Alexander Zverev is #NextGen no more. For Sascha, the future is now. The 20-year-old German dealt elder statesman Roger Federer a thorough 6-3, 6-4 beatdown in the final of the Coupe Rogers in Montreal yesterday afternoon. Zverev, who evened his record against Federer at 2-2, has now won two Masters titles and five tournaments overall this year. He won at Marseille in February, Munich and Rome (Masters) in May, and Washington last week. The 6-foot-6 Zverev moved up one spot to No. 7 in the world in today’s updated ATP rankings and improved to 46-13 on the year. Federer lost for the first time in 17 matches, while dropping to 35-3 in 2017. Zverev pounded out six aces among his 20 winners, and was a powerhouse on serve as well as from the baseline. He won 80 percent of his first service points and 61 percent of his second, while dominating rallies from the back of the court. The young German saved all three of the break points he faced and won two of six against Federer’s serve. Both players move on to Cincinnati to play in the Western & Southern Open this week. “Winning two Masters 1000 titles in the same year is something amazing,” Zverev said. “I played well winning Washington and here. It’s something amazing, back-to-back weeks. I feel great. I feel like I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life. But Cincinnati is a very tough draw. I don’t know if I will be able to go far there because I am a little bit tired. But game-wise and confidence-wise, I’m super happy the way everything is standing.” Zverev came out with guns blazing and never let up. He forced a break point on Federer’s serve in the second game of the opening set and then broke the Swiss in his next service game. That was all he needed as he wrapped up the opener in 30 minutes. After holding serve to start the second set, Federer, looking to turn things around, amped up the pressure on Zverev’s serve in the following game. Zverev was up to the challenge, though, saving the three break points to squelch the rally and hold. The German captured his second break of the afternoon at 3-3 and never looked back. It was over when Federer sailed a return long on the first match point. A swift 68-minute affair. “It is a positive week in the end,” Federer said. “The final was unexpected. But it’s keeping up with the good results of this year. Playing the final was a good thing. Of course, I’m disappointed with today. I thought I would do better. I wanted to fight a bit more and make the match a bit more tighter. I had opportunities. But Zverev played extremely well. He played well all week.”

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Lucky loser Andrey Rublev won his first ATP Tour title last night, defeating No. 4 seed Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Croatia Open Umag. The 19-year-old Rublev had lost in the final round of qualifying, but earned a spot in the main draw when Borna Coric was forced to withdraw. Rublev took full advantage of his good fortune, beating defending champion and third seed Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals and Croatia hope Ivan Dodig in the semis en route to the final. The #NextGenATP Russian became the seventh lucky loser to win an ATP Tour title and the first since Rajeev Ram won at Newport in 2009. With the victory, Rublev will jump 25 spots to a career-high No. 49 in the world in Monday’s updated ATP rankings. The Russian teenager played with controlled aggression throughout the 86 minute contest and showed maturity well beyond his 19 years. Lorenzi, a 35-year-old veteran and accomplished claycourt player, couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire pace of the young Russian. Rublev broke twice early to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the opener. Lorenzi got one of the breaks back, but it wasn’t enough as Rublev wrapped up the set in 40 minutes. The Italian held twice to start the second set and led 2-1, but those were the last games he would win as Rublev reeled off five games in a row to win the match. “It’s amazing. I have no words to explain it,” Rublev said. “Especially after this tough week and all the feelings that I have been going through. Now, I’m here and it’s amazing. But now, it’s already passed and in two days I have a new match and I have to be ready 100 per cent.” Rublev will play in the German Open in Hamburg this week. “[Andrey] played remarkable throughout the week and again today,” Lorenzi said. “I wasn’t able to vary my game as much as I wanted [to] because I played slower. The match yesterday took away a lot of energy as it was very hot and humid.” Rublev served two aces and won 77 percent of the points on his first serve.

