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Dominic Thiem, the youngest player in the Top 20, came through in the clutch to defeat Nicolas Almagro 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-6(4) and win the Argentina Open on Sunday. Thiem was down a break in the deciding set, but rallied strongly to notch his fourth ATP World Tour title in two hours and 28 minutes. Among players born in the 1990s, Thiem’s title total only trails that of Milos Raonic (8).
Thiem, No. 19 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, claimed the title after winning four three-setters in Buenos Aires. He is establishing himself as one of the best young players on the ATP World Tour after saving a match point in defeating Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
Almagro’s run to the final was the feel-good story of the week. The former World No. 9 had not tasted victory at a tour-level event since Nice 2012 (d. Baker), and overturned a 15-match losing streak to countryman David Ferrer in the semi-finals. The 30 year old fell to 12-10 in ATP World Tour finals, all on clay.
Neither players gave an inch from the baseline throughout the match, trading heavy forehands and attacking fearlessly with their one-handed backhands. Almagro went ahead 2-0 in the deciding set, but saw Thiem fight back strongly to force a deciding tie-break. A cruel bounce off the let cord provided the Austrian with the critical mini-break. Minutes later, Thiem would fall to the court in celebration after seeing Almagro’s shot fly long.
Fabio Fognini and his fiancée, Flavia Pennetta, enjoyed an experience afforded only to a lucky few on Saturday evening in Rio de Janeiro as they climbed to the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue.
The Italian couple climbed 11 flights of stairs at the iconic statue to take a picture on the arm, just as the helicopter bearing John Isner, Jack Sock and Thomaz Bellucci flew past.
"I’m a little bit scared of heights, but this is something amazing and unique," said Fognini. "Not many people get to have the opportunity to do this. I’m very thankful and happy.
"It’s a beautiful city, one of the best in the world. They are going to host the Olympic Games here and that is very big."
Fognini defeated Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of this ATP World Tour 500 clay-court tournament last year, before finishing runner-up to David Ferrer in the final.
"It was a great tournament for me when I beat Rafa for the first time," said Fognini, who is seeded seventh this year. "I remember that the tournament had a great crowd. I hope I will play well here and do a good job."
Fognini is set to open his campaign against Great Britain's Aljaz Bedene.
Martin Klizan reacts after beating Gael Monfils in the Rotterdam final to cap a week of dramatic comebacks. Watch live tennis at http://www.tennistv.com/
It wouldn’t be a Martin Klizan match this week if the Slovak wasn’t fighting from behind to claim victory. The 26 year old captured the biggest title of his career as he rallied from a set down to defeat fifth seed Gael Monfils 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday in the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.
Klizan was christened the ‘Escape Artist’ after his dramatic run through to the final at this ATP World Tour 500 indoor hard-court tournament. The left-hander saved five match points to upset sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarter-finals and fended off three match points in a hard-fought semi-final win over Nicolas Mahut.
"I cannot believe that it happened," said Klizan. "It was my dream to be on the board with these unbelievably great players. It's an amazing feeling. Every day I was just fighting. Most of the time I had three-hour matches every day, so the only thing I could do was fight. In the end I saved so many match points. I still cannot believe it."
Klizan had the better of the chances in the first set against Monfils, but couldn’t convert any of his six break points before ultimately succumbing in the tie-break. But the Slovak came back strongly in the second set, earning the first break of the match in the eighth game, courtesy of a Monfils double fault.
Klizan carried his momentum into the decider and allowed Monfils just six points as he raced into a 5-0 lead. Monfils scrambled to get one break back, but Klizan finished with a trademark forehand winner as he broke the Frenchman again for victory in just under two hours.
The Slovak captured his fourth ATP World Tour title (4-0 finals record), adding to the trophies he lifted at the ATP World Tour 250 tournaments in St. Petersburg 2012, Munich 2014 and Casablanca 2015. He earns 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €363,400 in prize money.
The 29-year-old Monfils was bidding to win his sixth ATP World Tour title and drops to a 5-18 finals record. The Frenchman’s last title came two years ago against Richard Gasquet in the 2014 Montpellier final. The right-hander, who opened his season with a quarter-final showing at the Australian Open (l. to Raonic), has a 9-2 record in 2016.
