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Nadal Practises Down Under

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:21pm
Watch Rafael Nadal arrive in Melbourne and practise in Rod Laver Arena in preparation for the Australian Open. Video courtesy Tennis Australia. Playback not available in Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Rafa's Back: World No. 1 Practises Down Under

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:12pm

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has arrived in Melbourne and commenced training on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on 15 January.

The Spaniard is set to begin his 2018 campaign in Melbourne after a terrific 2017 in which he not only re-gained the top spot in the ATP Rankings, but at 31 became the oldest player to finish year-end No. 1.

The left-hander also became the first player in the Open Era to win 10 titles at the same event, achieving the feat three times with victories at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and at Roland Garros. He won six titles from 10 finals.

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Nadal, who has contested the Australian Open final in three of his past five appearances, will attempt to win his second title at the season's first Grand Slam (also 2009).

Dominant Marach & Pavic Clinch 2nd Title As Pair

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:35am

Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic first played together at Miami in March 2017, but began their partnership with a 7-7 record. According to Marach, their lack of early success led to a discussion about splitting up three months later in Stuttgart, where they would go on to reach the final, falling short against Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.

“I like to forget it,” Marach joked of the match Friday.

Seven months later, you’d never think splitting was ever a possibility for the Austrian-Croatian duo. After a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, the pair’s first title together at Stockholm and a match win at the Nitto ATP Finals (d. Bryan/Bryan) as alternates, Marach and Pavic were flying high.

And after earning their second title together at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open with an impressive triumph over none other than Murray and Soares, the top seeds, 6-2, 7-6(6), Marach and Pavic are still on the rise.

“We played the whole week really great tennis,” Marach said. “Especially for me it was very important. I didn’t know how I would play because I had not a great winter, I was injured. Then I came here just three or four practices and if you look at that, that we’re now the winners here, it’s amazing.”

The second seeds dominated the field without dropping a set in Doha. Six of the eight sets they won were by margins of 6-3 or greater.

“It’s one of my favourite tournaments at the beginning of the year and we had a great week,” Pavic said. “From the beginning on we were playing just better and better and today was a great match.”

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The biggest complication for Marach and Pavic came in the second-set tie-break, while holding match points on Pavic’s serve at 6/3 and 6/4. Soares and then Murray came up with arguably their best returns of the match to re-gain two mini-breaks and then knotted the tie-break at 6/6 on Soares’ serve.

But as they did all week, Marach and Pavic had the answer. The Croatian left-hander hit a tremendous inside-out forehand winner to earn another match point, which the pair did not waste. Marach hit a forehand approach shot that Murray could not handle to clinch the title as well as the 250 ATP Rankings points and $69,870 for the team that comes with it.

It was still a strong start to the campaign for Nitto ATP Finals semi-finalists Murray and Soares, who leave Doha with 150 points and $36,730 to share.

Simon Rolls Back The Years In Pune

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:52am

Former World No. 6 Gilles Simon rolled back the years on Friday to beat top-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic for the sixth time in seven FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings (6-1) for a place in the Tata Open Maharashtra final.

Simon, making his debut at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament this week, recovered from a slow start to beat No. 6-ranked Marin Cilic, the two-time former champion, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 52 minutes. The Frenchman is now 32-82 lifetime against opponents in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.

The 33-year-old Simon will now bid to improve upon his 12-6 record in ATP World Tour finals with his first title since February 2015 at the Open 13 Marseille (d. Monfils).

And while he entered the semi-finals with a lopsided FedEx ATP Head2Head series in his favour, the opposite will be the case in Saturday's final. Simon will face the second seed, Kevin Anderson, who has beaten the Frenchman in all three of their previous meetings.

The South African survived a tough test on Friday against fourth-seeded wild card Benoit Paire 6-7(6), 7-6(2), 6-1 in two hours and 20 minutes. 

Anderson faced three break points in his second service game of the second set, but went on to lose just seven more points on his serve in the rest of the match en route to the victory. 

The World No. 14 pursues his fourth ATP World Tour title, with his three previous triumphs coming on outdoor hard court, the same surface used in Pune. The 31-year-old's last victory came in August 2015 at the Winston-Salem Open (d. Herbert).

Dutch Team Into Doubles Final
Second-seeded Dutchmen Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop moved into the doubles final after they defeated Roman Jebavy and Jiri Vesely 6-2, 6-4 in one hour. They await the winners of Indians Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Simon.

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Dimitrov aids opponent, advances in Brisbane

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:27am
Grigor Dimitrov hurdled the net to check on the welfare of his opponent Kyle Edmund and then helped him to a courtside chair for treatment. Two games later, the defending champion had secured his spot in the Brisbane International semifinals.

