Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Miomir Kecmanovic beat Misha Zverev and Phillip Kohlschreiber in rainy Stuttgart - UBITENNIS
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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Miomir Kecmanovic beat Misha Zverev and Phillip Kohlschreiber in rainy Stuttgart

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Miomir Kecmanovic beat local favourites Misha Zverev and Phillip Kohlschreiber in a rainy opening day at the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup.

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga cruised past German Misha Zverev 6-3 6-0 after just 57 minutes in his opening match at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart on grass.

Tsonga reeled off nine consecutive games from 3-3 in the first set and dropped just four of his first service points.

Tsonga broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and got three break in the second set.

The Frenchman, who won the Montpellier title last February, will take on either 2018 Stuttgart finalist Milos Raonic or Australian qualifier Alexei Popiryn.

“It’s never easy to play your first match on grass, especially against Mischa, who is a good server”, said Tsonga.

Serbian teenager Miomir Kecmanovic came back from one set down to beat German veteran Phillip Kohlschreiber 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Kohlschreiber converted his third break point chance in the third game at deuce to take a 2-1 lead. Kecmanovic broke straight back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Kohlschreiber earned another break in the seventh game on his third break point chance to take a 4-3 lead and held his final two service games to take the first set 6-3.

The second set went on serve in the first eleven games before Kecmanovic converted his fourth break point to seal the second set 7-5.

The Serbian 19-year-old player needed one break at 15 in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Kohlschreiber saved a break point to hold his serve after two deuces. Kecmanovic held his final two service games to seal the third set 6-3.

Feliciano Lopez beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 6-4 in the final qualying match which was delayed on Sunday due to rain. Lopez set up a re-match of the 2017 final against Frenchman Lucas Pouille who win the Stuttgart tournament in 2017.

The match between Denis Shapovalov and Jan Lennard Struff was postponed until Tuesday due to rain. The winner of this match will face Kecmanovic.

The grass season has started this week with the Mercedes Cup tournament. Eight top 25 players are playing in teh German city. Last year’s Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev is the top seed in the home tournament one week after reaching the quarter final at Roland Garros. He finished runner-up in two finals this year losing to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco and to Nicolas Jarry in Geneva.

Karen Khachanov come to Stuttgart after reaching his first Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros. Khachanov has become the first Russian player to reach the top 10 since Mikhail Youzny in February 2011.

Khachanov’s compatriot Danil Medvedev also enters the Mercedes Cup. He started the season with a 25-7 win-loss record and beat Novak Djokovic in Monte-Carlo.

Milos Raonic will return to Stuttgart one year after finishing runner-up to Roger Federer in 2018. He makes his return on grass after being sidelined by a knee injury. Canadian Next Gen players Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime are seeded seventh and eighth. Auger Aliassime reached two clay finals in Rio de Janeiro and Lyon and has become the youngest player to break into the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. He will play the first grass tournament of his professional career.

Shapovalov won the Wimbledon Junior title in 2016 on the grass surface.

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Old Timers

Experience is the name of the game in Halle on Thursday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

The second match of the day at the Noventi Open featured a couple of old timers. Frenchman, Richard Gasquet is thirty-three and Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut is thirty-one. They’ve both been around since the early part of the twenty-first century. Lest that seem like a short time ago, it is now 2019 and soon we will be slipping into the roaring twenties. (Yes, I know that was a twentieth century tag, but maybe there will be a whole new set of Mousquetaires, i.e. Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. Then again, maybe not.)

The match today was over in just two minutes more than an hour. Bautista Agut came out on top 6-1, 6-4. It was a match that seemed to hover over the baseline with Gasquet moving toward the net more often than Bautista Agut, but not much. There was a good deal of hit and miss going on from both players, with lengthy rallies tending to be non-existent. The grass seems much more amenable to the tennis this year. The bounces seemed slow but steady – even if the serving speed of this match was toned down a bit from today’s earlier match between two Italians – Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi. (Berrettini sent many serves over the net at speeds, well over 125 miles per hour [200 kilometers per hour]. He won in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

Gasquet became a professional tennis player in 2002. That’s a lot of days to spend on the court – more than 6,200 actually. (If years are more easily visualized, then that’s seventeen.) Over all those years, his winnings have averaged about a million American dollars for each of them. (That amount may seem like a good deal of money for batting a little ball across a net, but, there are coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and all the other folks who work to keep a player in the best shape possible that need to be paid for. Then one must add to that, the airfare, the transportation, the hotel rooms and all the other sundries that can total more than one can calculate in a day or two.)