"Martin played a very good match," said Monfils. "I think he just played a brilliant match today, better than me, so well done to him. I had good matches, but still it's tough to lose in the final."
This forehand from Martin Klizan has outrageous bend on it to help the Slovak to a three-set victory over Gael Monfils in the Rotterdam final. Watch live tennis at http://www.tennistv.com/
Top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah wasted no time in capturing their first ATP World Tour doubles title of the year, downing Inigo Cervantes and Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-0 in exactly one hour in the Argentina Open final on Sunday. It was Cabal/Farah’s fifth tour-level title in 13 final appearances.
“It was a great match,” Farah said. “[Juan Sebastian] and I thought that we played at a high level, and the score said it all. After we got the first break, we both returned very well. We were very relaxed in the second set and stayed focused.”
“We’re really happy to get the title in Buenos Aires,” Cabal added. “We felt good both on and off the court here. We were good in the key moments today.”
After surviving Match Tie-breaks in the quarter-finals and in the semi-finals, Cabal/Farah thrived in the final, saving all five break points faced while converting four of five break points on their opponents’ serve. The champions finished with four aces and landed 69 per cent of first serves.
Cervantes and Lorenzi were playing in their second tournament as a team. The Spaniard and the Italian partnered up last week in Quito and lost in the first round to Thomaz Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner. It was Cervantes’ first ATP World Tour doubles final, while Lorenzi drops to 1-2 in final appearances (title at Vina del Mar 2013 with Starace).
Cabal/Farah earned 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and will split $28,290, while Cervantes and Lorenzi took home 150 points and $14,870.
Top Americans John Isner and Jack Sock took in the magnificent views of Rio de Janeiro from the sky on Saturday evening as they were treated to a helicopter tour by Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci ahead of the Rio Open presented by Claro.
The trio flew over a number of iconic landmarks, including the statue of Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Olympic Park, which will host the Summer Olympics in 2016.
As they flew over Christ the Redeemer, the players caught a glimpse of Italian Fabio Fognini, who was on top of the statue taking a selfie in a separate tournament PR activity.
"It was amazing," said Isner. "From the ground you know how beautiful Rio is, and it's even more beautiful from up in the clouds. It was an amazing experience for me. It was my first time in a helicopter. There's no better way to experience that than flying over Rio. Everything was amazing, but flying over Christ the Redeemer was spectacular. It's a once in a lifetime thing, so I'm very happy I was able to do it.
"I'm excited to get going," continued the American, who is set to make his debut at this ATP World Tour 500 clay-court tournament. "I've never been here before, so I'm very happy to be down here. I'm in a great mood and enjoying life. Win or lose, I'm going to have a good time out here."
Home favourite and eighth seed Bellucci added, "It's the first time I've seen Rio from the skies. I hope John and Jack enjoyed it. The views were very nice. It was fantastic to see the tourist points of Rio from the skies. I enjoyed it a lot.
"It's amazing to come back every year and play at home,” continued the left-hander, who recently finished runner-up to Victor Estrella Burgos in Quito. “I like playing here. The crowd is always very nice to me. I hope to have a good week and play well. I'm pretty confident. I had a good week in Ecuador. I've been practising a lot. I hope to have another good result this week. It would be very special for me to have a good week here in Rio."
The 23-year-old Sock, who will open his campaign against Federico Delbonis, said, "I've never been in a helicopter. You hear about all the amazing sights here and views. To be above it all and looking down on the city, over Christ the Redeemer and all the beaches, it's absolutely incredible. The pictures I've got don't do it justice, but it was definitely a lot of fun.
"I'm coming off a month-long illness. I came down with a few different symptoms in Auckland and it lasted for a while. Coming back off that, I feel pretty good. I'm happy to be on the clay, my favourite surface. Hopefully I can get some matches in and get my feet wet."
