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Updated: 11 min 28 sec ago
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."
Fourth seeds Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky will play for their third team title on Sunday at the Millennium Estoril Open. The Americans downed second seeds Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi 6-4, 7-5 in 74 minutes. They landed 71 per cent of first serves and saved six of eight break points faced. Last year, Lipsky and Huey teamed to win the inaugural edition of the Estoril Open.
"We are really happy to be into the finals," Butorac said. "Today was a really tricky match because the winds were so extreme. Scott has [won in Estoril before], so I'm just trying to follow his lead. He told me that on his day off he was looking at property in the area."
In the final, Butorac/Lipsky will take on top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, who cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Croats Borna Coric and Franko Skugor in just 51 minutes. The Poles did not face a break point and won 80 per cent (8/10) of second serve return points.
Cipolla/Sela Into Istanbul Final
The doubles final is set at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open, with first-time pairing Flavio Cipolla and Dudi Sela booking their spot in the title match opposite the all-Argentine duo of Andres Molteni and Diego Schwartzman.
Individually, 32-year-old Cipolla and 31-year-old Sela are appearing in their first doubles final on the ATP World Tour. They have not dropped a set en route, ousting third seeds Guillermo Duran and Maximo Gonzalez 7-6(5), 6-1 on Saturday. The Italian-Israeli tandem needed one hour and 26 minutes to seal the victory, saving all five break points faced while converting two of six chances of their own.
Munich Doubles Final Set
In Munich, the No. 3 seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia beat Oliver Marach of Austria and Fabrice Martin of France 6-2, 6-3. Kontinen/Peers will play the No. 2 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia in the BMW Open by FWU AG doubles final.
"Today was a very solid day for us," Peers said. "It was great to play back in the sunshine and play at a good level. It's a lot more fun than playing in the snow. We both played good tennis and it allows us to have a shot at the title tomorrow."
It’s not unheard of for a tennis player to come out of retirement and either dabble on the ATP Challenger Tour or make a full comeback, but Peter Luczak is breaking new ground by coming out of retirement and continuing to take home trophies.
The 36-year-old Luczak, affectionately known as “Looch,” retired from pro tennis in 2012 after a successful career that saw peak him at No. 64 in singles in the Emirates ATP Rankings, in addition to winning 12 ATP Challenger Tour singles titles. After spending the next three years serving as a coach and hitting partner for former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, he’s now been working with rising Australians Marc Polmans and Blake Mott.
While traveling with Mott last spring for a series of Futures events in Italy, he teamed up with him in doubles for a one-off tournament and the pair won the title. This week at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Tallahassee, Florida, Luczak and 18-year-old Polmans beat two seeds on their way to the doubles final, where they narrowly lost to No. 1 seeds Dennis Novikov and Julio Peralta. Although Luczak was delighted at the result, he admitted that playing this week wasn’t part of the plan for him.
"I was watching Blake and the next thing I know, Marc comes up to me and says, “Mate, we’re playing,” said Luczak. “I still like to stay reasonably fit and there are a lot of good young players I can hit with at the National Academy in Melbourne (Australia). Marc did most of the work this week, though. I just came along for the ride.”
Polmans won the boys’ doubles title at the Australian Open in 2015 and has quickly proven that he could become an established player on tour. The teenager has already won nine Futures doubles titles, but his run this week with Luczak in Tallahassee is his biggest result to date. Polmans is far from content with his doubles success, though, and said that Luczak has been helping him develop the tools needed to produce equally strong results in singles.
“Peter’s a really good clay court player, so he’s got a lot of tips on getting shape and depth on my shots. He’s got a pretty strong forehand as well, so he’s also trying to show me that,” said Polmans. “He’s teaching me a lot out there with the doubles this week and he’s calling the shots, so he can help me out on the pressure situations.”
It’s only natural to wonder if Luczak and Polmans will team up for more events this year after their surprise run, but Luczak was quick to diffuse any possible talk of even a part-time comeback.
“That’s my schedule these days: one tournament a year,” he joked. “I’m lucky to be coaching two kids who work hard and want to get better. I’m still very competitive and will leave it all out there when I get a chance to compete, but I’m very happy coaching these days.”
