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Wawrinka Ends Final Drought In Rotterdam

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Wawrinka Ends Final Drought In Rotterdam

Swiss to face Monfils for the title

More than 20 months after reaching his 28th tour-level final at Roland Garros in 2017, Stan Wawrinka defeated Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament to move into his 29th championship match on Saturday.

The 33-year-old, who required two left knee surgeries in August 2017, landed 35 winners, including eight aces, to triumph after two hours and 13 minutes. Wawrinka will be aiming to capture his second title in Rotterdam after beating Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy in 2015.

The three-time Grand Slam champion will meet Gael Monfils in Sunday’s final. Wawrinka leads Monfils 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the pair have met just once in the past eight years, at 2017 Roland Garros, with the Swiss triumphing in straight sets.  

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Wawrinka raced into a 2-0 lead at the Ahoy Rotterdam, claiming the opening break of the match with a crafty short return and a well-struck forehand passing shot down the line. The Swiss soon doubled his advantage, dominating rallies with his forehand before moving up the court to rush his opponent into errors. Despite surrendering one break of serve, Wawrinka broke for a third time with his ninth winner, an angled crosscourt backhand, to take the opening set after 37 minutes.

Nishikori responded emphatically in the second set, moving into a 4-0 lead of his own after finding success attacking Wawrinka’s backhand in crucial moments. Wawrinka held firm, recovering one of the two breaks after finding further success bringing Nishikori to the net off his return. But the Japanese No. 1 soon levelled the match, holding serve to love at 5-4 with a driven cross-court backhand winner.

In a tense third set, both men held serve with relative ease until Nishikori served to stay in the match at 4-5. After ripping a forehand winner to complete an impressive service hold in the previous game, Wawrinka continued to dictate points with his forehand. From 30/30, the Swiss fired his 34th and 35th winners, both on his forehand side, to book his place in the championship match.

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Nishikori was bidding to reach his second ATP Tour final of the season, following his title run at the Brisbane International (d. Medvedev) last month. The Japanese No. 1 overcame Medvedev in three sets to snap a nine-match losing streak in tour-level championship matches.

Did You Know?
This was only the third tour-level semi-final Wawrinka has contested since reaching the 2017 Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). The Swiss reached two semi-finals in 2018, falling to Mirza Basic in Sofia and Martin Klizan in St. Petersburg.

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Qatar Open: Elise Mertens beats Simona Halep to win her biggest tour title

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Elise Mertens has claimed the biggest title of her career by beating top seed Simona Halep to win the Qatar Open.

Mertens, 23, recovered from a set and a break down – losing 18 points in a row at one stage in the second set – to beat the world number three 3-6 6-4 6-3.

World number 21 Mertens also overcame a lengthy medical time-out for a back issue in the first set.

“Simona is a great player and it’s nice to get the trophy,” the Belgian said.

Halep, 27, who last won the Qatar title in 2014, said: “Honestly, I wanted to lift this beautiful trophy but Elise deserved it very much.”

Mertens’ triumph over the Romanian was her third win over a top 10 player in Doha.

She had already beaten Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens, a year after she was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

Halep outclassed her opponent in the opening set, but Mertens powered back into the match to force a decider.

The players traded breaks in the third set, but Mertens broke in the fifth game of the final set to make it 3-2 – the 12th break of serve in 24 games in the match.

Halep tried to rally, but at at 5-3 and appearing to be hampered by an injury, she lost her serve, handing Mertens a famous victory.

  • Qatar Open: Simona Halep beats Elina Svitolina to reach final

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Monfils Ends Medvedev Run To Reach Second Rotterdam Final

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Monfils Ends Medvedev Run To Reach Second Rotterdam Final

Frenchman will meet Nishikori or Wawrinka in Sunday’s final

Seven days after falling to Daniil Medvedev in the Sofia Open semi-finals, Gael Monfils defeated the Russian 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his second ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final on Saturday.

