Felix Auger-Aliassime's bett1HULKS opener against Egor Gerasimov was understandably a difficult match for the #NextGenATP Canadian, who struggled in Sunday's Cologne final against Alexander Zverev. But despite being on the brink of defeat against the Belarusian, Auger-Aliassime overcame his nerves and found a way to win.

Gerasimov served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but Felix, despite failing to serve out the match from 40/0 in the third set, rallied past the qualifier 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4) in two hours and 46 minutes. Auger-Aliassime hit 15 aces and saved five of the seven break points he faced in the deciding set to advance to the quarter-finals at the second ATP 250 event in Cologne in as many weeks.

"Tonight showed how cruel tennis can be sometimes," Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. "He had his chances serving for the match in the second set. I felt like he was playing a great level of tennis. And then I tried to stick in there, stay calm and try different things, adapt. In the end I got a bit nervous serving up three match points, but those are things that happen and I'm for sure really happy I came back in the last game to save it."

[WATCH LIVE 2]

The third set was a roller-coaster full of tension. Three consecutive service breaks sent the momentum back and forth in the middle of the set, resulting in the fifth seed taking a 4-3 lead.

Auger-Aliassime showed shaky nerves when serving out the match at 5-4. From 40/0, he made five consecutive errors — including a double fault — to relinquish his advantage, missing out on three match points in that game.

"That was tough mentally, to be honest. I didn't see that one coming. I was serving well the whole game," Auger-Aliassime said. "Then [I hit that] double fault and he played good points and after you get a bit nervous, I think that's normal. At the end you try your best, you try to stay in the match, which I did mentally."

The World No. 22 let slip a 4/2 advantage in the tie-break, but he crushed a backhand down the line at 4/4, which proved the decisive mini-break.

"I think I can be proud of my effort, because it's not easy whenever you face a situation like this to come back and win the match in the end," Auger-Aliassime said. "This brings me a lot of confidence and I'm for sure happy I got through."

Auger-Aliassime will next face seventh-seeded Struff or Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka. In first-round action earlier in the day, Struff defeated Sardinia finalist Marco Cecchinato 6-3, 6-1.

 

Posted: October 21, 2020, 8:47 pm

Will this be the year that Belgian doubles stars Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen triumph on home soil?

Gille and Vliegen beat Marcelo Arevalo and Jonny O’Mara 6-4, 6-3 in 68 minutes on Wednesday to reach the second round of the European Open in Antwerp. The fifth seeds earned four service breaks and won 71 per cent of their second-serve points to advance.

Gille and Vliegen won three ATP Tour titles together last year (Bastad, Gstaad, Zhuhai) and they are pursuing their first trophy of 2020. The Belgians reached the semi-finals in Antwerp last year before losing against Nitto ATP Finals competitors Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in a Match Tie-break. They will next play Brits Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

In other first-round action, Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop beat fourth seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-4. Murray and Skupski began the week in eighth place in the FedEx ATP Battle For London with four spots remaining in the doubles field at the season finale in London.

Second seeds John Peers and Michael Venus reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez. The Aussie-Kiwi duo are sixth in the Battle.

Melzer/Roger-Vasselin Continue London Pursuit In Cologne
Fourth seeds Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Santiago Gonzalez and Ken Skupski 6-1, 7-6(2) to reach the second round of the bett1HULKS Championship in Cologne. Last week’s St. Petersburg Open champions are trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time as a team.

Also advancing were second seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, who ousted Tennys Sandgren and Divij Sharan 6-4, 6-2. Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald, last week’s Forte Village Sardegna Open champions, beat wild cards Daniel Altmaier and Oscar Otte 6-4, 6-1.

FedEx ATP Battle For London: Doubles Standings

 Team  Points
 5. Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic  2,145
 6. John Peers/Michael Venus  1,810*
 7. Jurgen Melzer/ Edouard Roger-Vasselin  1,535*
 8. Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski  1,500*
 9. Max Purcell/Luke Saville  1,425
 10. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah  1,350
*Points entering this week's play
Posted: October 21, 2020, 8:11 pm

Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov made a successful European Open debut on Wednesday evening, battling past four-time ATP Tour titlist Pablo Andujar 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.

“I think tonight I just stayed in the match in a very good manner,” Dimitrov said. “I think a lot of that was experience playing indoors. You don’t get the chance to play a lot of matches indoors and the times that I have, I’ve always felt that I have a little bit of an extra edge, especially in the big moments during the match. I think today was also one of those matches.”

Dimitrov has won more than 64 per cent of his matches indoors (72-40) and 69 per cent of those played outdoors (248-170). This will be the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion’s third quarter-final of the year, having also made the last eight in Acapulco (SF) and Rome (QF). Dimitrov is chasing his first title since lifting the trophy at The O2 nearly three years ago.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

The fourth seed let slip one of the two breaks he earned in the third set, but he had enough of a buffer to triumph after two hours and 21 minutes.

