Paul-Henri Mathieu left with a clear field, as all other seeds fall in second round in Rennes - UBITENNIS
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Paul-Henri Mathieu left with a clear field, as all other seeds fall in second round in Rennes

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Second seed Paul-Henri Mathieu will now be the heavy ranking favourite in Rennes, as the Frenchman is the only seed left standing after just the second round.

After top seed Jeremy Chardy’s shock early exit in the first round to Andrey Rublev, and Evgeny Donskoy’s retirement vs Kenny de Schepper, an exodus of seeds then departed in round two.

(2) Paul-Henri Mathieu defeats Arthur de Greef 67 64 75. Mathieu may have been the only seed to move into the quarter-finals, but Belgian opponent de Greef did not make things easy for him. The world no. 142 took a close set in which he faced no break points and won more than 90% his first serve delivery. Mathieu struck in the second, saving three break points before breaking once from two opportunities. De Greef’s first serve then faltered a little in the third, and the second seed broke twice late on to move forward into the quarter-finals.

Duckhee Lee defeats (6) Lukas Rosol 63 46 63. Lee will have been disappointed to lose to Alexander Bublik in Australian Open Qualifying, but bounced back impressively to beat Rosol. The teenager Korean faced no break points in sets one and three, and that was enough to defeat the sixth seed.

Blaz Kavcic defeats (4) Sergiy Stakhovsky 64 67 76. Roger Federer may have lost to Stakhovsky once in a shock result at Wimbledon, but the Ukrainian has not shown that kind of form for some time. Now ranked outside the Top 100, Stakhovsky saw fifteen aces fired past him. The fact that Stakhovsky failed to break in the first set from seven opportunities will also hurt.

Vincent Millot defeats (5) Guido Andreozzi 76 46 62. Of all the shocks for seedings in the second round, this was probably the least suprising. Andreozzi is most comfortable on clay, and Millot plays well at these sorts of events. Millot also just missed a seeding in this event, and it was almost surprising he failed to close this one out in straight sets.

Mathias Bourgue defeats (3) Josef Kovalik 76 64. This is now an alarming set of results for Kovalik. The Slovakian lost when highly seeded in the first round of Australian Open Qualifying, and this result makes it back-to-back first round defeats. There were admittedly easier second round match-ups than that of Bourgue,  who will now face Teymuraz Gabashvili in the quarter-finals.

Uladzimir Ignaitik defeats (8) Tobias Kamke. Kamke managed to turn around an alarming late 2015/early 2016 with some better results towards the latter stages of last season. However, if this result is anything to go by, the Germany cold be regressing back to that poor form. Ignatik is ranked nearly seventy places beneath Kamke, and lost in qualifying so was not in good form, making this result all the more surprising.

Teymuraz Gabashvili defeats Kenny de Schepper 64 63. De Schepper was the beneficiary of Evgeny Donskoy’s withdrawal from their match when de Schepper had led 4-1, but the tall Frenchman was unable to beat his Russian opponent. Gabashvili is an experienced player and will be a real handful for anyone left in the draw.

 

 

 

ATP Challenger

Roberto Bautista Agut reaches his second career final in Doha

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Roberto Bautista Agut reached the second final of his career at the Qatar Exxon Mobil with a 6-3 6-3 win over defending champion Andrey Rublev. 

 

Bautista Agut broke serve in the fourth game with a forehand winner to open up a 3-1 lead and held on his next service games to close out the first set 6-3 after 29 minutes. 

The Spaniard started the second set with an early break. Rublev broke straight back in the second game and won his next two service games to take a 3-2 lead. Bautista Agut saved two break points to hold serve before getting two consecutive breaks to claim the second set 6-3. 

Rublev was playing his first match this week after two walkovers. The Russian player claimed the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last week. 

“It was very difficult to play tennis today, with the windy conditions, but I put a lot of pressure on his second serve and played really good tennis. I played a long match yesterday against Dominic Thiem, but I felt fresh and I had a lot of power on the court. This is one of my favourite tournaments. I played one of my best matches here in Qatar two years ago, and I hope I can win one more match tomorrow”, said Bautista Agut.

Bautista Agut set up a final against Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-3) 6-1. 

Basilashvili, who beat Roger Federer in the quarter final, rallied from one break down to win the tie-break of the first set 7-3. The Georgian player broke twice in the second and sixth games to close out the second set 6-1.  “To reach the final means a lot. I am playing well and I am relaxed. It’s great to play in front of a crowd and a nice atmosphere”, said Basilshvili. 

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ATP Challenger

Andy Murray defeated in the final of the Biella Challenger

The former world number was runner-up to the Ukrainian Ilya Marchenko. Both will feature in next week’s event in the same location

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Andy Murray - ATP Challenger Biella 2021 (Credit: Felice Calabrò)

Andy Murray suffered a surprising defeat in the final of this week’s tournament in Biella. Playing his second Challenger event in 16 years (the other one occurred in Mallorca in 2019 when, limping on a battered hip, he lost against Matteo Viola in the eighth of finals). Before today’s runner-up finish, he had played twice against his opponent, Illya Marchenko from Ukraine (N.212 in the ATP Rankings), both times at the Australian Open, in 2011 and 2017 respectively, winning both times.

 

But it was the Ukrainian who got off to a flying start, while the Scotsman looked a bit cumbersome and immediately lost his serve, giving a nice boost of confidence to his opponent, who broke his serve once more in the fifth game, taking a 4-1 lead. Murray couldn’t control his changes of pace, while Marchenko was pretty much spotless. The 6-2 score in his favour was the logical consequence, as confirmed by the numbers, which saw him win 83% of points on his first serve (against a meagre 53% for Murray), with no break points allowed.

In the first game of the second set, Marchenko immediately leapt ahead, breaking the Brit’s serve and even earning a chance for a 3-0 lead. Murray managed to stay close and started to play in a more conservative way, with great humility, in an attempt to reduce the number of unforced errors. Murray saved a match point at 3-5 with his second serve, exploiting Marchenko’s clumsiness with the backhand, but couldn’t do the same on the return, conceding defeat at the third match point. must defend with the second. Luckily for him, Marchenko is a bit clumsy in his preparation steps and puts up a not particularly difficult backhand. The former world number one will try to exact revenge in the same location starting tomorrow, as a Challenger 125 will take place once more in Biella, with players like Lorenzo Musetti (the seventh seed), Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ATP N.54) and Sebastian Korda (N.88).

Report by Massimo Gaiba; edited by Tommaso Villa

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ATP announces five-week ATP Challenger calendar for 2021

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The ATP has issued a five-week schedule for the start of the 2021 ATP Challenger Tour, which is scheduled to launch on 18th January with a 125-event in Istanbul. The Turkish city celebrates its 31st consecutive year on the Challenger Tour.

 

Turkey will host three consecutive tournaments at the start of the season. Istanbul will host a hard court tournament from 18th January. The tour will move to the seaside town of Antalya, the venue of two clay tournaments on 25th January 2021 and 1st February 2021. 

The week of 25 Januray will be the first of back-to-back Challenger events in Antalya and an indoor hard-court tournament in the French town of Quimper. 

France will host two more indoor tournaments, the 125-level tournament in Orleans (1 February) and the 28th edition of Cherbourg (8 February). 

Cherbourg will be held in the same week as hard-court tournaments in Biella in Italy and Potchefstroom in South Africa. Biella will also host a 125-level tournament in the following week on 15 February. Potchefstroom will host a second consecutive tournament on 15 February. Challenger-level tournaments will feature 32 singles players and qualifying draws with 16 players. 

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