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Nadal Faces Familiar Foes In Tricky Barcelona Draw

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Nadal Faces Familiar Foes In Tricky Barcelona Draw

Top seed Rafael Nadal targets 12th Barcelona crown

On Saturday, Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat to Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. There is no rest for the weary. The Spaniard is right back to work next week at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and is set to face a tricky path from the start.

If Nadal is to lift his 12th trophy in Barcelona, he will have earned it. He finds himself in a loaded half of the draw, with a potential path to the final that includes 15th seed Lucas Pouille, 2018 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2017 runner-up Dominic Thiem.

Nadal, who opens against either Marius Copil or Leonardo Mayer on the familiar clay-courts of the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, could face Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and Thiem in the semis. He defeated the Greek in straight sets in last year’s final, with the Austrian enduring the same fate in the 2017 championship.

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Former World No. 3 and longtime rival David Ferrer could square off with Nadal for one last time, with a third-round encounter in the cards. Ferrer, who is playing in the penultimate tournament of his professional career, reached the final four times (2008-09 & 2011-12), falling to his countryman on each occasion. He opens against Mischa Zverev, with Pouille looming in the second round.

Meanwhile, Thiem should not look too far ahead in the draw, with sixth seed Karen Khachanov, #NextGenATP star Frances Tiafoe and home hope Pablo Carreno Busta all residing in his quarter. The third seed will face either Yoshihito Nishioka or Hyeon Chung in his opener. Chung is competing in his first tournament in two months in his recovery from a back injury.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Alexander Zverev leads the charge with two former champions posing a threat. Fourth seed and 2014-15 winner Kei Nishikori opens against either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka, with 2010 titlist Fernando Verdasco battling fellow Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez. They will meet for the 11th time in their 15-year FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry (tied 5-5).

Nishikori’s quarter is loaded with #NextGenATP stars, with Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime joining wild card Nicola Kuhn. At the age of 18, Auger-Aliassime is seeded at an ATP Tour event for the first time.

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GB level in Fed Cup play-off after 'cruel' defeat for Boulter

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019
Great Britain v Kazakhstan – Fed Cup World Group II play-off
Venue: Copper Box Arena, London Dates: 20-21 April
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live text commentary on BBC website

Great Britain are level at 1-1 with Kazakhstan after the opening day of their Fed Cup play-off following victory for Johanna Konta and defeat for Katie Boulter.

Boulter lost 6-3 2-6 6-6 (6-8) to Kazakh number one Yulia Putintseva despite having three match points.

Earlier, British number one Konta beat Zarina Diyas 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Britain are seeking promotion to World Group II for the first time in 26 years in the best-of-five tie in London.

The two reverse singles and a doubles match are taking place from 12:00 BST on Sunday.

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Heartbreak for Boulter after ‘cruel’ defeat

Katie Boulter’s Fed Cup debut in February was impressive and she started off in much the same way here at London’s Copper Box Arena.

The 22-year-old was the underdog against world number 38 Putintseva but she held her nerve to fight off deuce at 3-3 in the first set, before breaking in the following game.

That brought a reaction from the home crowd and Boulter used every opportunity to work them up – roaring in celebration after firing a backhand down the line during a service hold to move 5-3 up.

She was fearless in her play and full of confidence after breaking for a second time and taking the first set – silencing the Kazakh band of trumpets and trombones and taking advantage of an out-of-sorts Putintseva.

The Kazakh number one re-grouped to break twice to go 2-1 up in the second set and her pressure took its toll on Boulter, who took a lengthy medical time-out.

Putintseva marched on to claim a comfortable second set but Boulter’s resurgence returned as she won the opening four games in the decider and showed no signs of injury.

The Briton was pegged back, though, with Putintseva using all her experience and skill to force a tie-break after breaking back twice and holding off match point in the final game of the third set.

Boulter had a further two match points saved in the tie-break – at 6-4 and 6-5 on her serve – as Putintseva’s risky baseline strokes paid off.

The British number two was comforted in her chair by captain Keothavong after she impressed yet again on the Fed Cup stage but to no avail this time.

