Ruud Moves Closer To Clay-Court Hat-Trick, Claims First Set In Kitzbuhel Final

Top seed Casper Ruud is one set away from becoming the first player since Andy Murray in 2011 to complete an ATP Tour hat-trick. The Norwegian leads Spaniard Pedro Martinez by a set in the Generali Open final in Kitzbühel after claiming the opener 6-1 before rain stopped play.

When Ruud returns, he will be aiming to win a 12th consecutive match, having lifted titles at the Nordea Open and Swiss Open Gstaad in July. The 22-year-old’s strong clay-court form has seen him rise to ninth place in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin.

The Norwegian is aiming to match Murray’s achievement from October 2011 when the former World No. 1 lifted the trophies in Bangkok (d. Young), Tokyo (d. Nadal) and Shanghai (d. Ferrer) in three consecutive weeks.

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Ruud, who also captured the Gonet Geneva Open crown (d. Shapovalov) in May, began the first set well. He controlled the tempo with his backhand before stepping inside the baseline to attack on the forehand. He raced into a 3-1 lead and was strong on serve, not facing a break point to move one set ahead after 40 minutes before the rain began to fall.

Spain’s Martinez is competing in his first ATP Tour final on Saturday. The 24-year-old secured the biggest win of his career by FedEx ATP Ranking when he overcame World No. 16 Roberto Bautista Agut en route to the championship match.

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Erler/Miedler Capture Kitzbühel Title

Austrians Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler completed a dream week on home soil on Saturday in Kitzbühel. The wild cards defeated third seeds Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop 7-5, 7-6(5) to win their first ATP Tour title at the Generali Open.

Erler and Miedler were both making their tour-level debuts and teaming for the first time this week in Kitzbühel. The Austrians won 68 per cent (32/47) of their first-service points as they claimed victory in 90 minutes.

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“It feels amazing, words cannot describe what happened today,” Meidler said. “We are happy, and in front of this home crowd, to win a first ATP Tour title together is unbelievable.

“We played well and the other guys played some good tennis. Our strength this week has been winning tie-breaks. We just focused on every point, we started well in the tie-break. We kept believing.”

The wild cards upset top seeds Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic as well as fourth seeds Ariel Behar and Guillermo Duran en route to the final. Erler has reached one ATP Challenger Tour semi-final this year, while Miedler has enjoyed runs to the last four three times. The last Austrian player to take home the doubles title in Kitzbühel was Philipp Oswald in 2019 (w/Polasek).

Jebavy and Middelkoop were competing in their third ATP Tour final as a team, having captured the 2017 St. Petersburg title.

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Carreno Busta Upsets Djokovic To Win Bronze In Tokyo

Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta bounced back from his disappointing semi-final defeat by upsetting top-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 to claim the bronze medal on Saturday at the Tokyo Olympics.

The sixth seed, who defeated World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on the way to the bronze medal match, played aggressively throughout against Djokovic, striking the ball with great power on his groundstrokes. After squandering a match point at 6/5 in the second set tie-break, the 30-year-old raised his level in the third set to record victory in two hours and 49 minutes.

“I won [the] Davis Cup, and I’ve gone far in other tournaments, but winning an Olympic medal is indescribable,” Carreno Busta told ITFtennis.com. “I’ve felt the support from Spain, my family and people around me, and have received fond messages from those who saw me lose yesterday. I want to share this medal with all of them.”

View Order Of Play | View 2020 Olympics Results | View Draw

Carreno Busta was making his Olympics debut this week and came into the event full of confidence having captured his first ATP 500 trophy at the Hamburg European Open earlier this month. The Spaniard also lifted the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open title in Marbella on home soil in April.

In a high-quality first set, Carreno Busta showed resilience, fending off three break points across his opening two service games. The Spaniard then capitalised on Djokovic’s low first serve percentage of just 44 per cent in the first set to move ahead as he showcased a mix of power and precision on his backhand.

Both players were strong on serve in the second with no break points offered up as it moved to a tie-break. Djokovic then demonstrated his defensive skills, saving one match point at 5/6 before levelling when Carreno Busta fired a forehand wide. Carreno Busta did not let this set him back though as he regained his focus to storm into a 3-0 lead in the third set. The Spaniard hit seven winners in the decider, taking his sixth match point to claim victory.

Djokovic’s historic Golden Grand Slam attempt was ended by Alexander Zverev on Friday and the 34-year-old struggled to find his best form against Carreno Busta. After lifting the first three major championships of the season, the 34-year-old’s attention will now turn to the hard-court season.

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“I’ve had some heart-breaking losses at the Olympic Games and some big tournaments in my career,” Djokovic told ITFtennis.com. “I know that those losses have usually made me stronger in every aspect. I know that I will bounce back.