To say that Gasquet’s career is pedestrian is a misnomer. He began playing as a youngster. At nine, he was touted as the “next” future champion in February 1996 on the cover of French Tennis Magazine. He was nine. In 2007 he reached his highest ranking of 7. He has slipped to number 54 today, which is his lowest since 2010. He’s always been a competitor. He has spent all of his adult life on the tennis court, always expecting a win. Seventeen years is a long time to stay in top form. It is apparent he still loves tennis, and amazingly his one-handed backhand is a sight to behold. It flows like a feather in the wind.

He could be thinking of moving over to allow the younger players a space in the rankings, or like many other competitors today, he may feel there’s another win waiting for him. This one could be just around the corner at Wimbledon. His hopes for the future are likely simple and to the point – London may be calling.

Bautista Agut has been a professional player since 2005. As of today, he has been ranked in the top 30 of the ATP rankings for 267 consecutive weeks. That’s a smidge over five years. He began playing tennis at five. He scampers about the court like a youngster, to this day. Actually, he enjoys horseback riding and owns seven horses, which I assume he leaves at home in Spain.

Earlier this year, in the first round of the Australian Open, he managed a win over Andy Murray in a trying five set match. He then moved on to the second round and defeated John Millman in yet another five setter. In the third round, he mowed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. He continued his winning ways by defeating Marin Cilic (last year’s Gerry Weber Open champ). But, then he met the up and coming Greek player, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was on a real high after defeating Roger Federer. Stefanos showed him the door. He then re-entered the top 20 and now he stands at 20 today.

With all that historic momentum stored in his memory banks, he might just have a chance at defeating nine time champ, at the Noventi Open, Roger Federer whom he will face in his next match here in Halle. Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a nail biter – 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. This is Federer’s charmed tournament, and Bautista Agut will need all the luck and skill he can conjure to manage a win in the last match on Friday.

 

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Berrettini Stops Seppi In A “Mat” Versus “Andy” Battle

Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi played a Noventi Open second-round match that was truly scintillating.

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Matteo Berrettini (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

It was the first Thursday match on the Noventi Open Stadion court, but it could have easily been played at Foro Italico in Rome. Matteo Berrettini took on Andreas Seppi in a second round contest at the ATP 500 championship played in Halle, Germany.

 

As is always the case with matches between countrymen, there were a collection of appealing back stories to tell. Starting from the top, it was a classic “young player versus veteran” battle as the 23-year-old Berrettini faced Seppi, who turned 35 in February. It featured two individuals who are basketball player tall, given that Berrettini is 6’5” and Seppi is 6’3”. The similarities continued, as both are right-handed, hit two-handed backhands and absolutely pummel their ground strokes.

They did exactly that for an hour and 44-minutes until the youngster, nicknamed “Mat” downed the oldster, known as “Andy”, (who was a tournament qualifier), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

They put on a dazzling show, taking full advantage of a court that provided “sit up and hit it” playability on shots that were attempted from the middle of the lawn. Those that travelled close to the sidelines slowed, then skidded. The overall conditions resulted in an array of exchanges that were often quick, and pulsating. A sprinkle of occasional, deft and feathery dropshots were tossed into the mix (shots that just cleared the net before abruptly coming to a stop near one of the alleys)

“ATP Matchfacts” once again becomes the bible story for the match, but the stats really do little to enlighten anyone who didn’t actually watch what took place. Seppi put together workable service numbers notching four aces, along with three double faults. Berrettini, who regularly clocked serves in the plus 125 MPH range, blazed twelve aces against one double fault. More important, he converted three of five break point opportunities that came his way, while his opponent enjoyed a one for three success rate. In the final count, Berrettini earned 88 of the 157 points played (56%). Seppi claimed 69 points which equalled 44%.

Last week, Berrettini was on his game taking the Stuttgart title without losing a set. In April, he won Budapest. Adding to the home country flavour, he played Halle for the first time in 2018 and lost to, none other, than Seppi, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round.

