No. 15, Stan Wawrinka, +2, 1,820 Points
The 16-time tour-level titlist advanced to his second indoor final of the year at the European Open in Antwerp. Wawrinka defeated Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon in three sets, before ending the run of Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals. Despite his three-set loss to former World No. 1 Andy Murray in the championship match, the 34-year-old jumps two spots to No. 15 in the ATP Race To London. Read Final Report.
Leading ATP Race To London Contenders
No. 7, Alexander Zverev, 2,855 points
The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion can confirm his spot in London this week if he lifts the Swiss Indoors Basel trophy and other results go his way. Zverev enters the ATP 500 event in form, after reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 final of the year at the Rolex Shanghai Masters (l. to Medvedev). The 22-year-old reached the semi-finals in Basel last year, before falling to Romania’s Marius Copil in three sets.
No. 8, Matteo Berrettini, 2,525 points
The Italian will attempt to strengthen his position in the Race with a strong debut appearance at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Sitting in the eighth and final qualification spot for The O2, Berrettini leads ninth-placed Roberto Bautista Agut by just 40 points. The US Open semi-finalist also arrives in Europe after an impressive run in Shanghai, where he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final (l. to Zverev).
No. 9, Roberto Bautista Agut, 2,485 points
Bautista Agut will be hoping to re-enter the qualification positions with a deep run in Basel. Competing for the first time since losing to fellow contender Berrettini in Shanghai, the Spaniard will face last year’s runner-up Copil in Switzerland. Bautista Agut has reached the Basel quarter-finals in each of the past two editions of the ATP 500 tournament.
No. 10, David Goffin, 2,325 points
In the same quarter of the draw as Bautista Agut in Basel, David Goffin also faces a tricky opener this week as he looks to close the 200-point gap to eighth-placed Berrettini. The Belgian will meet 2016 champion Marin Cilic for a spot in the second round. Goffin and Cilic are tied at 3-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but Cilic has won each of their three most recent encounters without dropping a set.
No. 11, Fabio Fognini, 2,235 points
A further 90 points behind Goffin is Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters winner Fognini. The 32-year-old arrives in Basel after falling to Janko Tisparevic in his opening match at the Intrum Stockholm Open last week. The fifth seed, who shares the second quarter of the draw with Stefanos Tsitsipas, opens his Basel campaign against Next Gen ATP Finals contender Alexei Popyrin.
A LOOK BACK
Las Vegas Tennis Open (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA): In January, Vasek Pospisil was laying on an operating table. The Canadian had undergone back surgery to repair a herniated disc and would miss the next five months, before returning at Wimbledon.
On Sunday, Pospisil found his way back to the winners' circle. The 29-year-old claimed his eighth ATP Challenger Tour title and first in nearly two years, prevailing on the hard courts of Las Vegas. He defeated Aussie James Duckworth 7-5, 6-7(11), 6-3 in two hours and 26 minutes.
"He's a great competitor and it was just a really good match," said Pospisil. "It had some ups and downs and drama, which is expected in a final. I'm just happy I got through it. I wasn't serving as well as I would have liked to. The difference was that I started to be a little more aggressive. It was a very competitive match. From my end, it was about doing well on second serve returns and applying a bit of pressure."
Duckworth did well to deny five match points in the second set tie-break, but it was Pospisil who eventually converted his sixth. He completed an impressive week that saw him not drop a set en route to the final, also defeating Michael Mmoh, Peter Polansky, Mitchell Krueger, Taro Daniel and a red-hot Christopher O'Connell.
It has been an impressive comeback campaign for the Canadian, who is just 10 days removed from a Round of 16 appearance at the Rolex Shanghai Masters as a qualifier. There, he earned his second Top 20 win in recent weeks, upsetting Diego Schwartzman after toppling Karen Khachanov at the US Open.
"I still I have a lot of work to do. Tennis is all about ups and downs like anything else in life. For the moment I'm enjoying the wave I'm on and we'll see where it takes me."
The former World No. 25 will rise to No. 168 in the ATP Rankings.
International Men's Challenger (Ningbo, China): Yasutaka Uchiyama is saving his best tennis for the final months of the season. The Japanese No. 3 turned in a masterclass on Sunday in Ningbo, needing 71 minutes to dismiss Steven Diez 6-1, 6-3 for the championship. Uchiyama dropped one set all week to secure his fifth Challenger title.
"It was tough, especially at the beginning of the match," said Uchiyama. "I wasn't serving well, but after 3-1 in the first set I started to get my rhythm. And at the end of the match, it wasn't easy to close it out but I'm happy to win in two sets."
At the age of 27, the victory moves Uchiyama into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time. He is in the midst of a dominant run of form in recent weeks, also lifting the Challenger trophy in nearby Shanghai and streaking to the quarter-finals at his hometown ATP Tour event in Tokyo. It will all culminate in a career-high position of No. 87 on Monday.
Wolffkran Open (Ismaning, Germany): On the lightning-fast carpet courts of Ismaning, it was Lukas Lacko who sprinted into the winners' circle on Sunday. The Slovakian defeated Maxime Cressy 6-3, 6-0 in just 50 minutes to lift the trophy.
Lacko, who saved three match points in Saturday's semi-final victory over Julian Lenz, proceeded to lift his 13th Challenger trophy and first of the year. The former World No. 44 is pushing towards a Top 100 return at the age of 31. He rises to No. 192 in the ATP Rankings with the triumph.
Photo: Juergen Hasenkopf
A LOOK AHEAD
It's the final week of the ATP Race To Milan and Ugo Humbert is on the brink of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Sitting in eighth position, he enters Brest, France as the top seed. Roberto Carballes Baena, Thomas Fabbiano and Corentin Moutet are also competing at the Challenger 100 event.
In Traralgon, Australia, Uchiyama looks to secure titles in back-to-back weeks. The first of a two-week Aussie swing also features home hopes James Duckworth, Marc Polmans, Alex Bolt and Andrew Harris.
Hamburg debuts with Salvatore Caruso and Elias Ymer leading the indoor hard court event. And the Chinese swing moves to Liuzhou, where Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina are the top seeds.
Meanwhile, in Lima, Peru, native son Juan Pablo Varillas returns home to a hero's welcome after securing his country's first Challenger title in 11 years. The Lima Challenger is the first of three clay-court tournaments in South America, to be followed by Guayaquil, Ecuador and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Most ATP Tour players wouldn’t look back fondly on a first-round exit, but Stefanos Tsitsipas believes his opening-round defeat at this year’s US Open was a blessing in disguise.