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Top seed Albano Olivetti, ranked No. 308 in the world, edged Australian Daniel Nolan 7-5, 7-6 (7) in the opening round of the Ireland F1 Futures in Dublin earlier today. The big-serving Frenchman had spent a long day of travel yesterday after losing in the final of the France F15 Futures in Corsica on Sunday. Olivetti arrived in Dublin all right, but his bags didn’t, necessitating some scrambling to get ready for his first round match. The 6-foot-8 Olivetti, who didn’t attempt to qualify for Wimbledon, has been working to hone his game and develop winning ways on the ITF Futures circuit of late. Since the end of March he’s had quite a bit of success, reaching four finals (winning two) and three semifinals. Olivetti had his big serve going today, hitting 20 aces and landing 68 percent of his first deliveries. He won 82 percent of the points on those first serves. Neither player faced a break point through the first 10 games of the opening set. Nolan blinked first, offering up the first break point opportunity in the 11th game. Olivetti jumped on the chance for the break and then held to take the first set. Nolan captured the first break of the second set to go up 3-1, but his advantage was short-lived as Olivetti broke right back. The Australian saved four break points in the sixth game to stay even at 3-3. Service prevailed through the next six games to force a tiebreaker. Nolan led 4-1 and had a set point at 6-5, but Olivetti won mini-breaks on the 12th and 16th points to take the set and match. The Australian hit three aces and won 63 percent of his fist service points, while saving four of six break points. Olivetti, who improved to 35-17 on the year, defended two of three break points. The Frenchman takes on Ryan James Storrie of Great Britain in the second round tomorrow.

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Today is a quiet day at SW19. The lush lawns at the All England Club are showing a bit of wear and tear after a week of heavy use and could use a breather. They will get just that, a one-day respite from play on this middle Sunday of the Wimbledon fortnight. But come tomorrow, Manic Monday, the players return and the action will be hot and heavy. Eight men’s and eight women’s round of 16 singles matches, along with 20 doubles matches, are on the docket as the second week pairing down begins. On the men’s side, 11 of the top 16 seeds survived the first week, including, as expected, all four of the Big 4. Three unseeded players and two seeded in the second 16 fill out the round of 16. Among the Big 4, only top seed Andy Murray dropped a set, as No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Roger Federer and No. 4 Rafael Nadal cruised through their three matches unblemished. The following are the fourth round pairings. In the top half of the draw in Quarter No.1, Murray takes on unseeded Benoit Paire and No. 24 seed Sam Querrey battles fellow big server Kevin Anderson, also unseeded. Quarter No. 2 features Nadal against No. 16 seed Gilles Muller, a serve and volley virtuoso, and No. 7 seed Marin Cilic versus No. 18 seed Roberto Batista Agut. In the bottom half of the draw in Quarter No. 3, No. 6 seed Milos Raonic tackles No. 10 seed Alexander Zverev in a matchup of big servers and Roger Federer meets No. 13 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Quarter No. 4 pits No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem against No. 13 seed Tomas Berdych and Djokovic versus unseeded Adrian Mannarino. Hopefully by nightfall on this very busy day, the singles quarterfinals will be set.

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Wimbledon 2017 Men’s Preview

