Dodig/Roger-Vasselin Target Nitto ATP Finals After Lyon Title Run

Ivan Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin set their sights on a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals after claiming their second team title of the season on Saturday at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon.

The Croatian-French duo, which owns a 15-9 record as a team, saved all eight break points it faced to beat Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-3 after 70 minutes. Dodig and Roger-Vasselin have won two ATP Tour titles in France since their team debut at the Sydney International in January. The second seeds picked up their maiden team trophy at the Open Sud de France (d. Bonzi/Hoang) in February.

“[Our goal for the end of the year], as a team, would be to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals,” said Roger-Vasselin. “That would mean that we are in the top eight teams in the world. This is, for sure, the goal. To be part of this [event], we have to win many more matches and play well in Grand Slams. Roland Garros is right there, so it is important for us to play well and we’ll see at the end. It is definitely one of the biggest goals of the year.”

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Dodig and Roger-Vasselin did not drop a set en route to the title in Lyon, which also included a semi-final victory against fourth seeds Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara. Dodig has now won 13 trophies from 27 tour-level finals, while Roger-Vasselin improves to 18-11 in tour-level championship matches.

“From the first match, we started to build a little bit of confidence… from the semi-finals and the final I think we played a great level,” said Dodig. “That was very important for us, to play some matches and to win this tournament is definitely the best possible preparation for us to go to Roland Garros and keep the momentum and confidence.”

Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski were bidding to capture their third trophy in eight ATP Tour finals as a team. The British brothers have reached four tour-level finals this year, following a title run in Budapest (d. Daniell/Koolhof) and runner-up finishes in Delray Beach (l. to Bryan/Bryan) and Houston (l. to S. Gonzalez/Qureshi).

Dodig and Roger-Vasselin receive 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and share €29,650 in prize money. Skupski and Skupski gain 150 points and split €15,200.

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Paire Beats Auger-Aliassime For Lyon Title

Frenchman Benoit Paire denied #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime his first ATP Tour title on Saturday, defeating the 18-year-old sensation 6-4, 6-3 to triumph at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon.

Auger-Aliassime, the youngest player to reach at least two tour-level finals since Andy Murray in 2005-06, was trying to become the youngest ATP Tour champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach 11 years ago. But Paire was locked in from the first game of the match, claiming his third ATP Tour crown after one hour and 20 minutes after Auger-Aliassime missed a backhand half volley long.

The 30-year-old entered April with just one tour-level title, but having also won Marrakech, he has now captured two trophies in less than two months. Paire struggled to start the season, going 4-9 on hard courts in 2019. But he has found his rhythm on the red clay, moving to 11-4 on the surface this year. Paire is the sixth player to earn two ATP Tour titles in 2019, joining Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Cristian Garin, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Paire wasted no time challenging Auger-Aliassime’s serve, earning two break points in the first game of the match. Although the Frenchman did not convert, that early pressure set the tone for the match. In his next service game, Auger-Aliassime double faulted the break to Paire, who never wavered. 

The World No. 51 had chances to go up a double-break later in the opener, but his favoured two-handed backhand let him down. It did not cost him though, closing out the set without difficulty.

Paire let slip an early break in the second set. But again, Auger-Aliassime was unable to capitalise, as the Frenchman continued to keep him off balance, both from the baseline and in other facets of the game. Paire consistently forced the teen to play from uncomfortable positions, at the back of the court and even when he came to net. While Paire’s forehand is typically the first of his shots to break down, it held firm throughout the final.

At 2-2 in the second set, Paire hit a forehand return winner from well off the court to earn a break point right after losing his serve for the first time in the match, and Auger-Aliassime, who began to look physically hampered as the match wore on, missed an inside-in forehand wide to return that break. The Frenchman never looked back from there, winning all but five of his first-serve points.

