Stefanos Tsitsipas battles past Felix Auger Aliassime to reach semis in Acapulco - UBITENNIS
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Stefanos Tsitsipas battles past Felix Auger Aliassime to reach semis in Acapulco

The Greek number one seed is through to the semi finals after beating his Canadian rival in a thriller.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (image via https://twitter.com/AbiertoTelcel)

Stefanos Tsitsipas is into the semi finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Open in Mexico after beating Felix Auger Aliassime in a three set marathon 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes.

The world number five hit 20 winners was a perfect three for three on breakpoints. It is the third time this season Tsitsipas has reached the semi-finals of a Tour event after the Australian Open and Rotterdam. This week he is seeking his first title in 13 months.

 

“We both played unbelievable tennis from the beginning to the end, the quality and the intensity was at its highest,” Tsitsipas commented on his latest win.
“It got tricky from time to time, a few breaks in the first and second set, the third set I had a bit of luck in it towards the very end. I got a bit lucky but I was also very persistent, I saw a pothole, things worked out really well for me.’
“I am really blessed that I am able to play in front of a unbelievable crowd, every single match is a pure blessing,” he added.

To add a bit of context to the story both Tsitsipas and Auger Aliassime know each other well because they started playing in juniors when they were 12 years old and that has now turned into a rivalry.

It was the Canadian who got off to a fast start earning three breakpoints in the very first game putting early pressure on the Greek serve and would break with an outstanding return winner to take an early 1-0 lead.

It stayed on serve until 3-2 when the world number five staged a comeback and earned three break points of his very own and would break the following point with an amazing passing shot to level the set at three.

Again both players held serve until 6-5 when once again the Greek number one seed had three set points thanks to an incredible passing shot once again and would take the set winning the next point with an incredible rally forcing the Canadian to send a ball out.

The second set was a little more straight forward with the Montreal native earning the first break opportunity at 1-1 and would break with a sublime volley winner to take a 2-1 lead. That one break was enough for him to serve out the set to take 6-4 and send the match into a deciding third set.

For the first six games of the final set neither player blinked on serve until 4-3 when the world number 18 seemed to feeling the pressure and double faulted twice in a row to give the Athens native three breakpoints.

He would earn the crucial break winning the next point with a stellar forehand and served out the match in style to set up a semi final match-up with Italian rising star Lorenzo Musetti. Musetti knocked out world No.16 Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6(3).

After the match Auger-Aliassime spoke about what he could improve on in his game from here on out.

“I felt sometimes I could have moved better today and could have broken through with my forehand a little bit more, that last game I served terribly so but overall my serve was good, It’s kinda circumstances matches where the first set could have fell on my side, on his side, I feel like I am at a similar level than him, somedays it goes on his side somedays on mine so hopefully next time I get my chance and take it”

Meanwhile, In his post game press conference Tsitsipas added more to his thoughts on the match and the win.

” It was a high-intensity match from both sides we both played incredible tennis I think, serving well both of us, got a few breaks in the first and second set but it was tight and felt really intense, it felt like it was growing bigger and bigger during the entirety of the match and I would say I got a bit lucky towards the end, two double faults from the Felix ( Auger-Aliassime) side but that was something he had to deal with as well part of the pressure I would say, mostly proud of the way I fought back, it was responsible and well-executed, generally I think I learned from it, it’s a good match to have in my portfolio, a good match to have in my ATP history, and it’s an important rivalry with Felix and many more to come

In other matches Alexander Zverev didn’t even need to hit a ball as his opponent Casper Ruud was forced to pull out with a wrist injury. He will next take on Dominik Koepfer who continued his amazing run by beating the Brit Cameron Norrie 7-5, 6-4 to set up an all German semi final with Zverev.

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Former Sampras And Federer Coach Offers Advice To Dominic Thiem

Paul Annacone explains why tennis fans shouldn’t be too concerned by the current difficulties Thiem is experiencing.

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Dominic Thiem - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

The difficulties US Open champion Dominic Thiem is facing are similar to those experienced by both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, according to one of their former coaches.

 

Earlier in the week the world No.4 said he ‘fell in a hole’ after lifting his maiden Grand Slam title in New York and admits to struggling with travelling on the Tour during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a recent interview with Der Standard he hinted at changing his approach to tennis after dedicating so much of his life to the sport over the past 15 years. The ongoing mental struggles come during what has been a mixed start to the season. Thiem has won five out of nine matches played so far in 2021 but he has only won back-to-back matches in one tournament.

Offering some comfort to the 27-year-old, Paul Annacone believes what he is going through is normal and there is no need for alarm bells to be ringing. Annacone is a former world No.12 player who is perhaps best known for his work with Sampras over a seven-year period. He has also coached Federer for three years and Tim Henman for four.

“When you get to that level where he is, now it’s like: ‘Now what?’ Roger and Pete both talked to me a lot about the difference between getting there and staying there,” Annacone told The Tennis Channel.
“And I think that once you get there there’s another evaluation of: ‘Hey, where do I go from here, what do I do and what gives me the joy of doing it? Is it the pursuit or is it the accomplishment?’
“Those are the things that Dominic Thiem has to realize. I think everyone does it for a different reason.
“Pete was all about excellence, accumulating all the trophies and Major titles. Roger lives the life and loves the life. Thiem’s got to figure out what is it for him, what’s gonna keep driving him.”