by John on July 2, 2017

Wimbledon begins tomorrow with play on the outside courts at the All England Club starting at 11:30 a.m. Defending champion and world No. 1 Andy Murray opens play on Centre Court at 1:00 p.m. sharp. It’s a tradition and honor bestowed upon the previous year’s title holder at the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Like always on the day before the Championships begin, speculation runs rampant on just who might hoist the trophy at the storied venue at SW19 two weeks hence. This year is no different. For the past 14 years one of the Big 4 in men’s tennis has won the title. Roger Federer tops the list with seven Big W crowns, Novak Djokovic has three and Murray and Rafael Nadal two apiece. This 30-something quartet — Federer 35, Nadal 31 and Murray and Djokovic both 30 — have dominated tennis like no other foursome in history. So the question becomes; can one of them continue the run? I see no reason why not. Sure there are some #NextGen young guns and a handful of seasoned veterans capable of pulling off an upset or two, but to keep it going and win seven matches over the fortnight, I don’t think so. Let’s take a look at the draw and see what’s shaking for the Big 4, because the winner is going to come from this group. Murray, somewhat of a wounded warrior nursing a hip issue, heads Quarter No. 1 in the top half of the draw. The No. 1 seed hasn’t played like a world No. 1 ever since he ascended the top rung in November. His grasscourt preparation has been minimal, losing in the first round at Queen’s. Still, if his hip problem subsides, he’s always a force. Murray, opening with a lucky loser, will potentially have to get past Dustin Brown in the second round, Fabio Fognini in the third, and Nick Kyrgios in the fourth before meeting No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. I see Kyrgios derailing Murray’s advance and then losing to Wawrinka in the quarters. Nadal, seeded No. 4, stands atop Quarter No. 2. The Spaniard, fresh off his 10th French Open title, didn’t play any of the grasscourt warmups, but is in superb tennis form. However, that doesn’t always translate to success on grass. Nadal hasn’t won at Wimbledon since 2010. Rafa’s first test should come in the third round, where big-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov could be lurking. After that, possible opponents in the fourth round include big servers Ivo Karlovic or Gilles Muller. Nadal survives these tests, but falls in the quarterfinals to No. 7 seed Marin Cilic, whose path to the final eight is relatively easy. In the bottom half of the draw, Federer, seeded No. 3, is top dog in Quarter No. 3. The resurgent Swiss Maestro, winner of his ninth Halle grasscourt title a week ago, has a tough opening round match with Alexandr Dolgopolov. Obstacles along the way could include Mischa Zverev in the third round, John Isner or Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth, and then a battle with No. 6 seed Milos Raonic, if he topples Alex Zverev, in the quarterfinals. Federer passes these challenges to move on to the semis. Novak Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, heads Quarter No. 4. Nole, just off yesterday’s victory on the grass at Eastbourne, where he entered as a wild card at the last minute, appears to have received a real boost of confidence with the win. Djokovic could meet the always dangerous Juan Martin del Potro in the third round and Feliciano Lopez or Gael Monfils in the fourth en route to the quarters. He’s successful with the test. Dominic Thiem, seeded No. 8 and Djokovic’s quarterfinal slayer at Roland Garros, gets past Tomas Berdych in the fourth round to meet the Serb once again in a crucial Grand Slam quarterfinal. Djokovic extracts his revenge to reach the semis. So there you have it. Wawrinka versus Cilic in one semifinal, and Federer against Djokovic in the other. I’m not feeling the winners of these matches just yet. It needs to gestate.

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#NextGen rising star German Daniel Altmaier, 18, won his first ATP Tour main draw match earlier today, defeating veteran Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 7-5, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (5) in the opening round of the Antalya Open. The young German lost in the final round of the qualies, but advanced to the main draw of this first-year grasscourt event in Turkey as a lucky loser when Hyeon Chung withdrew due to an ankle injury. Altmaier, ranked No. 252 in the world, qualified for his first main draw at an ATP Tour event last month in Geneva, but was defeated in the opening round by Sam Querrey. The 36-year-old Estrella Burgos, ranked No. 93, with three ATP Tour titles to his credit, fought tooth and nail for two hours and 56 minutes with Altmaier. There was just one break in today’s marathon, that being by Altmaier in the 11th game of the opening set, and two tight tiebreakers that could have gone either way. Altmaier missed a match point opportunity with Estrella Burgos serving at 7-8 in the second set tie-break and trailed 4-1 in the deciding set tiebreaker before rallying for the victory. “It’s the biggest win of my career. I can’t describe it,” Altmaier said. “I had to refocus after missing the match point, but I wanted to fight out there. I really enjoyed it.” Altmaier hit nine aces and won 84 percent of his first serves, while saving four of four break points. Estrella Burgos served eight aces, won 78 percent of his first service points and defended four of five break points. Next up for Altmaier is Marsel Ilhan, who advanced when his opponent Martin Klizan was forced to retire at 6-6 in the first set.

