Barrere Retains Lille Crown; Polmans Takes Second Title
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 04:58:00 Z

A LOOK BACK
Play In Challenger Lille (Lille, France): It has been home cooking for Gregoire Barrere in the two editions of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Lille. The Frenchman once again took advantage of the home support at the Tennis Club Lillois Lille Metropole, successfully defending his title on Sunday.

Barrere overcame Yannick Maden to secure the trophy, prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in one hour and 46 minutes. Last year, the 25-year-old took the title in the tournament's inaugural edition. And on Sunday he secured his third Challenger crown, completing an impressive week on home soil. At No. 120 in the ATP Rankings, he continues his push towards a Top 100 debut.

In 2018, only two players retained Challenger crowns. We have already arrived at that total this year, with Barrere joining Newport Beach champion Taylor Fritz with successful title defenses.

Maden, meanwhile, remains in search of his maiden title. On the cusp of a Top 100 breakthrough of his own, the 108th-ranked Stuttgart native is also closing in on his first trophy. He was appearing in his sixth final.

Lille

Zhangjiagang International Challenger (Zhangjiagang, China): Marc Polmans entered the three-week Chinese swing on a 4-11 run, having failed to string together multiple wins since October. But the Aussie has flipped the script in a flash, following a quarter-final run in Shenzhen with a title in Zhangjiagang.

Polmans fended off Lorenzo Giustino 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) in three hours and 12 minutes to claim his second ATP Challenger Tour title. It is the longest final thus far in 2019. After dropping the second set, the 21-year-old saved three break points midway through the decider and rallied from a 2/4 deficit in the ensuing tie-break. He would reel off the final five points, including a sublime backhand winner and a perfect volley on match point.

Polmans notched his second Challenger title and first since February 2018, when he triumphed on home soil in Launceston.

A LOOK AHEAD
Two European tournaments highlight the final week of March, with an indoor hard court event in Saint-Brieuc, France, and a clay-court stop in Marbella, Spain. It is the first of seven straight weeks with clay-court Challengers in Europe, leading to Roland Garros qualifying.

Top seed Ricardas Berankis is the reigning champion in Saint-Brieuc and is joined by Lille finalists Maden and Barrere as the second and third seeds. It will be the 16th edition of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the second edition of the Casino Admiral Trophy is held in scenic Marbella, on the southern coast of Spain. Benoit Paire heads the field, with Pablo Andujar and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leading the Spanish charge. #NextGenATP stars Rudolf Molleker and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina are seeded.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Nick At Night: Kyrgios Cruises To Round Of 16
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 03:16:00 Z

Nick Kyrgios pulled out all the tricks in his bag on Sunday at the Miami Open presented by Itau. The Aussie was entertaining and efficient in securing a 6-3, 6-1 win over Dusan Lajovic under the lights on Stadium court.

Kyrgios gave the Miami faithful their money's worth, producing underarm serves, no-look volleys, scorching forehands and a rolling, spirited conversation with a fan, who was ultimately ejected for his part in the first-set exchange. He ousted Lajovic in just 57 minutes, firing 25 winners, including seven off his forehand wing. 

Exactly one year after the Aussie and the Serbian first met on the ATP Tour, Kyrgios replicated his straight-set victory from the 2018 first round. He now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 2-0.

"I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring on the tennis court, but I'm going out there and having fun," said Kyrgios. "I served well and returned well and I'm really happy. Today it was a pretty good all-around performance."

Kyrgios looked to be on the ropes as proceedings got underway on Sunday night, with Lajovic earning three break points in the first game. But the Canberra native was clutch in the big moments, denying all three with aces. 

Three games later, Kyrgios had a break of his own, taking an early lead and consolidating for 4-1 with an underarm serve - an ace and his first of two successful underarm serves in the match. The magic would continue in the next game, as he punched a no-look volley into the open court.

Kyrgios would streak to 6-3 and refused to look back, breaking twice in the second set before securing the victory on his first match point. He dominated points under five shots throughout the affair, to the tune of 48-23.

Miami has become a happy hunting ground for the World No. 33, who advances to the fourth round for a fourth straight year. A semi-finalist in both 2016 and 2017, he also reached the Round of 16 last year, before falling to Alexander Zverev.

The recent champion at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco, Kyrgios is in the midst of a 7-1 run and will be pushing for a Top 30 return in the ATP Rankings. Coming up next is a blockbuster Tuesday date with Borna Coric. 

"Borna is an unbelievable competitor and one of the best players in the world," Kyrgios added. "He knows how to win matches and is an unbelievable athlete. He moves incredibly well and I know he won't give me a single point. I'm not going to think about it right now though. I have a day off tomorrow."

Coric completed the last match of the day on Sunday, rallying past Jeremy Chardy 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 36 minutes. 

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Koolhof/Tsitsipas Stun Second Seeds In Miami
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 02:30:00 Z

Wesley Koolhof and Stefanos Tsitsipas produced the upset of the doubles tournament at the Miami Open presented by Itau. The Dutch-Greek tandem stunned second seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-3, 4-6, 10-7 on Sunday afternoon on Court 6.