Paire, who fell to No. 69 in ATP Rankings on March 4 — his lowest mark since 1 June 2015 — gains 250 points, which is projected to propel him into the Top 40 on Monday. He also earns €90,390 in prize money.

Auger-Aliassime will be disappointed to fall short of his first title, but it was an impressive week nonetheless for the teen, who is the youngest Top 30 player since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. The Canadian earns 150 points, which will help him climb to a career-high World No. 22, and €48,870.

“I had a good week even though it didn’t end the way I wanted, not playing the way I wanted or being physically well,” Auger-Aliassime said. “There’s disappointment because these finals don’t come around often but there’s a lot of positives to take from that week. Hopefully I give myself other chances for titles.”

Did You Know?
Two of this ATP 250 tournament’s three winners have been French home favourites. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga captured the trophy in 2017.

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Pavic/Marach Make Geneva History

Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic became the first team to win back-to-back Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open doubles titles on Saturday, defeating Matthew Ebden and Robert Lindstedt 6-4, 6-4.

The top seeds extended their unbeaten record in Geneva to 8-0 after 74 minutes, lifting their first tour-level trophy since triumphing at this event last year (d. Dodig/Ram). Marach and Pavic, who began their partnership at the 2017 Miami Open presented by Itau, now own six trophies from 14 tour-level championship matches together.

“Thanks to Mate for a great week, again. We love Geneva, obviously we have an 8-0 [record here]. We won last year and this year, so [we are] very happy to come back,” said Marach. “I personally love Geneva. I lived here for two years. It is a great tournament. It has one of the nicest centre courts of all the tournaments I have played.”

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The 2018 Australian Open champions were appearing in their first ATP Tour final of the season, improving on semi-final runs in Auckland, Indian Wells and Rome. Marach and Pavic have now won 20 of their 32 tour-level matches this year.

“We love to come back here in Geneva,” said Pavic. “Two years in a row, winning, feels great and I hope we can come back next year.”

Marach now owns 22 doubles trophies and has earned a tour-level crown in 11 of the past 13 seasons. After lifting his 14th tour-level trophy, Pavic has now won a title in each of the past five years.

Ebden and Lindstedt were aiming to lift their maiden trophy in their first ATP Tour final as a team. Lindstedt was bidding to win a tour-level title for the 13th straight season, while Ebden was seeking his first doubles crown since capturing the Acapulco trophy in 2014 alongside Kevin Anderson.

Marach and Pavic gain 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €29,650 in prize money. Ebden and Lindstedt earn 150 points and share €15,200.

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Why Federer Should Not Be Counted Out At Roland Garros

Roger Federer may be competing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, and he returned to the surface earlier this month for the first time since 2016 Rome. But don’t discount the Swiss on the Parisian clay, as the 101-time tour-level titlist is no stranger to success on the red dirt.

According to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, Federer has been one of this era’s clay-court leaders in all key categories, despite it being his least successful surface.

Federer has won 76 per cent of his matches on clay, third-best among active players. The only men who have done better are Rafael Nadal (91.7%) and Novak Djokovic (79.5%). Federer’s results put him in 15th place in the Open Era, and only 1.3 percentage points separate him from the Top 10.

Best Clay-Court Winning Percentage (Active Players)

 Player  Record  Winning Percentage
 1. Rafael Nadal  429-39  91.7%
 2. Novak Djokovic  209-54  79.5%
 3. Roger Federer  218-69  76%
 4. Dominic Thiem  124-43  74.3%
 5. Juan Martin del Potro  81-34  70.4%

The 37-year-old has won 218 tour-level matches on clay, fourth-best among active players. He did not play on the surface for two full seasons, in 2017-18. Nadal (429), Tommy Robredo (261, 66.6%) and Fernando Verdasco (227, 61.9%) are the only players still competing who own more victories than the Swiss star.

And then there is the matter of titles. Federer, the 2009 Roland Garros champion, is one of just four active players who has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Nadal has done so 11 times, while Federer, Djokovic and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka have accomplished the feat once each. Federer has won 11 tour-level titles on clay overall, tied for third among active players with Robredo, trailing Nadal (58) and Djokovic (14).

