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The Quest for Stars & Trophies

2013 State Championships


Best ATP Matches: Part 2

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2. Andy Murray d. Kei Nishikori 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4/RR/Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

Novak Djokovic was the final obstacle Andy Murray faced during his historic run to year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But looking back on it, Kei Nishikori might have been Murray's trickiest opponent during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Coming into their round-robin match, Murray had been on a roll. He'd won 20 consecutive matches, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris. But before Murray stopped losing this season, Nishikori had been one of the few players who had figured out how to beat him during the second half of the season. And he upset Murray on one of tennis' biggest stages: US Open quarter-finals, Arthur Ashe Stadium.


The theatrics set, the players delivered at The O2. They fought for 85 minutes in the opening set, exchanging hot shot after hot shot, especially during the 20-point tie-break. Murray saved four set points, Nishikori, three. But the Japanese would finally win the opener to make it three consecutive sets against Murray.

The Scot would answer, though. He took the second set in 53 minutes, breaking Nishikori at 4-4 before serving out the set. But when it came time to serve for the match, Murray faltered at 5-2. He'd make it up it at 5-4, though, and remain unbeaten in round-robin play. Nishikori had the level to beat the World No. 1 but couldn't sustain it.

“It never feels good after losing the match,” said Nishikori. “I know it was close. I mean, I’m definitely disappointed… I think it was great match, both of us.”

1. Andy Murray d. Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9)/SF/Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

More hardly could have been on the line when Andy Murray and Milos Raonic met during the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Murray, the newly-annointed World No. 1, was trying to extend his 22-match win streak, reach his first final at The O2 and complete only one of the hardest tasks in tennis: Finish No. 1 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings.

Only sixteen men since 1973 had ended the calendar year on top before this season, and the Scot was just two wins away from joining that elite club when he faced Raonic. The pressure was on, too, as World No. 2 Novak Djokovic had also reached the last four in London. Beat Raonic, and Murray still controlled his fate, but lose, and the top spot was Djokovic's to take.

Raonic had already faced the Serbian in London, falling in a tight 7-6(6), 7-6(5) round-robin match. Against Murray, the Canadian was hoping to win those few crucial points and assure himself a career-best year-end No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

He had already come oh so close to beating Murray in 2016. Raonic was up two sets to one in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. At The Queen's Club final, he led by a set and a break. But both times, Murray turned back Raonic's power tennis.

At The O2, Raonic was again the early starter, taking the opener 7-5. He broke early in the second set to get within four consecutive holds of his first London final. But Murray came back and the two were tied at 4-all in the third set.

What ensued next was the most unpredictable stretch of the tournament: Four consecutive service breaks. First Raonic couldn't hold to get to 5-4, then Murray couldn't hold to win the match. Then it was the Canadian's turn again, dropping his serve at 5-all. Then Murray, incredibly, was broken at 6-5, his second attempt to serve out the match. So they headed to tennis' most dramatic moment, a tie-break in the final set.

Raonic saved three match points and had his own match point at 9/8 but Murray cut a backhand volley to even the tie-break at 9/9. Two points later, he'd point to his heart in celebration.

On Wednesday in London, Murray and Kei Nishikori had set the record for the longest three-set match in season finale history, three hours, 20 minutes. But four days later, Murray and Raonic had broken the record with their three-hour and 38-minute semi-final.

Murray's 24-match win streak. His first Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title. His first year-end finish at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. In the semi-finals against Raonic, they were all a swing away from not happening in 2016.

Coming Wednesday: The best Grand Slam matches of 2016.

Nadal: Kyrgios has 'unbelievable potential'

7 hours 56 min ago
Nadal: Kyrgios has 'unbelievable potential'

Federer, Serena pull out of IPTL

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:49am
Federer, Serena pull out of IPTL

Vote Now: 2016 WTA Social Fan Favorites

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 8:15pm
Who's your favorite player, what was your favorite match of the year and of course who took the best selfie this year? Click here to vote for those and many more!

50 Most Popular Players Of 2016: 40-31

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 8:14pm
This week is counting down the 50 most clicked-on players, continuing with No.40 to No.31. Find out who made the cut...

Qureshi Makes Time For Those Less Fortunate In Pakistan

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:41pm

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi continues his support for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, recently visiting the Children’s Ward to bring a smile to the faces of many youngsters. Qureshi has been a frequent guest at the hospital over the years and has been instrumental in fundraising for the hospital’s cancer research and development departments.

“It really does put life into perspective,” said Qureshi. “All it takes is a little bit of time to help brighten the lives of these children.”