“She gave everything she had, that’s all you can ask,” Keothavong said.

“At times she was struggling but she battled and put herself in that position. Sport can be cruel.”

Boulter will have to recover quickly as she is scheduled to take on Diyas in what could be the deciding singles rubber on Sunday.

“Of course a loss like that is going to hurt her,” Keothavong said. “But she knows she has got to come out again and we’ll do everything possible to get her to her best and to be ready, we’ve got ice baths and trainers ready.”

Konta shows fight in spirited performance

Konta told BBC Sport she hoped to “feed off the home crowd’s energy” before this tie – and that is exactly what she did as she got Britain off to a winning start.

But Kazakh world number 107 Diyas was bolstered by constant drumming, trumpet-playing and chants from the travelling fans as she started brightly.

An antagonistic tune was played when Konta’s volley flew over the baseline as she fell 2-0 down in the opening set and the Briton looked distracted, glancing over at the band seconds before being broken again at 4-1 down.

Konta then smashed her first ace of the match at 5-1 down and went on to claim a comfortable service hold that seemed to spur her and the home crowd on.

She won the next three games and, despite losing the first set, raced to a commanding 5-0 lead in the second.

Diyas, who had lost just one of her 14 previous singles matches in the Fed Cup, responded with resilience of her own – clawing it back to 5-3 before holding off five set points.

But a key moment came when Konta saved two break points in her opening service game of the third set, skipping off at the changeover with a fist-pump towards the crowd.

The Briton could see the finishing line and quickly raced into a 4-1 lead, before Diyas called for a medical timeout for a shoulder issue.

That small break in play did little to quieten the home crowd and Konta responded to the roars of support to break back immediately after dropping serve at 4-2.

It took Konta two hours and 38 minutes to complete the comeback but Sunday’s opponent Putintseva will not have fared any better from her gruelling match with Boulter.

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Nadal: I Played One Of My Worst Matches In 14 Years

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Nadal: I Played One Of My Worst Matches In 14 Years

Rafael Nadal reacts to his semi-final defeat to Fabio Fognini in Monte-Carlo

Rafael Nadal is the first to admit that very little went according to plan on Saturday. The second seed and 11-time champion suffered just the fifth defeat of his career at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, succumbing to Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.

It was one of the upsets of the year thus far on the ATP Tour, as Fognini beat Nadal at his own clay-court game and in his own playground, cranking up the intensity and dictating on his terms. Over the years, the Spaniard has secured some of his greatest achievements at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, but on this day he admits he was not at his best.

“The vision was clear, but I played a very bad match against a good player, so in that situation, you have to lose,” Nadal told the assembled media in Monte-Carlo. “That’s what I did this afternoon. It was a tough day and he was a difficult opponent.

“It was this kind of day that everything went wrong. I probably played one of the worst matches on clay in 14 years. And today I deserved to lose because I played against a player that was better than me.”

You May Also Like: Fognini Shocks Nadal To Reach Monte-Carlo Final

Nadal entered Saturday’s encounter with an 11-3 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. He had notched six straight victories since suffering a shock defeat at the 2015 US Open, but as the wind whipped across Court Rainier III, tricky conditions compounded the reigning champion’s struggles.

The 11-time titlist captured his 70th match win at his most successful ATP Masters 1000 event on Thursday, and would add No. 71 a day later. But No. 72 will have to wait until next year. Nadal says that while he always expects the best from himself, there are some days that it isn’t good enough.

“I always expect the best, but you have to be ready to accept the negative things. And that’s it. It’s just an opportunity lost in a very important event for me. I’m sad for that, of course. But it’s true that even if that was a good chance for me to start the clay court season in a perfect way, it didn’t happen.

“We can talk about technical or tactical things, but it is the kind of day that the feeling is not there at all. When this happens, it is difficult to find an explanation for the rest.”

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It was just over a month ago that Nadal withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open due to a right knee injury, ahead of a semi-final clash with Roger Federer. He would also pull out of the Miami Open presented by Itau the following week. But, back on his favourite surface and in his familiar Monte-Carlo confines, he refused to drop a set en route to the semis.