Competing in their second tournament together, they had dropped a tight opener to top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in Indian Wells. But Koolhof and Tsitsipas found their chemistry in a flash in Miami, following a straight-set win over Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev with the dismissal of the second seeds.

Koolhof and Tsitsipas will next face John Isner and Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals, after the Americans rallied past Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 5-7, 7-6(2), 10-7. The duo has reached three ATP Masters 1000 finals together and clinched the title in Rome in 2011.

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Elsewhere, Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos stunned 2014 finalists Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 to reach the quarter-finals. Zeballos has been a force on the doubles court this month, having lifted the BNP Paribas Open trophy with Nikola Mektic a week ago. He and countryman Gonzalez recently took the title in Buenos Aires after finishing runner-up in Cordoba.

In other action, Ivan Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin set a meeting with Matwe Middelkoop and Diego Schwartzman, after the Croatian-French team defeated Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-3. Middelkoop and Schwartzman also progressed on Sunday, needing 65 minutes to dismiss sixth seeds Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus 6-4, 6-3.

Arguably the most efficient victory of the day was provided by Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov, who routed Marcel Granollers and Nikola Mektic 6-1, 6-2 in just 52 minutes. They could potentially face the five-time champions and third seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in the quarter-finals. 

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Bautista Agut's Secret Weapon: Seven Horses
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 01:35:00 Z

Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut is as solid as they come. On the court, he puts pressure on players with his flat groundstrokes and a knack for avoiding mistakes. But off the court, he has a secret weapon: horses.

In fact, Bautista Agut owns seven of them back home in Spain. And while he spends most of his year traveling to tournaments on the ATP Tour, he always has something to look forward to when he has time off.

“I think they are very important for me. I worked hard all my life because I had a dream to have my house with my stables with my horses and I think it’s a very good part of my life,” Bautista Agut said. “I like to spend a lot of my time with them when I’m at home after [dealing with] the stress of life on the tennis tour.”

Bautista Agut trained hard as a kid, competing in tennis and soccer. He played soccer until the age of 14, when he decided to focus on tennis. But sports are not all that was on his mind as a youngster.

“I used to spend a lot of time in a small village with my grandfathers and in the village I saw a lot of horses and I spent a lot of time there,” Bautista Agut said. “It was a dream to get some, but not because nobody had a horse in the family in these years. In the past, they used to have them.

“It helps me a lot to get my mind off tennis, off the tennis tournaments, off the stress of the tennis life. It helps me a lot to clear my mind, to enjoy with them, to get a little bit of peace after the tournaments.”

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It’s never easy to get over a loss. But Bautista Agut has found that after especially tough defeats, he turns his mind straight back to his stables.

“It happens to me very often after being away for a while,” Bautista Agut said. “I really like to come back and spend time with them.”

Bautista Agut began his 2019 ATP Tour season on a tear, defeating Novak Djokovic en route to the Doha title and advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals. He won his first nine matches of the year, but a fever derailed his form.

“It’s been two years in a row that I did a very good pre-season for a month and then I started playing well in Australia and after that I got a fever for seven days,” Bautista Agut said. “It’s not easy to recover — the body and everything — after two very good months of practice and a lot of stress physically. Now I feel great. I think I played a good tournament in Dubai. I lost in the second round against Basilashvili, but played a good match. Last week it was also a good match [against Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round], but I couldn’t get the win. Tennis is a very, very tough sport. To be 100 per cent every day or every tournament during the year, it’s very tough.”

After an impressive victory against Italian Fabio Fognini on Sunday, Bautista Agut will get another shot at upsetting Djokovic. The World No. 1 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 7-2, but Bautista Agut’s second triumph against Djokovic came at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai three years ago.

“He is one of those players that makes you work very hard for every single point. He doesn't make mistakes. Just runs around the court,” Djokovic said. “He's very, very consistent and very solid. He improved his backhand, he improved his serve, and his forehand was always very, very solid and powerful. He won against me in Doha this year. I was a set and a break up. I remember that match. He managed to turn the match around. I'll definitely do my homework.”

Bautista Agut knows the challenge in front of him. All he’s hoping for is to recover well, lace up his sneakers, and give the Serbian all he has.

“I know Novak pretty well because we’ve been playing against each other for the past six or seven years. He’s a great player, he’s No. 1 in the world and every time I have to play him, it’s a very tough match. I have to be very concentrated Of course it’s a very strict match mentally and physically,” Bautista Agut said. “I hope to be ready for Tuesday.”

Rublev's Road Back From The Sofa
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 01:18:00 Z

Last February, Russian Andrey Rublev reached his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 31. Two months later, he was at home on his sofa… literally.

The 2017 Umag champion and two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier missed three months last year due to a lower back stress fracture. He would spend three hours per day at a clinic doing magnetotherapy, eating lunch, and sitting on the sofa. In his words, he was doing ‘nothing’.

“That time was really tough for me. I was completely depressed, I was down. I remember I didn’t watch any tennis matches because as soon as I watched tennis news or something, I was feeling even more depressed that all the guys were playing and competing. They were on tour and I was there on the sofa doing nothing,” Rublev said. “It was a really tough moment and I’m happy that it’s almost already one year past and hopefully it’s never going to happen again.”