Federer might not have played on clay for a substantial period of time, but he has already shown his clay-court prowess in the two tournaments he has played on the surface this year. The Swiss held two match points against clay stalwart Dominic Thiem in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals before ultimately falling short, and he made the last eight at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia before withdrawing due to injury.

“I felt I actually came back fairly quickly. Especially now with having played Madrid, I think the decision-making also came back quite naturally,” Federer said before the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. “I think it always goes back to the fact that I did grow up on this surface. Sliding is something I actually enjoy doing. The problem is, the more time I spend on clay, maybe sometimes the more excited I get playing on the surface, I start sliding around too much instead of actually moving sometimes like on the hard courts and only sliding when really required.

“I must say also in practice in Switzerland I felt good right away. Very happy where I’m at, to be quite honest. I was a bit surprised that it went as easy as it did.”

Did You Know?
Federer reached at least the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in nine consecutive appearances from 2005-13. The Swiss advanced to the final four straight times (2006-09) and made a fifth championship match in Paris in 2011.

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Djokovic, Chasing All Four Slams, Feels Extra Motivation

Three years ago, the questions were deafening: Would this be the year that Novak Djokovic, then a three-time finalist, wins Roland Garros and completes the career Grand Slam? Only seven men had won all four major championships at the time, and Djokovic was also trying to become only the third man to hold all four majors at once.

He accomplished both, of course, beating Andy Murray in the final to ensure Roland Garros forever remains one of his most cherished tournaments.

I love playing in Roland Garros, always throughout my career, and especially in the last four or five years. I received a lot of support from the French crowd and also the international crowd that comes here. And I think because of that support, I also managed to win this title in 2016,” Djokovic said.

Just three years later, the World No. 1 is chasing more history in Paris. The Serbian will try to become only the second man to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time twice in his career, joining Rod Laver. Djokovic would be the first to hold all four twice during the Open Era.

Players Winning Four Or More Consecutive Grand Slam Titles (All-Time)

Player

Length Of Streak

Years & Titles

Novak Djokovic

4

2015-16 (2015 Wimbledon-2016 Roland Garros)

Novak Djokovic

4?

2018-19? (2018 Wimbledon-2019 Roland Garros?)

Rod Laver

4

1962 (1962 Australian Champs-1962 US Champs)

Rod Laver

4

1969 (1969 Australian Open-1969 US Open)

Don Budge

6

1937-38 (1937 Wimbledon-1938 US Champs)

“For me, there is an extra motivation and incentive to win Roland Garros because of the opportunity to hold all four Slams, something I did three years ago in my career, and that gives me obviously enough reason to believe I can do it again,” he said.

A year ago, Djokovic was still in the midst of his comeback from elbow surgery, which sidelined him for the final four months of the 2017 season. At Roland Garros, Djokovic was No. 22, the farthest he’d fall before again returning to No. 1, where he’d finish his 2018 season. But he didn’t return to glory in Paris, falling to Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in the quarter-finals.

Twelve months ago, the situation was quite different. Obviously recovering from an elbow surgery, dropping out of the Top 20, and everything that I had to face on the court only 12 months ago,” Djokovic said. “Twelve months later, I hold three Slams and being No. 1 of the world, obviously it’s quite a different feeling approaching the tournament, with more confidence, and hopefully I can have a good two weeks.”

The Serbian, despite being No. 1 and having won the title, anointed 11-time champion Rafael Nadal as the “main favourite”. Nadal beat Djokovic on Sunday in the final of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

I think it wouldn’t be fair to pick anybody else but him as the main favourite, because he has won this tournament so many times. He has lost, what, two times in his career on Parisian clay?” Djokovic said, referring to Nadal’s 86-2 record at Roland Garros.

