Sam Groth gave notice Sunday afternoon that he’s back on the path to career revival. The big serving Australian, ranked No. 237, pounded 30 aces in defeating fourth seed Santiago Giraldo 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 in the final of the Las Vegas Challenger. It was Groth’s first title since he won the Manchester Challenger in June last year and the fourth Challenger crown of his career. The win concluded the best two weeks of tennis Groth has played this season. Last week the Narrandera native reached the quarterfinals of the Monterrey Challenger before losing to eventual champion Ernesto Escobedo in three tie-break sets. Groth served 95 aces during this week in Las Vegas and never had his serve broken in 62 service games. In fact, from the start of the tournament, Groth served 48 consecutive games without even yielding a break point. That streak ended today in the opening set in Groth’s fourth service game. Groth started the year ranked No. 60 after reaching a career-high No. 53 last September, but it’s been downhill since then. After the U.S. Open this year, Groth’s ranking bottomed out at No. 272. A multitude of first round exits and just two quarterfinals appearances prior to last week have led to much head scratching in the big Australian’s camp. Not to mention Groth’s loss of confidence in his game. Today, though, was clearly Groth at his huge serving, net rushing, hold nothing back best. Giraldo, ranked No. 108 in the world, had no answer for Groth’s booming serves. “That was very tough,” Giraldo said. “It’s not easy. I consider myself a good returner but today’s there was nothing I could do.” The 28-year-old Columbian was tough as nails himself, serving impeccably and playing solidly off the ground. Giraldo didn’t face a break point in the first set and captured two mini-breaks to Groth’s one in the tiebreaker to take the opener. Groth broke in the seventh game of the second set and it was all he needed to level the match at a set apiece. It was sweaty palms time though in the 10th game when Groth fell behind 30-40 on his serve trying to serve it out. Three straight aces solved that problem. The 29-year-old Aussie faced adversity again in the final set, falling behind 15-40 serving in the seventh game. Groth saved both of those break points, broke Giraldo in the 11th game and sealed the win with two aces in the next game. The match was over in one hour and 54 minutes. Groth double-faulted just once and served at a 60 percent clip. He won 88 percent of his first service points and 62 percent of his second, while saving four of four break points. Giraldo erased one of three break points. “To get a win here is going to do a lot for my confidence,” Groth said. With the victory Groth will crack the Top 200 in tomorrow’s updated ATP Rankings.
Sam Groth defeated No. 3 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6 (3), 7-5 in the second round of the Las Vegas Challenger earlier this morning, advancing to the quarterfinals of back-to-back tournaments for the first time this year. Last week the big-serving Groth, who celebrated his 29th birthday today, reached the final eight at the Monterrey Challenger in Mexico before losing to eventual champion Ernesto Escobedo. Groth’s play today was reminiscent of last year, when the 6-foot-4 Australian reached a career high No. 53 in the world in August. His results this year, to say the least, have been disappointing. The former Aussie Rules footballer has gone 4-16 in ATP Tour, Davis Cup and Grand Slam matches, and 10-10 in Challengers in 2016. Groth was ranked No. 237 coming into Las Vegas. Today, however, the old Grothy was back. Groth served 20 aces, won 92 percent of his first service points and 60 percent of his second, and never faced a break point. Fratangelo, ranked No. 112, provided stiff opposition and was never broken until the penultimate game of the match. The 23-year-old American won 71 percent of his first serves, 57 percent of his second and saved five of six break points. Groth, who set the record for the fastest clocked serve in 2012 at the Busan Challenger, volleyed superbly and played solid on the ground. It goes without saying his serve was on, but even more effective since he landed 62 percent of his first deliveries. Groth kept his composure too, especially when he failed to cash three break points in the third game of the second set and two more in the seventh. Cool-headedness prevailed, and it paid off when he broke through in the 11th game of the decider. Groth will play American Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Albano Olivetti beat No. 8 seed and fellow Frenchman Gregoire Jacq 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the final of the France F21 Futures in Nevers Sunday afternoon. The title was the third of Olivetti’s career, all on the Futures circuit, and first since July of 2012. Olivetti improved to 3-6 in Futures finals. He has an 0-2 record in Challenger finals. The big serving Olivetti hit 15 aces against Jacq and totaled 86 for the week. He never faced a break point on Sunday and dropped serve just once in 53 service games over the five tournament matches. With the 35 ranking points earned for the victory, Olivetti will climb into the world Top 400 in Monday’s updated rankings. The 6-foot-8 Frenchman started the week ranked No. 427. The first set was extremely close and really could have gone either way. Service prevailed through the first 12 games to force a tiebreaker, with Jacq erasing the only break point of the set in the 12th game. Jacq, 23-years old and No. 422 in the world, captured a mini-break to start the tie-break and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Olivetti held twice and then won mini-breaks on the sixth, seventh and 11th points while yielding one of his own on the eighth. Serving at 6-5, with the set on his racket, Olivetti yielded another mini-break, held for 7-6 and then won the tie-break with a mini-break on the 14th point. A sigh of relief, for sure, for the towering Frenchman. Olivetti parlayed service breaks in the third and ninth games of the decider to wrap up the victory in one hour and 21 minutes. The big Frenchman won 89 percent of his first service points and 52 percent of his second. Jacq saved two of four break points, while dropping to 0-2 against Olivetti.
