Tagged in: tennis

Andy Murray battles to European Open win against Frances Tiafoe

Andy Murray applauded adversary Frances Tiafoe off the court after saving two match points before winning an epic three-set encounter lasting three hours and 45 minutes at the European Open in Antwerp on Tuesday.

Murray, who suffered a second round defeat to Tiafoe at the Winston-Salem Open in August, showed how far he has come in the last couple of months as he gained revenge with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) triumph.

The two-time Wimbledon champion will at least get a day off before returning to face second seed Diego Schwartzman on Thursday.

“I don’t think I’ve played a match like that. I think it’s the longest three-set match that I’ve ever played by quite a distance,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I’m tired right now. It was an unbelievable battle.

“He kept coming up with brilliant serves and great shots when I was getting chances.

“My body is old now, I’ve played a lot of matches on the tour so I don’t mind playing long matches but that was taking it to another level.” Murray enjoyed a dream run in Belgium’s port city two years ago for his first title following hip surgery.

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He looked on course for a first-round victory when he came through a 78-minute first set in which he found himself 1-2, 5-6 and a set point down before prevailing in a tie-break.

The second set was even longer at one hour and 21 minutes and although the former world No 1 showed his battling qualities, saving five set points, world No 48 Tiafoe finally took his opportunity at the sixth attempt with a crushing forehand half-volley.

Murray and Tiafoe traded breaks of serve midway through the decider, which was inevitably settled in a final-set tie-break.

The American failed to take his two match points permitting world No 172 Murray to get the job done with a brilliant drop shot.

Murray added: “It’s just so nice to be back playing in front of crowds again and it’s so important for events like this to get crowd support at the beginning of the week.

“I’ll use my day off tomorrow to try and rest and hopefully be okay for Thursday.”

Jenson Brooksby continued his good form with a 6-4 6-4 victory versus fifth seed Reilly Opelka, while San Diego-native Brandon Nakashima also impressed in a 6-4 6-0 win against sixth seed Alex de Minaur.

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Sloane Stephens survives to oust Heather Watson in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens gained seven of 18 break points. She raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held, then served out the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens advanced to a second-round match versus fellow American Jessica Pegula. American Shelby Rogers, who upset top-ranked Ash Barty in the third round of the U.S. Open, was set to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a night match.

Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

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Men’s main draw play starts Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards into the event. U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are entered.

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport’s biggest names, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men’s side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka stated she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Novak Djokovic pulls out of BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is the latest big-name tennis player to drop out of the BNP Paribas Open set for next month in the Southern California desert.

“I am sorry I won’t get to see my fans in Indian Wells and play in the desert, my favorite place to go,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Djokovic came up one triumph short of claiming all four Grand Slam titles this year, losing in the US Open final earlier this month. He acquired the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Djokovic joins women’s No. 1 Ash Barty in skipping the tournament featuring the combined men’s and women’s tours. It will be played Oct. 4-17, a switch from its usual March date on the calendar because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Emma Raducanu, the surprise U.S. Open women’s winner, received a wild card into the event.

Also in the women’s field are teenagers Leylah Fernandez, the US Open runner-up, and Coco Gauff.

Also out of the event are former winners Naomi Osaka and Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery in August.

His withdrawal means there will definitely be a first-time winner on the men’s side in this year’s BNP Paribas Open. Along with Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, the only other active players to have won in Indian Wells are Juan Martin del Potro and defending champion Dominic Thiem, both of whom are not in the field due to injuries. 

Without Djokovic, Russian Daniil Medvedev, the second-ranked player in the world, is expected to be the top seed at Indian Wells. Alexander Zverev of Germany, who collected the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will also be among the favorites.

The two of them, along with third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas and fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev round out the likely top four seeds in the men’s draw.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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Roger Federer needs a third knee surgery, will be out ‘many months’

Roger Federer is going to miss the US Open and be sidelined for what he said will be “many months” because he needs a third operation on his right knee, a procedure he stated will leave him with “a glimmer of hope” that he can return to competition.

