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After an outstanding 12 months on the ATP Challenger Tour, Gastao Elias of Portugal has broken into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings and looks to keep climbing.
The World No. 94 has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year in Italy, first prevailing in April at the $50,000 event in Turin before following that up a month later at the $50,000 tournament in Mestre. Elias also won back-to-back $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour events last fall in South America, prevailing in Lima, Peru, before winning again in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The win in Mestre gave Elias his debut in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He is now comfortably inside that upper echelon at No. 94.
“To reach the Top 100 is an awesome feeling. I think it’s the dream of every tennis player and something you work for all your life,” said Elias. “I tried to just enjoy the moment when I reached it, but remember that it was difficult to sleep. It made me realise that I’m working the right away and gave me the motivation to keep going on.”
Elias is looking to further cement his new status at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Milan, where he is the No. 1 seed. He opened up his campaign in dominant fashion, dropping just two games in his first-round win over Italian qualifier Andrea Basso.
“The tournament in Milan is unbelievable. It’s one of the best clubs I’ve ever seen,” said Elias. “The stadium is nice and I’m feeling good, so I hope it’s going to be a great week.”
After this week, Elias will compete in the main draw of Wimbledon. Having spent six years battling on the ATP Challenger Tour, he’s confident the match play he’s accumulated at these events has prepared him for a big run on grass.
“Since I was young, I knew I had a lot of potential,” said Elias. “I’ve been getting a lot of experience in Challengers and was playing good, but not consistently enough. I knew it was just a matter of time and working hard, so now I’m finally satisfied.”
Some players feel pressure playing at home, but Matteo Donati of Italy has been feeding off local support on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Two weeks ago at the $125,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Caltanisetta, Italy, Donati survived four consecutive three-set matches to advance to the final as a wild card. He held championship points before falling to top seed and fellow Italian Paolo Lorenzi, but gained plenty of new fans among the more than 2,000 spectators who came to watch the match.
At this week’s $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Milan, Donati picked up where he left off by dropping just nine games total in his first two matches. His only other Challenger final also came in Italy during last year’s $125,000 event in Napoli.
“I didn’t start well [in Caltanissetta], but raised my level match by match. I lost by just one point against Lorenzi, but am happy because I played a very good level of tennis for that occasion,” said Donati. “I play better in Italy because I feel the people supporting me and feel like I’m at home even if I’m far away from my town. Especially when a match is hard, all the support helps me play better.”
Donati said he put in plenty of work during the off-season to increase his fitness and travels with a physical trainer whenever possible. He’s been continuing to boost his best shots in his serve and forehand, but has also shored up his backhand to make it more of a weapon.
Most importantly, he’s now fully healthy after dealing with injuries at the beginning of the season.
“The most important thing for me is to stay well after these physical troubles,” said Donati. “I’d like to overtake my best ranking this season, but that’s not the point. I’m looking for consistency and believe I’ve reached it the last few weeks.”
Having rediscovered his top form, Donati now hopes to win his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Milan. After receiving a wild card here two years ago, he said the tournament has become one of his favourites.
“I’m happy to play here because it’s less than an hour from my house, so my family is here with me and that makes me feel good,” said Donati. “The tournament is well-organised and the location is beautiful, so I hope to stay here as long as possible.”
Marcos Baghdatis reached his fifth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the year on Wednesday at the Aegon Open Nottingham. The ninth seed recorded his second straight win in five meetings over fifth seed and last year's runner-up Sam Querrey 1-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 in one hour and 51 minutes.
Baghdatis, who saved two match points at 5/6 and 7/8 in the second set tie-break, hit 10 aces and saved three of six break point opportunities against Querrey, who struck 12 aces. The Cypriot will next face second seed Pablo Cuevas, who rallied to beat Daniel Evans 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-4. Evans served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was broken at 30.
Top seed Kevin Anderson defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-6(6) to reach the quarter-finals, where he will face No. 6 Steve Johnson. The hard-hitting Anderson, who went 14-for-14 on first-serve points in the opening set, never faced break point and fired 18 aces to win consecutive ATP World Tour matches for the first time in 2016. He improved to 2-2 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head against the Spaniard and has only lost to the left-hander on clay.
Johnson edged Vasek Pospisil 7-6(4) 7-6(1). The American struck 12 aces and out-played the Canadian in two tie-breaks in the pair’s first tour-level meeting. Pospisil served for the second set at 5-3, but Johnson converted on his lone break point of the match to get back on serve.
Elsewhere, seventh seed Andreas Seppi avenged his loss to Adrian Mannarino at the Ricoh Open two weeks ago with a 6-2, 6-3 victory in 70 minutes. He now plays Dudi Sela, who was a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 winner over Benjamin Becker.
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The All England Lawn Tennis Club committee has announced the 32 singles seeds and 16 doubles seeds for The Championships at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday 27 June.
Since 2002, The Championships has employed a unique seeding system, where they take into account previous results over a two-year period on grass courts.
• Take the Emirates ATP Ranking points on 20 June 2016
• Add 100 per cent of the points earned for all grass court tournaments in the past 12 months
• Add 75 per cent of the points earned for the best grass court tournament in the 12 months before that
The singles main draw ceremony takes place on Friday.
1 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
2 Andy Murray (GBR)
3 Roger Federer (SUI)
4 Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
5 Kei Nishikori (JPN)
6 Milos Raonic (CAN)
7 Richard Gasquet (FRA)
8 Dominic Thiem (AUT)
9 Marin Cilic (CRO)
10 Tomas Berdych (CZE)
11 David Goffin (BEL)
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
13 David Ferrer (ESP)
14 Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
15 Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
16 Gilles Simon (FRA)
17 Gael Monfils (FRA)
18 John Isner (USA)
19 Bernard Tomic (AUS)
20 Kevin Anderson (RSA)
21 Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
22 Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
23 Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
24 Alexander Zverev (GER)
25 Viktor Troicki (SRB)
26 Benoit Paire (FRA)
27 Jack Sock (USA)
28 Sam Querrey (USA)
29 Pablo Cuevas (URU)
30 Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
31 Joao Sousa (POR)
32 Lucas Pouille (FRA)
1 Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) / Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
2 Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA)
3 Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA)
4 Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) / Horia Tecau (ROU)
5 Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Marcelo Melo (BRA)
6 Rohan Bopanna (IND) / Florin Mergea (ROU)
7 Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Alexander Peya (AUT)
8 Vasek Pospisil (CAN) / Jack Sock (USA)
9 Dominic Inglot (GBR) / Daniel Nestor (CAN)
10 Henri Kontinen (FIN) / John Peers (AUS)
11 Raven Klaasen (RSA) / Rajeev Ram (USA)
12 Treat Huey (PHI) / Max Mirnyi (BLR)
13 Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL) / Robert Farah (COL)
14 Radek Stepanek (CZE) / Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)
15 Pablo Cuevas (URU) / Marcel Granollers (ESP)
16 Mate Pavic (CRO) / Michael Venus (NZL)
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