Gael Monfils digs out a winning forehand cross court pass to impress in the Rotterdam final. Watch live tennis at http://www.tennistv.com/
Nicolas Mahut and Vasek Pospisil captured their first ATP World Tour doubles title together on Sunday as they defeated Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya 7-6(2), 6-4 in the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.
The French/Canadian duo prevailed at the ATP World Tour 500 indoor hard-court tournament in 79 minutes over Petzschner and Peya, who had knocked out top seeds and defending champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the semi-finals. After being thwarted on their first four break points, Mahut and Pospisil converted their fifth opportunity in the ninth game of the second set before serving out victory.
"We played a really good match," said Pospisil. "We didn't make any mistakes and we didn't give them too many looks on our service games, which was key. We were serving well and putting a lot of pressure on them. Obviously, it helps to have a great partner so I think I got lucky there as well this week! We're thrilled we got the win today."
Playing together for just the second time after a first-round exit in Rotterdam last year, Mahut and Pospisil had saved one match point in a close semi-final win over Henri Kontinen and John Peers.
The 34-year-old Mahut captured his 11th tour-level doubles title. It is his second victory in Rotterdam, having lifted the trophy in 2014 with countryman Michael Llodra. Last year, Mahut claimed his first Grand Slam title at the US Open alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert before the French duo made their debut at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
"It's my second 500 title and my second time here, so I think it's a great tournament for me," said Mahut. "I'm really proud of the week and I'm really happy to share it with Vasek, he's a really good guy. We were a little bit disappointed last year to lose in the first round. This year we tried again and we're really happy to hold the trophy."
The 25-year-old Pospisil won his sixth ATP World Tour doubles crown. Four of his six titles have come alongside regular partner, Jack Sock, with whom he won the 2014 Wimbledon trophy.
Petzschner and Peya finished runners-up for the second time this season, having also lost in the Doha final in the first week of the season (l. to F. Lopez/ M. Lopez).
Kei Nishikori talks about why the Memphis Open brings out his best tennis as he chases a fourth successive title.
Watch highlights as Martin Klizan beats Gael Monfils in the Rotterdam final on Sunday. Watch live tennis at http://www.tennistv.com/
Nicolas Mahut and Vasek Pospisil saved a match point during a 6-7(7), 7-6(6), 10/4 win over Henri Kontinen and John Peers, advancing to the Rotterdam doubles final in their second tournament as a team. Mahut/Pospisil had joined forced in Rotterdam last year, but fell in the opening around against Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Mahut showed great resilience in returning to the court shortly after losing a tightly contested singles semi-final against Martin Klizan.
"We're happy we got through today,” Pospisil said after the match. “We had chances in the first set so it was disappointing to lose that one but we competed well and stayed patient. After winning that second set we took the momentum into the third and played a great Match Tie-break.
“Nico and I are enjoying this week and it's a pleasure playing with such a great guy. We're going to go into the final tomorrow with the same energy, play our games, and take it to our opponents.”
In the doubles final, the French-Canadian duo will take on Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya, who edged top seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau 7-6(5), 3-6, 11/9. The favourites held three match points at 9-6 in the Match Tie-break, but Petzschner/Peya reeled off five straight points to shock the defending champions.
"I think it was a very high level match that came down to a few points in the end," said Peya. "Being down 6-9 in the breaker you always need a little luck as well, but we stayed positive and tried to hang in until the last point. Tomorrow will be another very tough one and we need to bring our best again, but we are looking forward very much."
Cervantes/Lorenzi To Face Top Seeds In Buenos Aires
Memphis Final Set
There seems to be no stopping Taylor Fritz this week at the Memphis Open. The 18-year-old American put himself in elite company on Saturday, rallying past Ricardas Berankis 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first ATP World Tour final. He will square off against top seed and three-time defending champion Kei Nishikori for the title.
At 18 years and three months, Fritz became the youngest American to reach a tour-level final since then 17-year-old Michael Chang won the Wembley 1989 crown. He is also the first American teenager in a title match since Andy Roddick finished runner-up in Montreal in 2002, and is the second teen finalist on the ATP World Tour this year, following Borna Coric's run in Chennai (l. to Wawrinka).
