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Marin Cilic, the 2014 finalist, looks ahead to competing at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Watch highlights as Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig and Jiri Vesely get off to winning starts at the 2016 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament. Watch live matches at http://www.tennistv.com/
Croatia's Borna Coric discusses his first round victory over Thiemo de Bakker in Rotterdam. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Sascha Zverev is presented with an award from ATP Tour Manager Fernando Sanchez in recognition of his first year-end Top 100 finish in the 2015 Emirates ATP Rankings.
A LOOK BACK
"I haven't played Dan in a match and whenever you play a new opponent it's about figuring them out from the start," Edmund told broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. "I had played a really good match against Tim [Smyczek] and found a good rhythm, so I knew if I could implement that today I'd have a chance. It was played at a different speed, as Dan hits a lot of slices and I knew I had to be patient... As I got into it, I started playing more freely and in the end I was playing some really good tennis.
"Last week was so frustrating because it was a low standard for me. He (Wu Di) was actually playing pretty well in the (windy) conditions and I think I deservedly lost. To come here, from outdoors to indoors, it's not easy, and everyone was telling me that the courts are quick. But I found I had time to rally here and get my forehand and every match got more comfortable."
Edmund’s title ended a run of 10 straight years with a home grown champion in Dallas. He beat defending champion Tim Smyczek in the semi-finals. In addition, Great Britain now has nine Challenger titles in the past 13 months after winning just two from 2010 to 2014.
"From last year to this year, I've really improved my movement and being more efficient. My serve has gotten better and my forehand has always been a weapon, but now I'm being smarter with it. I'm not hitting winners with every shot and I don't need to. Those are the big things.
"The good thing about playing Challengers is they are all on live stream, so everyone can watch back at home. My parents and sister have been up at four in the morning and it's nice that they are so supportive. I want to be playing in the [ATP World Tour] events, but it's a tough spot now because I have to decide between playing qualies and Challengers where there are big points on offer. It's getting that balance. Hopefully I can get to that stage where I'm picking a schedule of Tour event and Tour event. That is the ultimate goal."
Neville-Smith Forest Products Launceston International (Launceston, Australia): Aussie wild card Blake Mott turned in one of the more improbable title runs in ATP Challenger Tour history, rallying for his first crown 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2 over Andrey Golubev on Sunday. The 19 year old was at No. 721 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, becoming just the fifth player (since 2000) outside the Top 700 to win a title.
Mott, who will vault nearly 400 spots to a career-high No. 365, had won just three matches at the Challenger level entering the week. He is the second teen titlist this year, joining Happy Valley winner Taylor Fritz, and is the 10th different teenage champion in the past 13 months.
CHALLENGER WINNERS OUTSIDE THE TOP 700 (since 2000)
Emirates ATP Ranking
Yong-Kyu LimBusan 2010
Meanwhile, on the hard courts of Bergamo, India’s Yuki Bhambri leads the field, with Ruben Bemelmans and Dustin Brown. Bemelmans is coming off a run to the quarter-finals at the ATP World Tour 250 event in Montpellier, while Brown reached his first tour-level semi in the French city.
ATP CHALLENGER TOUR ON TWITTER: New in 2016, the ATP Challenger Tour has launched a dedicated Twitter account for the latest news and information about players and events. Follow @ATPChallengerTour at twitter.com/ATPChallengerTour.
Three Continents Host Tournaments – There are three tournaments on three different continents, including the first ATP World Tour 500 level event of the season. World No. 10 Richard Gasquet is the top seed in Rotterdam. In the first North American tournament of the season in Memphis, World No. 7 and three-time reigning champion Kei Nishikori is the top seed and in Buenos Aires, wild card and defending champion Rafael Nadal is the No. 1 seed.
ABN AMRO WORLD TENNIS TOURNAMENT (Rotterdam) – The top seed of the first ATP World Tour 500 level tournament of the season is Gasquet, who is making his fifth appearance in Rotterdam (4-4 record). His best result was the quarter-finals in 2012. Overall eight of the Top 25 are in the field. The other seeds are: No. 2 Marin Cilic, No. 3 Gilles Simon, No. 4 David Goffin, No. 5 Gael Monfils, No. 6 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 7 Benoit Paire and No. 8 Victor Troicki..
