Andy Murray Loses in First Round, but Berrettini Battles Through in Stuttgart - UBITENNIS
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Andy Murray Loses in First Round, but Berrettini Battles Through in Stuttgart

Disappointing loss for Murray, while Matteo Berrettini wins after almost three hours.

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Former World number 1 Andy Murray and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini faced fluctuating fortunes on day two of the Stuttgart Open as both continue their long journey back from injuries. 

Murray took on Marcos Giron looking for the win to take him into the second round and a meeting against compatriot Jack Draper but a single break of serve was enough in each set for his American opponent to come through 6-3, 6-4 as Murray struggled to make any impact on his return games.

“I had a few opportunities but couldn’t break. I’ve been struggling the last few tournaments,” said Murray afterwards. “At the moment, my service is just not there. I wasn’t able to do anything. It’s very fast here, as you can see from the results. A lot of close games. He was more accurate than me.”

Meanwhile Berrettini, who was once as high as six in the world but now languishing at 95, spent nearly three hours on court in his first match since Monte-Carlo in April before winning 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 against Roman Safiullin, a former World junior number two.

Thirty-year-old Giron was making his third appearance in Stuttgart and his biggest win was against world number six Holger Rune at the ATP 1000 in Toronto last year. He settled well in the opening exchanges in the first meeting between the two. Both players held serve until two games all.

However, a terrible sequence saw Murray lose twelve of the next fourteen points as he was broken before Giron held to love to open up a 5-2 lead. He soon took the set 6-3 along with nine winners and four aces as well as saving the only breakpoint he faced.

Murray, who reached world number one in 2016 held serve at the start of the second set, but immediately faced more pressure in his next service game and fell 0-40 down with two unforced errors. He won the next point with a good serve but then conceded the break on a double fault and Giron held throughout to take it 6-4.

Interestingly, both players have had hip surgeries – Giron’s right hip was operated on in 2015 and left hip a year later, while double Wimbledon champion Murray’s hip resurfacing operation has been well documented. Murray insisted that he still feels good on court: “Physically I feel ok, my ankle feels good, but my game still needs to improve. The level on the tour now is very high, I just have to play better if I want to win matches. I have a lot of work ahead of me. It’s been tough since the injury in Miami.”

Murray, who is reaching the end of his illustrious career, is the only player with at least seven victories over the “Big Three”. It remains to be seen when he decides to hang up his racket, but Murray explained that he has a clear schedule ahead, for the next month at least. “Next week I’m playing in Queens, then Wimbledon and then I’ll have to see what happens at the Olympics. I’m not quite sure whether I’ll also play doubles or just singles. My body didn’t feel good on clay, so I’ll have to wait and see.”

The second main match of the day featured eighth seed Roman Safiullin against Matteo Berrettini who was playing under a protected ranking as he continues his journey back from injury. Since the event in Stuttgart changed to grass in 2015, he has won the tournament twice (2019, 2022) and was competing for the first time since Monte-Carlo in April.

The first meeting between the two was an incredibly tight affair. Berrettini loves the faster surfaces, having won four of his eight tour titles on the grass, and he took the opening set on a tie-break but 26-year-old Safiullin hit back at the critical moment when the scores were level at five games all in the second set to snatch the first break of serve before levelling the match at one set all.

In the third set Berrettini upped his serving with 13 aces as well coming through a huge game when 15-40 down at 2-2. In all he saved all four breakpoints and stayed ahead until 6-5 when he put all his efforts in the last game as he tried to break serve for the match, and he succeeded on his fourth attempt, closing out the contest in five minutes short of three hours 7-6, 5-7, 7-6.

“I don’t have energy left!” said Berrettini on court after his victory. “It’s my first match after a few months, I was hoping for something easier. I think the most important thing now is to rest, then hopefully tomorrow I’m going to play, practice, and relax. I think my physio has to do a great job in order for me to feel in the best shape.”

When asked about his performance today, he replied: “I’m really proud of the way I fought. This wasn’t my best level but I didn’t expect anything different after not playing for so many months to come back and play good. So, I just told myself to fight and be there and enjoy. But I missed the clay court season and I’m really happy to be here and for my win. I have worked really hard to come back, I love to play here in front of you guys, the first match is done, let’s see about the second one.”

