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Philipp Kohlschreiber overcame a dogged Dominic Thiem to win his third title in Munich on Sunday at the BMW Open by FWU AG 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(4). Thiem erased two match points at 4-5 in the third set. But in the tie-break, a backhand volley to the open court gave the German his seventh career ATP World Tour title and his first of the season.
“Unbelievable. Great story the whole week. Great performance. Huge final,” Kohlschreiber said. “I'm very happy and pleased with my performance.”
The 32 year old had not dropped a set in his three prior matches in Munich before Sunday's final, which featured Thiem consistently pushing the veteran. In the first set, Kohlschreiber had two opportunities to serve out the first set but was broken both times before clinching the first set in the tie-break.
Thiem bounced back in the second set and looked to be in control of the match. Before Sunday's final, the 22 year old, who leads the ATP World Tour in match wins this season (29), also boasted a 14-0 record in matches that had reached a deciding set. But at 5-4 in the third-set tie-break, Kohlschreiber blasted a forehand service return winner to give himself his final match point.
Last year, the veteran fell in a third-set tie-break to Andy Murray in the Munich final. How did he come through this year? “I have no answers,” he said.
The win improves the Augsburg native to 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Thiem, who was playing in his seventh career final. Kohlschreiber also will receive 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €82,450.
Thiem is now 5-2 in finals, having also lost at the Generali Open in 2014. The World No. 15 will receive 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €43,430.
“It was a very close final, attractive for the crowd, for sure. It was very painful for me but Philipp was the better player today, and he deserves to win,” Thiem said. “Almost every final is close because both players never give up. They want to win the title. I've won the last five finals... now I've lost one. It's no tragedy, especially against Philipp.”
The Mutua Madrid Open made history on Sunday morning by setting a new Guinness World Record for the most people bouncing tennis balls on racquets at the same time for 10 seconds.
ATP World Tour stars Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took to the Manolo Santana court at Caja Mágica along with Tournament Director Santana and owner Ion Tiriac to take part in the record attempt. With help from a host of spectators, the Mutua Madrid Open beat the record of 767 people set at the China Open last year.
In total, according to the official count from the assistant judges and the official Guinness World Record judge Anna Orford, the number achieved in Madrid was 1,474, giving the Mutua Madrid Open a new record.
On International Workers' Day, the Mutua Madrid Open ran the event in celebration of 15 years of employment at the tournament and to recognise the more than 8,000 workers who have in some way contributed to this event.
“It is important that the people know that we create a huge number of jobs every year,” said Santana. “It would have been impossible for the Mutua Madrid Open to reach 15 years without the great workers we have had and that is why this Guinness record was a great tribute to all of them.”
At 26 years old, Kei Nishikori is the youngest player in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Ranking. But after nine years as a pro, he doesn’t exactly feel young.
“Not anymore,” he smiled. “At 24 and 25, I was still feeling young. But at 26, I feel like I’m coming close to 30 and getting old.“
The World No. 6 will open his campaign at the Mutua Madrid Open against either Italian Fabio Fognini or Australian Bernard Tomic. Nishikori’s “veteran” status on tour simply means he has plenty of experience to draw from, though. He made the final here in 2014, where injury forced him to retire in the third set against Rafael Nadal, and has reached at least the quarter-finals in his past three appearances in Madrid.
“I still feel more comfortable on hard courts, but I’ve been playing really well on clay.” said Nishikori. “There’s a good chance to win here if I can play good tennis. I reached the final here two years ago. How I play this tournament is going to be important so I can have good motivation and confidence heading into Roland Garros.”
Nishikori also spoke of the strong field in Madrid that he will need to advance through in order to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title. He was full of praise for Nadal’s renewed form, noting that “he’s hitting the ball deeper, hitting more forehands and playing more aggressively.” He also spoke highly of Novak Djokovic and the dominant form he’s produced in 2016.
“He’s very patient and doesn’t give you many unforced errors or easy points, so you have to work hard for every point,” said Nishikori. “What he’s done this past couple of years is unbelievable and I think he’s still going to be playing for a couple of years, so we will have to find a way to beat him.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Nishikori doesn’t feel young anymore is the emerging crop of Next Generation stars that are producing strong results. He spoke well of Nick Kyrgios and the other young stars coming up on tour, believing that one of them could have a breakthrough run in Madrid.
