Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final - UBITENNIS
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Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final

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TENNIS – Kei Nishikori beat Ernests Gulbis in the first semifinal of the Barcelona Open, ATP 500 Tournament, with 6-2 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes setting up a final match against Colombian Santiago Giraldo who upset Rafa Nadal’s conqueror Nicolas Almagro, also in straight sets, with 7-5 6-3. Diego Sampaolo

Four players from four different countries qualified for the semifinals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell: Kei Nishikori from Japan, Ernests Gulbis from Latvia, Nicholas Almagro from Spain and Santiago Giraldo from Colombia. Spain has been represented by only one player for the first time since 2002.

In the first semifinal Nishikori defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4 in their first ever head-to-head match. The Florida-based player did not face a break point chance in the whole match to reach the seventh final in his career (with a record of 4-2 in his previous finals). Gulbis saved seven break points in the second set before dropping her serve.

Nishikori broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set with a forehand winner down the line and backed up the break at 30 for a 4-2 lead after 21 minutes. The Japanese player won 14 of the last 16 points to wrap up the first set in 27 minutes.

Gulbis fended off two of the three break points he faced with a service winner and a ace to hold serve for2-1. In the fifth game Nishikori earned three break points but Gulbis saved them. The next game featured a spectacular 22-shot rally. Gulbis hit a backhand drop-shot into the net to face a fourth break point. The Latvian saved it with an ace before holding serve with another ace for 3-2 before taking a medical time-out to treat a lower back strain. Nishikori broke serve for the third time for 5-4 as Gulbis made a forehand error.

Nishikori made a couple of double faults at deuce in the final game but he closed out the match on the third match point after one hour and 25 minutes.

The Japanese player reached the semifinal for the fourth time this season and his first final in four appearances in Barcelona. Before this week he achieved his best result in 2012 when he lost to Fernando Verdasco in the quarter final.

Nishikori has made history as he has become the first Japanese player to reach the Barcelona final He will be looking to win the second title this year and the fifth in his career.

I was very happy to see lots of Japanese people congratulating me after the match. I love coming to play in Spain. I am playing great and I am particularly pleased with my serve and my forehand”, said Nishikori.

Tomorrow he will be looking to win the second title of the year two months after winning in Memphis when he beat Ivo Karlovic to lift the fourth title of his career. He notably beat Roger Federer in the quarter final in Miami before being forced to withdraw by a groin injury.

The last eleven Barcelona titles have been won by a Spanish player but tomorrow the final will not feature any home players for the first time since 2003 as last year’s Barcelona runner-up Nicholas Almagro was upset by Santiago Giraldo one day after his upset win over eight-time Barcelona champion Rafa Nadal in the re-match of the 2013 final.

Giraldo has become the first player from Colombia to reach the Barcelona final. Giraldo beat Almagro in straight sets 7-5 6-3. Giraldo fended off six of seven break points he faced before closing out the match with an ace,

In the first set Giraldo broke Almagro’s last serving game with a forehand winner. Almagro bounced back breaking early in the second set but Giraldo broke straight back before taking full control of the match.

The Colombian player won for the first time in his six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo dropped serve in the third game of the second set but he broke straight back before winning five of the next six games to score his first win in six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo hit six aces and 19 winners to score his second win against a top-20 player after beating Fabio Fognini, who withdrew in the second set when he was down 0-6 0-4.

Giraldo has qualified for his second career final after losing to Tommy Robredo in Santiago in 2011. He played in his sixth ATP semifinal after Santiago 2011, Auckland 2011, Acapulco 2012, Vina del Mar 2014 and Houston 2014. In Barcelona Giraldo fended off five match points en route to his three-set win against young Austrian Dominic Thiem with 4-6 6-4 7-5. He qualified for the semifinal after German Phillip Kohlschreiber withdrew because of a leg injury while she was down 4-6 3-4.

In his previous two appearances in the Catalan tournament Giraldo reached the third round losing against Rafa Nadal in 2011 and Andy Murray in 2012. This year he won his 100th match on the ATP Tour in Vina del Mar where he reached the semifinal losing to Leandro Mayer. In April he reached the Houston semifinal where he lost against eventual winner Fernando Verdasco, who beat Almagro in the final.

Nishikori and Giraldo met five times in their career. The Japanese player leads 4-1 and won their last head-to-head match in Indian Wells last March with 6-1 6-3.

The last non-Spanish winner in Barcelona was Gaston Gaudio in 2002. The last non Spanish final in Barcelona dates back to 1996 when Thomas Muster beat Marcelo Rios in four sets.

Bucharest Nastase Tiriac Trophy ATP 250

Grigor Dimitrov qualified for the final of the ATP 250 Tournament in Bucharest when Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury after 26 minutes when he was trailing 1-5 in the first set. The Frenchman rallied from 0-5 and 2.6 in the tie-break of the second set and saved six match points to beat his compatriot Pierre Henry Mathieu 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 after a two-hour and 21 minute battle.

The Bulgarian player will face last year’s Bucharest champion Lukas Rosol who fought back from a set down and a 0-2 deficit at the start of the second set to overcome Robin Haase with 3-6 6-3 6-2 in one hour and 47 minutes.

It is disappointing for Gael. As much as I am happy, it is an undeserved win and unfortunately it had to end this way. I hope he will be OK for the coming weeks”, said Dimitrov.

Dimitrov will face Rosol for the first time in his career.

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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