul leads the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series 2-0, with both of those wins coming on hard courts this year, in Melbourne and Miami.

“We had two battles, one in Australia and one in Miami,” Davidovich Fokina said. “He’s like a runner. He likes a marathon. He’s a very good guy outside the court. I’m joking with him inside. On court he’s like a beast because he’s very good.”

Did You Know?
Paul is in 12th place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The American is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.

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Djokovic Cruises Into US Open Third Round

  • Posted: Aug 31, 2023

Djokovic Cruises Into US Open Third Round

Serbian chasing a 24th major title in New York

Novak Djokovic continued his perfect record at this year’s US Open on Wednesday when he defeated Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the third round.

The Serbian won his opening match in straight sets to guarantee his return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday 11 September and was impressive again against Zapata Miralles, saving all six break points he faced to advance after two hours and two minutes. The 36-year-old has dropped just 11 games in his first two matches.

“He started off solid,” Djokovic said. “We had some rallies. We kind of had to reach out for the towel basically after each one of those longer rallies, so it took a bit more time and effort. But, you know, one break was enough. Then after that, the second set I played really good. Beginning of the third, couple of close games, but last four games of the third I ended up really playing really well. I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling, playing on the court.”

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Djokovic, who last appeared in New York in 2021 when he reached the final, will next meet Laslo Djere after the Serbian overcame Hugo Gaston 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.

“He’s in very good form,” Djokovic said ahead of his meeting against countryman Djere. “It’s great for Serbian tennis that we have, you know, a matchup in the third round. So one Serbian is going to be definitely in the fourth round, which is always great for our tennis.”

The second seed, 36, is chasing a record-extending 10th US Open final appearance (3-6 record). Having won the Australian Open and Roland Garros crowns this year and reached the Wimbledon final, the 23-time major champion is looking to reach the title match of all four Slams in the same season for the third time in his career (2021 and 2015).

“At 36 years of age, after 20 years of coming to New York, I still have the hunger to play my best tennis on this court,” Djokovic said. “I have the experience and understanding of what needs to be done in the important moments. Preserving the energy and focusing on the present moment.”

Djokovic now holds a 40-5 record on the season, having captured a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati earlier this month.

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Morgan Riddle On Netflix's 'Fly On The Wall' Filming With Taylor Fritz

  • Posted: Aug 30, 2023

Morgan Riddle On Netflix’s ‘Fly On The Wall’ Filming With Taylor Fritz

Riddle reflects on her relationship with Fritz

Taylor Fritz was one of the stars of Netflix’s hit tennis docuseries Break Point. The show followed him throughout the 2022 season as he hit highs and lows, from winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells to losing in the first round of the US Open.

With the American every step of the way was his girlfriend, Morgan Riddle, who has been committed to Fritz’s mission of helping expand tennis to the masses.

“The last couple years we’ve just developed such a good partnership,” Riddle said during a recent Break Point reunion, in conversation with Frances Tiafoe’s girlfriend Ayan Broomfield. “[With] what we’re both doing with my social stuff and his tennis, we’re just having this collective goal of him having the best career possible, and bringing tennis to a younger audience.”

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Riddle is very familiar with the world of content being a social media influencer. She was impressed with how Netflix producers handled the filming process.

“I would say how fly on the wall it was. I think with reality TV, which I guess this technically would be, there’s always been talk about how they will kind of push you to say certain things or encourage certain things to happen,” Riddle said. “But that was not the case at all. It was very natural. They kind of were just there with cameras following what our life is actually like.”

Fritz has been clear about how much Riddle has helped him on and off the court.

“He’s so supportive of me, I’m so supportive of him,” Riddle said. “It’s really nice, I think, in terms of me, like specifically helping his tennis. I’m very organised and Type A and making sure he’s on time for everything. That’s not exactly his personality, but I think I help in that aspect a lot. And also just being an emotional support board for him.”

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What is an example of something Riddle pushes back on with Fritz during the course of their lives on the ATP Tour?

