Roberto Bautista Agut to Headline the Three-Event Series ‘UTR Pro Series-Spain’

Roberto Bautista Agut is heading back to the court…

The 32-year-old Spanish professional tennis player will headline the UTR Pro Series-Spain, a three-event series that’ll be played on successive weekends beginning July 10 in Barcelona.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Conspicuous in his absence: ATP No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t taken part in any of the growing number of “re-opening” events tennis entrepreneurs and officials have staged during the suspension of ATP and WTA tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish events will feature Bautista Agut, ranked No. 12 in the world, No. 25 Pablo Carreno Busta, and Albert Ramos-Viñolas, who is No. 41. Two of the other committed players are well-known veterans Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, both of whom are still ranked in the Top 100.

The UTR Pro Series tournament format is modeled on the wildly popular exhibition event created by Roger Federer, the Laver Cup (this year’s event, scheduled for Boston in late September, has been canceled due to a conflict with the postponed French Open). 

The eight participants in the UTR showdown will be divided into two teams. The matches will be best-three sets, but with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set.

UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating, is an organization built on the foundation of a rating system that differs substantially from the formal ATP ranking system. It rates all players, including top pros, solely on the basis of their results against each other in recent matches recognized by UTR. It’s already widely used in junior play and by college recruiters, and has sponsored a number of exhibitions in recent months.

Federer is out of action for the rest of the year due to an aggravated knee injury. Novak Djokovic made his first appearance as a player during the coronavirus pandemic in late June, but the four-tournament Adria Tour he conceived turned into a debacle due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Djokovic was among those who tested positive for Covid-19.

Nadal has kept his distance from the exhibition circuit, and has also expressed disappointment at the prospect of playing without fans in attendance at the upcoming US Open. He hasn’t yet decided if he’ll defend his title in New York.

Fernando Verdasco Defeats Andy Murray to Advance to Third Round at the US Open

Fernando Verdasco is celebrating a big win…

The 34-year-old Spanish professional tennis player defeated Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of the US Open.

Fernando Verdasco

Verdasco, the No. 31 seed, will face a second straight past champion at Flushing Meadows when he meets third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, in the third round.

Verdasco won for just the second time in 15 career meetings with Murray, who had multiple chances to even the final game of a 64-minute final set before the left-hander finished it.

“I think some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I’ve played since I had the surgery or since I came back,” Murray said. “But there were also periods in the match, especially in the first set, where, you know, I really didn’t play particularly well. I hit a lot of mistakes when I was up in that set. I feel like I should have won the first set and didn’t.

“Then kind of at the end when back was against the wall, I came up with some good tennis to make it close and interesting at the end and almost got myself back into it. You know, there were too many ups and downs for my liking.”

Juan Martin del Potro Defeats Fernando Verdasco to Reach Stockholm Open Final

Juan Martin del Potro is one win away from a repeat…

The 29-year-old Argentinian tennis player outlasted Fernando Verdasco at the Stockholm Open on Saturday in a tussle between two of the biggest forehands in tennis, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(1).

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, the reigning champion, will now face top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the finals.

“It was a great match. We both played great tennis and I think the crowd enjoyed our game,” del Potro said. “I’m glad to be in the final once again.”

del Potro is into his first final of the season, and his first overall since lifting the trophy in Sweden last year. The right-hander will attempt to win his 20th title on Sunday.

The match will be of the utmost importance for del Potro in the ATP Race To London, as he has made a late-season charge to put himself within striking distance of qualifying for the ATP Finals.

del Potro is now into 15th in the Race with 2,035 points, and can ascend to 14th with a victory. If he beats the 2013 champion, del Potro will be within 480 points of No. 9 Pablo Carreno Busta, who has 2,605 points and currently holds the final qualifying spot with No. 7 Stan Wawrinka out for the season due to injury.

It was not easy for del Potro to give himself that opportunity to make a move in the Race, as the veteran left-hander Verdasco pushed the Argentine the distance.

Verdasco earned an immediate break of serve in the third set to gain a 2-0 advantage with his forehand keeping his opponent on the back foot, but del Potro roared right back with a break of his own, using his own timely forehands. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ then saved a break point at 3-4, which would have allowed Verdasco to serve for the match. Once the pair got to the tie-break, it was all del Potro.

“I was focused during the third set and in the tie-break I broke a few times at the beginning and that allowed me to play with more confidence in my game on my serve,” del Potro said. “I played a good match today.”

del Potro will not have it easy on Sunday as he attempts to defend his title against an in-form Dimitrov. With his 6-3, 7-6(2) semi-final victory over sixth seed Fabio Fognini, the Bulgarian moved up to No. 5 in the Race, and put himself in position to win a career-best fourth title of the season (Brisbane, Sofia, Cincinnati).

del Potro leads in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 5-2, but Dimitrov has won the past two matches, both straight-set victories this year in Beijing and Cincinnati.