Gasquet Top Seed – Gasquet, who returned this past week from a back injury in his first tournament of the season in Montpellier, is the top seed for the 13th time in his career (second in a row). The 29-year-old Frenchman enters Rotterdam in the Top 10 for the third straight time. His best result was the quarter-finals in 2012 (l. to Davydenko). Last year he finished in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the fourth time in his career at No. 9 with a 43-17 match record. He also advanced to his second (’07) semi-final at Wimbledon. Going into Sunday’s final in Montpellier, Gasquet has won titles as the top seed in 2007 Mumbai and 2013 Moscow. Gasquet opens against countrymen Jeremy Chardy.
Bautista Agut on a Roll – No. 6 seed Bautista joined No. 1 Novak Djokovic as the first two-time winners on the ATP World Tour this season by prevailing in Sofia (d. Troicki). He is off to a career-best start. (12-2). The Spaniard won his third career ATP World Tour title last month in Auckland (d. Sock).
Teenage Trio – Three of the four teenagers to finish in the Top 100 Emirates ATP Rankings last season are in the draw: Borna Coric and Hyeon Chung, both making their Rotterdam debut, along with wild card Alexander Zverev, who lost in the first round last year.
Finalists in the Draw – There are no former champions in the draw but there are two former finalists: Julien Benneteau, who reached the final in 2013 (l. to del Potro) and Marin Cilic, who was runner-up in 2014 (l. to Berdych).
Local Wild Cards – Two of the three wild cards are the top two Dutchmen in the Emirates ATP Rankings: No. 65 Robin Haase, who reached the quarter-finals in 2008 (d. No. 10 Murray) and No. 94 Thiemo de Bakker, who lost in the second round three times. Both players have 3-7 career records in Rotterdam. The other wild card is German teenager Alexander Zverev, who is coming off a semi-final in Montpellier.
ARGENTINA OPEN (Buenos Aires) – Latin America's "Golden Swing" continues on the clay of Buenos Aires, as the Argentine capital welcomes back World No. 5 Rafael Nadal, who is defending champion. Six of the Top 25 players in the Emirates ATP Rankings are in the draw, including No. 6/three-time champion David Ferrer, No. 9 Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and No. 11 John Isner, who all have first round byes. Rounding out the rest of the seeds are: No. 5 Dominic Thiem, No. 6/wild card Fabio Fognini, No. 7 Alexandr Dolgopolov and No. 8 Pablo Cuevas. Other former champions in the field are: Nicolas Almagro (2011), Robredo (2009) and Juan Monaco (2007). Tsonga, Isner and Thiem are making their debut in Buenos Aires.
Rafa Golden Swing Champ – Top seed Nadal is making his third tournament appearance (2005, ’15-16). In last year’s final he defeated Juan Monaco 64 61. The King of Clay has won titles at four different Golden Swing tournaments: Acapulco (2005, '13), Sao Paulo (2005, '13), Rio de Janeiro (2014) and last year in Buenos Aires. Last season, Nadal compiled a 26-6 match record on clay and won clay titles in Buenos Aires and Hamburg. He also won in Stuttgart on grass.
Monaco Returns to Action – No. 3 Argentine Monaco is making his return to the ATP World Tour for the first time since last August in Kitzbuehel. The 31-year-old Argentine underwent right wrist surgery shortly thereafter and has been sidelined since. The eight-time winner on the ATP World Tour won the Buenos Aires title in 2007 (d. Di Mauro). He has a 22-10 career record in his home country event.
Clay Court Title Leaders – Nadal is two clay-court titles away from equaling Guillermo Vilas’ all-time record of 49 crowns on the surface. Here are the top five Open Era title leaders on clay: Vilas (49), Nadal (47), Thomas Muster (40), Bjorn Borg and Manuel Orantes (both 30).
Spanish Title Streak – Spaniards have called Buenos Aires home since 2009, with five different players from the country winning titles. Here is the Spanish streak:
Juan Carlos Ferrero
Note: Since 2003, a Spaniard or Argentine has won the title
Argentine Title Hopes – Five of the six Argentines (except No. 99 Bagnis) in the Top 100 Emirates ATP Rankings are in the field, led by No. 37 Leonardo Mayer. The last player to win the title on home soil in Buenos Aires was David Nalbandian in 2008. Here are the Argentines in the draw (w/best result), not including qualifiers:
No. 37 Leonardo Mayer
4-5 (2R-’11, '13-15)
No. 45 Federico Delbonis
5-5 (QF-’13, ‘15)
No. 57 Juan Monaco
No. 68 Guido Pella
1-2 (2R –’14)
No. 90 Diego Schwartzman
No. 158 Renzo Olivo (WC)
1-1 (2R -’15)
MEMPHIS OPEN (Memphis) – The first North American tournament of the season is led by three-time reigning champion Kei Nishikori, who the top seed for the third straight year. This is the 40th anniversary of the tournament at the Racquet Club of Memphis. The other seeds are No. 2 Steve Johnson, No. 3 Donald Young, No. 4 Sam Querrey, No. 5 Denis Kudla, No. 6 Sam Groth, No. 7 John Millman and No. 8 Damir Dzumhur. Querrey is the other former champion (2010) in the field.