While Nadal admits it is difficult to accept his latest performance, he believes that his game is still a work in progress in his return to action. Injuries take their toll, both physically and mentally, and there is never a precise road to recovery.

“I am coming from low moments in terms of injuries, and in terms of the mental side it has not been easy to accept all the things that have been going on,” Nadal continued. “The problem is that sometimes we are used to being very, very solid all the time, and even coming back from injuries, winning and winning and winning, and things are not that easy.

“It is more difficult to hold the same level every single day when you don’t have confidence in tournaments in a row or matches in a row. And that’s what I needed. Even if I have been very competitive all the tournaments that I have been playing, all these stops create some instability… That’s why I have been able to win all the things that I won, especially on clay. But it is always more difficult when all these things are going on.”

Nadal will next compete at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in the coming week. Seeking an unprecedented 12th title, he opens against either Marius Copil or Leonardo Mayer. A potential 2018 championship rematch against Stefanos Tsitsipas looms large in the quarter-finals.

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Fognini Battles Lajovic In Monte-Carlo Final Of Firsts; View Preview

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Fognini Battles Lajovic In Monte-Carlo Final Of Firsts; View Preview

Both players seek first ATP Masters 1000 title

Fabio Fognini and Dusan Lajovic wrap up a wild week on Sunday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters as both men battle for their first ATP Masters 1000 title. This is the first time that Monte-Carlo has featured two first-time Masters 1000 finalists since the Masters 1000 series began in 1990.

Fognini, seeded 13th, is competing in his first Masters 1000 singles final. He sent shockwaves through the tennis world with his semi-final upset of 11-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal. Fognini won nine of the last 11 games and fired winners at will to hand the Spaniard one of the most one-sided losses of his career on clay. Read More

The Italian’s current level is even more surprising given his form throughout the season. Fognini had a 4-8 record at the start of the week and arrived in Monte-Carlo having won just one of his past eight matches. He was down a set and 1-4 in his first-round match against Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev, but found a way to prevail and has continued to raise his level with each match.

“If you told me at the beginning of the week, I will see you on Sunday, I would [have] laughed in your face,” said Fognini. “I was 6-4, 4-1 down and break point for 5-1, and I [hit an] ace on the line. But that’s sport. So I was lucky. Now I’m in the final. And of course I go for the title tomorrow.”

Although Fognini has at times lost his concentration this tournament, he’s been able to regroup for incredible comeback wins. In addition to his victory over Rublev, he rallied from 1-6, 0-2 to defeat ninth seed Borna Coric of Croatia in the quarter-finals.

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Lajovic looks to become the first man to win his first ATP Tour title at a Masters 1000 title event since Albert Portas (Hamburg 2001). The World No. 48 in the ATP Rankings hasn’t dropped drop a set this week and is the lowest-ranked Monte-Carlo finalist since Hicham Arazi in 2001. He had never reached an ATP Tour final before this week, but has been unfazed in handling the new occasions he’s found himself in.

You May Also Like: Five Things To Know About Dusan Lajovic

Not even a blister on Lajovic’s toe has been able to stop his flawless all-court play. Although he acknowledged feeling discomfort with it, the Serbian is adamant that he won’t allow it to affect him in Sunday’s final.

“It’s pain every day. It takes a while to get ready to go on court,” said Lajovic. “I’m going to cut that toe off if it means I can play tomorrow.”

The doubles final features Dutch pair Wesley Koolhof and Robin Haase taking on seventh seeds Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor of Croatia. Mektic has won two Masters 1000 titles in the past 12 months (2018 Mutua Madrid Open w/Peya, 2019 BNP Paribas Open w/Zeballos). Skugor, Koolhof and Haase all seek their first title at this level.