The 2016 runner-up (l. to Klizan) fired 29 winners to record his 15th win in 22 matches at the opening ATP 500 event of the season after two hours and eight minutes. Monfils improves to 8-2 this season and will be aiming to capture his first ATP Tour trophy since lifting the Qatar ExxonMobil Open title (d. Rublev) in January 2018.

Monfils will meet top seed Kei Nishikori or Stan Wawrinka for the title on Sunday. The 32-year-old trails Nishikori 1-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has triumphed in two of five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Wawrinka.

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In a series of marathon rallies, Medvedev and Monfils opened the court and mixed the pace well to entertain the crowd in the opening stages. At 2-2, Medvedev capitalised on back-to-back errors from Monfils to claim the first break and, despite surrendering his advantage, the Russian clinched the first set with back-to-back games from 4-4. With comfort on his backhand side, Medvedev proved the more consistent player in extended rallies to extract crucial errors from his opponent.

Monfils began to increase his aggression in the second set, hitting through his forehand and moving up the court to gain a 2-0 lead. The Frenchman may have gifted Medvedev a route back into the set with consecutive double faults at 3-1 (30/30), but Monfils hit through the court on his backhand to regain his break advantage and soon levelled the match with a powerful serve out wide.

After trading breaks early in the deciding set, Monfils earned two break points at 4-4 with an imaginative drop shot, before clinching the break with an aggressive approach to Medvedev’s forehand. Once again, Monfils moved to the net to earn two match points and then booked his place in the final after dragging Medvedev off the court with an angled backhand approach.

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Medvedev was bidding to reach his seventh ATP Tour final (4-2) after lifting his fourth tour-level trophy at the Sofia Open last week (d. Fucsovics). The 23-year-old Russian leads the ATP Tour with 14 tour-level victories (14-3) this season.

Did You Know?
Monfils ended a streak of 15 consecutive sets won by Medvedev to take the match to a deciding set. The last man to win a set against Medvedev prior to Monfils was Robin Haase, who led the Russian by a set in the Sofia Open Round of 16 last week.


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Thiem Stays Unbeaten In Buenos Aires

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Thiem Stays Unbeaten In Buenos Aires

Cecchinato, Pella advance into final four

Dominic Thiem was made to work by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on Friday at the Argentina Open, but remained unbeaten (11-0) in Buenos Aires after a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to reach the semi-finals.

He’ll play fourth seed Diego Schwartzman, who reached his first Buenos Aires semi-final with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain. The Argentine hasn’t lost a set against Ramos-Vinolas in their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Although he trails Thiem 1-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, Schwartzman won their most recent clash at the 2018 Rogers Cup.

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Thiem struggled to find his footing early against Cuevas, who is in fine form after reaching his first semi-final of 2019 last week in Cordoba (l. to Pella). But after dropping the opener, Thiem raised his level and raced to a 3-0 advantage in the second set. The top seed was broken as he attempted to serve out the second set at 5-3, but regrouped with powerful baseline hitting and immediately broke Cuevas in the next game to level the match.

The third set started identically to the second, with Thiem earning an early break of serve with a gorgeous backhand return winner and sprinting to a 3-0 lead. The early momentum was all the Austrian needed and he eventually closed out the match after one hour and 49 minutes. The 25-year-old Austrian improved his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Cuevas to 3-2. 

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Guido Pella delighted the home crowd by erasing four match points to defeat Jaume Munar of Spain 6-7(3), 7-6(9), 6-1. Munar was unable to convert on two match points on his serve at 5-4 in the second set and two more in the tie-break at 6/5 and 8/7. Pella made good on his third set point at 10/9 with a crafty angled forehand and then raced through the remainder of the contest.

The Argentine is playing some of the best tennis of his career, having recorded a runner-up finish last week in Cordoba (l. Londero). He has also pushed himself back into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings.

Pella will next take on third seed Marco Cecchinato, who prevailed in a grueling baseline battle against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6(3), 6-4. Cecchinato won his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Pella this past July in the Umag final.