Big-serving Albano Olivetti served his way past tenacious fellow Frenchman Sebastien Boltz 7-6 (5), 6-3 last night in a second round clash at the French F21 Futures in Nevers. Olivetti, ranked No. 427 in the world, is competing for the sixth straight week as he seeks to improve his ranking with heavy play and a strong closing finish to the 2016 campaign. The 6-foot-8 Frenchman will meet No. 5 seed and doubles partner at Nevers, Calvin Hemery, in the quarterfinals on Friday in a bid to reach his third consecutive semifinal berth on the Futures circuit. Olivetti, holder of the record for the second fastest clocked serve at 160 mph, was not broken, blasted 26 aces in 11 service games and won 88 percent of the points on his first serve against the 23-year-old Boltz. Boltz, for his part, served well too, landing 70 percent of his first deliveries and winning 67 percent of his first serves and 62 percent of his second. The 23-year-old hit five aces and was broken just once, while saving one of two break points. Olivetti erased all four of the break points against his serve, including two in the second game of the match and two more in the seventh game of the second set, immediately after breaking Boltz’s serve. In fitting style, Olivetti served out the match with an ace on his third match point. It was over in one hour and 42 minutes.
Lucas Pouille won his maiden title earlier this afternoon, defeating top seed and No. 10-ranked Austrian Dominic Thiem 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the final of the Moselle Open in Metz. Ever since reaching the semifinals at the Rome Masters in May, Pouille has been on quite a roll. The 22-year-old Frenchman backed up his performance in Italy with quarterfinal appearances at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and came into Metz ranked No. 18 in the world. Pouille, seeded third, put the hammer down and tightened the vice grips on Thiem much as he had on Rafael Nadal in his fourth-round upset of the Spaniard at Flushing Meadows. Every time Thiem seemed ready to take control of the match, Pouille squelched the initiative. “I’m very happy with my week,” Pouille said. “Winning a title is a big step, it’s an objective I wanted to achieve this year. It was a well-played final. We both played at a high level.” Pouille improved to 30-18 in 2016 with his fifth Top 10 win of the year. The Grande-Synthe native had just 15 tour-level wins coming into this season. Neither player yielded so much as a break point opportunity through the first nine games, with Pouille dropping just two points in his first five service games. Thiem flinched first, but saved three set points serving at 4-5 and then raced to a 4-0 lead in the tie-break. Pouille won seven of the next eight points courtesy of three mini-breaks to take the opener and deflate much of Thiem’s resolve. The Frenchman garnered a break to open the second set and then another in the seventh game before serving it out with an ace on his first match point. It was a tidy victory in just one hour and 18 minutes. “I think the first set was a pretty high level from both of us,” Thiem said. “I should have won the tie-break, but had an easy volley mistake. All in all, he was the better player and had more chances in my service games. He deserved to win today. I think he put pressure on me all the time and was serving really well.” Pouille hit 10 aces and won 83 percent of his first service points and 73 percent of his second. Thiem had six aces, while winning 76 percent of his first deliveries and just 46 percent of his second. Poulle won the battle of winners 27-26 and committed 17 unforced errors to 28 for the Austrian.
Big-serving Frenchman Albano Olivetti knocked off top-seed Sam Barry of Ireland 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the French F18 Futures in Mulhouse earlier this afternoon. Olivetti served up 23 aces against the 24-year-old Irishman, including at least one in each of his 10 service games. The 6-foot-8 Frenchman saved all four break points against his serve, including three set points while serving at 5-6 in the opening set. Four aces in the game helped save the day for Olivetti, who steamrolled the rest of the way after forcing a tiebreaker. Olivetti improved to 5-0 against the No. 293-ranked Barry. He will play fellow Frenchman Laurent Lokoli in the semifinals tomorrow. Today’s performance was one of Olivetti’s best since returning to the tour in January, following an 18-month injury hiatus. The 24-year-old Frenchman hung tough in the crucial moments and served his way out of trouble whenever it presented itself. Playing almost exclusively on the Futures and Challenger circuits, Olivetti has clawed his way back from being unranked at the start of the year to a current No. 445 in the world. Barry proved to be a real test in today’s match, at least in the first set anyway. The Irishman landed 91 percent of his first serves in the opener and won 90 percent of those points, while not facing a break point. His only failing was suffering a mini-break on the fifth point in the tiebreaker. The second set was all Olivetti, with the Frenchman capturing service breaks in the second and sixth games, while facing just one break point, that being a harmless one in the final game. Olivetti served three double faults, while winning 78 percent of the points on his first serve and 59 percent on his second.