If Fognini wins the title, he will:

+ Become the first Italian to win a Masters 1000 title, since the series debuted in 1990. He is already the first finalist from his country.;

+ Rise to a career-high in the ATP Rankings at No. 12

+ Become the first player to beat Rafael Nadal en route to a clay-court title since Pablo Cuevas in Rio de Janeiro in 2016

If Lajovic wins the title, he will:

+ Become the first unseeded player to win in Monte-Carlo since Thomas Muster in 1992

+ Become the first player to win his maiden ATP Tour title at a Masters 1000 event since Albert Portas in Hamburg in 2001

+ Crack the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for the first time, rising to a career-high No. 19

+ Will join Novak Djokovic as the only Serbians to win a Masters 1000 singles title


COURT RAINIER III start 11:30 am
Robin Haase (NED) / Wesley Koolhof (NED) vs [7] Nikola Mektic (CRO) / Franko Skugor (CRO) 

Not Before 2:30 pm
Dusan Lajovic (SRB) vs [13] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 

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Fognini ends Nadal's hopes of 12th Monte Carlo title

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Defending champion Rafael Nadal suffered a shock 6-4 6-2 defeat by Italian Fabio Fognini in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters.

The 32-year-old Spaniard, seeking his 12th Monte Carlo title, had won his past 18 matches at the event and lost only four of 76 in his career.

World number 18 Fognini, 31, will face Serb Dusan Lajovic in Sunday’s final.

The world number 48 reached his first ATP final with a 7-5 6-1 win over Novak Djokovic’s conqueror Daniil Medvedev.

Lajovic, 28, came from 5-1 down to win 10 successive games against the 10th seed and become the lowest ranked Monte Carlo finalist since 2001.

Nadal had won his past 25 sets in Monte Carlo, but Fognini, who was a set and 4-1 down to Andrey Rublev in the first round, won in one hour 36 minutes to reach a Masters 1000 final for the first time.

He became only the fourth player to win three or more matches against Nadal on clay, and the first Italian to reach the Monte Carlo final since Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.

Britain’s Jamie Murray and Brazilian partner Bruno Soares lost 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to Dutchmen Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof in the doubles semi-finals.

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ATP Firsts: Fabio Fognini

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

ATP Firsts: Fabio Fognini

The six-time ATP World Tour titlist shares how he honoured his childhood pet with a tattoo

Italian Fabio Fognini pulled off one of the upsets of the 2019 ATP Tour season on Saturday, defeating 11-time Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final.

Last year, Fognini sat down with to talk about his “ATP Firsts.” 

First pinch-me moment on the ATP World Tour
[In 2006], I was playing qualies at Buenos Aires, and I made it through the main draw and I was playing [Carlos] Moya and I lost 6-4 in the third, and then he won the tournament.

First thing I bought with prize money
I live in Italy, so I bought a house first of all, because I think it’s the most important thing in your life, and after that a car, nothing else… It’s a nice apartment, it’s 125, 130 metres squared.

More ATP Firsts: Donaldson | Schwartzman | M. Zverev

How fast have you gone in your car?
Well, I can’t tell you right now because…

Only up to the speed limit?
Of course.

First autograph/photo I got
When I was young, because I was living close to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters… with the school, we went there to watch the tournament. I had a picture with [Goran] Ivanisevic.

You May Also Like: Six Who Could Challenge Rafa At Roland Garros

First pet
I had one when I was really young, when I was 4-15. I had one in Italy and when he died, I was really, really sad. I have a tattoo of him also. When he died, I made one. Good memory. Ralph…. [The tattoo is] on my hip… ‘Never Without You’ or something.

First time I flew first class
I think when I was Top 100. That was my goal. I had never flown business class because I had to do something before flying business class. So I think when I was Top 100, and it was the end of the year, I was No. 95, No. 94 and the next flight I flew to Australia main draw, I flew business… It was nice. Of course it’s a long trip, so it’s a lot of hours inside the plane. So it was nice.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on 31 May 2018.

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Fognini Shocks Nadal To Reach Monte-Carlo Final

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Fognini Shocks Nadal To Reach Monte-Carlo Final

Italian into his first ATP Masters 1000 final

Fabio Fognini produced the performance of his career on Saturday to stun 11-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-2 at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, advancing to his first ATP Masters 1000 final.

Fognini claimed 11 of 14 games from 1-3 down in the first set to stun the 33-time Masters 1000 champion after one hour and 36 minutes. Fognini’s fourth victory in 15 FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters against the 80-time tour-level titlist ends 18-match and 25-set winning streaks for Nadal in the Principality.

