Steely Sinner Rallies Past Alcaraz To Umag Crown

It may have been a long time coming, but Jannik Sinner has an ATP Tour title in 2022.

The Italian prevailed in a heavyweight #NextGenATP championship match clash against Carlos Alcaraz 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1 victory at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag on Sunday.

Sinner has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season and had reached six tour-level quarter-finals in 2022 prior to the clay-court ATP 250 event this week in Umag. The second seed had to be at his resilient best against Alcaraz, especially after the Spaniard had clinched a tight opening set in a tie-break. Yet the Italian began to dictate the baseline exchanges and saved nine from nine break points to complete a two-hour, 26-minute victory.

“I am obviously very happy,” said Sinner after the match. “I have [had] a tough year until now, I had some unfortunate moments, but we worked every time to play better, to be a better player, to be a better person. So, I’m very happy to be finally lifting a trophy this year, but I know that I still have a lot of things to improve… It’s all about the process.”

The win was Sinner’s second against Alcaraz in four weeks, after the Italian was a four-set winner in the pair’s fourth-round clash at Wimbledon.

A vital hold of serve in the second game of the second set was crucial to Sinner’s victory. The Italian fended off six break points to frustrate Alcaraz, going on to break the Spaniard’s serve immediately in the next game.

“That was a crucial point [of the match],” said Sinner. “I knew I had to stay there. He made some unforced errors, and I was very happy that I won this game. Then I returned well and raised my level a little bit, and I think I found a solution then.”

The match was the third tour-level meeting in a burgeoning rivalry between two of the ATP Tour’s brightest young stars, and the opening set lived up to the billing as both players produced some clean hitting and electric movement along the baseline. It was Alcaraz who made his move in the tie-break, which he led 5/1 before converting his third set point after a stunning defensive forehand forced Sinner to net a tricky half-volley.

Once Sinner had resisted the Alcaraz charge to hold his serve and level at 1-1 in the second set, however, the Italian took centre stage. Sinner was a constant threat in return games and he broke Alcaraz’s serve five times across the second and third sets to move into a 2-1 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.

Before this final, Sinner’s six previous ATP Tour championship matches had come on hard courts. His triumph in Umag is the World No. 10’s sixth title, and the victory against Alcaraz improved Sinner’s record against Spanish players in 2022 to 8-0.

It was Alcaraz’s second championship match loss in as many weeks after he fell to Lorenzo Musetti in Hamburg last Sunday. Despite the disappointment of defeat, the Spaniard’s run in Umag this week to a Tour-leading sixth final of the year will lift him above Stefanos Tsitsipas to a career-high No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday.

Sinner Sets Dream Final Against Alcaraz In Umag

Four weeks after their four-set Wimbledon showdown, #NextGenATP stars Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz will meet again in Sunday’s final at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. Sinner set up the showdown with a 6-1, 6-3 win against qualifier Franco Agamenone on Saturday evening, after Alcaraz won a three-setter against Giulio Zeppieri.

The championship match will be the third ATP Head2Head meeting between Umag’s top seeds, with the Spaniard winning their first encounter last November at the Rolex Paris Masters. The pair also met on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2019, when Alcaraz claimed a three-set win on the clay of Alicante.

“The final is very tough. Everyone was expecting that [matchup].” Sinner said in his on-court interview. “Today I played quite well. Also Carlos is playing well. I’ll try to play some good tennis. I have to raise my level if I want to win, so I will try to prepare in the best possible way.”

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Alcaraz Survives Zeppieri Charge To Reach Umag Final

Sinner’s 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 win against Alcaraz at Wimbledon was a thrilling encounter between two of the hottest prospects on the ATP Tour. The two youngsters’ transitions from talented juniors to Top 10 stars have been remarkably similar, with both triumphing at the season-ending Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals (Sinner in 2019, Alcaraz in 2021) and both having clinched five ATP Tour titles at a tender age.

Sinner claimed four of his tour-level crowns in a standout 2021 and Alcaraz has matched that tally this year with wins in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid. Those successes have lifted No. 5 Alcaraz above No. 10 Sinner in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but despite being yet to pick up a trophy in 2022 Sinner’s form has remained consistent — the Italian holds a 34-9 match record this season and had reached six tour-level quarter-finals prior to this week in Umag.