“I actually played very good in the first set, but lost it. Then I thought to myself, ‘Okay, let’s just find another way,’” Dimitrov said. “I think matches like that early on are very important and you’re into the tournament now. That is probably the thing that I’m most happy with tonight.”

The 29-year-old will next play another former World No. 3, Milos Raonic or Brit Cameron Norrie.

Daniel Evans also reached the quarter-finals in Antwerp with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory against American Frances Tiafoe. The Brit saved five of the six break points he faced to advance after one hour and 41 minutes.

Evans is trying to become the third consecutive player from Great Britain to win the European Open. Kyle Edmund was victorious in 2018 and former World No. 1 Andy Murray triumphed last year.

Posted: October 21, 2020, 7:45 pm

It might be a new week for Alexander Zverev in Cologne, but the home favorite continued winning on Wednesday. And after the top seed defeated Australian John Millman 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the bett1HULKS Championship, Zverev got a special surprise.

Tournament Dog Barnie strolled onto the court to congratulate Zverev during the German's on-court interview. Barnie has kept a close eye on the action since last week’s event began.

“Now my dogs will be jealous!” Zverev said, cracking a laugh.

The match itself was far more tense, as Zverev hit 10 double faults. But he held his nerve under pressure to win his fifth consecutive match in Cologne after triumphing at last week's bett1HULKS Indoors. The recent US Open finalist has now won 11 of his past 12 matches on hard courts.

“In the first set I thought I played flawlessly, but then I wasn’t focussed at the beginning of the second [set] and the match could turn around,” Zverev said. “John is someone who has beaten top players before… you’ve got to play until the end and I thought I did a poor job serving today. But I got the win somehow.”

[WATCH LIVE 2]

The German knew he faced a tough foe in the unrelenting Millman, who pushed him to five sets at Roland Garros last year. Zverev had to dig deep again, overcoming second-serve difficulties in the third set to triumph after one hour and 55 minutes.

The 23-year-old earned the decisive break at 2-1 in the third set, crushing an inside out forehand and yelling ‘Come on!’ as a Millman backhand sailed long. As always, the Aussie battled until the last ball, putting pressure on the German. Zverev faced three break points at 4-2, but escaped the situation to prevail. Last week, Alexander’s older brother, Mischa Zverev, beat Millman 6-1, 6-4.

“I think my brother is much better than me, so that’s why he won more easily,” Zverev said, cracking a laugh. “I think John is someone who needs rhythm himself and against a baseliner, against a hard hitter, for me the harder you hit the ball against him the better it is for him. For me, it’s not easy to play slowly, so I think my game suits him quite well.”

Zverev will next face eighth seed Adrian Mannarino, who ousted Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 18 minutes. The top seed has won all three of their previous ATP Head2Head clashes, including a four-set victory at this year’s US Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor, beat American Steve Johnson 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach the last eight.

Posted: October 21, 2020, 4:48 pm

France’s Ugo Humbert saved 10 of 12 break points on Wednesday to cause an upset at the European Open when he battled to beat second seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 33 minutes.

Humbert won the first three games of the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting and led 5-2 in the first set before Carreno Busta fought back. Humbert saved four breaks points at 2-3 in the decider and broke at 4-4 when Carreno Busta struck three consecutive groundstroke errors.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

The World No. 38, who improved to an 18-11 match record on the season, which includes the ASB Classic title (d. Paire) in January, now plays American Taylor Fritz or qualifier Lloyd Harris of South Africa in the Antwerp quarter-finals. Humbert recorded the biggest win of his career over No. 5-ranked Daniil Medvedev at the Hamburg European Open en route to his first ATP 500 quarter-final (l. to Ruud).

Carreno Busta, who was making his debut at the ATP 250 tournament, reached the US Open semi-finals (l. to Zverev) for a second time last month. The 29-year-old is now 16-10 on the year.

Seventh seed Fritz was impressive on serve by withstanding 19 aces from fellow American Reilly Opelka in a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory over 67 minutes. Fritz lost six of his first-service points (39 of 44) and won 16 of Opelka’s 21 second-serve points.

Raonic

Fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic recorded his fourth straight win over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia for a place in the second round, where he will meet Briton Cameron Norrie.

Raonic struck 17 aces and won 40 of 44 first-service points to win 6-3, 7-6(4) in 86 minutes. Bedene, who hit 11 aces and won 31 of 36 first-service points, saved two match points from 15/40 when serving at 5-6 and Raonic bounced back from 1/3 down in the tie-break.