“I was telling him yesterday that I [knew I had] the game to play against him,” said Fognini. “Sometimes I won a few matches. [I won] one crazy one at the US Open and two times on clay. So I knew that I had nothing to lose, because, of course, especially when you go with him on clay, it’s always really tough.”

This is just the second time the World No. 18 has claimed victory against Top 2 opposition, adding to his 2017 triumph over then-World No. 1 Andy Murray at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Fognini is also just the fourth man to claim three or more victories against Nadal on clay, following in the footsteps of Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Gaston Gaudio. The Italian’s previous two clay-court victories against Nadal came at the Rio Open presented by Claro and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in 2015.

“I probably played one of the worst matches on clay in 14 years,” Nadal said. “When that happens, you have to lose. And today I deserved to lose because I played against a player that was better than me today.”

Fognini entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak on clay and looked set to fall to a sixth straight defeat on the surface in his opening match. But after Andrey Rublev led the Italian 6-4, 4-1, Fognini found his best tennis and he has not looked back. Fognini defeated World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, ninth seed Borna Coric and Nadal to reach the championship match at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

“If you told me at the beginning of the week, I will see you on Sunday, I would [have] laughed in your face,” said Fognini. “I was 6-4, 4-1 down and break point for 5-1, and I [hit an] ace on the line. But that’s incredible sport. So I was lucky. Now I’m in the final. And of course I go for the title tomorrow.”

Fognini will meet first-time tour-level finalist Dusan Lajovic for the trophy. Lajovic, who is yet to drop a set in the Principality this week (10-0), recovered from 1-5 down in the first set to beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1. Fognini and Lajovic have never met at tour-level.

“It’s a surprise final, because of course both of us [were] not favorites [in the matches] today,” said Fognini. “He played really good and really solid during the whole week, because I saw him play against Dominic. I saw him playing the first match and he beat Goffin. And even if Medvedev was really tight, he was 1-5 down in the first set, and he was really good.

“I think it’s going to be really tough. He has nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. We start 50/50. Even if the ranking [says] I’m higher than him, I know that I have to run a lot tomorrow.”

Fognini joins Novak Djokovic as the only player to defeat Nadal at the Monte-Carlo Country Club after the quarter-finals. Djokovic snapped Nadal’s 46-match win streak in the Principality to claim the 2013 title and also defeated the Spaniard in the last four in 2015.

The eight-time tour-level titlist is just the fourth man to defeat Nadal at the third Masters 1000 event of the year. The 31-year-old adds his name next to Novak Djokovic (2013, ’15), David Ferrer (2014) and Guillermo Coria (2003) on the exclusive list. 

In the opening game, Fognini found success returning deep into Nadal’s forehand. The Italian took advantage of short replies from the Spaniard to gain court position, firing winners to earn an early break. But Nadal quickly found his rhythm on his forehand, opening up the court with angles to move Fognini across the baseline and extract errors for a 3-1 lead.

From there, Fognini bounced back in emphatic fashion to take the opening set. The Italian continued his attack on Nadal’s forehand, driving backhands cross-court to break serve for a 5-4 lead. In the next game, Fognini maintained his attacking mentality, charging the net behind his serve to take a one-set lead.

Buoyed by an electric atmosphere in the crowd, Fognini charged towards the finish line in set two. The 31-year-old took time away from Nadal at every opportunity, striking any available short balls to push Nadal out of position and into errors.

Nadal managed to save three consecutive match points at 5-0, 40/0, before breaking for a third time to extend the match. But Fognini ended his comeback, cracking a forehand up the line from the tramline to hand Nadal his fifth loss at the Monte-Carlo Country Club (71-5).

Nadal was bidding to reach his 13th final in Monte-Carlo and match Roger Federer’s record for most final appearances at Masters 1000 level (50). The Manacor native owns a 33-16 record in his 49 championship matches at Masters 1000 level, which includes an 11-1 record at this event.

