ATP 50: The Entertainers
With his back against the wall, Arthur Rinderknech survived on Thursday at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP 250 event. The Frenchman saved one match point en route to a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7) win against third seed Diego Schwartzman in Israel.
In a tight first meeting between the pair, the 27-year-old held his nerve in the third-set tie-break. The World No. 58 saved one match point on Schwartzman’s serve at 6/7, before eventually converting his second match point to advance after two hours and 38 minutes.
Rinderknech, who enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals in Metz last week, will next play Roman Safiullin.
British qualifier Liam Broady continued his strong run, upsetting fifth seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set a meeting with second seed Marin Cilic. The 28-year-old is up 25 spots to No. 149 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings after advancing to his first tour-level quarter-final of the season.
Constant Lestienne also advanced, eliminating Finn Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 6-2. The Frenchman is into his second quarter-final in as many weeks after enjoying a run to the last eight on home soil in Metz.
#NextGenATP Dane Holger Rune showed his fighting qualities at the Sofia Open Thursday, earning a comeback win against Lorenzo Sonego to reach his sixth tour-level quarter-final of the season.
In a hard-fought clash, the 19-year-old rallied past the Italian 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes at the ATP 250 hard-court event.
“I feel very good,” Rune said in his on-court interview. “Today was a tough match… Lorenzo won a title last week, so he had a lot of confidence. I took my chances, played well and stayed in the moment, so I am proud.”
The fifth seed struck 38 winners and won 85 per cent (44/52) of his first-serve points against Sonego, who won the his third tour-level title in Metz last week. Rune will continue his quest for a second tour-level title when plays Ilya Ivashka in the last eight.
The Dane is fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan as he looks to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for a second consecutive year. Rune has enjoyed a breakthrough season, highlighted by his maiden tour-level trophy in Munich in May.
German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff also booked his spot in the last eight, dispatching French qualifier Ugo Humbert 6-3, 6-1. Struff, who is making his third appearance in Sofia, will next play Lorenzo Musetti as he seeks to reach his first tour-level semi-final of the season.
Pole Kamil Majchrzak upset eighth seed Oscar Otte 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to his third tour-level quarter-final of the year. The 26-year-old will next take on second-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta or Swiss Marc-Andrea Huesler.
Casper Ruud on Thursday qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year, joining Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in the eight-player field. The season finale will be played from 13-20 November in Turin.
“I just got the news that I qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin again this year and I’m so much looking forward to coming back to Italy,” Ruud said. “I had such a great time last year, it’s a great country for tennis.”
Ruud guaranteed his spot in the year-end championships by winning his second-round match in Seoul against Nicolas Jarry. After making his breakthrough in 2021, Ruud has elevated his game to new heights this season.
The 23-year-old has tallied 47 tour-level wins, third on the ATP Tour behind only Alcaraz (52) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (49). He is at a career-high No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the highest standing of any Norwegian in history (since 1973).
Ruud advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Miami and his maiden major championship match at Roland Garros. He also claimed ATP 250 trophies in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad. The 23-year-old then reached his second major final at the US Open.
Ruud made his Nitto ATP Finals debut last year at the Pala Alpitour. The Norwegian advanced to the semi-finals with victories against Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev before falling to 2020 champion Daniil Medvedev.
Second seed Cameron Norrie made a winning start at the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships on Thursday, cruising past Japanese wild card Kaichi Uchida 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals in Seoul.
In a strong serving display, the Briton fired eight aces and did not face a break point en route to his 63-minute victory. Norrie has now advanced to 11 tour-level quarter-finals this season, holding a 46-23 record on the year.
“It feels great. Especially to wake up early this morning as I was a bit let lagged. It was nice to get up early and get it done in straight sets,” Norrie said. “I felt that the conditions suited me well. It was pretty hot, so I like that. It was a tough match but I was able to win some close games and get a couple of breaks each set, so it was a good day for me overall.”
The 27-year-old is currently 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The four-time tour-level titlist will be aiming for a deep run at the ATP 250 hard-court event as he looks to boost his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held in Turin from 13-20 November.
Norrie will next face eighth seed Jenson Brooksby after the American downed South Korean Soonwoo Kwon 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 33 minutes.
Brooksby is seeking his maiden tour-level title this week in Seoul, having enjoyed runs to the final in Dallas and Atlanta earlier this season. The 21-year-old is up four places to No. 42 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings following his 24th tour-level win of the year.
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In other action, American lucky loser Aleksandar Kovacevic continued his dream run, eliminating #NextGenATP star Chun-Hsin Tseng 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-2.
The 24-year-old Kovacevic, who is making his tour-level debut this week, will play countryman Mackenzie McDonald in the quarter-finals. McDonald cruised past Japan’s Shintaro Mochizuki 6-3, 6-4 in 90 minutes.
British number one Cameron Norrie cruises to a 6-2 6-2 victory over Japan’s Kaichi Uchida to reach the quarter-finals of the Korea Open.
Maxime Cressy’s serve-and-volley game got the job done Wednesday on the indoor hard courts of the Tel Aviv Watergen Open, where the American delivered a strong first-round showing to defeat countryman Sebastian Korda at the ATP 250 event in Israel.