Raonic, who advanced to last week’s St. Petersburg Open semi-finals (l. to Coric) and his fourth ATP Masters 1000 final at the Western & Southern Open (l. to Djokovic) in August, is now 18-8 on the season. 

Fourth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov meets Pablo Andujar of Spain and another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, tackles eighth seed Alex de Minaur of Australia during the evening session. 

Posted: October 21, 2020, 12:41 pm

Jannik Sinner is playing the best tennis of his young career, fresh off making his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. The Italian is still able to keep things in perspective, though. While he is enjoying success on court, there are millions in the world going through tough times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been a tough year. Every one of us is obviously playing tennis, but the most important thing is having friends, having family,” Sinner said. “It’s a little bit of a messy year, especially in Italy. At the beginning it was very, very bad. I tried to help a little bit, obviously [it was] not that much [in the big picture]. It’s tough to see the world, how it’s going on. It’s already changing, wearing the masks, keeping distance. It’s different.”

Sinner, in conjunction with his management company, StarWing Sports, and coach, Riccardo Piatti, donated €12,500 to Cesvi, a humanitarian organisation, to aid with medical emergencies in Bergamo, he announced in April.

The ATP Tour was suspended for more than five months due to the pandemic, so Sinner is thankful to be able to compete again. Action resumed in August. On Tuesday, Sinner won his first-round match at the bett1HULKS Championship against James Duckworth.

“The ATP Tour and everyone is [doing] an incredible job making these kinds of tournaments happen. Playing without a crowd, it’s not what we want at the end of the day, but I think they are [doing] an incredible job,” Sinner said. “Huge thanks to them, but it’s tough to see what’s going on."

[WATCH LIVE 2]

Sinner, the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion, is at a career-high No. 46 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Italian lost against Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Roland Garros, but he impressively held his own from the baseline against the 13-time champion for most of the match.

“[It’s] just about improving day after day,” Sinner said. “Obviously it was a great test against Rafa on clay. I played well in the first and second sets and the third set he pushed more. He was playing better in the third set.”

Most 19-year-olds would be nervous to play one of the sport’s all-time greats on Court Philippe Chatrier. Beating Nadal on that court has proven as difficult as any achievement in sports. But Sinner’s mental approach proved key, and that is one of the reasons why the spotlight on him shines brighter daily.

“I felt ready playing against him,” Sinner said. “I went on court with the right attitude, which I’m trying to do every match and trying to improve day after day.”

Posted: October 21, 2020, 12:42 am

World No. 528 Zizou Bergs pulled the stunner of the week on Tuesday evening at the European Open, battling past Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-5 in his first tour-level match. To say the 21-year-old was excited would be a major understatement.

“I’m definitely a guy who loves emotions. I have amazing friends, amazing family and I’m playing at home in Belgium, in Antwerp,” Bergs said. “I just love the emotions. I love screaming it out. I love to see [the fans’] reactions. It’s just really why I want to play tennis, because I like the atmosphere… those are things that I live for. It’s the way I want to play, it’s the way I want to enjoy the games and it’s my nature, so I just love the atmosphere.”

Bergs was comfortable with his draw, despite Ramos-Vinolas having 459 more tour-level matches’ worth of experience. The Belgian felt he would have time to play his aggressive style against Ramos-Vinolas.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

Although this was his first ATP Tour main draw match, he had played qualifying at the European Open on three previous occasions, facing Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Two years ago, he had two match points against Auger-Aliassime before succumbing in a final-set tie-break.

“Today I proved that I took the experience from the past times and I just kept fighting,” Bergs said. “Eventually things turned my way. It was very nice.”

Bergs saved two set points on his serve in the second set before Ramos-Vinolas, the 2017 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist, served at 5-4 to force a decider. The Belgian, who has climbed as high as World No. 386, showed no fear of the moment, crushing a forehand winner to get back on serve. He never looked back.

“I think it was a great game. I knew I could play his level. I was training really good,” Bergs said. “Sometimes I was a bit surprised when I was playing the big guys in training how good in points it was with [my] results. The belief came and I was full of confidence. Although the results lately were not what I wanted in other tournaments, but I knew the level was there and I was actually very confident I could win today.”

The home favourite will try to continue his run when he challenges third seed Karen Khachanov in the second round.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 10:29 pm

Italian #NextGenATP star Jannik Sinner wasted little time in his first-round match at the bett1HULKS Championship on Tuesday, dismissing Australian James Duckworth 6-1, 6-2 in 61 minutes.

"Not many unforced errors, I served quite well," Sinner said on court after his win. "I'm very happy about my first match."

One year ago this week, Sinner was still outside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. After reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros, the 19-year-old is up to a career-high World No. 46.