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Top seed Albano Olivetti defeated fellow Frenchman and No. 2 seed David Guez 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the Israel F10 Futures at Kiryat Shmona earlier today. Olivetti improved to 2-0 against Guez in head-to-head meetings, while winning his second Futures title of the year and fifth of his career. The big-serving Olivetti, ranked No. 299 in the world, won at Sozopol (Bulgaria) last month. With today’s win, Olivetti, 25, upped his record to 26-14 for the year. The 6-foot-8 Olivetti landed 64 percent of his first deliveries and won 79 percent of those service points. He hit eight aces and double-faulted just twice. Guez, a 34-year-old veteran, who has 23 Futures and three Challenger titles to his credit, stayed close, but won only 50 percent of the points on his first serve. That contributed greatly to his downfall. Olivetti was masterful on his returns, winning 38 points against the Guez serve overall, and breaking his compatriot five times. He parlayed service breaks in the seventh and ninth games of the first set to take the opener in 40 minutes. Guez, ranked No. 353, got his nose out in front in the second set, breaking in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. The edge was fleeting, however, as Olivetti broke back immediately and then again in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. Guez answered with a break of his own for 5-4, but succumbed when Olivetti captured his fifth break of the match three games later. It was over in one hour and 43 minutes. Olivetti saved three of five break points and Guez four of nine.

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Sam Groth is back on the grass and it sure shows. Groth, ranked No. 240 in the world, defeated Brydan Klein 6-3, 6-4 on his favorite surface this afternoon, while advancing to the quarterfinals of the Nottingham Challenger. The win was just the second main draw victory for the big-serving Australian since early January at Canberra. He won in the opening round on Tuesday over Canadian Peter Polansky after scoring three victories in the qualies over the weekend. Moving comfortably on the lawns at the Nottingham Tennis Centre, Groth used his big serve and strong volleying to improve to 4-3 against the No. 209-ranked Brit. Groth served nine aces, won 89 percent of the points on his first serve and was never broken, saving six of six break points, including two in the bizarre last game. After holding at love in the opening game, Groth erased four break points in the third to keep his nose ahead at 2-1. The big Australian got the only break of the set with Klein serving at 2-3 and then closed it out with two routine service holds. Service prevailed through the first eight games of the second set before Groth cashed his fourth break point chance in the ninth game to put himself in position to serve it out. Klein, who had been having some kind of ongoing beef with umpire Mohamed Lahyani earlier, earning himself a warning, received a penalty point on the changeover after an escalated conversation. Groth started the 10th game at 15-0 as a result. After Klein netted a return on his second break point opportunity, pushing the score back to deuce, the Brit shouted: “Stupid, stupid person. Hit it.” Layhani then gave Klein a game penalty and it was game, set, match. Groth looked as stunned as Klein. The Brit played well and didn’t appear to deserve such an outcome. Groth will play fellow countryman John-Patrick Smith tomorrow for a spot in the semifinals.