“Patients suffering from cancer at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre don't just need physical and financially supported treatment, they also need psychological support from all of us as they struggle between life and death,” said Naila Khan, director of marketing for Shaukat Khanum. “Aisam has been a great supporter of the cause and ensures he visits us each time he returns to Pakistan. His support means a lot to us.”

Qureshi, who was recently voted Pakistan’s Most Stylish Sportsman, is aware of his responsibility to those less fortunate.

“We (ATP players) have such a wonderful life on the tour,” said Qureshi. “If my status as a professional tennis player can help make a difference for the children and families suffering from this terrible disease, then please use me as much as you want.”


Edmund A Natural On The Court And On The Track

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:48pm
Brit Kyle Edmund, a member of the ATP Next Generation, shows off his driving skills in a Peugeot 208 at Brands Hatch just outside London.

Best ATP Matches Of 2016: Part 1

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:17pm
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5. Rafael Nadal d. Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0/F/Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

At the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, it was best if you had simply forgotten about the Gael Monfils you had once known – the fun, care-free player who liked to entertain as much as he liked to win. Because the Monfils who had dashed through to the Monte-Carlo final was not that Monfils.

This Monfils had gone a perfect 10-0 in sets, racing to his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title match. He had beaten Jiri Vesely – the left-hander who had upset World No. 1 Novak Djokovic – 6-1, 6-2, and Monfils had dominated countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 6-3 in the semi-finals.

So impressive had Monfils been that it looked as if he had a legit chance to beat Rafael Nadal in the Monte-Carlo final. But Monfils would have to deliver his very best performance. He had beaten Nadal only two times in 13 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, and he had lost all four of their previous clay-court matches.

Nadal wasn't invincible, though. He had won eight Monte-Carlo titles and did boast a 57-4 record at the tournament. But he also hadn't won a Masters 1000 title for almost two years, and he hadn't taken the Monte-Carlo crown since 2012. So a Nadal victory, despite his wins against Stan Wawrinka (QF) and Andy Murray (SF), wasn't an easy putaway.

The final began up in the air as well. Nadal broke early to lead 3-1 but Monfils broke back the very next game and crushed a forehand down the line to make it 3-3. The all-out forehand would become Monfils' go-to shot against Nadal, who chased down most everything else. Wary of extending the rallies too long, Monfils would set his feet and blast a forehand winner to roars from the Sunday crowd.

Nadal was too good in the first set, though, and the second set showed more back-and-forth tennis. Nadal was wearing the Frenchman down with his grinding clay-court game and by effectively using his own down-the-line forehand to keep Monfils off-balance.

But Monfils wasn't caving to the Spaniard. He was exerting every ounce of energy he had and attempting to step into the court. He'd finish the match with 28 winners and serve out the second set to force a decider.

But after two exhilarating sets, Nadal had worn Monfils down. On match point, Nadal, on a dead sprint, leaned back once more and ripped a forehand winner down the line. He then fell to his knees, a champion in Monte-Carlo for the ninth time.

“In the third, the most important moment, I decided, OK, now I have to go for the shots. Now I have to hit my forehand deeper and go more for winners. I did and that was the difference,” Nadal said. “The first two sets were unbelievably tough. So many big points. But that's a great final and an unbelievable victory for me. [I'm] so very emotional and very happy.”

4. Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 7-5, 7-6(4)/QF/Internazionali BNL d'Italia

Before Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met in the Rome quarter-finals, this much had been settled: Nadal, the King of Clay, was again nearing top form on the European dirt.

His status had been questioned by some after the 2015 season, during which he failed to extend two clay-court title streaks. For the first time since 2009, Nadal didn't win Roland Garros, and for the first time since 2004, he finished a season without one of the three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court crowns.

But the Spaniard had shown signs that his play was on the rise. Weeks before Rome, Nadal had beaten Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and Gael Monfils to capture the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title. A week later, Nadal had won his ninth Barcelona crown by beating two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori in the final. Two weeks of clay-court tennis, and Nadal was a perfect 10-0.

But could he overtake Djokovic on clay? Nadal had yet to grab a set off the World No. 1 during their two earlier meetings in Indian Wells and Doha, and Djokovic had won their past six FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters.

But that was the question on everyone's mind, and it would be answered during the quarter-final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Nadal jumped on top, breaking to lead 3-2. But Djokovic, the two-time defending champion, struck back, and they were on serve at 4-4.

Serving at 5-6, Nadal looked to push the first set into a tie-break but Djokovic played relentless defence against the Spaniard. Standing feet behind the baseline, the Serbian kept retrieving until Nadal lured him to the net with a drop shot. Djokovic then flung at a forehand volley to take a one-set lead.