“There are many young players, which is good for tennis and good for my motivation because they play differently than the guys in the Top 10 and Top 20 now,” said Nishikori. “They take a few more risks and play more aggressively because they have nothing to lose. I think the Top 5 guys are still dominating overall, but it’s nice to see the young guys coming up.”
Fourth seeds Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky edged top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 in a Match Tie-break to win the Millennium Estoril Open on Sunday. It was the third title for the Americans and a second consecutive Estoril Open crown for Lipsky, who teamed with Treat Huey to win last year.
Butorac/Lipsky put heavy pressure on the Poles’ service games, converting two of 10 break points during the 87-minute match. They did not face a break point in winning the first set, but dropped serve twice in the second set before prevailing in the Match Tie-break. The Americans improved to 3-2 in tour-level finals. Butorac has now won at least one doubles title in each of the past 10 years, while Lipsky stretched his streak to nine years.
Kubot/Matkowski came from a set down in their first-round and quarter-final matches to reach their first ATP World Tour final together. Kubot most recently won a title in Vienna 2015, while Matkowski’s last title came in Kuala Lumpur 2014.
Butorac/Lipsky will share 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €25,070, while Kubot/Matkowski earned 150 points and €13,170.
Back on European clay, Rafael Nadal looked nearly unbeatable last month. At the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the Spaniard dropped only two sets en route to his 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. The following week, at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, Nadal won 10 consecutive sets en route to his 49th clay-court crown, tying Guillermo Vilas for the most clay-court titles won in the Open Era.
Now that Nadal has returned to better form, though, a bigger question has loomed over some tennis observers: Can he again challenge World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on the red dirt? The two have had many classic matches on the surface over the years. But it's a question Nadal says he isn't thinking about at the moment.
“I just follow my path and I think that Djokovic follows his. I do the best to be at my top level, and I think I'm getting closer to it. I'm trying to manage it,” Nadal said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Mutua Madrid Open. “For the moment, I'm happy with my level.”
Nadal didn't face the Serb last month during his memorable run, but the Spaniard was able to bring his best level against some of the top players on the ATP World Tour. In Monte-Carlo, Nadal dismissed then-World No. 14 Dominic Thiem in straight sets 7-5, 6-3. Thiem is 13-3 on clay so far this season and has already made two clay-court finals this year.
Nadal also dispatched World No. 4 Stan Wawrinka in straight sets in Monte-Carlo and avenged his 2015 Madrid loss to Andy Murray by coming back from a set down to beat the Brit 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. In the Monte-Carlo final, Nadal outlasted another top player, beating Gael Monfils in three sets to win his ninth championship in the Principality.
In Barcelona, Nadal upended the two-time defending champion and World No. 6 Kei Nishikori in straight sets 6-4, 7-5 to win his ninth title at Barcelona as well. “I've been competing against the (best) players and have won matches against some of the best players of the world,” Nadal said. “Winning and playing matches against these people, it's really good for me.”
In Madrid, the 29 year old returns to more friendly territory. The left-hander owns a 39-9 career record in the Spanish city and has won the tournament four times and reached the final three other occasions. With another title in his home country this week, Nadal also would become the all-time clay-court titles leader in the Open Era.
“These last weeks I've been doing it, fighting for important matches, winning,” Nadal said. “Let's see what happens in the next week.”
If he does play Djokovic, who also will be going for his 29th Masters 1000 title, Nadal said he would welcome the matchup. “If I have to play against Djokovic,” he said, “that will be a great thing because that means I will be in the final.”
Can the Mutua Madrid Open earn a place in the Guinness World Record books? Players and volunteers attempt to break the record for most number of people bouncing a tennis ball at once for 10 seconds. Photo: Mutua Madrid Open
Henri Kontinen and John Peers clinched their second title of 2016 at the BMW Open by FWU AG on Sunday in Munich. The third seeds survived a tight championship match over second seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7.
Very little separated the two teams in the opening set, with Kontinen and Peers winning 25 points compared to 23 for Cabal and Farah. A lone break of serve was all Kontinen and Peers needed to take the set. In the second set, the Colombians saved all four break points against them and utilized their only break point opportunity to bring the championship to a Match Tie-break.
