Germany have set up a must-win showdown again Serbia at the ATP Cup after travailing over Canada in their opening group match on Wednesday. Despite a loss it the doubles, wins by Jan-Lennard Struff and Milos Raonic secured their victory in the tie.
Struff surprises Raonic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)
First on court was Milos Raonic taking on the tricky German Jan-Lennard Struff in the first singles match. Both players did well at holding serve and it was proving to be a tight match.
There wasn’t a breakpoint during the entire first set and it would be decided by a tiebreaker and the German number two got off to a flying start winning the first three points of the breaker playing some great tennis and winning some great points with his big forehand.
He won three more points and at 6-1 Raonic made a attempt at a comeback and made it all the way back to 6-4 but that was as close as he got as Struff would seal the set with another error from the Canadian 7-6.
The Canadian put pressure on the German in the first game of the second set earning his first breakpoint of the match with a scintillating backhand winner passing shot.
The Warstein, Germany native would immediately save it with a big serve that the tall Canadian couldn’t return and would go on to hold serve and respond by earning a breakpoint in the very next game and he would convert as Raonic sent a ball long to earn the first break of the match.
The Monte Carlo resident responded right away winning four straight points on the German serve including an amazing forehand down the line winner to go back on serve in a match that was going back and forth.
He would hold serve and there wasn’t another breakpoint until 4-3 when Struff had five chances but Raonic would save each of them to survive the game.
Once again the set headed to another tiebreaker and it was almost deja vu as Struff jumped out to a 6-1 lead but this time he wouldn’t crack under the pressure and take the breaker 7-2 and the match in straight sets.
“I played him three times before, lost two, and I’m very happy to have tied against him, and it was a very tough match. He was serving really good in the first games, and it was very tough to put the ball back in play. But I managed to stay good in my service games, and I’m very happy with the win,” said Stuff.
Zverev gets by Shapovalov 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4)
Next on court was the battle of the number ones as Denis Shapovalov took on Alexander Zverev and ironically the last time these two players met was the ATP last year and the Canadian won that one easily in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.
The first set was a pretty tight affair with both young guns going at it and once again proving to be another great match. The first breakpoint of the match occurred at 5-5 which belonged to the world number 7 but it immediately saved by the 12th ranked player.
A tiebreaker decided the first set where Shapovalov got the early break on the second point of the breaker winning a long intense rally with a great forehand winner.
That break was all he needed and he would end up taking the tiebreaker 7-5 and was one set away from evening the tie at one point apiece.
The German responded in the seconded set breaking in the third game of the set with an amazing backhand return winner that caught the Canadian by surprise to take a 3-1 lead.
He would consolidate the break by holding serve and on the next changeover Shapovalov took a medical timeout to have the trainer work on his shoulder.
It seemed to work as the world number 12 held serve and had two chances to break right back but Zverev was up to the task of saving them and managed to hold serve.
He would serve out the second set to take it 6-3 and force a deciding third set to decide the winner of the match. The Nassau, Bahamas resident got off to the faster star getting a break point early in the set but couldn’t finish the point and an unforced error cost him dearly.
At 2-2 the Richmond Hill, Ontario native served an untimely double fault which gave the German two break points but Shapovalov came up with two big serves to save them and managed to hold serve.
Once again at 3-3 there was breakpoints for the world number seven but they were quickly saved by the Canadian in a match that was going back and forth. Zverev had two more chances at 5-5 but again couldn’t finish and the 21 year old held serve.
The match would be decided by a tiebreaker once again and it was the world number 12 who got off to the faster start jumping out to a 3-1 lead before Zverev stormed back to win the next two points and even the breaker at 3.
Shapovalov would throw in another untimely double fault at 3-4 to give the German the break he needed and he would serve out the match to take it 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.
“It was kind of a typical first match of the season where I had a lot of chances but let them go a little bit. In the end I did a good job I think winning the tiebreak, played some good points and getting the win for Germany is the most important thing right now,” the 2020 US Open runner-up told reporters.
Canada is officially eliminated from the ATP Cup with a 0-2 record meanwhile Germany and Serbia will meet on Thursday to decide who goes to the semi finals.
“Winning a team event, winning something for your country it’s one of the biggest things in our sport. I think the ATP Cup is just as big as the Davis Cup right now, with the new format that the Davis Cup is having, so it’s — we want to go match by match. Tomorrow we got the defending champions, that’s not going to be easy for us,” Zverev commented on the tournament.
There was some consultation for Canada who won their doubles match to end the tie 1-2 in Germany’s favour.
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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