The second set began much like the first. Nadal again grabbed momentum with an early break. This time, he led 5-4 and had five set points but was unable to convert any of them as Djokovic, squatting low to the clay when on defence, absorbed the Spaniard's best. Djokovic needed only one break point to make it 5-5.

The four-time Rome champion then ended Nadal's upset bid with a backhand winner in the tie-break. Two hours and 25 minutes after they had started, Djokovic had answered the question on everyone's mind: Yes, he was still the best player in the world, but Nadal, on clay, was not far behind.

The Serbian would go on to play another memorable match in Rome, overcoming Nishikori in a three-hour semi-final 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5). For the year, Djokovic would finish 21-4 against the Top 10. He'd have to wait until Toronto, though, to win his 30th Masters 1000 title. Andy Murray beat Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

3. Pablo Cuevas d. Rafael Nadal 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4/SF/Rio Open presented by Claro

It certainly seemed as if Rafael Nadal had come to the right place to reboot his 2016 season. Here he was, the top seed at the Rio Open presented by Claro, the tournament he'd won in 2014 and reached the semi-finals of in 2015. It seemed like here, on the red clay of Brazil, Nadal would play like the man who had reached the Doha final (l. to Djokovic) just a month earlier.

Three matches in, and all was looking promising as well. Nadal had reached the semi-finals without dropping a set. His next opponent was World No. 45 Pablo Cuevas, a player whom he had beaten during all three of their prior FedEx ATP Head2Head match-ups, including their 2015 Rio quarter-final. Recent history also was on Nadal's side: Only once since 2005 had he lost to a player outside the Top 30 on clay. Beat Cuevas for a fourth time and Nadal would sprint into his second final of the season.


But Cuevas saw the match-up differently. The 30 year old also had played well in Rio the previous year, taking a set off Nadal, and the Uruguayan also felt comfortable on clay. All three of his titles had come on the red dirt.

Nadal got off to the quicker start, though, taking the first-set tie-break. But he faltered as the match wore on. He struggled to handle Cuevas' power and was unable to convert on the big points. Cuevas finished with 48 winners, including 10 aces, and saved 11/13 break points faced.

The right-hander grabbed a mini-break early in the second-set tie-break to even the match. In the third set, Cuevas saved two break points in the sixth game and rode the momentum to a break in the very next game. He finished Nadal with an ace out wide and dropped to his knees with joy.

“This is my best win,” Cuevas said. “I'm so happy that I played amazing for all the match.”

A day later, he'd have another reason to smile: His fourth ATP World Tour title.

Coming Tuesday: The Best Two ATP Matches Of 2016

Opportunity Breeds Success For Zverev

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:47pm

Opportunity is multiplied the more you are exposed to it.

In the 2015 season, Alexander Zverev played just 5,166 points on tour. That more than doubled to 11,156 this season, creating opportunities from St. Petersburg, Russia, where he won his first ATP World Tour title, to Halle and Nice, where he reached the final.

More than double the amount of points played naturally filtered down to more than double the amount of points won, rising from 2,507 in 2015 to 5,683. His season-ending position in the Emirates ATP Rankings skyrocketed from 85 in 2015 to 24 in 2016, with a season-high of 20 in October 2016.

Double the points played. Double the points won, and more than double the match time - 3,509 minutes in 2015 to 7,688 minutes in 2016.  But that does not tell the whole story…

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis uncovered that Zverev actually lost more points than he won in securing his Top 100 ranking in 2015, winning just 48.5 per cent of points played. This year, storming into the Top 25 in the world, that percentage was bumped up only to 50.9 per cent.

He won just 2.4 percentage points more in 2015 than 2016 - just two and a half more points out of every hundred - to become one of the hottest players on tour.

Zverev, 19, from Hamburg, Germany, is 6,6”, and you would naturally assume the serving side of equation is his strong suite, but that’s not necessarily the case. In 2016, Zverev finished 38th best in the ATP Stats LEADERBOARD Serve Leaders category, but a much higher 18th in the Return Leaders.

Zverev won just four matches on tour in 2014, 14 in 2015, and 44 in 2016. His progression points to a 50+ wins season in 2017, and a coveted spot somewhere in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Alexander Zverev 2015-16 Improvement


Service Points Won
Return Points Won
33.7% 38.1%
1st Serve Return Points Won
2nd Serve Return Points Won
Breaking After Losing Serve
Breaking From 15/15
Breaking From 30/30

Becker uncertain on Djokovic coaching role

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 6:35am
Becker uncertain on Djokovic coaching role

Halep Reflects On 2016 Improvements In Forbes Interview Halep Best Shots Of 2016

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 8:14pm
Simona Halep looks back on an impressive season handicaps her Grand Slam chances in 2017 in an interview with Forbes.

