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Halle Open: Roger Federer sets up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga clash with win over John Millman

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Roger Federer will meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next after beginning his grass-court season with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 win over Australia’s John Millman in Halle.

Federer, 37, lost to Millman at last year’s US Open and was given a thorough work-out by the world number 57.

Neither offered up any break points in the first set and, after Federer had swept the tie-break, the Swiss secured the only break of the second set.

Tsonga beat Federer in an epic five-set comeback at Wimbledon in 2011.

The French world number 77, who overcame compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4 7-5 in his own first-round match, also beat Federer in the pair’s two most recent matches.

In total, Federer leads their head-to-head record by 11 wins to six.

“It is always important to win your first game on grass, because otherwise the grass season can be very short,” said Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, after his win.

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  • Osaka battles past Sakkari in Birmingham
  • Andy Murray column: Meeting Royal surgeon proved pivotal
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German Alex Zverev, who hurt his knee in his win over Robin Haase on Monday, has withdrawn from the tournament’s doubles draw.

The second seed however remains in the singles and will take on American Steve Johnson on Thursday.

Defending champion Borna Coric coasted to a comfortable 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win over Spain’s Jaume Munar and will play Portugal’s Joao Sousa next.

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Federer One Step Closer To 10th Halle Title

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Federer One Step Closer To 10th Halle Title

Swiss will next face Tsonga at the ATP 500 event

Nine-time champion Roger Federer played steadily enough to start his grass-court season on Tuesday at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle.

The 37-year-old Swiss avenged his 2018 US Open fourth-round loss to John Millman to make the second round in Germany, beating the Aussie 7-6(1), 6-3.

Read More: Federer: ‘The Pressure Is High For Me Too’

Federer didn’t face a break point until he served for the match, and he saw only two on Millman’s racquet, both in the sixth game of the second set, when Millman hit a forehand off his back foot long to give Federer the break.

The top seed fell behind 0/30 in the next game but escaped danger by winning four straight points. Federer is making his 17th Halle appearance and is trying to secure his first double-digit title haul at a single event.

Federer has also won nine titles at the Swiss Indoors Basel, his hometown tournament. Rafael Nadal is the only man in the Open Era to reach double-digit titles at a single event, with 12 Roland Garros titles and 11 trophies in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona.

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Federer will next face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat countryman Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 to improve to 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Federer leads his rivalry with Tsonga 11-6, but the Frenchman has won their past two matchups – at 2016 Monte-Carlo and 2014 Canada. The two have played on grass only once, a five-set win for Tsonga in the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff picked up his first win at his home ATP 500 tournament (1-6), beating Serbian Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-4. Struff, playing at a career-high No. 35 in the ATP Rankings, improved to 22-14 this season and will next meet third-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov.

Read More: The Difference For Struff? He Has An Opinion

France’s Richard Gasquet, a three-time grass-court titlist, won 81 per cent of his service points and beat German Peter Gojowczyk 6-3, 6-4 in only 70 minutes. Gasquet will next play seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard didn’t face a break point and beat American Taylor Fritz 7-6(10), 6-0

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'I got lucky a little bit' – Osaka battles past Sakkari in Birmingham

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

World number one Naomi Osaka came through a tricky test against Greece’s Maria Sakkari to reach round two at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

Osaka, who before the tournament said she was “not really that comfortable” on grass, had looked in early control before battling to a 6-1 4-6 6-4 win.

The Japanese 21-year-old will face Yulia Putintseva next after the Kazakh beat British wildcard Harriet Dart.

“I was kind of screaming on the inside during that entire match,” Osaka said.

“I got lucky a little bit I guess. I knew she was going to be a very difficult opponent.”

US and Australian Open champion Osaka found herself 0-40 on her serve at 2-2 in the final set but, after saving six break points in a near 10-minute game, finally held.

It proved pivotal as she went on to break the Greek world number 33 in the following game before holding to love and then going on to seal victory on her first match point as the clock ticked past two hours.

Britain’s Dart was well beaten by Putintseva, who is ranked 114 places above the British world number 157, losing 6-1 6-4.

The 22-year-old Briton had a glimmer of hope when she broke early in the second set but could not match Putintseva’s consistency.

Eighth seed Julia Gorges is also through to the second round after coming from behind to beat Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 3-6 6-4 6-3.

British number one Johanna Konta, who beat Anett Kontaveit on Monday, found out her second-round opponent will be former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko after the Latvian took just 52 minutes to beat Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek 6-0 6-2.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams is in action later on Tuesday against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, although play was suspended at the Edgbaston Priory Club soon after Osaka’s win.

The weather has also disrupted Tuesday’s schedule at the men’s grass-court event at Queen’s, where no tennis had been played by 16:15 BST.