”It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Tsitsipas said ahead of the Swiss Indoors Basel, where he is seeded third. “I stayed in New York for six or seven days after and it gave me time to discover new things. It was important for me to enjoy and realise what I needed in my life.
”It was my decision to live life how I wanted to, not how others wanted me to. There was a time last summer when I doubted myself, [thought] that I wasn’t interesting as a person. I wanted to be someone else, but now I understand that it’s awesome to be myself.”
Since New York, the #NextGenATP Greek has succeeded with his unique brand of tennis. He finished runner-up in Beijing (l. to Thiem) and scored a win over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to a semi-final showing at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. The pair of results helped clinch his maiden appearance at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, held from 10-17 November at The O2 in London.
Tsitsipas also credited his recent form with a different approach to his tennis. In keeping with the need to be himself, he decided to accept his limitations and play to his strengths. A player with as much variety as Tsitsipas can sometimes have difficulty selecting what shot to hit, so the Greek opted to keep things simple on the practice court and in matches.
"I practise more efficiently. I focus on things that may work not in the long term, but [will] in the short term. I know where I should push more,” Tsitsipas said. “Before, I was always seeking more and didn’t really understand what my orientations were. That would make me crazy, even during matches, and I’d have outbursts.
"I took things way too seriously and thought that was how I got the titles, whatever I was pushing towards. I was pushing way too much and sometimes I have to enjoy it. I can’t win every single week."
But Tsitsipas isn’t just making changes on the court. Once an avid social media user, he let his manager handle his personal accounts and deleted all of his social media apps (except for Gidget and WhatsApp). He believes the decision sparked more authentic interactions in his life and allowed him to relax away from the court.
"I’m not checking Instagram on my phone for 30 or 40 minutes like I used to. It was really stressful and drove me crazy a little bit,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel a difference in my behavior and how I feel. I can connect with people better. Being away from social media and spending more quality time is one of the best things that’s happened to me.”
After a challenging four-month stretch this season that saw Tsitsipas endure six opening-round exits, he has emerged as a stronger player. Although the Greek would love to clinch his first ATP 500 title in Basel, the end result won’t deter his belief that he’s moving in the right direction.
"I’m currently in the best state of my life,” Tsitsipas said. “It doesn’t have to do with results or playing good tennis or bad tennis. I’ve been feeling very happy and very well. I’ve been enjoying life more in general and that reflects in my game. It makes me happy and makes me want to live better.”
In a year filled with highs on the court, Rafael Nadal is also creating unforgettable moments off the court. The Spaniard tied the knot with longtime girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello over the weekend in Mallorca.
Nadal revealed the news via his academy’s social media accounts on Sunday. Fabio Fognini, Jeremy Chardy and Marc Lopez are among the players who have expressed their excitement.
Nadal is scheduled to return to action later this month at the Rolex Paris Masters before turning his attention to the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, held from 10-17 at The O2 in London.
The final two ATP 500 events of the season take centre stage this week. Two-time defending champion and top seed Roger Federer will bid to lift his 10th title at the Swiss Indoors Basel, while home favourite Dominic Thiem leads the way at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. With 500 ATP Rankings points available to the champions at each event, the two European indoor tournaments could prove crucial in the ATP Race To London and ATP Race To Milan.
Things To Watch In Vienna
1) Top Seed Thiem: World No. 5 Dominic Thiem will make his 10th straight appearance in Vienna this year. The 26-year-old is hoping to advance past the quarter-finals at the ATP 500 event for the first time. Thiem will be confident of success at home this year after lifting his first trophy on Austrian soil at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel two months ago.
2) Tsonga Returns: Thiem’s first-round opponent in Vienna will be 2011 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Making his seventh appearance in Vienna this year, Tsonga has compiled a 15-5 record and reached three championship matches at this event. Tsonga is chasing his third indoor trophy of the year, after title runs at ATP 250 tournaments in Montpellier and Metz.
3) Matteo In The Race: Third seed Matteo Berrettini is aiming to pick up crucial points in the ATP Race To London. The 23-year-old currently occupies the eighth and final qualification spot, with a 40-point lead over ninth-placed Roberto Bautista Agut. Making his debut in Vienna, Berrettini will bid to reach his first indoor final on the ATP Tour.
4) More Tennis For Denis: Intrum Stockholm Open titlist Denis Shapovalov is back in action after lifting his maiden tour-level trophy in the Swedish capital on Sunday. The #NextGenATP Canadian did not drop a set en route to the ATP 250 title, but can expect to be tested in his opening match against Chengdu champion Pablo Carreno Busta. During his week in Stockholm, Shapovalov also qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the third straight year.
5) Going For No. 3: Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are aiming to lift their third Vienna trophy as a team. The top seeds claimed back-to-back titles in the Austrian capital in 2015 and 2016 and enter the tournament in impressive form. The Polish-Brazilian pairing reached back-to-back finals in its two most recent events: Beijing and Shanghai.
Things To Watch In Basel
1) Welcome Home: Roger Federer is looking to lift his 10th Swiss Indoors Basel title this year. The World No. 3 — a former ball kid in Basel — has won his past 20 matches at this event and owns a 71-9 tournament record. Federer will contest his 1,500th tour-level match in the opening round against Peter Gojowczyk. The Swiss has reached the championship match in each of his 12 most recent appearances at the ATP 500 event.
2) Zverev Continues Push: Alexander Zverev can qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals this week if he wins the Basel title and other results go his way. The reigning Nitto ATP Finals titlist currently occupies seventh position in the ATP Race To London with just two places remaining at the elite eight-man event to be held at The O2 from 10-17 November. Zverev reached the semi-finals in Basel last year and will be aiming to lift his fourth ATP Tour indoor trophy.
3) The Chasing Pack: Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin and Fabio Fognini all feature in the Basel draw. They occupy positions 9-11 in the ATP Race To London and will be hoping to narrow the gap on Zverev and Berrettini with just two weeks remaining for players to book their spot in London.
4) Wild Card Copil: Last year’s runner-up Marius Copil returns to Basel as a wild card this year and will face Nitto ATP Finals contender Bautista Agut in the first round. The Romanian defeated two Top 10 players — Zverev and Marin Cilic — to reach his first ATP 500 final last year. Copil fell in straight sets to nine-time champion Federer in the championship match.