Rublev was desperate to return to action. He had reached the Doha final in his first tournament of 2018, a good start to the year. But he had no choice but to rehab.

“In that moment inside I was like, ‘I can’t wait, I want to be back on court as fast as possible’,” Rublev remembered. “But as soon as I arrived for my first tournament, I remember I was a little bit lost. I felt like I wasn’t there. I was feeling like I was in the past when I was playing well before the injury. To recover this mental part of being here in this moment took me a couple of months.”

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Rublev reached the semi-finals of the Citi Open, an ATP 500 tournament, in his third tournament after returning in July. But that was the best result of his comeback, also making the semi-finals in his second appearance of the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Last February, Rublev was the Russian No. 1, ahead of then-World No. 47 Karen Khachanov and No. 50 Daniil Medvedev, who also made Milan in 2017. Both Khachanov and Medvedev are now inside the World’s Top 15, while Rublev is searching for his best tennis.

“To be honest if you talk about the guys, then I’m happy for them. If they’re winning, it means I also have enough level to win these matches, to win those tournaments, so I’m happy for them because we’re not enemies, we are friends,” Rublev said. “My goal is not if I do better [than them] or not. My goal is bigger. It’s to win big tournaments.”

Rublev has shown flashes of his best tennis in recent weeks, qualifying in both Indian Wells and Miami. In the California desert, the 21-year-old advanced to the third round, in which he lost to Khachanov. On Saturday, he upset ninth seed Marin Cilic in straight sets to reach the third round in Miami, earning a clash with #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

The Cilic win is Rublev’s best by ATP Ranking since the 2017 US Open, where he beat Grigor Dimitrov. The Russian applied tons of pressure on former World No. 3 Cilic, earning 22 break points.

“It definitely is amazing for me, especially against a great player like Marin. I’ve known him a long time. I played him once a couple years ago, so I knew it was going to be very tough for me,” Rublev said. “I’m really happy that I won and I’m sure it’s going to give me much more confidence and I hope I will improve and play better and better.”

Rublev has been slowly feeling better this season. He points to a strong base he built during his off-season training in Barcelona.

“I started to move better, I started to feel that I was hitting the ball quite well. Then I was a little bit out mentally,” Rublev said. “But now mentally I’m much better and now everything is starting to come all together. Little by little, I’m starting to win some good matches.

“I completely forgot about my injury the past couple of months. I’m already playing fully: full practice, full intensity. So hopefully everything is recovered inside of my body and I’m hopefully 100 per cent healthy.”

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It’s clear that Rublev has the potential to make up ground, and quickly. According to Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who plays a similarly big-hitting game, the Russian has a bright future ahead of him.

“I think he has big potential. He’s a very good ball-striker from the baseline and I am pretty sure he will have a really great career,” Basilashvili said. He had the problem with his back and hopefully he will fully recover soon. I think he’s a really good player.”

Rublev is currently the World No. 99, and he fell as low as No. 115 in February. But the Russian is not worrying about that. He’s only concerned with his tennis.

“That was the last time I opened my ranking and then I never opened it again. Maybe sometimes I saw my name and sometimes on the draw they put the number and then I saw it. But I never opened it to see where I was in the Race or how many points I’m going to lose or gain,” Rublev said. “I haven’t looked since that time, because then you start to feel a little bit stressed and I don’t want to feel stressed.”

Rublev just wants to work hard, earn his way back to the stage, and compete with the very best in the sport.

No Shoe, No Problem For Felix In Miami
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 00:00:00 Z

The firsts keep on coming for Felix Auger-Aliassime in 2019.

On Sunday, the #NextGenATP Canadian was a man on a mission in securing his first Round of 16 berth at an ATP Masters 1000 event. Auger-Aliassime fought past Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(5), 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

The Montreal native was an elastic wall from the back of the court, using his great flexibility and dynamic shotmaking to put Hurkacz on his heels. The energy was palpable on Court 1, as a fist-pumping Auger-Aliassime fired 34 winners in total, including 10 on his backhand wing.

Auger-Aliassime barely put a foot wrong, and even when he did, he still won the point. With Hurkacz serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the second set, the Canadian came out of his shoe mid-rally. And he still had the composure to toss it towards the back wall and force his distracted opponent to net the ensuing forehand. Three points later, Auger-Aliassime was celebrating a spot in the Round of 16 at Hard Rock Stadium.

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"Hubert is playing really good," said Auger-Aliassime. "From both sides it was a great match. No breaks of serve until the very end. He's doing a lot of good things and I have a lot of respect for him.

"Entering Buenos Aires, I was actually scared of not winning many matches this year. But then after Rio, I told myself that I'm doing good work and to trust in my game and be instinctive on the court. Whenever these thoughts come in your mind, it's all about doing the best to stay in the present. I need to focus on my tennis and on my game. To try to find ways to win. That keeps me in the present."

One year after falling in a deciding tie-break in the first round of qualifying, Auger-Aliassime finds himself in the midst of a breakthrough Miami campaign. He has claimed five wins in seven days as a qualifier, including a comeback victory over Casper Ruud and another three-set win over Marton Fucsovics on Friday. In addition, his win over Hurkacz is his 12th on the ATP Tour this year, already doubling his 2018 total.