“I’m sure you guys probably guess what I’m going to say. It’s making sure that video games are not happening during the tournament,” Riddle said. “Like, the computer is shut at 8 p.m. type thing. Foe is much more social than Taylor is. Taylor just wants to play League of Legends. So we’ve got to try to limit that as much as possible.”

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‘I Probably Watched Roger That Day’: The Short Lifespan Of The Alcaraz One-Hander

  • Posted: Aug 30, 2023

‘I Probably Watched Roger That Day’: The Short Lifespan Of The Alcaraz One-Hander

Top seed advanced to US Open second round Tuesday after Koepfer retirement

Carlos Alcaraz’s backhand is one the fiercest weapons on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard’s devastating proficiency with two hands off that wing probably explains why his dalliance with a one-handed version of the shot did not last long.

“When I was young, I loved to try new things,” said Alcaraz on Tuesday as he clarified a journalist’s suggestion that coaches had considered developing his one-hander as a kid. “Probably the one-handed backhand was one of those things that I practised for just one day. I love to do different shots, different things on court. Probably that day I watched a Roger Federer match, and I tried to imitate him.

“I think my backhand, it was improving during these years. When I was young, my forehand was my best shot. It’s still my best shot, but I feel really comfortable with my backhand.”

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Alcaraz’s backhand was among several facets of his game that appeared in fine fettle Tuesday on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the top seed led 6-2, 3-2 in his US Open first-round clash against Dominik Koepfer before the German retired with an ankle injury. Alcaraz hopes to maintain that level in his second-round meeting with Lloyd Harris as he continues his defence of his US Open crown.

“I felt great during the match. I started pretty well,” said Alcaraz. “Really focussed. Honestly, I didn’t expect to play such a great level the beginning, the first round, here in the US Open.

“I am very, very happy with the level, even if Domi had to retire. I have to [look at] myself and hopefully keep that level into the next round.”

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Alcaraz has often spoken about his desire to engage with fans as he goes about his on-court business. After Tuesday’s match was curtailed due to Koepfer’s injury, the 20-year-old even offered up an alternative source of entertainment during his on-court interview with a brief rendition of Colombian singer Sebastian Yatra’s song VAGABUNDO.

“We try to bring good vibes to the crowd, to the people. I try to be myself all the time,” said Alcaraz later when asked about his relationship with spectators during his matches. “I think the people love that part of me. I am always happy, smiling.

“I love that people call me Carlitos, my nickname. That’s it. It’s great to know that people love that, as well.”

Having lifted his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open a year ago, Alcaraz is defending a major crown for the first time this fortnight at Flushing Meadows. As he has done so often during his meteoric rise to becoming the youngest No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history, the Spaniard is taking it all in his stride.

“I was excited to play my first round here in the US Open,” said Alcaraz. “It was great to step on court again in Arthur Ashe after such a great run last year. I was excited to come back.

“I’m not thinking about defending the title. I was not thinking about that I was the champion last year. I just focus on playing my best level, to recover the level that I played last year, and try to do the same things that I did last year. That’s the only thing that I’m thinking right now.

“I try to be apart from all the pressure people put on me about being the defending champion.”

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Meet Jakub Mensik, The 17-Year-Old Taking The US Open By Storm

  • Posted: Aug 30, 2023

Meet Jakub Mensik, The 17-Year-Old Taking The US Open By Storm

Czech teen competing in his first major as a pro

Jakub Mensik’s family did not play tennis. But as a boy in Prostejov, Czech Republic, the sport surrounded him. Just 100 metres away was a school that had tennis courts next to the playground. Five-hundred metres away were private courts.

At that location, there was a sign that read they were looking for a new Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych.

“I was watching the guys from the neighbourhood playing and watching also the little kids. They also had practices, they were starting their tennis career,” Mensik told “So then I just came to my dad or my mom and just asked them if I can play also, and of course they always wanted me to do some sports. That’s how I started.”

