5 of the best ATP matches of 2016: No.5 Dominic Thiem vs Nicolas Almagro - UBITENNIS
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5 of the best ATP matches of 2016: No.5 Dominic Thiem vs Nicolas Almagro

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With the ATP season now finished for 2016, we can look back on some great matches over the course of the year, and reflect on how these matches have helped shape the rankings going into 2017. Over the course of this week five matches will be remembered.

No.5 – Dominic Thiem defeats Nicolas Almagro 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, in the Buenos Aires Final.

This match makes the list for remembering a young talent’s victory over a excellent clay specialist trying to get his career back on track after injury. It just edges out the equally enthralling semi-final victory for Thiem against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. This match really shaped the course of Dominic Thiem’s outstanding 2016 season. Going into the year ranked at No.20 the Austrian had had an indifferent start to the year, reaching the semi-finals of just one of his first three events at the Brisbane International (l. to Federer). His run at the Buenos Aires Open handed him his first title of a season where he would add a further three titles, reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time, qualify for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals and finish inside the Emirates Top 10.

This match was not just about Dominic Theim though. Nicolas Almagro was once ranked at No.10 in the ATP rankings. His best results have come on clay, reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros three times (2008, 2010, 2012). Since 2014 though, Almagro had struggled with a foot injury, and saw his ranking plummet out of the Top 100. Almagro recovered to play this match with a ranking once again in the Top 100, though not near his once normal placing in the Top 30. Nevertheless, this match saw Almagro at his sensational best once again, providing formidable opposition for the young Austrian. The Spaniard built on his performance in this final, moving his ranking back into the Top 50 by the end of the season.

The match itself saw many long rallies, as both players unsurprisingly looked to dictate from the baseline and beyond. Both right-handers with one-handed backhands and aggressive games, in many ways Almagro and Thiem were very similar in style. The first set saw both attack hard, often forcing thirty or deuce games against each other’s serve. In particular both used the cross-court angles superbly well, on both wings, forcing each other to demonstrate admirable defensive traits as well as attacking strengths.

The first set went to a tie-break, and Thiem took the initiative from the off, seizing on a slightly short mid-court ball from Almagro to crush a forehand. Almagro then collapsed when serving at two-five, losing both points to give the younger man the early advantage.

Almagro did well to recover from love-thirty when serving at one-two in the second, before breaking Thiem at three-all when a fortunate net cord forced a net-rushing Thiem into an error. Thiem lost his composure towards the end of the set, missing a regulation lob before double-faulting on set point to ensure that Almagro would serve first in the championship decider.

Almagro’s hot form continued into the second set, breaking early. Thiem came back and refused to let Almagro consolidate the early break, levelling up at two-all. The set then went with serve, resulting in a tie break. Again, it was the Austrian who came through the victor, with Almagro framing a forehand long on match point to hand Thiem his first title of a terrific 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUjmImvbuVU

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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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