Old Habits Die Hard For Some In Palermo - UBITENNIS
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Old Habits Die Hard For Some In Palermo

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic even a traditional post-match gesture is now not frown upon.

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As the players return to competitive tennis for the first time in five months this week some are still not used to the new post-match rules.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are a series of protocols in place at this tournament and ones that will follow on the WTA Tour. In Palermo specifically players are prohibited from showing on site, signing autographs and posing with fans. Something which would have been routine at the start of this year. However, old habits are hard to break for some.

Sara Errani celebrated her marathon first round win over Sorana Cirstea by throwing her wristbands to fans. Something which has always been traditionally done by the winner of matches. However, such a well-meaning gesture is prohibited at the event due to the potential transmission of illnesses. Although all players have been COVID-19 tested and cleared before playing.

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Fortunately for Errani, she isn’t the only person to unintentionally go against protocol. Qualifier Kaja Juvan did the same on Tuesday following her shock 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, win over second seed Markéta Vondroušová. The win was Juvan’s first ever over a top 20 player.

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Apart from a stern glare from the match umpires, neither Errani or Juvan will be penalised in any way for doing something that is a force of habit.

Tournament director Oliviero Palma has told AFP that he is ‘proud’ that Palermo is hosting the return of tennis and the protocols implemented at the event are ones that can be copied at other events. However, he admits that it could be more challenging in certain parts of the world. Most notably America, which will host the US Open whilst there is a rise in OVID-19 cases in some areas of the country.

“The protocol is good, it’s applicable everywhere, so far it’s safe, it works. But we’re in a quiet part of the world. I understand the difficulties that the US Open could have with many more people,” he said. “But New York’s budget is not Palermo’s budget.”

Heading into the second round of the tournament on Wednesday, five out of the eight seeded players remain in the draw. Besides Vondroušová, Maria Sakkari (3) and Elise Mertens (5) have been knocked out of the tournament.

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Flavio Cobolli beats Ben Shelton to reach the quarter final in Geneva

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Flavio Cobolli came back from one set down to beat fourth seed Ben Shelton 4-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 at the Gonet Geneva Open. Cobolli has scored the second top 20 win of his career.

Shelton started the clay season with his second title in Houston and reached back-to-back third rounds in Madrid and Rome. The US player lost to Zhang Zhizhen in Rome. 

Cobolli reached his first Grand Slam third round at the Australian Open last January. During the clay season the Italian player he reached the third round in Madrid and pushed Sebastian Korda to third round in Rome. He beat Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev in straight sets to set up a second round match against Ben Shelton. 

Shelton earned the only break in the seventh game of the first set to serve it out after 38 minutes. The US player went up a set and a break in the third game and held on his serve to take a 4-2 lead. 

Shelton saved three break points at 4-3 in a marathon eighth game, but Cobolli converted his converted his fourth chance with a well-angled pass to draw level to 4-4. Cobolli rallied from 0-30 down to earn a set point. Shelton saved it with a big serve and held a long service game to force a tie-break. Cobolli earned three mini-breaks and dropped just one point to win the tie-break 7-1. 

Cobolli broke serve in the fourth game and saved two break points in the next game to consolidate. Cobolli broke for the second time in the seventh game after a double fault from Shelton. Cobolli hit an ace to bring up three match points. Shelton saved the first chance but Cobolli converted his second chance with another ace to set up a quarter final against Alexander Schevchenko., who reached the last eight, after Emil Ruusuvuori withdrew from the match due to illness. 

Cobolli scored his first top 20 win against Nicolas Jarry at this year’s Australian Open. 

“This year I have played against a lot of lefties. I like to play lefties and you saw today that I am really happy. It was a difficult match, but I am really happy”, said Cobolli. 

Yannik Hanfmann beat Andy Murray 7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 43 minutes. Hanfmann was leading 7-5 4-1 before the match was interrupted by rain. Hanfmann did not face a break point. The German player broke serve in the 11th game to win the first set 7-5. He broke serve in the third and fifth games and served out the second set on his second match point. 

Hanfmann set up a second round match against world number 1 Novak Djokovic. Denis Shapovalov won 12 of 13 games from 1-4 down to beat Federico Coria. The Canadian player set up a second round match against Tallon Griekspoor, who beat Christophen Eubanks 6-4 1-6 6-3. 

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Alexander Zverev beats Alejandro Tabilo to reach the third final of his career in Rome

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Akexander Zverev came back from one set down to beat Alejandro Tabilo 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 reaching the third final of his career at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and his first Masters 1000 final since 2022. 

Zverev reached his 11th career Masters 1000 final, equalling his compatriot Boris Becker for most Masters 1000 final appearances by a German man since the series started in 1990.

Tabilo earned a double break point with a forehand drop shot winner. The Chilean player forced an error with a topspin forehand into the corner to earn his first break in the fourth game for 3-1 after just 13 minutes. Tabilo saved two break points to consolidate the break for 4-1. Tabilo held three break points and hit a forehand return winner to break at love for 5-1. The Toronto-born Chilean player closed out the first set with drop-shot winners. He won 10 of the last 12 points of the first set. 

Zverev won his first service game of the second set to stop his losing streak. The German player held serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. 

