Del Potro wins Stockholm Open; Gasquet captures Antwerp title; Carreno Busta crowned Moscow champion

October 23, 2016


Former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro captured his 19th career title on Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden, defeating Jack Sock 7-5, 6-1. Capturing his first title since January 2014, del Potro needed one hour and sixteen minutes to defeat his American opponent. Striking six aces and winning 88 percent of his first serve points, del Potro took home 250 ATP World Tour points for his victory, alongside €100,800 in prize money.

Suffering from three recent wrist surgeries, the 28-year-old Argentine had contemplated retirement at the end of 2015.

Sock, who was looking for second career title and first of the season, dropped to 0-3 in title matches in 2016.



No. 3 seed Richard Gasquet won his 14th career title on Sunday in the inaugural European Open in Antwerp, Belgium, dismissing Argentine Diego Schwartzman 7-6(4), 6-1. Drawing on the experience of playing in his 27th career final, Gasquet manoeuvred through a tough opening set before cruising to victory in set two. Breaking serve on three occasions, Gasquet was superior on his serve as well, winning 29/33 points off his first serves during the contest.

Schwartzman, who was looking to capture his second title of 2016, had won the event in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this year.



Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta overcame a strong start by his opponent Fabio Fognini on Sunday to capture his second career title in Moscow, Russia. Taking the title by a score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, Carreno Busta overcame 41 unforced errors to dominate the third set. Winning an ever-important 55 percent of his second serve points, Carreno Busta continued his strong season on Tour, which has seen him reach four finals and win two titles.

Fognini, who was in search of his fifth career title, committed 47 unforced errors during the one hour and 56 minute encounter.

PODCAST: Previewing the WTA Finals in Singapore

October 22, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

With the final eight set in Singapore, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi breakdown the two round robin groups and predict their winners. We also discuss Serena Williams’s absence from the event and look at the suspension saga of Nick Kyrgios.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Tennis Elbow: Maria Sharapova will soon be free

October 17, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses the latest in the Maria Sharapova doping saga.

At long last Maria Sharapova is free.

Alright, she actually isn’t and remains suspended for some time, but it seems like we might have just heard the last of things in this saga, at least for the time being.

A week ago in the lead-up to the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters, we had all learned that Sharapova’s punishment and ban for a positive test for Meldonium had been reduced from 24 to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It’s like the CAS had looked at the International Tennis Federation’s decision and said, “Hmm not quite.”

The CAS, if you recall, is that organization you had no idea existed until a few days ago and that is actually the highest ranking authority in sports. Its decision is final on the matter, too: Sharapova will come back to tennis, if she wants to, in late April 2017.

In our write up last week, we had asked that this decision only lent itself to a few more questions, so let’s run through some of them.

What happens in late April 2017?

Well Sharapova is eligible to come back to action, if she so chooses.

Why the need to include that “If…” in there. Is it not a given? Will Sharapova even come back?

We know nothing that you don’t as well so we’re only guessing here. But nothing about Sharapova’s actions and reactions, ever since this whole thing started, seems to hint at her not coming back.

When the news broke about her positive drug test, she went ahead and scheduled a press conference; it seemed she wanted to jump ahead of the story. Now that she’s been (somewhat) exonerated, the Russian has gone on the offensive against World Anti-Doping Agency and the ITF. That’s not someone who thinks of retiring.

Targeted? Is she kidding us??

She isn’t, but for now let’s backtrack a little.

Alright sure.

The reason why WADA and the ITF, if you recall, had decided to suspend Sharapova for two years was a positive drug test for meldonium. The substance, maybe you remember, had been deemed fine to use until January 1, 2016. Meldonium was added to the WADA watch list last year, and Sharapova apparently tested positive for it five times in 2015 but, like, who cares because it wasn’t illegal then?

Sure, I get what you mean. Or do I?

What I mean is that there are quite a few problems with WADA, as it came upon this positive test of Sharapova during the Australian Open. Namely, the agency had no idea just how long meldonium could stay in the human body.