The 18-year-old is making his presence known on the ATP Tour in 2019. One month after reaching his first tour-level final in Rio de Janeiro, he is in the midst of a strong run on the ATP Masters 1000 stage. He scored his first Top 10 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier this month in Indian Wells and is turning heads this fortnight in Miami.

Auger-Aliassime will next face Nikoloz Basilashvili for a spot in the quarter-finals. The hard-hitting Basilashvili blasted past Robin Haase 7-6(3), 6-3 on Court 1, firing 14 aces and claiming 27 of 42 points over five shots.

"I am very happy for sure," said Basilashvili. "These courts and balls are different from Indian Wells so it takes time to get used to the conditions. I don't know why, but I always struggle in Indian Wells and Miami and I need to feel the court and atmosphere to play my best tennis.

"It is much more comfortable here than at the previous location [at Crandon Park]. It's a bigger space and it's improved a lot. I never had a chance to play on the centre court, but hopefully soon. It looks really good."

The Georgian suffered a first-round hiccup against Prajnesh Gunneswaran in Indian Wells, but has righted the ship thus far in Miami. Straight-set wins over Mischa Zverev and Haase has him into the Round of 16 of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the second time (Cincinnati 2017).

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Federer, Ferrer Keep Fighting In Miami; Monday Schedule & Preview
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 23:02:00 Z

After surviving a stern opening test against Radu Albot at the Miami Open presented by Itau, Roger Federer will look to find his top form as third-round action continues on Monday.

The fourth seed squares off against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. Federer leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, but Krajinovic pushed the Swiss to three sets in their most recent meeting last October at the Swiss Indoors Basel.

After an injury-filled 2018, the 27-year-old has been on the rebound this year. Krajinovic came through qualifying to reach the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Nadal) and defeated Stan Wawrinka in a third-set tie-break on Saturday.

But Federer has more than 15 years of Miami success on his side. His first ATP Masters 1000 final came here in 2002 (l. to Agassi) and he’s won this event three times (2005-2006, 2017). Federer has been in fine form this season, finishing runner-up at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Thiem) and winning his 100th ATP Tour singles title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (d. Tsitsipas).

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A battle of youth against experience also headlines Stadium Court action as #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe, the No. 28 seed, takes on David Ferrer. The Spaniard is a sentimental favourite in Miami as he makes his 17th and final appearance at this event. He had the crowd fully on his side as he stunned second seed Alexander Zverev in the second round, which marked his first victory over a Top 3 player in five years.

Tiafoe has struggled for form since his epic run to the Australian Open quarter-finals, but produced stellar tennis in his second-round win over fellow #NextGenATP player Miomir Kecmanovic. The American thrives on big courts at big tournaments, and the crowd support will likely be more balanced than what Ferrer experienced against Zverev.

Other notable matches on Monday include sixth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa taking on Joao Sousa of Portugal, eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece going up against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, and a battle of rising stars pitting No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada against qualifier Andrey Rublev of Russia.

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ORDER OF PLAY - SUNDAY, 24 MARCH 2019

STADIUM start 12:00 noon
WTA match
Not Before 1:00 pm
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) vs [4] Roger Federer (SUI)
WTA match
Not Before 7:30pm
[28] Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs [WC] David Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA match

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
[6] Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Joao Sousa (POR)
Not Before 2:00 pm
WTA match
[20] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs [Q] Andrey Rublev (RUS)
[8] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA match

COURT 1 start 11:00
[24] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL} vs Jordan Thompson (AUS)
WTA match
[13] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs [Q] Reilly Opelka (USA)
[14] Marco Cecchinato (ITA) vs [18] David Goffin (BEL) 
WTA match

BUTCH BUCHHOLZ start 11:00 am
WTA match
Matwe Middelkoop (NED) / Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Radu Albot (MDA) / Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs [5] Oliver Marach (AUT) / Mate Pavic (CRO)
[1] Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Marcelo Melo (BRA) vs Guido Pella (ARG) / Joao Sousa (POR)
[3] Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA) vs Nicolas Jarry (CHI) / Franko Skugor (CRO)

Novak Denies Delbonis Upset In Miami
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 22:29:00 Z

New stadium, same Novak Djokovic in Miami.

The World No. 1 battled back to survive and advance at the Miami Open presented by Itau, fighting for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Federico Delbonis on Sunday.

Djokovic, who lifted the trophy on six occasions at the former tournament site in Crandon Park, found his form when he needed it most. As day turned to dusk at Hard Rock Stadium, the Serbian navigated to the finish line after suffering a second-set hiccup. He booked his spot in the fourth round opposite Roberto Bautista Agut.

Following a surprise third round defeat to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Indian Wells, the Belgrade native dispelled any thoughts of an early exit in Miami. He recovered from a 4-6 second set against Delbonis, notching the victory after exactly two hours.

"To be honest, I lost my focus," said Djokovic. "I should have done better mentally than I did in the first set and also the end of second set. I managed to really play well the last couple games of the first set, to go up a break and put myself in front, but then I played a couple of really bad service games.

"Credit to Federico, he stepped in. He was the one controlling the pace. I backed up. I didn't have that much depth and power in my shots and he used it. He didn't have anything to lose. I think the first two, three games of the third set were crucial, really fighting, trying to be present, regain the positioning on the court more than anything. I think the last four games were terrific, so I ended up in a positive way."

