Brooksby & Nakashima Continue Milan Chase With Antwerp Upsets

#NextGenATP Americans Jenson Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima had to battle through qualifying at the European Open, and they went one step further on Tuesday in Antwerp with impressive upsets as they continue to pursue a spot at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

Brooksby continued his good form with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against fifth seed Reilly Opelka in one hour and 12 minutes.

“It’s been a great year. I’m happy. I feel like I’ve been focussed this week, playing well,” Brooksby said in his on-court interview. “I’ll hopefully finish this year strong.”

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The big-serving American Opelka was left so baffled by Brooksby’s consistent play that at one point in the second set he was heard saying that his countryman was the “best player I’ve played in my whole life”.

“He’s definitely got one of the best serves on Tour,” Brooksby said. “I thought we had a good game plan. I’ve been hitting them well and executed pretty well here, so I’m happy with that.”

Brooksby, who won a set against Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the US Open, will next play Flushing Meadows quarter-finalist Botic van de Zandschulp.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/nakashima-antwerp-2021-tuesday.jpg" alt="Brandon Nakashima“>
Photo Credit: European Open
Nakashima also impressed in a 6-4, 6-0 win against sixth seed Alex de Minaur. The San Diego-native converted five of his 10 break points to advance after one hour and 25 minutes.

Nakashima made his first two ATP Tour finals earlier this year in Los Cabos and Atlanta, and is trying to lift his first tour-level trophy this week.

Both Brooksby and Nakashima are pushing to earn a place in Milan. Brooksby began the week in fifth in the ATP Race To Milan, and Nakashima was in eighth, two points behind Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo.

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Paul Maintains Momentum In Moscow

Tommy Paul reached the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time in Indian Wells, and the American has maintained his momentum in Moscow.

The World No. 54 advanced to the second round of the VTB Kremlin Cup on Tuesday with a 7-6(7), 7-5 win against Swede Mikael Ymer.

Paul broke the Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus’ serve four times and won 44 per cent of his return points to move on after one hour and 57 minutes. The 24-year-old, who upset Andrey Rublev in the California desert, will next play two-time Moscow champion Marin Cilic, who beat Damir Dzumhur in three sets on Monday.

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There was an upset in the Russian capital when qualifier Illya Marchenko ousted fifth seed Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-3. The Ukrainian saved the two break points he faced to set a clash against Australian John Millman.

Top-seeded Rublev learned his first opponent when Frenchman Adrian Mannarino rallied past wild card Roman Safiullin 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 after two hours and 32 minutes. The tricky lefty lost his only previous ATP Head2Head meeting against Rublev two years ago in the Moscow final.

In other action, Belarusian qualifier Egor Gerasimov clawed past Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 and Spaniard Pedro Martinez led Guido Pella 6-2 when the Argentine retired.

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Cilic Begins Moscow Campaign

Two-time VTB Kremlin Cup champion Marin Cilic began his campaign for his third title in Moscow on Monday, moving past Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round.

The Croatian, who triumphed at the ATP 250 event in 2014 and 2015, won 12 of the last 13 games as he rallied to advance after one hour and 51 minutes and improve to 2-0 against Dzumhur in their ATP Head2Head series.

“It always feels great [to be here],” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “It is always a pleasure and it is great to see a nice crowd here. I know that Damir always enjoys these conditions where the court is a bit slower and the ball stays a bit lower, so I was having a little bit of difficulty on his serve in the first set.”

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With his victory, the sixth seed has snapped a three-match losing streak. Cilic will next face American Tommy Paul or Winston-Salem finalist Mikael Ymer in the second round.

“In the second set I found a better rhythm and started to play great tennis and then the third set was really high quality and I could not be happier,” Cilic added.

Cilic won his 19th tour-level title when he downed #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in Stuttgart in June and has advanced to semi-finals in Singapore and Estoril this season.

John Millman also advanced after the Australian overcame Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes. The 32-year-old is making his debut in Moscow and will next meet fifth seed Alexander Bublik or Ukrainian qualifier Illya Marchenko.