Rublev Saves MP, Rallies Into Doha Final

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:17am

Andrey Rublev was one point away from seeing opportunity turn to disappointment. Serving at 4-5 in the third set of his semi-final at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, the 20-year-old faced match point against Guido Pella, who was seeking his third ATP World Tour final. 

But after hitting a booming ace, the #NextGenATP Russian found his best tennis to escape the game and eventually the match, using an impressive 26 winners to swing past the Argentine 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) after a two-hour, 26-minute classic. 

"It feels amazing. I have no words to describe this match," Rublev said. "I think it was such an amazing match for both of us. We made amazing rallies, such unreal rallies. I'm really happy that I won. I can say only good job to Pella for how he played. The way he played, it's unreal. I think we made a great battle, I think people enjoyed... I think everybody's happy."

Rublev will play for his second title after earning his first at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag last July as a lucky loser. The runner-up at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals last November is projected to crack the Top 30 in the ATP Rankings for the first time if he captures the trophy on Saturday.

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First, he will have to get past French wild card Gael Monfils, who will contest his fourth Doha final. The 31-year-old Monfils advanced to the 27th title match of his career (6-20) after top-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem withdrew ahead of their semi-final due to a fever.

"I'm very sad for Dominic and I hope he will have a speedy recovery," Monfils said. "I'm happy to be in the final for the fourth time here. I hope this one will be better than the other ones. I'm just pleased [with] the way the year has started and I'll be ready for tomorrow."

Monfils, who will play Rublev for the first time, has finished runner-up at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament in 2006 (l. to Federer), 2012 (l. to Tsonga) and 2014 (l. to Nadal). The Frenchman says he would be thrilled to capture his first trophy in Doha.

"I will be very happy because it's a tournament that I really like," Monfils said. "It'll give me a bit more confidence for the rest of the year."

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Dimitrov Outlasts Edmund To Book Kyrgios Clash

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 7:13am

Defending champion Grigor Dimitrov set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Nick Kyrgios at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp after defeating Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-7(3) 6-4 on Friday night.

The World No. 3 moved to a 16-4 career record in the Queensland event after a hard-fought two-hour, 25-minute win over Edmund and will meet home favourite Kyrgios, who came from behind to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the day.

Dimitrov will attempt to increase his seven-match winning streak further in his semi-final against Kyrgios. The two, who last met in the 2017 Western & Southern Open final, have clashed on two previous occasions with Dimitrov winning both to lead their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“He can do everything pretty much out there on the court,” said Dimitrov. “I have just got to be ready all the time; simple as that. You just never know what can come from him. I think obviously he's one of the most talented players out there; it's without a doubt. He can serve and hit every shot. He hits the spots, the slice and is even moving better.

“So he's definitely a challenger. He has proven himself, last year playing quite a few good matches, getting to the final we played against each other in Cincinnati. He has everything to beat anyone and he has proven that."

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The first set was ultimately decided in the seventh and eighth games with both men finding themselves down, 15/40 on serve. Last year's Nitto ATP Finals champion first managed to serve his way out of trouble at 3-3 before pouncing in the next game to establish a lead which he would close out, with an unreturned serve, in the following game for the first set.

Edmund and Dimitrov both confidently held serve in the second set, with the only break opportunity falling the way of Dimitrov in the ninth game. The 26-year-old was presented with two break points at 15/40 to serve for the match, but the World No. 50 stepped up his game with confident play including a huge forehand winner to ultimately regain control and hold serve for 5-4.

After three further service holds, a tie-break was needed and it was Edmund who would emerge with the set. Changing ends with a 4/2 lead after a Dimitrov double fault, the 22-year-old who was looking to reach his first ATP World Tour semi-final since the Erste Bank Open 500 in October 2017, managed to create three set point chances at 6/3. He only needed one, levelling the match with a rifled forehand return winner.

Hoping to keep aspirations of securing a ninth ATP World Tour title this week, Dimitrov worked his way to two early break points at 1-0 but once again Edmund produced on the big points, drawing an error from the Bulgarian and then firing down an unreturned serve before eventually levelling at 1-1.

Deep in the decider at 4-4, the match would take an unfortunate turn. Edmund, originally wrong-footed by his opponent’s forehand, fell heavily on his ankle before Dimitrov leaped over the net to rush to his rival’s aid before a lengthy medical time-out.