“I played against him a couple of times,” said Alcaraz of Sinner on Saturday. “Tough matches against him. I know that I have to play my best to beat him and I will try to go for the final and show my best tomorrow.”

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In Saturday’s semi-final against Agamenone, Sinner raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set, saving an early break point as he used his baseline superiority to build the advantage against his countryman. He used a four-game run from 1-2 in the second set to move to the brink of victory before Agamenone claimed his first break of the match to extend the contest. Undeterred, Sinner closed out the victory with his fifth break.  

“I tried to play well in the important moments and the beginning of the sets,” Sinner said. “I’m very happy to be in the final. Umag is a special place for me. It’s [where I had] one of my first ATP [match] wins. So I really enjoy to play here.”

Sinner is through to his eighth ATP Tour final and enters with a stellar 6-1 record in his previous title matches. Alcaraz was a perfect 5-0 in finals before his defeat to Lorenzo Musetti last week in Hamburg. The defending Umag champion is 8-0 at the Croatian ATP 250 event.

#NextGenATP Misolic's Final Dream Held Up By Kitzbühel Rain

Filip Misolic‘s fairytale run towards a maiden ATP Tour final was put on a tantalizing hold by rain after a dramatic day at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel.

The #NextGenATP Austrian played the best part of six sets in front of a raucous home crowd on Friday, engineering two remarkable comebacks to move to within six points of the final in his first tour-level tournament at the clay-court ATP 250 event.

The wild card led Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 2-6, 6-6 (1/0) when heavy rain brought play to a close just as the deciding-set tie-break started in the Austrian Alps. Misolic had trailed 2020 finalist Hanfmann 1-4 in the third set before rallying, and the pair will return on Saturday to complete their first ATP Head2Head meeting.

The winner is then set to face Roberto Bautista Agut in the championship match, after the third seed defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 7-6(3) to reach his third tour-level final of the year.

Misolic had begun the day with a tense 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win against Dusan Lajovic in a quarter-final clash delayed from Thursday due to rain. The home favourite recovered a 2-6, 3-5 deficit to upset the former World No. 23, with his exciting brand of shotmaking frequently bringing the passionate home crowd to their feet.

Prior to his quarter-final win against Lajovic, Misolic had prevailed against Daniel Dutra da Silva and then Pablo Andujar in Kitzbühel. The World No. 205, who was born in Austria to Croatian parents, has shown good form on the clay already this year, lifting his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on the surface in Zagreb in May.

Misolic and Hanfmann’s cliffhanger clash is the second meeting between the pair in the space of 12 days, after the German was a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-0 winner in the first round of qualifying for last week’s EFG Swiss Open Gstaad.

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Sinner Surges Into Umag Semi-Finals

Despite some spectacular performances in 2022, Jannik Sinner had been yet to reach a semi-final on the ATP Tour this year. On Friday, at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag, the #NextGenATP Italian set that record straight.

The second seed overcame a stiff test from Roberto Carballes Baena to prevail 6-4, 7-6(5) and reach the last four at the clay-court ATP 250 event. Sinner held his nerve in the second-set tie-break after failing to serve out for victory at 6-5 against the admirably persistent World No. 86 Carballes Baena.

“I’m very happy, obviously,” said Sinner after his quarter-final win, which improved his match record for the year to 33-9. “I’ve won many matches, but I think I’ve had some unfortunate moments this year. But here I am, the first semi-final of the year, and hopefully I can show some good tennis also in the next round.”

Friday’s matchup with Carballes Baena was Sinner’s seventh quarter-final of the year. His two-hour, 18-minute win moved the Italian within two wins of his sixth ATP Tour title, and his first since Antwerp last October.

Although he has not yet lifted a trophy in 2022, the 20-year-old Sinner has been a consistent performer this season. He reached the last eight at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, as well as at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome.

Sinner will take on countryman Franco Agamenone in the semi-finals in Umag, after the unseeded 29-year-old earlier raced past 2018 champion Marco Cecchinato 6-2, 6-1.