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Rinderknech Moves On In Antwerp

Arthur Rinderknech’s career-best season continued on Monday at the European Open as he moved past Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round in Antwerp.

The Frenchman had not earned one tour-level victory before this year, but has now triumphed 15 times at this level in 2021. The 26-year-old won 85 per cent (29/34) of his first-serve points against Delbonis to advance after one hour and 31 minutes.

“I am really pleased with the win,” Rinderknech said. “There were some crazy points here and there and sometimes they didn’t go my way. These kinds of points can change the match but I really tried to stay focused and I am pleased I was able to close out the match.”

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Rinderknech, who is making his debut in Antwerp, now leads Delbonis 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. The World No. 65 will next face wild card Richard Gasquet or eighth seed Dusan Lajovic in the second round.

Earlier this year, the Frenchman reached the semi-finals in Kitzbühel and also enjoyed runs to the last eight in Marseille, Lyon, Bastad and Gstaad.

Also on Monday, #NextGenATP Americans Jenson Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima booked their places in the main draw in Antwerp. Brooksby overcame Norbert Gombos 6-4, 6-2, while Nakashima downed Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 6-4.

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Norrie Scoops Biggest Career Title In Indian Wells

Cameron Norrie is an ATP Masters 1000 champion for the first time after capturing the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open over Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets on Sunday.

The World No. 26 became the first man ranked outside the Top 25 to win in the desert since Ivan Ljubicic in 2010 and jumped to 10th in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. The 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 result over the 29th seed came and handed him a second title this season from his sixth final (d. Nakashima in Los Cabos).

In the second ATP Masters 1000 final this year between players ranked outside the Top 25, after Hubert Hurkacz defeated Jannik Sinner in Miami, Norrie became the first British man to win in Indian Wells. Before this year, he had not won a match in two prior main draw appearances.

 But after wins over Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, Tommy Paul, Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov and Basilashvili, he departs Indian Wells at a career-high No. 16 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and as the new British No. 1.

From an early break down at 1-3, the Georgian began to find his range and won 10 of the next 11 points as his pace of shot from the back of the court began to gain the better of his opponent. Off the back foot, the Georgian whipped a forehand winner into the corner to bring up a break point at 4-3 and put the foot down as he won the last five games of the set.

It was the first time all tournament Norrie had dropped the opening set and if he was to become the first British man to win in the desert he was going to have to win from a set down for the eighth time this season. There were ominous signs when the Briton angled a backhand volley wide to surrender the early break for 2-1 in the second set, but a loose game from the Georgian brought the pair back level.

Norrie was knocking on the door and took his chances when Basilashvili served to stay in the set. The 26-year-old completed a run of eight straight points as he broke to level the match at the 71-minute mark and carried the momentum to an early break in the deciding set.

Basilashvili had his chances with three break point opportunities at 0-2, but Norrie’s retrieval skills came to the fore. His hold proved telling as his opponent struggled to rein in a mounting error count and the match was in the bag after one hour and 51 minutes.

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Peers & Polasek Win Indian Wells Doubles Title

John Peers and Filip Polasek survived a rollercoaster second set to edge Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev 6-3 7-6(5) to win the BNP Paribas Open doubles title Saturday night.

The Australian-Slovakian duo was unable to convert two match points on Rublev’s serve at 5-3 and then dropped serve in the following game when trying to serve out the match. The teams then traded breaks before entering a tie-break, in which Peers and Polasek rallied from 3/5 down to clinch the title.

“It’s always great fun getting back to the desert and playing here,” Peers said. “To be able to say we have won the title here is very special. We started pretty slow as a team but we put in some good work pre-US Open.

“It’s been a lot of fun since and we’ve continued to work and enjoy playing together. We’re riding the doubles rollercoaster and will try to get results like this more often. We’re looking forward to continuing together.”

Peers, 33, and Polasek, 36, continued their strong recent form, having reached the final at the San Diego Open leading into the tournament.

Peers won his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title (first since Canada 2018) and his 25th career title. Polasek won his 16th title and second Masters 1000 (Cincinnati 2019).

