Challenger Tour: Josef Kovalik shocks top seed Victor Estrella Burgos in straight sets - UBITENNIS
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Challenger Tour: Josef Kovalik shocks top seed Victor Estrella Burgos in straight sets

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Victor Estrella-Burgos was beaten in the second round of his home event in Santo Domingo. (Image via Zimbio.com)

Home favourite and top seed Victor Estrella-Burgos was unceremoniously beaten in his home Challenger as Josef Kovalik registered his biggest win of the season.  The Slovakian who is ranked just outside the Top 200 played superbly to break Estrella-Burgos three times for a 6-3, 6-2 win. Kovalik did not face a single break point.

Frenchman Mathias Bourgue managed to defeat severely out-of-form eighth seed Joao Souza 6-1, 7-6. Souza capitulated in the first set, but did well to return after going behind in the second too. Bourgue called for the trainer and then won a tiebreak to take his place in the quarter-finals.

There are now only two seeds left in the draw, and both required come from behind victories to advance Thursday. Anddrej Martin started the comeback a little earlier than Roberto Carballes Baena, as he recovered from four-one down in the first set, winning the next five games, and the taking the second set on a tiebreak for a 6-4, 7-6 victory.

Carballes-Baena broke in the very first game against Gianluca Naso, but then struggled, losing five of the next six games. He broke as Naso attempted to serve the set out, but then was broken again himself. Carballes Baena won the last four games of the second set, and then broke for an early lead in the third. Naso, responded, broke and was holding the stronger of the two going into the tiebreak, but lost the first four points in the tiebreak and could not recover as Carballes-Baena eventually won 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.

Quarter final draw and picks:

Nicolas Kicker vs Alessandro Giannessi: Two unlikely quarter-final candidates with one thing in common; they are both in superb form. Kicker has dropped just seven games so far including dismissing Alejandro Gonzalez’s conqueror Jose Hernandez-Fernandez 6-3, 6-1 in the last round. Giannessi destroyed second seed Horacio Zeballos and then edged Frank Skugor. I think Kicker will take this. Winner: Kicker in straight sets.

Mathias Bourgue vs Roberto Carballes Baena: Two guys, both twenty-two, and in form. Bourgue beat Souza in the last round and Carballes Baena has shown tenacity to dig out a tough result against Naso. Baena did not play well in the last round, but I’m backing him to pick it up here. Winner: Carballes Baena in straight sets.

Guido Andreozzi vs Maxime Chazal: Andreozzi finally looks back in form. the Argentine is one hundred places removed from his career best, but wins over Gerald Melzer and Jordi-Samper Montana, both accomplished clay-courters shows he is up for this tournament. Chazal is also in form, defeating seventh seed Andre Ghem, and beating qualifier Roberto Quiroz, but even Ghem is not as strong as Melzer or Samper-Montana currently. Winner: Andreozzi in three sets.

Jozef Kovalik vs Andrej Martin: Perhaps the toughest match of the round to call. Kovalik’s win over Estrella-Burgos must carry some weight in this battle, and Martin had a slow start against Calvin Hemery. Winner: Kovalik in three sets.

 

 

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Poland, Great Britain, Japan and Slovakia book their spot in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals

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Iga Swiatek beat Swiss teenager Celine Naef 6-4 6-3 in the Qualifiers in Biel to book Poland a spot in the Billie Jean King Finals, which will be held in Seville next November. Poland took an insurmountable 3-0 win over Switzerland in the best-of-five qualifying round. 

Naef went up an early break in the third game of the first set to take a 2-1 lead. Swiatek reeled off six consecutive games to build up a 6-4 4-0 lead, but Naef pulled back on serve at 3-4, but Swiatek reeled off the final two games to win the win the second set 6-3 after 1 hour and 23 minutes. 

Swiatek sealed her seventh consecutive match win at the Billie Jean King Cup. 

“I am super happy and proud of everybody. It’s been a really fun week, so I am happy that this week so I am happy that this time I could lead my team to be in the finals. Hopefully we are going to finish it in November, but I am super proud of what we achieved for these two days”, said Swiatek. 

Emma Raducanu and Katie Boulter earned Great Britain a 3-1 win over France. 

Diane Perry won 12 consecutive games from 0-2 down to beat Katie Boulter 6-2 6-0 in the first match on Friday.

Emma Raducanu, US Open champion in 2021, came back from a set and a break down to beat Caroline Garcia 3-6 6-3 6-2 levelling the tie to 1-1. 

Both players traded breaks in the first set before Garcia broke again in the eighth  game to win the first set 6-3. 

Garcia went up a break in the first game of the second set, but Raducanu reeled off six of the next seven games to win the second set 6-3. Raducanu broke twice in the third and fifth games and closed out the match with a smash at the net. 

During the second day Katie Boulter beat Clara Burel 7-5 6-0 to win the first tour-level clay-court match of her career, earning Great Britain a 2-1 lead. 

Raducanu came back from one set down to beat Diana Parry 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1) securing Great Britain a spot in the final with an unassailable 3-1 win. 

Parry earned an early break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Raducanu broke back in the third game and held serve in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Parry broke for the second time in the 10th game to close out the first set 6-4. Parry saved five of the six break points she faced, while Raducanu did not either of the two chances she faced. 

