Inigo Cervantes and Guido Pella continued their strong run of form less than a week after squaring off for the Montevideo title.
Cervantes qualified for the semi-finals from Group A at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, while Pella advanced to the last four from Group B. The top seeded Argentine downed the Spaniard for his fourth title of the year Sunday in Montevideo.
Cervantes opened proceedings on Thursday in Sao Paulo with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Paolo Lorenzi. The 25 year old, who recently entered the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time, upset top seed Lorenzi in one hour and 36 minutes. He fired five aces, converting on all four break points, while saving six of seven faced. It was his 47th match win of the season - tied for the fifth most in a single season in ATP Challenger Tour history.
"You have to believe that you can win every match because if you don’t enter the court with positive thoughts, it gets hard," said Cervantes. "I felt much better today than yesterday. The first match is always more complicated. I served better today, felt a little bit more calm during the whole match.
"Tomorrow it's a double edged-sword. It’s a dangerous match because he has nothing to lose tomorrow. I have to try to play my game and I would like to reach the semis with three victories."
At 2-0 in Group A, Cervantes will be joined by either Lorenzi or Daniel Munoz-de la Nava in the semis. World No. 87 Munoz-de la Nava moved to 1-1 with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over Farrukh Dustov in the first match of the day. Seventh seed Dustov is eliminated from semi-final contention, falling to 0-2 in round robin play.
Lorenzi is set to battle Munoz-de la Nava in a winner take all clash. It will be the seventh encounter between the two 33 year olds. Lorenzi leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-1, with wins in qualifying at Roland Garros 2009 and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Miami two years later. He won their lone meeting in 2015 in the Cortina Challenger semi-finals.
"The opponent was completely different from the first match," Munoz-de la Nava said. "Dustov is a hard court player, with a great serve and quick points. Inigo serves really well, but we played long points.
"Everytime I play Paolo the matches are long and tough. He has won most of them, but I’m going to try to play well."
Group B Down To The Wire
Pella improved to 45-13 on the year, extending his win streak to seven straight.
"I'm really happy," Pella said. "That was the goal, winning the first two matches. I had some help from Albot. Tomorrow I'm going to give it all to advance without losing a match. Marco has nothing to lose, so it won't be easy
"This was my best match here. He played a great first set, but I think I played extremely well too. It was really tough, it always is against Guilherme, because he is good on both wings and also serves great."
A spot in the semi-finals will be on the line when Radu Albot faces Clezar on Friday. Sixth seed Albot rallied past Marco Cecchinato 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, overcoming eight aces from the Italian. Cecchinato is eliminated with the loss.
"I played him before," said Albot, who became the first Moldovan to enter the Top 100 earlier this year. "He’s also very good on clay, but he has not played that many tournaments in the last few weeks. Maybe he’s not in his best moment right now as I am. But I just kept fighting and pushing the ball in the court
“I never played against Clezar. But he’s playing home, playing well. I saw his match against Cecchinato. Very aggressive player with good hands. Usually we say ‘when you play home, the balls help you, you know?’. So I hope the balls will not help him tomorrow."
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Guido Pella is making a habit of cutting it close this week.
The 25-year-old Argentine, who won his fourth Challenger title of the year on Sunday in Montevideo, Uruguay, missed his Tuesday flight to Sao Paulo for the ATP Challenger Tour Finals.
Pella traveled home to Buenos Aires after the final, but encountered an unexpected delay in flying to Sao Paulo two days later. He would arrive in the Brazilian metropolis the night before the competition was set to commence on Wednesday. The World No. 76 opened his bid for a second title at the Challenger season finale with a clash against sixth seed Radu Albot, and once again things didn't go according to plan. The Moldavan raced out to a 5-0 first set lead and eventually seized the opener 6-3, before Pella roared back for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 win after one hour and 50 minutes.
"I arrived here yesterday at 6:30PM because I missed my flight," Pella said. "I knew it would be hard because I didn’t have the chance to practise much on this court and I needed to play with a lot of heart. He had a good start and I wasn’t comfortable, but I got better afterwards.
"Playing the Challenger Finals is always amazing, luckily it’s my second time around and I managed to win the first match."
Pella, who won the title in 2012, moved into a tie for second among match wins leaders this year with his 44th victory, drawing level with Marco Cecchinato and Daniel Munoz-de la Nava. He joins home hope and eighth seeded wild card Guilherme Clezar atop Group B following Day One at the Pinheiros Club.
Clezar continued his dominant run of form at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, streaking past Cecchinato 7-5, 6-4. He won an impressive 81 per cent of first serve points and 73 per cent on his second serve, while converting two of three break points. The Brazilian has now won four of his last five matches at the tournament after finishing runner-up last year to Diego Schwartzman.
"I’ve been practising really well over the last two days, so I was really confident with my game," Clezar said. "I believe it was a consequence of that. I had a good run last year, so I feel like it gives me confidence to repeat it this week. I hope I can bring that to the next round."
Pella and Clezar will square off in Thursday's nightcap, with Group B supremacy at stake. Pella leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-1, most recently winning this year at the Guayaquil Challenger. Cecchinato battles Albot in other action.
Cervantes, Lorenzi Move Atop Group A
“It was an extremely tough match," Lorenzi said. "I didn’t have a good start. He won the first set and had a break in the second. I played without pressure after that. I’m happy that I won, not with the way I played but the important thing is getting the win. It’s not easy to play after two weeks out of competition.”