Back-to-Back Champions – Last year Nishikori became the first player in tournament history to win the title three years in a row. The 26-year-old Japanese star is one of four players to win back-to-back titles in Memphis. He is also trying to become the second player to win four titles in Memphis. Jimmy Connors won four in 1978-79 and in 1983-84.
Youth is Served – There are three teenage wild cards in the main draw for the first time in tournament history: Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe, all 18 years old. Fritz is playing in his third career ATP World Tour level tournament, first in the U.S., Paul is making his second Tour level appearance (’15 US Open) and Tiafoe his sixth Tour level showing. He won his first career ATP World Tour match in Winston-Salem last summer.
Bryans 15th Anniversary – Bob and Mike Bryan won their first of a record 109 doubles titles on the ATP World Tour in Memphis in 2001 (d. O’Brien-Stark). They also captured titles in 2004 and ’13. They have a 27-6 career record in Memphis in 10 previous appearances (W/O in ’06). The Bryans are looking to win their first ATP World Tour title since last August at ATP Masters 1000 Montreal. They have finished No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings in 10 of the last 13 years.
In Case You Missed It
Richard Gasquet won his 13th ATP World Tour title in Montpellier. Read
Roberto Bautista Agut won the inaugural Sofia title over Viktor Troicki. Read
Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop fought back from the brink of elimination to claim the Sofia doubles title. Read
Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Duran needed no time at all to capture their first team title in Quito. Read
February 9 – James Ward (29)
February 10 – Viktor Troicki (30)
February 12 – Jeremy Chardy (29)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 17 (+1 spot)
Viktor Troicki - 22 (+3 spots)
Thomaz Bellucci - 30 (+ 5 spots)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 46 (+9 spots)
Paolo Lorenzi - 52 (+7 spots)
Fernando Verdasco - 57 (-10 spots)
Marcos Baghdatis - 61 (-8 spots)
John Millman - 66 (+12 spots)
Paul-Henri Mathieu - 68 (+25 spots)
Alexander Zverev - 70 (+15 spots)
Marin Cilic – 345 wins
Julien Benneteau – 245 wins
David Goffin – 97 wins
Martin Klizan – 95 wins
Daniel Nestor – 1005 wins
Kei Nishikori – 248 wins
Illya Marchenko – 45 wins
Rajeev Ram – 45 wins
Oliver Marach – 249 wins
Nicholas Monroe – 49 wins
Philipp Oswald – 47 wins
Buenos Aires Singles
Santiago Giraldo – 148 wins
Paolo Lorenzi – 49 wins
Buenos Aires Doubles
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – 72 wins
Maximo Gonzalez – 48 wins
Pablo Carreno Busta – 23 wins
Victor Estrella Burgos joined a select club with a comeback win in Quito on Sunday.
The Dominican, who captured his first ATP World Tour title at age 34 last year, successfully defended his Ecuador Open Quito title with a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 final win against Thomaz Bellucci. He joined Stan Wawrinka (Chennai), Viktor Troicki (Sydney), Novak Djokovic (Australian Open) and Richard Gasquet (Montpellier) in successfully defending their titles this year. He and Wawrinka are the only players 30 or over to accomplish the feat.
Over the years, Estrella Burgos has experienced highs and lows in the Ecuadorian city. An injury sustained at the 2012 Quito Challenger had the tenacious baseliner pondering retirement. In 2015, he made history by becoming the first Dominican to win an ATP World Tour title.
“I can’t describe the feeling when I saw the last ball go out," Estrella Burgos said. "It was an unbelievable moment, to win back-to-back in Quito. Last year I was very nervous. I could barely breathe serving on match point. This year I was much more relaxed closing out the match.”
After the trophy ceremony, a jubilant Estrella Burgos rode a slide into the pool at Club Jacaranda. He was followed by the ballboys, who jumped into the water to join the two-time champion.