5) In-Form Germans: Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies enter Basel in form after capturing the European Open doubles trophy on Sunday. Krawietz and Mies are attempting to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time this year and currently occupy third place in the ATP Doubles Race To London. The German pairing has lifted three ATP Tour trophies this season.
Last year at the Citi Open, Andy Murray visibly broke down into tears after defeating Marius Copil in a match that ended past 3 am in Washington, D.C. Those emotions didn't just come because he won, but because the Scot had underwent hip surgery earlier in the year and was struggling through the pain during his comeback.
Little did he know that more than 14 months and another hip surgery later, he would be in tears after a match again. This time, it was after defeating Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp to win the European Open, the first title of his singles comeback.
“I don’t know why you get emotional about certain things or the reason for why it comes. Everyone is different,” Murray said. “It was because the past few years have been hard for me and tennis is something that I love doing and today was unexpected and yeah, there’s lots of reasons for me to be emotional today.”
Before Antwerp, Murray competed in three tournaments in Asia — Zhuhai, Beijing and Shanghai — and ahead of the trip the Scot spoke with his team to discuss goals for what he wanted to achieve.
“I just want to try and be competitive. I want to feel like when I’m on the court I’m not getting smashed, that I’m making it difficult for them and competing as best I could,” Murray told his team.
“I wasn’t thinking I’m going to win tournaments or I’m going to be beating guys like Stan and Berrettini and pushing guys like Fognini close. I just wanted to feel like I was competitive. This has come as a surprise to me and my team.”
Murray did not win a set in his first two tour-level matches back on the singles court in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem. When he arrived in Antwerp, he had not made a quarter-final at any level in six attempts. So although the 32-year-old carried 45 tour-level titles into Sunday’s clash with Wawrinka, it was still uncharted territory.
“I was nervous before the match today for sure. Yesterday, not so much. But before the match I was pretty nervous and I didn’t feel prepared really to win… because I wasn’t expecting it,” Murray said. “When I was out there, I wasn’t ahead at all until right at the end. Had I had a lead maybe I would have found it more difficult but because I was always playing from behind the whole time, I got that break right at the end… I didn’t feel ready to win if that makes any sense. But it happened.”
Earlier in the week, Murray admitted that when he lost in the third round of an ATP Challenger Tour event held in Mallorca during the US Open, he was a bit concerned with both his tennis and his physical conditioning. The Scot thought he was, “quite far from this level”. But the concern was because he had hope. And he showed that in Antwerp, where he battled through four matches in four days — including three consecutive three-setters — to emerge glorious for the first time since 2017 Dubai.
“Once I actually started playing singles matches again and stuff I could see there was something there, I might be able to be competitive and stuff. If I could improve my agility, my movement around the court, I could start asking the question, ‘Why not? Why shouldn’t I be able to compete? I can still hit the ball the same as I did before. I’m able to serve better than I was the past couple of years,’” Murray said. “I made the quarters of Wimbledon when I was pretty much on one leg that year [in 2017]. So I was like, 'If I could get my leg strong again and get the movement back, I’m in a different spot.' I just thought it would take longer to get to this point. I thought it would take longer for sure. But obviously I’m happy that it hasn’t.”
As valuable as this Antwerp trophy will remain to Murray for years to come, there’s something that is perhaps even more important. The last time he broke down on a court, it was because he knew how badly he was struggling with his body. This time, his hip is not a worry at all.
“My hip is fine. There’s no pain there anymore, which is amazing. I guess there shouldn’t be because it’s metal, there’s no pain receptors or anything in the metal, so that’s brilliant,” Murray said. “It allows me to compete like that and enjoy what it is that I’m doing.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the European Open in Antwerp as Andy Murray completed a remarkable comeback from hip surgery by defeating Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final. The win gave the Brit his first ATP Tour title since 2017 Dubai.
The outpouring of love was also evident on social media, where everyone from Feliciano Lopez to James Corden sung their praises for Murray. ATPTour.com looks at some of the best tweets about this unforgettable moment.
Andy ******* Murray!!!!— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) October 20, 2019
@andy_murray it’s always been a pleasure sharing a court with you, great to have you back & congrats on a strong tournament!— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) October 20, 2019
Antwerp thank you for your love & support, and for a special day on court today!🥈🙏🏻🇧🇪🖤💛❤️
#Antwerp #Final #BackToWork #TrustTheProcess #Belgium #Love pic.twitter.com/sDZ2b4ICP0
What can i say @andy_murray ?🤷🏻♂️— Feliciano López (@feliciano_lopez) October 20, 2019
Makes me so happy to see you succeed..insane what you’ve done this week after everything u went through..truly inspiring ❤️will have 🍷 tonight to celebrate with you from a distance. 🎩 off Sir Andy
What Andy Murray has just done is incredible. To win in Antwerp like he has just done shows such unbelievable resilience and commitment. Amazing achievement— James Corden (@JKCorden) October 20, 2019
October 20, 2019
‘It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!’ - Rocky Balboa.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 20, 2019
Congrats @andy_murray on one of the all-time great sporting comebacks. 👏👏👏👊 pic.twitter.com/bB5hUTwMWs
Hip hip hurray Murray . Amazing stuff. Congrats to the whole team @andy_murray— Ivan Ljubicic (@theljubicic) October 20, 2019
Can’t believe @andy_murray has won his 1st Atp singles title with a metal hip.Incredible effort. What a competitor to win from a set and a break down against Stan the man. Who would have believed it. Amazing— Greg Rusedski (@GregRusedski1) October 20, 2019
Denis Shapovalov arrived at the Intrum Stockholm Open with an 0-7 record in ATP Tour semi-finals. But after clearing that hurdle on Saturday with a win over Japanese Yuichi Sugita, he only needed one try to clinch his first ATP Tour title as he defeated Serbian Filip Krajinovic in Sunday’s final. The #NextGenATP Canadian is the 15th first-time winner on the ATP Tour this season.
First-Time ATP Tour Champions In 2019
|Alex de Minaur||19||Sydney|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||25||Cordoba|
|Laslo Djere||23||Rio de Janeiro|
|Reilly Opelka||21||New York|
|Radu Albot||28||Delray Beach|
|Guido Pella||28||Sao Paulo|
ATPTour.com caught up with Shapovalov after the match to talk to him about his triumph.