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Del Potro Back In Business At Delray Beach

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Del Potro Back In Business At Delray Beach

Americans Isner, Tiafoe and Johnson round out top four seeds

After sitting out the past four months with a right knee injury, a healthy Juan Martin del Potro returns next week as the top seed at the Delray Beach Open.

The Argentine, a wild card entry, kicks off his fifth appearance at this event with a first-round clash against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan. The 2011 champion has reached at least the semi-finals in three of his previous four appearances.

Second seed John Isner, another wild card, starts his week against Canadian Peter Polansky. The American holds a 10-6 record in Delray Beach. Third seed and Australian Open quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe faces a qualifier in the opening round, while fourth seed Steve Johnson begins his campaign with an all-American clash against Bradley Klahn.

Other notable names in the draw include 2015 champion Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, Nick Kyrgios of Australia and last month’s ASB Classic champion Tennys Sandgren of the United States.

View the full draw 

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Querrey Returns To New York SF

  • Posted: Feb 16, 2019

Querrey Returns To New York SF

Opelka, Schnur also advance

Twelve months ago, Sam Querrey was a tie-break away from winning the New York Open (l. to Anderson). The American might get another shot at the ATP 250 title this weekend.

Querrey advanced to his first tour-level semi-final since last year in New York on Friday, beating Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Jung had upset second-seeded American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday night. But the 6’6” Querrey hit 23 aces and didn’t face a break point in the decider to advance.

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“I came out strong and ready to go in the third set and got the early break and that allowed me to free up. I got some momentum on my serve, allowing me to go for it on my return games,” said Querrey, who often practises with Jung in Los Angeles. “He had a great tournament. He’s a guy who makes you beat him.”

Querrey was close to cracking the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings when he fell to Kevin Anderson in last year’s final. From there, however, the American didn’t reach another semi-final and fell to as low as No. 59.

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But the 31-year-old has recommitted himself to playing aggressively this year, and so far it’s working. In the semi-finals, he will meet Canadian Brayden Schnur, who’s having the best week of his career.

The 23-year-old Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the qualifying draw. Then he won two matches to make the main draw, but a semi-final run hardly seemed likely. Schnur had been 0-5 in tour-level matches before this week.

But he beat compatriot Jack Mingjie Lin and Steve Johnson of the U.S. for his first tour-level wins, and his dream run continued on Friday with a 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 7-5 win against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy. Schnur lost four consecutive set points from 6/2 in the tie-break, but he recovered in the second and scored the first break of the match at 5-5 in the deciding set.

“It’s definitely something I didn’t expect,” Schnur said. “I’m talking to my buddies, and they’re saying, ‘Your breakthrough week is going to come when you least expect it.’ Sure enough this week, I show up here, I’m pretty tired, came off having the flu, and now I’m in the semi-finals.”

In the bottom half, American Reilly Opelka reached his first tour-level semi-final in nearly three years, beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4. Opelka saved the only break point he faced and converted four of his six opportunities against the Spaniard.

The 6’11” Opelka awaits the winner of top seed John Isner vs. Aussie Jordan Thompson. Opelka beat Isner earlier this year at the Australian Open, but Isner beat Opelka the last time they met in a semi-final, at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open.

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Confident Wawrinka Beats Shapovalov In Rotterdam

  • Posted: Feb 15, 2019

Confident Wawrinka Beats Shapovalov In Rotterdam

Swiss star awaits winner of Nishikori or Fucsovics

Stan Wawrinka overcame a second-set comeback on Friday to beat 10th-seeded #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 7-6(4) for a place in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament semi-finals.

Wawrinka, the 2015 Rotterdam champion (d. Berdych), awaits the winner of top-seeded Japanese Kei Nishikori, winner of the Brisbane International title (d. Medvedev) last month, or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary. The Swiss leads Nishikori 5-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and leads Fucsovics 2-1 overall.

“Physically I feel really good, and I’m moving and feeling better match after match,” Wawrinka said. “Tonight was a tough match. I had to really fight at the end. I was a bit nervous at the end of the match. We had some long rallies. It’s good to see that I can keep being there, mentally, physically.”