Roger Federer could meet Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open as the Swiss star continues his return to the ATP World Tour. Nadal also will have a bigger task on his mind in Madrid: Fighting off World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to become the outright ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title leader with 29 championships.
Main-draw pairings were announced on Saturday in Madrid, and the storylines abound: How will Federer do in his second tournament back? Can Nadal continue his title run on clay? How will Djokovic bounce back from Monte-Carlo? And how will Andy Murray, the Madrid defending champion, fare?
All of the Big Four, though, could have their hands full in the early stages of the fourth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 of the season. Djokovic, who will be playing for the first time since losing in the second round at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, receives a first-round bye but could face #NextGen star Borna Coric or Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the second round. Coric, No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, reached the Grand Prix Hassan II final on clay and fell in the quarter-finals on Friday at the Millennium Estoril Open. Almagro, former World No. 9, was the runner-up on clay in Buenos Aires and plays Nick Kyrgios on Saturday to advance to the final in Estoril.
The first seeded player Djokovic could face is No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, who reached the third round in Monte-Carlo before falling to Federer. In the quarter-finals, a potential match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could await Djokovic. Tsonga, the No. 7 seed, could have to get past No. 11 seed Milos Raonic, though, before meeting Djokovic.
If the Serb and the Frenchman play, it would be their 22nd meeting. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 15-6, which includes a 2014 win at Roland Garros, the last time they played on clay. In the semi-finals, Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, the No. 4 seed, could meet for the 24th time, with Djokovic leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 19-4. Wawrinka won their most recent meeting on clay at last year's Roland Garros final.
In the bottom half of the draw, Nadal, the No. 5 seed, will try to keep his 10-match win streak alive against Serb Viktor Troicki or Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in the second round. (Nadal receives a first-round bye.) In the third round, the four-time Madrid champion could face No. 12 seed David Goffin of Belgium. The 25 year old, who's reached a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 13, made the semi-finals at two Masters 1000 events, Indian Wells and Miami, but has yet to replicate that success on clay. Goffin lost in the third round in Monte-Carlo to Spaniard Marcel Granollers and fell on Friday to #NextGen star Alexander Zverev at the BMW Open by FWU AG.
Should Nadal, who's going for his third consecutive clay-court title, meet Federer, the No. 3 seed, in the quarter-finals, it'd mark the 35th meeting in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. Nadal holds a 23-11 edge, including a straight-set win the last time they played on clay (Rome 2013).
But Federer hardly has early walkovers. After a first-round bye, the Swiss could meet Portugal's Joao Sousa or France's Nicolas Mahut. In the third round, the three-time Madrid champ could meet No. 14 seed Dominic Thiem, who's already won a clay-court title this year (Buenos Aires) and advanced to the Munich final on Saturday to improve to 13-2 on the red dirt this year. Thiem faces Juan Martin del Potro in the first round.
Murray, who beat Nadal last year to win his first Masters 1000 title on clay in Madrid, could face Canada's Vasek Pospisil in the second round. If the seeds play out, Murray will then meet No. 16 seed Gilles Simon. In the quarter-finals, Murray, who's going for his first title of 2016, could meet No. 8 seed Tomas Berdych. Murray, No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, and Berdych have played 13 times, with Murray leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 7-6. The last time they played on clay, however, Berdych won in straight sets (Madrid 2013).
Watch Quentin Halys clinch his maiden ATP Challenger Tour crown, defeating fellow NextGen star Frances Tiafoe in Tallahassee.
Watch a spectacular point where Pablo Carreno Busta and Benoit Paire go between the legs. Video & Photo Credit: Millennium Estoril Open.
Watch Dominic Thiem rip a backhand winner against Next Generation star Alexander Zverev at the BMW Open by FWU AG.
Watch highlights as Nicolas Almagro and Pablo Carreno Busta move into the final. Video & Photo Credit: Millennium Estoril Open.