Zverev double fault to face a break point. He saved it with a big serve and held serve for 4-3 in the seventh game. This year’s Auckland champion Tabilo held serve at love to force the second set to the tie-break. 

Tabilo earned the mini-break after Zverev made his fifth double fault at the start of the tie-break. Zverev pulled back on serve on the third point as Tabilo netted a backhand. Zverev went up a mini-break to take a 4-3 lead after one of the longest rallies of the match. Zverev converted his second set point to force the match the third set. 

Zverev earned three break points in the third game of the decider with a crosscourt backhand. Tabilo saved the first two break points, but Zverev converted his third break point to take a 2-1 lead, as Tabilo made a double fault. 

Zverev backed up the break with an ace to open up a 3-1 lead. Zverev earned a second break in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead and closed out the win with his 10th ace of the match after 2 hours and 17 minutes. 

Zverev will face either Tommy Paul or Nicholas Jarry in the final. The Olympic champion will rise to world number 4 if he wins the Rome Masters 1000 title. 

Tabilo upset Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-3 last Sunday and backed up this win with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (12-10) win over Karen Khachanov in the fourth round. 

“I did not play well, but he was the reason why I did not play well. He came out hitting the ball extremely hard. A lot of dropshots. He was playing extremely aggressive. He did not let me play. I have to give credit to him for not allowing me to play my game”, said Zverev. 

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Taylor Fritz overcomes Grigor Dimitrov to reach the quarter finals in Rome

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Taylor Fritz overcame a tough battle to beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-7 (11-13) 6-1 reaching the quarter final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

Fritz has become the first US player to reach quarter finals at three different clay court tournaments in Monte-Carlo in 2022 and 2023, Madrid 2024 and Rome 2024. 

Fritz broke serve in the third game and saved two break points to hold serve for 3-1. The US player fended off five break points before breaking serve in the seventh game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Dimitrov earned a set point at 5-4 on Fritz’s serve, but the US player fended it off. 

Fritz hit a smash to save a second break point. The Delray Beach champion and Munich finalist fought all 11 break points he faced in the match. 

Dimitrov hit a forehand down the line to earn an early mini-break in the tie-break and took a 2-0 lead. Fritz pulled the mini-break back for 2-3, when Dimitrov missed a forehand. Dimitrov earned a second mini-break with a drop-volley winner to take a 4-2 lead. Dimitrov went up a 6-3 lead to earn three set points. Fritz fired a wide serve to save a third set point. Fritz fended off a fourth set point with a drop-shot. Fritz saved the fifth set point to draw level to 6-6, as Dimitrov made a double fault. Dimitrov hit another drop volley to earn his seventh set point, but Fritz saved it. Dimitrov saved a match point at 8-7 on a second serve. 

Dimitrov earned a seventh set point, but he hit a forehand pass wide to drop to 9-9. Fritz faced an eighth set point at 10-9 with his first double fault, but he saved it to draw level to 10-10, as Dimitrov hit his slice into the net. Fritz saved a ninth set point with a backhand down the line to draw level to 11-11. Dimitrov converted his 10th set point with a forehand down the line to close out the 19-minute tie-break. Dimitrov forced the match to the decider after 2 hours and nine minutes. Fritz dropped his first set at this tournament. 

After a four-minute bathroom break Fritz converted his fourth break point to open up a 2-0 lead in the third set. Fritz won 12 of the 13 break points on his serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Dimitrov faced a two break points in the sixth game. Fritz broke for the second time in the sixth game with a forehand to race out to a 5-1 lead. Fritz sealed the win with his 13th ace on his first match point. 

After losing in the first round at the Miami Open, Fritz reached the final in Munich and the semifinal in Madrid, where he avenged a 2023 Roland Garros loss against Francisco Cerundolo in the quarter final. 

“I feel like normally in those situations. I would be a lot more uptight and nervy, but honestly I felt pretty calm. I think it was tough because the sun was moving the whole match, and right in the tie-break is the first time it was bad for me on that side, so I threw in the double fault. I had a really good opportunity on a second serve return, and he hit it into my body and a bit slower than the other ones. I just caught it a bit early trying to get out the way of it. It’s easy to go back and dwell on that the whole third set, but I did a really good job at just putting it behind me and not thinking about that second serve return”, said Fritz. 

Fritz set up a quarter final match against Alexander Zverev, who beat Nuno Borges 6-2 7-5. Zverev has reached at least the fourth round at all Masters 1000 tournaments this year. 

Zverev earned an early break, but Borges broke back to draw level to 2-2. Zverev won four consecutive games to close out the first set 6-2. Zverev earned the decisive break in the 11th game to seal the win in 86 minutes. Zverev hit 25 winners to Borges’ eight and his 82% of points on his first serve. Zverev has improved his seasonal record to 25 wins to 9 defeats. The German player reached three semifinals at Los Angeles, Miami and Los Cabos.  

Zverev leads 4-3 in his seven head-to head matches against Fritz, but the US player won two of their last three matches. Zverev and Fritz have never faced off on clay. 

“We were lined up potentially last week to play in the quarter finals, but it will be fun. We will see what happens. We have played each other a good amount and known each other a long time, said Fritz.

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