[WATCH LIVE 2]

The only moment of difficulty Sinner faced came in the second set at 2-2, a service game in which he needed nearly 12 minutes to hold. After getting through that game unscathed, Sinner broke in the next game when Duckworth missed a forehand volley wide. The Italian broke the Aussie's serve five times in the match.

"I felt great on court, moving quite well," Sinner said. "Obviously the second set there was one game when I was serving in which he pushed a little bit more the ball, so I was a little bit rushed. But I think it was a solid performance."

Sinner will next play aggressive Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who rallied from a break down in the deciding set to eliminate American Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 17 minutes. 

Top seed Alexander Zverev will face John Millman in the second round after the Aussie defeated Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 39 minutes. Last week in Cologne, Verdasco beat former World No. 1 Andy Murray in the first round before falling against Zverev in his next match.

Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina recorded his 10th match win of the year on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over qualifier Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 72 minutes. Last week, the 21-year-old reached the second ATP Tour semi-final of his career at the bett1HULKS Indoors (l. to Zverev), which was also held in Cologne. Davidovich Fokina now plays American Steve Johnson in the second round.

Lucky loser Oscar Otte advanced at his home event with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph against Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 7:52 pm

Eighth-seeded Australian Alex de Minaur battled from the brink on Tuesday evening to oust Richard Gasquet 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 in the first round of the European Open.

Gasquet showed flashes of the form that took him as high as No. 7 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, manouevring the speedy 21-year-old in every direction with his all-court game. But the Frenchman was unable to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set and that proved critical.

De Minaur is one of the scrappiest players on the ATP Tour and he showed why as Gasquet served for the victory. At 15/15, the Aussie was caught out in no-man's land, but he somehow reflexed a mid-court backhand back into play and his 34-year-old opponent made an unforced error. The three-time ATP Tour champion won the next two points to get back on serve and he never looked back.

Gasquet double faulted at 5/5 in the tie-break and that was the only opening De Minaur needed. The Aussie only lost five service points in the deciding set to advance after two hours and 18 minutes. He will next play Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who beat American Tommy Paul 6-3, 6-2 on Monday.

Britons Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie both completed hard-fought wins on Tuesday afternoon at the European Open in Antwerp.

Evans hit nine aces to work his way past Italian qualifier Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 55 minutes, including a solid serving performance in the decider for his 14th match win of the season. He will next challenge American Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

Norrie recovered from 0-3 down in the second set of a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori in one hour and 37 minutes. The World No. 70 now challenges fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic or Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. 

Elsewhere, Spain's Pablo Andujar powered his way past lucky loser Federico Coria of Argentina 6-2, 6-3 in 82 minutes to set up a second-round meeting against fourth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. Coria replaced Kei Nishikori, who withdrew on-site due to a right shoulder injury.

Top seed David Goffin learned his second-round opponent as American qualifier Marcos Giron rallied past Italian wild card Lucas Nardi 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Another qualifier, South African Lloyd Harris, beat Frenchman Corentin Moutet 7-5, 6-2.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 6:48 pm

Rafael Nadal confirmed on social media Tuesday that he will chase a record-tying 36th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters.

It’s indoor season time... this picture was earlier today practicing at the @rnadalacademy ... And yes... getting ready for #ParisBercy 😉💪ðŸ�» pic.twitter.com/SajEB4JMEW

— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) October 20, 2020

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic earned a record 36th trophy at the elite level at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. But with a victory in Paris, Nadal will be able to tie that mark.

Nadal will compete at the indoor hard-court tournament, where he owns a 19-5 record, for the eighth time. The World No. 2 has made at least the quarter-finals in each of his seven previous appearances. In his 2007 debut, Nadal made the final (l. to Nalbandian).

[ATP APP]

The legendary lefty just won his 13th Roland Garros title, tying Roger Federer's mark for most Grand Slam triumphs with 20. Nadal is 22-4 this season with two titles. The Spaniard did not lose a set en route to earning the crown in Acapulco or at Roland Garros.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 6:26 pm

Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev lost in the first round in Cologne last week. Their second try at the same venue was the charm on Tuesday at the bett1HULKS Championship.

The Zverev brothers defeated Dominic Inglot and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4, 6-2 in 71 minutes to reach the second round. The Germans saved all three break points they faced and won 43 per cent of their return points to triumph. The unseeded duo advances to face back-to-back Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies or Spaniards Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Fernando Verdasco.

[WATCH LIVE 2]

Australian Open finalists Max Purcell and Luke Saville continued their push for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals with a 7-6(3), 6-7(1), 10-7 victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Robert Lindstedt.

Four spots remain in the doubles field at The O2. Purcell and Saville began the week in ninth place in the FedEx ATP Battle For London.

