Challenger Charlottesville: Rubin saves match points for first Challenger title - UBITENNIS
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Challenger Charlottesville: Rubin saves match points for first Challenger title




Noah Rubin won the battle of the teenage Americans, taking his first Challenger title with a comeback 3-6,7-6, 6-3 win over Tommy Paul. Rubin saved two match points, one against his serve in the second set, and another in the tiebreak.

Both are touted as the future stars of American tennis, and both have won junior Grand Slam titles. Rubin won the junior Wimbledon title in 2014, and Paul Roland Garros this year. Paul was also a runner-up against Taylor Fritz in the final of the junior US Open.

Rubin had enjoyed a stunning tournament, defying his position of 537 to beat the likes of Henri Laaksonen and Jared Donaldson to make the final. Paul in contrast had a far easier run, as the seeds on his side of the draw, Malek Jaziri and Tim Smyczek, were defeated before he was due to face either of them.

Paul is ranked the higher, at 316, and the match started by completely following the ranking. Paul dominated from the baseline as a difference in power quickly  became apparent. Like his semi-final with Henri Laaksonen, Rubin was struggling to hold serve, and Paul broke twice at the start of the match for a four-love lead. Rubin though has demonstrated a strong return game, and managed to retrieve of the breaks for four-one. Both men settled, as just one point went against serve the rest of the set, Paul serving out to love for a six-three score.

Set two followed a very similar early pattern, as Paul again took the lead. Rubin was serving at above fifty percent, but his serve was not penetrative, and Paul would again break twice in Rubin’s first two games. Rubin again was finding some success on the Paul serve, returning well, and earning nine break points, seven of them coming in game six with Paul serving at four-one. He would fail to take any of them though, as his backhand often failed at the crucial stage, allowing Paul to escape.

The failure to break forced Rubin to address the unenviable task of serving to just stay in the match, and he again he struggled. Another backhand, this time in the net, brought Paul a match point. Rubin fought hard to hold, a final backhand slice from Paul ending in the net, as Rubin added a second hold to his side of the scoreboard.

Rubin’s escape of a match point seemed to give him a little more belief, and he would break Paul as he served for the match to love. Rubin would dig himself out of a fifteen-thirty hole to hold serve, and Paul was forced to try and serve the match out again.

Incredibly, he failed again, as Rubin showed great tenacity to once again force the break, his cause made easier by a pair of double faults from Paul. Both men then held again for a tiebreak. Paul took an early three-love lead in the tiebreak, only for Rubin to return to three-all. Rubin then missed with a forehand up the line when well placed to hand Paul the advantage again at five-four. Again Rubin recovered to five-all, putting away a smash after executing a forehand very similar to the one he missed on the last point, only this time making it. Paul held his second service point to earn another match point against the Rubin serve. He would miss long with a backhand though, and the two would change ends at six-all. A very late line call in favour of Paul on Rubin’s set point had the latter furious, but he won the next point, and then the set, when a Paul backhand found the net.

Rubin received treatment for a back injury between sets, and the treatment seemed to reinvigorate him. He would break in game three as the Paul backhand again failed. Paul then himself took treatment for an issue that looked similar to the one faced by Rubin. Paul continued to struggle though, and Rubin broke again for four-one . Rubin quickly surrendered the double break, though as Paul fought back. Paul then earned another break point to level the match, but framed it long, and Rubin escaped.

Paul’s challenge quickly disappeared after that, and Rubin broke to love, winning his first Challenger title when Paul missed a forehand wide.

Paul will make ground on Francis Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, two other young Americans moving up the rankings at a torrid pace. Rubin will also gain ground, rising to as high as 350 with the title win.Both have been awarded special exemptions to the main draw of Knoxville next week, again on the Challenger circuit.



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Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova Hires Ex-Wimbledon Champion As Coach



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Marie Bouzkova has enlisted the help of Gabine Muguruza’s former coach to help her crack the top 20 in the new year. 


The 25-year-old Czech has appointed Conchita Martinez as her new coach for the upcoming season. A former world No.2 player who won 33 WTA titles during her career, including the 1994 Wimbledon championships. After retirement, Martinez ventured into coaching with her most notable success being with Garbine Muguruza which earned her the honor of being named WTA Coach of The Year in 2021. She has also previously mentored Karoline Pliskova, captained her country’s Billie Jean King Cup team and most recently served as tournament director of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

“Since February I have taken advantage of the time to rest, after some intense years of travelling. Now I have the energy to train again and enjoy my work. I am very happy to be able to contribute my experience again,” Martinez said during an interview with Eurosport Spain.
“Her (Bouzkova’s) agent contacted me to inquire about my availability and to ask if I wanted to train again. And now that we are at the end of the year and after evaluating everything, I have decided that it was a good time to return because I am excited about the project.”