What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It means a lot to me. My team and I have put in a lot of work over the years and it’s been a pretty big goal of ours to try and lift the title. I’m just super proud of me and my team.
After breaking through with your first ATP Tour final on Saturday, did it feel like a weight had been lifted?
I don’t know about that. I had some bad luck in the other semi-finals and some tough draws, but I knew that I’d win one eventually. Making the semi-finals is still a great result. It’s not easy to do. I stayed pretty patient with that, but I was really excited to win the match and was looking forward to the final.
The clay and grass-court seasons this year were perhaps the most challenging time of your career so far. How did you get yourself back on track and what did you learn from that experience?
It was a tough period for me mentally. I wasn’t completely there after such a big run in Miami and wasn’t fully prepared to be on for the clay-court season. I had a couple of tough draws and wasn’t so fired up to play every match. After Wimbledon, I took some time off and did a little bit of soul searching, found the reason why I enjoyed tennis again. I’ve been playing the sport differently and treating it differently ever since then.
Are short breaks like that something you might do more often in the future?
It helped me a lot. I think it’s important to take breaks every once in a while. You get eager to play as much as possible, but it’s also important to listen to yourself. Once I took that break, I felt like I switched a page and was starting from scratch. I’ve been playing with a different charisma ever since Montreal.
You’ve consistently been having good results since starting to work with Mikhail Youzhny. What has he brought to your game and your team overall?
He’s done amazing. He’s got so much experience over me, been on Tour for so long and achieved some great things in his career. Just talking to him and having him give his feedback has helped as well. He’s helped me add more variety to my game, added a little bit more chip, and that really helps with opponents. He’s got a great eye for the game.
Your mom has been a key part of your tennis from the very beginning. What are the benefits to traveling on the road with a parent?
It’s a huge benefit to have her on Tour. My whole career is credited to her. I wouldn’t have lifted up a racquet if it weren’t for her and she knows my game better than any other person in the world, including myself. Especially when I’m not feeling so good, she always finds the one or two things that change the way I’m playing and feeling on court.
Looking ahead to the off-season, do you have anything fun planned before pre-season prep begins?
I haven’t planned anything yet, but I’m hoping to start off in the Bahamas and then head to Florida to train at the IMG Academy.
Tell us something about yourself that your fans may not know.
I’m pretty open with my fans, so I think they know a lot about me…maybe that I hate horror films!
How will you celebrate the win tonight?
Probably just have a nice dinner. I can’t celebrate too much because I have another tournament coming up [in Vienna], but we’ll try to make the most of it.
Entering this year’s New York Open, Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies had mostly competed on the ATP Challenger Tour, only playing three tour-level events together before that week. But the Germans won that title and they have not looked back since.
Top seeds Krawietz and Mies captured their third title of the season on Sunday in Antwerp, defeating second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 7-6(1), 6-3 in one hour and 14 minutes to triumph at the European Open.
“We enjoyed it a lot all week. The tournament was really nice, very well organised... We had a lot of fun this week,” Mies said. “We had a good time.”
The Germans, who won Roland Garros this year, surge into third place in the ATP Doubles Race To London thanks to their Antwerp victory. Krawietz and Mies are trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time, and they saved the only break point they faced against Ram and Salisbury in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
“The Belgians were really loud, actually. We had a great atmosphere. It really helps for the doubles when you have Stan Wawrinka against Andy Murray in the final coming up after our match,” Mies said. “It was pretty packed and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was unbelievable, and we played one of our best matches this year.”
Krawietz and Mies earn 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points each and a share of €35,960 for their efforts. They did not drop a set at this ATP 250 event.
“Lovely tournament. A lot of people came for the doubles final, also for the rounds before. The crowd was huge yesterday,” Krawietz said. “[We] enjoyed the game and enjoyed the tournament.”
Ram and Salisbury, who are also in Nitto ATP Finals contention, could have surpassed Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau for sixth place in the Race if they defeated the Germans. Instead, the American-British pair add 150 points to their tallies and split €18,430.
It was a case of déjà vu on Sunday at the VTB Kremlin Cup. A Russian dominated seventh-seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to take the title in Moscow for the second year in a row, but this time it was sixth seed Andrey Rublev who cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory on his 22nd birthday.
Rublev hadn't won a match in Moscow in six previous attempts, but took his second ATP Tour title and became the ninth Russian to prevail at this event. He's won 19 of his past 25 matches and will crack the Top 25 of the ATP Rankings for the first time when the newest standings are released on Monday.
“I’m at a loss. I can’t find the right words for what it means to me to win here,” Rublev said. “I grew up with this tournament. I spent my whole childhood at the VTB Kremlin Cup. I will remember this tournament and this win for many years, and I’ll hopefully be playing this tournament for many years down the road.”
Mannarino's steady tennis brought him to the final without dropping a set, but the Frenchman was beaten at his own game on Centre Court. Rublev was able to engage in extended baseline rallies, but possessed the firepower to take control of points and launch winners when opportunities arose. The Russian broke in the opening game after drawing a forehand error from Mannarino and held his slight advantage to take the early lead.
The second set was one-way traffic as Mannarino continued to offer birthday gifts in the form of unforced errors. Rublev dropped just three points in setting up triple championship point. The magnitude of the moment hit the Russian and he struck a pair of double faults to erase the first two, but he made good on the third chance and dropped to his knees after prevailing in 63 minutes.
Despite the loss, Mannarino has continued to produce solid results in the second half of the year. He finished runner-up last month in Zhuhai (l. to De Minaur) and earned his first ATP Tour title this June in 's-Hertogenbosch (d. Thompson). The Frenchman has posted a 20-11 record since the start of the grass-court season.
“It’s another great week for me in Moscow and I always enjoy competing here,” Mannarino said. “It was just too good from him today.”
Rublev earned 250 ATP Rankings points and $144,830. Mannarino picked up 150 ATP Rankings points and $78,310.
Both men will compete next week at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, with Rublev opening against sixth-seeded #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Mannarino squaring off with American Sam Querrey.