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Bautista Agut Resists Ramos-Vinolas Charge To Reach Kitzbühel Final

Despite a late twist, Roberto Bautista Agut marched on at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel with a 6-3, 7-6(3) semi-final victory against fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Friday afternoon.

The third seed appeared to be cruising to his third ATP Tour final of the season when leading Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 5-2 with a double break advantage in the second set. Despite letting slip three match points at 5-4 as Ramos-Vinolas roared back into the match with some aggressive baseline striking, Bautista Agut regained his composure to convert his first match point of the second-set tie-break for a two-hour, four-minute win

“It was a really tough end,” said Bautista Agut after the match. “I served two times for the match but unfortunately, I could not win. At 5-4 I had three match points and he played very well, so I’m very happy about this tough win on this surface.”

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With the win, Bautista Agut reached his first ATP Tour final on clay since he fell to Matteo Berrettini in the 2018 championship match in Gstaad. The Spaniard is chasing his second title of the season after he clinched his 10th tour-level crown in Doha in February.

Bautista Agut’s championship match opponent will be Yannick Hanfmann or home wild card Filip Misolic. Their semi-final later on Friday will be #NextGenATP Misolic’s second match of the day, after the 20-year-old saw off Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in a quarter-final clash delayed from Thursday due to rain.

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Thiem Battles Into Kitzbühel Quarter-finals

Dominic Thiem is quietly working his way back into form.

The Austrian was tested on Wednesday, but battled past countryman Sebastian Ofner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Generali Open in Kitzbühel. The former World No. 3 has now advanced to at least the last eight in three consecutive weeks.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere once again. Great afternoon to play tennis again and really happy to get the win. Obviously it was very different conditions to yesterday. It’s not easy to make the change and as well against [Ofner], we know each other very well, practising together a lot of times,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “It was a great, great fight at the end and happy to be through.”

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Before arriving in Bastad less than three weeks ago, Thiem had not won a tour-level match in 2022 as he struggled to discover his best level after returning from a wrist injury in March. But the 28-year-old has now won seven of his past nine matches. 

Ofner put plenty of pressure on his countryman, leading by a break twice in the decider. He also earned two break points when Thiem served for the match, but it was the 17-time tour-level titlist who was more consistent when it mattered most to triumph after one hour and 58 minutes. The 2019 Kitzbühel champion will next play Yannick Hanfmann, who eliminated Ivan Gakhov 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4.

“I don’t think there was too much difference in shotmaking. I think there were some small details in the score. In the third set he was up a break twice and I was able to make the rebreak straight away twice again. If he holds his serve and he goes away in the third set, probably it’s going to be a different outcome. But these were the key moments when twice I was able to straight [away] rebreak.”

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Exclusive: Getting The Thiem Train Back On Track

Three seeded Spaniards also advanced to the quarter-finals. Third seed Roberto Bautista Agut, fifth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and seventh seed Pedro Martinez all moved on in straight sets.

Bautista Agut ousted Austrian wild card Jurij Rodionov 6-1, 6-4 to set a clash against #NextGenATP Czech Jiri Lehecka, who clawed past Portugal’s Joao Sousa 7-6(6), 1-6, 6-3.

Ramos-Vinolas eliminated Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas 6-3, 6-4 to advance to a showdown with Martinez, who defeated Argentine Federico Coria 6-4, 6-3.

Did You Know?
Thiem fell to No. 352 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 13 June. After defeating Ofner, he is up to No. 167 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

Kohlchreiber Honoured
Philipp Kohlschreiber recently retired following his loss in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying. On Tuesday evening, the two-time Generali Open champion was honoured in a farewell ceremony on centre court. 

Kohlschreiber went 19-11 at the ATP 250 in his career, lifting the trophy in 2015 and 2017. The German earned 478 tour-level wins in his career and remained inside the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for nearly 15 consecutive years, from 6 March 2006-21 February 2021. He reached a career-high World No. 16 and earned 25 victories against Top 10 opponents. Read Tribute

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/kohlschreiber-kitzbuhel-2022-ceremony.jpg" alt="Philipp Kohlschreiber“>
Photo Credit: Generali Open/Alexander Scheuber

'Very Nervous' Thiem Overcomes Kitzbühel Goosebumps

When Dominic Thiem walked on centre court Monday at the Generali Open, the same tournament where he made his ATP Tour main draw debut 11 years ago, the Austrian received a deafening ovation from the crowd. The former World No. 3 rewarded his home fans with a 6-4, 6-2 win against lucky loser Alexander Shevchenko.