“The conditions were difficult," Estrella Burgos said. "It was sunny and so windy. It was impossible to return [Bellucci’s] serve in the first set.”
The third-seeded Bellucci took the initiative in the first set, stretching Estrella Burgos with heavy left-handed serves and keeping rallies short with penetrating ground strokes. The Brazilian jumped on his first break opportunity to move ahead 5-4. In the following game, Estrella Burgos saved set point with an inside-out forehand winner, but found himself trailing when Bellucci wrong-footed him two points later to claim the set in 29 minutes.
In the second set, the eventual winner found success by slicing forehand returns and extending the baseline exchanges. Bellucci, who did not face break point in the first two sets, maintained his dominance on serve by targeting the Dominican’s backhand. In the tie-break, Bellucci led early, but missed a short forehand at 3/2 to give his opponent a lifeline. Estrella Burgos made the most of this chance, evening the match with a service winner.
The defending champion rode the momentum shift and broke in the opening game of the deciding set, sealing the win in just over two hours.
“It was a difficult day,” Bellucci said. “The wind did not allow me to maintain a good level. I was dominating and I had options to win the match, but I wasted them. In the third set, I lost my rhythm on serve and he raised his level. I’m happy to have reached the final, but sad because I could have won.”
Estrella Burgos improved to 10-0 in Quito and maintained his perfect record in the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Bellucci (2-0 at tour-level, 1-0 on the ATP Challenger Tour). Both of his ATP World Tour final appearance have come at the Ecuador Open Quito. He earned 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $82,450, while Bellucci received 150 points and $43,430.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his ruthless run of form in Sunday's Garanti Koza Sofia Open final, turning aside Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4.
It was another dominant showing from the Spaniard, who did not relinquish a set in three matches en route to his fourth tour-level title. A battle between the two ATP World Tour winners from the second week of the 2016 season, with Bautista Agut having prevailed in Auckland and Troicki in Sydney, the top seed needed 82 minutes to lift the trophy.
"It is always special to win a title," Bautista Agut said. "I have to be happy about this start to the season, the way I play. I am enjoying to be on the court. I just can’t be happier.
“I used drop shots a lot today because he is a great defender and sometimes he stays very far from the baseline. I needed to find a way to break the rhythm and drop shots gave me a lot of points today. To beat Viktor you have to work a lot. He is a very tough opponent. He runs a lot, he makes you play a lot of balls, he defends really well. We played a lot of rallies today and I like that as a Spanish player."
Bautista Agut secured the lone break of the first set in the eighth game, claiming a total 20 of 25 (80 per cent) service points in the opener. In the second, he looked to run away with the match after grabbing an immediate break, but Troicki answered in kind with a break back. The Serb could not hold off Bautista Agut for long, however, as the eventual champ converted another break for 2-1 and held his nerve to the finish line. He triumphed on his second match point as a Troicki return sailed wide.
The 27-year-old Castellon de la Plana native is in the midst of his best start to an ATP World Tour season, posting a 12-2 record and notching two titles. He entered Sofia on the heels of a run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, equaling his best Grand Slam result. He takes home €82,450 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
Troicki, meanwhile, was bidding to claim his fourth title in his ninth final. The Sydney champion (d. Dimitrov) is also off to a career-best start with a 10-3 mark. He earns €43,430 and 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points for his run to the final.
"He was playing better – more offensive, more aggressive, took more risks," said Troicki. "He also didn’t’ miss many balls. I felt like the better I played, the better he played. I had a long match yesterday. I needed to be 100 per cent fit to win. He started the season very well. He played great the last four tournaments. So I congratulate him. He deserved the win.
"It was still a good week for me. I reached the final again in four weeks. It is a great start to the season. I hope to keep it up with the good results. That is the only way to make it to the Top 10 which is my goal. I have to achieve it this year."
Both players will travel to Rotterdam for next week's ATP World Tour 500 event. Bautista Agut opens against Joao Sousa, while Troicki faces qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov. A potential rematch is in the cards in the semi-finals.
Third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop fought back from the brink of elimination to claim the inaugural Garanti Koza Sofia Open doubles title on Sunday.
The Dutch duo survived Philipp Oswald and Adil Shamasdin 5-7, 7-6(9), 10-6, staving off two championship points in the second set tie-break. It was both players' first ATP World Tour doubles titles, rallying from a set down on three occasions during the week. They overcame a total five match points, having saved one against Dimitar Kuzmanov and Alexander Lazov in the first round and two more in beating countrymen Thiemo de Bakker and Robin Haase in the semis.