Early on in Sunday’s European Open final, it appeared that Andy Murray’s dream week would fall just short of a perfect ending. Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka was playing aggressive tennis from on top of the baseline, and Murray struggled to find an answer on his fourth consecutive day of singles action after three-setters in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
But the Scot showed his trademark grit — which once helped him climb to the top of the ATP Rankings — to rally past Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, triumphing in Antwerp to lift his first ATP Tour trophy since undergoing career-threatening hip surgery in January.
"It means a lot. The past few years have been extremely difficult. Both me and Stan have had a lot of injury problems in the past couple of years. Amazing to be back playing against him in a final like that. I think it was a great match," Murray said on court after his victory. "I didn't expect to be in this position at all, so I'm very happy."
This is Murray’s first title since 2017 Dubai, when he was the World No. 1. In the first six tournaments — at all levels — of his singles comeback, which started in Cincinnati this August, the Scot never advanced past the quarter-finals. But World No. 243 Murray improved as this ATP 250 event wore on to become the lowest-ranked ATP Tour champion since No. 355 Pablo Andujar in Marrakech last year.
With Wawrinka searching for his first title since undergoing two left knee surgeries in August 2017, both players showed that they are well on the way back to their best with captivating all-court play that thrilled the Belgian fans. But it was Murray who took a 12-8 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series after triumphing in two hours and 27 minutes.
"Stan is a brilliant player. He's won many, many big tournaments. He always plays extremely well in the big matches," Murray said. "We know each other's games well. We played many tough matches in the past. I expected another one today and that was what I got."
Wawrinka broke serve immediately, pummelling a backhand passing shot so hard that Murray could not lift his racquet in time. And while the Scot earned two break opportunities at 0-2 to recover that break, Wawrinka maintained his lead. The Swiss’ powerful game pushed Murray well behind the baseline and kept the Scot from winning too many quick points, turning this into a physical encounter from the get-go.
After breaking for a 2-1 lead in the second set, Wawrinka seemed well on his way to victory. But Murray dug deep and found another gear. Wawrinka saved two break points at 3-2, but he lashed a backhand down the line into the net, with Murray immediately letting out a massive roar. The Swiss was not surprised at all by Murray's fighting spirit.
"He's an amazing champion, he's part of the Big Four, he's one of the top players to every play this sport. He's won everything possible on the tennis court. He's a big champion, always a fighter," Wawrinka said. "He's coming back already from hip surgery. [To play] at that level, it's something amazing."
The 46-time tour-level titlist Murray came under pressure at 4-4, saving two break points that would have allowed Wawrinka to serve for the match. On the second one, a Murray running crosscourt forehand was called wide, but the call was overturned after a challenge, and he crushed another crosscourt forehand when they replayed the point to get out of trouble. Murray rode that momentum in the next game, breaking to force a decider.
"Stan was playing unbelievable. Stan was playing amazing tennis, hitting winners from all over the court," Murray said. "I just managed to hang in a bit at the end of the second set and then obviously the third set was extremely close again."
Murray's ATP Tour Titles Winning Semis & Final From A Set Down
That was when the proverbial tug of war began. Four consecutive breaks from 1-1 in the third set did not necessarily come down to the weakness of the stars’ serves. Instead, it was both men refusing to let their opponent gain an edge, fist-pumping and letting rip roars of 'Let's go!' after every lengthy rally and key point.
Twice in the deciding set Wawrinka went up a break. But twice Murray battled back and immediately got back on serve, evening the match at 3-3 when the Swiss laced a backhand down the line just wide. And Murray clinched his victory with a fifth break in the match when Wawrinka missed a forehand wide.
This was the second time that Murray claimed an ATP Tour crown by winning his quarter-final, semi-final and championship match in a deciding set. The other instance was the 2016 Fever-Tree Championships.
"This is one of the biggest wins that I've had after everything," said Murray, who earns 250 ATP Ranking points and €109,590 in prize money. "I'm very proud of the win this week and I've enjoyed my time here."
Wawrinka fell just short in the end, but the 34-year-old has now produced two tremendous results in a row after making the US Open quarter-finals. The 16-time tour-level titlist does not add a trophy, but captures 150 ATP Ranking points and €59,255.
Did You Know?
This was just the second time that Wawrinka and Murray have met for a title. Murray was victorious at Doha in 2008, triumphing in three sets.
Since his breakthrough semi-final run at the 2017 Coupe Rogers, Denis Shapovalov has been named as a title contender at ATP Tour events across the world.
On Sunday, the #NextGenATP Canadian became an ATP Tour champion for the first time at the Intrum Stockholm Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Filip Krajinovic. Shapovalov is the 15th first-time tour-level champion of the year. This season has produced the most first-time winners since 1999, when 16 men claimed their first tour-level title.
“I am definitely super happy and just really proud,” said Shapovalov. “Me and my team have worked really hard to get into this position of lifting a title, so I am really proud of myself and proud of my team right now.”
First-Time ATP Tour Champions In 2019
|Alex de Minaur||19||Sydney|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||25||Cordoba|
|Laslo Djere||23||Rio de Janeiro|
|Reilly Opelka||21||New York|
|Radu Albot||28||Delray Beach|
|Guido Pella||28||Sao Paulo|
Shapovalov did not drop a set en route to becoming the first Canadian champion in Stockholm. The fourth seed beat Alexei Popyrin and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe to reach his eighth tour-level semi-final, before snapping his seven-match losing streak in last-four clashes against Yuichi Sugita on Saturday.
”This tournament started the year my mom was born, so it has got a great history and it is amazing to be the first Canadian to win it,” said Shapovalov. “I have seen all the amazing names up on the board, so it will be nice to see my name up there as well.”
The three-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier’s victory marks the second straight year that a #NextGenATP star has captured his first ATP Tour crown at this ATP 250 event. In 2018, Stefanos Tsitsipas picked up his maiden trophy in Stockholm before triumphing at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Shapovalov’s title run comes in the same week that he booked his place at this year’s 21-and-under event. The third edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals will take place from 5-9 November at the Allianz Cloud.
Shapovalov wasted no time imposing his game on Krajinovic at the Kungliga Tennishallen, striking with power off both wings and charging to the net to rush his opponent. The Canadian’s attacking threat may have affected the Serbian on break point, as Krajinovic committed a double fault at 1-1, 15/40 to drop his serve.
The 20-year-old served with power and precision throughout the set, firing nine aces and dropping just two points behind his first serve (15/17) to maintain his advantage. Shapovalov closed out the set on his third set point with a powerful serve down the T.