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Second seed Novak Djokovic rallied from a two-sets to one deficit to defeat a tenacious Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the third round of the French Open Friday afternoon. Djokovic, with new coach Andre Agassi looking on, weathered Schwartzman’s aggressive offensive assault through the first three sets to finally wear the 5-foot-7 Argentine down in three hours and 18 minutes. The Serb improved to 2-0 versus Schwartzman, while picking up his 58th victory (58-11) at the French Open, tying Guillermo Vilas for third on the all-time list at Roland Garros. Djokovic, the defending champion, is bidding to become the third man in history to win each of the four Grand Slams at least twice. Aussies Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the others. Djokovic broke Schwartzman in the fourth game of the opening set and jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Argentine came storming back with breaks of his own in the seventh and 11th games. Schwartzman cashed his fifth set point in the 12th game to take the opener. Djokovic, digging in, captured the only break of the second set with the Argentine serving at 3-4, but not before Schwartzman saved five break points in the game. Nole held at love in the ninth game to level the match. Schwartzman refused to back down and continued to pound away in the blistering baseline exchanges. His efforts were rewarded when he broke in the eighth game of the third set to take a 5-3 lead, and then saved four break points in the ninth to take a two-sets to one advantage. By the fourth set, Schwartzman was physically spent. He would hold serve just once more, that being in the fifth set, as Djokovic played flawless tennis the rest of the way. Djokovic certainly knew he’d been in a battle, though. “He definitely deserved the applause he got at the end of the match, because he was fighting, he was playing really well,” Djokovic said. “He was probably the better player for the first three sets.” The Serb will meet Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, another tough clay-courter, in the fourth round. “Sometimes you need to be challenged in order for certain things to surface, which maybe are not surfacing if you’re winning comfortably,” Djokovic said. “That’s going to happen more as I go deeper in the tournament because the matches and opponents are going to get tougher. I didn’t play too many five-setters the past couple of years. I see a lot of good things in it. I think it will put me in a good place mentally as well.” Djokovic hit seven aces to four for Schwartzman and won 78 percent of his first service points to 62 percent for the Argentine. The Serb hit 43 winners, committed 55 unforced errors and saved three of seven break points. Schwartzman had 26 winners, 58 unforced errors and defended 13 of 21 break points. While the Argentine didn’t win the match or the statistical battle, he certainly won the admiration of the crowd which gave him a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of the contest. “It took me a while to notice, because I was packing my stuff. I could see that everyone was clapping, and that Djoko was clapping and looking my way,” Schwartzman said. “Then finally I understood and I thought, ‘Okay, get your kit in the bag and try to enjoy the moment.’ It’s a truly extraordinary thing.”

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NextGen tennis star Alexander Zverev powered his way into the NowGen elite of men’s tennis Sunday afternoon. The 20-year-old German upset second seed Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the Italian Open, winning his first Masters title and becoming the only player born in the 1990s to accomplish the feat so far. With the win, the 17th-ranked Zverev will catapult into the Top 10 when tomorrow’s new rankings come out. The 6-foot-6 German star will rise to No. 10 in the world. Djokovic, appearing in his fourth straight Italian Open final, dropped to 4-4 on the final Sunday in Rome. Zverev played with poise and aggression, putting the hammer down in his service games with huge serves and big forehands, and outdueling Djokovic in backhand to backhand exchanges. He took out Andy Murray conqueror Fabio Fognini in the third round, Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals and John Isner in the semis en route to the final. Djokovic hadn’t dropped a set until today, including a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Dominic Thiem in yesterday’s semifinal. Thiem had upset Rafael Nadal the day before. Zverev came out of the chutes with gusto, breaking Djokovic in the opening game with an aggressive forehand return. The break would hold up with the German hitting two aces in the 10th game to serve it out. Zverev hadn’t faced a break point yet and wouldn’t the rest of the day. Sascha broke in the third game of the second set and then again in the ninth when Djokovic sailed a backhand long to close out the match in one hour and 21 minutes. “I’m very happy with the way I played and my performance all week, I think today was one of the best matches I ever played,” Zverev said. “I knew I had to be aggressive from the first point to the last. It was very important for me to be able to stay this aggressive and not let him take over the game.” Zverev served seven aces and won 84 percent of his first serves and 69 percent of his second, while dropping just nine points on serve. Djokovic won 70 percent of his first deliveries, but just 38 percent of his second. Nole saved two of five break points. “He served very well. I just wasn’t able to get any rhythm on my returns,” Djokovic said. “If we would get into a rally, he would smash the ball from the first or second shot. There is no doubt he took time away from me. It happens. If he serves this well and this efficiently, it’s tough to play him on any surface.” Zverev finished the day with 16 winners and 14 unforced errors, while Djokovic hit 11 winners and committed 27 unforced errors.

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