"They played really well in the beginning," Koolhof said. "Then out of the blue we broke them and we started to return better and I think our returns made the difference in the end."
Koolhof and Middelkoop, who split €25,070 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points, refused to surrender after falling behind a set and a break at 4-1 in the second. They would break back and force a tie-break, where they once again found themselves with their backs against the wall, facing match points at 7-6 and 9-8. A service winner would deny the first and a Koolhof putaway at the net turned aside the second. They would reel off nine of the last 12 points in the ensuing Match Tie-break to emerge victorious after one hour and 47 minutes.
It has been a strong start to the season for Koolhof and Middelkoop after winning the ATP Challenger Tour doubles crown in Bangkok last month. The tandem won seven Challenger doubles titles in 2015.
"I am not sure it is the best tactic but somehow it worked for us this week," said Middelkoop. "We played really solid on all those match points. To win four Match tie-breaks in a row, at that level, is something special.
"Our hopes are for the bigger tournaments but we have to be realistic. We just came from Challengers, pretty much from Futures actually. To win a first ATP World Tour title is the first step to reach higher levels but higher levels mean tougher opponents, so we need new tactics to play against Top 30 guys.”
Oswald and Shamasdin, meanwhile, were bidding for their first title together. The Austrian fell to 3-3 in ATP World Tour doubles finals, while the Canadian dropped to 2-2.
Richard Gasquet won the third all-French final at the Open Sud de France by beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday. It was Gasquet's third title from four straight finals at the ATP World Tour 250 indoor tournament.
Gasquet is now 13-12 in ATP World Tour finals, having last clinched a trophy in May 2015 at Estoril (d. Kyrgios). The 29 year old earned 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €82,450 in prize money.
"It was great for me to win another title," Gasquet told ATPWorldTour.com. "I am very proud to win my third title here, because it was a great match against a good friend. He had nothing to lose, so it was great to win."
Mathieu swept into a 3-0 lead at the start of the pair's eighth meeting, but Gasquet regrouped and recovered to 3-3. Mathieu saved two break points in a 12-point seventh game, then broke Gasquet to 30 to serve for the set at 5-4. But the 34 year old went onto win three of the next 18 points as the momentum moved into Gasquet's favour. The first set lasted 55 minutes.
Gasquet grew in confidence by breaking to Mathieu in the first game of the second set. He could have taken a 5-2 lead, but was later forced to save two break points in a 12-point eighth game. The World No. 10 went on to complete his fourth win of 2016 in one hour and 48 minutes.
Mathieu last beat Gasquet in February 2009 at Rotterdam. He is now 10-59 against opponents in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He last beat an elite member, then No. 5-ranked Nikolay Davydenko, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was his 10th ATP World Tour final (4-6 mark) and his first since reaching the title match at 2015 Kitzbuhel (l. to Kohlschreiber). The World No. 93 is now 5-3 on the season. He goes onto his next tournament with 150 points and €43,430.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus captured their third ATP World Tour team title - and their second trophy of 2016 - on Sunday at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
Second seeds Pavic and Venus defeated German brothers Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev 7-5, 7-6(4) in the 80-minute doubles final.
Pavic and Venus, who are now 3-2 in ATP World Tour finals, also lifted last month's Auckland title (d. Butorac-Lipsky). They earned 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and shared €25,070.
"We've had a great week here," Venus told ATPWorldTour.com. "It's my first time in Montpellier, everyone has been really helpful. All of the volunteers have done a tremendous job. We really enjoyed it and hope to be back."
Pavic and Venus broke on a deciding deuce point at 5-5 in the 36-minute opener. The Zverev brothers could not convert a set point opportunity at 5-5, deciding point deuce. Pavic and Venus, who won 86 per cent of their first service points, took a 3/0 lead in the Match tie-break and maintained the advantage for victory.
Pavic is now 3-7 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals, while Venus is 3-2 overall. The Zverevs, who also reached the Munich final (l. to Peya/Soares), earned 150 points and split €13,170.
Watch interview and relive match point as Australian teen Blake Mott, ranked 721, wins his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on home soil in Launceston. Video courtesy of Tennis Australia.
Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Duran’s new partnership paid immediate dividends as the pair saved all eight break points faced to down Thomaz Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles final of the Ecuador Open Quito on Saturday.