Buzkova is a former US Open junior champion who is currently ranked 34th in the world. She has won one WTA title so far in her career which was at the 2022 Prague Open. She also reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2022 which is her best Grand Slam run to date. This season, Bouzkova was runner-up at a WTA 250 event in Nanchang, China and produced an overall win-loss record of 27-23.

Despite her success, Martinez believes Bouzkova has plenty of room for improvement in her game. 

“I love her because she is a very feisty and competitive player. She has many to continue growing and improving as a tennis player. She is very professional and is focused on her work 100%,” she commented.
“Honestly, I think it has a lot of room for improvement in many aspects. It is true that she is quite complete, but I would like to focus on her gradually playing more aggressively without losing her essence as a great fighter. I definitely think she has the potential to be high in the rankings, but it takes time to work on.”

Bouzkova is also an accomplished doubles player who is currently ranked in the world’s top 30. She has won five WTA doubles trophies with two of those triumphs occuring during 2023. 

The new tennis season begins in less than a month. 

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Emma Raducanu To Begin Comeback In Auckland



Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu will end her eight-month absence from tennis at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, at the start of next year. 


The 21-year-old has been sidelined from the Tour since April after undergoing surgery to treat issues with both of her wrists, as well as one ankle. Raducanu hasn’t played a Tour-level match since the Porsche Open in Germany where she was beaten 6-2, 6-1, by Jelena Ostapenko in the first round. This year she has only managed to play in four tournaments with her best performance occurring at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells where she reached the fourth round. 

It will be the second year in a row that the Brit has opted to start her season in New Zealand. At the start of 2023, she won her opening match at the event but rolled her ankle in the process which forced her to withdraw from the tournament. 

Raducanu’s decision to play in Auckland comes as she faces the prospect of having to go through qualifying at the Australian Open. She has a protected ranking of 103 which is significantly higher than her current position of 296. However, she has not made the cut-off to play in the main draw. The only way she can enter the main draw will be with the help of a series of withdrawals, receiving a wildcard or playing three rounds of qualifying. 

Should she have to play qualifying at Melbourne Park, the event will follow immediately after the ASB Classic. The last time she took part in a Grand Slam qualifying draw was at the 2021 US Open where she stunned the field by going on to win the title in what remains her only WTA trophy to date. 

Raducanu, who has been ranked as high as 13th in the world, is understood to have been training at the National Tennis Center in recent weeks leading up to her return. It is still not known who will be coaching her in 2024 with the tennis player yet to comment on the topic.

The ASB Classic will begin on January 1st. 

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Hamad Medjedovic wins the Next Gen Finals title in Jeddah



Hamad Medjedovic came back from one set down to beat Arthur Fils 3-4 (6-8) 4-1 4-2 3-4 (9-11) 4-1 after 2 hours and 11 minutes at the Next Gen ATP Finals at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. 


Medjedovic hit 38 winners to 21 unforced errors. 

The first set went on serve en route to the tie-break. Medjedovic earned a mini-break to take a 3-2 lead and held two set points at 6-4, but he was not able to convert them. Fils won four consecutive points to win the tie-break 8-6. 

Medjedovic earned a break in the second game to win the second set 4-1. 

Medjedovic becomes the sixth Next Gen ATP Finals champion, joining top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. The 20-year-old Serbian player is the lowest-ranked champion in tournament history. 

Medjedovic started the third set with an early break in the first game. The Serbian player held on his serve to seal the set 4-2. 

Medjedovic recovered from squandering two match points at 6-4 in a thrilling tie-break of the fourth set at 5-6 and 7-8. Fils saved both chances on second serves and won four of the next five points to win the tie-break 11-9 forcing the match to a deciding set. 

to win the first five-set final in tournament history. The Serbian player won 88% and converted his third match point to clinch the biggest title of his career so far. 

Medjedovic earned a break in the second game of the fifth set. Fils earned himself a penalty point for a smash of his raquet and went down 0-3. Medjedovic held on his next service games and converted his third match point. 

“Two of us from Serbia. Djokovic won the big Masters, the real one, and I won the Next Gen. Obviously it’s a huge thing and I am happy to follow in his footsteps in some way. I can’t believe I have won this title. It’s going to give me a lot of confidence for 2024. Arthur is an amazing player. He is top 40 for a reason”, said Medjedovic. 

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