Signed up as a long-term global brand ambassador for Boss – headline sponsors at this event – Berrettini was quick to acknowledge the extra support he receives here and thanked the fans: “It’s unbelievable, it feels like I am in Italy, everybody is cheering for me, I really appreciate your support, obviously being part of the Boss family here helps, but I have to say here even from the first time in 2019, I’ve had a lot of support and I’m never going to be able to thank you guys enough.”

Earlier on, the first scheduled match on centre court saw world number 30 Lorenzo Musetti face qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard from France in their first meeting. In a typical grass court battle where serve dominated, both players won a huge 77% of points behind first serve and neither managed to break serve.

Perricard was making his debut at this event and is currently enjoying his career-high ranking of 66, having recently capturing his maiden ATP tour title in Lyon beating Alexander Bublik on the way. He possesses a huge first delivery, regularly hitting the 145mph mark, with one clocked at a staggering 148mph. As with all great servers, they manage to pull out the big serves for when it matters most – and he saved all eight breakpoints against him with booming power leaving Musetti exasperated at times.

But it was Musetti, who was two sets to one ahead against Novak Djokovic in the third round of the French Open before losing in five, who managed to stay composed in the important moments and won both tie-breakers 11-9 to progress 7-6, 7-6 against his 20-year-old opponent.

In other matches around the ground, James Duckworth beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6, Brandon Nakashima overcome former champion Christopher Eubanks 7-6, 6-4, while Arthur Rinderknech also went through in straight sets 6-4, 7-5 over Alex Michelsen. Canada’s Denis Shapavalov won against France’s Matteo Martineau 7-6, 7-5. And, in the last match of the day on centre court, Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff – who lost in last year’s final having had a match point against Frances Tiafoe – beat Italy’s Flavio Cobolli 7-6, 6-3.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Jasmine Paolini Plays Barbora Krejcikova for the Ladies’ Singles Championship

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Jasmine Paolini after winning her semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 13 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and gentlemen’s doubles.

It’s cliché, and usually untrue, to say “No one expected these two finalists.”  But in this case, it is absolutely true.  Prior to this fortnight, Jasmine Paolini had never won a match at The Championships.  And Barbora Krejcikova arrived at SW19 with a losing record on the year.  Yet both will play in their second Major singles final on Saturday, after inspired play during this tournament.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

After failing to advance beyond the second round in her first 16 appearances at Majors, Paolini is now 15-2 in her last three, and is the first WTA player to reach the final of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2016.  Jasmine is 30-12 on the year, and has won 14 of her last 16 matches.  She has been taken to three sets twice during this event, most recently outlasting Donna Vekic in a third-set tiebreak during Thursday’s semifinals.

Krejcikova has also required three sets in two of her six matches to this stage, upsetting 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the semis.  That was the third win in a row for Barbora over a higher-seed, after ousting two other big hitters, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko.  She’s accomplished all this despite being just 7-9 this season before this tournament began.  Injuries have plagued her career since her 2021 Roland Garros singles title, including a back injury earlier this year. 

Paolini is 2-4 lifetime in singles finals at WTA level, while Krejcikova is 7-5.  However, when you consider their appearances in Major finals between singles and doubles, Paolini is 0-2, having lost both the women’s singles and doubles finals last month in Paris, while Krejcikova is an amazing 11-1.  That’s a huge contrast in success at Grand Slam level.

These players also possess contrasting styles.  Paolini has been crushing her forehand, using it to come forward and show off her great hands at the net.  Krejcikova has a good serve, as well as both power and guile on her groundstrokes.  She loves using her slice to keep her opponents off-balance.  However, that will be more difficult to do against such a great mover like Jasmine.  And Barbora’s forehand has become unreliable in some crucial moments during this fortnight, which the Italian can target.

But on this surface, and considering her history in Major finals, I give the edge to Krejcikova to win her second Major singles title.  Plus, Barbora has already won two ladies’ doubles titles on this same court.  And she would surely cherish the chance to honor her late coach and mentor Jana Novotna by holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft on Centre Court, just as Jana did in 1998.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) vs. Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten – This is a fourth Major final in men’s doubles for Purcell, who won this title two years ago alongside another Aussie, Matthew Ebden.  Thompson had never advanced beyond the fourth round of a Major in either men’s singles or doubles until this run.  Patten is also a Major final debutante, while Heliovaara won last year’s US Open in mixed doubles.

Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Siniakova is playing for the ninth Major title in women’s doubles, while Townsend is playing for her first, after going 0-2 in previous finals.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and Routliffe will become the new World No.1 in women’s doubles on Monday, regardless of Saturday’s result.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Alcaraz and Medvedev Collide in a Semifinal Rematch

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Carlos Alcaraz earlier this week (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 12 at The Championships hosts the gentlemen’s singles semifinals, as well as the semifinals in both ladies’ and mixed doubles.

We are just one match away from a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s epic gentlemen’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.  However, just as he did last summer at the US Open, Daniil Medvedev is eager to spoil the party, and defeat Alcaraz in another Major semifinal.  Plus, Djokovic needs to overcome 22-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who owns a victory over Novak.


Daniil Medvedev (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Alcaraz leads their head-to-head 4-2, with three of those victories coming on hard courts, Medvedev’s preferred surface.  They’ve twice before played at this tournament, and they split those meetings.  Medvedev won in straights three years ago in the second round, while Alcaraz won in straights last year in this same round.  And since Daniil defeated Carlitos in four sets last September in New York, Alcaraz has beaten him twice in straights, including a few months ago in the Indian Wells final.

A year after last year’s one-sided semifinal between these same two players, Medvedev appears much more comfortable on grass, and willing to be more aggressive and vary his return position against Alcaraz.  Many of Carlitos’ victories over Daniil have been a result of Medvedev returning serve from way back in the court, allowing Alcaraz to come forward and dictate play, as well as use his beloved drop shot.  But Daniil has recently moved forward and played more offensively, not only against Carlitos, but also against Jannik Sinner, as we saw in the last round.

And Alcaraz has appeared quite vulnerable throughout this fortnight, dropping at least one set in each of his last three matches, all of which featured stints of sloppy play from the defending champion.  Yet as he usually does, Carlitos has created some magic in big moments, including during a come-from-behind victory over Frances Tiafoe in five sets.  And as improved as Medvedev is on grass, this surface still favors the power and variety of Alcaraz.  Carlitos is the favorite to prevail in what should be a contest full of dynamic rallies.


Lorenzo Musetti (25) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – Second on Centre Court

Musetti’s victory over Djokovic came a year ago on clay in Monte Carlo, in a three-hour three-setter.  The Italian also had the all-time great on the ropes during their first clash at the 2021 French Open, when Lorenzo won the first two sets in tiebreaks, before wilting and losing the next three 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, as a depleted Musetti would retire and be unable to even finish the match. 

Their most recent encounter was also a Roland Garros five-setter.  Just a month ago in Paris, Djokovic again came from behind to defeat Musetti in five, with the last two sets featuring lopsided scores of 6-3 and 6-0.  Overall Novak has claimed five of their six matches.

Lorenzo’s lasting power on Friday will not be aided by a draining five-set win on Wednesday against Taylor Fritz.  By contrast, Djokovic did not play at all on Wednesday, as Alex de Minaur withdrew from their quarterfinal due to injury.  Normally such an interruption to a player’s schedule late in a big event can negatively impact their rhythm.  But Novak is now a 49-time Major semifinalist, so there’s not much he’s unprepared for at this stage of his illustrious career.  And his recently surgically-repaired knee likely didn’t mind the extra rest and recovery time.

And Novak’s record across the past decade in Major semifinals is mind-boggling: since the 2015 Australian Open, he is 22-2.  At Wimbledon specifically, Djokovic hasn’t lost a semifinal since 2012, having won his last eight.  Against an opponent making his Major semifinal debut, Novak is a considerable favorite, even if his knee is still far from 100%.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Su-wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (1) vs. Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) – Su-wei and Mertens crushed Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in the last round, as each looks to become a ladies’ doubles finalist in all four of their latest appearances at The Championships.  Hsieh will also play in the mixed doubles semifinals later in the day.  Siniakova is an eight-time Major champion in women’s doubles, while Townsend is a two-time finalist. 

Caroline Dolehide and Desirae Krawczyk (7) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Dolehide was a surprising finalist in singles at last fall’s WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara, but is 0-5 in women’s doubles semifinals at Majors.  Krawczyk is a four-time Major champ in mixed doubles, with two of those wins coming at Wimbledon.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and like Hsieh, Erin is also in the mixed doubles semis.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Major Champions Rybakina and Krejcikova Meet in the Semifinals

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Elena Rybakina after her quarterfinal victory on Wednesday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 11 at The Championships hosts the ladies’ singles semifinals, as well as the gentlemen’s double semifinals.