Right, I remember that. You already explained it.

I sure did, right here.

Cool, cool.

Any other questions?

Well sure, what should we expect from the Russian once she comes back?

Aren’t you in luck, because the folks at ESPN wrote here about the daunting challenge facing the player and here about what our expectations should be. It’s pretty interesting and, like, basically is the one thing related to actual tennis in this whole saga.

You don’t seem in a hurry to discuss this.

I’m sure not.

Well, then. Anything else?

Oh, for sure.

What is it?

Well you see, I don’t really see what the big deal is in this entire doping saga. I suppose that Sharapova indeed has broken the rules, and should be punished for this (as she has been already), but maybe there’s a bigger picture here.

Maybe it’s not necessarily that different to inject meldonium in your body than to replace a torn ligament in your elbow with a tendon from elsewhere in your body. If you’re enhancing your performance, you’re enhancing your performance and that should be that. But of course, we treat one behaviour as entirely natural while another as illegal and morally reprehensible.

Might that negatively affect Sharapova’s lasting legacy?

It almost surely will, but I don’t believe it should. It seems like all of us are still studying meldonium and the ways through which the substance may have performance-enhancing qualities; Sharapova’s legacy may suffer if we ultimately find out that the drug does enhance one’s performance in some major capacity.

I see an “And yet”?

Oh damn right. And yet, plenty won’t care about that caveat and have made up their mind already. Sharapova tested positive and, despite all the problems that come with it, that will be that in the eyes of many.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

PODCAST: Reviewing the Shanghai Rolex Masters

October 16, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

With many of the top seeds crashing out of the event, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi return to discuss the mounting charge of Andy Murray toward the No. 1 ranking in the world. We also look at the recent behaviour of Nick Kyrgios and how the tennis world should respond. We conclude the show with thoughts on Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Murray wins Shanghai Rolex Masters

October 16, 2016


Second seed Andy Murray captured his third career Shanghai Rolex Masters title on Sunday, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(1), 6-1. In a match that featured six total breaks of serve, it was Murray who used his stellar defence and hard serving to complete his victory in one hour and 37 minutes. Striking eight aces and winning 82 percent of his first serve points, Murray improved to 3-0 against Bautista Agut in head-to-head career meetings. Murray has now defeated the Spaniard on clay, grass and hard-courts.

Murray, who is making a late season run to the No. 1 ranking position, trails Novak Djokovic by 915 points in the 2016 Race Standings. The Brit is next scheduled to play in Vienna, which will be followed by the Paris Masters in France and the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Bautista Agut was making his first appearance in a Masters 1000 final. He had defeated Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en-route to the finals in Shanghai.

Tennis Elbow: 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters draw preview and analysis

October 9, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Maybe you’ve watched the news this past week?

Well we have—though it really was more Twitter than the actual news, but you get the gist. We were on Twitter the other day and, lo and behold, we saw some actual breaking news.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport—I didn’t know that was a thing and neither did you, stop lying—issued its decision in the Maria Sharapova doping saga, ultimately reducing the two-year suspension that the International Tennis Federation had imposed to a ban of 15 months.

The five-month reduction ultimately means that the Russian player will be able to compete again on the WTA Tour in late April 2017. The CAS is apparently the highest authority in sports and, as such, its word on the matter is final. So we’re glad we’ve got that settled: Sharapova, if she so chooses, will be back at that time. What does this mean for her? What will happen in late April?

Those are all valid questions, ones we would normally be all too happy to tackle in this column. But part of the challenge of writing a weakly column such as this one is actually finding 52 topics to write about on any given year. And when there’s a big tournament on the calendar that week, you write a preview about said tournament—and you table whatever else.

So stay for the following Shanghai Rolex Masters preview, and come back next week for discussion of the Sharapova latest.


Main draw

If last week’s China Open had a fairly open draw (on the men’s side at least), then this week it’s the very opposite. Welcome to life at a Masters 1000 event.