With neither player able to break serve in a series of marathon games early in the second set, Shapovalov soon earned his chance to serve for the match. With consistent pace and depth on his returns at 4-4, Shapovalov quickly took control of points with his forehand to break his opponent for a second time. The World No. 34 closed out the match on his first championship point, soaking up the power from Krajinovic’s return before raising his hands in celebration as the Serbian fired a crosscourt backhand into the net.
”I told myself as long as I keep taking care of my serve I will be okay,” said Shapovalov. “In the second set, it was a little bit tough. I had a lot of deuce games on his serve and I wasn’t able to convert. I just kept fighting and stayed patient. Sooner or later I was able to get the break.”
Krajinovic was also attempting to claim his first ATP Tour trophy. The 27-year-old was competing in his third tour-level championship match, with previous runner-up finishes at this year’s Hungarian Open and the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters.
“He was the better player today, for sure. He played really well,” said Krajinovic. “It was a great week for me, I keep going and I have to work.”
Shapovalov earns 250 ATP Ranking points and collects €109,590 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Krajinovic receives 150 ATP Ranking points and €59,255.
Henri Kontinen and Edouard Roger-Vasselin capped their team debut week with a title at the Intrum Stockholm Open on Sunday, beating third seeds Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-2.
“It was the first time we played together and the first time for me here in Stockholm, so definitely a great week,” said Roger-Vasselin. “We played probably one of our best matches today. We knew that our opponents were very strong, winning in Shanghai… It was a perfect week.”
The unseeded team snapped Pavic and Soares’ eight-match winning streak after 67 minutes, breaking serve on three occasions to overcome the Shanghai titlists. Kontinen and Roger-Vasselin dropped just one set en route to the title, but were forced to save three match points in that match to advance to the final. The debut pairing edged fourth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Fabrice Martin 6-3, 3-6, 16-14 in the semi-finals on Friday.
“We had a couple of close ones. The second round was very close, a great match against a tough team and then we were down three match points in the semi-finals. Small margins, but we were feeling pretty good coming into the final. [Pavic and Soares were a] tough team to beat but we saved our best match for last.”
Kontinen improves his impressive tour-level finals record to 23-5 after winning his second ATP Tour trophy of the season. The former World No. 1 also triumphed at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in February (w/Chardy).
This is Roger-Vasselin’s 20th tour-level crown. The 35-year-old has lifted four ATP Tour trophies in 2019, with previous title runs in Montpellier (w/Dodig), Lyon (w/Dodig) and Tokyo (w/Mahut).
Pavic and Soares were aiming to lift their second title as a team since joining forces at the Fever-Tree Championships in June. Pavic and Soares were both attempting to add to their Stockholm trophy collections, with Pavic lifting the trophy in 2017 (w/Marach) and Soares enjoying title runs in 2009 (Ullyett) and 2012 (w/Melo).
Kontinen and Roger-Vasselin receive 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €35,960 in prize money. Pavic and Soares gain 150 points and share €18,430.
Roger Federer has enjoyed another successful season, qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for a record-extending 17th time. He holds a 47-8 record, putting him in second this season in terms of winning percentage at 85.5 per cent, which trails only Rafael Nadal (88.9%)
But the Swiss has also had some near misses. Five of his eight tour-level losses this year have come in deciding sets, with three of those coming in quarter-finals and two occurring in championship matches. How has the World No. 3 overcome those disappointments mentally?
“I forgot them,” Federer said. “You move on.”
Federer will play his 1,500th tour-level match in his opener at the Swiss Indoors Basel, and he has lost 268 times. The 38-year-old has not captured his 102 tour-level titles by dwelling on his defeats.
“I try to keep the highest possible level always. Sometimes it’s the opponent, sometimes it’s your own mind or game that goes off. And of course you work at it with the right work ethic in practice, with the right concentration and everything,” Federer said. “But I would have to go back and look at all the matches I’ve played this season. Only a few stand out to me that maybe I could have won that I didn’t. But if I look back at my whole career I’ve had a lot of matches that I could have won that I lost. But also I won much more than I should have or could have.”
Competing in Basel has always been special for Federer, who served as a ball boy at the event when he was a kid. The nine-time champion has reached the final of this ATP 500 tournament in each of his past 12 appearances.
And although Federer has captured three titles this season — it is the 16th time he has accomplished the feat in his career — he has not made it past the quarter-finals in his past three tournaments. So the home favourite will look to use his home event as a springboard for the rest of the year.
“I feel like it’s been a very solid season. It started very well for me and I hope to pick it up now for the year-end,” Federer said. “I love playing indoors as well and I hope it’s going to all happen in Basel… [and that I’ll] bounce back a little bit.”
One year ago, the Intrum Stockholm Open was named the ATP 250 Tournament of the Year in the 2018 ATP Tour Awards. The award, voted annually by ATP players, recognises the leading standards set across events on the ATP Tour.
And on Saturday, the event was honoured for its efforts. ATP Supervisor Thomas Karlberg presented Tournament Director Simon Aspelin with a trophy recognising the prestigious award.
“On behalf of Stockholm Open AB and Game Set Events I want to thank everyone involved in planning and delivering this event,” said Aspelin. “It is such an honour to receive this award from the players and makes us very happy as we want all players to feel at home enjoying the best Swedish hospitality. A special thanks to all our loyal sponsors, volunteers and spectators for making this event possible and pushing us to keep improving every year.”
The Intrum Stockholm Open claimed the Tournament of the Year award in the 250 category for the second time. It previously shared the honour with the Winston-Salem Open in 2016. The indoor hard-court tournament marked its 50th anniversary last year. With the help of new tournament promoter Game Set Events, it celebrated unique moments of the tournament, including interviews on court with Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg.
Denis Shapovalov will compete in an ATP Tour final for the first time on Sunday at the Intrum Stockholm Open. But based on recent results in the sport, the #NextGenATP Canadian star feels that a changing of the guard is in order.
“I’m sure that next season there are going to be a lot of upsets,” Shapovalov said. “Obviously the Big Three, they’re still playing really well. But I think sooner or later, we’re going to dethrone them. So we’ve just got to stay patient.”
Earlier this week, Shapovalov qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the third consecutive year. Although it would take a herculean effort for the Canadian — who started the week placed 30th in the ATP Race To London — to earn a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, fellow Milan alumni Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have already done so. They will make their debuts at The O2 from 10-17 November.
