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Murray: ‘I Will Break Through’ Again

  • Posted: Oct 28, 2021

Andy Murray feels that it is only a matter of time before he breaks through again and makes a deep run at a tournament after falling to #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Erste Bank Open on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Alcaraz exacted revenge over the former World No. 1, 6-3, 6-4, after falling to him earlier this month in Indian Wells. But the Scot felt he showed more than enough in the two-hour, six-minute duel to suggest that he was well on the right path.

“I’m not going to keep losing in the second and third round of tournaments. I will get better and I will improve and I will break through in one week, or two weeks, or a few months,” Murray said. “It will happen. I obviously would like it to be happening quicker than what it is.

“But he did play extremely well and he’s a top young player and if you’re hitting single-digit unforced errors playing that way and with the power that he has it’s going to be tough… If I continue on that path and build up a little bit more consistency, be that little bit more clinical and a bit more ruthless I will start winning more and have some deep runs, but it’s tough.

“Draws have been hard, I’ve played in some tough tournaments. The draw was stacked here [in Vienna]. There were no easy matches here. It will happen sooner rather than later I think.”

The 46-time tour-level titlist opened his Vienna campaign with a victory over Nitto ATP Finals hopeful Hubert Hurkacz. It was sweet revenge after he had fallen twice already this year to the Pole.

It was his first Top 10 win since he beat Alexander Zverev in August last year at the Western & Southern Open. Other victories over the likes of Frances Tiafoe in a three-hour, 45-minute thriller in Antwerp last week have only added to Murray’s belief.

“I won two days ago against a guy who’s Top 10 in the world, made the semis at Wimbledon this year, won an ATP Masters 1000 this year,” Murray said of Hurkacz. “Alcaraz had a great run at the US Open and I had a good win against him.

“I had some good matches against some top players who’ve had great runs at these events, so I’m not really sure why I should think that I couldn’t do that again. I sort of look at those matches and think if Hurkacz can make semis at Wimbledon why is that not possible?”

Murray, a two-time champion in Vienna, has compiled a 13-11 record this season, including a quarter-final run in Metz. He also pushed third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the opening round of the US Open.

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Farewell, Melzer: 'Saying Goodbye At Home Is Special To Me'

  • Posted: Oct 28, 2021

Jurgen Melzer watched a Filip Polasek ace rush past his partner, Alexander Zverev, on Wednesday evening at the Erste Bank Open, signalling the end of the pair’s tournament. But the 40-year-old could not help but smile.

That ace marked the end of the Vienna-born lefty’s storied career. Although Polasek and John Peers defeated Melzer and Zverev 7-6(3), 7-5, it was a perfect ending for the home favourite.

“I viewed this as a bonus, to get to play one last match at home,” Melzer told ATPTour.com. “Saying goodbye at home is special to me. It’s where my career started, it’s where I had a lot of success.”

Melzer first competed in Vienna as an 18-year-old in 1999, and he won his two biggest singles titles at the event in 2009 and 2010. It was fitting that a local kid was able to finish his professional tennis journey alone in the centre of #Glaubandich Court with his peers and fans clapping to show their appreciation.

Jurgen Melzer
Photo Credit: Bildagentur Zolles
The 22-year ATP Tour veteran stayed to sign autographs and take pictures with fans old enough to remember his junior days — Melzer won the boys’ singles title at Wimbledon in 1999 — and others young enough that they were born after he reached the Top 10 in singles and doubles.

“I’ve always tried to be a good ambassador for the sport and make this sport as likeable as possible. What I liked today is the past two days, [for those] playing on this court in the city there were not a lot of spectators,” Melzer said. “But today they actually showed up and I could say goodbye and that meant a lot to me… I will remember this one for sure.”

The lefty only played five matches this year — three-set defeats at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open with different partners, an ATP Challenger Tour match alongside his brother, Gerald Melzer, and Thursday’s loss in Vienna — because he became the Sports Director for the Austrian Tennis Association in February. The 40-year-old has spent a lot of time on court with 15 and 16-year-olds, one of whom wrote a school essay about Melzer.

