Challenger Tour: Grega Zemlja hits impressive number of aces in win, Marinko Matosevic up and running in Dallas - UBITENNIS
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Challenger Tour: Grega Zemlja hits impressive number of aces in win, Marinko Matosevic up and running in Dallas

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Zemlja was in almost impeccable form when it came to serving on Tuesday. (Image via Zimbio.com)

There were a few shocks in Dallas on Tuesday, with Marinko Matosevic arguably causing the biggest as he beat fifth seed Radu Albot 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

The Australian, attempting to make his way back from a long-term injury, survived a late comeback bid from the Moldovan to win his first main draw match at any level this season. It is an encouraging result for the former World No. 39 player, as he had lost to players ranked outside the top 100 in qualifying events before making the main draw of Dallas.

Grega Zemlja earned a hard-f0ught 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 win over Jason Jung. The Slovenian, though aided by an incredible thirty-three aces, still had to dig himself out of a hole when Jung earned the right to serve for the match at five-four in the tiebreak. Zemlja survived though, winning the next three points, and fittingly won the match on an ace.

Another upset was the in-form Mikhail Vaks win over American Connor Smith. Vaks, who is currently ranked outside the top 1000 and with a career-high ranking of 567, defeated Smith 6-4, 6-2. Vaks is in form having dispatched Nicolas Barrientos in qualifying to reach the main draw.

It was a day to forget for most of the American contingent, as Clay Thompson, Eric Quigley, Dennis Novikov, and Sekou Bangoura all joined Smith in departing. Only Ernesto Escobedo won on Tuesday and that in the all American clash against Thompson. Quigley was beaten 7-6, 6-3 by John-Patrick Smith, Novikov was beaten 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 by James McGee, and Bangoura lost to Briton Kyle Edmund 7-6, 6-2.

Nicolas Barrientos, though the beneficiary of a lucky loser entry to the tournament, could not take advantage of his good fortune, going down to Marco Trungelliti 6-3, 7-6. Henri Laaksonen joined Trungelliti in the second round by beating alternate Marek Michalicka 7-5, 6-1 in one hour and twelve minutes.

(At the time of writing the final first round match between Sam Groth and Frances Tiafoe had yet to be completed).

Wednesday highlights and picks (in bold):

Ryan Harrison vs Tim Smyczek: These two have already met four times on tour in their careers, and Smyczek leads the head-to-head 3-1. Smyczek negotiated a potentially tricky encounter against Mitchell Krueger in the first round, while Harrison looked distinctly unconvincing against Alex Kuznetsov, failing to serve the match out twice before finally breaking in the last game.

Dan Evans vs Bjorn Fratangelo: Evans owns a commanding 3-0 lead in this head-to-head though Fratangelo did grab a set for the first time in their most recent meeting at the Australian Open Qualifying event in January. Both had impressive first-round wins against Andrey Rublev and Jared Donaldson respectively, but Evans has been in more consistent form and the head-to-head builds a strong case for the Briton.

Benjamin Becker vs Ernesto Escobedo: Perhaps the biggest test of the young American’s fledgling career, the veteran German Becker will prove a tough test for Escobedo. Watch this match because this teenager is talented but all the same Becker is likely to prove just a step too far at this stage.

 

 

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Jannik Sinner reaches his second consecutive semifinal in Monte-Carlo

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Second seed Jannik Sinner battled past Holger Rune 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 after 2 hours and 41 minutes to reach his second consecutive semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Sinner becomes the only player to reach the semifinals at all three Masters 1000 tournaments this season. 

Sinner has drawn level to 2-2 in his four head-to-head matches against Rune. 

Sinner has improved to 14-2 against top 10 opponents since last September. 

Sinner set up a semifinal clash against 2021 and 2022 Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-2 in the quarter final. Tsitsipas has a career win-loss record of 18-3 in Monte-Carlo. 

Rune did not convert a break point in the fourth game of the first set. Sinner earned the only break of the opening set in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Neither player earned a single break point in the next games. Sinner held on his next service games and served out the first set with a hold at love. 

Rune recovered from 0-40 to hold for 3-2. The Danish player fended off three break points at 6-5 to hold serve at deuce. Sinner earned two set points at 6-4 in the tie-break, but Rune fired a winner to start a four-point streak to clinch the tie-break 8-6. 