“I think slowly the players are starting to rise through the [ATP] Rankings,” Shapovalov said. “Medvedev’s really made a push the past couple of months. I’m sure a lot of players are following. There are so many talented guys. There’s Frances, there’s Tsitsipas playing well, of course always Zverev.”
As for Shapovalov, his form has snowballed — in a good way — since the start of the Winston-Salem Open towards the end of August. The Canadian made his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami this March, but proceeded to lose 12 of his next 16 matches.
A semi-final showing in Winston-Salem sparked a turnaround, though, and he has gone 13-6 since then. Even though some may have believed Shapovalov would have made a final before this week considering his magical run to the 2017 Coupe Rogers semi-finals, Shapovalov has not gotten overly keen. He has remained patient, and that has proven key.
“I think everyone has his own route. For me, I feel like I shot up through the [ATP] Rankings so quickly with a couple big results. But to be honest my game wasn’t there,” Shapovalov said. “I was really flashy, really big tennis, but also really up and down. So worked really hard the past couple years to strengthen other parts of my game and really try to make it complete.”
Regardless of whether Shapovalov triumphs on Sunday or not, the dynamic lefty has taken a step in the right direction in Stockholm. On Monday, trophy or not, Shapovalov will return to the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since July, and he is as motivated as ever to continue climbing.
“I still feel like there’s a lot of room to grow, so I’m happy to be doing so well at the end of this year,” Shapovalov said. “But hopefully I can keep going so that a couple years down the road I can potentially be a Grand Slam contender.”
Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop have not been playing together for long, but they have certainly enjoyed plenty of success.
The Brazilian and Dutchman, competing at a tour-level event together for just the third time, defeated Italian Simone Bolelli and Argentine Andres Molteni 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday to claim the VTB Kremlin Cup title.
“I think it confirms what we believed, it confirms in the title. We have a great team, we have a great fight together and we believe in something,” Middelkoop said. “You don’t always get lucky to win a title, which gives you confidence, and we got the title.”
Demoliner had previously struggled in finals, entering Saturday’s match with a 1-9 record with a title on the line. But the Brazilian lifts his second ATP Tour trophy, and Middelkoop earned his eighth.
Just three weeks ago, they made the Zhuhai final, falling just short of victory. But last week, they lost in the first round of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Mouilleron le Captif, France against Romain Arneodo and Hugo Nys. That proved key, as they were even more motivated against the same team in the second round here in Moscow, riding the momentum of a victory against them to the title.
“That was like set in stone, ‘Hey, we can win this because we can beat them with good tactics and great execution,’” Middelkoop said. “From that moment we were cruising through the tournament.”
In the final, the fourth seeds saved all three break points they faced and won 51 per cent of their return points to triumph after 55 minutes. Demoliner and Middelkoop add 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points to their tallies and split $47,520.
“We had a good plan for this match and we executed very well,” Demoliner said.
Bolelli and Molteni were trying to win the title in their tour-level team debut. They earn 150 points each and will share $24,350.
Two years and eight months after winning his 45th tour-level trophy in Dubai, Andy Murray returned to an ATP Tour championship match on Saturday.
The former World No. 1, who returned to singles action at the Western & Southern Open in August, defeated Ugo Humbert 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 at the European Open to reach his first tour-level final since undergoing a second right hip surgery on 28 January. Since arriving at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month, Murray has won 8 of 11 matches on the ATP Tour.
“I am obviously happy to be in the final,” said Murray. “I did very well to turn that match around today. It was tough. He was playing huge from the back of the court… It was tricky today but I am obviously happy to be back in a final.”
Appearing in his first tour-level semi-final since 2017 Roland Garros, Murray rallied from a set down to overcome Humbert in two hours and 22 minutes. Murray has contested almost five hours of tennis in the past two days. After straight-sets victories in his opening two matches against Kimmer Coppejans and Pablo Cuevas, Murray outlasted Marius Copil in a two-hour, 35-minute quarter-final clash on Friday.
The 45-time tour-level titlist will meet a familiar opponent in the final: Stan Wawrinka. Murray leads his fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka 11-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“I think it will be a nice match to play,” said Murray. “Me and Stan have played a lot against each other… It is nice that we are both able to be back playing against each other in a final.”
Murray will be hoping to become the second straight British winner of this event. Last year, Kyle Edmund defeated Gael Monfils in a final-set tie-break to lift his maiden ATP Tour crown.
After saving two break points at 2-2 with attacking play, Humbert claimed the only break of the first set in the following game. The #NextGenATP Frenchman continued to find success on his forehand side and attacked Murray’s serve, before back-to-back errors from the former World No. 1 handed Humbert a 4-2 lead. Three games later, the 21-year-old fired his third ace of the match to hold serve to love and clinch the set after 41 minutes.
Murray and Humbert traded breaks early in the second set, before finding their rhythm on serve to head towards a tie-break. But Murray avoided that scenario, breaking at 6-5 as nerves began to creep into Humbert’s game. The 32-year-old earned three set points as Humbert began to misfire and was gifted the set as the World No. 70 committed his third double fault of the contest.
From 0/40 down in the opening game of the decider, Murray showcased his best court coverage skills to earn a 2-0 lead. Unlike the second set, the 6’3” right-hander maintained his advantage before securing his fourth break of the match to reach the final. Murray moved up the court to convert his first match point, volleying into the open court after outmanoeuvring his opponent.
“It was obviously big for me to get that [6-5] game in the second set, but the game that won me the match was the first game of the third set," said Murray. "When I was 0/40 down, I think I played a couple of good points. It was a huge game to get out of. I felt like the momentum was with me… Once I won that game, I felt like that was what set me on my way.”
Humbert was aiming to reach his first ATP Tour final and boost his chances of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The #NextGenATP Frenchman entered the week in eighth position in the ATP Race To Milan, with only seven automatic qualification spots available for the 5-9 November event.
Did You Know?
Murray’s win ends a run of French finalists at this event. In each of the previous three editions of the tournament, France has been represented in the final. Richard Gasquet (2016) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2017) claimed the first two European Open titles, before Gael Monfils’ final run last year.
Andrey Rublev arrived at the VTB Kremlin Cup this week with a 0-4 main draw record at the event, but the Moscow native will compete for the trophy at his hometown tournament on Sunday.