“When he showed it to me, I was [shocked] a little bit because I didn’t expect it at all and they had to write about a well-known person in Austria. He chose me,” Melzer said. “I’m with him on court every day, but it also shows the kind of respect that you’ve earned over the years that you actually have achieved something that a young person could write about.”

Philipp Petzschner, Jurgen Melzer
Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images
The list of Melzer’s accomplishments is long, and it includes doubles triumphs at Wimbledon in 2010 and the US Open in 2011 alongside Philipp Petzschner. The Austrian also remains the only player who has rallied from two sets down against Novak Djokovic, which he did in the 2010 Roland Garros quarter-finals.

But perhaps most notably, he spent 17 weeks in the Top 10 of both the FedEx ATP Rankings and the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings in 2011. There have been just 40 players who have achieved the feat at different times in their career, let alone during the same weeks.

“I will always remember my Djokovic match, I will always remember winning twice in Vienna, rolling over the Centre Court at Wimbledon with Philipp after winning the doubles. These are the sports memories that you cherish,” Melzer said. “But I’m going to take much more of the ATP family with me after my career.”

Over the past year, Melzer has had time to reflect on his career. More often than not, he recalled moments with friends rather than wins.

“You think of all the stories, of all the things that make you smile. I didn’t think so much about victories. It’s just the time that you’ve spent on Tour, meeting all those people, being friends with some, getting closer with some,” Melzer said. “Those are actually the things I’m going to miss the most, not winning or losing.”

Melzer’s victory against Milos Raonic in Vienna in 2018 marked the end of his singles career. But after that, he turned to doubles. Last year, the Austrian advanced to the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals with Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Even on Thursday against the in-form team of Peers and Polasek, after a year with little matchplay, Melzer competed well on court.

“This was the thing that I wanted the most. When I played my last match, that nobody thought, ‘What the heck is he still doing here?’ Or that I’m just not at the same level anymore. Of course I’ve played better, but I’ve also played worse in my career than today,” Melzer said. “I’m still going out at a good level.”

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Peers/Polasek Bring End To Melzer’s Career In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2021

Third seeds John Peers and Filip Polasek brought former World No. 8 singles player Jurgen Melzer’s career to a close at the Erste Bank Open on Wednesday. The Australian/Slovak pair scored a 7-6(3), 7-5 victory over the 40-year-old Austrian and Alexander Zverev in 93 minutes.

Peers/Polasek lost just three points on first-serve points and did not face a break point. Their win set a quarter-final clash against Austrians Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald in Vienna.

Fourth seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah eked out a narrow victory over Feliciano Lopez and Stefanos Tsitsipas for a semi-final berth. The Colombians hit six aces and converted their sole break point opportunity to defeat the Spanish/Greek duo 7-6(5), 6-7(7), 10-8 in just over two hours.

The team to most recently book its Nitto ATP Finals berth in Turin, Cabal/Farah, missed four match points in the second-set tie-break and another in the match tie-break before its passage was sealed. They await Sander Gille and Dominik Koepfer or top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic. Gille/Koepfer scored a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over recent Antwerp champions, Nicolas Mahut and Fabrice Martin.

At the St. Petersburg Open, American duo Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul combined for a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Uruguayan-Ecuadorian pair Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar. The unseeded partnership will meet Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner for a place in the semi-finals.

Mexican-Argentine pair Santiago Gonzalez and Andres Molteni also booked a quarter-final spot after they edged past Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic in 91 minutes. Gonzalez/Molteni set a showdown with fourth seeds Hugo Nys and Andrey Golubev following their 4-6, 6-2, 10-7 win.

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Rublev Cool Under Pressure, Ousts Ivashka In St. Petersburg

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2021

Andrey Rublev dealt with the pressure of a tough opponent and competing on home soil Thursday. But the top seed overcame those obstacles to reach the St. Petersburg Open quarter-finals.