Federer revealed the news Sunday via a video message on Instagram. He said he’ll be “out of the game for many months.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of checks with the doctors, as well, on my knee, getting all the information as I hurt myself further during the grass-court season and Wimbledon,” Federer said.

“Unfortunately they told me for the medium- to long-term, to feel better, I will need surgery, so I decided to do it. I will be on crutches for many weeks and then also out of the game for many months.”

Federer, 40, who has 20 Grand Slam singles titles to share the men’s record with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, acknowledged there was a chance his playing career could be over, but he said he would rehab the knee with the goal of making another comeback.

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“I want to be healthy. I want to be running around later, as well, again, and I want to give myself a glimmer of hope, also, to return to the tour in some shape or form,” Federer said. “I am realistic, don’t get me wrong. I know how difficult it is at this age right now to do another surgery and try it.”

Federer missed more than a year of action after first having his knee repaired shortly after the 2020 Australian Open in February of that year. He had a follow-up procedure that June.

He returned to Grand Slam action at the French Open in late May and then pulled out of the tournament after three wins. His most recent match was a loss at the Wimbledon quarterfinals last month, and he cited the knee injury in withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics.

The US Open is the season’s last Grand Slam tournament, and it starts Aug. 30 in New York.

Nadal is dealing with a foot injury, and Djokovic pulled out of tuneup tournaments, saying he needed to rest and recuperate following the Olympics, where he failed to win a medal.

Federer won 16 of his Grand Slam titles between 2003 and 2010 but remained at or near the top of the sport into his late 30s. He won the Australian Open and Wimbledon during a resurgent 2017 and defended his title at Melbourne Park in 2018, his most recent Grand Slam championship. In 2019 he lost a five-set classic to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

Federer’s spot in the US Open main draw will go to Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, the U.S. Tennis Association said. American Mackie McDonald would be the next man to move into the field if there is another withdrawal.

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Daniil Medvedev struggles with extreme heat in advancing to Olympic men’s tennis quarterfinals

Bent over in exhaustion before serving. Resting on his racket between points. Grasping for a rubber tube blowing cool air next to his seat on changeovers. Two medical timeouts and one visit from a trainer.

Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday during the Olympic men’s tennis tournament that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.

“I can finish the match, but I can die,” Medvedev replied. “If I die, are you going to be responsible?”

Afterward, Medvedev said he felt “darkness” in his eyes. “I didn’t know what to do to feel better,” the Russian Olympic Committee player added. “I was ready to just fall down on the court.”

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Somehow, the second-seeded Medvedev produced a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate.

She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarterfinal match versus Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.

Badosa also had to withdraw from a mixed doubles match later with partner Pablo Carreno Busta.

Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She’s now in the semifinals and into the medal rounds and will next face fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will play 15th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the other semifinal match.

After some rain a day earlier, the temperature rose to 88 degrees, but the heat index made it feel like a sizzling 99 degrees.

The difficulties the players faced raised questions over why organizers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players — including top-ranked Novak Djokovic — to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.

As Wednesday’s play neared its conclusion, organizers revealed that matches would start at 3 p.m. starting Thursday to make it easier on the players. Matches had been starting at 11 a.m.

Djokovic was fortunate to play later in the day after Center Court was covered by shadows. The Serbian great served nine aces and defeated Spanish training partner Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-1 to keep his Golden Slam bid going.

“The conditions are brutal,” Djokovic said. “I’ve played tennis professionally now 20 years and I’ve never faced this kind of conditions in my entire life on a consecutive daily basis.”

Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent will be Kei Nishikori of Japan, who reached his third consecutive Olympic quarterfinal by defeating Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6 (7), 6-0.