So lots of respect for him, obviously, as always. We had a good match in Rome. He was a better player. Was just too strong. I felt like I had a fantastic couple weeks in Madrid and Rome, and I probably ran out of gas a little bit in the finals with a couple of long matches and late-night finishes in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.”

Djokovic won the Mutua Madrid Open title the prior week, beating Greece’s #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Masters 1000 final.

Overall, very positive weeks, and it’s a great lead-up to what’s coming up here,” Djokovic said.

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After Djokovic Win, For Daniel, ‘Life Goes On’

Players spend their lives dreaming of that big win, the victory that makes the world stop, recognise their names – maybe learn how to pronounce them – and hear their stories.

Japan’s Taro Daniel beat current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic last year at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells for the biggest win of his nine-year career. And for a while, the upset felt exactly like he thought it would – life-changing, validating, satisfying.

At that moment I won, it did feel like something big, and that’s how I thought it was going to feel like,” Daniel told ATPTour.com. “But then 40 minutes later, everything’s the same.”

He had another match to prepare for, then another tournament to travel to, and then another match to prepare for…

“In the end, it’s just a match, and then the Tour goes on, life goes on. You still have to grind some [ATP Challenger Tour] matches, you still have weeks where you can’t win matches,” Daniel said. “It did help me in terms of getting more recognition perhaps, but yeah, life still goes on.”

Daniel

The “What have you done for me lately?” world can be cruel: Beat the best player in the world, and you have to back it up again, and again and again. But for Daniel, the daily tennis grind did improve after his headline win against Djokovic.

Two months later, a more confident Daniel won his maiden ATP Tour title at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open. The Japanese reached a new career-high of No. 64 in the ATP Rankings in August. “Last year was a pretty big step up,” he said.

This year, Daniel has his eyes solely on the future as he looks to construct a more complete game for himself and secure more wins over Djokovic and his peers at the top of the ATP Rankings. The 26-year-old Japanese, who was born in New York but moved to Japan as a baby, spent ages 13-23 training in Valencia, Spain, where the focus was on his groundstrokes and rallies.

“Very endurance based, a lot of crosscourt rallies… trying to not go for aces, trying to build up the point with a kick serve and get your forehand,” Daniel said.

Read Flashback: Daniel Stuns Djokovic In Indian Wells

The strategies provided a consistent tennis base for him, but lately he’s been trying to build a more complete game, including taking advantage of his 6’3”, 190-pound frame.

“I’m not going to be better than, for example, a Nishioka or a Schwartzman from the baseline, because no matter how hard I work they’re always going to move better than me,” Daniel said.

“I have to have that offensive side of my game… My serve, I have to improve my volleys, which I basically never trained until a couple years ago. Those things are adding up nicely, but it still has to really naturally come. I think it will still take a little bit more time.”

Adding new tactics and trying to change years’ worth of patterns can produce up-and-down results. Daniel made the quarter-finals at this week’s Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open and at the Grand Prix Hassan II in April in Marrakech. But before April, he hadn’t made a quarter-final in eight months, since last August at the Winston-Salem Open.

We’re focusing now on getting more aggressive overall without losing his DNA of consistency,” said Gustavo Marcaccio, Daniel’s coach since July 2018. “He has already improved his serve significantly, but he could improve it even more… Little by little, he will become a big server in the game.

As far as returns, it’s the same thing… He could easily attack the second serve a little more.”

Daniel heads to Roland Garros in a good – but precarious – spot. He didn’t have to play qualifying before the season’s second Grand Slam – good news. But his ATP Ranking has slipped to No. 107, at least eight spots away from where he’d like to be to help him secure main-draw entry into future Grand Slams.

But Daniel, a 10-year veteran on the ATP Tour, knows better than most that the tennis life can be like this: highs, lows and everything in between.