  • Andy Murray column: Meeting Royal surgeon proved pivotal
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Learn The Secret To Kubot & Melo's Success

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Learn The Secret To Kubot & Melo’s Success

Polish-Brazilian team leads the field in Halle

Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo have won 10 tour-level titles since beginning their full-time partnership in 2017. And not only have they qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in both of their seasons together, but they are currently the highest-ranked ATP Doubles Team.

The secret to their success is not a specific skill, but that they are not satisfied.

“I think the most important thing is to keep improving and to keep changing. New teams are playing, they’re playing differently. We cannot be playing the same way always because they know what we’re going to do,” Melo told ATPTour.com. “I think the key is to keep improving and changing and looking what other teams are doing for us to keep doing good results.”

This is the Polish-Brazilian duo’s third full season as a team, but they showed signs of what they are capable of even before that. In 2015, they competed together for the first time in Vienna, while Melo was still partnering Ivan Dodig. They won that tournament.

The following year, Melo and Dodig decided to end their five-year partnership, so Melo approached Kubot about playing some tournaments together late in 2016 to see how it would go. Melo and Kubot triumphed in Vienna again, making the decision to become a full-time team easy.

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But the wins did not pile up as easily early in 2017, as they lost five of their first nine matches that season, winning multiple matches at an event just once through five tournaments.

“Normally when you start a team you want to play a lot together. You put a lot of pressure on yourselves and want the results tomorrow. Sometimes it’s not like that,” Melo said. “You need to get used to how each other plays and we started not so great, but after two, three months we started playing better together, playing as a team.”

Kubot and Melo won six tour-level titles that year, including three ATP Masters 1000 trophies and a Wimbledon victory. They finished the season as the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team. But even after qualifying for the season finale at The O2 again last year, they are still looking for more ways to improve.

“We know our patterns and our opponents know our patterns, so we still look forward to improving our games every day and trying to be better,” Kubot told ATPTour.com. “Every time we sit down, we talk and we always look for ways to improve and look for something new we can add to our games.”

Melo noted that with the increasing presence of singles players competing on the doubles court, it can be tough given that there is plenty of film and statistics on them, and not always as much on their opponents. But they continue to adapt, reaching at least the semi-finals at three of this year’s first five Masters 1000 tournaments.

“I think we play different, me and Kubot. I have one way to play, Kubot has another way. So we are always changing. We don’t play the same way. We can change a lot during the matches,” Melo said. “We play very good Match Tie-breaks normally and in doubles today it’s very important to play very good Match Tie-breaks.”

Kubot and Melo hold a 41-17 record in Match Tie-breaks during their partnership, a winning rate of more than 70 per cent. After splitting sets, the Match Tie-break could go either team’s way, given it’s the first pair to win 10 points. But Melo doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t agree that it’s a coin flip. I think no-Ad it is, but not Match Tie-breaks. Those are 10 points, so if sometimes you start down 4/1, 5/2, you still have a chance to come back,” Melo said. “You have to be always mentally strong to play Match Tie-breaks and even if you are up, you need to finish and if you are down, you have a chance to come back.”

It doesn’t hurt that they enjoy the pressure of those big moments, and they are never afraid to be aggressive when it counts the most.

“I think Marcelo has, for me, maybe, the best reactions of all the players at the moment on Tour, so his reactions are very good, he’s very quick at the net. He has very good volleys,” Kubot said. “He’s a player who’s made for the big shots, so he likes when there is more pressure on the court because he likes to take the responsibility on his shoulders.”

Kubot and Melo are the top seeds at this week’s NOVENTI OPEN, where they will try to win a third consecutive title. The top seeds begin their campaign against Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop.

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Paire & Tsonga Pause For Mid-Game Football Match In Halle

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Paire & Tsonga Pause For Mid-Game Football Match In Halle

Tsonga wins to reach the second round

For a moment, you would have thought that Benoit Paire and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were playing a game of football rather than a tennis match on Stadion Court at the NOVENTI OPEN on Tuesday.

Serving at 1-1 in the second set, Paire let slip his racquet after striking a serve. But instead of watching in disappointment as Tsonga’s return bounced past him, the World No. 28 got his feet involved, continuing the rally by playing foot-tennis. Eventually, Paire went for and missed a bicycle kick, but the crowd erupted with applause anyway. 

There was still business to get to, and Tsonga won the match 6-4, 7-5 to take a 4-1 lead in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The former World No. 5 will next play nine-time champion and top seed Roger Federer or Aussie John Millman.

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Tsitsipas, Del Potro Wait On Queen's Club Rain; Start Delayed Tuesday

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Tsitsipas, Del Potro Wait On Queen’s Club Rain; Start Delayed Tuesday

Six first-round singles matches were played on Monday

Rain at The Queen’s Club, venue of the Fever-Tree Championships, is delaying the start of play on Tuesday.

