ATP Champions Tour: 4 stars of the past in the spotlight for 2 memorable days - UBITENNIS
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ATP Champions Tour: 4 stars of the past in the spotlight for 2 memorable days

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TENNIS – The ATP Champions Tour, the circuit which reunites the past tennis legends, makes its return to Italy six years after the last time Rome played host to the tournament in 2008 during the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. From Milan, Diego Sampaolo

 

Ivan Lendl talks about his less known nightmare, Christophe Freyss

Four tennis legends John McEnroe, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Lendl will be in the spotlight for two memorable days of tennis in Genoa on Friday 17th October and in Milan on Saturday 18th October.

The “Grande Sfida” tennis event will feature two semifinal matches, Ivanisevic vs McEnroe and Chang vs Lendl in Genoa On Saturday the winners will face off in the final, while the losers of the two Genoa semifinals will fight for the third and fourth place.

The Milan leg of the ATP Champion’s Tour follows the events in Delray Beach (13-22 February), Stockholm (11-14 March) and Knokke Heist in Belgium (14-17 March). One more leg will be contested in Rio de Janeiro (27-30 November) before the season-ending Masters in the Royal Albert Hall in London (3-7 December)

The four tennis stars met the media representatives during the press conference in Milan on Thursday afternoon.

John McEnroe won 7 Grand Slam titles (four US Open and three Wimbledon), 3 Masters, 77 ATP Tournaments, and played 108 ATP finals. He came to the fore on the International stage in 1977 when he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon at the age of 18 starting from the qualifying round. It’s the best result ever achieved by a qualifier in a Grand Slam tournament. In 1980 he lost the Wimbledon final against Bjorn Borg in one of the best matches in tennis history. One year later he beat Borg taking the re-match at Wimbledon. In 1984 Big Mac came close to winning the Roland Garros final against Ivan Lendl but the player from Ostrava recovered from two sets down to win in the fifth set after a epic match. However McEnroe enjoyed the best year of his career in 1984 when he clinched 17 tournaments and lost just three matches.

McEnroe ended his career in 1992 at the age of 33, when he won the doubles title at Wimbledon with Michael Stich. At this age Roger Federer is still ranked second in the World Ranking and still has some chances to end the year first in the ATP Ranking.

“Tennis was totally different 20 years ago. Now players have access to more advanced technologies and have better opportunities to play at the top for a longer time”, said McEnroe

Genoa will host the event in the mid of a tragic week for this city badly hit by the devastating flood. Five hundred spectators who will attend the Genoa event will be invited to attend the Milan afternoon. “Many crazy things are going on in the world. We would be happy if we managed to give some joy to Genoa with our tennis matches”, said McEnroe.

The same feeling is expressed by Michael Chang. “We hope to offer the opportunity to make people smile and enjoy themselves. This is a similar situation to 1989 when my win was the opportunity to put a smile on the Chinese people after what happened at Tienanmen in the mid-Sunday of the French Open”, said Chang

McEnroe returns to Milan where he won four editions of the Indoor ATP Tournament (1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985).

“I have in common the same emotions with Italian people. We always played in front of big crowd in Italy. Italian fans had a lot of passion for tennis and gave us a lot of energy. We played with a lot of energy and we used it positively.”, said McEnroe.

The four legends, who will highlight the Milan event this weekend, are still very popular stars many years after the end of their careers. McEnroe was surprised to see a lot of journalists in the press conference room. “I did not expect to see so many people at this press conference. Normally only few people come to our press conferences, even if they are paid!”, said McEnroe

In Friday’s semifinal Lendl and Chang will renew their rivalry 25 years after their memorable fourth round match at the Roland Garros in 1989. Chang, then a 17-year-old rising star, rallied from two sets down to beat three-time French Open champion and reigning Australian Open winner Ivan Lendl 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 after a four- hour and 37- minute epic battle despite leg cramps.

“I have had many opportunities to talk about tennis, training and golf with Ivan but we have never talked about that Roland Garros match. I have always had a great respect for Ivan. We played a unique match that doesn’t happen often”, said Chang.

Chang went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the Roland Garros final becoming the youngest ever male player to win a singles Roland Garros title at the age of 17 years and 4 months.

In the semifinal of the 1992 US Open Chang lost against Stefan Edberg after 5 hours and 26 minutes in the longest match in the history of this tournament. He also won the Davis Cup with the US team in 1990.

“I feel blessed and thankful for what I achieved during 16 years on tour. I have accomplished many great things in my career. I was not the biggest guy out there or the most imposing but I played very smart tennis and I had the ability to move around the court very well”, said Chang.

Lendl won eight Grand Slams and 94 ATP titles. The only Grand Slam trophy he never won was Wimbledon where he played two finals in 1986 and 1987. He stayed at the top of the Ranking for 270 weeks. Lendl returns to Milan where he won the Indoor tournament three times in 1983, 1986 and 1990.

“I came for the first time to Italy at the Avvenire and Bonfiglio Junior Tournaments. I remember playing the Davis Cup match in 1979 against Italy.”, said Lendl

“What makes me proud of my career is my longevity. Playing against John McEnroe was always very difficult, so it was a good day when I managed to beat him”, said Lendl

Ivan Lendl by Diego Samapaolo

Ivan Lendl by Diego Samapaolo

Lendl coached Andy Murray from 2012 until March 2013 guiding the Scotsman to the US Open title, the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and to the Wimbledon triumph in 2013.