It goes away really quick – all the good weeks. Before you know it you have to defend the points… It’s a constant struggle… You try to keep the load the light as possible, try to concentrate on improvement instead of the material side of it,” Daniel said. “It’s a long process.”

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#NextGenATP Ymer & Benchetrit Qualify For Roland Garros

The Roland Garros main draw is complete after the final eight qualifiers booked their spots on Friday, led by two #NextGenATP competitors who will be making their Grand Slam debuts in Paris. 

Two 20-year-olds, Swede Mikael Ymer and Frenchman Elliot Benchetrit, battled through three-setters on the final day of qualifying to reach the main draw of the year’s second major. Ymer, the 32nd qualifying seed, beat fourth-seeded Swiss Henri Laaksonen 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 in one hour and 46 minutes to move through, and he will face another qualifier, Slovenian Blaz Rola, in the first round. Rola ousted Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 6-3, 6-2 in 76 minutes.

“I feel very emotional right now,” Ymer told RolandGarros.com. “It’s what we all work for since we were kids, a big milestone in my career.”

Although Ymer is 0-2 at tour-level this year, he has enjoyed success on the ATP Challenger Tour, claiming his first title at that level in Noumea, New Caledonia in January and reaching two additional finals.The World No. 149 won an ATP Masters 1000 match last year in Miami against Jan-Lennard Struff.

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Benchetrit, currently No. 273 in the ATP Rankings, overcame countryman Enzo Couacaud 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 after one hour and 55 minutes. Benchetrit will face Brit Cameron Norrie in his first tour-level match.

Top seed Tennys Sandgren will compete in the Roland Garros main draw for the third straight year after beating home favourite Mathias Bourgue 7-6(1), 7-5 in one hour and 46 minutes. It will be the 2018 Australian Open quarter-finalist’s seventh consecutive major main draw, and he will open against Moldovan Radu Albot. 

Italian Simone Bolelli, who reached the third round at Roland Garros in 2008 and 2015, will play the main draw in Paris for the 13th straight year after dismissing Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 7-6(5). Bolelli will try to upset home favourite and Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille.

The other three players who moved through are Frenchman Alexandre Muller, who beat Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, Spaniard Pedro Martinex, who ousted Geoffrey Blancaneaux 6-3, 6-1, and Brazilian Thiago Monteiro, who eased past Lucas Miedler 6-2, 6-4.

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Did Novak Djokovic Turn Into The Hulk At Roland Garros?

Did World No. 1 Novak Djokovic turn into The Hulk at Roland Garros?

On Friday, the top seed posted a video of himself on social media placing cones around a depression in the gym floor so other players and their teams would avoid the area. That’s because, not realising the surface underneath the cushioning is wood, Djokovic threw a medicine ball down as part of his warmup routine before practice, breaking the wood.

“Today warming up in the gym before my practice I used a medicine ball by slamming it on the floor pretty hard. As a result, I wrecked a wooden floor. @RolandGarros please forgive me!” Djokovic wrote, before replying with a second tweet. “Just FYI I left Paris for several days until the investigation is completed… my participation at RG is maybe under review? 😆🤔🚧” 

Djokovic, who noted on Instagram that he will ‘pay his dues’, was joking about leaving Paris. Instead, he will try to win his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title. The Serbian begins his tournament against 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Hubert Hurkacz.

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Kyrgios Withdraws From Roland Garros

Nick Kyrgios has been forced to withdraw from Roland Garros, citing illness in the build up to the second Grand Slam tournament of the season.

The five-time ATP Tour titlist, who was due to face Brit Cameron Norrie in the first round, was aiming to advance beyond the third round in Paris for the first time this year. The Australian has reached the third round at the clay-court Grand Slam championship on two occasions, falling to Andy Murray in 2015 and Richard Gasquet in 2016.

The 24-year-old owns a 10-7 tour-level record this season, highlighted by his title run at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in March. Kyrgios defeated Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, John Isner and Alexander Zverev in consecutive matches to lift the trophy in Acapulco.

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