FedEx ATP Battle For London: Doubles Standings

 Team  Points
 5. Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic  2,145
 6. John Peers/Michael Venus  1,810*
 7. Jurgen Melzer/ Edouard Roger-Vasselin  1,535
 8. Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski  1,500
 9. Max Purcell/Luke Saville  1,425*
 10. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah  1,350
*Points entering this week's play
Also in Cologne, Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan defeated Tomislav Brkic and Franko Skugor 6-3, 6-4.

Third Seeds Eliminated In Antwerp
Pablo Andujar and Sander Arends upset third seeds Fabrice Martin and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-7(6), 6-2, 10-5 to reach the second round of the European Open. Britons Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie also advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 12-10 win against Americans Taylor Fritz and Nicholas Monroe.

In the third Antwerp doubles match of the day, Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez ousted Frederik Nielsen and Tim Puetz 7-5, 6-2.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 3:36 pm

Felix Auger-Aliassime lost Sunday’s bett1HULKS Indoors final in straight sets, slipping to 0-6 in ATP Tour finals. But his opponent, World No. 7 Alexander Zverev, had no doubt that it’s only a matter of time before the Canadian breaks through.

"Felix, you’re an unbelievable player. I know it doesn’t mean much right now, but I’m sure you are not only going to win one title, you’re going to win multiple, multiple titles in your career, bigger titles than this," Zverev said during the trophy ceremony. "We know each other incredibly well… you’re going to be lifting a winner’s trophy very soon."

The 20-year-old was left searching for answers after his disappointing performance against the top seed. After an impressive win against second seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals, Auger-Aliassime wasn’t sure why he was unable to find his best tennis against Zverev.

“Tough to say. [For it to happen] again in a final, it’s tough. I don’t play good [in finals]. I’m not able to play my game,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It’s just tough to accept, so I don’t have much to say outside of I’m disappointed with my level today overall and I’ll try again.”

The Canadian admitted nerves might have played a role.

“For sure,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I’ll try to work and find away around it.”

One reason to remain optimistic is that at only 20, Auger-Aliassime has already played in six tour-level finals. When the Canadian made the Marseille championship match in February, he became the youngest player to reach five tour-level finals since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal at 2005 Miami.

“That number is good,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But one day I’ll need to find a way to win one of them.”

Auger-Aliassime is the fifth seed at this week's bett1HULKS Championship. He will play Egor Gerasimov in the second round.

Posted: October 20, 2020, 2:01 am

John Peers and Michael Venus are in a heated battle for one of four coveted spots remaining in the Nitto ATP Finals doubles field. They are showing good form, defeating Luke Bambridge and Jackson Withrow 6-4, 7-5 on Monday to reach the second round of the European Open.

The Aussie and Kiwi have won two titles this year, lifting the trophy in Dubai and Hamburg. They began the week in sixth place in the FedEx ATP Battle For London, ahead of seventh-placed Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin by 275 points.

FedEx ATP Battle For London: Doubles Standings

 Team  Points
 5. Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic  2,145
 6. John Peers/Michael Venus  1,810*
 7. Jurgen Melzer/ Edouard Roger-Vasselin  1,535
 8. Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski  1,500
 9. Max Purcell/Luke Saville  1,425
 10. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah  1,350
*Points entering this week's play
Peers and Venus, the second seeds in Antwerp, broke serve four times and won 82 per cent of their first-serve points to triumph after one hour and 12 minutes.

In Monday's other doubles match, Belgian wild cards Michael Geerts and Yannick Mertens ousted the American-Italian wild card team of Zane Khan and Luca Nardi 6-4, 7-6(3) in one hour and 27 minutes.

Did You Know?
The four teams that have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals so far are Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury, Mate Pavic/Bruno Soares, Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies and Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos.

Posted: October 19, 2020, 10:30 pm

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev clashed in the bett1HULKS Indoors final on Sunday. One day later, they both were taken to school.

Auger-Aliassime and Zverev got together in Cologne to learn from NHL Most Valuable Player Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers.

“It was good fun to meet Leon, the MVP this year in the league. [It is cool that he is] playing for a Canadian team, also,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I love to meet athletes from other sports, especially hockey. Myself, I play a little bit for fun in the winter over there [in Canada]. It’s cool to experience it, see them from up close, see how they do and it was impressive to see him take a couple shots at the net.”

Leon Draisaitl, Alexander Zverev
Photo Credit: bett1HULKS Championship/Paul Zimmer
Draisaitl has scored 93 goals and tallied 215 points for his team during the past two seasons, in which he has played 153 games. The hockey superstar was excited to interact with two of the world’s best tennis players. The trio shot pucks at small openings in a hockey net and also played tennis.