“It was a tough day and [Fabio] was a difficult opponent,” said Nadal. “I am coming from low moments in terms of injuries, and in terms of the mental side it has not been easy to accept all the things that have been going on… It was this kind of day that everything was wrong.”

Did You Know?
Since the ATP Masters 1000 series began in 1990, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters championship match has never featured two first-time finalists.


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Five Things To Know About Dusan Lajovic

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Five Things To Know About Dusan Lajovic

Learn more about the surprise Monte-Carlo finalist

Dusan Lajovic pulled off a stunner on Saturday to reach the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final, winning 12 of the final 13 games from 1-5 down to defeat Russian Daniil Medvedev. Not only is this his first ATP Masters 1000 final, but it’s his first ATP Tour championship match. Lajovic’s only previous quarter-final at this level came last year in Madrid, where he defeated Juan Martin del Potro.

“If he’s able to play every tournament as he has been playing this one, I’m sure he’s going to become Top 20 after the clay court season,” Medvedev said of Lajovic. takes a closer look at the 28-year-old Serbian…

1. Playing Tennis Was A Coincidence
In a way, there was a bit of luck involved with Lajovic becoming a tennis player. Tennis was the only sport available for his age group when the Serbian began playing at seven.

If he did not become a tennis player, the 28-year-old would have tried competing in football. Lajovic is an avid FC Barcelona fan.

2. The Serbian Made A Key Change
Two-and-a-half years ago, Lajovic hired Jose Perlas as his coach. Perlas has worked with the likes of Carlos Moya, Albert Costa, Guillermo Coria, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Fabio Fognini and Lajovic’s countryman, Janko Tipsarevic.

Lajovic says that Perlas is one of the best coaches on the ATP Tour, and he feels that decision was a boon for his career.

“This was the key change to finally work on the right things in my tennis and to finally believe that I can do this,” Lajovic told ATP Tennis Radio. “Obviously if he believes that I can do it I have to believe it myself and I started believing, so that’s the biggest change I would say in my game.”

Listen To ATP Tennis Radio’s Recent Interview With Lajovic:

3. He Owns A Coffee Shop
Lajovic owns a coffee shop in Belgrade called “Laboratorije Kafe”. While he does not have his own coffee line like Indian doubles star Rohan Bopanna, Lajovic enjoys the cafe.

“It’s in the building where I live, so it’s really handy. I wake up, I go for a coffee,” Lajovic said. “We have all these chemical glasses for the smoothies. It’s a little bit like a nerdy cafe. But I enjoy spending my time there and it’s more of a hobby than any business idea. It’s great to have something besides tennis and I’m interested in a lot of things, so this is one of them.”

4. Lajovic Underwent Hernia Surgery 16 Months Ago
Lajovic underwent a hernia surgery on 1 November 2017, and he would lose six of his first seven tour-level matches in 2018. Dating back to the end of 2017, he lost 10 of 11 matches. And while that lull saw him drop from the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since September 2015, he has been on the rise ever since.

The Belgrade native’s best ATP Ranking before the surgery was 57th in October 2014. But he is currently 48th in the world and he is projected to crack the Top 25 on Monday, which will be his career-best.

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5. He Has Been Battling A Blister This Week
You wouldn’t be able to tell by his form in the Principality, but Lajovic has struggled with a blister throughout the tournament. Nevertheless, he has not lost a set en route to the final.

“It’s pain every day. It takes a while to get ready to go on the court,” Lajovic said. “I’m going to cut that toe off if it means I can play tomorrow.”

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Lajovic Beats Medvedev, Reaches Maiden Masters 1000 Final

  • Posted: Apr 20, 2019

Lajovic Beats Medvedev, Reaches Maiden Masters 1000 Final

Serbian wins 12 of the final 13 games

Dusan Lajovic defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 on Saturday in a battle of first-time ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalists, winning 12 of the final 13 games to reach the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final.

The World No. 48 is the lowest-ranked Monte-Carlo finalist since No. 53 Hicham Arazi in 2001, advancing after one hour and 35 minutes. He converted six of 12 break points en route to victory. Lajovic is only the second player to reach his first tour-level final at an ATP Masters 1000 event since 2013. Lajovic’s countryman, Filip Krajinovic, achieved the feat at the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters final (l. to Sock).