”I’m really happy the way we played,” Polasek said. “We came here early, which helped us to adapt to the conditions. It was very different to play in the day than in the night sessions, which we played in our last matches, and we were probably able to adapt the best of all teams.”

Karatsev, 28, and Rublev, 23, were on an eight-match winning streak. They won the Doha title earlier in the year.

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Basilashvili Holds Nerve To Beat Fritz

© Getty Images

Nikoloz Basilashvili is chasing his sixth ATP Tour title.

Georgian seeks biggest title of career against Norrie in Sunday’s final

After a season of discontent at ATP Masters 1000 level, Nikoloz Basilashvili is one win away from the biggest title of his career after fending off Taylor Fritz in the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals Saturday.

The Georgian, who had suffered five first-round losses from six appearances at Masters 1000 level this year heading into Indian Wells, saved three sets points in the first set and all seven break points he faced – including two in the final game – to defeat the 23-year-old American 7-6(5), 6-3.

Basilashvili had to wait until the sixth game of the second set to earn a break point chance but capitalised fully to break Fritz for a match-breaking 4-2 lead. In Sunday’s final he will play in-form British left-hander Cameron Norrie.

More to follow…

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Fritz Saves 2 MPs, Upsets Zverev To Reach Indian Wells SFs

Taylor Fritz’s breakthrough run continued Friday at the BNP Paribas Open as he saved two match points to earn his second Top 5 win of his career and reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

The American rallied from a 2-5 down in the decider and saved two match points at 3-5, 30/40 and 4-5, 30/40 to upset World No. 4 Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) after two hours and 22 minutes in Indian Wells.

“I was really down and out but I found a way to put myself into it,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “I really wanted to make him have to close me out and I was able to get back into the match. Normally you would be so nervous in those situations and in the third set tie-break, but I felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It feels really great to play well with the pressure on.”

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The 31st seed, who recorded straight-set wins over Nitto ATP Finals hopefuls Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner en route to his maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final, played aggressive tennis against Zverev, firing 36 winners to advance.

Fritz now trails Zverev 2-3 in their ATP Head2Head series and will face Nikoloz Basilashvili in the last four after the Georgian overcame second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to reach his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final.

“The biggest thing was match point down, I wanted to make him serve it out, so I just fought as hard as I could to hold that game,” Fritz said. “Then I got fortunate in his service game and from there I felt in control and felt really good under the pressure.

“It is amazing. Especially the way that match ended with such high emotions with the crowd. The crowd was amazing and it is a dream come true.”

The Californian resident is making his fifth appearance in Indian Wells, with his previous best result a run to the fourth round in 2018. Fritz’s only other Top 5 win came against then-World No. 5 Dominic Thiem at the Laver Cup in 2019.

The 23-year-old has reached semi-finals in Doha, Cagliari and Los Cabos. Fritz will try to avenge his Doha defeat to Basilashvili when they meet on Saturday.

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Basilashvili Soars Into First Masters 1000 SF In Indian Wells

After breaks were exchanged at the start of the first set, with Zverev double-faulting to drop serve, the German began to take control with his consistent deep groundstrokes. The World No. 4 committed just six unforced errors in the set to move ahead.

Fritz altered his tactics in the second set and started to play aggressively as he blasted 13 winners from all areas of the court, overpowering Zverev to march 4-1 ahead. After Fritz sealed the set on his serve, Zverev regained momentum in the decider as he continued to soak up the 31st seed’s power. The American’s level slightly dipped in the third set and after Zverev broke early, he was able to put his foot down and roar into a 5-2 lead.

However, the German’s second serve abandoned him when he was trying to serve out the match. Zverev struck two double faults as Fritz broke back. After moving to a tie-break, the American found his best tennis to prevail in a tight match.

Zverev was aiming to win his third ATP Masters 1000 title of the season in Indian Wells, having triumphed in Madrid and Cincinnati earlier this year. The German entered the match in strong form after winning 20 of his past 21 matches on hard courts.

