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Schwartzman Advances; Thiem Scores Perfect 10 In Buenos Aires

That losing feeling at the Argentina Open? Dominic Thiem still doesn't know it.

The top seed stayed perfect in Buenos Aires on Thursday, winning his 10th consecutive match at the Argentina Open 6-4, 6-4 against Germany's Maximilian Marterer. Thiem has won two titles in the Argentine capital and will face six-time ATP Tour clay-court titlist Pablo Cuevas for a place in the semi-finals.

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The Uruguayan executed some perfection as well, winning all four break points against fifth seed Joao Sousa of Portugal to advance 6-4, 7-5. Thiem and Cuevas have faced off four times, including three on clay. Thiem won two of their three clay-court FedEx ATP Head2Head matchups.

On Thursday, the Austrian was playing his first match in nearly a month, since 17 January, when he retired against #NextGenATP Aussie Alexei Popyrin in the second round of the Australian Open. But the 25-year-old showed few signs of rust on the South American clay.

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Thiem broke in the ninth game of the opener, and, although he stumbled in the second, losing his serve twice, he recovered in time to break again in the ninth game for the straight-sets win. Thiem improved to 2-0 against Marterer in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. It's only his second win of the young 2019 season.

This year will be the last time to see David Ferrer playing on the ATP Tour, and his time in Buenos Aires arrived at its end against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who saved two match points and advanced 3-6, 7-6(9), 6-3.

Watch Hot Shot: Ferrer Rips Return Winner

Ferrer had match points at 6/7 and 8/9 in the second-set tie-break, but both were Ramos-Vinolas' racquet, and he eventually escaped the 20-point tie-break. The 36-year-old Ferrer plans to retire at the Mutua Madrid Open in May.

Ramos-Vinolas will face home favourite Diego Schwartzman, who fought past Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to book a quarter-final spot. Bedene saved all four break points in the second set, but Schwartzman found ways to break through in the decider, converting three of his four chances.

Read more: https://www.atptour.com/en/news/thiem-ferrer-schwartzman-buenos-aires-2019-thursday

Opelka: A Giant With Room To Grow

Reilly Opelka, at 6’11”, is the tallest player on the ATP Tour alongside Ivo Karlovic. But the American still has plenty of room to grow, and that’s a good thing for the 21-year-old.

Take his second-round match at the New York Open against Denis Istomin as an example. Opelka struck 32 aces through two sets and one service game in the third set before the Ukrainian retired due to a leg strain. If he kept that pace up, he would have matched Karlovic’s record for most aces in a best-of-three set match with 45. But Opelka wasn’t thrilled with his performance, despite advancing to his third ATP Tour quarter-final.

“I was pretty disappointed with how I played from the baseline today,” Opelka said.

In the first set against Istomin, Opelka won just two of 34 return points. The American said he was cutting short his forehand follow-through and was unable to stay in rallies because of it. That may not seem optimal. But nevertheless, Opelka used his strong serving to hang around, force a decider and advance.

“It’s a good feeling. It’s part of my game. I mean, part of [being] anyone that relies so much on their serve, you can kind of get away with that. Obviously I don’t want to. It’s just not as fun,” Opelka said. “I didn’t even have a sniff on his serve until late in the second set. So from my standpoint, it’s just like I’m just focusing on my serve and I’m going out there and not making a return, not putting any pressure on him. It’s kind of disappointing and it takes some of the excitement out. But at the same time, there’s a positive to it.”

If nothing else, that shows there is room to improve. The 2016 Atlanta semi-finalist says for the past couple of years he has been working especially hard on his forehand and his service return. And while he isn’t completely satisfied with his progress, Opelka cracked the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on 19 November 2018 and is currently at a career-high of World No. 89.

"Reilly could be a little negative at times with some of the things he says, but he’s a dangerous guy to play. Nobody likes to play Reilly or John [Isner] or Kevin [Anderson] and these guys who serve like that,” said 10-time ATP Tour titlist Sam Querrey, who is also into the New York quarter-finals. “Reilly kind of goes for broke sometimes and is a

Read more: https://www.atptour.com/en/news/opelka-new-york-2019-feature

Nishikori Continues Career-Best Start

Kei Nishikori stretched the best start of his career on Thursday, beating Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-1, 6-4 to reach the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament quarter-finals in Rotterdam.

The top-seeded Japanese improved to 10-1 on the season, with his only loss coming in the Australian Open quarter-finals against eventual champion Novak Djokovic. Nishikori will next face Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 7-6(1), 6-1. 

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“Today was pretty good... so much better than the first match, for sure,” Nishikori said. “It wasn't easy... but I think I did really well.”

Gulbis reached the Rotterdam semi-finals in 2014 (l. to Del Potro), but the Latvian was smothered by Nishikori's aggressive play. Nishikori won the first 12 points of the match and later led 5-0, behind two breaks of serve.

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Gulbis slightly recovered in the second, earning a break in the sixth game. But Nishikori broke for the fourth and final time in the ninth game.

Basilashvili, who relies on ruthless hitting, had an off day against Fucsovics, hitting 40 unforced errors, including 23 from his forehand. Fucsovics, meanwhile, was steady, especially in the second set, when he lost only one point behind his first serve (9/10).

Read more: https://www.atptour.com/en/news/nishikori-gulbis-rotterdam-2019-thursday

From Challenger Star To ATP Tour Champion

It was 16 April, 2018. A blanket of humidity descended on the west coast of Florida, as players and fans scrambled to brave the scorching spring conditions on Day 1 of the Sarasota Open. In other words, it was just your typical afternoon at the ATP Challenger Tour event, with competitors battling to adapt and survive on the green clay. 

But as his Challenger colleagues kicked off the tournament, Juan Ignacio Londero was enjoying a well-deserved day of rest. A large pine tree towered overhead, as he nestled against its trunk, gazing across the courts of the Laurel Oak Country Club. The chaos of opening day echoed throughout the grounds, but a pensive Londero was undeterred, reflecting on the moment that had just changed his career.

“I've been trying so hard to earn a title for a long time. This is amazing. It's been a long process and a difficult one at that."

At the age of 24, Londero was coming off his first ATP Challenger Tour triumph. A day earlier, he was standing on Centre Court at the CDMX Open in Mexico City, celebrating his biggest victory in front of a sold-out crowd. Not only was he appearing in the first final of his eight-year career, but he had stormed through qualifying to get there, eventually claiming the title with the loss of just one set.

Following his victory in the Mexican capital, Londero was speechless, unable to describe his emotions from the previous week. Ten months later and the Argentine is at a loss for words once again. Another career-altering moment has arrived, but this time on the ATP Tour. 

Londero

On Sunday, Londero captured his maiden tour-level crown at his hometown Cordoba Open. In front of friends and family, he would make a splash in his return to the ATP Tour, six years removed from his debut on the circuit. 

"I arrived at the tournament knowing that I was playing well," Londero said. "I arrived in Cordoba knowing that I could win a few rounds, but I never saw myself in the final or winning the title."

He was an unseeded wild card who had never won a tour-level match entering the week, so how did Londero suddenly put it all together for such a dream run? Where did he develop his game for his big breakthrough? Look no further than his 2018 campaign on the ATP Challenger Tour. After many years struggling with injuries off the court and con

Read more: https://www.atptour.com/en/news/londero-2019-challenger-atp-transition

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