Djokovic then won again with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the opening round of the mixed doubles competition. They beat Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3, 6-4. In singles, Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

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Naomi Osaka ousted from Olympic tennis tournament in 3rd round by Marketa Vondrousova

It wasn’t the ending that tennis superstar Naomi Osaka — nor her fans across Japan and worldwide — had expected for the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said Osaka, who called lighting the Olympic cauldron during last week’s opening ceremony in Tokyo “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”

As the highest-paid female athlete in the world and the host country’s face of the Games, the huge expectations were hard to handle. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”

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The second-ranked Osaka, who was born in Japan and grew up in the United States, struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes, while the left-handed Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew her opponent out of her comfort zone.

“It’s tough for her also playing in Japan and in the Olympics,” the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova said. “It’s so much pressure, I cannot imagine.”

Osaka won her opening two matches in consecutive sets following a two-month mental health break. But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.

Osaka had talked earlier this week about how “happy” she was to be playing again. That came after she announced in May going into the French Open that she wouldn’t speak to reporters at that tournament, saying those interactions create doubts for her.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well,” said Osaka, who initially did not comment after her loss, then came back out and met with a small group of reporters. “I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

Playing Osaka for the first time, Vondrousova came out with her entire game clicking from the start and quickly ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first set as Osaka hardly had time to gather herself.

Osaka then broke Vondrousova’s serve in the opening game of the second set but almost immediately handed the break back when she double-faulted to make it 2-2.

After Osaka lost her serve again to end the match by hitting a cross-court backhand wide, she shook hands with Vondrousova at the net, walked to her chair, zipped her racket up in her bag and followed Vondrousova off the court.

But it wasn’t simply an off day for Osaka; it was also an outstanding performance from Vondrousova.

“I also [beat] Simona [Halep] twice, but I think now she [Osaka] is the greatest,” Vondrousova said. “The greatest in the game, and she was also the face of the Olympics, so it was tough for her, I think, to play like this.”

During one point midway through the second set, Vondrousova hit an underspin, scooped forehand approach shot that landed right on the line — prompting Osaka to stare at the line for a few seconds in apparent disbelief.

Osaka had break points to take a 4-3 lead in the second, but Vondrousova hit consecutive drop-shot winners to get back in the game. And then held.

About 10 minutes later, the match was over.

“I just really believed the second I stepped on the court,” Vondrousova said. “I think that that’s the main thing.” Vondrousova’s quarterfinal opponent will be either Paula Badosa of Spain or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.

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Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic cruise into third round of Olympic tennis tournament

Naomi Osaka has the hopes of the entire host nation resting on her.

Novak Djokovic is trying to accomplish something that no man has done before in tennis.

Both players are after something special at the Tokyo Olympics, and both produced convincing triumphs Monday to reach the last 16 at Ariake Tennis Park.

Osaka crushed winners off both wings — forehand and backhand — seemingly at will in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 49th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. Then Djokovic dispatched 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-4, 6-3.

“There’s a lot of attention towards tennis as a sport in this Olympic Games,” Djokovic said. “We are grateful, because we are representing our country, ourselves, but also our sport in the Olympic Village.”

Despite this being her first tournament back from a two-month mental health break, Osaka’s strong start is hardly a surprise considering that the Olympic tournament is being played on hard courts — the surface on which she has won all four of her Grand Slam titles.

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It was similar to the way Osaka overwhelmed Saisai Zheng of China a day earlier, and it extended her momentum after carrying out the ultimate honor at the Games’ opening ceremony by lighting the Olympic cauldron.

The Japanese superstar, who grew up in the United States, was asked in March to handle the flame honors but said she “didn’t feel pressure” about the assignment.

“I felt more excitement,” Osaka said. “It was like a sense of duty, like something I wanted to accomplish.

“It’s something that you see as a kid on TV. You gather around the TV with your family at the Olympics and you watch the whole ceremony,” Osaka added. “I know my grandparents were probably crying, and my mom, of course.”

If Djokovic can win four more matches, he’ll not only have won his first Olympic title, he’ll also be four-fifths of the way to a Golden Slam — victories in all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

The Serb already collected the Australian and French Opens as well as Wimbledon this year.

