Arthur Fils faces Luca Nardi in the opening match of the Next Gen Finals - UBITENNIS
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Arthur Fils faces Luca Nardi in the opening match of the Next Gen Finals

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The official draw of the Next Gen ATP Finals was held last weekend in Jeddah. 

 

French top seed Arthur Fils will be joined in Green Group by Dominic Stricker, Flavio Cobolli and Luca Nardi. 

Luca Van Assche lead  Red Group, which also features Alex Michelsen, Hamad Medjedovic and Abdullah Shelbayh. 

The Next Gen Finals will take place at King Abdullah Sports City. 

Green Group: 

Stricker returns to the Next Gen Finals for the second consecutive season after after reaching the semifinals in last year’s edition held in Milan. 

Stricker completed a perfect 3-0 round-robin campaign at last year’s edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan., but he was beaten by Jiri Lehecka in the semifinals. The Swiss player qualified at the last three Grand Slam tournaments this season and reached the fourth round at the US Open last September after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets. He also won two ATP Challenger tournaments in Rovereto and Prague. 

Stricker had his first practice session with his fellow competitor Arthur Fils on Saturday in Jeddah. 

Dominic Stricker: “It’s a great arena. It felt really good from the beginning onwards. I was at this event last year, so it’s great to come back. It’s a super event. Everything is organized well. I had a great practice with Arthur Fils. I have been here once before. I was excited to come here again. I really I liked it the time I was here before, so I hope I can enjoy my stay here. It’s my first time in this stadium, but it looks great and feels great. The court feels good. Everything looks really good so far”. 

Fils enters the Jeddah Next Gen Finals with a career-high of world number 36. The Frenchman won his first title in Lyon and reached the final in Antwerp where he finished runner-up to Alexander Bublik. He also lost to Alexander Zverev in the semifinal of the Hamburg ATP 500 tournament and won two ATP Challenger titles in Oeiras and Quimper. 

Cobolli and Nardi have been drawn in the same group joining Fils and Stricker. Cobolli has reached the top 100  and won the ATP Challenger tournament in Lisbon and reached the final in Olbia. 

Nardi will clash against Fils in the opening Green Group match on Tuesday. Nardi, was an alternate at the 2022 edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, won the ATP Challenger title in Matsuyama earlier this month and reached the semifinals in Kobe and the quarter finals in Yokohama. Last year he won the ATP Challenger in Mallorca and lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Round of 16 in Astana.  

Red Group: 

Van Assche will take on Jordanian Next Gen star Abdullah Shelbayh in the evening session. Van Assche reached the quarter finals at the ATP tournaments in Hamburg and Metz. Van Assche beat Stan Wawrinka to earn his second ATP Tour match in Banja Luka in 2023 before losing to Novak Djokovic in three sets. 

Shelbayh became the first Arab player to win an ATP Challenger tournament in Charleston and lost to Lorenzo Sonego in the Round of 16 in Metz. He was the first player from Jordan to play an ATP Tour main draw match in Doha last February and the first player from his country to win a match on the ATP Tour in Banja Luka last April. Shelbayh attended the University of Florida for one year. He competed on the same team as Ben Shelton and under the tutelage of Shelton’s father Bryan Shelton. 

Alex Michelsen will face Hamad Medjedovic in the second evening session match. Michelsen finished runner-up to Adrian Mannarino in the final in Newport and won nine of the ten matches. The US player won the ATP Challenger in Knoxville beating Denis Kudla. 

Medjedovic won three ATP Challenger Tour titles this year in Szekesfehrvar, Mauthausen and Mallorca and reached the semifinal in Gstaad. The Serbian player is coached by former world number 12 Viktor Troicki and is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Serbian tennis legends Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipasericic and Viktor Troicki. Hamad Medjedovic: 

“It was a big thing for sure growing up, having so many good players in our country. I remember starting to watch tennis when I was a kid. We had Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic and they were so good. I remember watching them constantly. As a kid it gave me a lot of motivation to start playing tennis and then to become one of them because I saw that they could do it. They are coming from a small country, same as me, and it gave a me a lot of motivation and self-belief that I could do it as well”. 

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Miami Open Tournament Director Fined For Breaching Betting Rules

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The tournament director of the prestigious Miami Open has been fined more than $50,000 and issued with a suspended ban for violating rules relating to betting sponsorship. 

 

James Blake, who is also a former professional player, has been hit with a financial penalty of $56,250 with a further suspended fine of $131,250 and a suspended ban of 18 months by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). Due to his status as a tournament director, the American is considered as a ‘covered person’ who must abide by the sports rules regarding betting. An official press release confirmed that the 44-year-old fully cooperated with the investigation and did not contest the charge against him. 

The ITIA has ruled that Blake’s violation was unintentional and he will not be suspended unless he breaks another rule within the 18-month period, which started on February 9th this year. According to the official rulebook, it is stated that “No Covered Person shall directly or indirectly, facilitate, encourage and/or promote Tennis Betting (‘Facilitation’).”

“Across our members – the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams – the rules prohibit accredited individuals from having commercial relationships with betting companies,’ Karen Moorhouse, CEO of the ITIA, said in a statement. 
“This case is more a matter of perception, rather than corruption. The rules apply to players, coaches, officials and accredited tournament staff – who all have the ability to influence results or have access to inside information. 
“We urge anyone in the sport who is unclear or is considering commercial deals like this to get in touch with us to seek guidance.”  

Blake has been head of the Miami Open since 2018. A mixed Tour-level event that is classed as a Masters 1000 for men and as a WTA 1000 for women. As a player, he reached a ranking high of No.4 and won 10 ATP titles. He is also a three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist. 

There is yet to be any public comment from Blake regarding his fine. The Miami Open will get underway next month. 