“I was very, very nervous because even though the past weeks were better and better, I’m still not like two or three years ago when everything was going by itself somehow,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “My goal was to be able to give a good show, to give good tennis to this amazing crowd and I’m happy that I was able to do it.”

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Exclusive: Getting The Thiem Train Back On Track

There were some hard-hitting rallies in the match, with both players taking big swings at the ball. At times, Thiem backed up well behind the baseline to attack, especially on returns, which paid dividends in the key moments.

The 2019 Kitzbühel champion won 50 per cent of his return points and broke his opponent’s serve four times to advance after one hour and 29 minutes.

“Definitely it was a very tough match [physically], long rallies. Sometimes amazing pace from both of us and I’m very happy with the way I started here in Kitzbühel,” Thiem said. “Obviously the way I walked in with the atmosphere, with all the memories with the full centre court, it was unreal and it gave me goosebumps. I’m super happy to be the winner tonight.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/ofner-kitzbuhel-2022-tuesday.jpg" alt="Sebastian Ofner“>
Photo Credit: Generali Open/Alexander Scheuber
The 28-year-old, who is still searching for his best form as he battles back from a wrist injury, will next face countryman Sebastian Ofner. The qualifier clawed past former World No. 7 Gasquet 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 after two hours and 34 minutes earlier in the day to reach the second round.

Ofner owns an 11-13 tour-level record, but he is now 6-4 in Kitzbühel, where in 2017 he advanced to the semi-finals. The 26-year-old showed no fear of the moment competing in front of his home fans, taking full advantage of poor shot selection by Gasquet at the end of the match with a flurry of rushes to net to dispose of drop shots, also painting the line with shots at critical moments.

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The No. 235 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings saved eight of the 12 break points he faced in his first ATP Head2Head meeting with Gasquet. 

It was a good day for Spaniards in Kitzbühel, where seventh seed Pedro Martinez and Pablo Andujar advanced. Martinez saved all six break points he faced in a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory against Chilean wild card Nicolas Jarry, while Andujar battled past ninth seed Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4).

Mektic/Pavic End #Isnerman Run, Defend Rome Crown

It’s been a long wait, but Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are back in the winners’ circle.

The defending champions edged a dramatic encounter with John Isner and Diego Schwartzman at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Sunday afternoon in Rome, clinching their fourth ATP Masters 1000 title together with a 6-2, 6-7(6) 12-10 championship match victory.

Mektic and Pavic earned nine tour-level titles last season on their way to finishing 2021 as the year-end No. 1 team in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings. They were yet to win a title in 2022 prior to arriving in Rome, but looked at home once again at the Foro Italico as they defended their 2021 crown for the loss of just one set all week.

“It’s big, we kind of started the year a little bit slow,” said Pavic after the match. “We were struggling, we were a little unlucky. It was not ideal.

“Obviously the first title of the year, it means a lot to gain some confidence. It’s been a while. We won a lot of tournaments last year, so always to win the title is a pretty good achievement, especially as it’s a Masters 1000 title.”

“It means so much,” added Mektic. “I mean, 11-9 [in the Match Tie-break], I don’t have to talk too much about it. Each point is so important, so I’m so, so happy that we made it this time.”

In contrast to their experienced opponents, Isner and Schwartzman were partnering for the first time in Rome. The duo became affectionately known as #Isnerman by fans, and the American-Argentine pair rallied well after an underwhelming first-set performance in Sunday’s final. They were inches from clinching the title themselves in the Match Tie-break, with a Schwartzman forehand just missing the line when they led 10/9.

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A one-sided opening set saw Schwartzman and Isner broken once each as Mektic and Pavic started quickly. The Croatians were energetic at the net and solid from the baseline as Isner and Schwartzman struggled to settle into the encounter on Pietrangeli.