The sixth seed recovered from 3-5 down in the opening set en route to a 7-5, 6-4 victory against two-time champion Marin Cilic in front of a passionate home crowd. Rublev is just the second man to defeat Cilic in 13 matches in the Russian capital. Cilic claimed back-to-back titles at this event in 2014 and 2015.
“I am insanely happy to reach the finals at home in Moscow… This tournament evokes my childhood. For me, going out to play in the finals tomorrow is incredible," said Rublev.
Rublev will look to add his name to a rich history of Russian winners in Moscow. Last year, Karen Khachanov ended a nine-year wait for a home champion, but the tournament has been won by a Russian player on 15 occasions since the tournament began in 1990.
“I immediately texted [Khachanov] after I left the court, ‘Tell me everything you know, because I also want to win,'” said Rublev.
With both players looking comfortable on serve in the opening stages, Cilic made the first move in the eighth game. The 31-year-old, who earned his 500th tour-level win this week, played with depth and overpowered Rublev from the baseline to earn a 5-3 lead.
But Rublev responded immediately, reeling off four straight games to take the set. After taking advantage of double faults and forehand errors to break serve, the Russian earned the opportunity to serve for the set himself two games later with a flicked passing shot up the line. With 51 minutes on the clock, Rublev let out a huge roar as Cilic dumped a crosscourt backhand into the net to end the set.
Rublev continued to absorb Cilic’s powerful game from the baseline in the second set and made the decisive move in the ninth game. Unable to break through the Russian’s defence, Cilic fired multiple backhand errors to surrender his serve. Rublev closed out the match with four straight points, taking time away from his opponent with early strikes to reach his fourth ATP Tour final.
“It was a tense and nervous match, so it was insanely hard for me and him,” said Rublev. “He had every chance to win the first set. This is tennis. Someone leads with a break, but at a crucial moment can’t win. In an equal fight, I was able to turn the tide of the match and win.”
Rublev improves to 2-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Cilic. The 21-year-old, who improves to 31-17 at tour-level this year, also beat the Croat at the Miami Open presented by Itau in March. Rublev will face Adrian Mannarino of France for the first time in the championship match.
Mannarino advanced to a personal-best third ATP Tour final of the season, beating Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4. The Frenchman, who is yet to drop a set this week, converted two of three break points to advance after 75 minutes.
Mannarino is through to his second straight final in the Russian capital and will look to go one step further than 2018, when he fell to Khachanov in the championship match. The World No. 44 improves to 10-3 at this tournament with his fifth victory in nine FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters against Seppi.
"That was a really consistent match... I was trying to make Andreas work as hard as I could and I think that it worked out pretty well," said Mannarino. "I was serving well in the most important moments and that helped me a lot. I just hope I will be as consistent [tomorrow as I was] today."
Mannarino will be aiming to capture his second ATP Tour trophy after lifting his maiden crown at the Libema Open in June. This will be Mannarino’s second championship match in four weeks, following his runner-up finish at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month.
Former champion Seppi was bidding to reach his second final in Moscow. The 2012 titlist has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his six most recent appearances at the ATP 250 event (2012-‘14, ‘17-‘19).
#NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov has accomplished plenty in his young career. But entering his match Saturday against Yuichi Sugita at the Intrum Stockholm Open, he had never reached an ATP Tour final.
The 20-year-old carried an 0-7 record in tour-level semi-finals into his clash with the Japanese lucky loser, and his frustration showed after misfiring from the baseline in the early going to trail by a break. But Shapovalov recovered well, defeating Sugita 7-5, 6-2 to make his breakthrough in Sweden.
"It feels amazing. Kind of a tough beginning. I think he played really well at the beginning," Shapovalov said. "I was a little bit nervous, so I'm really happy to turn the match around."
It was a long time coming for Shapovalov, who has climbed as high as No. 20 in the ATP Rankings and earned two victories against Top 10 opponents. He made three of his previous semi-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events.
"I've played a lot of semis it feels like, so it's really exciting to be into my first final. I've had some bad luck, some tough matches in the semis," Shapovalov said. "But on the other side making the semi-finals is a good sign, so I knew sooner or later the win was going to come, so I've stayed pretty patient."
Once Shapovalov recovered the early break he let slip, the Canadian began to play much more measured tennis, using his aggression, but being more patient to avoid giving Sugita free points via unforced errors. The Japanese player was unable to find the energy to battle back after needing more than three hours on Friday evening to defeat Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals.
Shapovalov will face Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who is also pursuing his first ATP Tour crown, for the title. Krajinovic arrived in Stockholm on a three-match losing streak, but the World No. 60 has reversed his fortunes in a major way. Krajinovic rallied past fifth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the championship match of the Intrum Stockholm Open.
"I don't know him much. Obviously I've seen him play here and there, but he looks like he's got a pretty big serve. He likes to go for his shots, pretty similar to me. I think it's going to be an exciting match," Shapovalov said. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be through to my first final. The rest, I just get to enjoy. Obviously I'd love to win the match and win my first title, but if not, it's a big step to make the final this week, so I'm really happy with where I stand."
Krajinovic has a career-high 27 tour-level wins this year, including a trip to his second ATP Tour final in Budapest, where he was a qualifier. Almost two years ago, he enjoyed a stunning run to the championship match of the Rolex Paris Masters, an ATP Masters 1000 event, where he fell to Jack Sock with the trophy on the line.
“Thanks guys for coming to watch this match, it means a lot to me,” Krajinovic told the crowd. “Playing in the Stockholm final, it’s a dream come true.”
It looked in the early going like he would not get a chance to lift his maiden trophy, with Carreno Busta going up an immediate break. Even after Krajinovic recouped that break, Carreno Busta got it back at the end of the set when the Serbian hit an ill-advised drop shot to allow the Spaniard to rush the net.
But from the second set on, Krajinovic began to increasingly get the first strike in rallies and run Carreno Busta around the court. He won 47 per cent of his return points and broke serve five times in the match to triumph after two hours and nine minutes, earning himself a chance to battle for all the Stockholm glory.
“For sure I will give my best. It’s my third ATP final,” Krajinovic said. “I hope tomorrow it’s going to be my first [trophy], but I know it’s going to be very difficult.”
Did You Know?
With a first-time ATP Tour champion guaranteed on Sunday, it will mark the 15th first-time titlist this season. That is the most first-time winners in a season since 1999, when there were 16