Novak Djokovic is back in action for the first time since losing in the US Open final against Stanislas Wawrinka a month ago. It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the World No. 1, as rumours of personal trouble and injuries have taken their toll. To top it off, the Serb has seen his lead at the top of the ATP World Tour rankings to a mere 1,500 points because Andy Murray has been on the hottest streak of  all hot streaks, but let’s not lose sight of the 56-6 record, the 7 titles and one more thing: Djokovic did complete the career Grand Slam in 2016. No matter what happens the rest of the way, it’s already been a success.

Djokovic will want to do well in Shanghai just to reaffirm his stronghold on the sport. Facing him in the quarterfinals will be Australian Nick Kyrgios and, if it really comes to that, buckle up because it’ll be an awesome match.

The second section of the draw, meanwhile, is fairly wide-open, with a struggling Rafael Nadal as the supposed favorite. Let’s give the edge to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Bernard Tomic because why not? Canadian Milos Raonic had to pull out of his semifinal match at the China Open last week but is still slated to compete in Shanghai; so long as he’s healthy, he’ll be fine and a potential battle against a fuego Stanislas Wawrinka would be wonderful.

Meanwhile, maybe you’ve heard about this Andy Murray fella? He’s been playing pretty damn good tennis since the Rio Olympics and here we’ll give him a spot in the quarterfinals, where he’ll lose against Gael Monfils because we like the Frenchman.

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Nick Kyrgios; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over Bernard Tomic; Milos Raonic over Stanislas Wawrinka; Gael Monfils over Andy Murray

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Milos Raonic over Gael Monfils

Final: Milos Raonic over Novak Djokovic

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Murray wins 40th career title in Beijing; Kyrgios captures Tokyo crown over Goffin

October 9, 2016


Top seed Andy Murray won his 40th career title on the ATP World Tour on Sunday in Beijing, China, defeating unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6(2). In a contest that latest one hour and 58 minutes, Murray hit three aces and won 73 percent of his first serve points. Breaking serve on two occasions, Murray used his stellar defensive skills to outlast his younger opponent. Improving to 8-3 against Dimitrov in head-to-head matches, Murray now stands at 1,555 points behind top ranked Novak Djokovic in the Race Standings for 2016.

Murray and Dimitrov will next see action at the Shanghai Rolex Masters in China.



No. 6 seed Nick Kyrgios won the biggest title of his career in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, defeating No. 5 seed David Goffin 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Continuing his brilliant serving throughout the event, Kyrgios slammed 25 aces past his Belgium opponent, while breaking serve on two occasions. Regularly hitting his second serve over 120 MPH, Kyrgios showed the kind of confidence throughout the match that will continue to take him toward the top 10 in the world. Hiring a new fitness trainer to compliment his team, Kyrgios will now set his sights on qualifying for the London Finale as he competes in the Shanghai Rolex Masters next week.

The Australian is also set to hit No. 13 in the world on Monday. A new career high.

Goffin, who was aiming to win his first title since Metz in 2014, picked up 300 ATP World Tour points for his efforts in Tokyo.

PODCAST: Previewing the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters

October 9, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

Back after the conclusion of the US Open, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are ready to preview the Shanghai Rolex Masters. We breakdown the eighth Masters 1000 event of the year and look at the contenders heading into the ATP World Tour Finals in London. We also discuss the teenage contingent that has struck fire on Tour lately and provide our views on the return of Maria Sharapova.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Tennis Elbow: 2016 China Open men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis

October 3, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2016 China Open.

Welcome to Beijing, China.

Indeed, every year the tennis world descends on the Chinese metropolis for the China Open, a Masters 500 on the ATP World Tour calendar but a Premier (and mandatory) event on the WTA Tour; a main draw with 32 men competing and 60 women (+4 first-round byes); and, ultimately, with $4,164,780 in prize money for men and $5,424,394 for women.

Because it is a combined event, it is the biggest stop of the annual Asian swing. Welcome to China.