“I will try to keep going for the Paris Olympic Games. I will fight for my country to win medals. I’m sorry that I disappointed a lot of sports fans in my country, but that’s sport. I gave it [my] all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much, I left it out on the court.”

The World No. 1, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will aim to capture a fourth US Open title in September and become the second male player behind Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam.

Following his defeat, Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic withdrew from their mixed doubles bronze medal match against Australians Ashleigh Barty and John Peers due to Djokovic suffering with a right shoulder injury. It is the sixth time Australia have won an Olympic medal in tennis.

Nadal, Norrie Drawn In Same Citi Open Quarter

World No. 3 Rafael Nadal has landed in a tricky section of the Citi Open draw as he begins his quest for an 89th tour-level title. The top-seeded Spaniard is set to make his debut in Washington, D.C. and he could meet one of the most in-form players of the season in an early hard-court test. 

The Spaniard will be contesting his first hard-court tournament since the Australian Open in February, where he reached the quarter-finals before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set battle. Nadal has amassed a 22-4 record on the season after lifting trophies in Barcelona and Rome, but has not competed since reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals (l. to Djokovic) after withdrawing from Wimbledon citing physical and mental fatigue. 

View full Washington, D.C. draw. 

Should he reach the quarter-finals, top seed Nadal could get a big test in the form of seventh seed Cameron Norrie, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy a fortnight ago in Los Cabos. Norrie is one of the winningest players on Tour, and he trails only Tsitsipas (40) and Andrey Rublev (36) with 35 matches won in 2021.

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But that’s not the only challenge Nadal could face as he seeks his first hard-court title since Acapulco last year. He has landed in the same half as fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov, whom he could meet in the semi-finals. But plenty of unseeded threats also loom large, including big-hitting Nick Kyrgios and #NextGenATP Brandon Nakashima. Nadal will start his campaign against the winner of Jack Sock and Yoshihito Nishioka

Kyrgios, who won the title here in 2019, will face Mackenzie McDonald in the first round. He would set up an intriguing matchup with 13th seed Benoit Paire should he advance.

Second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime anchors the bottom half of the Washington D.C. draw, where youth rules as #NextGenATP Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda and wild card Jenson Brooksby are also in the mix. Fifth seed Sinner and 12th seed Korda could meet in the third round after landing in the same section, which also features third seed Alex de Minaur. De Minaur qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but had to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Auger-Aliassime will face the winner between Andreas Seppi and a qualifier, with a potential third-round clash against 16th seed Frances Tiafoe. Should he advance, big-hitting Reilly Opelka, the eighth seed, could be his opponent in the quarter-finals.

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Nadal is seeking to become the second Spanish champion to win in Washington, D.C. and the first since Alex Corretja in 2000.

Ruud Eyes Clay-Court Hat-Trick, Faces Martinez In Kitzbühel Final

Top seed Casper Ruud is one match away from lifting his fourth singles trophy of the year after taking down Arthur Rinderknech on Friday in a rain-interrupted 6-3, 7-6(7) victory at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel. 

The Norwegian added an 11th consecutive victory to a head-turning win streak that has seen him claim back-to-back trophies at the Nordea Open in Bastad and the Swiss Open Gstaad. Ruud, who also won at the Gonet Geneva Open earlier in the season, will take on Pedro Martinez in the Kitzbühel final as he seeks to claim his fifth career title – and lift his third trophy in as many weeks.  

“When I won in Gstaad, I was already thinking about it a little, that maybe I can try and get a hat trick. That would be unbelievable,” Ruud said. “And now I have fought my way to the final here, and I have the chance to play for it tomorrow. I will try to fight even more again tomorrow.” 

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Ruud is seeking to become the first player since Andy Murray in October 2011 to win three ATP Tour singles titles in as many weeks. Murray achieved the feat by lifting the trophies in Bangkok (d. Young), Tokyo (d. Nadal) and Shanghai (d. Ferrer). 

The top seed had to fight through French alternate Rinderknech in order to reach the final. He broke early to take a 4-1 lead, and kept his composure after a rain delay halted play for several hours. Upon resumption, Ruud converted his fifth set point to close out the opening set. 

He had to save a set point in the second-set tie-break as Rinderknech saved two match points and took a 7/6 lead. But Ruud, who didn’t face a break point in the match, reeled off the next three points to seal the victory after one hour and 45 minutes.

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“I think I played steady the whole match and with few mistakes. That was the plan all along, to try to feed him with a lot of balls as much as possible,” Ruud said. “He has a lot of big weapons, but sometimes when he plays it can be high-risk and there can be mistakes. I think I did the plan very well.” 