“I would love to defend my title but Grigor is playing so good. He already beat me in Beijing and Cincinnati as well and he’s playing such good tennis on this surface,” del Potro said. “Hopefully I can be ready to put up a good fight.”

Cuevas Gunning for Record Third Consecutive Brasil Open Title

Pablo Cuevas is gunning for a three-peat

The 31-year-old Argentine-born Uruguayan tennis player will go for a record third consecutive Brasil Open title on Sunday.

Pablo Cuevas

Cuevas dismissed top seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 7-6(2) on Saturday in Sao Paulo to give himself a chance for the three-peat.

The third-seed won 82 percent of his first-serve points and feasted on Carreno Busta’s second serves, taking 70 percent of those points.

Since the first edition of the Brasil Open, in 2001, no player has won back-to-back-to-back titles at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament.

Spaniard Nicolas Almagro won back-to-back crowns in 2011-2012 but fell in the quarter-finals to David Nalbandian in 2013.

Cuevas has avoided such slip-ups this week.

He’ll try to win his sixth career ATP World Tour title – all on clay – against second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Cuevas leads their head-to-head series 3-1. The Spaniard erased a match point on Saturday against Portuguese Joao Sousa to win his semifinal 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-2 on the red clay.

Sousa had the match on his racquet, serving at 5-4 in the second set. The fourth seed fell behind 0/40 but crawled back into the game and led at ad-in. But Ramos-Vinolas erased the match point with a sharp forehand up the line that Sousa netted.

The Spaniard would earn the break and take the final nine of 11 games to claim the three-hour and three-minute semi-final.

Ramos-Vinolas last played in an ATP World Tour title match in October at the Chengdu Open in China (l. to Khachanov). He’ll be going for his second ATP World Tour crown after taking his maiden title last July on clay at the Swedish Open in Bastad (d. Fernando Verdasco).

Ramos-Vinolas Claims First-Ever ATP Title at the Swedish Open

Albert Ramos-Vinolas will always remember Sweden…

The 28-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated countryman Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 in the Swedish Open final to win his first ATP World Tour singles title.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Ramos-Vinolas, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, triumphed in 86 minutes to end a three-match losing streak against fifth-seed Verdasco and lift the winners’ trophy, which was presented to him by former world No 1 Bjorn Borg.

Ramos-Vinolas, ranked No. 35 in the world, never looked back after racing to a 4-1 lead in the opening set courtesy of breaks in the third and fifth games. Despite dropping serve in the sixth, he broke Verdasco again to take it 6-3.

Verdasco squandered three break points in the second set before being broken for a fourth time to trail 5-3 and although Ramos-Vinolas dropped his serve in the next game, he broke again to seal the set 6-4 and take the title.

Ramos-Vinolas is expected to compete in singles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Ramos-Vinolas Upsets No. 1 Seed David Ferrer to Reach Swedish Open Final

Albert Ramos-Vinolas is one win away from his first ATP World Tour title…

The 28-year-old Spanish tennis player beat No. 1 seed David Ferrer 7-5, 6-4 on Saturday for the first time in seven tries and will now play in his second career final at the Swedish Open in Bastad.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

The third seed will meet another countryman in Sunday’s final: Fifth seed Fernando Verdasco swept Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-3, 6-1.

Elias was playing in his first ATP World Tour semifinal.

Ramos-Vinolas had been 0-6 in his head-to-head series against Ferrer, a two-time champion in Bastad (2007, 2012). But the left-hander broke Ferrer five times to move into the final in an hour and 48 minutes.

“I’m very happy. I beat a great player and one of the best on clay in the last five, six years,” Ramos-Vinolas said.

Ramos-Vinolas last played in a final in 2012 (Casablanca, l. to Andujar). He’ll also try to reverse his head-to-head series against Verdasco as the 32-year-old leads the series 3-1, including a 2014 win in Bastad.

Verdasco reached his second tour-level final of the season with dominant serving. The left-hander won 75 per cent of his service points. He also landed almost eight of 10 first serves. Verdasco, though, was broken once, the first time he’s lost his serve in Bastad (32/33).

The seven-time ATP World Tour titlist will go for his second crown of the season (also Bucharest, d. Pouille).

“It’s a final,” Verdasco said. “A final is never easy.”

Ferrer Beats Dustin Brown to Advance to Swedish Open Semifinals

David Ferrer continues to roll…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis player battled past Dustin Brown 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the Swedish Open on Friday.

David Ferrer

Ferrer, the top seed and two-time champion at the tournament, improved his head-to-head record versus the German player to 4-0 following the 92-minute win, which was watched in the stands by Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg.