Now he needs the Tokyo title and the US Open trophy to complete the unique collection.

Steffi Graf was the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam in 1988.

“I’m obviously very pumped and inspired to make history,” Djokovic said. “I have that guiding star that is there and I see it and it gives me light and it gives me energy, but at the same time I better stick to the stuff that I know works well on a daily basis for me.”

Djokovic’s next opponent will be 16th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who defeated John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

This is Osaka’s first event since she withdrew from the French Open in May, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.

Two more victories and Osaka will be in line for more honors in her Olympic debut — a medal.

“Definitely it would mean a lot for me but I know it’s a process,” Osaka said. “The flag is next to my name no matter what tournament I play, but I feel like the scale of this is much bigger. It’s something I’ve been waiting for for eight years [since she turned pro in 2013].”

The second-ranked Osaka will next face 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who beat Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-1, 6-2.

In windier, cooler and more overcast conditions than the sweltering opening two days of the competition, Osaka compiled 29 winners to Golubic’s 14 and had only 11 unforced errors to her opponent’s 21.

Perhaps more telling was that Osaka required only 65 minutes to dispatch a player coming off a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon.

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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini pulls out of Tokyo Olympics due to thigh injury

Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics due to a thigh injury, he revealed Sunday.

The world No. 8 had his left thigh bandaged during his loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final of the grass-court Grand Slam earlier this month.

“I am extremely disappointed to announce my withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympic Games,” the 25-year-old said on Instagram.

“I had an MRI scan yesterday on the thigh injury I sustained during Wimbledon and was informed I will not be able to compete for a couple of weeks.”

The Italian National Olympic Committee stated it would not be able to get a replacement player for Berrettini, as the International Tennis Federation’s deadline to name new athletes had passed on Friday.

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“Representing Italy is the biggest honour for me so it is devastating to miss the Olympics,” Berrettini added.

The tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics has been hit by a series of high-profile withdrawals.

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Simona Halep, have already declared their decision to skip the Games, which have been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serbian legend Novak Djokovic, who defeated Berrettini in the Wimbledon 2021 final, is also pondering over his options of competing at the Olympics this year, which has already been plagued by Covid-19 after 2 confirmed cases in the South African football team emerged inside the Games Village.

Djokovic, who will miss out on the chance to complete a Golden Slam if he misses the Summer Games, has said that he isn’t sure of his participation in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic reaches 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal

Two-time defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic reached his 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Christian Garin of Chile 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.

Djokovic earned his 12th quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon, which ties him with Arthur Gore for third place on the men’s all-time list, behind Roger Federer’s 18 and Jimmy Connors’ 14.

The top-ranked Serb lost just three points on his first serve in the match and saved the only two break points he faced.

Djokovic is looking for his sixth title at the All England Club and a record-tying 20th Grand Slam trophy.

“Confidence levels are very high after winning the French Open,” said Djokovic.

“It was one of my biggest wins in the circumstances — two five-setters, two four-setters in the second week.

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“They took a lot out of me but they also gave me wings.

“The further I go in the tournament, the more comfortable I feel and I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic, the six-time Wimbledon champion and chasing a record-equalling 20th major title, is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam.

Only two men have swept all four majors in the same year with Rod Laver the most recent back in 1969.

Garin was playing on Centre Court for the first time and was broken five times.

American Sebastian Korda, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, lost a marathon fifth set that featured 13 breaks of serve. Karen Khachanov of Russia won the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 to reach the quarterfinals.

Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian man in 23 years to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals by easing past unseeded Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

The seventh-seeded Berrettini landed only 53% of his first serves but was broken only once in the match. He concluded with 37 winners to 16 for Ivashka, and broke his opponent six times.

Berrettini won the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament last month and has dropped only one set so far at Wimbledon. He is the first Italian to reach the quarters at the All England Club since Davide Sanguinetti in 1998.

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