Delbonis did well to match Djokovic's intensity as the match wore on, opening the court and firing for the lines. He hit his forehand five miles per hour harder in the second set and it momentarily rattled the top seed's defenses. But Djokovic would steady the ship, breaking for 3-1 in the decider and once again two games later. He closed out the victory on his first match point as Delbonis sent a backhand into the net.

Moreover, Djokovic extends his run of dominance against players from Argentina, improving to a staggering 36-4 since 2007. The four defeats came to Juan Martin del Potro at both the London and Rio Olympics, the 2011 Davis Cup and the 2013 BNP Paribas Open.

Djokovic, who made his tournament debut in 2006, is making his 14th consecutive appearance. Champion in 2007 - his first of 32 ATP Masters 1000 shields - and in 2011-12 and 2014-16, he holds a 22-1 mark as the World No. 1 in Miami.

Next up for Djokovic is 22nd seed Bautista Agut.

"I think I'm hitting the ball well," Djokovic added.  "I just need a little bit more consistency I think to hold that level of play throughout the entire match. I think that's what it's going to take to win against Bautista. He is one of those players that make you work very hard for every single point. He doesn't make mistakes. Just runs around the court.

"He's very, very consistent and very solid. He improved his backhand, he improved his serve, and his forehand was always very, very solid and powerful."

Bautista Agut has also not conceded a set thus far in Miami, following a second-round win over Janko Tipsarevic with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Fabio Fognini on Sunday.

Bautista Agut

The Spaniard needed one hour and 24 minutes to dismiss the Italian, converting five of six break chances. The 30-year-old is seeking an extended stay at the hard-court event after suffering a first-round defeat two weeks ago in Indian Wells (l. to Nishioka).

Bautista Agut is into the Round of 16 in Miami for the third time in four years. He advanced as far in both 2016 and 2017, before falling to Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer, respectively.

But the Spaniard will take great confidence into his 10th FedEx ATP Head2Head clash against Djokovic. In their most recent meeting in Doha, he pulled the upset to kick off the 2019 season. In fact, he has prevailed in their two most recent hard-court encounters, having also triumphed at the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

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Ferrer: 'I Will Fight Until The Last Point'
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 21:46:00 Z

David Ferrer loves competing. It doesn’t matter if he’s retiring in just more than a month after the Mutua Madrid Open. His current ATP Ranking of No. 155 doesn’t mean much to him. The former World No. 3 simply enjoys leaving every ounce of physical and emotional energy he has out on the court.

The Spaniard's victory against second seed Alexander Zverev to reach the third round of the Miami Open presented by Itau on Saturday night wasn't just a win, though. It was a moment.

“It means a lot because for me it’s a really special day. It’s my last year playing professional tennis and winning this type of match against a Top 10 player like Sascha is a gift,” Ferrer told ATPTour.com. “I’m really happy. Now I want to enjoy this moment. I’m trying to enjoy every point and every moment that I still have."

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Zverev cruised through the first set against the wild card, just weeks after dismissing Ferrer in straight sets in Acapulco. Closing out the Spaniard would not have been a surprise.

But Ferrer did not give up, a trait that has in a way defined his career. Instead, he found a way to win, battling past the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion to earn his first Top 5 victory in more than four years. The tennis world has seen Ferrer’s fighting spirit for nearly two decades, and now it gets to pay him back. So as Ferrer scratched and clawed against Zverev, pumping his fist after every tough point he won, the fans showered him with roars of applause.

“I cannot explain it. For me, tennis is everything. It’s one life. I like this sport a lot. Tennis has given me everything and I hope to give something to tennis that I learned,” Ferrer said. “Until the last tournament, until the last point that I play, I will fight.”

“He obviously is a warrior, he fights like crazy,” Zverev said. “He’s still playing unbelievable tennis.”

Ferrer’s attitude has earned him the respect of the entire locker room. The 36-year-old has won 27 ATP Tour titles and more than 700 tour-level matches. But his countryman, Feliciano Lopez, says that while everyone knows how good he is on the court, it’s the example he set that resonates most with the players.

“This is the most important thing that I think he will take with him for his life. Everybody loves him, everybody respects him, everybody thinks he’s an example,” Lopez said. “Besides everything he won, which is a lot, I will say this is even more important, to have that respect and that love from your close ones and from the people in your sport, from the people who you see every day.”

Perhaps most rewarding for Ferrer will be the future stars of the sport that walk down the path that he set down. Spaniard Jaume Munar, who qualified for the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, grew up looking up to Ferrer.

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“David is amazing for me, I’m in love with this guy. I always say that David is my idol,” Ferrer said. “David is a person who is a ‘10’ in life and he’s also this way on the tennis court. I have very much respect for him. I think and I hope he can have a wonderful career outside of tennis and a wonderful life. Everything is going to change for him in the next month, but I’m pretty sure that the person he has been during all these years on the tennis tour, he will be all his life.”

A ‘retirement tour’ of sorts does not change Ferrer’s approach. While the 2013 Miami finalist and two-time semi-finalist could ride off into the sunset and nobody would bat an eye, he is still battling. He has no plans of finishing his career quietly.