Lajovic is yet to drop a set in the Principality this week. The Serbian has defeated Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Medvedev en route to the championship match.

Lajovic had never won four consecutive tour-level matches before arriving at the Monte-Carlo Country Club this week. But with his fifth straight win, the 28-year-old is one win away from his first ATP Tour title.

Standing between Lajovic and the trophy will be 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or two-time Monte-Carlo semi-finalist Fabio Fognini. Lajovic trails Nadal 0-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has never met Fognini at tour-level.

It was a windy day on Court Rainier III, with Medvedev playing consistently from the baseline and taking advantage of early Lajovic errors to storm to a 5-1 lead. When presented with an opportunity, the Russian transitioned to net well, appearing in good position to reach his maiden Masters 1000 final.

But his serving, typically a strength, became his undoing. Medvedev won just 42 per cent of his first serve points. By comparison, he earned 70 per cent of his first-serve points in his quarter-final win against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

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Later in the first set and increasingly as the match wore on, Lajovic found his range, hitting with depth on his returns to earn opportunities to attack with his forehand. After Lajovic levelled the first set at 5-5, Medvedev had only managed to land 39 per cent of his first serves. Varying the pace on his backhand, the Serbian claimed his third consecutive break to serve for the set at 6-5 and converted his third set point with a deep cross-court forehand.

Lajovic rode the momentum into the second set, charging into a 4-0 lead with great court coverage and anticipation to claim his 10th straight game. The unseeded Serbian continued to find success on his forehand and, shortly after Medvedev held serve to end the run of 10 games against him, Lajovic claimed victory with a deep backhand slice as the 10th seed fired a backhand beyond the baseline.

Medvedev was bidding to reach his first Masters 1000 final following back-to-back wins against Top 10 opposition. The 23-year-old defeated sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to reach the last four, extending his tour-leading win total in 2019 to 21 (21-7).

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Meet The #NextGenATP On The Rise In Chinese Taipei

  • Posted: Apr 19, 2019

Meet The #NextGenATP On The Rise In Chinese Taipei

Chinese Taipei is surging in the Asian tennis landscape, with 17-year-old Chun-hsin ‘Jason’ Tseng and 20-year-old Tung-lin ‘Tony’ Wu kicking off their professional journeys and No. 1 Jason Jung continuing to make strides

Tennis in Asia is in the midst of a golden age. With World No. 6 Kei Nishikori leading the charge for Japan, 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung flying the flag for South Korea, freshly-minted Top 100 star Prajnesh Gunneswaran enjoying a breakthrough campaign for India, and China steadily establishing itself as an emerging force, the continent is enjoying great success in recent years.

While it might not have the championship pedigree of its neighbors, Chinese Taipei is also making great strides on the professional circuit. Located off the east coast of China’s mainland, the island is finding its footing on the ATP Challenger Tour, with a pair of veterans and a pair of emerging stars flying the flag.

For nearly 20 years, Yen-hsun Lu has been the driving force. The highest-ranked player to hail from Chinese Taipei, he ascended to No. 33 in the ATP Rankings in 2010 after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Also the all-time Challenger titles leader (29) and a member of the ATP Player Council, Lu has long been the tennis inspiration in his home island of just 23 million people.

But, as the 35-year-old’s career nears its conclusion, a new contingent has assumed the mantle. Led by World No. 134 Jason Jung, a three-time ATP Challenger Tour champion and former standout at the University of Michigan, tennis in Chinese Taipei is entering its most successful era. Jung is joined by 17-year-old Chun-hsin Tseng and 20-year-old Tung-lin Wu as three of four players in the Top 500 of the ATP Rankings.

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At the age of 29, Jung recently reached his first ATP Tour quarter-final on the grass of Newport in 2018 and followed that with another quarter-final showing two months ago in New York. He is proud of how far tennis has come in Chinese Taipei.

