Kei Nishikori weathers Fernando Verdasco storm, reaches French Open quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Kei Nishikori weathers Fernando Verdasco storm, reaches French Open quarterfinals

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Eighth seed Kei Nishikori battled past big-hitting Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco, recovering from a rough first set to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the French Open quarterfinals.

 

Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori fought off the barrage of big-hitting from veteran Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco, weathering a 6-0 opening set from Verdasco to come back and win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to reach his second French Ope quarterfinal. Nishikori, who has been pushed to four or five sets in three of his four matches so far this fortnight, has spent a grueling amount of time on court, but the Japanese superstars’ trademark strength in four or five set matches allowed him to outlast his 33-year-old opponent, who was the oldest competitor remaining in the men’s draw in the round of 16.

In the opening set, it was Nishikori, a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in 2015, under siege by a barrage of Verdasco’s trademark lefty forehands, as the Spaniard was dominant on serve and return in the opening four games to grab a double break lead for 4-0. The unseeded Verdasco saved a break point in the fifth game of the set to hold on for 5-0, consolidating that double break advantage and forcing Nishikori to serve to stay in the opening set. Verdasco, a former champion in Barcelona, was ruthless in punishing the Japanese’s serve, breaking to love to seal the dominant bagel set 6-0 in under 30 minutes.

The second set was a far different affair, as the red-hot Verdasco forehand seemed to cool down, allowing the eighth seed a pipeline back into the match. The pair exchanged breaks of serve in the first two games of the set before serve reigned dominant for the ensuing six games to bring the scoreline to an even  4-all. The unseeded Spaniard had game points to go up 5-4 in the ninth game, but Nishikori’s improved return game paid dividends, surviving a lengthy deuce game to eventually seize the break and give himself the chance to serve to level the match at a set all. Nishikori made no mistake with his opening, serving out the second set comfortably to take the set 6-4 and level the match at a set apiece.

Kei Nishikori hits a serve at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Adam Pretty/Zimbio

The third set was very similar to the second, as the 2014 US Open finalist’s level continued to improve whilst the errors begun to pile up for Verdasco. Nishikori broke in the third game of the set for 2-1, but that lead was short-lived as three games later the Spaniard pegged right back, breaking fairly easily to level the set at 3-all. A marathon service game then ensued on Verdasco’s serve, as the unseeded veteran squandered two game points before Nishikori eventually broke through on his fifth time of asking to gain the break and go up 4-3. After the Japanese superstar consolidated the break easily, the 33-year-old left-hander saved a set point on his serve at 5-3 to hold for 5-4 and force Nishikori to serve it out. The eighth seed did just that, holding routinely to take the third set 6-4 and send himself a set from the last eight in Paris.

The fourth set was a complete role reversal of the opening set, as this time around Nishikori’s trademark mental strength and fitness wore down a struggling Verdasco. The 2015 Roland Garros quarterfinalist begun brightly in the fourth, going up love-40 before finally breaking the Verdasco serve to take the break. Nishikori was forced to come back from love-40 himself, saving three break points on his own serve to consolidate the advantage before sealing a double break the following game for 3-0. After a routine hold of serve, the Japanese superstar continued his dominance of the Verdasco serve, continuing to break at will for a 5-0 lead. With an opportunity to serve out the match, Nishikori made no mistake of this chance, holding to love to finish off a bagel set of his own and book his spot in the French Open quarterfinals for a second time 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

Following the match, Nishikori was asked about the crazy scoreline of his fourth round match. The Japanese eighth seed said, “Yeah, a little bit unusual. I think he started really well, especially this court’s bounce really high today and he was using very heavy forehand and I was running side to side. I couldn’t do anything first set but I try tried to play a little more heavy and a little more aggressive sometimes, and start working a little bit better.”

“But still it was really, really tough battle. There was so many long rallies, second and third sets. I don’t know. I don’t know how I get the second and third. But, yeah, a little bit gained some confidence during second and third. The fourth, I think it was perfect tennis I played.
So, yeah, very tough battle but very happy to win today,” said a relieved Nishikori.

Kei Nishikori hits a forehand at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Adam Pretty/Zimbio

Nishikori will next face world number one and defending finalist Andy Murray in the quarterfinals after the Brit recorded a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian Next Gen star Karen Khachanov. Murray and Nishikori will battle for a spot in the French Open semifinals on Wednesday in Paris.

Asked about the prospect of facing the top seed on Wednesday in the last eight, Nishikori said, “Yeah, we have been playing so many times. Yeah, he’s great player. Very smart tennis player.”

“It’s never easy, and I think this week he’s been playing well and very — watching some matches. He’s hitting great balls. So I’m sure it’s gonna be tough one, but try to enjoy and try to win the match.” concluded a confident Nishikori.

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‘Another Level’ – Nick Kyrgios Praises Rising Star Jannik Sinner

This week the world No.11 is bidding to win his third consecutive indoor tournament.

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Jannik Sinner (ITA), (Erste Bank Open 2021, Wiener Stadthalle); Copyright: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger

Jannik Sinner’s recent dominance when it comes to playing tennis indoors hasn’t gone unnoticed with one of his peers praising him on social media.

 

The 20-year-old defeated Reilly Opelka in the second round of the Vienna Open on Wednesday in what is his fifth consecutive win on the Tour. Impressively Sinner has now won 18 straight sets on indoor hardcourts. Last Sunday he claimed his fifth Tour title at the European Open to become the youngest ATP player to win that many ATP trophies since Novak Djokovic back in 2007.

Sinner’s achievements were highlighted on social media by journalist Ben Rothenberg who posted a tweet of the 18 sets he has won. That caught the attention of former top 20 player and two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios who paid his own tribute to the Italian.