The first of the day’s 10 singles and two doubles matches were scheduled to begin at 12 noon local time, but covers remain on the grass courts. At 2:30 p.m., tournament organisers revised the schedule.

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REVISED SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 18 JUNE 2019

CENTRE COURT start 3:30 pm
[7] S. Wawrinka (SUI) vs [WC] D. Evans (GBR) 
[1] S. Tsitsipas (GRE) vs K. Edmund (GBR) 
G. Dimitrov (BUL) vs [8] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 

COURT 1 start 3:30 pm
[WC] J. Clarke (GBR) vs L. Pouille (FRA) 
[3] J. del Potro (ARG) vs D. Shapovalov (CAN) 
N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs A. Mannarino (FRA) 

COURT 5 start 3:30 pm
M. Fucsovics (HUN) vs [WC] F. Lopez (ESP) 
M. Cecchinato (ITA) vs [6] M. Raonic (CAN) 

COURT 6 start 3:30 pm
J. Chardy (FRA) vs M. Kukushkin (KAZ) 
A. de Minaur (AUS) vs [Q] A. Bedene (SLO) 

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Andy Murray column: Meeting Royal surgeon was pivotal in helping me play again at Queen's

  • Posted: Jun 18, 2019

Andy Murray is set to make his competitive return on Wednesday in the doubles at Queen’s. In his regular BBC Sport column, the 32-year-old Scot talks about meeting the woman who performed his “life-changing” hip surgery and how operating on the Queen Mother and Prince Phillip didn’t necessarily mean she was right for him.

Five months ago, sitting in a news conference at the Australian Open, I thought I was seemingly on the verge of retiring from the sport that I love.

It was uncomfortable playing with my children at the soft play centre. I couldn’t sleep properly. I couldn’t do basic everyday tasks like putting on my shoes and socks. I was in pain all the time.

Now I’m getting ready to step back on to the court competitively in the doubles at Queen’s.

I didn’t expect to be in this position, I didn’t know how it would feel if I had the hip resurfacing operation.

Even if I’d never tried to play tennis again, I would have had the operation because I couldn’t walk properly.

A pivotal moment in my return has been meeting Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, the surgeon at the London Hip Unit who operated on me in January.

I knew she had operated on Prince Phillip’s hip last year, and before that the Queen Mother – but I didn’t know how that would translate to working on an athlete.

I first met Sarah in late January, shortly after I got back to London from Melbourne, and we chatted for about an hour. During this I asked her: “How do I know you’re good?”

I wasn’t doing it to be rude, but in sport you can tell how good someone is by their ranking. But how do I know a surgeon is good?

She just said to me: “Well, you don’t. You don’t know.”

I felt she was very honest with me and I admired that. She didn’t promise I would get back to playing. She told me exactly what to expect and what my expectations should be.

If she didn’t know something then she would say she didn’t know the answer rather than trying to sell me something that might not be case. That was why I had surgery with her.

I didn’t want to have someone telling me “you’ll definitely be back and winning Wimbledon in five months”, because it doesn’t work like that and it wouldn’t have been true.

I wasn’t promised that. The reason for having the operation was not to come back and play tennis. The reason was to improve my quality of life and the operation has been life-changing.

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‘I don’t believe in fate – but some odd things happened’

A few very strange things happened on the day I met Sarah for our first chat.

I went to have a scan after our meeting and the guy who operated on my back in 2013 messaged me out of the blue, asking how I was getting on with my hip.

I told him I was actually having a scan at the Lister Hospital in Chelsea – and it turned out he was in the room next door seeing patients.

So he came to see me and we chatted about Sarah. He said she had a fantastic reputation and that she was very good.

I also bumped into the guy who has read all of my scans over my whole career when I walked out of the lift.

He asked what I was doing there and I told him I’d just met Sarah. He also said only very positive things.

After speaking to Sarah for about an hour, and then hearing what these people in the medical industry said, I knew in my head I wanted her to operate on me.

I don’t necessarily believe in fate but it was really odd. It feels like the only person I didn’t bump into to ask for an opinion was Prince Phillip!

I went home and chatted it through with my wife Kim and my team. Then a few days later I had the operation.

‘It was harder to enjoy spending time with my children’

Long-term pain can be demoralising and it definitely affected my mental health, but at the time I didn’t realise it as much because it became the norm.

Days just became trickier and I wasn’t living life like I would want to. I’d finish practising and would just want to have my feet up all day because of the pain.

I was still able to play with my kids; it was just getting harder to enjoy the things we did together.

When we’d go to soft play places, it was so uncomfortable on my hands and knees crawling through tunnels. Now I’m the first one on the slides or taking part in mini gymnastics.