Venus Gears Up To Take On 2017… And 2018

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 8:13pm
Venus Williams is already hard at work preparing for the 2017 WTA season, but the 'EleVen by Venus' creator and former No.1 has designs on more long-term goals.

Kvitova Plagued By Off-Season Injury Ahead Of 2017 Kvitova best shots

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 8:13pm
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | Petra Kvitova will spend the remainder of the off-season healing a stress fracture in her right foot, hoping to begin next season on schedule in Perth.

50 Most Popular Players Of 2016: 50-41

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 8:13pm
This week is counting down the 50 most clicked-on players, starting with No.50 to No.41. Find out who made the cut...

The Tennis Lover’s Ultimate Christmas Shopping Guide

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 8:12pm
Looking for a nice Christmas gift for your tennis-loving friend or a treat for yourself? Marija Zivlak of Women's Tennis Blog will help you pick the best presents.

Raonic Reaps Rewards On Return

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 9:47pm

In 2015, Milos Raonic lost serve only 39 times in 49 matches. Not enough.

In 2016, the 6’5” Canadian was broken 86 times in 69 matches. Now we are talking.

Raonic ended 2015 ranked 14 in the world in the Emirates ATP Rankings, and just completed the 2016 season with his career best ranking of No. 3. On the surface, getting broken more than twice as much in 2016 than 2015 seems counter-intuitive to such dramatic improvement. It’s not.

In fact, basically everything from a serving standpoint slightly declined in 2016 compared to 2015 for Raonic, but to focus only on his service games would be the same as not being able to see the forest for the trees.

What’s the point of being an exceptional server, if you can’t break enough to win? Raonic greatly improved his return game this season, evolving from a player too reliant on serving, to creating a more potent, balanced attack. He got the mix right.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Raonic’s ascension uncovers a player who got a little worse at serving and whole lot better overall as a player, and hey presto - No. 3 in the world.

Raonic Serving
Across the board, the numbers were not as impressive in 2016 as 2015. What we must keep in mind is that Raonic went from peerless metrics to still very solid numbers compared to the rest of the tour.

Milos Raonic: 10 Focus Points Serving 2015-2016

Serving Analytics

Double Faults
1st Serve Percentage
64% 64%
1st Serve Points Won
2nd Serve Points Won
Break Points Saved
Service Games Won
Total Service Games Won
Holding Serve With New Balls
97% 91%
Holding Serve From 0/30
Holding Serve From 30/40

Raonic Returning
This is the beating heart of Raonic’s improvement.

In 2015, Raonic broke 77 times in 629 return games, which equals once every 8.2 service games. In 2016, he blew the doors off those numbers, breaking 164 times in 893 return games, breaking once every 5.5 games.

Instead of putting all his eggs in the serve basket, Raonic become more complete, bolstered the return side of the equation, and increased his prize money from $1.4M in 2015 to $4.6M this season.

Milos Raonic: 10 Focus Points Returning 2015-2016

Returning Analytics

1st Return Points Won
2nd Return Points Won
Break Points Converted
Return Games Won
Return Points Won
Breaking With New Balls
Breaking After Losing Serve
6% 14%
Breaking From 15/15
Breaking From 0/30
Breaking From 30/40

At the 2016 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Raonic held a match point against eventual champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals, losing 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9). In an ominous warning to opponents in the upcoming season, Raonic won the longer points of 9+ shots 16-14 against the Brit. Who would have thought…

In 2016, Raonic rounded out his game, improved his returns, believed in his backhand, and pressed a little less from the baseline at the start of the point. He now has all the ingredients to impose his will all over the court, and make his own legitimate run at World No. 1 in 2017.

Vote: Best Tennis Fashion Moment Of 2016

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 8:13pm
The 2016 WTA season gave us everything in terms of on-court fashion. Our fashion contributor Marija Zivlak of Women's Tennis Blog gives us her Top 8 looks - vote your favorite right here!

Rivalries Of 2016: Murray vs. Nishikori

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 3:10pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2016. Today we feature Andy Murray vs. Kei Nishikori:

With many high-pressure matches, pulsating moments and thrilling finishes, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori met on four occasions in 2016 and their encounters had it all. Battling in a Grand Slam quarter-final, Davis Cup five-setter, Olympic semi-final and one of the best matches of the year at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the pair provided arguably the most compelling rivalry and the drama between the lines did not disappoint.

