Florian Heer

ITF Spain: David Vega Hernandez Captures Title on Home Soil

The city of Dénia with a population of 45,000 inhabitants, located in the province of Alicante on the Costa Blanca, hosted the 23rd ITF Future event in Spain this year. Although the matches at the final weekend took place in the afternoon, temperatures during play still reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F).

On Saturday’s semifinals, the tournament’s last two seeded players met on center court when world No. 420 Juan Lizariturry faced world No. 501 Alexander Rumyantsev. Both players had reached this stage without dropping a set.

The fourth-seeded Spaniard has been in an excellent form over the last couple of weeks where he could claim two Future titles in Cairo and Getxo. Rumyantsev’s last victory on the Future circuit is dated to the year 2010, where he won the tournament in Sochi, and he was the better player that day.

The fifth-seeded Russian hit the ball cleaner, had better length in his groundstrokes, put more pressure into his shots and was the superior player in the decisive situations. In a close tiebreak in the first set, Rumyantsev stayed calm when he threw away a 5-1 lead, and saved one set point to eventually take the opening set.

From then on Lizariturry has never found his way back into this encounter and the 22-year-old Spaniard seemed to accept his defeat. In the sixth game of the second set Rumyantsev served the match out winning 7-6, 6-1 to reach the final.

“The first set was tough today. I didn’t have a good start into this match until the seventh game. Then I began to feel the ball better but I was also the luckier player, as the tie-break was like fifty-fifty. I played on a good level today and I also think that I was the better player in the decisive moments,” the 20-year-old Russian analyzed the match.

Rumyantsev’s final opponent was determined in an all Spanish-affair between world No. 785 David Vega Hernandez and world No. 750 Juan Samuel Arauzo-Martinez. The latter reached his very first semifinal on the Future Circuit, whereas the 19-year-old Vega participated in his third career semi. Vega, who is also an ambassador for Spain’s biggest tennis magazine “Tenis World” in which he describes his life on the Tour as a tennis professional, dictated the match right from the beginning.

Two breaks in the first set and three in the second were enough for the teenager to gain victory by 6-4, 6-1 in only seventy minutes.

“I was very focused in every point and stage of the match. That was today’s key to success,” Vega said after the encounter and was more than happy to reach his first singles final on the Future Tour.

Before that, however, the youngster had also played the doubles final. David Vega teamed up with Juan Lizariturry to face the tournament’s top seeds Ricardo Ojeda Lara and Oriol Roca Batalla. Both teams had also reached the final without losing a set, but on Saturday evening, the match tiebreak decided the winner.

Lizariturry and Vega started better into the final and took the opening set, 6-3. In the following set, the tandem completely lost their rhythm and got bageled. In an exciting decider with some really nice rallies, Lizariturry and Vega had the better ending taking the match tiebreak 10-8. Both players gained their second career doubles title and their first as a team.

Sunday’s singles final took place in the early evening where the court was mainly covered by the shadow. It was the first meeting between David Vega Hernandez and Alexander Rumyantsev.

In front of about 200 spectators, the Spaniard was the more dominant player. Vega served well and was able to put more pressure into his shots. In particular with his forehand the 19-year-old from the Canary Islands overpowered his opponent from the baseline. Rumyantsev on the other hand hit too many unforced errors.

Vega took the opening set after almost sixty minutes, in the tenth game. The Spaniard gained two more breaks in the second frame and finally won the title beating the Russian 6-4, 6-3 after 110 minutes of play.

“Everything I tried today was bad. The last days I played well but I am not happy with today’s performance. My first service percentage was bad. After four matches I was also a bit tired but I tried to give my best,” a disappointed Rumyantsev told us and added that he will go on to Moscow next week.

Vega was more than happy after winning his maiden title on the ITF Future Circuit:

“At the beginning I had some problems with my service but then it worked fine. I’m very glad that I could win the title in my first final,” the Spaniard said. “I will improve my position and get into the top 600. I also hope that I am able to climb up the ranking in the nearer future,” he added. Best chance to do so will be in Xativa next week.

[nggallery id=145]

A Different Kind of Match: Tennis Bundesliga in Europe

Welcome to the Tennis-Point Bundesliga, an annual team competition in Germany which is played in a round-robin format during the summer months of July and August. For the players on the ATP Tour staying in central Europe during this time, it is a great opportunity to get some practice and match play in the weekends in addition to their regular tournaments and, of course, to earn some money as well.

Centre Court

Every year ten teams participate in this competition. This season’s favourite is again the champion of the last two years, TK Kurhaus Lambertz Aachen.

Most of the German top-players like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer and Daniel Brands get on court for this team. Fourteen top-50 players are named by the team captains in this season. Janko Tipsarevic and Tommy Haas are in the squad of TK Grün-Weiß Mannheim, Marcel Granollers and Marcos Baghdatis play for TC Blau-Weiß Halle, two other teams which have to be considered as contenders for the title.