2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina plays 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova in Thursday’s ladies’ singles semifinals.  The winner advances to Saturday’s championship match against either Roland Garros runner-up Jasmine Paolini or four-time WTA titleholder Donna Vekic.  In what has been an unpredictable ladies’ singles draw, who will prevail on Day 11?


Donna Vekic vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

What an amazing year it has been for Paolini.  At the start of 2024, the 28-year-old Italian had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major in 16 appearances.  But after reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, and winning a WTA 1000 title in Dubai, she went all the way to the championship match a month ago at Roland Garros, upsetting Rybakina in the quarterfinals.  And now Jasmine has backed up that career milestone with a second consecutive Major semifinal, following a dominant performance against Emma Navarro in the last round.  Paolini will debut inside the top five on Monday.

This is the farthest Vekic has ever advanced at a Major, after previously going 0-2 in quarterfinals.  The 28-year-old Croatian has battled multiple injuries during her career, and was only 12-11 on the year coming into the grass court season.  But Donna has now won eight of her last nine matches on grass, after reaching the final of Bad Homburg two weeks ago.  Grass has easily been the best surface of her career, and she’s benefitted from adding Hall of Famer Pam Shriver to her team.

Paolini and Vekic have split two official meetings, both on hard courts within the past three years.  Jasmine also defeated Donna three years ago in Cincinnati qualifying.  But this surface should certainly favor Vekic, who possesses the much more formidable serve.  Against Lulu Sun in the quarterfinals, Donna won a superb 87% of first serve points. 

In her own quarterfinal against Navarro, Paolini has able to open up the court with her surprisingly powerful forehand, and then coming to net consistently, nabbing 16 of 17 points at net.  Jasmine plays doubles regularly, so she’s fully comfortable coming forward.  And she’s a great returner, as she broke Navarro in five out of seven service games.

This should be a fascinating contest between two players with contrasting styles.  Will Paolini’s recent experience in a Major semifinal be a key factor?  Will Vekic’s grass court prowess carry her to victory?  I give the slight edge to Donna, as I will be surprised if Jasmine can attack Donna’s serve as well as Jasmine has attacked the serve of others, though the Italian has continued to surprise me throughout this season.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Elena Rybakina (4) – Second on Centre Court

Rybakina is now 19-2 lifetime at The Championships, after a clinical straight-set victory against Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.  That was also her 40th win of the season, which is second-best in WTA singles, despite Elena pulling out of several events due to injury and illness.  She’s dropped just one set through five matches during this fortnight, and across the last three rounds, has struck 89 winners and only 48 unforced errors. 

This semifinal run from Krejcikova has come out of nowhere, as she was just 7-9 before arriving at SW19, in a season interrupted by a back injury.  But she’s been most impressive in back-to-back wins over big-hitting seeded players (Collins, Ostapenko), using her variety to move them around the court, and put them in uncomfortable positions.  If Barbora can do that against Elena on Thursday, she has a real shot at advancing to her second Major final in singles.  And while Krejcikova was just 6-3 in singles at this event prior to this fortnight, she’s twice won this event in ladies’ doubles.

Krejickova is also 2-0 against Rybakina, having won a pair of three-setters on hard courts within the last few seasons.  On this surface, and at this stage of a tournament, with Elena holding a 5-1 record in semifinals this year, Rybakina remains the favorite.  But Elena also knows she’s now a big favorite to win this tournament for a second time, which places plenty of pressure on her shoulders.  I do not expect this semifinal to be straightforward for the 2022 champion.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) – This is a gentlemen’s doubles semifinal.  The top seeds are still looking for the first Major of their partnership, despite advancing to the Wimbledon final in two of the last three years.  Purcell won this event in 2022 alongside Matthew Ebden, while this is a first Major semifinal for Thompson.

Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten vs. Neal Skupski and Michael Venus (9) – This is the second gentlemen’s doubles semifinal.  Skupski won this tournament a year ago with Wesley Koolhof, and also won mixed doubles here in both 2021 and 2022.  Venus won a Major in men’s doubles at the 2017 French Open.  Heliovaara won mixed doubles at last year’s US Open, and has won two ATP titles this season alongside Patten of Great Britain.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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