Annacone said it took former world No.1 Sampras ‘a couple years to settle in’ after winning his maiden US Open title back in 1990. The American didn’t win his next major title until three years later at the 1993 Wimbledon Championships and eventually ended up claiming a total of 14 Grand Slam trophies.

“The one other thing that resonates with me a little differently, is that I remember talking to Pete Sampras when he won the US Open for the first time – something he had been chasing his whole life,” he said.
“He won it and it kind of took him a couple of years to settle in, to go ‘Okay this is what I’m doing’ because after he won he went through a whole process of ‘Why do I play, what do I want to do, this is what I do’.
“It took him a while to get comfortable, so I wonder if that is part of the equation for Thiem right now as well.”

After taking time away from the Tour to ‘reset’ both physically and mentally, Thiem is expected to return to action next week at the Madrid Open in what will be his first clay event of the season. His aim remains to peak in time for the French Open where he has reached the final at on two separate occasions.

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Rafael Nadal Goes The Full Distance To Beat Nishikori And Reach Barcelona Quarter-Finals

The number one seed was forced to go the distance once again.

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Rafael Nadal was made to work hard once again as for the second straight day he played a three set match beating the Japanese world number 39 Kei Nishikori 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes.

The 11-time champion hit a total of 21 winners and broke his opponent five times during what was a roller-coaster encounter. Nadal has now won 63 matches at the tournament during his career and has defeated Nishikori twice in Barcelona. The two also met in the final of the 2016 Championships.

 

” I think Kei played a great level of tennis, it was a very tough match, anything could happen,” said Nadal. “It was clear to me I needed something else in the second set and in the beginning of the third . He was playing very clean and I think I did it, I played more aggressive. I’m quite happy with the way I survived and the way that I played”.

The Spaniard got off to a great start holding his opening service game and then earning his first breakpoint of the match by winning a long intense rally and he would go on to break to take an early 2-0 lead.

The very next game Nishikori had two chances to break back to go back on serve but was denied by the Mallorca native as he held serve.

Nadal continued to dominate and it looked like it was going to be a quick and convincing victory. He would set up another breakpoint with a great passing shot, broke once again and would eventually serve out the set to take it 6-0 in 31 minutes.

The world No.3 faced some pressure in the opening service game of the second set but managed to save a breakpoint and hold serve. Nishikori finally made a breakthrough at 1-1 after breaking the Spaniard to take a 2-1 lead.

At 3-1 Nishikori had a chance to go up a double break but again the number one seed hung in and saved both breakpoints. At 4-2 the Florida resident would earn his second break of the set and serve it out to send it to a deciding third set.

In the first game of the final set the Japanese world number 39 earned three more breakpoints but Nadal wasn’t giving in and saved all three before holding serve.

Nishikori had another chance at 1-1 but the Spaniard held his ground and he would eventually make the breakthrough to take a 3-1 lead. At 4-1 the number one seed had a chance to increase his lead but Nishikori again saved both chances.

At 4-2 the world number 39 had a chance to get back in the set and the match but the Spaniard was on his game and the following game broke him one last time to seal the match with a forehand winner down the line.

“I hadn’t played difficult matches for a long time. I hope that will give me more confidence,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion reflected. “Having played two consecutive matches in three sets is not something negative, on the contrary: I have to need to spend time on the court,”

Nadal will next face Cameron Norrie of Great Britain who advanced when David Goffin had to retire due to injury.

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Fabio Fognini Hits Out At ‘Inexplicable’ Disqualification From Barcelona Open

The world No.27 has protested his innocence after losing his temper over a call made by an official.

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Italy’s Fabio Fognini describes the decision to kick him out of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday as a ‘shock’ and has vowed to look further into the matter.

 

The 33-year-old was taking on Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the second round of the tournament where he was trailing the match 0-6, 4-4. After losing his temper, the world No.27 is said to have been verbally abusive towards a lines official and was subsequently defaulted from the match for his behaviour. The incident occurred over a line call decision which Fognini didn’t agree with.

On court, he tried to protest his innocence by telling the umpire ‘I didn’t say anything’ but it failed to overturn the decision. Leaving Fognini fuming as he broke his racket on purpose.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Italian continued to protest his innocence in the match and said he would ‘investigate’ the matter. It is unclear what he is referring to but players are allowed to make an appeal against any fine if they feel it is unjust.

“I’m really surprised with the ATP, especially the chair umpire and the supervisor, because I was here to play tennis, I was here to fight in the match, and even if I was losing, doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what they did to me was something inexplicable, so I’m going to investigate it, but nothing more, I paid for something that I didn’t do, that’s the first and clearest thing that everybody has to know.”

Zapata Miralles said he was initially unaware of what was going on in his clash with Fognini as he was focusing on closing out the match. Barcelona is only the seventh ATP main draw he has played in so far in his career.

“I was on the other side of the court, I wasn’t listening to be honest,” Tennis Majors quoted the 24-year-old as saying afterwards. “When I saw the referee on the court, I asked the umpire what’s going on. But I was focused on my work on the court, I was thinking on the next point, the next game, on things I had to focus on.”

Fognini has never previously been defaulted from a tennis match but he is no stranger to controversy. At the 2017 US Open he was fined $24,000 for insulting a female chair umpire and at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships he was heard saying ‘I wish a bomb would explode on this club.’ He later apologised for his remarks.

Zapata Miralles will play compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.

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