I’m doing all the things I used to really enjoy doing and which I wouldn’t have been doing six months ago – playing golf, taking part in ‘escape rooms’, spending more time with friends. Added to that, I’m back on the court and enjoying playing and all the physical training.

Escape rooms are definitely something worth trying if you haven’t yet. You get locked in a room with your friends and try to escape within your allotted time. It is all about the strategy and it gets competitive, which I love.

I also played golf with my brother in the club championship at Wentworth on Saturday. It’s an amazing course, but it didn’t go well – and I started with several shanked shots on the first hole. We both shot triple digits and I play off a handicap of six! It was windy though…

Before the operation I’d have never done played golf the day before a tournament because my hip would hurt, whereas now I can do things like that and be pain free.

Andy Murray was talking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Adrian Mannarino

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2019

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Adrian Mannarino

Frenchman lifts his maiden trophy in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Adrian Mannarino entered Sunday’s Libema Open final having lost his first six ATP Tour championship matches. But the lefty would not be denied, defeating Aussie Jordan Thompson 7-6(7), 6-3 to earn his first crown. The 30-year-old had previously reached two grass-court finals, both in Antalya. But he finally broke through in ‘s-Hertogenbosch against Thompson, a first-time ATP Tour finalist.

ATPTour.com caught up with Mannarino after his win…

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How does it feel to be holding your first ATP Tour trophy?
That feels pretty good. This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time now. I’ve been losing many finals before achieving this first title, so it feels pretty good.

Was this a goal that you’ve had as a junior and did you think it would take this long, at age 30, to do it?
Actually I didn’t have a real goal when I was a junior. My ambition was to be one of the Top 100 players. With time I saw that my ATP Ranking was getting better. I was not far from getting a title. Ever since I got my first final in Auckland in 2015 I really wanted a title badly. It took time, but I finally made it and it’s something that I’ll have forever.

Did you go into your seventh final with a different mindset after losing your previous six?
Not really. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been handling my stress better than the other times. I don’t think the quality of the match was the best. But there is always a first time and actually I don’t really care about the way I played. I’m just happy that I finally made it and I feel that if I have to play another final in the future it is going to be way easier after winning a title already.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/adrian-mannarino/me82/overview'>Adrian Mannarino</a> defeats <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/jordan-thompson/tc61/overview'>Jordan Thompson</a> in two hours and one minute to win the <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/tournaments/s-hertogenbosch/440/overview'>Libema Open</a> title on Sunday.

What do you think you did well during the week to put together five wins in a row for the first time?
I’ve been pretty consistent during the whole week. I’ve been playing with some really good players and I was not expecting to beat these kind of players, especially on grass. But I was feeling good on the court, I was enjoying my game and just battling all the time and I finally got through match after match. I don’t really know the reason why I finally won this week, but that’s alright.

You dropped the first set against Verdasco, Goffin and Coric. What does that require from you mentally to come back?
It was not that hard mentally. I was enjoying my game. It was a really cool match, especially against David. I like the way he’s playing. I always have a lot of fun playing against him. It was cool, I was feeling good on court after a couple months on clay courts where I was not playing my best. So I was just happy about the way I was playing and I finally got through some tough matches, but I was not thinking that much. I was just enjoying the moment.

Read More: The Maturation Of Mannarino

Now that you’ve won your first title, what are your next goals?
My goal is to try to do my best day after day, whether in practice or during my matches. I’m trying to be as professional as I can. I don’t think about goals in terms of rankings or tournaments, I’m just going on court every day and trying to do my best. So I’ll stay with that goal and see what the future will bring.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge who has helped you get to where you are today?
There are a lot of people of course, especially when I was a kid growing up playing at a little club. My parents have been doing a lot of sacrificing to get me to this level and also my family. I had a lot of coaches and physical coaches and I’d like to thank all the people who were involved in this project and finally made it possible for me to get a title and maybe more in the future.

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Read & Watch: Mahut Comes To Ballgirl's Aid At The Queen's Club

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2019

Read & Watch: Mahut Comes To Ballgirl’s Aid At The Queen’s Club

Frenchman overcomes slip and Tiafoe in London

Qualifier Nicolas Mahut defeated American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6(5) on Monday to reach the second round of the Fever-Tree Championships. But one of the most memorable moments of the match came at 5-5 in the second set.

Mahut was deep behind the baseline playing defence against the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier when he could not get to a ball in the backhand corner. However, the 37-year-old could not stop his momentum on the grass and eventually slipped and fell into a ballgirl. 

The Frenchman showed little concern about himself, immediately standing up to make sure that the ballgirl was alright. The World No. 191 went on to close out the match in the tie-break, hitting nine aces and winning 52 per cent of his second-serve return points in his one-hour, 22-minute triumph.

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