Marin Cilic fends off four match points to beat Martin Klizan in Madrid - UBITENNIS
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Marin Cilic fends off four match points to beat Martin Klizan in Madrid

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Marin Cilic saved four match points in his 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-0) win over Slovakian qualifier Martin Klizan after 2 hours and 48 minutes to score his fifth win this season at the Madrid Mutua Open in the Caja Magica. 

Klizan earned three consecutive breaks to win the second set 6-2 and earned four match points at 6-5. Cilic saved them before cruising through to a 7-0 win in the decisive tie-break. Cilic will face Jan-Lennard Struff, who beat Nick Kyrgios on Sunday.

Number 11 seed Karen Khachanov came back from 0-3 deficits in both the first and the second sets to battle past Jaume Munar 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 after three hours securing his spot in the second round at the Madrid Mutua Open where he will face either Radu Albot or two-time quarter finalist Fernando Verdasco.

Jaume Munar went up a 3-0 lead with a break in the second game in the first set. Khachanov won four consecutive games with breaks in the fifth and seventh games at deuce. Munar converted his fourth break-back point chance at deuce to draw level to 4-4. Khachanov broke for the third time at 30 in the ninth game and served out on his first set point in the 10th game.

Munar started the second set in the same way as the first taking another  3-0 lead with a break in the second game. Khachanov broke back in the ninth game on Munar’s set point at 5-3 40-30. Khachanov reeled off five of the first six games of the decisive set with two consecutive breaks in the fourth and sixth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Munar pulled one break back in the seventh game and saved two break points in the eighth game to close the gap to 3-5. Khachanov served out the win on his first match point.

“I am really happy with my performance today and I tried to fight until the end. It’s the kind of game I am looking for. I am really happy to get through to the second round, to build my confidence and go back to basics. This is the kind of win, over three hours, physically demanding, that I needed”, said Khachanov.

US qualifier Taylor Fritz upset Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (10-8) 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 47 minutes. Fritz converted two of his four break points.

The Bulgarian player earned the first break in the sixth game of the opening set to take a 4-2 lead, but Fritz broke straight back in the next game after a poor drop shot from Dimitrov. Fritz saved a set point at 7-6 with a service winner and sealed the tie-break with a forehand winner at 9-8 after 56 minutes.

Fritz got an early break to build up a 3-0 lead, but Dimitrov broke back in the seventh game after a double fault from Fritz. The young US player earned four mini-breaks and closed out the tie-break on the 11th point when Dimitrov made a forehand error.

Gael Monfils cruised past Andreas Seppi 6-3 6-1. The Frenchman drew the first blood with a break in the second game and held his next two service games to build up a 4-2 lead. Seppi got one break back in the seventh game to close the gap to 3-4, but Monfils sealed the first set with his third break at 15 in the eighth game. The 2019 Rotterdam champion broke three times to cruise through to a 6-1 in the second set.

This year’s Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere beat Monte-Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic 6-4 6-4 in all-Serbian first-round clash to seal his second Masters 1000 win. Djere converted three of his twelve break point chances.

US Next Gen star Frances Tiafoe scored his third top 20 win this season when he beat world number 14 Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7 (8-10) 6-3 6-4 after 2 hours.

In the opening set Tiafoe earned two set points at 5-4, when Basilashvili was serving at 30-40, and two more set points at 6-5 and 8-7 in the tie-break. Basilashvili won the final three points to win the tie-break 10-8.

Basilashvili broke serve in the third game to open up a 3-1 lead. Tiafoe came back by winning five games with two consecutive breaks to clinch the second set 6-3. The young US player needed just one break in the fifth game to seal the decisive set 6-3 setting up a second round match against German Phillip Kohlschreiber, who beat Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2 7-6 (7-5) after 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Young US giant Reilly Opelka edged Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in 1 hour and 25 minutes to score his fourth match win at Masters 1000 level. Opelka won the tie-break 7-5 before getting his only break of the match in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead in the second set after a forehand error from Carreno Busta. Opelka hit four winners in the 10th game to secure his spot in the second set.

 

 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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