“Every match is played with teams consisting of four players each and due to the match tie-break rule in the final set, upsets are always possible,” says Gerald Marzenell, team manager in Mannheim.

Today it was match day five, where the teams of Rochusclub Düsseldorf and SV Wacker Burghausen faced each other at the same venue where the ATP 250 Power Horse Cup was held a couple of weeks ago.

Düsseldorf is ranked in fourth position, the Bavarian team on position six. With a victory today, the Rochusclub wants to seal the team’s disposition in the league for another year.

“It won’t be easy but we have four great single players and one doubles specialist on board today,” said Düsseldorf’s team captain, Detlev Irmler.

Pablo Andújar (ATP No. 50), Pere Riba (ATP No. 201), Jesse Huta-Galung (ATP No. 134), Jozef Kovalik (ATP No. 246) and Martin Emmrich (ATP doubles No. 42) were named for today’s encounter. The Spaniard Albert Montaῆés (ATP No. 53), who is also member of Düsseldorf’s squad, did not play.

“He turned me down,” a disappointed Irmler said yesterday. “It is important that the players put their heart and soul into the matches like Pablo Andújar and Pere Riba do. Both have been playing for several years at the Rochusclub and they have a great attitude,” Düsseldorf’s team captain added.

Wacker Burghausen, on the other hand arrived without their top six players. Aljaz Bedene, Carlos Berlocq, Guillermo García-López Joao Sousa, Kenny de Schepper and Andreas Haider-Maurer were absent. So the Bavarian squad consisted of Blaz Rola (ATP No. 302), Philipp Oswald (ATP No. 554), Jeremy Jahn (ATP No. 620) and Johannes Ager (unranked).

The matches took place in sunny 30 degree conditions and the top players of the home team fulfilled their role as favorites, with Pablo Andújar defeating Blaz Rola in straight sets. The Spaniard broke his opponent’s service twice in the opening set to serve out in the eighth game. Andújar, who was supported on the bench by his teammate Oscar Sabate-Bretos, played solid baseline shots and returned pretty well. It was no surprise that the 27-year-old from Cuenca was in total command in this encounter. Consequently he closed the match out after about 80 minutes by winning 6-2, 6-3 to give the Rochusclub a 1-0 lead.

Andújar

“I played a good and solid match today. This made the difference between (Rola) and me,” a satisfied Andújar told us after the match. “I’ve already played for seven years here in Düsseldorf and I’m a friend of Detlev Irmler. There is a good spirit in the team, which makes me happy to return and to join the team,” the Spaniard explained his motivation to play in the Bundesliga.

For the next ATP tournaments in Gstaad and Kitzbühel he added: “I was a bit unlucky the last two tournaments in Stuttgart and Hamburg, where I lost a match having already match point. So I will try to keep my level of today for the next challenges.”

In the second singles match Jesse Huta-Galung faced a difficult task against Jeremy Jahn. Although the German is ranked about 500 places below the Dutchman, Jahn played more aggressively and just made less unforced errors than his opponent. The 23-year-old German eventually took the match in three sets by 3-6, 6-4, 10-8.

Huta Galung

Back on centre court Pere Riba met Philipp Oswald. The Austrian is better known as a doubles player on the ATP Tour but has some solid groundstrokes and a big service, which makes him also a decent competitor in singles competitions. Nonetheless it was Riba, who recently won the ATP Challenger in Todi, to be the more consistent player of the two. The Spaniard won the first set by serving it out in the tenth game and eventually closed the match winning 6-4, 6-4.

Riba

“I’m very happy with this win today. Philipp serves very well, which is difficult to return. I was very concentrated in particular on my own service games. I was also able to break him at least once in every set, which made me win the match,” Riba analysed afterwards. “It’s always a motivation to be here. I’ve been playing here in Düsseldorf for five years now and when you’re at a club for such a long time you identify with the club and you feel the colours of it, you know. It’s also a very competitive league and our team captain has always confidence in me. That’s a nice feeling,” he told us about playing the Bundesliga in Germany.

Concerning his recent injury the Spaniard added: “I have had to stop playing tennis for eleven months due to my injury and I’ve only played twelve tournaments so far this year. It’s great to compete again as it wasn’t sure if I was able to return to the courts at all.”

The last singles rubber of the day was an even affair. Jozef Kovalik, who hasn’t been able to win a match so far this Bundesliga season, couldn’t gain victory again. The unranked Austrian Johannes Ager, who faced some problems in his lower back during the match and even received some treatment, overcame the Slovakian by going the distance winning 1-6, 6-3, 13-11 and therewith evened the tie 2-2 after the singles.

Ager

Two doubles rubbers had to decide the tie and again the Spaniards didn’t disappoint. Pablo Andújar and Pere Riba defeated Blaz Rola and Jeremy Jahn 6-4, 7-6.