Carreno Busta and Duran were playing together for the first time on the ATP World Tour and will split 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and $25,070. The unseeded Spanish-Argentinian team upended No. 2 seeds Purav Raja and Rajeev Ram in the opening round and No. 3 seeds Austin Krajicek and Nicholas Monroe in the semi-finals.
“We were having dinner together at the Australian Open, and I asked Pablo if he wanted to play in Quito together,” Duran said. “Perhaps it was a lucky break.”
“[Guillermo] is a good player with solid returns, serves and volleys, and with him we were a very complete team,” Carreno Busta noted. “It’s easy for me when my partner is playing well.
“We were a bit nervous at the start, since it was our first final. But we were able to take advantage of our opportunities.”
Bellucci and Demoliner had worked hard to get to the final, as all three of the Brazilians' victories this week had come in Match Tie-breaks, including a quarter-final win over defending champions Gero Kretschmer and Alexander Satschko. Bellucci’s busy week in Quito continues, as he will be playing for the singles title on Sunday against Victor Estrella Burgos. The Brazilians will share 150 rankings points and $13,170.
In the final of the 2015 Argentina Open, Rafael Nadal topped good friend Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-1 for his 46th career clay-court title and improved his tour-level record against the Argentine to 6-1. Next week, both player could meet again in Buenos Aires, this time in the second round.
Top seed Nadal will have a first-round bye, while Monaco can set up an eighth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with his occasional doubles partner by winning his first-round match against a qualifier. The pair won the 2015 Doha doubles title together, and finished runners-up at Vina Del Mar in 2013.
The 31 year-old Tandil native will hope that local support and some home cooking will help him overcome a one-sided rivalry against the Spaniard. Monaco’s only win against Nadal came when the latter retired from their second-round match in Cincinnati in 2007. Monaco has yet to win a set against Nadal on clay, and has been on the losing end of three 6-0 sets in their past three meetings.
On Saturday, Monaco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga visited Buenos Aires Playa, situated alongside the Rio Plata, to play mini tennis and interact with fans. Tsonga is seeded third this year in Buenos Aires and Monaco, the 2007 champion, is playing in his first tournament since he sustained a season-ending wrist injury in Kitzbuhel 2015. Monaco is very happy about the way his wrist feels and has been training hard in advance of his home event.
“These are new feelings after seven months away from the circuit, but I feel good after having a long time to recover,” Monaco said. “I'm thankful I can return here in Buenos Aires because it's one of the tournaments I like the most.
"It's a nice way to pass the time. It was very enjoyable to play with the kids. They are fans of tennis and it's always fun to meet them and visit these beautiful spots around Buenos Aires."
Victor Estrella Burgos is a win away from successfully defending his Quito title. The 2015 champion advanced to his second ATP World Tour final after dismissing Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 7-6(5) in 84 minutes. The 35 year-old, who won his first ATP World Tour title in Quito 12 months ago, only dropped three points on his first serve (27/30) and closed out the win on his first match point.
Estrella Burgos started the year with opening-round losses in Auckland and at the Australian Open, but found his rhythm on familiar grounds, improving to 9-0 in Quito. He is undefeated against his final opponent Thomaz Bellucci, winning 7-6(5), 7-5 in last year’s Quito semi-final and prevailing in their lone ATP Challenger Tour meeting (Bogota 2013).
“I’ve been feeling very well in Quito," Estrella Burgos said. "The altitude and surface benefits me. I’m happy to have qualified to the final and I’ll try to win the title again. In these circumstances I will always feel like the favourite.
“Thomaz is a strong opponent, but not impossible to beat. He has good serve and good forehand. It will be an intense match because we are both warriors and we will give our best. I’ll have to serve well and take control with my forehand if I want to win. If I do that, I can beat anyone.”
In the other semi-final, third seed Bellucci improved his record at the Ecuador Open Quito to 6-1 with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Pablo Lorenzi in the first semi-final on Saturday. The 28-year-old will play for his fifth ATP World Tour title on Sunday against Estrella Burgos in a rematch of last year’s semi-final match, which Estrella Burgos won 7-6(5), 7-5.
Bellucci came into the match trailing Lorenzi 0-2 in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. He dropped serve twice to fall behind one set to love, but saved the next three break points faced and fought back to capture his first tour-level win against Lorenzi in just under two hours.
The No. 35 in the Emirates ATP Rankings is through to his seventh tour-level final (4-2). His last title came in May 2015 on the clay of Geneva (d. Cuevas). The Brazilian finished runner-up in the doubles draw alongside Marcelo Demoliner after losing to Pablo Carreno-Busta and Guillermo Duran in the final.