Dimitrov held his serve and capitalised in the following game, watching an Edmund backhand sail beyond the baseline to reach the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp semi-finals for a fourth time. Edmund, still aiming to capture his first ATP World Tour title, took the positives out of the match and his week in Queensland and will look to use his experiences moving forward in 2018.

“It was a good match,” said Edmund. “I thought I played well. He played well. We were both really into it. From my side of things personally, it was a lot of positives. A lot of stuff I'm working on that really showed against the World No. 3. It was positive, this week, against three top players.”

Serena no go for Aussie Open: 'Need more time'

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 10:21pm
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open, she announced Thursday. Williams won last year's tournament at Melbourne Park, her 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career.

Brazil's Bellucci serving 5-month ban for doping

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 7:25pm
Thomaz Bellucci said Thursday that a sample he provided last July at the Swedish Open at Bastad tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, which can mask other substances.

Thiem through in Qatar as Monfils awaits

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 6:15pm
Top seed Dominic Thiem booked his place in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

With Hewitt By His Side, #NextGenATP de Minaur Is Full Of Confidence

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 4:45pm
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“That was incredible!”

“Thanks, Lleyton.”

On Wednesday night, Alex de Minaur earned his most important victory as a professional so far by defeating Milos Raonic, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. In the tunnel between the changing rooms and the court, de Minaur was congratulated by Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt, who plays an advisory role in steering de Minaur through the early stages of his career.

By defeating Raonic, the 2016 champion in Brisbane and this year's fourth seed, de Minaur earned a spot in the quarter-finals and improved on his previous best showing (Round of 32 in 2017). This year, de Minaur is clearly in a different position.

“I've improved a lot of aspects of my game,” the Australian told ATPWorldTour.com following his win over Raonic at Pat Rafter Arena. “I'm in better shape, both physically and mentally. Obviously, that helps me a lot on the court. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can play against the likes of Raonic and be competitive.”

De Minaur lifted his game at key moments throughout the match. The #NextGenATP rising star nullified Raonic's powerful serves and fed off the support of an enthusiastic crowd that was eager to see their countryman win. De Minaur, for his part, showed poise and always gave fans reason to believe he could upset Raonic, even when matters got complicated.

“At the end of the day, you have to be convinced you can win once you step on the court,” de Minaur said. “If I don't believe I can win, then I should just stay home. What's the point in playing if I don't think I can win? Of course I had my doubts. Only a small bit of me believed I could actually beat [Raonic], honestly, but that was all I needed. I tried to enjoy myself on the court and give the fans that came to support me a good time. That's what I do, and it's working so far.”

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Born in Sydney to a Uruguayan father and Spanish mother, de Minaur spent the first years of his life in Spain. At a young age, de Minaur returned with his parents to Sydney when they opened a restaurant, in addition to a car wash they previously owned in the Australian city. Soon after, de Minaur took up tennis and, with the help of the Australian Tennis Federation, eventually made the leap into the professional ranks.

Of all the support de Minaur has received in Australia, it's been Hewitt who has provided his expert vision and guidance in grooming de Minaur as he started his career. Hewitt was courtside for de Minaur's first two matches in Brisbane.

“It means a lot to me that he's there to give me advice,” de Minaur said of the former World No. 1. “He has a lot of faith in me and that I have the game to compete with the best in the world. One of the first things he told me was to believe in myself. It helps to have him in my corner in situations like [the Raonic match]; he breaks down how to deal with the pressure and the expectations.”

De Minaur also expressed his gratitude to his coach, Adolfo Gutierrez, who has been a key player in the Australian's progress as a player. The pair currently train in Alicante, Spain.

“Having Adolfo Gutierrez, with whom I have been working for almost eight years, is very important for me,” De Minaur said of the Spanish coach. “He knows both sides of me, on and off the court. For that reason, I'm happy to experience this with him, and that we're realising the best victories of my career together.”

The first weeks of 2017 were a dream come true for de Minaur: He battled through qualifiers in Brisbane and played his first main draw match at an ATP World Tour event (l. Alexander Zverev). A week later, he earned his first ATP World Tour win by defeating Benoit Paire at the Sydney International.

Finally, de Minaur made the perfect Grand Slam debut by saving a match point and storming back to defeat Gerald Melzer in five sets during the first round of the Australian Open, winning the hearts of Australian fans in the process.

In Brisbane on Friday, De Maurer record a victory over fellow #NextGenATP Michael Mmoh, and afterwards explained, "I reckon the best way to describe this is at the moment, I'm in this really good dream and I really don't want to wake up." With a place in the semi-finals in Brisbane and a promising 2018 ahead, de Minaur has no plans to slow down; the goal is to reach his full potential.