“They’re so good, they’re the best in the world. It’s not really my level here, but all in all it was a lot of fun,” Draisaitl said. “It’s fun to do it this way. Obviously as an athlete you always love watching other sports and it’s great to see those two. They’re obviously very successful. It was fun to meet them and [I] had a good day.”

[WATCH LIVE 2]

German No. 1 Zverev enjoyed spending time with his countryman, Draisaitl, before beginning his run at this week’s bett1HULKS Championship. Zverev triumphed at the same venue last week.

“It’s always great to meet other athletes, especially somebody who has won the MVP in such a big sport as ice hockey and the NHL,” Zverev said. “It was great fun, but I’ll definitely stick to tennis.”

Auger-Aliassime and Zverev will put away the hockey sticks for now and refocus on tennis. Fifth-seeded Felix will play Egor Gerasimov in the second round, and Zverev will face John Millman or Fernando Verdasco.

Posted: October 19, 2020, 8:31 pm

The sixth time was the charm for Steve Johnson against Marin Cilic on Monday. The American, who lost their first five meetings, battled past the former World No. 3 7-6(3), 6-4 to reach the second round of the bett1HULKS Championship in Cologne.

"I wouldn't say [my game is] the perfect recipe [to beat] Marin. He's beaten me five times pretty handily, so I'm just happy to get a win today, it works," Johnson said on court after his victory. "Changed some things up in the strategy and every day is a new day out here. You have to give it your all."

Cilic had won 12 of the pair's 13 previous sets entering this clash. But he was unable to find much rhythm on the German hard court, making baseline errors in crucial moments.

"I thought I had to be a bit more aggressive, change up my style of play. Marin is an incredible player, he has been for 10, 15 years," Johnson said. "I thought I made some good adjustments today, served well and served well in the important moments, which is always key. To not lose serve against Marin is goal number one."

[WATCH LIVE 2]

Johnson only converted one of nine break points he earned, but he saved all three break points he faced. The World No. 71 confronted a 0/30 deficit as he served for the match, but Johnson won four consecutive points to triumph after one hour and 58 minutes.

"I would have paid a handsome fee for a couple of aces," said Johnson, who will next play Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Damir Dzumhur. "Got one, just got back to 30/30 and then played a couple points where I got lucky. Today things just went my way."

Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka also advanced with a 6-4, 6-0 victory against Brit Kyle Edmund and eighth seed Adrian Mannarino cruised past Australian lucky loser Alexei Popyrin 6-2, 6-2. The Frenchman set a second-round clash against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, who rallied past Indian Sumit Nagal 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1.

The rest of the day's matches ended in straight sets. Former Top 10 star Gilles Simon ousted Australian Jordan Thompson 6-3, 7-5 to earn a match against third seed Denis Shapovalov, and Belarusian Egor Gerasimov cruised past home favourite Daniel Altmaier 6-1, 6-0 to reach a second-round encounter against last week's Cologne finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime. Altmaier recently reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.

Posted: October 19, 2020, 6:56 pm

American Frances Tiafoe made a good start to his first hard-court tournament since the US Open on Monday, beating sixth seed Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 7-6(6) to reach the second round of the European Open in Antwerp.

In their second ATP Head2Head meeting (tied 1-1), World No. 63 Tiafoe needed to work hard to advance in straight sets. The 22-year-old saved two set points in the second set, including one on Lajovic's serve, to triumph after one hour and 21 minutes.

Tiafoe is in good form, winning his fifth ATP Challenger Tour title in Parma, Italy earlier this month. The American took advantage of two forehand errors from the Serbian to save both set points he faced. The 2018 Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com champion won 83 per cent of his first-serve points to move on in Belgium.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

Tiafoe is competing in Antwerp for the fourth consecutive year. Last year, he advanced to the quarter-finals before losing a tough three-setter against Jannik Sinner. Tiafoe will next play Brit Daniel Evans or Italian qualifier Salvatore Caruso.

Ugo Humbert, who reached the semi-finals at the ATP 250 last year, defeated Belgian wild card Kimmer Coppejans 6-4, 6-3 in 73 minutes. The Frenchman, who is at a career-high World No. 38, saved all three break points he faced and only lost two first-serve points (24/26).

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez also moved on with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against American Tommy Paul. The 39-year-old hit 13 aces and saved the only break point he faced.

Posted: October 19, 2020, 3:53 pm

Second seeds Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin captured their first team title on Sunday at the St. Petersburg Open, defeating Marcelo Demoliner and Matwe Middelkoop 6-2, 7-6(4) to lift the ATP 500 trophy.

The Austrian-French team has now soared into contention in the FedEx ATP Battle For London with the 500 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points they earned with their efforts in Russia. Both players have competed in the prestigious season finale with different partners, but they are trying to earn a spot at The O2 in London in their first season as a pair.