"It's the best feeling in the world," said Fritz. "To be here and think that it's the final is crazy. I'm really excited that I got to this level and I've proven myself that I belong here.
"It's amazing to have this support. I feel so loved here. It's the best feeling in the world. I owe a lot to the crowd pumping me up."
Fritz was on the ropes early as Berankis ran away with the opening set behind three breaks of serve. But the wild card shed his nerves as the match progressed. Cool under pressure as he has been all week, Fritz stayed the course after being broken to love in the seventh game of the second set. He broke back immediately and would force a decider. In the third, the 18 year old earned a pair of breaks on Berankis double faults, eventually closing it out on his fifth match point after one hour and 41 minutes.
"I honestly felt he was unbeatable in the first set," Fritz added. "He was making me look awful. I didn't think there was much I could do. I tried to change things up in my game. He was returning my serves and putting me on defence. In the second set, I told myself that the way I was serving wasn't going to cut it. I needed to crank it up a lot. I started hitting my serves 5-10 miles per hour faster. That was the biggest difference. Once I was holding my serve, it put pressure on him. That's what allowed me to play my game more and allowed me to win."
Fritz, who closed his 2015 campaign with two ATP Challenger Tour titles (Sacramento & Fairfield) in three finals and opened 2016 with a win in Happy Valley, Australia, is making a seamless transition to the ATP World Tour. Competing in just his third tour-level event, he is already well ahead of the curve:
Tournaments Played To Reach First Final (current Top 10)
No. of Tournaments
1 Novak Djokovic
2 Andy Murray8
3 Roger Federer
4 Stan Wawrinka
5 Rafael Nadal
6 David Ferrer
7 Kei Nishikori
Delray Beach 2006
8 Tomas Berdych
9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
16 Australian Open 2008
10 Richard Gasquet
The California native's rise to the precipice of the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings is astounding, having resided at World No. 935 a year ago. He is bidding to become the first teen to earn an ATP World Tour title since Marin Cilic in New Haven 2008, when he battles Nishikori on Sunday. The most recent American winner in Memphis was Andy Roddick in 2011. Roddick, Andre Agassi and Stefan Edberg are the lone teenage champions in the 40-year history of the ATP World Tour 250 event.
Berankis, meanwhile, was competing in his second ATP World Tour semi-final, following a run to the last four in Los Angeles 2012.
"I was very close," said Berankis. "I played very well in the first set. Everything was working. In the second set, I started to play a little more careful and Taylor took his chances and was all over me... You always have to keep up the plan and continue the same way throughout the match."
Three-time defending champion Nishikori awaits Fritz in the final after fighting past home hope and 2010 Memphis titlist Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's second semi-final. The Japanese padded his mastery of deciding set matches, improving to 86-24 in his career. After dropping the opener in 30 minutes, he secured early breaks in both the second and third sets, before sealing the win on his third match point. It was deja vu at the Racquet Club of Memphis, with Nishikori also trumping Querrey in the 2015 semi-finals.
"It was a tough start for me," said Nishikori. "He was playing really good tennis, especially with his serve. He was hitting deep and flat and I was on defence all the time. I found my rhythm in the second set, was hitting balls deep and the tactics were working. I tried to be more focused and played more aggressive."
World No. 7 Nishikori will contest his 16th tour-level final in total, seeking title No. 11. He is bidding to become the fourth active player to win four straight titles at an ATP World Tour level tournament (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) and the second four-time winner in Memphis (Connors).
"We practised a lot in California," Nishikori added, referring to Fritz. "We've never played in a match, but I know he has a great serve and he's a little like Sam. He hits a big forehand, backhand and serve. You can see he's playing great here and I have to have good tactics for tomorrow."
Nicolas Almagro overturned an 0-15 FedEx ATP Head2Head mark against countryman David Ferrer, earning a spot in the Argentina Open final on Saturday. Almagro needed one hour and 51 minutes to dismiss his second seeded countryman 6-4, 7-5.
