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ATP Eastbourne: Aegon International preview

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The final stop ahead of the third Grand Slam of the season, Wimbledon, next week, the Aegon International in Eastbourne provides some of the top men one final lead-up ahead of the grass courts of the All England Club.

 

Featuring two of the world’s top 20 including 12-time Grand Slam champion and three-time Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic, the Aegon International in Eastbourne, where the men return to for the first time since 2014, serves as the final grass court lead-up event ahead of Wimbledon, with 250 ranking points on offer for the champion on the south coast of England at Devonshire Park.

First quarter

The top quarter of the draw is led by top-seeded wildcard Novak Djokovic, making his Eastbourne debut, and eighth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. For Djokovic, the Serb begins his grass court season against either big-hitting Czech lefty Jiri Vesely, who upset Djokovic in Monte Carlo in 2016, or Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil in the second round. The former world number one could then face eighth-seeded Schwartzman, who plays American Next Gen star Jared Donaldson in the first round before a possible meeting with Donald Young or Brit Kyle Edmund in the second round ahead of a potential last eight meeting with Djokovic.

Despite the top seed’s struggles this season, the three-time Wimbledon champion has a very comfortable early draw in Eastbourne and if Djokovic can navigate his way past a potentially dangerous opening match against either Vesely or Pospisil, the Serb looks good to make the semifinals at Devonshire Park.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Novak Djokovic hits a forehand during practice at the Aegon International in Eastbourne

Second quarter

The second quarter of the draw features two Americans, fourth seed Steve Johnson and fifth seed Sam Querrey. For Johnson, who made an emotional run to the third round of the French Open following the death of his father, the American opens against two qualifiers, either Thomas Fabbiano or Franko Skugor, while Querrey, who knocked out Djokovic in the third round of Wimbledon last year, begins his Eastbourne campaign against Russian Daniil Medvedev before a possible second round meeting with three-time ‘s-Hertogenbosch champion Nicolas Mahut or Dutchman Robin Haase.

If Johnson and Querrey can take advantage of a pretty straightforward quarter, they should be set for a quarterfinal collision, where former Aegon Championships winner Querrey would most likely be the favorite.

Semifinalist: Querrey

Sam Querrey hits a forehand during practice at the Aegon Championships at the Queen’s Club in London/Zimbio/Harry Murphy

Third quarter

The third quarter is headlined by big-serving American and third seed John Isner and seventh-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet, a 2015 Wimbledon semifinalist. For Isner, the six-foot-11-inch American awaits the winner of Jeremy Chardy and Dusan Lajovic before a possible quarterfinal encounter with Gasquet. The former top ten Frenchman plays American Next Gen star Frances Tiafoe in the opening round before possibly meeting a difficult second round opponent in either Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci or 2015 Queen’s runner-up Kevin Anderson, another big server, of South Africa.

In this section with a few big servers, there is bound to be many close matches especially given the grass court surface here on the south coast of England. If Anderson can play consistent tennis, he should be the favorite to reach a quarterfinal meeting with Isner, and given the giant South African’s pedigree on this surface, he would likely be the favorite to reach the last four in Eastbourne.

Semifinalist: Anderson

Kevin Anderson hits a forehand at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Zimbio/Adam Pretty

Fourth quarter

The bottom quarter of the draw is by second-seeded French wildcard Gael Monfils and sixth seed of Germany, Mischa Zverev, who reached the final at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart a few weeks back to begin the grass court season. For Monfils, the always popular flashy Frenchman opens against either British wildcard Cameron Norrie or Horacio Zeballos before a possible matchup with Zverev in the quarterfinals. For the left-handed German, he has American Ryan Harrison in the first round ahead of a possible second round meeting with either qualifier Norbert Gombos or Australian Bernard Tomic.

While Zverev and Tomic do both pose a significant threat on the grass and could be an intriguing second round match here at Devonshire Park, this quarter seems to be primed for Zverev to keep up his impressive grass court form from tournaments in Germany in Stuttgart and Halle and to keep it up in Eastbourne and make himself a contender to make the second week at Wimbledon.

Semifinalist: Zverev

Mischa Zverev hits a backhand at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle/Zimbio/Joachim Sielski

Predictions:

Semifinals: Querrey def. Djokovic, Zverev def. Anderson

Final: Zverev def. Querrey

ATP

Andy Murray Surging In Confidence After Reaching First ATP Quarter-Final Since 2019

The 34-year-old believes he is getting better with every match played on the Tour as he eyes a spot in the final later this week.

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Andy Murray (image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES)

Former world No.1 Andy Murray says he is starting to gain more belief in his game after reaching the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open on Wednesday.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion rallied to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the French city. Murray dropped serve only once at the start of the second set but broke his opponent four times en route to the victory. It is the first time he has registered back-to-back wins on the ATP Tour since Wimbledon and it is the first time he has reached a quarter-final since winning the 2019 Antwerp Open.

Murray showed glimmers of his best tennis recently at the US Open where he took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the first round before losing. However, in his following tournament on the Challenger circuit he lost in the second round to world No.154 Roman Safiullin. Despite the mixed performances, the Brit says his fitness continues to improve and he believes he is heading in the right direction.

“For me, this period of the last few years has been the most I have played really,” Murray said following his win over Pospisil.
“My body feels good and I am starting to gain just a little bit of confidence with each match, starting to see the points and how I want to play them, which is great.
“There have been times in the past year where I have been a little bit confused and not seeing how the points are developing which was always a strong part of my game.
“It made me feel quite uncomfortable on court when I was feeling that way, so I am starting to get that back and the results are coming, my tennis is getting better.”

The 34-year-old, who now plays on the Tour with a metal hip after undergoing two operations, is targeting a return back into the world’s top 100 for the first time since 2018. He came agonisingly close in July when he reached 102. At present, he is currently ranked 113 but will climb at least four places following his run in Metz this week.

In the next round Murray will play either top seed Hubert Hurkacz or former top 10 player Lucas Pouille. Both players are likely to be a stern challenge for the three-time Grand Slam champion who is hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2007.

“I would love to get another opportunity to play here in the final, but there is a lot of tennis to be played before then potentially against the number one seed in the next round,” he reflected.
“It is not going to be easy if I want to reach the final, but I am playing well and have an opportunity.”

Murray has won 42 ATP titles and has earned more than $62M in prize money so far in his career.

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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