Entering the year, Murray had dominated the rivalry, taking five of six meetings and refusing to relinquish a set in all his victories. He was ruthless in dispatching Nishikori 6-3, 6-0 in the 2015 Rogers Cup semis, but as the calendar flipped to 2016, so did the Japanese’s fortunes.

Their first meeting came in the Davis Cup first round in March. The Scot needed a win to send defending champion Great Britain into the quarter-finals and it looked to be another straight-set victory. He battled to a two-set lead, but Nishikori would find a second gear, breaking Murray in the third and fourth sets to force a decider in front of a raucous crowd in Birmingham. The home hope would secure the win in the decider, 7-5, 7-6(6), 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, but Nishikori gave him all he could handle in a near-five hour thriller.

Armed with newfound belief against Murray, the Japanese would finally turn the tables at the US Open. Despite falling in straight sets in the semis of the Rio Olympics, he entered their third encounter of the year poised to stem the tide.

In a back-and-forth contest that featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori was ultimately the more settled player during the match's tightest moments. He took the three-hour and 57-minute contest 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, upsetting Murray to reach his second Grand Slam semi-final and first since the 2014 US Open.


“I saw some opportunities to come in today so I tried to be aggressive,” said Nishikori. “I saw that's what I had to do, especially against Andy. He has great defense. I don't know why I served and volleyed a lot today... but it was working. I think it was a great mix, serving and volleying and coming to the net."

At no point was Nishikori more clutch than deep in the fifth set. With Murray serving at 5-all in the decider, Nishikori attacked a second serve and approached the net, lunging at Murray's passing shot and connecting on a forehand volley that dropped in for an uncontested winner. He served it out a game later, claiming his fourth of five Top 10 wins in 2016.

Following two five-set battles, Nishikori entered the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals full of confidence against Murray. They would meet in the round-robin stage and with Murray’s year-end No. 1 quest hanging in the balance, an instant classic would ensue. The competitors produced the then-longest match in tournament history at three hours and 21 minutes, before Murray and Milos Raonic broke the record days later.

Nishikori was clutch in the opening tie-break and Murray was left to rue missed opportunities with the set on the line. The Japanese would take it 11-9 after 85 minutes, but the Scot regrouped immediately to secure a break to 30 to open the second set and eventually drew level to force a decider. Each game in the deciding set was competitive, but it was Murray who found a way to break Nishikori in the third and fifth games. He remained in control to prevail 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, extending his winning streak to 21 straight matches and exacting revenge after the US Open defeat.

"Until this year, we hadn't really played many marathons," Murray said. "It just turned out that this year we played three extremely long matches. The ones in the Davis Cup and the US Open were very tough, long five-setters. But we've played each other 10 or 11 times. It's only really been this year that I remember that we played really, really long matches."

View FedEx ATP Head2Head (Murray Leads 8-2)

Murray vs. Nishikori: 2016 Meetings

 Event  Surface  Round
 Score  Barclays ATP World Tour Finals
 Hard  RR  Murray  6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4
 US Open
 Hard  QF  Nishikori  1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5
 Rio Olympics
 Hard  SF  Murray  6-1, 6-4
 Davis Cup
 Hard  1R  Murray  7-5, 7-6(6), 3-6, 4-6, 6-3

Noah to remain France's Davis Cup captain

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 8:33am
Noah to remain France's Davis Cup captain

Stan's Trophy Worth Its Weight In… Chocolate!

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 9:45pm

World No. 4 Stan Wawrinka received a sweet surprise from tournament organisers at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open: a replica US Open trophy handmade entirely of chocolate!

The full-size trophy, carefully crafted from several kilos of chocolate, took two full days to build and was presented to the 2016 US Open champion at a pre-tournament press conference Wednesday in Geneva. The World No. 4 also won his first title on home soil this past May in Geneva and will return to the ATP World Tour 250 tournament in 2017 to defend his crown.

“This is a lovely idea from the tournament,” said Wawrinka. “The trophy looks great, what a nice surprise! It’s good that I already started working on my fitness with Pierre Paganini.”


The 31-year-old Swiss, who defeated Novak Djokovic at the US Open to claim his third Grand Slam title, asked how long he could keep the chocolate trophy and was told it would be edible for about a week. The tournament wrapped and delivered the trophy to Wawrinka following the presentation to ensure it would arrive intact.

Tickets for the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open will be on sale from 8 December.