“Rendy has always been so solid. Reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and he has the most Challenger titles. And we also had a guy named Jimmy Wang who was a Top 100 player,” said Jung. “We’ve always been pretty good, but I think the transition has been tougher for us from juniors to pros. Our guy who made the final in Santiago (Wu) doesn’t normally play on clay, so that was a big result. For these guys it’s good, because once one does well the others will start to believe that they can too, and it builds from there.

“I changed nationalities in 2015 and the federation has helped me quite a bit. I’m the No. 1 guy now. I want to set a good example and pass on my good traits and work ethic to the younger guys. A lot of them haven’t had the experiences I’ve had. It’s a pretty small country. It helps to have us doing well so it inspires the younger guys.”

Jung after winning the title in San Francisco in 2018

Nicknamed Jason and Tony, respectively, 17-year-old Tseng and 20-year-old Wu are hoping to take Chinese Taipei to even greater heights in the tennis landscape. Tseng is just beginning his pro journey, following a highly successful junior career that included titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018. And last month he would earn his biggest professional victory to date, advancing to the second round at the Phoenix Challenger with an upset of Jung from a set down.

“I’ve always really respected Jason and he’s now our No. 1 player. We’ve practised many times before and know each other very well,” said Tseng. “And I’m also very good friends with Tony. He texted me right after I won that match in Phoenix. We communicate about tennis all the time and talk about how we’re doing. Seeing him do well motivates me. It gives me more confidence. Also many Asian players are doing well, reaching the Top 100 and Top 50. Yoshihito Nishioka too.”

Tseng carries a unique background to the tour. He admits that without his family, none of this would be possible. While his father Yu Te Tseng travels with him throughout the year, his mother Chung Han Tsai remains in Taipei City to run the family’s food stand at the Lehua night market. There, she sells tanghulu, a treat made of glazed fruit and tomatoes on a stick, coated in a hardened sugar syrup.

“I want to support my family, but for me, it’s no pressure. I want to be like the other great Asian players. I focus on what I do in practise and keep improving every day. In the future, I have to play at a higher level. My opponents in Challengers are always very fit, so I need to get stronger physically and mentally. It’s very important. In the end, everyone has a good technical game and can hit a good ball, but you have to play well in the important points.”


Wu, meanwhile, is already finding his footing on the ATP Challenger Tour. In March, the 20-year-old burst onto the scene with a stunning run to the final in Santiago, Chile. Entering the week, he had never won consecutive matches in his fledgling Challenger career, but that would all change on the Chilean clay. The young man they call Tony would topple clay-court stalwarts Facundo Bagnis, Thiago Monteiro and Pablo Andujar, before succumbing to Hugo Dellien in the final. Five wins in six days saw him vault to the Top 20 of the ATP Race To Milan and just outside the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings.

“I was actually very surprised by my performance there,” said Wu. “There were three Challengers during that period in China, but my ranking was not good enough to get in. That’s why I went to Santiago and tried to get some [ATP Rankings] points. Even though I loss the final, that was still an exciting week for me.

“I believe tennis in Chinese Taipei is getting better and better. I do hope to become a role model for the younger generation. This is the reason I started my own blog and shared lots of thoughts of being a professional tennis player. I hope my experiences can help others.

“I am very happy that Jung and Tseng are also doing so well. I get along with them and seeing them making so much progress actually pushes me to get better. I think this good atmosphere could be an extra boost for tennis in Chinese Taipei.”

Perhaps part of the reason for the recent tennis renaissance in Chinese Taipei is the success of their two biggest tournaments. The ATP Challenger Tour descends on the island twice a year – in the capital of Taipei City in April and the metropolis of Kaohsiung in September. Last week, Dennis Novak lifted the trophy in Taipei’s sixth edition, while Gael Monfils thrilled the crowd with a title run in Kaohsiung’s seventh edition in 2018.

In fact, with multiple tournaments at the highest Challenger levels (110 & 125), Chinese Taipei joins China, France, Italy, Mexico, the UK and USA as the only countries and territories with that distinction. Already boasting a pair of world-class events and with a handful of players on the rise, Chinese Taipei is fast becoming an integral part of the Asian tennis scene.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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