Ruud will take on Martinez next after the Spaniard rallied from a set down to take down Daniel Altmaier and book a place into his first ATP Tour final. Martinez won 74 per cent (42/57) and broke his opponent’s serve four times to seal the 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. 

Think Pink! How Opelka & Schwartzman Have Turned Heads

You can normally identify Reilly Opelka by his booming serve and his 6’11” frame. This week at the Truist Atlanta Open, just look for pink.

Opelka and Diego Schwartzman during the European clay swing debuted an eye-catching pink tie-dye kit, which was made in collaboration with Italian fashion brand MSGM. The American has great interest in the fashion world, and he was really happy with the outfit, which he is wearing again this week in Georgia.

“This is my favourite kit hands down, the one Diego and I are both wearing. And I also like it because it’s just Diego and I wearing it,” Opelka said during the clay swing. “A lot of brands you see so many other guys just wearing the same stuff, it gets repetitive. You see [John] Isner, [Sam] Querrey and some of the other guys wearing a really classy, timeless Fila look with that lavender purple, and then Diego and I are wearing this loud tie-dye. It just changes it up a little bit.

“[WTA player] Sonya Kenin has a cool MSGM kit as well. I think it adds some diversity in one brand in tennis, which doesn’t happen at all.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/opelka-roland-garros-2021-monday.jpg" alt="Reilly Opelka“>
Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Opelka enjoys the collaboration with designer Massimo Giorgetti’s MSGM, and he is especially pleased with the pink colour.

“Collabs that aren’t well done in my opinion are ones that aren’t on brand. You just have one brand that’s really hot with another brand that’s really hot. Just because you have two hot brands doesn’t mean they mix well,” Opelka said. “But I think they’re really on brand with one another.” 

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Schwartzman, who made the quarter-finals in Paris with the kit, was happy with the fresh look.

“I really love it,” Schwartzman said at the time. “For me, if the people like [it], I like [it]… I think it looks good. I like to be on court with new clothes and different [looks].” 

This is not the first tie-dye kit they have worn. Both also sported a shirt with rainbow colours last year, including at the Western & Southern Open (picture below).

Schwartzman
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Bold does not always work in fashion or tennis. But according to Opelka, this pink collaboration has hit the mark. Call it an ace.

“A lot of times in the high-end fashion space people just collab to collab since they both have big-name brands,” Opelka said. “But I think this one is more precise.”

Rublev's Roaring Forehand: 'Keep Your Arm Loose'

Executing a forehand like Andrey Rublev is not as easy as he makes it look. But with the right ‘coach’, it can be taught.

The Russian star blasts the ball at incredible speeds with deadly accuracy to all areas of the court. But there’s more to it than just “gripping and ripping”. According to Rublev, you need the right mix of serenity and intensity.

“The main thing is that your arm is loose and relaxed,” Rublev said. “If you do everything perfectly with the legs, then you give the easy job to the arm. You just need to do the swing and hit it.”

Learn more from Rublev at TopCourt

The Top 10 stalwart is bringing you plenty more advice as a TopCourt ambassador. Rublev will share with fans technical pointers, step-by-step instruction, tactical lessons and his favourite drills.

The Russian will also take you inside his journey as a professional tennis player. Rublev, the son of a former professional boxer and tennis coach, developed a love for competition at a young age and focused on his fitness and work ethic.

“One evening my mom arrived from her job and she bought some typical toys for the kids,” Rublev recalled. “She put them on the line for me to choose. I crawled to the tennis racquet.”

The eight-time ATP Tour titlist also delves into his daily routine and why it is important to always work to improve and respect every opponent.

To learn tennis from the world’s best, visit TopCourt.com.

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Mektic/Pavic Capture Olympic Gold In Tokyo

Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic’s dream season continued on Friday as they battled past countrymen Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 to claim a historic first gold medal in tennis for Croatia at the Tokyo Olympics.

The top seeds, who booked their spot at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals earlier this month, won 75 per cent (27/36) of their first-service points and raised their level in the Match Tie-break to secure victory in one hour and 38 minutes.

“This is just a very happy feeling and we’re super thrilled to win the title and just to be at the Olympics,” Mektic told ITFtennis.com. “To have such a great result is just more than a dream come true and I’m so delighted to share this moment with Mate [Pavic].”

View Order Of Play | View 2020 Olympics Results

Mektic and Pavic arrived in Tokyo having won eight tour-level titles in their maiden year together as a team. They became the first Croatian players to lift the Wimbledon men’s doubles title in July, and have captured three ATP Masters 1000 crowns in Miami, Monte-Carlo, and Rome.

The pair dominated in the first set as they closed the net effectively and returned with great depth. Mektic and Pavic broke in the opening game and were strong on serve as they moved ahead. Cilic and Dodig returned with greater power in the second set though as they caused problems for the top seeds to level.