The Finnish-Australian duo saved their best tennis for the final stages of the match. Landing 89 per cent of their first serves in play, they continued to put pressure on their opponents and eventually clinched the title.
“We played them two weeks ago in Monte-Carlo and we knew it was going to be a tough match. They’re a very tough team, especially on clay courts, and they never let you off easy,” said Kontinen. “We came into the match knowing we were going to have to work hard and that it was going to be a tough battle, but we played well when it mattered most.
Peers added, “This week tested us mentally and it was great to be able to put on a good performance. We’ve been starting to play some good tennis over the last few weeks and putting together a really good partnership. If we can carry this form through, it could be a fun couple of weeks leading into the French.
This is Kontinen’s first title in Munich, while Peers previously won this event in 2014 with Colin Fleming. Kontinen is 8-3 in ATP World Tour finals, while Peers improves to 8-10. They took home €25,070 and 250 points.
Cabal and Farah were looking for their third ATP World Tour title of 2016, having won this February in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Farah is 6-10 in finals, while Cabal dropped to 6-12. The pair leave Munich with €13,170 and 150 points.
Both teams are competing next at the Mutua Madrid Open. Kontinen and Peers play Alexandr Dolgopolov and Bernard Tomic in the first round, while Cabal and Farah take on Thomaz Bellucci and Leonardo Mayer in their opening match.
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In his second straight semi-final appearance in Istanbul, second seed Dimitrov advanced one step further, downing Karlovic 7-6(0), 7-6(2) in one hour and 41 minutes. The Bulgarian reached his eighth ATP World Tour final and will vie for his fifth title and first since prevailing on the grass of London/Queen's Club in 2014.
"The result speaks for itself against a tricky opponent," said Dimitrov. "I was patient and took my chances. I think I did well today. In the tie-breaks it was important to be focused and composed and put the ball in play. Today, I made good returns when I had to and once you have a mini-break things are just brighter."
Dimitrov had the upper hand from the start in both tie-breaks, maintaining an ultra-aggressive stance against Karlovic's mammoth serve. A double fault would give Dimitrov the opening tie-break 7-0 and he would not disappoint in the second, rifling a return winner down the line to seal the victory.
Dimitrov was unflappable on serve, firing 10 aces and winning 90 per cent (46/51) of first serve points. He saved the lone break point of the match, in the fifth game of the first set.
In the second semi-final, Schwartzman battled deep into the night to down countryman Federico Delbonis under the lights at the Garanti Koza Arena. He triumphed over the fourth seed 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 after two hours and 16 minutes.
"It's been a great week for me," said Schwartzman, who stunned top seed Bernard Tomic in the second round and saved one match point in beating Damir Dzumhur on Friday. "It's a dream week. I tried to be focused from the baseline and play more aggressive today. When I broke his serve in the second set, that was the key for the match.
"Tomorrow it's going to be a tough match. Grigor is an amazing player. I need to recover fast now."
Schwartzman rebounded nicely after being broken while serving for the first set at 5-4. He would relinquish the opener in a tie-break, but kept his focus, dropping just five games the rest of match. A drop volley winner would secure the decisive break for 3-1 in the third set and a forehand long from Delbonis clinched the victory on his first match point.
It was the 23-year-old's first win in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. He will look to pull double duty on Sunday, seeking his maiden ATP World Tour singles final against Dimitrov, while battling for the doubles crown alongside countryman Andres Molteni.
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The year’s #NextGen final at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Tallahassee, Florida, which saw Quentin Halys prevail over Frances Tiafoe, could eventually lead to him continuing the trend of future Top 10 players who made their breakthrough at this tournament.
Over its 17-year history, the tournament has helped launch or re-launch the careers of some of the most recognizable names in tennis. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner and Mardy Fish all eventually moved into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings after lifting the winner’s trophy in Tallahassee.
“We have a pretty illustrious list of champions,” said Tournament Director Karen Vogter. “Fish reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final (2007 Australian Open) after he came here and won our tournament in 2006. When Tsonga got to the Australian Open final (in 2008) after winning our tournament in 2007, I think that’s when people here understood that this was the place to see the future champions of the game. We’d love to see the next young champion come out of here.”
The consistently strong field isn’t the only reason why some players competing this week have returned to Tallahassee for several years. The packed crowds that can be seen for each night session and the helpfulness of the local community, which includes more than 300 volunteers for the tournament each year, have also proven to be an appealing draw.