ATP World Tour stars get cooking, help at the draw ceremony and meet fans in a busy day on Saturday at the Mutua Madrid Open. Photo: Mutua Madrid Open
For now at least, Nick Kyrgios holds the upper hand against his fellow #NextGen star Borna Coric. In their first tour-level meeting on Friday, Kyrgios served freely and blasted forehands to breeze past Coric 6-4, 6-4 and move into the semi-finals of the Millennium Estoril Open.
The 21-year-old Aussie hit 10 aces and won 82 per cent of his service points. Kyrgios also never faced a break point in the one-hour and nine-minute match. Coric, meanwhile, had to work to hold the entire contest, erasing six of eight break points faced. Coric, No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, was trying to go 4-0 in quarter-finals this season but will have to wait until his second meeting with Kyrgios to even their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.
The two had met twice before on the ITF Junior Circuit, with Krygios winning both contests. Now the World No. 20 advances to his fourth semi-final of the season, where he'll face Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard knocked off No. 7 seed Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 6-4, 7-6(5). "I'm not going to think about it too much," Kyrgios said of his semi-final match. "I know what he's doing to do, and I know what I have to do to win."
Almagro, a former World No. 9, improved to 4-0 against Mayer, No. 46 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The 30 year old pressured Mayer's serve all match, converting three of his 11 break points.
Benoit Paire remained undefeated in ATP World Tour quarter-finals this year. The Frenchman dispatched Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6(2), 6-2 on Friday. Garcia-Lopez was trying to reach his second consecutive semi-final, after reaching the final four last week at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest. Paire, now 4-0 in quarter-finals this year, controlled the match with his first serve, winning almost 80 per cent of those points.
In the semi-finals, Paire will face another Spaniard: Pablo Carreno Busta, who beat No. 1 seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-4. The No. 8 seed hit five aces and won 70 per cent of his second-serve points. In the first set, Carreno Busta erased both break points faced and converted his only break point against the World No. 18. During the second set, Carreno Busta didn't face a break point and broke Simon once more. “He was always able to play the right shot at the right moment,” Simon said.
Anyone who’s traveled knows how expensive staying in a hotel can be. For players competing on the ATP Challenger Tour, the cost of staying in a hotel for up to 30 weeks out of the year can add up quickly.
“I was playing in San Francisco two years ago and was looking for cheap accommodation and couldn’t find anything,” said James McGee. “I went into a hostel and was spending $200 a night for a bunk bed with me on the top bunk and my coach on the bottom one.”
For players competing in many of the ATP Challenger Tour events in the U.S., a unique alternative is offered in the form of player housing. Local families offer to take in players for the week, free of charge, providing a more relaxed atmosphere that they see as a welcome change of pace from the routine of hotels.
“They don’t really do housing like this anywhere else in the world,” said Dean O'Brien. “The families are really nice and you get to know a lot more about the cities you’re in since they live there. There are enough weeks when you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, so it’s just nice to get to know people.”
Players view local housing as more than a crash pad for the week, though. They often keep in touch with the families and even reunite with them at other tournaments. Bjorn Fratangelo explained that a family he stayed with years ago at a Futures event in Tampa, Florida, recently reached out about coming to watch him play at the ATP Challenger Tour event in nearby Sarasota. For the families, it's a chance to rub shoulders with professional athletes and get to know them on a more intimate level."These people ask for it. They enjoy being part of the tournament. The person I'm staying with now told me it was almost like watching his son playing out there. I met him just three days ago and it was really sweet to hear that," said Noah Rubin. "They're doing anything they can for us. I'm really fortunate. Staying in a hotel for 40 weeks a year drains you. Whenever I can stay in local housing, it makes life easier."
For some players, saving money on local housing is a significant part of how they keep their expenses down on the road. McGee said that he primarily plays in the U.S. because “I either stay in housing or someone provides me housing for 90 percent of the Challengers I play in.” He’s even occasionally lucked out and been given his own place for the week.
“Someone provided me a condo in Sarasota that overlooked the lake,” said McGee. “I really lucked out. It was the ideal situation.”