Women’s draw

On the women’s side, there are four first-round byes that have gone to Dominika Cibulkova, Simona Halep, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova—or the 10th, fourth, ninth and 14th seeds. While Serena Williams isn’t there, this is still a fairly loaded main draw.

A fitting end to the Cinderella 2016 season of Angelique Kerber would be to do well, very well, here at the China Open as well as next in Singapore. It would be a tidy and perfect ending, so that’s exactly what we’ll predict will happen. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Caroline Wozniacki has strung together a nice little run, having made the semifinals at the US Open, then winning in Tokyo and making the third round of the Wuhan Open. The third section of the draw, meanwhile, is anyone’s. The big name, of course, is Simona Halep and I feel a bit more confident in predicting great things for the Romanian after seeing her make the semifinals last week. Finally, we’ll go out and mention that Madison Keys is currently the odd one out in the race toward Singapore for the WTA Finals, coming in at ninth. A quarterfinal here would help her.

How will this year’s tournament compare to last year’s?

Quarterfinals: Angelique Kerber over Timea Bacsinszky; Belinda Bencic over Caroline Wozniacki; Karolina Pliskova over Simona Halep; Petra Kvitova over Madison Keys

Semifinals: Angelique Kerber over Belinda Bencic; Karolina Pliskova over Petra Kvitova

Final: Karolina Pliskova over Angelique Kerber


Men’s draw

On the men’s side, the main draw is fairly wide-open, both for the fact that this is a Masters 500 event and that there are quite a few notable injuries with the absence of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. And because there are so few contestants, all anyone needs is a win or two to find themselves in the quarterfinals.

That said, while we do see a few surprising names making it all the way to the Final 8, we actually expect the bigger names and mainstays to prevail once there. This is to say that we’ll give Guillermo Garcia-Lopez a win over his countryman Roberto Batista Agut, but overtaking Andy Murray would be too tall an order. Likewise, we’ll give David Ferrer the benefit of the doubt and give him one last stand, downing Jack Sock in the quarters. We’re not quite sure what to make of the third section of the draw, which is to say that we’ll say that the two favourites will emerge unscathed. Finally, Rafael Nadal has basically always beaten Roger Federer and we choose to believe he wouldn’t any more problems against Grigor «Baby Fed» Dimitrov.

The real question: will we get a more entertaining final than last season’s?

Quarterfinals: Andy Murray over Guillermo Garcia Lopez; David Ferrer over Jack Sock; Milos Raonic over Richard Gasquet; Rafael Nadal over Grigor Dimitrov

Semifinals: Andy Murray over David Ferrer; Rafael Nadal over Milos Raonic

Final: Andy Murray over Rafael Nadal

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Khachanov wins maiden title in Chengdu; Berdych defends title in Shenzhen

October 2, 2016

Karen Khachanov captured his maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday in Chengdu, China, defeating Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-3. After dropping the first set and in danger of losing the match in two tiebreakers, Khachanov used his potent backhand to breeze through the second set tiebreaker and the final set. Striking 14 aces and winning 74 percent of his first serve points, Khachanov needed two hours and 39 minutes to win the encounter.

Currently ranked No. 101 in the world, Khachanov is set to hit a career high ranking of approximately No. 53 in the world on Monday. The 20-year-old, who stands at 6′6″, owns a powerful game baseline and a massive serve.

Ramos-Vinolas, who was vying for his second title of 2016, fell to 30-26 on the year.



Defending champion Tomas Berdych defended his title at the Shenzhen Open in China on Sunday, ousting Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3. In a topsy-turvy match that featured five total breaks of serve, it was Berdych who stepped up his game in the final set to capture his 13th career title and his eighth victory against Gasquet in 15 meetings.

Missing the US Open due to appendicitis, Berdych is currently ranked No. 9 in world and will continue his fall journey toward qualifying for the elite eight at the World Tour Finals in London, England.

Gasquet, who has also been hampered by injuries as of late, was aiming to win his 14th career Tour title.

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