The Russian star defeated Belarusian Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 29 minutes, marking his second win against Ivashka in St. Petersburg. Rublev saved all seven break points he faced to reach the quarter-finals at the event for the third time.

The top seed is the defending champion, and is trying to secure his third trophy on home soil after an opening-round loss last week in Moscow. He triumphed in St. Petersburg in 2020 and Moscow in 2019.

Ivashka is a dangerous player, whose aggressive game helped him claim his first tour-level crown in August in Winston-Salem. But Rublev was strong on serve, hitting 10 aces and winning 84 per cent of his first-serve points.

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Rublev will next play eighth seed Sebastian Korda or Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp, who reached this year’s US Open quarter-finals. 

On the same half of the draw, Russian Karen Khachanov and Croatian Marin Cilic set an intriguing second-round clash. Sixth-seeded Khachanov blasted through French lefty Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3  in one hour and 25 minutes.

The home favourite has advanced to the quarter-finals just once in St. Petersburg, and he will attempt to do so again when he plays Cilic. The former World No. 3 is competing here for the first time since 2011, when he won the title.

Cilic defeated Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 23 minutes. He carries a 1-0 ATP Head2Head edge over Khachanov into their meeting.

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Alcaraz Earns Revenge Against Murray In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2021

After beating Andy Murray on Wednesday evening in Vienna, Carlos Alcaraz put both arms in the air and nodded his head in approval of his performance. The 18-year-old had earned his revenge.

The #NextGenATP star, who lost to the former World No. 1 in Indian Wells earlier this month, defeated Murray 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the Erste Bank Open. The scoreline appears straightforward, but the action was anything but.

Alcaraz needed to summon all his skill and fighting spirit to claw past the Scot in a two-hour, six-minute battle that featured 25 break points and seven service breaks. The Spaniard will next face third seed Matteo Berrettini.

“For me it’s a great feeing to play against Andy Murray and to be able to beat him,” Alcaraz said in his post-match interview. “I played really, really well and I’m just really happy for the performance today.”

It was clear from the first game of the match that Murray would be under pressure, as his teenage opponent broke his serve immediately. Alcaraz was intent on punishing the ball and controlling rallies, especially on points played behind the wild card’s second serve.

Murray fought hard and led 4-2 in the second set, using every opportunity he had to attack short balls, move forward and beat this year’s Umag titlist to go on offense. But Alcaraz had too much firepower on the day, as evidenced by the penultimate point of the match, when he finished a physical rally with a booming crosscourt forehand winner.

Alcaraz, a pupil of another former World No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, certainly did not take Murray by surprise. When ATPTour.com asked the Scot in August about current players who could potentially reach No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Murray mentioned him.

“I think Alcaraz is really, really good,” Murray said at the time. “I think he’s got a good chance at it.” 

The 46-time tour-level titlist was able to battle past Alcaraz in three sets in Indian Wells in their first ATP Head2Head clash. But indoors in Vienna, the #NextGenATP star showed he is getting better by the day.

“Indian Wells was the first time that I met Andy Murray on court and now I knew a little bit more [about] Andy Murray, so I just knew his game, how to play,” Alcaraz said. “I was just trying to play aggressive, not let him play his game.”

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Alcaraz’s next opponent, third-seeded Berrettini, rallied past Indian Wells finalist Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3. The Italian, who became the sixth player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals on Monday, saved all three break points he faced to advance.

The 25-year-old blasted 22 aces — including two on the last two points of the match — to earn his two-hour, five-minute victory. Berrettini will try to replicate that serving performance in his first ATP Head2Head meeting with Alcaraz.

Did You Know?
Alcaraz is the second-youngest player to defeat Murray. Borna Coric, who was 18 when he beat the Scot in Dubai in 2015, was the only player to do it at a younger age.