“My motivation is playing at a good level. It’s to be competitive. I practised this pre-season to do this,” Ferrer said. “I know I cannot play my best level anymore, but every match I’m going to play, these last tournaments, I want to enjoy and play very good. It’s very important for me to rest and it’s very important to keep [high] energy in every match that I play.”

More than anything else, Ferrer is still keeping his ears open. For a player who has inspired others, he is still picking things up himself. To him, every battle on the court is not just a tennis match, but an opportunity to learn.

"I am learning a lot. I’m trying to learn every day that I’m playing tennis and to listen,” Ferrer said. “For me, it’s very important to listen to other opinions and the evolution in this sport and also in my life."

Isner Keeps Title Defence Hopes Alive In Miami
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 17:34:00 Z

Reigning champion John Isner battled into the fourth round of the Miami Open presented by Itau on Sunday, defeating Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6(6).

Isner was broken to start the match. But the seventh seed responded in Ramos-Vinolas' second service game to dig into the match. He saved the next four break points he faced and struck 16 aces en route to a one-hour, 53-minute victory.

Ramos-Vinolas has been a tricky opponent for Isner in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with the players splitting three-setters in Rome in the past two years. But those clashes were on clay, and while five of their six previous sets went to tie-breaks, Isner needed just one in the second set to advance.

"I did a lot of things well today," Isner said. "I played a good first set, even though I didn't start it off well. In the second, it wasn't quite as clean. I'll talk to my coach and try to iron things out. But I'm into the Round of 16 of a big tournament and I'm happy.

"Playing him on clay is a different animal, but I learned a few things from Rome last year. There were many tactical things that I needed to change. I did that today."

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The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier has found a good string of form after losing his first two matches of the season. Isner reached three consecutive ATP Tour semi-finals in New York, Delray Beach and Rio de Janeiro before losing to then-World No. 13 Karen Khachanov in the fourth round at Indian Wells.

"When the sun is out, the court is more lively," Isner assessed. "But I enjoy the shade, especially when the sun is beating down on me. This whole tournament is fantastic though. I heard that some 40,000 fans came in yesterday. It's all about bringing fans into the tournament and that's what they did yesterday. It is my tournament to defend, but it does have a different feel to it."

Isner will next face 19th seed Kyle Edmund. They have already practised together in Miami and split their two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, both in 2016. Isner prevailed on the clay of Roland Garros, with Edmund getting revenge on the hard courts of the US Open.

On Sunday, the British No. 1 continued his stellar start to the tournament with an efficient 6-4, 6-4 win over Milos Raonic. He needed one hour and 34 minutes to prevail, overcoming 21 winners off the Canadian's racquet, while striking 15 of his own.

Edmund

Edmund, who opened his campaign at the Hard Rock Stadium with a straight-set win over Ilya Ivashka on Friday, is coming off a fourth round finish at the BNP Paribas Open. The week prior, he lifted the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Indian Wells, in what was his first tournament in more than a month in his recovery from a knee injury.

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The World No. 22 is enjoying his first taste of success in Miami in his sixth appearance, having previously never advanced past the second round. He is in the midst of a 7-2 run in ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, also reaching the quarter-finals in Shanghai in October.

Hubert Hurkacz: A Silent Assassin
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 16:02:00 Z

Polish No. 1 Hubert Hurkacz is one of the quieter players on the ATP Tour. Everyone ‘Hubi’ comes across, he greets extremely politely with a smile. Overall, he’s simply a good guy. But while the 22-year-old is quiet, his game is speaking loudly for him.

Entering the BNP Paribas Open, Hurkacz had never won an ATP Masters 1000 match. Not only did he reach the quarter-finals — including three victories against Top 30 opponents — but he is now into the third round in Miami after stunning Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem.

“It’s great. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment,” said Hurkacz, who qualified for the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals. “To be able to play that match against Dominic was really special for me. He’s an unbelievable player, so I needed to play at a top level. It happened, and I’m very happy with that.”

Hurkacz began working with a new coach Craig Boynton (also with Steve Johnson) at Indian Wells. The veteran mentor says that it’s his charge’s competitive spirit that has stood out with his success.

“He’s not afraid to win, and that’s a very, very appealing quality. He wants to win, he’s very competitive, he’s a fighter, he’s very resilient. He doesn’t usually let bad moments linger too long,” Boynton said. “Those are all the things that as a coach you look for in wanting to work with. You take that piece of it and he’s a really good tennis player, put those two together and now it’s just filling in the blanks, making everything a little bit better and I’m just excited to get out on the tournament courts with him and see how the Tour’s going to react to playing him.”

The World No. 54’s competitive spirit has been on full display this month. In the California desert, he battled through three-setters against Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille, Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Hurkacz, who also defeated Nishikori in Dubai, has won both of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the World No. 6 in three sets. Nishikori is 129-44 in tour-level deciding sets (75%), meaning that nearly five per cent of his losses in matches that have gone the distance have come against Hurkacz.

“That was his competitive spirit there. That was him rising to the occasion that got him out of those situations. It wasn’t like all of a sudden there was a big on-off switch on off and here we go now you’re good, now you go,” Boynton said. “He’s had to fight through and come back and be down and out against some really, really good players to get to where he is now.”

