Spain is set to clash against Russia in the Davis Cup by Rakuten in Madrid - UBITENNIS
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Spain is set to clash against Russia in the Davis Cup by Rakuten in Madrid

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Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck will host the 2021 Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals, which start on Thursday 25 November. Eighteen teams are bidding to win the prestigious Davis Cup Trophy. 

Each venue will host two of the six groups. The winners of these groups, along the two-second placed teams with the best records will get through to the quarter finals. 

Innsbruck and Turin will host one quarter final each. Madrid will stage two quarter finals, both semifinals and the final on 5 December. 

The Madrid Arena at the Caja Magica will host the Group A with Spain, Russia and Equador and the Group B that features Canada, Kazakhstan and Sweden. 

Spain will defend the title won in 2019 at the Caja Magica against Canada. The Spanish team will bid to win back-to-back Davis Cup titles for the second time after the two consecutive wins in 2008 and 2009. 

Spain will play without Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut, who contributed to the triumph in front of their home fans two years ago. Nadal put an end to his 2021 season due to a foot injury. Bautista Agut was forced to withdraw from the Davis Cup due to an abdominal injury. Spanish Davis Cup Sergi Bruguera nominated Olympic bronze medallist and two-time US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, rising star Carlos Alcaraz, who won the 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan, Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers, who reached the doubles semifinals at the ATP Finals in Turin last week with his Argentine partner Horacio Zeballos. 

“Everyone is really looking forward to it. All the players I have selected are in good shape and ready to give their all. I cannot deny that playing at home is a real advantage. It gives a lot because during this type of competition the public is an important factor which can be decisive”, said Sergi Bruguera.

Alcaraz will make his debut in the Davis Cup. The 18-year-old player beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tie-break in the third round en route to his first Grand Slam quarter final at the US Open last September and beat two top 10 players Matteo Berrettini in Vienna and Jannik Sinner in Paris Bercy. He beat Sebastian Korda in the championship match of the Intesa San Paolo Next Gen Finals in Milan. 

“The relationship between the players is very good. Carlos is an unbelievably nice guy. He is very humble. I have to congratulate his parents for the job they have done for him as a person. He is adjusting very well. He is happy. He is happy. The veterans are very good friends already and Carlos is like fresh air in the team. It’s nice”, said Bruguera. 

Spain is on a collision course against Russia in the top Group Stage match on Sunday 28 November at 16 local time. World number 2 Danil Medvedev leads the Russian team that also features this year’s Rotterdam champion and eight-time ATP Tour champion Andrey Rublev, 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev and Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov. Medvedev won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, his fourth Masters 1000 title in Toronto and finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals in Turin. Shamil Tarpishev has captained the Russian Federation Team for the first time in 1974. 

World number 29 Khachanov lost to Rafael Nadal 6-3 7-6 and to Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-2 before winning a decisive double match to help Russia reach the semifinals. It was the best performance for the Russian team in the Davis Cup since 2008. 

“Time goes fast. Two years have already passed but of course the memories are always great and stay with you forever when you represent your country. We are a team, so, at the end of the day, whoever feels ready will play. It’s a long competition from the Group Stage until the final with a lot of matches which take a lot of energy. So we will see day by day how everyone feels. I am ready to be involved. There are lots of strong teams. Serbia with Novak Djokovic, Spain of course in our Group, Italy even without Matteo Berrettini, and USA, but we believe in ourselves”, said Khachanov. 

Khachanov has known his teammates very well for a long time and the good relationship inside the Russian team has contributed to their recent good results. 

“I have a lot of shared history with my teammates. I have known Danil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev from the junior times. We have been part of the same teams since a young age, we push each other, we are best friends. Aslan is a bit older but we know him and Evgeny Donskoy is like an older brother to all of us. He is a very nice guy”, said Khachanov. 

Russia is chasing a national double title after the women’s team won the Billie Jean King in Prague two weeks ago. Czech Republic was the last nation to achieve this double in 2012. 

“I followed the girls very closely. They did a great job. We are very happy and proud of them and I congratulated everyone personally. Now it’s our turn”, said Khachanov. 

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Andrey Rublev comes back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen in Dubai

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Number 2 seed Andrey Rublev came back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 51 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Rublev hit 18 aces and saved both break points he faced to improve to 2-0 in in his head-to-to-head series against Zhang Zhizhen. 

The first set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Rublev opened up a 4-1 lead, but Zhang Zhizhen won six consecutive points to win the tie-break 7-4. 

Rublev broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the  second set 6-2. 

Rublev broke in the third game of the decider. Zhang Zhizhen earned two break-back points in the fourth game but Rublev saved them. Rublev held on his next service games and sealed the win on his first match point. 