Rune held his second break point at 2-2 30-40, but Sinner saved it before winning 12 of the final 15 points to win the third set 6-3 improving his win-loss record to 25-1 this season. “It took a lot to win this match. Playing against Rune is never easy, especially on this kind of occasion, so I am very happy that I won today but mostly about the level I gave. I raised it today a little bit. It was more physical, there were more rallies today. My general feelings were better, so I am very excited about tomorrow’s match. Even I lose today, I learn again, so I am very happy about today. It has been  a very tough match. I am very happy about the win”, said Sinner.

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Injury Heartbreak Motivates Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Tie With Mexico

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SEVILLE, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 09: Storm Hunter of Team Australia reacts during the Billie Jean King Cup Finals group stage match between Australia and Kazakhstan at Estadio de La Cartuja on November 09, 2023 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF)

The captain of the Australian Billie Jean King Cup team says they are supporting one of their top players after she suffered a serious injury on the eve of their latest tie. 

Storm Hunter, who is currently ranked No.3 in the world for doubles, has suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon whilst training at a practice session on Thursday with her teammates. The severity of the injury means she will almost certainly be forced to pull out of this summer’s Olympic Games where she would have been a medal contender, as well as both the French Open and Wimbledon. Hunter has already won a WTA 1000 title this season in Dubai and was also runner-up in Indian Wells. In both of those tournaments, she was partnering Kateřina Siniaková. 

“Unfortunately yesterday in our last practice before the tie, I went down and scans last night confirmed that I have ruptured my Achilles tendon,” said Hunter.
“I am devastated and heartbroken, but incredibly grateful to be around the team and I know I have a great group of people around me that will help me get back on the court as soon as possible.
“Thank you everyone so much everyone for your messages of support and love. I’m excited to stay for the tie and support our Aussie girls.”

According to the Australian press, team captain Sam Stosur said Hunter’s teammates are ‘rallying behind‘ her and “wishing her the very, very best and the quickest recovery possible.”

As a result of the injury, Daria Saville was brought in to play in her country’s singles match on the opening day of their tie against Mexico on Friday. The world No.94 was in top form as she charged to a comprehensive 6-1, 6-0, win over Marcela Zacarias in less than an hour. 

“Yesterday was a pretty tough day for all of us, pretty emotional,” said Saville who has undergone surgery on her Achilles in the past. 
“It’s so nice to have Stormy here supporting us. Not long ago that kind of happened to me … so we’re giving Stormy a lot of love. 
“I felt like I was pretty determined and clearly that showed.”

Despite the blow, Australia is on the verge of beating Mexico. In the other singles match on the opening day, Arina Rodionova came back from a set down to beat Giuliana Olmos 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. With a 2-0 lead, they only need one more win to clinch the tie. 

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Great Britain is looking to avenge defeat against France in Billie Jean King Cup tie

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France and Great Britain have drawn together once again after a thrilling Billie Jean King Qualifier tie last year.

France will take on Great Britain for the fifth time in Billie Jean King Cup. In their most recent clash France beat Great Britain 3-1 in a tight Qualifier one year ago on an indoor hard court in their first tie since 1981. Caroline Garcia and Alizé Cornet won their singles matches against Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart. 

Great Britain is looking to avenge last year’s result. 

The French team features Caroline Garcia, Karoline Mladenovic, Clara Burel and Diane Perry in a mix of experienced and young players. French captain Julien Benneteau was part of the Davis Cup-winning team in 2017. Benneteau is one of the select players to have beaten Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. 

Benneteau was named Billie Jean King Cup captain in 2018 and led France to victory against Australia in the Final in 2019. 

France was narrowly defeated by Italy in the group stages at the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville. 

Great Britain won their Play-Off tie against Sweden. Katie Boulter scored two thrilling singles wins. 

British captain Anne Keothavong, who won 22 matches during her playing career in the Billie Jean King Cup, has named world number 28 Katie Boulter, Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu. 

Raducanu will make only her second appearance in the British team at this event. She missed most of the 2023 season after undergoing surgery on both wrists and her ankle. 

Boulter and Raducanu have been selected to play singles. 

Boulter will play against Diane Perry in the opening match. Raducanu will take on Garcia in the second match. 

Bolulter has a good chance to qualify for the Olympic Games at Paris Roland Garros. The British player, who won the San Diego Open this year, has not played a professional match on clay. Both the Billie Jean King Cup tie at the Chaudron Le Portel and the Olympic Games will be held on this surface. 

“The Olympics is always something I wanted to play as a kid and that is certainly a priority. I will be playing if I can, and I am looking forward to being a part of something which isn’t only tennis. I am sure it would be an experience I won’t forget”, said Boulter. 

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