He’s also returned to stay with some host families, like the Seifer family in Tiburon, California, which has opened up its home to him during the ATP Challenger Tour event there for the past three years. Although McGee acknowledged that there are financial benefits to staying in local housing, he said the experiences he’s shared with these families have been priceless.
“Building relationships is really what it’s all about,” said McGee. “Your tennis career only lasts for so long, but your friendships are forever.”
Feliciano Lopez and defending champions Andy Murray and Petra Kvitova attend the official launch for the 15th edition of the Mutua Madrid Open at the Museo Thyssen. Video courtesy Mutua Madrid Open.
Watch as NextGen star Alexander Zverev ousts top seed David Goffin in Munich on Friday. Video courtesy BMW Open by FWU AG. Photo: Getty Images
Roberto Carballes Baena signs autographs for his young fans in Istanbul at the Peugeot booth. Video courtesy TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open.
Alexander Zverev continued to build on a career-best 2016 season by defeating top seed David Goffin 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the BMW Open by FWU AG on Friday. Zverev, currently ranked a career-best No. 49 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, secured the win in two hours and 22 minutes to move into his fourth ATP World Tour semi-finals.
“He’s been playing really well in the past months, making the semi-finals of two [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 events, so it was nice to win,” Zverev said.
The German set the tone early in the match, landing 71 per cent of first serves and breaking Goffin twice en route to winning the opening set. The Belgian, who won the pair’s lone previous meeting at the Mons Challenger in 2014, survived seven aces in the second set and pushed the match to a decider. The 19 year old then showed his mettle, only losing three points on serve the rest of the way.
Standing between Zverev and his first ATP World Tour final is third seed Dominic Thiem, who saw off Ivan Dodig 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes. Thiem fired eight aces and landed 65 per cent of first serves in the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. The 22 year old, No. 15 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is now tied with Novak Djokovic for most tour-level wins on the season (28-7). He is now 12-2 on clay in 2016.
“I’m really looking forward to [facing Thiem],” Zverev said. “We spend a lot of time off the court together. It will be the first of many [matches] for us.”
Philipp Kohlschreiber snapped a six-match losing streak against Juan Martin del Potro with a 6-4, 6-1 quarter-final win. The German saved both break points faced and broke the Argentine four times in the 80-minute encounter. His semi-final opponent will be fifth seed Fabio Fognini, who edged Lucky Loser Jozef Kovalik 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 in two hours.
Colombian Duo Into Doubles Final
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah are into the Munich doubles final after defeating Austrians Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya 7-6(5), 6-3 on Friday. The second seeds fired 11 aces in the 82-minute win and await the winner of Oliver Marach/Fabrice Martin and Henri Kontinen/John Peers in the final.
A 5.6 earthquake hit Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday night, but it didn’t faze the players competing in this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event there.
The earthquake was the first of 26 to rock eastern Taiwan between 11:17 p.m. on Wednesday and 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, and was also recorded as the strongest one. Luckily, there were no reports of damage or injuries and it was business as usual on Thursday for the players still on site this week.
“I was sleeping when it happened,” said Luke Saville. “It was a little bit scary, but it was okay once I realised what it was.”
Although this was the first earthquake many of the players had experienced, others were more well-versed in dealing with them.
“It happened when I played in Los Angeles and then in Japan for Davis Cup,” said Amir Weintraub. “This one wasn’t too big, though.”
Semi-final action in Taipei kicks off on Saturday and features No. 1 seed Ricardas Berankis, who is currently on a 13-match winning streak and looking for his third consecutive ATP Challenger Tour title.
Dominic Thiem stands strong at the net as slices and dices his way past Ivan Dodig in his win Friday in Munich. Video courtesy BMW Open by FWU AG. Photo: Getty Images
Juan Martin del Potro books his place in the BMW Open by FWU AG quarter-finals on Thursday. Watch his match point versus Jan-Lennard Struff. Video courtesy: BMW Open by FWU AG. Photo: Getty Images
Watch highlights as Nick Kyrgios wins a #NextGen clash against Borna Coric and Pablo Carreno Busta upsets top seed Gilles Simon in the Millennium Estoril Open quarter-finals on Friday. Video courtesy: Millennium Estoril Open.