It was fitting that on Monday when Mensik served with a two-sets-to-one lead and a 4-2 advantage in the fourth set of his match against Gregoire Barrere at the US Open, Berdych himself walked by the court as he followed his charge, fellow Czech Jiri Lehecka, to his match. The former World No. 4 very briefly looked at Court 6, and no fans recognised him.

All eyes were on Mensik, now 17, who became the youngest man since Borna Coric in 2014 to win a main draw match at the US Open. The teen’s father, Michal, works in IT and played ice hockey while his mother, Katerina, works in marketing and PR, and skied.

So how did Mensik fulfill the local sign’s request for a future Czech star? It all starts with his childhood coach, Ivo Muller, whom Jakub and his parents had high praise for.

“He was the best man because he could grow the right love of tennis to the small children,” Michal said. “And he also taught the parents to be good tennis parents.”

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Tragedy struck on 6 June 2013, when Muller died after a brief battle with cancer. It hit the Mensik Family hard.

“[Jakub] was very small. He was seven. But I think this was his first experience with such a situation,” Michal said. “He was sad and it was the first chance we had to speak with him about death, these kind of situations. I think he was sad of course, but life goes on.”

By that point, Muller had already instilled a love of tennis in Mensik that remains with him today. There was no doubt by 12 that he wanted to become a professional tennis player.

“I just played tennis,” Mensik said. “I did athletics once but it was just in school, just one or two times per week. I watched just basketball because with my height, it was easy to put the ball in the net.”

While Mensik became a big Golden State Warriors fan because of Stephen Curry and liking the team’s jersey colours, blue and yellow, it was all tennis all the time.

“He always wanted to be a professional tennis player,” Michal said. “He wanted to win all the Grand Slams and to be No. 1.”

By 16, he was one of the best juniors in the world. Last year, at 16, he reached the Australian Open boys’ singles final and lost an epic final to American Bruno Kuzuhara. His performance in the match led to a relationship with Novak Djokovic.

“He sent a video of himself talking to me, and asking me if I wanted to come, that he saw the match and he saw what happened. And if I wanted to, he was looking for a sparring partner for one week in Belgrade to hit,” Mensik said. “So I was like, ‘Okay, why not?’ He is one of the best or the best in tennis. So I said, ‘Okay, let’s do that.’

“I came there and we hit a few times. I wasn’t just with him on the court, but also off the court and talking with him not just about tennis, but all the stuff off the court. So it was very fun and off the court he’s the nicest guy I ever met. When you cross the street and look at him and talk to him, you’re not sure if this guy is a tennis player. When he’s talking to you, it’s just a normal person.”

Mensik also joined Djokovic for a week in Montenego last year ahead of Wimbledon and even spoke to the Serbian briefly this week in New York. At Flushing Meadows, the #NextGenATP star is proving he is more than just a top junior, but a threat in the main draw of a major.

In his first attempt to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, he did so successfully. And in his first tour-level match against an established player in World No. 59 Barrere, he looked comfortable on court and triumphed in four sets.

It is not bad for someone who still has one year left of high school back home. His teacher even sent congratulatory messages after he beat Barrere. Mensik’s parents are keen for him to complete this level of schooling.

Michal explained that Jakub has said: “I have to focus on school and I cannot focus on tennis and it’s terrible.”

But that has certainly not impacted his performance. Entering the week of US Open qualifying last year, Mensik was World No. 882. Now he is No. 162 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

On Wednesday, Mensik will play another major debutant, Titouan Drouguet, for a place in the third round. If the 17–year-old wins, he will become the youngest man to reach the third round of the US Open since Fabrice Santoro in 1990.

But in the longterm, the boy who always rode his bike to his local courts to play a sport he loves has even bigger goals.

“Of course to be on the top of the world. I can say that I want to be first in the world and also winning the Slams and ATP Masters [1000s],” Mensik said. “That’s I think the dream for everyone who is playing tennis and I am the same. But I want to be on the Tour and playing these tournaments with the best of the world.”

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