Hubert Hurkacz celebrates a point during his third-round win at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open

While Hurkacz is quiet off the court, you can visibly see his determination on it. In a way, his competitiveness is not all that different from Boynton’s other player, Johnson, who is known for his battling spirit.

“He is very energetic. He’s very positive. He does a lot of fist pumping,” Boynton said. “He’s not as boisterous as Stevie can be, but he’s within the same positive, let’s rip your heart out, this assassin — if you will — type of energy. They both really want to win.”

Hurkacz stands 6’5”, has a strong first serve, and the Pole said that his backhand was the key to his victory against Thiem.

“I think if you take a look at him, people have said he kind of mirrors Andy Murray a little bit with a similar routine on returns, a little bit of a similar backhand,” Boynton said. “He’s a little taller than Andy. Andy’s movement was phenomenal. But Hubi’s a very good athlete, too.”

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Hurkacz is still new to the ATP Tour. Entering the week of Indian Wells last year, he was outside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings and had never played a match at an ATP Tour event. So while he has proven he can compete on the biggest stages against some of the best players in the sport, there is still plenty to learn.

“We’ve been working on him being present for every point. He’s learning a lot of different concepts, so it’s really for him to avoid the mental letdowns. If he has his ‘A’ game every single point, what a nightmare he’s going to be to deal with,” Boynton said. “You’re going to have to beat him three times to beat him instead of beating him twice. It’s about eliminating those down times and having him locked in for every point and with a purpose for every point.”

Hurkacz will look to continue his surge against another emerging player in #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday. He’ll look to speak loudly with his game once again.

“He’s doing recently amazing results. I wish him all the best, because he’s a really great guy,” Hurkacz said. “[But] I’m trying to focus on my game. He’s obviously a great player, a great fighter, so it’s going to be a good level.”

Kyrgios Talks 'Putting On A Show' At Miami 2019
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 15:29:39 Z
Nick Kyrgios is thriving in the new home of the Miami Open presented by Itau. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Hot Shot: An Underarm Ace?! Kyrgios Stuns Everyone At Miami 2019
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 15:20:14 Z
Watch as Nick Kyrgios gets everyone in Stadium Court buzzing with this unconventional tactic against Dusan Lajovic at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Hot Shot: Kyrgios Goes From Tweener To Winner In Miami 2019
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 15:02:31 Z
Nick Kyrgios wasted no time getting down to the Hot Shots against Dusan Lajovic at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Djokovic Praises Delbonis After Miami 2019 Battle
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 13:41:38 Z
Novak Djokovic was impressed by the game of Federico Delbonis after their third-round tussle at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Hot Shot: Auger-Aliassime Shows How You Finish Off A Set In Miami 2019
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 12:07:36 Z
Felix Auger-Aliassime closes out his opening set against Hubert Hurkacz with an exclamation point against Hubert Hurkacz at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Djokovic Continues Quest For Miami History; Sunday Schedule & Preview
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 07:31:00 Z

If the past nine months have proven anything, it’s that Novak Djokovic isn’t a fan of sharing. The top seed at the Miami Open presented by Itau has won the past three Grand Slams, lifted two ATP Masters 1000 titles (Cincinnati, Shanghai) and established himself as the clear leader in the ATP Rankings.

Djokovic shares the record for most Miami titles won (6) with Andre Agassi, but has a chance to take it over with a seventh crown. He’ll first need to get through his third-round clash on Sunday against Federico Delbonis. The Argentine has enjoyed success before in Miami, reaching the fourth round in 2017, and has enjoyed big wins in his career over Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.

Seventh seed John Isner continues his title defense against Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain. The pair are even in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series at 1-1, but this is their first hard-court meeting. Both of their previous matches went the distance and Ramos-Vinolas has a game that can frustrate the world's best.

Nick Kyrgios, the No. 27 seed, looks to continue his climb back up the ATP Rankings when he faces Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting came last year in Miami, with the Aussie comfortably winning in two sets. This is Kyrgios’ most successful Masters 1000 event. His resume in Miami includes an 11-3 record and two semi-final appearances in 2016 and 2017.

Other notable matches on Sunday include No. 11 seed Borna Coric of Croatia taking on Jeremy Chardy of France, No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Canada squaring off against No. 19 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, and a battle of rising stars that sees #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime going up against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

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ORDER OF PLAY - SUNDAY, 24 MARCH 2019

STADIUM start 12:00 noon
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) vs [7] John Isner (USA)
Not Before 2:00 pm
WTA match
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Federico Delbonis (ARG)
Not Before 7:30pm
WTA match
Not Before 9:00 pm
[27] Nick Kyrgios (AUS) vs Dusan Lajovic SRB) 

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
WTA match
[12] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [19] Kyle Edmund (GBR) 
Not Before 4:00 pm
Two WTA matches
Not Before 7:00pm
[11] Borna Coric (CRO) vs Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 

COURT 1 start 11:00
Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) / Horacio Zeballos (ARG) vs [4] Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL) / Robert Farah (COL)
Not Before 12:00 noon
[22] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs [15] Fabio Fognini (ITA) 
[17] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs Robin Haase (NED) 
Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs [Q] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
WTA match