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Shapovalov recovered from 15/40 in his second service game, but Wawrinka finally gained the break with a trademark backhand winner to take a 5-4 advantage. Shapovalov struck a backhand into the net to end the 31-minute first set.

Two double faults from Shapovalov handed Wawrinka the first game of the second set and at 1-3 another double fault — one of seven in the match — put the Canadian on the back foot. But a clever drop shot in the sixth game signalled a resurgence and terrific power off the ground at 4-5 resulted in a second break of serve. Shapovalov withstood the pressure once more to recover from 15/40 at 5-5. But Wawrinka pulled away in the tie-break and celebrated the win with a boastful “Allez!”

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Isner Aces Break Points Like No One Else

  • Posted: Feb 15, 2019

Isner Aces Break Points Like No One Else

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Isner comes up big under pressure

Bang. Bang. Ace. The pressure cooker moment of saving break points is when John Isner blows the ball right by you like no other.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Isner serving at break point from 2015 through the 2018 season uncovers that one out of every three break points he saves (33.6%) when serving is an ace, putting him in a league of his own in this specific moment in a match.

For context, the rest of the current Top 20 average an ace 8.6 per cent (1166/13511) of the time they save a break point. Impressively, Isner is almost at four times that average, at 33.6 per cent.

The leading five players out of the current Top 20 who average the most amount of aces saving break points:
John Isner = 33.6% (187/557)
Kevin Anderson = 21.2% (154/725)
Marin Cilic = 18.8% (148/789)
Milos Raonic = 16.1% (87/541)
Roger Federer = 14.5% (74/509)

When you look at the bigger picture of all break points Isner faces, not only the break points he saves, the 6’10” American serves an ace 23.9 per cent (187/783) of the time. The rest of the Top 20 average an ace just 5.9 per cent (1275/21662) of the time they face a break point.

The only other player who comes close to Isner is the all-time ATP Tour aces leader, Ivo Karlovic, who is currently No. 81 in the ATP Rankings. Isner has hit an ace on 33.6 per cent of break points saved since 2015, while Karlovic has hit an ace 31 per cent of the time.

The new Infosys ATP Serve & Return Tracker identifies which direction Isner has hit his aces on break point since the 2011 season. This data is sourced from 2011-2018 ATP Masters 1000s and Nitto ATP Finals.

2011 – 2019: Isner Serve Direction / Aces On Break Point

Point Score






Ad Out












Isner clearly favours going wide to hit his aces on break point in both the Deuce court and Ad court. The most striking ratio was at Ad Out, when he struck an ace 16 times out wide and just four times down the T. It must be nice to roll the dice on break point and find an ace one out of three times this critical point is saved.

Current Top 20: Percentage of Aces Saving Break Point

Top 20 Player

Percentage Of Aces Saving Break Point

J. Isner


K. Anderson


M. Cilic


M. Raonic


R. Federer


K. Khachanov


D. Medvedev


J. M. Del Potro


S. Tsitsipas


A. Zverev


B. Coric


D. Thiem


N. Djokovic


M. Cecchinato


K. Nishikori


R. Nadal


F. Fognini


N. Basilashvili


R. B. Agut


D. Schwartzman


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Ram & Salisbury Edge Dutch Wild Cards In Rotterdam

  • Posted: Feb 15, 2019

Ram & Salisbury Edge Dutch Wild Cards In Rotterdam

2015 titlists Rojer & Tecau also advance

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury saved a set point in the first set on Friday en route to a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Dutch wild cards Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop in 73 minutes at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Ram and Salisbury, runners up at the Brisbane International (l. to Daniell/Koolhof) in January, saved one set point on a deciding point at 5-6, before putting together a strong performance in the tie-break.

They will next play Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, the 2015 titlists, who won 86 per cent of their first-service points to defeat Wesley Koolhof and Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 6-2 in 62 minutes. Rojer and Tecau have an 18-5 team record in tour-level finals.

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