Seppi was born in Bolzano, Italy but now resides in a city with a magically lyrical name – Caldaro sulla Strada del Vino – which is in Italy’s South Tyrol. An individual who appreciates contrasts, his favourites surfaces are clay and grass. His last choice speaks to the success he has had playing on it. Prior to meeting Berrettini, his career grass court record was 58-43. In Halle, he was 12-8, including a final round appearance in 2015 where he dropped a 7-6, 6-4 decision to Federer.

Berrettini comes from Rome, but now calls Monte Carlo home. Hard court is his favorite surface, but he was 7-3 on grass before meeting Seppi. Adding to his profile, he has a younger brother, Jacopo, who is a 20-year-old touring professional, who stands Seppi height (6’3”).

In the quarterfinals, Berrettini will face Karen Khachanov, the No. 3 seed. The Russian is the same age as the Italian and an inch taller (6’6”). They have played twice, both in 2019. On indoor hard court, in February at the Sofia Open, in Bulgaria, Berrettini was 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 better. A week ago, in Stuttgart, he triumphed again, 6-4, 6-2. Both victories took place in the round of 16.

In a repeat of Thursday’s scheduling, Berrettini will return to first match Noventi Open Stadion status against Khachanov…and it promises to be quite an exhibition as was today’s.

 

 

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Stefanos Tsitsias Draws Positives From Huge Scare At Queen’s

It was a difficult day at the office for the world No.6.

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London: Stefanos Tsitsipas narrowly avoided a shock exit from the Fever-Tree championships after coming through a marathon second-round encounter.

 

Gracing his presence on the grass courts in London for the second time on Thursday after finishing his first round match earlier, he faced France’s Jeremy Chardy. A semi-finalist at the tournament 12 months ago, who has lost his last seven matches against top 10 opposition. On paper, the Greek was the heavy favorite to triumph, but in reality, it was a more closely contested encounter with Tsitsipas coming out on top to win 4-6, 7-6(0), 7-6(4). Hitting 40 winners to 26 unforced errors, and saving seven out of the 11 break points he faced.

“I didn’t play very well at the beginning of the match. I found my rhythm for some reason when he (Chardy) was serving for the match.” Tsitsipas said afterward.
“Everything was working, positive and good. I managed to win the tiebreak in the second set, kept the momentum going.’
“I didn’t play my best, but somehow I survived.”

The roller coaster encounter saw the Greek struggle with his consistency early on against Chardy, whose use of slice came in handy for him. Down a set, it looked as if it was over for Tsitsipas after he got broken at 4-4 in the second. Handing the Frenchman a chance to serve the match out. Nevertheless, the top seed battled back to force the proceedings into a tiebreaker. Which he emphatically dominated with a seven-point winning streak.

All to play for, a marathon Chardy service game lasting almost 15 minutes opened up the decider. Fighting hard, Tsitsipas secured his breakthrough two games later as he broke for only the second time in the entire match. Closing in on the victory, the seesaw continued with an exchange of breaks occurring twice. With little disparity between the two, it was only fitting that a tiebreaker should separate the two. Which Tsitsipas managed to prevail in after spending two hours and 38 minutes on the court.

“In my first round match, I didn’t feel very good on the court. Now I feel a little bit better. Like I am advancing and proceeding with my play.” The world No.6 evaluated.
“It’s a very short period that you play on the grass. You kind of forget when you leave the grass season. You mentally forget how it is because there are certain thoughts on the grass that takes time to digest.”

Next up for the Australian Open semi-finalist will be Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime. The world No.21 toppled the controversial Nick Kyrgios 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-5. The match ended with Kyrgios allegedly tanking on match point before throwing his racket outside of the court.

“I’ve never beaten Felix in the singles. He has a big game and big potential. He can play really well, really aggressive and can be unpredictable.” Tsitsipas previewed.

Earlier in the day, a duo of seeds crashed out of the tournament. Kevin Anderson, who was playing in his first tournament since Miami, lost 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, to Gilles Simon. Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka was stunned by Nicolas Mahut. Wawrinka was leading the decider 5-3, but failed to serve the match out and ended up losing 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(2).

“I just kept fighting and I came back at the end of the second set.” Said 2007 finalist Mahut.
“I kept playing better and better. I’m so happy to play on this court. It is one of the best courts I have ever played on. It’s a great win for me, I have so much respect for Stan.”

Mahut and Simon will play each other in the quarter-finals.

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