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Iga Swiatek avenges her Wimbledon defeat against Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter final in Dubai

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World number 1 Iga Swiatek beat two-time former world champion Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 24 minutes in the third round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Swiatek has extended her winning streak to six straight victories in the Middle East after claiming the Doha title last year. 

 

Swiatek won seven consecutive games from 1-1 in the first set. The Polish player won a tighter second set that featured five consecutive breaks to reach the quarter finals in Dubai for the second consecutive year. 

Swiatek earned leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the second set before breaking serve to take a 5-4 lead. She served out the win after saving a break point for 5-5.

Swiatek avenged her defeat to Svitolina, who beat her Polish opponent in three sets in the quarter finals at Wimbledon last year. Svitolina has returned from a back injury she sustained at last January’s Australian Open. 

Swiatek now leads 2-1 in her three head-to-head matches against Svitolina. The four-time Grand Slam champion has won 25 of her last 26 matches dating back to a fourth-round defeat to Jelena Ostapenko. She has extended her winning streak to 13 matches against top-20 players.

Swiatek will face either Zheng Qinwen or Anastasia Potapova in the quarter final. 

Swiatek finished runner-up in the final in Dubai last year. 

“I really wanted to improve my focus compared to yesterday. I am happy I did not lose my focus and I remembered what I have to do and it worked. I was a little bit calmer than I was yesterday”, said Swiatek. 

Coco Gauff came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 2-6 6-4 6-3 reaching her second consecutive quarter final in Dubai. Gauff stopped Pliskova’s 11 match winning streak. The Czech player claimed her first title since 2020 at Cluj Napoca and reached the semifinal in Doha before withdrawing ahead of her scheduled semifinal match against Swiatek due to injury. 

Gauff has won 23 of her last 24 matches players ranked outside of the top 20. The US player has reached the quarter finals or better in three of her last four appearances in Dubai, where she advanced to the semifinal last year. The young US player has reached her third quarter final in 2024 after winnin her second title in Auckland and reaching her first Australian Open semifinal. 

Gauff saved two break points in the first game of the third set before earning a decisive break with a forehand down the line to take a 5-3 lead. Pliskova earned two break points in the final game, but Gauff pulled back to deuce with her strong serves. The US player sealed the win on her second match point with her unreturned serve. 

Gauff set up a quarter final match against this year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Anna Kalinskaya, who beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 7-5 in 93 minutes. 

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Andy Murray wins his first match of the 2024 season in Doha

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Andy Murray beat Alexandre Muller 6-1 7-5 to clinch his first win of the 2024 season at the Exxon Mobil Open in Doha. Murray won two Doha titles in 2008 and 2009 and reached three finals in 2007, 2017 and 2023.

 

Murray converted three of his five break points he earned. 

Murray came back from 0-40 down to break serve on Muller’s first service game. The British player held serve to open up a 3-0 lead, but he asked for a medical time-out due to a knee issue. The double Olympic spoke to the physiotherapist on court, explaining that he had been feeling pain in the area for a few days and had received for a cyst on his meniscus the day before Tuesday’s match. 

Nevertheless, Murray returned on court and did not convert two break points. The Scotsman earned his second break and held serve to seal the opening set in 46 minutes. 

Murray did not convert break points in the fourth game of the second set. Both players held on their service games before Murray earned a break with another winner to take a 4-3 lead. Muller broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. Both players on serve in the next four games en route to the tie-break. 

Muller earned the first mini-break with a drop-shot to take a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Murray pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5. Murray won the next two points and sealed the win with a backhand return. 

“Obviously the past few months have been really tough on the court for me. I have not won many matches and lost a lot of close ones as well and it was getting tight at the end there as well, so obviously I am delighted to get through”, said Murray. 

Murray set up a second round match against Jakub Mensik, who upset Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in just his eighth tour-level match to clinch his first win against a top 30 player. 

Mensik came back from a break down twice en route to winning the tie-break of the first set 7-3 with four mini-breaks. The 18-year-old Czech player earned a decisive break in the first game of the second set before sealing the win after 93 minutes on his first match point. Mensik won 70% of his first service points. 

Mensik, who is the youngest player in the top 200 in the ATP Ranking, reached the third round at last year’s US Open and beat Denis Shapovalov as a qualifier on his Australian Open debut last January. 

Mensik will face either Andy Murray or Alexandre Muller. 

“I just tried to play my best. It’s a crazy opportunity to play an ATP 250 here in Doha, so I reached the second round and I will do my best to show this performance in the second round”, said Mensik. 

Christopher O’Connell beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 to improve his head-to-head lead to 2-0. O’Connell broke twice in the second and seventh game to take a 5-2 lead. Struff pulled one break back in the eighth game from 3-5 but O’Connell closed out the first set 6-4 on his first set point. O’Connell broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 and sealed the win on his third match point. 

O’Connell set up a second round match against world number 46 Emil Ruusuvuori, who beat Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 in one hour and 47 minutes. Both players went on serve with no break points en route to tie-break. Ruusuvuori, who reached the quarter final in Rotterdam last week, earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. Ruusuvuori earned his first break of the match in the opening game and saved four break points to hold serve at deuce in the second game. Zeppieri broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ruusuovori converted his second break point in the 11th game and sealed the second set 7-5 on his first match point. 

Gael Monfils beat Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1 7-6 (11-9). Monfils broke twice in the second and fourth games to win the first set 6-1. Van de Zandschulp broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Monfils broke back in the ninth game. Both players held on serve in the next games en route to a tie-break. Monfils earned three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break, but Van de Zandschulp  won three consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Both players traded mini-breaks to draw level to 8-8. Monfils won two consecutive points to win the tie-break 11-9 on his fourth match point. 

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