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Sinner Sharp Against Opelka In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2021

Jannik Sinner was focussed on avoiding a letdown following his Antwerp victory last week. The Italian star does not need to be concerned after his performance on Wednesday in Vienna.

The seventh seed dispatched big-serving American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-2 in 64 minutes to reach the second round of the Erste Bank Open. The 20-year-old will next play home favourite Dennis Novak, who beat Italian Gianluca Mager on Tuesday in straight sets.

“I think I had not so many chances and I used them. I think that was the key today,” Sinner said in his post-match interview. “I served well. My service holds were always quite fast and good. I felt well on the baseline, so I knew when I went in a rally that somehow I was going to win the point. But it’s never easy playing against him. You never have rhythm.”

Every win is critical for Sinner in his pursuit of a spot in the Nitto ATP Finals. He began the week in 10th place in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, just 110 points behind ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz for the final qualifying spot (eighth-placed Nadal is out for the year due to foot injury).

Since Hurkacz lost in the first round in Vienna, Sinner has an opening to make a big move at the ATP 500 in Austria. The Italian will pass the Pole if he advances to the semi-finals.

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The five-time ATP Tour titlist dominated on serve against Opelka, losing just six service points. His American opponent has one of the biggest serves on the ATP Tour, but Sinner broke him three times.

At 2-2 in the second set, when Opelka was still battling to maintain contact, Sinner unleashed a series of forehand returns, and played stellar defence to break. He did not lose a game in the rest of the match.

“I had time to adapt to the court and I used it,” Sinner said. “I think it was a great match today.”

Did You Know?
Sinner has won nine consecutive indoor matches — including titles in Sofia and Antwerp — and not lost a set in any of them. 

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Shapovalov Battles Back In St. Petersburg Opener

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2021

Is this the year that Denis Shapovalov will break through at the St. Petersburg Open?

The Canadian, who made the quarter-finals and semi-finals in his first two appearances at the event, got off to a slow start on Wednesday. But the lefty recovered to defeat Spaniard Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 for a spot in the last eight.

“Definitely very tough to play Pablo [in my] first round of a tournament. He’s a great player and it was a tough start to the match,” Shapovalov said in his on-court interview. “I didn’t feel so great, but I just told myself to keep going.

“Obviously there was a lot of tennis to play, so [I] wanted to really turn it around in the second set and I did a really good job.”

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In the deciding set, the second seed won 72 per cent of his return points to finish well and triumph after one hour and 49 minutes.

Shapovalov will face a big-hitting righty in the last eight: seventh seed Alexander Bublik or German Jan-Lennard Struff. The Canadian is chasing his second ATP Tour title and his first since his maiden triumph in Stockholm in 2019.

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Murray & Soares Continue Turin Push In St. Petersburg

  • Posted: Oct 26, 2021

Scot Jamie Murray and Brazilian Bruno Soares continued their charge for a fourth appearance together in the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday when they beat Israeli Jonathan Erlich and Belarusian Andrei Vasilevski 6-1, 6-4 to reach the second round of the St. Petersburg Open.

The top seeds began the week in eighth place in the FedEx ATP Doubles Race To Turin, 280 points ahead of ninth-placed Simone Bolelli of Italy and Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina. Murray and Soares competed in the year-end championships as a team in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

They were sharp in Russia against their wild-card opponents, as they saved all five break points they faced to triumph in 57 minutes.

Also in St. Petersburg, Russian singles stars Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev beat countrymen Daniil Golubev and Evgenii Tiurnev 6-1, 6-1 and fourth seeds Andrey Golubev and Hugo Nys ousted Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik and Belarusian Ilya Ivashka 6-3, 6-1.

Cabal, Farah

Cabal & Farah Win In Vienna To Clinch Nitto ATP Finals Spot
Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals after they defeated Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 on Tuesday at the Erste Bank Open. Cabal and Farah will compete in the season finale for the third time in four years.

In the only other doubles match of the day, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Andreas Mies eliminated Britons Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-3.

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