Former world No.1 Andy Murray has ended his two-year wait for an ATP title after battling back from a set and a break down to defeat Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a pulsating encounter at the European Open in Antwerp.
The clash was a battle of the comebacks. Earlier this year, Murray said he may have to retire from the sport due to a persistent hip injury and even had a special video ceremony in his honour at the Australian Open. Then he underwent career-saving hip resurfacing surgery in what was the start of his latest comeback. Meanwhile, Wawrinka has also endured his fair share of physical issues and recently missed the Asian swing of the tour due to his knee.
“It means a lot. The last few years have been extremely difficult. Both me and Stan has had a lot of injury problems in the past couple of years.” Murray said during his on-court interview.
“It’s amazing to be back playing against him in a final like that. I think it was a great match.”
Sunday’s encounter saw Murray hit nine aces as he won 59% of his service points. Making the world No.243 the lowest ranked player to win an ATP tournament since Pablo Andujar at the 2018 Marrakech Open in Morocco. However, he didn’t have it all his own way.
A clinical start to the match from the Swiss fourth seed aided him to clinch the opening set with ease. Capitalising on Murray’s tentative first service rate, which was 54% during the opener, Wawrinka broke two games in. On his third break point opportunity, a backhand passing shot enabled him to break en route to a 3-0 lead. Providing plenty of food for thought for Murray, who eventually got on the scoreboard after 21 minutes of play. Both players continued to engage is a series of world-class rallies, however, Murray was unable to find a way to break back. Resulting in Wawrinka sealing the opener with the help of a 201 km/h serve down the centre of the court which his opponent returned out.
Continuing his offensive, Wawrinka continued to dominate with glimmers of his best tennis. Hitting numerous angel shots that painted the lines of the Antwerp court. Three games into the second set, he sealed his second break of a match by hitting a blistering backhand down the line.
It looked like Wawrinka was on course for a one-sided triumph, however, Murray refused to go away. Fighting his way back to draw level at 3-3, which prompted an almighty roar from the animated Brit. Against the odds, the former world No.1 continued to turn his fortunes around. Leading 5-4, Murray worked his way to set point after blasting a forehand passing shot. He went on to convert with the help of an error from his rival to take the match into a decider.
The cat and mouse chase continued with numerous changes in momentum on both sides of the court. Four consecutive breaks of serve took place before Murray managed to hold and move ahead 4-3 in the final set. Continuing his remarkable comeback, Murray fended off the threats to nudge ahead 5-4 and within touching distance of the finish line. In what was a match of fine margins, it would be two consecutive forehand mistakes from Wawrinka that guided Murray to a memorable victory.
“Stan was playing unbelievable. Hitting winners from all over the court and I just managed to hand in at the end of the second set. The third set was close again.” Said Murray. “It’s amazing. I didn’t expect to be in this place at all. I’m very happy.”
Three-time grand slam champion Murray didn’t start his return to singles competition until two months ago at the Winston-Salem Open. This week was only his sixth appearance in an ATP Tournament. He has now won eight out of his last 10 matches since the China Open earlier this month.
“This is one of the biggest wins after everything. I’m very proud with my win this week and I’ve always enjoyed my time here.”
The title is Murray’s 46th on the ATP Tour and first since January 2017 when he won the Doha Open. He exits Antwerp with 250 ranking points and €109,590 in prize money. Meaning that he will return back into the world’s top 150 on Monday for the first time since May 2018.
American No.3 Reilly Opelka Blasts ‘Shocking’ ATP Cup
The new event has been described as unfair and a embarrassment by the American.
With the Davis Cup currently under close scrutiny this week, one player on the tour have turned his criticism to a brand new team event coming to the tour in 2020.
Reilly Opelka has launched a verbal attack on the ATP Cup, which will get underway in January. The event features 24 teams playing in three cities across Australia. Unlike the Davis Cup, both prize money and ranking points are available. Many of the world’s top players have already confirmed their intention to play in the event. Although one noticeable absence will be Roger Federer.
“The ATP Cup is pathetic. I think it’s shocking on behalf of the ATP for them to pass that and allow that.” The 22-year-old told reporters in Madrid.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. It’s pretty bad for the sport. It makes it (the tour) more top-heavy than it already is.”
The teams for the ATP Cup are determined by the ranking of the country’s highest ranked player. However, with only two singles players allowed to play in each team some countries find themselves in a tough spot. Once being America, who currently has eight players in the top 100. Opelka argues that due to the rules of the competition, the distribution of ranking points is unfair.
“I’m 35 in the world. I’m not going to play because I’m the second- or third-highest ranked American, and only the top two guys play.” He stated.
“It counts as an additional 19th tournament. So every player gets 18 tournaments on their ranking card. So you have to take your top 18 results, those go for your ranking. Those that play ATP Cup gets a 19th. So it’s unfair, there’s not equal opportunity for everyone.”