For the second straight year, Paul-Henri Mathieu is in an ATP World Tour final, advancing to the Open Sud de France title match with a gritty 7-6(11), 7-5 victory over Alexander Zverev at The Parks & Suites Arena in Montpellier. Mathieu will face countryman and top seed Richard Gasquet on Sunday.
"I'm very happy with the win today," said Mathieu. "It's a great satisfaction to be in a final again. The last was in Kitzbuhel. To make another one in a couple of months is great for my confidence. Hopefully I will win tomorrow."
The 34-year-old Mathieu downed 18-year-old Zverev in one hour and 55 minutes, claiming three of four break chances and firing 40 winners. After Zverev stormed back from a 0-3 deficit, the first set came down to a riveting tie-break, which featured 24 points. Mathieu would deny three set points and converted on his fourth as a Zverev mid-rally forehand found the net.
In the second set, the German would save a match point with Mathieu serving for it at 5-4, breaking to draw level. But the Frenchman would break back immediately to 15 with a backhand winner and closed out the match in the following game.
Mathieu advanced to his 10th ATP World Tour final and first since reaching the title match in Kitzbuhel last year as a qualifier (l. to Kohlschreiber). He exacted revenge on Zverev after the teenager prevailed in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event on home soil in Braunschweig in 2014. The German was bidding to reach his first ATP World Tour final and join Borna Coric (Chennai) as teen finalists this year.
Gasquet, meanwhile, became the eighth active player to reach 25 tour-level finals and just the second Frenchman to do so in the Open Era (Yannick Noah), after turning in arguably the comeback of the year thus far. He prevailed 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 over Dustin Brown in one hour and 39 minutes, overcoming 17 aces by the German. Brown burst out of the gates, claiming nine of the first 10 games in 35 minutes, striking 27 winners. But as quickly as he surged ahead, Gasquet snatched the momentum in his corner, rallying from a 6-1, 3-0 deficit with a run of nine of the next 11 games to take the lead for good.
"I'm happy to fight a lot and I am happy to come back here to the final," said Gasquet. "It was a great match for me to win."
The top seed and defending champion will feature in a fourth straight Montpellier final. He previously won the title in 2006 (d. Gicquel), '13 (d. Paire) and '15 (d. Janowicz). Gasquet and Mathieu will face off for the eighth time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with the former owning a 5-2 edge. It will be the first all-countrymen final on the ATP World Tour this year. There were four in 2015, including two with a pair of Frenchmen.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Viktor Troicki will look to continue their strong runs of form when they clash for the Garanti Koza Sofia Open title on Sunday. The final will feature the two winners from the second week of the ATP World Tour season, when the Spaniard triumphed in Auckland and the Serb retained his Sydney crown.
Top seed Bautista Agut turned aside Gilles Muller 7-6(5), 6-4 on Saturday in the Bulgarian capital, claiming 75 per cent of total service points. Muller did well to save six of seven break points, but after dropping the opener in a tie-break, he was broken in the third game of the second set. Bautista Agut would later close it out to love after 95 minutes.
“It is the best start to a season that I ever had," said Bautista Agut, who owns an 11-2 record this year. "I think if I keep working and stay at the level of this tournament, it can be a great season. Today the first set was really close. I had to be focused until the last point. I had a lot of break points, but Gilles was serving really well. I was able to break him only in the second set. I am happy with the way I played and served today.”
“I will prepare the same as I have been doing. I still don’t know who I will play tomorrow. I have to enjoy the moment now and get ready. "
The World No. 18 will appear in his second ATP World Tour final of the season, after claiming his third career title less than a month ago in Auckland (d. Sock). He would equal his best Grand Slam result with a Round of 16 finish at the Australian Open, before arriving in Sofia.
Bautista Agut will contest his eighth ATP World Tour final against second seed Troicki. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.
In the second semi-final, second seed Troicki rallied past Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 23 minutes. The Serb, who claimed four of eight break chances, reached his ninth ATP World Tour final and fourth on indoor hard courts.
“The key was to win the last point," Troicki said. "The quality level was really bad, especially the first set, and I don’t know what was happening from both sides but it was strange. Then I started to focus a bit more, but I couldn’t get used to his lefty style with so much spin. I was not really getting in the rhythm for the whole match. I was trying to survive and I was fighting but it was not such a nice game. It was definitely not as good as the last two matches but that’s what happens sometimes. I just hope I won’t play two matches in a row like that.