“I was so happy because the conditions were super tough. He played amazing in the first set. He was not missing at all on serve, serving 220 and it was so tough to return and do something on return. I am happy that I was able to be there and as soon as I had a chance in second set I was able to take it”, said Rublev. 

Hubert Hurkacz saved all six break points to battle past Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Struff saved the three break points he faced. 

Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-2 lead in the tie-break. Struff pulled back one serve for 3-5 but Hurkacz sealed the first set on his third set point. Hurkacz saved three break points in the 12th game. Struff earned two mini-breaks to win the second tie-break 7-4. Both players saved break points in the first two games of the third set. Struff earned two match points at 6-4 in the tie-break, but Hurkacz won four consecutive points to win the decisive tie-break 8-6. 

Botic Van de Zandschulp edged Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 to clinch his first win against a top 20 opponent. Van de Zandschulp set up a second round match against Sebastian Korda, who cruised past Pavel Kotov 6-0 6-2. 

Van de Zandschulp earned the first break to take a 2-1 lead. Mannarino saved a break point at 1-3. Mannarino broke back to draw level to 3-3. Both players traded breaks in the 11th and 12th games. Van de Zandschulp earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-1 lead in the tie-break. Mannarino pulled one mini-break back, but Van de Zandschulp eanred another mini-break to win the tie-break 7-3. The second went on serve until the 12th game, when Van de Zandschulp earned the decisive break. 

This year’s Montpellier champion Alexander Bublik came back from one set down to beat Tomas Machac 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5). Bublik set up a second round match against either Tallon Griekspoor or Abdullah Shelbayh. 

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Karen Khachanov wins his sixth career title in Doha

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Karen Khachanov beat Czech Next Gen Jakub Mesnik 7-6 (14-12) 6-4 to clinch his the sixth title of his career and the first of his career. Khachanov did not drop a set during this week. 

Khachanov saved four set points in the first set before hitting a forehand return to seal the first set on his fourth set point. 

Khachanov broke serve in the opening game of the second set. The Russian player did not face a break point in the whole match and won 83% of his first serve points. 

Khachanov claimed his first ATP title since Zhuhai last September. 

“Every title is a special one. Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure here in Doha here in Doha it is one of the nicest trophies”, said Khachanov. 

Mesnik made a major breakthrough this week beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and three former Doha champions Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils en route to his first tour level final. Mesnik is projected to a career-high number 87 in the ATP Ranking. He is currently in the lead in the ATP Race to Jeddah. 

“For sure this week will be unforgettable for me. From the beginning, I did not even get to the tournament on my own ranking. I had to use the Next Gen spot, so I tried to enjoy every moment on the court. I did not expect that I will go through to the final. I am really happy with my performance”, said Mesnik. 

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Jasmine Paolini wins the first WTA 1000 title of her career in Dubai

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Jasmine Paolini came back from one set down to beat qualifier Anna kalinskaya 4-6 7-5 7-5 in 2 hours and 13 minutes in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Paolini rallied from one break down in each of the second and third sets to clinch he the second WTA Tour title of her career and her first trophy at WTA 1000 level. Paolini has become the third Italian player to win a WTA 1000 title following in the footsteps of Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells in 2014 and Camila Giorgi in Montreal 2021. 

Kalinskaya earned an early break in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke back in the fifth and sixth games. 

Kalinskaya broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead with a passing winner and closed out the first set at 15. 

Kalinskaya broke Paolini with a return winner in the opening game to build up a 6-4 3-1 lead. Paolini slammed a return winner to break back for 3-3. Paolini forced and error on set point with a crosscourt backhand to break serve in the 12th game. 

The third set started with three consecutive breaks. Kalinskaya broke for the second time in the third game and held at 15 with an ace in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.  Paolini broke back in the 10th game  to draw level to 5-5 when Kalinskaya was serving for the match. 

Paolini earned three championships point at 6-5 after Kalinskaya made a double fault. 

Paolini drew a long error from Kalinskaya on the first match point. 

Paolini wo 60% of her first serve points.

Paolini beat Kalinskaya in Portoroz in 2021 en route to winning the first WTA title of her career. The Italian player played in three more finals in Cluj Napoca, Palermo and Monastir, but she lost all of them. Kalinskaya beat Paolini in the Round of 16 at last January’s Australian Open. 

Paolini has become the second Italian player to win the Dubai title after Sara Erraini claimed this trophy in 2016. The Italian player is projected to move into the top 15 in the WTA Ranking. 

“I am really happy how I managed to come back. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know. I am just so happy. I am proud of all the work I made this year. It’s not easy to bring this work in the match sometimes. I am playing good tennis. I played well at the end of the last season I started the season well with the second week at the Australian Open. Now I try to be more relaxed on court, to try to think more what I have to do, to be more present every point. I think it works. It’s not going to be every week like this, but I am going to do my best”, said Paolini during the post match press conference. 

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