The fourth-seeded Cressy won 82 per cent (23/28) of points at the net and saved both break points he faced in his 6-4, 6-4 triumph against Korda. One break of Korda’s serve in each set was enough for Cressy to complete an 85-minute victory in his first tour-level meeting against the World No. 44 and clinch his seventh ATP Tour quarter-final berth of the season.
Cressy has enjoyed a rapid rise in 2022, reaching his career-high of No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in August, having started the year outside the Top 100. The 25-year-old, who lifted his maiden tour-level trophy on the grass in Newport in July, will meet Emil Ruusuvuori or Constant Lestienne in the quarter-finals in Israel.
Lestienne had earlier set his clash against Ruusuvuori by upsetting seventh seed Adrian Mannarino 7-6(2), 6-4. The one-hour, 55-minute first-round victory against his No. 51-ranked fellow Frenchman was the biggest of Lestienne’s career.
Also on Wednesday, Roman Safiullin secured his second tour-level quarter-final appearance with a 6-1, 6-4 second-round win against Tomas Martin Etcheverry in Tel Aviv. The No. 104-ranked Safiullin’s previous quarter-final also came on indoor hard courts, in February in Marseille, where he ultimately fell in the semi-finals. His next opponent in Israel will be third seed Diego Schwartzman or Arthur Rinderknech.
Four-time tour-level titlist Pablo Andujar earned his place in the second round when he defeated Thiago Monteiro 7-6(3), 6-1 to set a clash against top seed Novak Djokovic. Andujar trails Djokovic 0-2 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series, having last faced the Serbian at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in 2012.
Carlos Alcaraz earned a big honour on Wednesday when he was selected as part of the 2022 TIME100 Next, which recognises rising stars throughout various professions around the world.
Alcaraz was one of five athletes on the list, joining NBA player Ja Morant, soccer stars Sam Kerr and Trinity Rodman, and sprinter Erriyon Knighton.
It has been a dream season for Alcaraz, who became the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the US Open. The Spaniard has also lifted ATP Masters 1000 trophies in Miami and Madrid.
Alcaraz was the second player to qualify for this year’s Nitto ATP Finals, which will be played in Turin from 13-20 November.
Visit TIME’s website to read about the rest of the 2022 TIME 100 Next.
In his only previous Sofia Open appearance five years ago, Grigor Dimitrov thrilled his home fans by lifting the trophy for the loss of just one set. Ilya Ivashka would not allow the Bulgarian to experience that joy again this year.
The 28-year-old upset the third seed 6-3, 7-6(3) to reach the quarter-finals in Sofia. Ivashka saved all seven break points he faced to triumph after one hour and 52 minutes.
“It was a very tough match and I’m very happy that I got the victory at the end,” Ivashka said in his on-court interview. “It is very hard to play against Grigor, especially here at his home.”
The fans tried to urge their home hero into a deciding set, chanting “Grigor! Grigor! Grigor!” after nearly every point he won. But Ivashka held his nerve in the critical moments to move into the last eight.
“I think [holding my nerves] was the key of the match, because the tension was high,” Ivashka said. “Obviously all the fans were supporting him, so it was tough mentally, but I managed well.”
Photo Credit: Ivo Pinev/LAP.bg
Lorenzo Sonego sent an early statement to the rest of the field earlier in the day when he raced to his sixth consecutive straight-sets victory with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Bernabe Zapata Miralles at the indoor ATP 250 event.
Having charged to his third ATP Tour title last week without dropping a set in Metz, Sonego backed up that run with a stunning first-round serving performance against Zapata Miralles in Bulgaria. The Italian won 86 per cent (32/37) of points behind his first delivery en route to a 79-minute victory that set an intriguing second-round matchup against fifth seed Holger Rune.
“I am really happy because today I was really aggressive on court,” said Sonego, who was making his main-draw debut in Sofia. “I played so well. I did my best thing today, I am really happy for that.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) September 28, 2022
The World No. 45 Sonego has so far brought his best level to the indoor hard-court season. Despite the challenge of taking on the ever-resilient Zapata Miralles, the 27-year-old broke the Spaniard once in each set to improve his season record to 24-24.
“Zapata is a wall, a big wall,” said Sonego, who now leads the World No. 78 2-0 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series. “He served really good, [but] I started so good today, with good variation. The key I think was [my performance] on serve, and to be aggressive on return.”
Marc-Andrea Huesler and Fernando Verdasco were also straight-sets winners on Wednesday. The Swiss World No. 95 Huesler downed French qualifier Geoffrey Blancaneaux 6-4, 6-4 to set a meeting with second seed Pablo Carreno Busta, while former World No. 7 Verdasco took out sixth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6(1), 7-5. The Spanish lefty, a seven-time tour-level titlist, will face Aleksandar Vukic in the second round as he bids for his third ATP Tour quarter-final appearance of the year.
Jan-Lennard Struff’s powerful serving helped the former World No. 29 complete a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback win against Dusan Lajovic. The German won 90 per cent (43/48) of points behind his first serve against Lajovic on the way to extending his ATP Head2Head series lead against the Serbian to 3-0. Struff next faces fellow qualifier Ugo Humbert, with both players chasing their maiden tour-level quarter-final of 2022.
Katie Boulter is beaten 6-4 6-7 (7-2) 6-3 by Belinda Bencic in the second round of the Tallinn Open.