Ferrer will next face his compatriot, third seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

“He’s playing his best tennis of this season so I’m going to have to play very good and very consistent to have a good chance to be in the final,” said Ferrer of his opponent.

Ramos-Vinolas reached his second semifinal of 2016 as he defeated Andrea Arnaboldi. The Spaniard saved six of the 11 break points he faced to outlast the Italian 5-7, 7-5, 6-0 in what was their first tour-level meeting.

Fifth seed Fernando Verdasco eased into the last four in Bastad with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Facundo Bagnis in 68 minutes. The Spaniard will continue to bid for his eighth ATP World Tour singles title when he faces Gastao Elias.

“It’s great for me to be in the semifinals here again. Today I’m one step closer and hopefully tomorrow I will keep playing as good as today or even better,” said Verdasco. “I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve been playing better and better every day. Tomorrow I will face a Portuguese player and they are both playing good this week. I know that it’s going to be difficult.”

Elias reached his first ATP World Tour semifinal by upsetting second seed Joao Sousa 6-2, 6-2.

The 25-year-old Portuguese tennis player capitalized on five of his seven break point chances to notch his first win over his compatriot (Sousa now leads rivalry 2-1) in 62 minutes.

Verdasco Defeats Lucas Pouille in Nastase Tiriac Trophy Final

It’s Lucky No. 7 for Fernando Verdasco

The 32-year-old Spanish tennis player claimed his seventh ATP title after beating Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-2 on Monday in the Nastase Tiriac Trophy final.

Fernando Verdasco

It was Verdasco’s first title since 2014, while Pouille was playing in his first final.

“I’m very happy because I won this trophy,” said Verdasco. “It was a long time since I was in this position, to win a tournament or to play in a final.”

After taking the first set, Verdasco broke Pouille in the opening game of the second set and again to lead 4-1.

“Despite the loss, it was a positive week, and I hope to keep on improving in the coming weeks,” Pouille said.

 

The final was originally scheduled for Sunday but was postponed because of rain

Zeballos Defeats Fernando Verdasco to Reach the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Horacio Zeballos continues his winning ways…

The 30-year-old Argentine tennis player continued his remarkable run at the Miami Open by defeating Fernando Verdasco 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the third round.

Horacio Zeballos

It was his first victory over Verdasco in three matches.

Zeballos entered the tournament only after Roger Ferderer withdrew on Friday because of a stomach virus. After losing in the qualifying final round to Yoshihito Nishioka, Zeballos was then chosen as the last of three lucky losers.

“I’m so happy,” Zeballos said. “I’m excited to be here playing with such great players. Two days ago, I was out. Now, I’m in the [fourth] round. Of course, I’m really happy and enjoying this moment like it is my first time.”

So far, he’s made the most of the second chance. He defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the second round before stunning Verdasco.

Zeballos is just the fourth lucky loser to advance to the fourth round. If he wins again, he will become the second to reach the quarterfinals. Ivan Ljubicic did it in 2001.

“These wins are very significant because they will help my ranking, and that will help me get into bigger tournaments,” Zeballos said. “The stands were full, it was my first time beating Verdasco, so it was huge for me.”

It appeared the run was over when Zeballos started slow against Verdasco. After rallying to tie the score in the second set, he faced match point while serving at 5-6 in the third. Zeballos won the set to force a tiebreaker.

“Winning that match today was the equivalent of playing seven Challengers in terms of points and winnings,” Zeballos said. “So I’m very happy, a little tired, but very excited to be for the first time in the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament, having won two matches against opponents who are more accomplished than me and that gives me confidence that I can play at this level and I can keep improving my game.”

Zeballos Defeats Juan Martin del Potro at the Miami Masters

Horacio Zeballos has dashed one tennis champion’s comeback dreams…

The 30-year-old Argentine tennis player defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the second round of the Miami Masters.

Horacio Zeballos

Zeballos did not originally have a spot in the main draw. But when Roger Federer withdrew from the event with a stomach virus, Zeballos was given a chance to play Del Potro on the show court in Florida.

Del Potro, a former US Open champion, started as favorite but he failed to create a single break point as Zeballos ran out a 6-4 6-4 winner.

Zeballos, looking for his first tour-level win of the year, made good on his opportunity by serving smartly and avoiding del Potro’s fearsome forehand. The left-handed Zeballos fired six aces and made 77 per cent of first serves, most of which were directed to del Potro’s backhand. He only dropped nine points on serve and did not face a break point in the 81-minute encounter.

“He played well,” said del Potro of his opponent. “He’s a lefty, he can play to my backhand easier than anyone else. He played very smart.”

Zeballos’ opponent in the third round will be Fernando Verdasco, who scored his first win in three ATP Head2Head meetings with Jeremy Chardy, 6-4, 6-4.