"We had a talk exactly this week last year and we decided to try to play the 2020 season," Melzer said. "I'm happy that with four tournaments left, we still have a chance to go to London. That was our goal when we started the year and it's still possible, so I'm very happy about that."

Melzer and Roger-Vasselin first played together at the 2012 Winston-Salem Open, when they both still focussed on singles. They didn’t compete as a team again until last year’s Rolex Paris Masters and this year they have played together exclusively.

[WATCH LIVE 1]

The second seeds rallied from a set down in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, but they weren’t pushed to a Match Tie-break in the championship match. Melzer and Roger-Vasselin won 81 per cent of their second-serve points in the final, only losing one point behind their second delivery in the second set. On clay, they switched returning sides, with Roger-Vasselin taking the ad side. But this week the Frenchman went back to the deuce side, which paid dividends.

"It's all about communication. When we started together, we both knew we were good players," Roger-Vasselin said. "We know each other very well on the court. We know what's going to work, what's not going to work. So this is why we know exactly what is the best for us to perform."

Melzer and Roger-Vasselin broke four times from nine opportunities to triumph after one hour and 19 minutes. They saved three of the five break points they faced to earn 500 points each and a split of $35,750.

Demoliner and Middelkoop fell short of winning their third ATP Tour title as a team, but they leave St. Petersburg with 300 points and a share of $28,410.

Posted: October 19, 2020, 2:47 pm

When the VTB Kremlin Cup held its inaugural edition in 1990, it became the first professional international tennis tournament in Russia.

Alongside the St. Petersburg Open, the ATP 250 is one of two tour-level events held in the country. The tournament would have been held this week if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the event.

1) Regular Russian Success: Russian players have won 16 of the previous 30 singles editions of the VTB Kremlin Cup. Andrei Cherkasov claimed the opening two titles in the Russian capital and is one of nine Russian stars to win the ATP 250. Yevgeny Kafelnikov owns a tournament record five crowns (1997-2001) and Nikolay Davydenko lifted three trophies in Moscow (2004, 2006-07).

Alexander Volkov (1994), Igor Andreev (2005), Igor Kunitsyn (2008), Mikhail Youzhny (2009), Karen Khachanov (2018) and Andrey Rublev (2019) have all emerged victorious at the event. In doubles, Dmitry Tursunov won the trophy on three occasions (2007, ’10, ’15).

Nikolay Davydenko captured the VTB Kremlin Cup trophy on three occasions (2004, '06-'07).

2) Kafelnikov’s Five-Year Reign: No player has dominated the VTB Kremlin Cup quite like Yevgeny Kafelnikov. After falling to Goran Ivanisevic in the 1996 final, the former World No. 1 compiled 28 consecutive victories at the tournament.

Across five consecutive title runs between 1997 and 2001, the Sochi native dropped just four sets. His reign came to an end in the 2002 semi-finals, in which he was beaten by Dutchman Sjeng Schalken in straight sets. Kafelnikov made 12 consecutive appearances in Moscow from 1992 to 2003 and ended his career with a 40-7 tournament record.

3) Dzumhur Completes Russian Double: Four weeks after capturing his maiden ATP Tour trophy at the 2017 St. Petersburg Open, Damir Dzumhur returned to Russia to complete a memorable tournament double. The first player from Bosnia and Herzegovina to win an ATP Tour crown was forced to battle his way to his second trophy, winning four of his five matches in deciding sets.

After improving his 2017 record in Russia to 10-0 with a final victory against Ricardas Berankis, Dzumhur shared his thoughts on why his greatest weeks on the ATP Tour had come in the same country.

"I really don't know, but there is something special here in Russia. Maybe the crowd," said Dzumhur during the trophy ceremony, eliciting a roar from the fans.

Dzumhur

4) Khachanov Realises Dream: After eight years without a Russian singles titlist, a record at the event, Karen Khachanov claimed the 2018 trophy to become the eighth Russian to win the Moscow event. After beating countryman Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals, Khachanov charged past Adrian Mannarino to win the championship match in just 54 minutes.

"[Winning in Russia] was one of the dreams I had when I was a kid," said Khachanov. "Coming here [as a kid] I was asking top Russian players for autographs and dreaming one day to become a champion here. Today is the day and I am really happy. These are memories I will always keep in my head."

5) Rublev’s Moscow Double: At the age of 18, Andrey Rublev joined forces with Tursunov to earn his maiden ATP Tour trophy in doubles at his home event.

They required Match Tie-breaks in each of their three matches, but held their nerves to claim the 2015 title. Rublev and Tursunov became the fourth all-Russian team to capture the trophy, following in the footsteps of Andreev/Davydenko (2004), Marat Safin/Tursunov (2007) and Kunitsyn/Tursunov (2010).