Last Time Thiem Did This? February 2016

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 2:24pm
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In 2017, Dominic Thiem reached five semi-finals, all of them on clay. But less than a week into the 2018 season, the World No. 5 has already reached a hard-court semi-final.

The top-seeded Thiem halted the run of #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha 7-5, 6-4 to advance to his first outdoor hard-court semi-final since February 2016 in Acapulco, where he won the ATP World Tour 500 title (d. Tomic). Thiem also advanced to the semi-finals of the indoor Moselle Open in Metz in September 2016.

Thiem hit big all match and took time away from the 6'4” Tsitsipas, who reached his second ATP World Tour quarter-final by beating French veteran Richard Gasquet in straight sets on Wednesday.

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The World No. 5 Thiem hit 33 winners and was successful during 10 of his 12 net attempts. He also won nearly 60 per cent of his second-serve return points (16/27).

“I was serving well again today and returning well. That's what I was working on in the off-season so it already pays off now,” Thiem said on court after the match.

He walked away impressed with Tsitsipas. The 19-year-old Greek, who was the youngest Doha quarter-finalist since 2006 runner-up Gael Monfils, has now reached consecutive ATP World Tour quarter-finals, dating back to his semi-final run at the European Open in Antwerp last October.

“He's already so good at a young age. I think he's going to be for sure a top player in the near future,” Thiem said. “He's playing very well, aggressive with a good service, nice one-handed backhand.” 

The Austrian will next face Monfils, who saved a set point in the second set to beat German Peter Gojowczyk 6-3, 7-6(6). Monfils last reached a semi-final in June 2017 at the International Eastbourne. The Frenchman is playing in his first tournament since 2017 US Open. Thiem leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0.

Andrey Rublev, another #NextGenATP star, had better luck during his quarter-final match. The 20-year-old Russian, who was runner-up at last year's Next Gen ATP Finals, beat Croatia's Borna Coric for the second time in as many matches 6-3, 7-5 to reach the third semi-final of his career (also 2016 Umag, 2016 Milan).

Rublev was down a break, 2-4, in the second set, but rallied to advance in straight sets. The 20-year-old Moscow native also beat Coric in the semi-finals of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

“I was feeling the ball well. I knew since the beginning of the match that I have to try to dictate the point. I have to try to attack. I have to try to lead, but I have to try to do it with a good position. That was the key,” Rublev said.

Rublev will next face Argentina's Guido Pella, who saved both break points faced and dismissed qualifier Mirza Basic of Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2, 6-3. Pella, No. 64 in the ATP Rankings, will look to reach his third ATP World Tour final (2017 Munich, 2016 Rio de Janeiro).

Don't worry about Andy Murray, not yet anyway

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 2:18pm
Andy Murray's withdrawal from the Australian Open only opens up more opportunity for the former world No. 1 to prove his doubters wrong again.

Nishikori Announces Return Dates

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:44pm

Kei Nishikori will return to professional tennis in January, but not at the season's first Grand Slam in Melbourne.

Nishikori has withdrawn from the Australian Open, but the former World No. 4 is planning on launching his comeback at the inaugural ATP Challenger Tour event at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in Newport Beach, U.S.A, to be held 20-28 January.

The tournament is part of the inaugural Oracle Challenger Series, which also will include a Challenger event from 24 February – 4 March in Indian Wells, in the lead up to the BNP Paribas Open, the season's first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. Both tournaments will feature $150,000 prize money.

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“I am very excited and looking forward to getting back on the court in January,” Nishikori said. “The Oracle Challenger Series is a perfect event in a great Southern California location to help me get some match play. This will be a great opportunity to face some high-level competition.”

The 28-year-old Nishikori also plans to compete at the $125,000 Challenger in Dallas, U.S.A. The RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas will take place from 29 January – 4 February.

Nishikori, 28, hasn't played since 9 August, when he fell to Gael Monfils at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. The Japanese star had to cut short his 2017 season because of an injury to his right wrist. He is currently No. 22 in the ATP Rankings.

Watch Dimitrov Dramatic Match Point Save v Millman Brisbane 2018

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 10:39am
Grigor Dimitrov produces a stunning match point save against John Millman en route to a tense three-set win over the Australian at the Brisbane International. Video courtesy Tennis Australia. Visit www.BrisbaneTennis.com.au for more video. Playback not available in Australia.

Dimitrov Saves 2 M.P. In Brisbane Battle

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 10:21am

World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov kept hopes of retaining his Brisbane International presented by Suncorp title alive by saving two match points on his way to a 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 win over John Millman on Thursday night.