Cervantes, meanwhile, also mounted a comeback in upsetting countryman and third seed Munoz-de la Nava 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. The Spaniard broke into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, following a final run in Montevideo (l. to Pella). He extended his 2015 match wins lead with victory No. 46.
“In a tournament like this, in São Paulo, all eight players have the same level and all matches will be tough," said Cervantes. "Dani is a Spanish player and it was the second time we faced each other this year. I won the other match but in three sets as well. It is always really tough. I’m glad that I could win the match even if I didn’t play my best tennis.”
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Andy Murray will attempt to end his best-ever year on a high note by bringing the Davis Cup back to Great Britain in the final against Belgium this week. The tie will be hosted in Ghent, Belgium on indoor clay.
Andy and brother Jamie Murray, who was also nominated to the team, have recently faced adversity on the court, having both been eliminated in the group stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last week. However, both have enjoyed great tour-level results in 2015 – Andy will finish the year No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time, while Jamie qualified for the Final Showdown in doubles for the first time and holds a career-high No. 7 Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking.
Andy will be counted upon to do the heavy lifting for his country. By winning both singles rubbers this week, he would join John McEnroe and Mats Wilander as the only men to go 8-0 in a calendar year since the introduction of the World Group in 1981. Murray has featured in eight of the nine rubbers Great Britain has won this year.
Joining the Dunblane native on the British side are youngster Kyle Edmund (No. 100 Emirates ATP Ranking) and big-hitting Dominic Inglot (No. 23 Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking). Edmund has yet to play a live Davis Cup rubber, while Inglot is searching for a first doubles victory after losing to the USA’s Mike and Bob Bryan in 2014 and 2015.
Defending the Belgian colour in the port city of Ghent will be a familiar line-up of World No. 16 David Goffin, No. 84 Steve Darcis, No. 108 Ruben Bemelmans and No. 128 Kimmer Coppejans, the same four-man lineup which propelled Belgium to victory in the quarter-finals against Canada and in the semi-finals against Argentina. Team leader Goffin is 11-2 lifetime in Davis Cup singles appearances, and has won his past six matches. His only loss on clay was in five sets and came against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in 2013.
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To kick off our Season In Review Series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2015. Today we feature Kei Nishikori vs. Milos Raonic:
The young twentysomethings met only twice in 2015, but Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic sure made the most of the occasions. Quantity? Maybe not. Quality? You bet.
The first encounter came in January in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International, where Raonic unleashed 34 aces to power his way past his Japanese opponent 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4). The 6-foot-5 Canadian, 24, held each of his 18 service games in the two-and-a-half hour battle. All three sets were decided by tie-breaks, and neither player was able to break the other's serve.
Nishikori, 25, would exact revenge in Davis Cup play in March, his clutch three-hour 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win forcing a fifth and decisive rubber in the opening-round World Group clash between Japan and Canada.
“I'm happy with the way I fought, I'm happy with the way I competed, and that's all I can ask of myself,” said Nishikori.
This time, Nishikori withstood a 28-ace barrage from Raonic to prevail in five sets in the hostile territory of Vancouver’s Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia, where rowdy fans waved flags and sported red-emblazoned hockey jerseys.
Nishikori now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head history at 5-2.
Nishikori vs. Raonic: 2015 MeetingsEvent Surface Round
Score Brisbane Hard SF Raonic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) Davis Cup
Hard RR Nishikori 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
The 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals attracted 262,894 fans to The O2 arena as another year of sold-out crowds flocked to the season finale to witness the world’s greatest players battling for the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world.
The 2015 on-site attendance at The O2 brought the overall attendance on the 2015 ATP World Tour season to an all-time record of 4.5 million fans, rounding off a spectacular season for the ATP World Tour both on and off the court.
ATP World No.1 Novak Djokovic defeated six-time tournament champion Roger Federer in the championship match to capture a record-breaking fourth consecutive season-ending crown (and fifth overall). The victory capped off one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport for the Serb who captured 11 titles, including three Grand Slams and a record six ATP Masters 1000 titles, to finish the season with an 82-6 win-loss record, and record prize money of $21,592,125.
In doubles, Wimbledon champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau captured their first season-ending crown and ensured they finished as the year-end No.1 doubles team for the first time.
Off the court, 59 broadcasters across 198 territories televised the season finale. Global television viewership figures are forecast to exceed 100 million. Live and on demand match streaming on TennisTV, the ATP’s official live streaming site and mobile app, received more than 7.2 million total streams, an increase of 24%, while the ATP’s digital platforms attracted approximately 40 million page views across the eight days.
The ATP’s continued focus on offering fans new and creative ways of engaging with the Tour also saw the successful launch of the Tour’s new social network, MyATP powered by Vixlet, during the season finale.
During an ‘ATP State of Play’ media address on Sunday at The O2, Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, disclosed that it had also been a record year for the ATP from a commercial standpoint. “In 2015 alone we’ve generated in excess of $160 million in new commercial sponsorship revenues to come over the next five years,” said Kermode. “The sport is in the best health it’s ever been in thanks to an incredible generation of players as well as the strength of our global platform of tournaments. We will continue to work hard as we strive to ensure continued growth for the Tour in years ahead.”
The ATP enjoyed a stellar year in commercial sales in 2015, securing new agreements with Maui Jim, Infosys and Peugeot, while further deals were announced during the season finale with Chinese digital media company Le Sports, as well as an enhanced partnership with Emirates that sees the award-winning airline become the Tour’s global Premier Partner through 2020.
The ATP also announced that the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals would remain at The O2 in London through 2018.
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