“He is another level. That’s for sure, played him in Washington doubles. Never played someone who hit the ball as hard,” he wrote.

The two are yet to play against each other in singles competition. In Washington Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe lost 4-6, 4-6, to Sinner and his partner Sebastian Korda.

Sinner’s latest win in Vienna has boosted his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin next month. He has risen back up the standings to 10th in the race after overtaking Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie. Norrie will play his second round match on Thursday.

“I think I had not so many chances and I used them. I think that was the key today,” Sinner said of his latest win against Opelka. “I served well. My service holds were always quite fast and good. I felt well on the baseline, so I knew when I went in a rally that somehow I was going to win the point. But it’s never easy playing against him. You never have rhythm.”

Awaiting Sinner in the next round will be Austria’s Denis Novak who is currently ranked 116th in the world and is yet to beat a top 10 player in his career.

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Denis Shapovalov Battles Back To Reach The Quarterfinals In St Petersburg

The Canadian got off to a slow start in his first match but was able to recover nicely for a big three-set win.

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Denis Shapovalov (CAN) Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Second seed Denis Shapovalov needed to go the distance at the St Petersburg Open to beat his Spanish opponent Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and 49 minutes.

 

The Toronto native didn’t have the best start to the match but was able to recover and pull off a comeback to take the win. Serving a total of 11 aces to reach the quarterfinals.

” It’s very tough to play Pablo (Andujar) first round of a tournament, he’s a great player and it was a tough start to the match,” said Shapovalov. “I didn’t feel so great but I just told myself to keep going because obviously there is still a lot of tennis to be played and I wanted to turn it around in the second set and I did a really good job.”

It was the Spaniard who got off to a better start, earning a breakpoint in the first game of the match before grabbing the early break and he was able to consolidate it. At 2-0, Andujar had two chances to go up a double break but the Canadian saved both and it stayed on serve until 4-2 when the world number 92 was able to earn another breakpoint. This time converted for the double break lead and served out the first set.

The second set stayed on serve until 2-1 when Shapovalov broke to love and that one break of serve was enough for him to serve it out and send the match into a decider.

The Canadian continued pushing as his level improved. In the first game of the final set, he broke the Spaniard with a perfectly timed cross-court winner to take an early 1-0 lead. After consolidating the break he was hungry for more and broke Andujar’s serve once again to go up a double break. Shapovalov closed the match out with a bagel set.

During his on-court interview, Shapovalov was asked how happy he was back to be in St Peterburg and he mentioned the amazing memories he had playing in the event last year.

” It always feels great to be back and I remember last year playing Andrey (Rublev) in the semifinals. I was one set up and I lost this match but I am happy to be here due to the fact I always get great support from the fans here”. He said.

Shapovalov will face Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals after the German upset seventh seed Alexander Bublik in straight sets (6-4, 6-3).

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Former World No.8 And Grand Slam Champion Jurgen Melzer Retires

Melzer ends a career which has seen him crack the world’s top 10 in both singles and doubles.

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Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - Alexander Zverev (GER) vs John Peers (AUS) - Filip Polasek (SVK), (Erste Bank Open 2021 #glaubandich Court); Copyright: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger,

After more than two decades on the Tour, Jurgen Melzer has played his final match after bowing out of the Vienna Open on Wednesday.

 

The 40-year-old confirmed earlier this year that he would end his career at his home tournament. Teaming up with Alexander Zverev in the doubles, the duo lost in straight sets to third seeds Filip Polášek and John Peers. Melzer is a two-time champion in Vienna after winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He later went on to win the doubles title in 2014.

I was a bit afraid that not so many would come after all. Thank you very much, it was a huge honour for me to leave here,” Melzer said during his on-court interview.
“He (Zverev) didn’t hesitate five seconds to play here with me, that is not a matter of course when you’re at number four and you’re close to the Masters. Unfortunately, it was a short undertaking, but thank you.” He added.

Melzer first rose to prominence as a junior when he became the first Austrian to win the Wimbledon boys’ title back in 1999. He would go on to play in a total of 53 Grand Slam main draws during his professional career with his best run being to the semi-finals of the 2010 French Open. On the ATP Tour he claimed five titles with his most prestigious being at an ATP 500 event in Memphis during the 2012 season.

Against top 10 opposition, Melzer has beaten every member of the Big Three at least once. The most notable being against Novak Djokovic where he battled back from two sets down to stun the Serbian at the 2010 French Open. Overall, he recorded 13 wins over top 10 players during his career.

“My career started here (in Vienna) on an international level almost 22 years ago, in 1999 here in the town hall, where for the first time I was allowed to dream of really going the way as a professional tennis player. 22 years later and I would have signed everything, what I have achieved. It was an unbelievable journey that ends today. That I couldn’t have dreamed of.”

It wasn’t just in the singles where Melzer enjoyed success on the Tour. As a double player he achieved a ranking high of sixth and won two men’s Grand Slam titles with Philipp Petzschner, as well claiming the 2011 Wimbledon mixed doubles trophy with his ex-wife Iveta Benešová. More recently, Melzer reached the final of the 2020 ATP Finals alongside Édouard Roger-Vasselin. That was to be the last Tour final of his career.

“Of course you still hope to be at the top, but at some point you will be realistic enough to be able to assess that it will not be enough. It was an unbelievable journey that was a lot of fun. It is over, but it is also good that way.” He concluded.

Whilst his time on the Tour has come to an end, Melzer will remain involved in tennis. He is currently working as the Sports director of the Austrian Tennis Federation (OTV). A role he has held since January.

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