The 30 year old will bid for his second Buenos Aires title after prevailing over Juan Ignacio Chela in 2011. He was also runner-up to Ferrer the following year. Almagro, who will seek his 13th ATP World Tour title in his 22nd final, is appearing in his first title match since Houston 2014 (l. to Verdasco). The Spaniard is 0-1 against final opponent Dominic Thiem, falling in straight sets in the Australian Open second round last month.
"I'm very happy," said Almagro. "This is the reward for many months of hard work, but there's no time to celebrate. I have to focus on tomorrow's match and hopefully I can play at the same level."
Earlier on Saturday, Ferrer was victorious in his rain-delayed quarter-final. The World No. 6 had all night to think about how to finish off Pablo Cuevas, finally winning 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
The match was slated to finish on Friday night, but a warm and humid day turned into a stormy evening, forcing tournament organisers to interrupt play midway through the first set. Ferrer and Cuevas had not met at tour-level since 2010 (2-0 for Ferrer), and the Uruguayan finally won his first set in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry before succumbing.
Top American John Isner visited the biggest favela in Brazil - Rocinha - on Saturday to hit with local kids ahead of the Rio Open presented by Claro.
"This is the first time I've been here," said Isner. "It's beautiful. The people are so nice. A project like this is amazing, especially having a tennis court like this in Rocinha. It can only help the kids here. It seems like there are 100 of them here today and they're all enjoying playing tennis. That puts a smile on my face."
Isner, seeded fourth, will open against Guido Pella, with seventh seed Fabio Fognini also lurking in his quarter of the draw. Defending champion David Ferrer looms as a potential semi-final opponent.
"The city here is beautiful," Isner added. "I've never been here before. It's breathtaking. I'm having a great time."
The court in Rocinha, which was opened in 2012 by Novak Djokovic and former World No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, was later named after ATP player Fabiano de Paula, who runs a tennis school there. Escola de Tênis Fabiano de Paula started its activities last February and has more than 200 students from Rocinha. De Paula was born and raised in Rocinha and is currently World No. 752 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He will take part in the doubles draw at Rio Open presented by Claro, partnering 18-year-old Orlando Luz.
Top seed Rafael Nadal opens against Pablo Carreno Busta, with countryman Ferrer seeded second and set to clash against Nicolas Jarry in the first round. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is seeded third.
Dominic Thiem had all the answers on Saturday at the Argentina Open, saving one match point to dethrone Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4). The 22-year-old Thiem was calm under pressure down the stretch in Buenos Aires, surviving the deciding tie-break after two hours and 50 minutes to reach his fifth ATP World Tour final.
“It was an amazing match for me,” Thiem said. “It was very tight from the beginning. It’s special to play against the big guys, and to beat one is a dream come true. In the third set, Nadal really stepped up but I was able to counter-attack and play incredible shots.”
The top-seeded Nadal opened the match by breaking Thiem’s serve, but the Austrian fought back strongly to take the first set. Nadal had looked vulnerable at times in straight-set wins over Juan Monaco and Paolo Lorenzi, and the youngster’s power and athleticism had the former World No. 1 searching for solutions.
“You have to be aggressive against him, because once you get on the defence, you have no chance,” Thiem added. “I had to play close to the lines and avoid long rallies, because [against Nadal] the longer the rally, the lower my chances of winning.”
Nadal appeared lacking in confidence, but the lefty’s resistance never waned. He snuck away with the second set by breaking Thiem in the 10th game, with the World No. 19’s serving to stay in the set.
A back-and-forth deciding set saw Thiem save match point at 4-5, then hold off Nadal in a deciding tie-break to prevent the Spaniard from becoming the sixth player in the Open Era to reach 100 tour-level finals. The pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry now stands at 1-1, Nadal having won their lone previous meeting at Roland Garros 2014.
The 22-year-old Austrian, seeded fifth, improves to 2-10 after dropping eight matches in a row against Top 10 opponents. His five tour-level finals have all come on clay.
Martin Klizan looks back on his thrilling victory over Nicolas Mahut on Saturday in Rotterdam. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Watch as Martin Klizan pulls off some gymnastics after breaking back late in the second set against Nicolas Mahut. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Watch Hot Shot as Martin Klizan bends a passing shot around Nicolas Mahut. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.