Four years after his doubles triumph alongside Tursunov, Rublev entered the singles event with an 0-6 record across qualifying and main draw matches in Moscow. As the sixth seed, Rublev dropped just four games in the final against Mannarino — as Khachanov had done the previous year — to win his hometown event on his 22nd birthday.

“I can’t find the right words for what it means to me to win here,” said Rublev. “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.”

Posted: October 19, 2020, 2:04 pm

Alongside the Nordea Open in Båstad, the Stockholm Open is one of two Swedish ATP Tour events.

The ATP 250, first held in 1969, would have been played this week if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the tournament.

1) Tennis Royalty In Stockholm: The Stockholm Open has welcomed the biggest stars in the sport to the Kungliga Tennishallen (Royal Tennis Hall) since its inaugural edition in 1969. Seven former World No. 1s have lifted the trophy at the two-time ATP 250 Tournament of the Year, including John McEnroe and Boris Becker.

McEnroe and Becker both triumphed on a record four occasions at the tournament. McEnroe won back-to-back trophies in 1978 and 1979 and repeated that feat with tournament victories in 1984 and 1985.

After winning his maiden trophy at the Kungliga Tennishallen in 1988, Becker claimed his remaining three trophies at the Ericsson Globe in 1990, 1991 and 1994. The tournament was held at that venue between 1989 and 1994, before returning north to the Kungliga Tennishallen in 1995.

2) Swedish Success: Swedish players have enjoyed consistent success in Stockholm. Home players have won 10 editions of the singles event and nine versions of the doubles tournament. Bjorn Borg (1980), Mats Wilander (1983), Stefan Edberg (1986-87), Thomas Enqvist (1995-96, ’99), Jonas Bjorkman (1997) and Thomas Johansson (2000, ’04) have all lifted the trophy in the Swedish capital.

Edberg (1987) and Bjorkman (2003, ’07-08) have also delighted home crowds with runs to the doubles trophy. The most recent home doubles champions were Elias Ymer and Mikael Ymer in 2016.

3) Borg, McEnroe Collide: Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe only met on 14 occasions throughout their careers, but two of those matches were held in Stockholm. They contested the first match of their ATP Head2Head rivalry in the 1978 semi-finals, with McEnroe earning a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

After contesting five-set finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1980, Borg and McEnroe met in their third final of the year in Stockholm. Borg gained revenge for his 1978 semi-final defeat, beating McEnroe by the same score to lift his only title at the event.

Bjorn Borg defeated John McEnroe to win the 1980 Stockholm Open.

4) Federer’s 2010 Run: Ten years after making his tournament debut in 2000, Roger Federer returned to Sweden in 2010 to capture the Stockholm crown. The Swiss earned wins against Taylor Dent, Stan Wawrinka and future coach Ivan Ljubicic to reach the championship match. With a final victory against Florian Mayer, Federer equalled Pete Sampras’ mark of 64 tour-level titles.

5) Creating New Stars: The honour roll in Stockholm is packed with past legends of the game, but it also features two of the brightest talents on the ATP Tour. Stefanos Tsitsipas (2018) and Denis Shapovalov (2019) both claimed their maiden ATP Tour trophies at the event and have since cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time.

Tsitsipas

Posted: October 19, 2020, 1:52 pm

No. 53 Laslo Djere, +21
The Serbian is close to breaking back into the Top 50 for the first time since 17 February 2020 after he captured his second ATP Tour title on Sunday with a 7-6(3), 7-5 victory over Marco Cecchinato in the Forte Village Sardegna Open final. The 25-year-old has risen 21 places to No. 53 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, 26 positions off his career-high of No. 27 on 10 October 2019. Read Sardinia Final Report

No. 8 Andrey Rublev, +2 (Career High)
The Russian continues his rise up the FedEx ATP Rankings and with his fourth ATP Tour crown of the year, he has moved firmly into contention for a Nitto ATP Finals spot. The 22-year-old jumped two spots to a career-high No. 8 after he defeated Borna Coric 7-6(5), 6-4 in the St. Petersburg Open final on Sunday. Rublev is the fifth Russian player to capture the St. Petersburg crown, following in the footsteps of Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1995), Marat Safin (2000-’01), Mikhail Youzhny (2004) and Daniil Medvedev (2019). Read St. Petersburg Final Report & Watch Highlights

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 19 Milos Raonic, +2
No. 24 Borna Coric +3
No. 64 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, +7 (Career High)
No. 77 Marco Cecchinato, +26
No. 92 Pedro Martinez, +5 (Career High)

Posted: October 19, 2020, 11:27 am