Stan Wawrinka spotted defending champion Novak Djokovic the first set and then rallied to take the next three, defeating the top-ranked Serb 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in the final of the U.S. Open late yesterday afternoon. The title, Wawrinka’s first at Flushing Meadows, was the No. 3-ranked Swiss’ third Grand Slam crown in three Grand Slam finals and ran his win streak in tour-level finals to 11 straight. All three runs at the majors have included wins over the World No. 1 in the championship match. Wawrinka defeated Rafael Nadal for the 2014 Australian Open crown and Djokovic in the French Open final last year. “This is amazing,” Wawrinka said afterward. “I came here without expecting to win it. When I stepped on the court, I tried to win every match. I did everything today against Novak. The crowd and atmosphere was something I’ve never had before. It’s an amazing night.” Wawrinka improved to 5-19 against Djokovic, so he hasn’t exactly had the Serb’s number in the past. But Sunday he did. After starting slowly, Wawrinka took control of the baseline and outhit the best baseliner in the game. The Swiss had 46 winners to 30 for Djokovic, while committing 51 unforced errors compared to 46 for the Serb. Wawrinka also saved 14 of 17 break points against perhaps the best returner on the tour. There was no quit in the 31-year-old Swiss. “Today I was trying to stay with him,” Wawrinka said. “I was trying to be tough with myself, trying not to show anything, not to show any pain, not to show any cramps, not to show anything. I was suffering on the court, but I’m happy and proud with what I have achieved today.” Djokovic, who won the Australian and French Opens, along with five other tournaments earlier in the year, hasn’t quite been the same player since a first-round loss at the Rio Olympics. A lingering sore left wrist, picked up just before Brazil, and problems with both shoulders and his right elbow during the New York fortnight, along with a foot issue in the final, certainly didn’t help the Serb. But Djokovic offered no excuses. “I lost my nerves in the important moments. He kept his cool. I think that’s what decided the match,” Djokovic said. “I guess sometimes it happens, even though you have the experience and know what to do. Just the heat of the moment and importance of the match, I guess, was too strong for me at certain periods of the match. Just if you lose your cool, the match can go away.” Serving at 5-3 in the final set, Wawrinka fell behind 0-30 and for just a moment it seemed Djokovic might get back in it. But the Swiss won five of the last six points, and victory was his after three hours and 55 minutes. Wawrinka won 144 points, Djkovic 143, and both players were spent. “There is no secret. If you want to beat the No. 1 player in the world, you have to give everything,” Wawrinka said. “You have to accept to suffer and you have almost to enjoy to suffer. Because I think this Grand Slam was the most painful, physically and mentally that I ever played.”
It was a match neither player deserved to lose. Frenchman Lucas Pouille stunned No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6) in a fourth-round thriller at the U.S. Open late yesterday afternoon. The final blow of the contest came when Pouille crushed his 59th winner of the day, an unplayable forehand down the line on the 22-year-old Frenchman’s fourth match point in a tiebreaker. Pouille collapsed on the court in exultation. Each player won 156 points in the 4-hour, 6-minute seesaw affair, which featured punishing ground games and dogged determination by both. Pouille, a rising star ranked No. 25 in the world and seeded 24th at Flushing Meadows, has come into his own this year, also reaching the quarterfinals at Brisbane and Wimbledon, the semifinals at Rome and the finals at Bucharest. “I think because mentally I’m stronger, physically I’m stronger, [that] gave me a lot of confidence before the match,” Pouille said. “I knew if I wanted to win that, it’s not going to be like three sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. It would be long. So I was ready for it.” The young Frenchman will play fellow countryman Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Pouille started the match on fire, breaking Nadal in the second and sixth games of the opening set, and faced but one break point, that coming in the final game which he closed out with an ace. Nadal turned the tables in the second set with breaks in the second and eighth games to level the match. The Frenchman parlayed a break in the opening game of the third set to regain control and a two sets to one lead. In the fourth set, Nadal captured breaks in the sixth game and then again in the eighth, after Pouille had broken back in the seventh, to knot the match at 2-2. The Spaniard looked to be in the driver’s seat when he broke to open the final set and jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Undaunted, Pouille broke back in the eighth game and four games later a tiebreaker would determine the outcome. The Frenchman led 4-1 and 6-3 before Nadal leveled at 6-6. At that juncture, with Pouille serving, Nadal missed a short forehand put-away which would have given him a match point on his serve. Instead, Pouille followed with the decisive forehand winner for the mini-break to seal the win. “I learned that it’s never over until the last point,” Pouille said. “I was a break down in the fifth, I came back and led 6-3 in the tie-break and he came back. Yeah, it’s never done until the last point is over.” Although he only landed 46 percent of his first serves, Pouille had 11 aces and won 66 percent of the points on his first delivery and 58 percent on his second. The Frenchman saved six of 11 break points, Nadal nine of 14. “I fight until the end, until the last ball,” Nadal said. “It was a very close match. I congratulate my opponent, he played with better decisions than me the last couple of points.” Joining Monfils and Pouille in the quarterfinals is a third Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who like his compatriots, also won his fourth-round match on Sunday. The trio become the first three Frenchmen to reach the final eight of a Grand Slam since 1947.
Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic’s red-hot summer continues. The 37-year-old Karlovic defeated top seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the final of the inaugural Abierto Mexicano Mifel in Los Cabos last night. For the third-seeded Karlovic the title was his second of the summer and the eighth of his career. The 6-foot-11 Croatian won at Newport last month and was a finalist at Washington the following week. Doctor Ivo has posted a 14-2 record during the summer streak. Lopez, also a greybeard at 34, was denied back-to-back titles after winning at Gstaad last week. Karlovic improved to 6-3 against Lopez, while winning his fourth match in a row over the Spaniard. “It was a difficult match in the beginning,” Karlovic said. “He was playing really well. I was a little lucky at the end of the first set, but that gave me confidence for the rest of the match. I realized what he was doing and took my opportunities.” There were no breaks of serve in the first set, in fact nary a break point, and thus a tiebreaker was needed to decide the opener. Karlovic captured a mini-break on the fifth point and raced to a 5-2 lead. Lopez coughed up another mini-break at 3-5 to trail 6-3 with Karlovic serving for the set. The Croat gave back the two mini-breaks on his next two serves, but Lopez’s serve failed him again at 5-6 and Karlovic had a one-set lead. The second set was all Karlovic. Doctor Ivo broke the Spaniard in the sixth game, courtesy of a double fault and a perfectly executed drop volley, and the eighth when the Spaniard double-faulted on the first match point. It was over in one hour and 22 minutes. Karlovic served 21 aces and won 76 percent of his first service points. Lopez had five aces and won 81 percent of his first serves. The Spaniard served up five double faults, including the two crucial ones. “I thought I could have won, but I committed a few unforced errors in the tie-break and two big double faults in the second set and was broken twice,” Lopez said. “It was complicated because he does not give you many chances on his serve. It’s difficult to take positives today, but I believe that these recent weeks have been great for me. It’s another final and I have great memories from Cincinnati and New York, so I hope to play well.” Both players will compete in the Cincinnati Masters this coming week.
Reilly Opelka has done it again. The 18-year-old American wild card defeated No. 7 seed Donald Young 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open in the last match of the day session this afternoon. Opelka, ranked No. 837 coming into Atlanta, has now won three straight matches in his third ATP Tour level event. The 6-foot-11 American lost in the first round at both Washington, two weeks ago, and Houston in April. Young, ranked No. 53 in the world, had no answer for Opelka’s incredible serving and aggressive all-court game. Opelka hit 10 aces and won 80 percent of his first serves and 63 percent of his second. He erased the only two break points he faced. Opelka broke a sluggish Young in the opening game of the match and frustrated the 27-year-old Chicago native throughout. Young had break point opportunities on Opelka’s serve in the fourth and eighth games of the opener but failed to cash either one. Opelka took the set in just 39 minutes. Set number two was a one break deal also as Opelka broke in the fifth game. The big guy served it out at 30 to seal the upset in one hour and 11 minutes. “In the first set, he had a couple of break points. I was able to step up with some big serves,” Opelka said. “Then I started serving even better, and he barely had any chances in the second set. I have a lot of belief in my game and in my level right now. I’ve been doing a really good job with my movement, winning points on my opponent’s serve. The way I am serving now, I know I can at least get to a tie-break. But being able to hit good returns and passing shots is huge.” Young had four aces and seven double faults, and saved two of four break points. Opelka will take on John Isner in tomorrow’s semifinals.