Basilashvili Soars Into First Masters 1000 SF In Indian Wells

Nikoloz Basilashvili sprung a surprise on Friday at the BNP Paribas Open, earning the biggest win of his career with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 upset of World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

The Georgian was competing in his maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final and produced an impressive performance as he caused Tsitsipas problems from the baseline with his powerful groundstrokes, raising his level in the third set to advance after two hours and nine minutes.

“I have played really great matches this tournament,” Basilashvili said. “I was not that happy with how I played today but I was happy with how I managed my stress levels. First time in the quarter-finals and it is a big court and Stefanos is a super tough player. I had to keep my physical levels and energy levels in a really good shape because I knew mentally I would be a little bit tight and stressed.”

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With his victory, the World No. 36 has reduced the deficit to 1-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against Tsitsipas. Before this year, Basilashvili had never won a main-draw match in Indian Wells in four previous appearances. The 29-year-old will now face third seed Alexander Zverev or America’s Taylor Fritz for a place in the final.

Basilashvili, who rallied from a set-and-a-break down in his third-round victory against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, has won tour-level titles in Doha and Munich this year. The 29th seed’s last Top 5 victory came against then-World No. 5 Alexander Zverev in Hamburg in 2019.

“I have spent a lot of time working hard,” Basilashvili added. “I have been playing really well. For me to overcome stressful moments I am really happy. I also found it here that the conditions don’t suit my game because the balls fly a lot, but this year I am playing well.”

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Dimitrov Downs Hurkacz, Moves Into Indian Wells SFs

In a lively first set, Basilashvili made a fast start as he broke in the opening game, causing Tsitsipas problems with his powerful groundstrokes. The Georgian controlled the tempo of the match, notching 14 winners in the first set as Tsitsipas struggled to find his rhythm from the baseline.

However, the Greek began to gain momentum in the second set as he dominated the longer rallies as he soaked up Basilashvili’s power. The 23-year-old did not face a break point on his serve as he levelled.

After breaks were exchanged in the third set, Basilashvili produced a strong return game and was gifted the lead when Tsitsipas double faulted on break to move 4-3 ahead. From there, the Georgian kept his composure, fending off pressure from Tsitsipas to hold serve twice to advance.

Tsitsipas was aiming to reach his third consecutive Masters 1000 semi-final in North America, having enjoyed a run to the last four in Toronto and Cincinnati. The Monte-Carlo champion has earned a tour-leading 54 victories this season.

Rublev/Karatsev Reach Second SF Of Season

Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev are on a roll in the desert, through to their maiden ATP Masters 1000 doubles semi-final after taking down Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov in straight sets on Thursday night.

The Russians, in only their third tournament together, proved too strong for the Indian-Canadian duo 6-4, 6-4. Champions already this year in Doha, they are now 7-1 as a partnership and will face the unseeded Tim Puetz and Michael Venus for a place in their second tour-level final this season.

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Both pairs had been rock solid on serve to 4-all in the opening set before the first cracks appeared as Shapovalov was broken on a third break point. Karatsev duly capitalised and served it out at the 30-minute mark as the Russians finished the first set with a perfect 18/18 on first-serve points.

Consolidation proved a struggle in the second set as the pairs traded five breaks in seven games before Karatsev raised his level to hold for 5-3. While they missed four match points on Shapovalov’s serve, the Russians advanced a game later at the 67-minute mark.

In their first event together since 2016, eighth seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo narrowly advanced against unseeded Italians Fabio Fognini and Lorenzo Sonego 3-6, 6-4, 10-8. The Croatian-Brazilian duo won Roland Garros together in 2015 and Melo relished the chance to reunite in Indian Wells.

“Today was as high level as possible in doubles. I think the people enjoyed a lot, even though I got hit twice,” Melo said. “For me it was special because Ivan and I used to play together a long time and now we started to play again. I’m just very happy to play the level I was playing today.”

They won 78 per cent of first-serve points and 67 on second serves to book a semi-final clash against seventh seeds John Peers and Filip Polasek. It is their first semi-final together since they won in Cincinnati in 2016.

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