“It will also be the second final (of the year) for my opponent so it is not going to be easy. He has good confidence, he is playing very good tennis. It is a nice final, No. 1 against No. seeds. I am looking forward to it. I will try to enjoy it. I need to recover, this is the most important thing right now. It was a long match today, I lost a lot of energy but it was only three sets. I think I am ready for this.”
Sixth seed Paolo Lorenzi hit 25 aces to eliminate top seed Bernard Tomic 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Ecuador Quito Open on Friday. The Italian, appearing in his seventh ATP World Tour quarter-final on clay, used his experience to down Tomic (0-1 in clay QFs) in just over two hours. Lorenzi was propelled to victory by a strong serving performance. The World No. 59 won 91 per cent of first serve points against the Australian.
Facing Lorenzi in the semi-finals will be third seed Thomaz Bellucci, a 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2 winner over Pablo Carreno Busta. The Brazilian, who has four career ATP World Tour clay-court titles, will appear in his first semi-final of the year.
Lorenzi holds a 2-0 edge in the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Bellucci, with both wins coming on clay (2015 Buenos Aires and 2011 Rome). Bellucci took the pair’s lone ATP Challenger Tour meeting in a third-set tie-break against the Italian in 2013. That victory came in the quarter-finals of the Bogota Challenger on clay, in high-altitude conditions.
Defending champion Victor Estrella Burgos overcame stiff resistance from Renzo Olivo to win 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4. The Dominican, seeded fifth, won 101 points to his opponent’s 99 in the two-hour, 15-minute encounter. He is attempting to become the third player after Stan Wawrinka (Chennai) and Novak Djokovic (Australian Open) to successfully defend his title in 2016.
In the semi-finals, the Dominican will face Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who was up 7-5, 4-3 when Feliciano Lopez retired. Ramos-Vinolas was in the hospital on Wednesday due to illness and had to withdraw from doubles, but recovered to make the final four. Lopez was bidding for a 400th tour-level victory.
Teenager Alexander Zverev reached the semi-finals of the Open Sud de France on Friday in Montpellier as he edged countryman Michael Berrer, 17 years his senior, 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 43 minutes.
The 18-year-old Zverev rallied from a break down in the third set and, after being thwarted on three match points in the 10th game, converted his fifth opportunity in the 12th game to seal victory. The right-hander had stunned second seed Marin Cilic in the second round.
"It wasn’t easy to use all the chances because of the great play he did," said Zverev. "But you can have an unbelievable day like I did against Marin. You don’t have those days all the time, but even today I got the win so I’m happy with that."
In the semi-finals, the German will face 34-year-old Paul-Henri Mathieu. The Frenchman scored his first ATP World Tour quarter-final win since August 2015 (Kitzbuehel), 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3 over John Millman. Mathieu struck 17 aces and saved eight of 10 break points to secure victory.
“I’m really happy with the win today,” said Mathieu, who needed two hours and 20 minutes to see off his Australian opponent. “It was a tough match against John. He’s a good fighter and he made it tough until the last point. I’m happy to be playing tomorrow.”
Top seed Richard Gasquet scored his first win against Marcos Baghdatis with a 6-4, 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals. The Frenchman had never won a set against Baghdatis coming into the match, but saved five of six break points faced to reverse the 0-3 deficit against the Cypriot in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.
Facing Gasquet on Saturday will be qualifier Dustin Brown, who is into his first ATP World Tour semi-final after defeating Reuben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-3. The German was 0-8 in tour-level quarter-final matches coming into Friday.
“I’m just very happy to finally make it to a semi-final, after so many tries” Brown said. “I’ve played lots of times against Reuben and lost in a tight one last time. Basically I tried to play aggressively like the past couple of days and I’m happy it worked out.”
Doubles: Pavic/Venus Reach Final
Second seeds Mate Pavic and Michael Venus reached the final with a 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-6 victory over Andrea Arnaboldi and Marc Lopez in 90 minutes in the semi-finals. The Croatian/New Zealand duo are chasing their second ATP World Tour title of the season after lifting the trophy in Auckland (d. Butorac/Lipsky).
In remaining quarter-final action, Mahesh Bhupathi and Jonathan Marray upset top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski 7-6(2), 6-2. The unseeded pairing will play for the remaining final berth against Zverev and older brother Mischa Zverev on Saturday.