“We try to take care of everyone that comes here,” said Vogter. “I think that Southern hospitality is something the players appreciate. Moving to Forest Meadows (in 2005) also had a huge impact on our tournament because it’s the heart of tennis in Tallahassee. We’ve seen a marked increase in our crowds and support since then.”
The Challenger has also provided a meaningful impact on Tallahassee beyond the tennis court. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Vogter Neuro-Intensive Care Unit at Tallahassee Memoiral HealthCare, named in honor of her late husband. More than $625,000 has been raised over the last 16 years as a result. In 2010, all ticket sale money began to be donated to the Maria Yealdhall Challenger Tennis Fund, which is used to help build and improve tennis projects and programs throughout the city.
“The money for the endowment is used for educational purposes and to make sure they have the most highly trained staff possible. It’s a high-stress environment, so we hope to improve healthcare by providing additional education that the staff can then share with others,” explained Vogter. "For the tennis fund, we’ve improved different areas of the facilities at Forest Meadows by doing things like resurfacing courts and putting up shade structures on several of them."
Although 2016 marks yet another successful year in the books for the tournament, Vogter already has plans in place to make things bigger and better. Prize money will increase next year from $50,000 to $75,000 and money has already been allocated to build more Har-Tru courts for the tournament.
“There are definitely improvements that we want to make,” said Vogter. “We’re all committed to having this tournament return year after year and making it the best event we possibly can.”
Nicolas Almagro will play for a 13th ATP World Tour title on Sunday at the Millennium Estoril Open. Almagro overcame an in-form Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5 in 73 minutes to reach his second final of the year. The 30-year-old Spaniard, who lost to Dominic Thiem in the Buenos Aires final, will attempt to win his first tour-level title since Nice in May 2012.
“It was a tough match because I was playing against one of the most important players on the tour, a future star,” Almagro said. “The conditions were tough but I played with intensity and focus, and it worked.”
The big-hitting Almagro, who only dropped five points on his first serve in the match, fired seven aces on a breezy day against the Aussie to bring his tally to a tournament-leading 33. The Next Generation star broke Almagro twice, but surrendered his serve four times to succumb in straight sets. Kyrgios, currently a career-best No. 20 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, was bidding to win his second ATP World Tour title after scoring his maiden tournament win in Marseille in February (d. Cilic).
“I thought he played better in the conditions today,” Kyrgios said. “I didn’t serve great but he was too good. For a first week on the clay, it wasn’t too bad. I played two quality matches.”
Facing Almagro in the final will be countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, who saw off third seed Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-3. Carreno Busta failed to serve out the match at 5-2 in the second set, but recovered in the following game to even the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry at 2-2.
“I’m happy to be in another final, and after all the work I’ve put in during preseason with my new trainers, I think I deserve it,” Carreno Busta said. “I’m super excited for this final. Tomorrow I will give my best in order to win my first title.”
“[Pablo] was better. It was so windy today,” said Paire, who landed just 35 per cent of first serves in the match. “The key is to be at my best at the [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 events, and there are two coming up. I will try my best to have results at these events.”
Thiem overcame #NextGen star Alexander Zverev on Saturday 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach Sunday's final, which will be the seventh of his career. The Austrian erased eight of 11 break points faced and broke the 19-year-old German six times to prevail.
“It's unbelievable how he plays at 19 years old,” Thiem said. “I lost the first set and then I changed a little bit... more slice, more drop shots, and I think this was one of the key points to win it.”
The 22 year old, who won titles earlier this year in Acapulco and Buenos Aires, now stands alone atop the ATP World Tour match wins chart this season (29-7). He had been tied with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Thiem, who is 13-2 on clay this season, lost to Kohlschreiber 6-0, 7-6(6) during their previous meeting last year on clay at the Generali Open. Kohlschreiber dismissed No. 5 seed Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and four minutes on Saturday. “I was happy to make the big points today,” he said. "Very successful week, very solid performance so far."
The German erased all three break points faced and won almost 90 per cent of his first-serve points to move into his fifth Munich final. "He's had a huge season so far. He's a very hot player, very tough to play against him," Kohlschreiber said of Thiem. "I also feel very well... I hope we're going to see a great final tomorrow."