Chang could meet Ivanisevic in the final on Saturday. They have had an amazing success last September when Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori, who are coached respectively by Ivanisevic and Chang, reached the US Open Final. Cilic beat Nishikori at Flushing Meadows and the Milan final could be an opportunity for Chang to take a “re-match”.

“Not many people expected that Marin Cilic could win at the US Open but he has always believed that he could do it. The combination Goran – Marin worked very well and ended with the win at the US Open. When you work hard, everything pays off”, said Ivanisevic

“We have not had many Asian players. Outside of myself Nishikori is one of the first Asian top players who did very well particularly this year. This is one of the reasons why I decided to take this coaching position, to be able to help him reach the next level. It’s fun to see him progress”, said Chang.

Ivanisevic reached his first Grand Slam final in 1992 at Wimbledon where he lost against André Agassi in five sets. He reached his career high in 1994 when he was ranked World Number 2. After losing two more Wimbledon finals against Sampras in 1994 and 1998, Ivanisevic finally clinched the first Grand Slam Trophy at the Wimbledon All England Club in 2001 when he beat Patrick Rafter. Few people would have expected his win as he started the Tournament as a World Number 125 and received a wild card from the organizers.

“I am happy with my achievements during my career. I played against amazing players like Boris Becker, André Agassi and Pete Sampras. I was blessed to play against this great generation”, said Ivanisevic

Ivanisevic returns to Milan where he won two editions of the Milan Indoor Tournament in 1996 and 1997. “I have a great memory of Italy. I have often played with some Italian players like Omar Camporese and Andrea Gaudenzi in doubles matches. I have always had a good relationship with Italian players and I hope that Gianluigi Quinzi (2013 Wimbledon junior champion) will continue the tradition of tennis in Italy in the future”

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Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013

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Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.

 

 Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.

The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.

The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.

Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.

Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.

“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.

 

 

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Danil Medvedev cruises past Jan-Lennard Struff to set up an all Russian quarter final against Andrey Rublev

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Ninth seed Danil Medvedev cruised past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1 in 66 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

 

Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors and won 18 of Struff’s 25 second serve points.

 Medvedev broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. The young Russian player got two consecutive breaks in the second and fourth games to race out to a 4-0 lead and held his service game at deuce after saving a break point in the fifth game. Struff held his serve to get his first game on the scoreboard, but Medvedev sealed the win on his first match point. The Russian player has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 againt Struff.

Medvedev has won 11 of his past 13 matches during the North American hard-court season. He has a solid 41-16 record this season. He finished runner in two consecutive finals to Nick Kyrgios at Washington and to Rafael Nadal in Montreal.  In the quarter final the Russian star will face his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who upset Roger Federer 6-3 6-4.

Recent Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut cruised past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 6-2 in just under an hour setting up a quarter final against Richard Gasquet, who beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka beat Australian player Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 83 minutes with one break in each set. Nishioka rallied from 4-6 down in the tie-break of the first set to edge Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in 1 hour and 37 minutes.

“It was a great match and I got better as it went on. I am feeling sharp. I am feeling great now and I am looking forward to the quarter finals of a Masters 1000. I have nothing to lose”, said Goffin.

 

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Roger Federer Crashes Out Of Cincinnati Masters

The seven-time champion has suffered a blow to his preparations for the US Open.

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World No.3 Roger Federer has been knocked out of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati after falling in straight sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev.

 

The 20-time grand slam champion struggled to find his range as he was overwhelmed by his fearless opponent during the 6-3, 6-4, loss. Despite the huge disparity in experience between the two, 21-year-old Rublev managed to dominate the majority of rallies with the help of some heavy hitting. Producing 17 winners to six unforced errors, compared to Federer’s tally of 19 and 20.

“I respect him a lot, I respect all the top players a lot, but today when I was going to court I was going there to win.” Rublev said during an interview with Amazon Prime.
“I was not going (to the match) to enjoy. I was going to fight, try to win and do my best.”

Rublev’s shock win saw the underdog outdo the Swiss maestro in almost every area of the match. Winning the most first serves (85% to 63%), second serves (57% to 63) and a bigger majority of points at the net (5/6 to 7/19). Breaking him twice in the opening set and once in the second. The Russian, who is 70th in the world, is the lowest ranked player to defeat Federer on the tour since Thanassi Kokkinakis at the 2018 Miami Open.

The loss leaves a mark on Federer’s impressive record in Cincinnati, which he has won a record seven times. It is the first time he has failed to reach the quarter-final stage since losing to Ivo Karlovic in the third round back in 2008.

“He was playing well. I was maybe struggling especially on the offensive, because overall I didn’t think I was feeling the ball badly.” Federer reflected during his press conference. “It’s just, you know, sort of fast-court conditions and when you sometimes then can’t rely on that serve to go or on the one-two punch, which I didn’t think was excellent today from my side, you need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn’t do that.”
“He was super clean. Defense, offense, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed.”

Rublev now has a meeting with compatriot Daniil Medvedev in what will be his first quarter-final at Masters level. Medvedev has reached the final of tournaments in Washington and at the Rogers Cup since Wimbledon. He is yet to drop a set this week and brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-2, 6-1, in his third round match.

“It’s going to be an interesting match for Russia.” Rublev previewed. “It will be a tough match for me because the way he plays. Nobody likes to play him.”
“I lost to him in a Challenger a few years ago, so it’s going to be interesting tomorrow.” He added.

The latest victory is only Rublev’s second over a top five player in his career. His first was against Dominic Thiem at the German Open last month.

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