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However, Mektic and Pavic used their experience in the Match Tie-break to claim a 53rd win of the season and 15th in a row.

Cilic and Dodig were competing in their second tour-level event of the season as a pair, having enjoyed a run to the semi-finals at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart in June. The Croatians also teamed at the 2012 London Olympics where they advanced to the quarter-finals. They will leave Tokyo with a silver medal.

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Daniell/Venus Capture Bronze Medal In Tokyo

Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus ended a strong week at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday by defeating Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren 7-6(3), 6-2 to capture a historic first Olympic tennis medal for New Zealand.

Daniell and Venus, who also teamed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, saved all three break points they faced to claim the bronze medal. They won 75 per cent (33/44) of their first-service points to record victory in one hour and 49 minutes.

View Order Of Play | View 2020 Olympics Results

“They weren’t my first tears of the Olympics, if I’m being honest…It just means so much,” Daniell told ITFtennis.com. “It always means more when you’ve got the silver fern on your chest and you’re performing for your country in something so much bigger than yourself. You feel that fire and the group energy of New Zealand and the spirit of New Zealand.

“I can’t describe how much that means. To be able to come to the Olympics and come away with a bronze and do it for New Zealand… it’s just very surreal.

“We’ve made a little bit of history today and I really hope it’s inspiring to the younger generation in New Zealand and gets people to pick up some tennis raquets.”

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Venus has won two tour-level titles this year at the Hamburg European Open (w/Puetz) and the Gonet Geneva Open (w/Peers), while Daniell enjoyed a run to the final at The Qatar ExxonMobil Open (w/Oswald) in March.

Krajicek and Sandgren were making their Olympic debuts this week and were teaming for the fifth time this year.

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Zverev Upsets Djokovic, Sets Khachanov Final In Tokyo

German Alexander Zverev sprang a surprise on Friday at the Tokyo Olympics as he upset top seed Novak Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to end the Serbian’s hopes of a historic Golden Grand Slam.

Zverev battled back from a set and a break down against the World No. 1, who seemed to be cruising to victory, to reach the final in Tokyo and guarantee himself at least a silver medal on his Olympics debut.

View Order Of Play | View 2020 Olympics Results | View Draw

“It’s an amazing feeling, knowing that you’re going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany,” Zverev told ITFtennis.com. “It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now, and in this season.

“It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now. But there’s still one match to go.

“I know that he was chasing history, chasing the golden slam and was chasing the Olympics, but in these kind of moments me and Novak are very close. Of course I’m happy that I’ve won, but at the end of the day I know how Novak feels. I told him that he’s the greatest of all time, and he will be.”

The fourth seed returned well throughout. He won 59 per cent (16/27) of points on Djokovic’s second serve as he stepped inside the baseline to dictate with his powerful groundstrokes. The 24-year-old raised his level in the crucial moments in the third set, fending off four break points to advance in two hours and five minutes. It is the first time Zverev has beaten Djokovic since 2018, when the German overcame the 34-year-old in the Nitto ATP Finals championship match.

Djokovic was aiming to become the first man to win all four majors and a gold medal in a season, having captured the first three Grand Slams of the year. WTA legend Stefanie Graf completed this achievement in 1988.

“Tough day, a really tough day,” Djokovic said according to Olympics.com. “I feel so terrible right now. I was leading a set then a break and he managed to turn the match around, he served huge, was attacking, and I was not getting any free points on my first serves.

“To play someone of his quality, of his level, it’s just too tough to win a match (like that).”

Zverev, who won the Mutua Madrid Open title (d. Berrettini) in May, will face the ROC’s Karen Khachanov in the final after the 25-year-old produced a dominant display to move past Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3.

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The 12th seed, who is making his Olympic debut this week, was strong on serve throughout, hitting 10 aces and winning 92 per cent (24/26) of his first-service points to advance in 80 minutes.

“It was so important to win today because at least you know for sure that you’re guaranteed a medal, which is one of the dreams come true,” Khachanov told ITFtennis.com. “But obviously, you need to find motivation and excitement, and I will try to be prepared for the final and fight for the gold.”

The 25-year-old has enjoyed runs to the semi-finals at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon and the Great Ocean Road Open this year. Khachanov also equalled his best Grand Slam result at Wimbledon earlier this month as he advanced to the quarter-finals (l. to Shapovalov).

Carreno Busta upset World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the last eight on Thursday, but could not match those performance levels against Medvedev’s countryman Khachanov on Friday.

The sixth seed, who won his first ATP 500 trophy and sixth tour-level title earlier in July at the Hamburg European Open, had dropped just one set en route to the last four. The Spaniard will face Djokovic in the bronze medal match on Saturday.