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.
Filip Krajinovic To Skip Australian Open If Required To Quarantine For More Than Five Days
The world No.34 says he ‘sees no reason’ why vaccinated players should have to go through a long quarentine in Australia.
The second highest-ranked Serbian player in men’s tennis says it would be ‘unacceptable’ for organisers of the Australian Open to require players to quarantine for more than a week if they have been fully vaccinated.
Filip Krajinovic has become the first player to publicly state that they will not be prepared to travel to Melbourne at the end of this season if they have to go through strict quarantine measures once again. All the players who participated in this year’s Australian Open were required to be quarantined in a designated hotel for 14 days upon arrival in the country. During their stay they were allowed to use training facilities but that was the only time they could leave the premises unless there was an emergency.
There is no final decision regarding the travel requirements for the 2022 tournament but there are concerns that unvaccinated players may not be allowed to enter the country. The Victorian government recently issued a mandate ordering all essential workers to be vaccinated, including athletes. However, the regional government will not have the final say concerning tennis players arriving in the country with the national government being the ones in charge of that decision.
“They are very rigorous there and honestly, if I have to be in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, I will not go to Australia,” Krajinovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I was vaccinated, I did everything in my power to protect myself and the people around me, so I really see no reason to sit there for 14 days in a room.’
“If they (the organisers) say that after arrival I need, say, five days to be in isolation, that’s OK for me, but anything beyond that is unacceptable to me. With the season ending late, I will have 20 days to get ready and go. Charter flights will be organized again and the last one is planned for December 28 for the players and that is the final date when I can go to Australia. I will see what the final decision from Melbourne will be, so I will cut what is the best thing to do.”
Earlier this week Victoria’s Sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to be vaccinated because it give them ‘the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open.’ It is expected that if unvaccinated players are allowed to attend, they will be subjected to stricter restrictions. This might include a longer quarantine period upon arrival and limitations of where they can go during their stay.
“Last year, all of those players had to do their 14 days of quarantine. Right now there looks like there will be different rules for people who enter this country who are vaccinated as against unvaccinated and I don’t think the tennis will be any exception to that.” Pakula told the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).
“In terms of what rules apply for people to enter Australia, whether unvaccinated people are allowed in at all, I don’t the answer to that yet. That’s going to be the subject of discussion at national cabinet and among the federal cabinet … those rules are not set by state governments.” He added.
Krajinovic is currently ranked 34th in the world and has a win-loss record this season of 18-18. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells he reached the second round before falling in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev. His best run so far this year was at the Hamburg Open where he reached the final.
“When we look at the whole of 2021, I played one final, one semifinal, there were good victories, but also worse results,” the 29-year-old commented.
Krajinovic is currently without a coach but is currently in ‘negotiations’ with somebody without elaborating further about who that person is.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Simona Halep cruises through to the second round with a straight-set win over Anastasia Potapova in Moscow
Andy Murray battles past Frances Tiafoe in a marathon match in Antwerp
Jenson Brooksby upsets Reilly Opelka to boost his chance to qualify for the Next Gen Finals in Milan
Ekaterina Alexandrova moves into the second round at the Kremlin Cup after Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to injury
Kim Clijsters Still Capable Of Top-Level Wins, Says Former world No.1 Murray
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