After a tighter second set was dominated by serve, Mektic and Pavic were on the brink of the title at 6/5 in the tie-break. After letting that championship point slip, however, Schwartzman raised his game at the perfect moment. The Argentine found a pair of inspired forehand winners to force a Match Tie-break as he and Isner became the only team to win a set against Mektic and Pavic across the Croatians’ back-to-back title runs.

Both teams let slip a first match point in the Match Tie-break before Mektic and Pavic found a way to rise above the tension to convert their third of the match, with their relentless solid net play helping them to a one-hour, 56-minute victory.

Isner was aiming for a third Masters 1000 of the year, having won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells with countryman Jack Sock and the Miami Open presented by Itau with Hubert Hurkacz. For Schwartzman, the hunt for a maiden tour-level doubles crown goes on, with the Argentine now 0-5 in doubles finals.

Serie A Highlights: Bologna 1-3 Sassuolo

Watch as Sassuolo turn on the style in the local derby with Bologna, including a Gianluca Scamacca double and acrobatic Domenico Berardi bicycle-kick.

Scamacca took centre-stage with a free header on Berardi’s corner, while Vlad Chiriches had a goal disallowed after using his arm to control the rebound off the bar.

Serie A | Bologna 1-3 Sassuolo: Scamacca and Berardi dominate derby

Berardi’s spectacular overhead kick from six yards doubled their lead before Davide Frattesi threaded through for Scamacca to make it 3-0.

Riccardo Orsolini converted a stoppage-time penalty after Ruan Tressoldi charged down a Mitchell Dijks cross with his arm.

Serie A | Bologna 1-3 Sassuolo: Scamacca and Berardi dominate derby

Sassuolo flattened local rivals Bologna with a Gianluca Scamacca brace and spectacular Domenico Berardi bicycle-kick.

Watch the highlights here.

Serie A Highlights: Bologna 1-3 Sassuolo

This was an Emilia-Romagna Derby and the first game back at the Stadio Dall’Ara for Sinisa Mihajlovic since completing his second round of leukaemia treatment. He was irritated after his comeback coincided with a 4-3 defeat to Venezia and wanted a stronger response. Giorgos Kyriakopoulos was suspended for the Neroverdi, with Pedro Obiang and Jeremy Toljan injured.

Gianluca Scamacca forced a save with his snapshot from distance, beaten away by Lukasz Skorupski, and it was Scamacca who broke the deadlock when allowed a criminally free header on the Domenico Berardi corner.

Moments later, Arthur Theate made a decisive block on Giacomo Raspadori’s strike, while Marko Arnautovic’s horrible miss was spared by the offside flag.

Serie A Liveblog: Milan-Atalanta, Cagliari-Inter, Napoli-Genoa, Bologna-Sassuolo

Davide Frattesi stung Skorupski’s gloves at the near post on a smart Matheus Henrique slide-rule pass, then the goalkeeper scrambled to safety after Berardi’s flick over Theate.

Bologna moved to 4-3-3 after the restart and were far more effective, yet got away with more poor defending on a corner on the hour mark.

Gian Marco Ferrari’s header came off the bar and Vlad Chiriches turned in the rebound, but it was disallowed because he’d used his arm to control it.

Musa Barrow blasted over after a cheeky Marko Arnautovic back-heel flick, but Sassuolo doubled their lead with a spectacular Berardi bicycle-kick from six yards, as Skorupski had intercepted a low cross with his foot, which pinged the ball straight up into the air.

Andrea Consigli smothered Barrow’s attempt from point-blank range after an Arnautovic knock-down, but Scamacca added a third as he ran onto the Davide Frattesi through ball and swept into the far bottom corner.

Bologna had won 3-0 away to Sassuolo earlier this season, so the Neroverdi took full revenge. Orsolini could’ve had a consolation late on, but couldn’t get enough on the header at the back post.

In the final minute, VAR noticed Ruan Tressoldi used his arm to charge down the Mitchell Dijks cross and Bologna received a penalty, converted into the roof of the net by Orsolini.

Bologna 1-3 Sassuolo

Scamacca 35, 80 (S), Berardi 75 (S), Orsolini pen 92 (B)