Opelka used the example of Moldova playing in the ATP Cup as one of the reasons why he is frustrated. The country has qualified due to the ranking of their top player Radu Albot, who is currently ranked 46th in the world. However, Moldova’s second highest ranked player is outside the top 800.
Fortunately concerning the Davis Cup, the former Wimbledon junior champion has a much more favourable view. This week is the inaugural week-long finals, which has encountered some blips already. The most being the schedule of the event with some ties now finishing until as late as 4am.
“I’m a fan of the new format. Maybe making it every two years or every three years would be I think the next step in the right direction.” Opelka concluded.
“Tennis players are pretty good at that. You don’t really know when you’re going to play matches. You can go really long, or you can go really quick. We’re used to being on standby.” He added.
This week is Opelka’s debut in the Davis Cup.
Serbia beats France 2-1 to secure spot in Davis Cup quarter final
Serbia qualified for the quarter finals at the Davis Cup at the Caja Magica in Madrid with wins in both singles matches by Filip Krajinovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire.
In the opening match Filip Kajinovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 in 1 hour and 48 minutes to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.
Krajinovic dropped two points on his first serve and earned his first three break point at 3-3 before breaking serve in the 11th game after a loose forehand from Tsonga. The 27-year-old Serbian player sealed the opening set 7-5 with a service winner.
Tsonga fended off three break points in the opening game of the second set. The Frenchman earned his only break point chance on return at 2-1, but Krajinovic saved it to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next eight games to set up a tie-break. Krajinovic earned the crucial mini-break on the 12th point to close out tie-break 7-5.
World number 2 Novak Djokovic cruised past Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3 in 70 minutes to secure the qualifying spot for Serbia in the quarter final.
Djokovic saved two break points in the first match of the opening set. The Serbian player earned a break in the eighth game and sealed the opening set 6-3 on his third set point.
Paire dropped his serve in the third game of the second set after a backhand down the line winner from Djokovic. The Serbian star hit a return winner at 5-3 to set up a quarter final clash against Russia on Friday.
Last week’s ATP Finals champions Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4. Herbert and Mahut broke serve in the fifth game to seal the opening set 6-4. Tipsarevic and Troicki broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Herbert and Mahut got the break back in the fifth game. After saving a break point in the eighth game Herbert and Mahut earned the decisive break in the ninth game and closed out the match on his first set point.
Serbia set up a quarter final against Russia, who qualified as one of the two-best-placed group runners-up by clinching second spot in Group.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey take late-night decisive doubles clash over Italy
The clash between Italy and the USA came down to a decisive doubles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid after Fabio Fognini and Taylor Fritz won their respective singles matches.
Fabio Fognini beat Relly Opelka 6-4 6-7 6-3 after 1 hour and 54 minutes to give Italy a much-needed win to the Italian team.
Fognini earned an early break at 1-1 after two errors from Opelka and dropped just five points in five service games. Fognini did not face a break point to close out the first set 6-4 in 33 minutes.
Both players stayed neck and neck setting up a tie-break. Opelka earned a mini-break to take a 5-3 lead in the tie-break and earned three set points. The US player sealed the first set point, but Opelka converted his second chance 7-4.
Opelka saved the first break point with an ace, but Fognini converted his second chance with a forehand passing shot in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Fognini dropped just three points to build up a 5-2 lead. Fognini served out the win on his first match point to give Italy a 1-0 win.
“I am tired for sure because it was tough. One of the things I did today was my serve, don’t ask me why. I am surprised about that”, said Fognini.
Taylor Fritz came back from one set down to beat Matteo Berrettini 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the second match. Berrettini saved a break point in the second game with a forehand down the line and a service winner. In the fifth game Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Berrettini broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 and sealed the first set on his first set point.
In the third set both players stayed neck and neck til the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the seventh game Fritz saved a break point. Berrettini held his serve at love. Fritz closed out the second set at 6-5 after 51 minutes.
Berrettini saved two consecutive break points in the first game of the third game. Fritz rallied from 0-30 down to hold his serve for 1-1. Fritz broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Berrettini saved a match point and held his serve for 2-5, but Fritz sealed the win on his second match point.
“Playing for my country is all the motivation I need. I just kept digging, kept fighting. It was really close. I lost the first set by close margin, and I told myself to tough out the second set like I know I can do, and my aggressive and fitness carried me through the third”,said Fritz.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey came back from a set down in the decisive doubles match to take a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to give the USA a 2-1 win. The doubles match ended shortly after 4 am and was one of the latest finishes to a match in tennis history. The USA finished second in the Group F behind Canada, who secured the first spot with their wins over Italy and the USA earlier this week. Neither team was able to earn a break in the first two sets. Italy broke serve to take a 3-1 lead. Sock and Querrey broke back immediately before earning the decisive break at 4-4. The US team served out the win after 2 hours and 30 minutes.
“Reilly played a great match and Taylor came out in in a tough position knowing he needed to win. To get the doubles means a lot”, said Querrey.
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