The Bulgarian star saved match point at 5/6 and 6/7 in the second-set tie-break en route to extending his winning streak to six matches, which includes a title-run at the Nitto ATP Finals in November 2017. Dimitrov, reflecting on the two points, complimented Millman’s level while expressing delight at his great, instinctive play.

“He couldn't have played the ball better,” said Dimitrov. “But also, at the same time, I thought I couldn't have done anything else besides what I did. I think two of the shots in the first match point were pure instinct for me. So I'm pleased with it.”

Dimitrov, who has now reached the quarter-finals five times on his six appearances at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament beat World No. 128 Millman over two hours and 38 minutes. He will next play Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The reigning champion, well aware of how close he came to a season-opening defeat, was quick to praise Millman who twice found himself just one point away from defeating his first Top 10 opponent in the ATP Rankings.

“I've seen him play quite a few times out here, playing really aggressive, striking the ball amazing, and it was no less tonight," said Dimitrov. "I'm the winner today but he put himself in that position to win the match.

"I'm just very pleased [with] the way I played on those key points and especially on the match points. So I think that gives me a certain amount of confidence coming into any other match that I have to play now."

After exchanging early breaks in the first set, Millman’s continued pressure on the Dimitrov serve paid off at the tail-end of the opener. The 28-year-old managed to win almost half of all points (23/48) on the Bulgarian’s serve and in the 10th game, a second breakthrough came for Millman who took the set 6-4.

A dramatic second set followed with both men breaking serve before reaching a tie-break and it was there that Millman manufactured two match points for the biggest win of his career. But the four-time 2017 titlist on the ATP World Tour was not to be denied, saving the first in an epic rally at the net and a second with an aggressive forehand into the corner. But Millman had no regrets on his strategy, complimenting his rival's level for the epic match point save.

“I went for a body serve. Maybe I should have gone for an ace. Who knows? Hindsight is a great thing,” said Millman.“I made him play five, six backhands, then he's come in and he's played a volley that's taken out nearly both lines. I managed to get him to play another volley, and he played another volley back the other way. What else can I do on that point?”

Dimitrov would later convert his second set point to win the tie-break and level the match. From that point, the 26-year-old motored through the decider with a break in the fourth game and a near-perfect performance on points behind his first serve (17/18). An emotional Millman reflected on what might have been, had either of the two points gone differently, and what it would have meant for his career.

“I gave it everything,” said Millman. “I can be proud of giving it everything. That's tennis. You win some, you lose some. It would have really been one of the most special nights of my career if I had won against a player like Grigor in front of my home crowd, who stuck it out well past midnight to watch me play. It would have been one of the highlights of my career.”

Now unbeaten in six matches, Dimitrov will attempt to keep that streak alive in his quarter-final match against Kyle Edmund. The British No. 2 defeated #NextGenATP champion Hyeon Chung 7-6(3), 5-7 6-4 earlier in the day.

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Shenzhen: Halep, Sharapova through to semis

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 10:18am
Simona Halep advanced to the semifinal stage of the Shenzen Open in impressive fashion after beating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2.

Djokovic has pain in elbow, uncertain for Aussie

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 9:48am
Novak Djokovic felt pain in his elbow and was forced to withdraw from an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he will be replaced by British No. 1 Andy Murray.

Cilic Solid On Serve In Pune

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 9:03am

Top seed Marin Cilic barely put a foot wrong on Thursday to advance to the Tata Open Maharashtra semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over eighth-seeded Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in 64 minutes.

The Croatian lost just one of his first service points (23/24) and struck seven aces as he continued his bid to win a third title on Indian soil, following victories in 2009 and 2010, when the ATP World Tour 250 tournament was held in Chennai. Cilic will next challenge France’s Gilles Simon, who was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Spanish qualifier Ricardo Ojeda Lara

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In other action, second-seeded South African Kevin Anderson was dominant on serve, hitting 24 aces and saving five of six break points, to advance past Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 30 minutes.

Anderson will meet fourth seed Benoit Paire of France, who also needed three sets to reach the semi-finals, beating fifth-seeded Dutchman Robin Haase 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. The quarter-final was throughly even – both players broke five times and they each won 50 per cent of the points (98/196).

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De Minaur Talks About Hectic Moments After Raonic Victory

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 5:54am
Australian 18-year-old Alex De Minaur tells what happened in the hectic hours after his stunning upset of Milos Raonic at the Brisbane International. Footage courtesy Tennis Australia. Watch more videos at www.BrisbaneTennis.com.au