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BUTCH BUCHHOLZ start 11:00 am
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) / Marc Lopez (ESP) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Not before 12:30pm
Rohan Bopanna (IND) / Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs [7] Marcel Granollers (ESP) / Nikola Mektic (CRO)
2 WTA matches
Rajeev Ram (USA) / Joe Salisbury (GBR) vs John Isner (USA) / Sam Querrey (USA)

COURT 6 start 11:00 am
WTA match
Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA match
[6] Raven Klaasen (RSA) / Michael Venus (NZL) vs Matwe Middelkoop (NED) / Diego Schwartzman (ARG)
Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs [2] Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA)
WTA match

Hot Shot: Isner Finds The Line To Earn Set Point In Miami 2019
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 06:21:30 Z
Watch Hot Shot as John Isner hits the target with a backhand down the line to reach set point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Highlights: Federer, Ferrer Fight Back In Miami
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 04:06:00 Z
Watch highlights from Day 4 at the Miami Open presented by Itau, as Roger Federer and David Ferrer both produced impressive comebacks from a set down to reach the third round. Watch live tennis streams at http://www.tennistv.com.
Ferrer Turns Back The Clock In Miami
Sun, 24 Mar 2019 02:56:00 Z

If Saturday's performance is any indication of David Ferrer's form, the Spaniard might want to reconsider his retirement from the ATP Tour.

Ferrer turned in a vintage display under the lights at the Miami Open presented by Itau, storming back from a set down to defeat Alexander Zverev 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. In front of a packed crowd at Hard Rock Stadium, the dogged Ferrer turned back the clock for the second-round victory. It marked his first win over a Top 5 opponent since 2015, when he upset Kei Nishikori in the Acapulco final.

The 36-year-old, a former World No. 3, is in the midst of a farewell tour after recently announcing that the Mutua Madrid Open will be his last professional tournament. It's safe to say he will be fist pumping to the very end.

"It means a lot," said Ferrer. "It's a special day because it's the last year of professional tennis for me. Winning these type of matches against a Top 10 player like Sascha is a gift. I'm very happy and I'm trying to enjoy every point and every moment.

"My motivation is playing at a high level and be competitive. It's my goal. I can't play at my best level anymore, but I want to have good energy and play my best in every match."

Fighting for every ball and refusing to yield an inch from the baseline, Ferrer put Zverev on his heels as the match wore on. A relentless fighter, it was a fitting tribute to his entire career. Runner-up in 2013, Ferrer had the crowd on his side throughout the encounter. Their cheers reached a deafening roar as he fought back in the second set and claimed the decisive break for 3-2 in the third.

Ferrer has tasted victory in Miami more than any other ATP Masters 1000 event, posting an impressive 33-16 record. He will next face Frances Tiafoe on Monday for a spot in the Round of 16. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.

Tiafoe

Guile, grit and determination. Tiafoe needed it all and then some to advance on Saturday at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

Tiafoe survived an all-#NextGenATP duel with 19-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic, triumphing 7-6(6), 7-6(5) in two hours and four minutes. With momentum swinging between both sides of the court, the American overcame a break deficit in the first set to rally for the victory. He fired 45 winners in total.

The Maryland native limped to the finish line in the second set tie-break, after Kecmanovic recovered a break earlier in the set. Battling severe cramps in his left leg, Tiafoe looked to shorten points and he would seal the win with a drop shot-volley combo.

One year ago, the World No. 34 enjoyed his best result at an ATP Masters 1000 event, reaching the Round of 16 in Miami. There, he upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych. On Monday, Tiafoe will look to match that result when he faces Ferrer next.

Earlier on Saturday, eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas booked a third-round encounter against Leonardo Mayer. The Greek defeated American lucky loser Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(4), 6-1 in one hour and 25 minutes.

Tsitsipas converted four of eight break chances to prevail. Now into the third round, he is in strong form after also lifting the trophy in Marseille and finishing runner-up to Roger Federer in Dubai last month. The #NextGenATP star is enjoying his deepest run in Miami.

Mayer, meanwhile, booked his spot in the third round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over countryman Guido Pella to open proceedings on Day 4. He is appearing in Miami for the seventh time.

In other action, 18th seed David Goffin defeated Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-1 to set a third-round date with Marco Cecchinato. The Thomas Johansson pupil is seeking a Round of 16 appearance for the third time in four years in Miami.

The FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at one apiece after Goffin triumphed in Rome last year and Cecchinato followed suit at Roland Garros. The Belgian also owns an ATP Tour qualifying victory over the Italian in Casablanca five years ago.

Defending Champions Lead Day 4 Doubles Surge
Eight matches were completed on the doubles court on Saturday, with reigning champs Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan advancing 6-1, 6-4 over Marton Fucsovics and Roman Jebavy. The Americans are five-time winners in Miami, having lifted the trophy in 2007-08, 2014-15 and 2018.

Top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, champions in 2017, also earned an opening-round rout on Saturday, earning a 6-2, 6-2 win over Marco Cecchinato and Andres Molteni. They are joined by fifth seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic and 2014 finalists Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah as Day 4 winners.

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