Raducanu went up an early break in the first game of the second set. The 2021 US Open champion withstood a five-deuce second game and saved a break point. The British player earned two breaks in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-1. 

Raducanu won the last 14 points of the second set. 

Parry earned an early break in the first game of the third set. Raducanu reeled off four consecutive games to take a 4-1 lead with two breaks of serve. She served for the match at 5-4. 

Raducanu held two match points. Parry saved the first match point with a passing shot winner. Raducanu missed her second chance with a forehand error, before Parry broke back after a long backhand from Raducanu in the ninth game for 4-5. 

Raducanu fended off two break points to hold serve for 6-5. The British player earned two mini-breaks and forced an error with her forehand on her third match point to win the wrap up the tie-break 7-1 after 2 hours and 52 minutes. 

“To be able to play two matches like that back to back, it’s a testament to what I have been doing. I am just glad it was able to show”, said Raducanu. 

British captain Anne Kheotavong after Great Britain’s win over France. 

“I think it’s going to take a lot of work to wipe this smile off my smile. What a win ! The atmosphere was just absolutely rocking. Katie and Emma came out to play. They put out some fantastic performances against tough opposition. I am just chuffed for the team, we came out and we knew it was going to be difficult to be the underdogs, but we came, we performed and we are all leaving with a big smile on our face”, said Anne Kheotavong. 

Japan, Australia and Slovakia also secured their spot for the Billie Jean King Cup Final. 

Japan went ahead Kazakhstan 3-0 over Kazakhstan. The Japanese team did not need Naomi Osaka to play a second match on an indoor hard court in Tokyo. Osaka beat Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-2 7-6 (7-5). Nao Hibino beat Putintseva 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9-7) on Saturday. Putintseva held four consecutive match points in the tie-break of the third set. Hibino saved them to win the tie-break 9-7 to seal a 3-0 lead for Japan. Hibino won her second win at this year’s edition of the Bille Jean King Cup Qualifiers after beating Anna Danilina 6-1 6-0 on Friday. 

Australia went up 3-0 over Mexico to book their spot in the Finals on an outdoor court in Brisbane. Eighteen-year-old Taylah Preston secured the decisive point with a 6-1 6-1 win over Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias. 

Preston won 73% of Zacarias’ second serve points and broke six times. 

Slovakia, Billie Jean King Cup champions in 2022, qualified for the Finals when 16-year-old Renata Jamrichova, Australian Open Junior champion in 2024, beat Veronika Erjavic 6-2 6-0 in 64 minutes, on an indoor court in Bratislava to earn a 3-0 win over Slovenia.

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Novak Djokovic reaches the semifinal in Monte-Carlo for the first time since 2015

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Novak Djokovic beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 2 hours and four minutes to reach the semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the first time since his triumph in 2015. 

Djokovic avenged his recent defeat to De Minaur at the United Cup to improve to 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against his Australian opponent. 

Djokovic converted five of his eleven break points. De Minaur saved five of the six break points he faced. 

Djokovic faced two break points in the opening game, but he saved them and held serve after De Minaur made a backhand error. Both players went on serve without facing any break points until the ninth game. De Minaur squandered game points as he was serving to stay in the set at 4-5. The Australian player saved a set point with a forehand winner and held serve. Djokovic saved a break point to hold serve in the 11th game after a forehand error. 

De Minaur fended off two set points at 5-6. Djokovic converted his third break after a loose drop shot from De Minaur to seal the first set 7-5. 

There were five straight breaks in the second set. Djokovic earned his fourth break point in the sixth game after De Minaur sent a backhand long. Djokovic went up a 40-15 lead in the seventh game, but De Minaur fought back by winning four straight points to break back for 4-3. Both players held serve in the eighth and ninth games. De Minaur served to stay in the match at 4-5. Djokovic clinched his fourth break of the set to book his spot in the semifinal. 

“It was tough for both of us. He is one of the quickest players on Tour. He gets a lot of balls back that normally 99% of other players don’t. He did not surprise me with several passing shots. Particularly in the second set when I was up a break, but he said at the net it was ugly. The second set I think it was. We did not play at the high level and made a lot of unforced errors, him and I, and a lot of breaks of serve. It is kind of expected on clay but maybe not this many, but a win is a win but I am happy to be through”, said Djokovic. 

Djokovic set up a semifinal clash against Casper Ruud, who  recovered from losing the second set to beat Ugo Humbert 6-3 4-6 6-1. 

Ruud broke twice in the fifth and ninth games to win the first set 6-3. The Norwegian player went up a set and a break at 6-3 2-0, but Humbert won four consecutive games to take a 4-2 lead with two breaks of serve. Ruud held on his next two service games to win the second set 6-4. 

Ruud broke serve in the fourth and sixth games and served out the win on his second match point. 

“It was tough. It was back and forth. I started great and I was up 6-3 2-0 after 50 minutes. I was playing really good tennis and then I stumbled a bit. I lost maybe ten points in a row at one point there, so I had to try and stop the bleeding. I was not able to in the second set, but in the third set I was a bit fortunate I got the break early and then saved a few break points. God knows how, but luckily they landed inside the lines”, said Ruud. 

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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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