Andújar & Riba

The Rochusclub could still count on Martin Emmrich. The German doubles specialist, who is currently ranked on 42nd  position, claimed his first ATP 250 doubles title at this year’s edition of the Power Horse Cup right here in Düsseldorf a couple of weeks ago. Today he teamed up with Jesse Huta-Galung to eventually seal victory for the Rochusclub winning the last encounter of the day against Philipp Oswald and Johannes Ager 7-5, 7-6.

With today’s win, Rochusclub Düsseldorf climbed up the ranking to third position and Wacker Burghause remains in sixth position. After match day five, Kurhaus Aachen and Blau-Weiß Halle remain the only two undefeated teams in the Bundesliga and represent the two contenders for this year’s championship. Both teams will face each other on Sunday August 4th.

ATP Stuttgart: Fognini Captures First Career ATP Title

(July 14, 2013) In the morning of the final day at the Mercedes Cup, tournament director Edwin Weindorfer reported a positive outcome of this year’s tennis event in Stuttgart.

“With about 44,000 spectators who have attended the tournament throughout the week, we achieved a new record in terms of visitor numbers. This is very important for us … (and) a milestone for the Mercedes Cup,” Weindorfer announced.

WeindorferHe also added three reasons for this boom: “We did the same job like the years before but also tried to improve the tournament every time. The weather was great during the week, a thing which is impossible to control, and of course, Tommy Haas has fostered the sale of tickets in preparation of the tournament. He didn’t make it to the final but with Philipp Kohlschreiber, we had another German in the draw until the end of the week.

Weindorfer is also convinced that top 10 players will return again to the Weissenhof club once the tournament makes its transition to grass.

“That’s the reason why we made this decision (to switch from clay to grass). We already have the commitment from the players to participate here in 2015. So we will not see a player like Rafael Nadal here in 2014, but hopefully one year later.”

Tennis action started with the doubles final where the first-time pairing of Facundo Bagnis and Thomaz Bellucci faced the Polish tandem of Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk.

The Argentine-Brazilian combination played their first career ATP World Tour doubles final and they have had a good run in Stuttgart so far, eliminating the top and fourth seeded teams in the draw.

After defeating the tournament’s second seed in the first round, the Poles on the other hand benefited from a walkover into the final. Bednarek and Kowalczyk also had the better start into today’s encounter.

Bagnis lost his serve twice in the opening set, which went in favor of the Poles with a score of 6-2 after 25 minutes. The turning point of the match took place in the sixth game of the second set when Kowalczyk missed a forehand volley and therewith the chance to gain a break and a possible 4-2 lead. The inevitable happened as Bednarek lost his serve in the following game and Bellucci closed the set out in the tenth game.

In the match tiebreak, the South Americans saved one match point before they eventually celebrated their victory with the help of a double fault, winning the third set 11-9.

Bednarek & Kowalczyk Doubles ceremony Bagnis & Bellucci IIIn the singles final, the tournament’s second seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had a short practice session with Markus Wislsperger two hours before the match including some tennis-football, eyed his fifth career ATP World Tour title. The German reached his third final of the year with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Victor Hanescu yesterday and another victory in straight sets against Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals, which represented his 100th career clay court win.

Kohlschreiber warming upConversely, Fabio Fognini was aiming for his first career title on the ATP World Tour. The Italian previously played two finals before but lost both in Bucharest and St. Petersburg last year. Fognini has played a solid clay court season so far with good results like reaching the semifinals at the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo and he also achieved his personal best result in Roland Garros by reaching the third round. Here in Stuttgart, the fourth seed reached the final without losing a set including victories over top seed Tommy Haas and Roberto Bautista-Agut.

In the beginning of the match, both players had some problems finding their rhythm and showed inconsistent performances plenty of nervous unforced errors. In the first six games, both players broke each other’s service four times. In the twelfth game, it was Kohlschreiber, who gained the decisive break to take the first set after 45 minutes of play.

KohlschreiberWith the beginning of the second set, Fognini improved his groundstrokes and took an early break in the first game. In the following game, the 26-year-old from San Remo was able to defend the advantage until the end of the set to serve it out in the tenth game.

The quality of the match improved with better rallies and more emotions on court. Fognini broke serve in the third game of the final set as well as the in the fifth. The German had a chance to gain one break back and the atmosphere on center court heated up but it didn’t help.

The Italian sealed the victory winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 after two hours and six minutes to finally claim his maiden title on the ATP World Tour.

“I’m really really happy playing like this during the entire week here to finally win my first title. I knew that I had to be careful when Philipp gained the break back. I tried to stay calm and just thought of my next service game. This is what worked for me!” stated a visibly excited Fognini.

Fognini II Fognini III

With the win, the Italian earned €74,000 in prize money, and of course, the coveted Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, ‘Edition 1’ car. The white Mercedes was driven on court by Henri Leconte, who won the tournament in 1984.

LeconteAlthough it happened to be the birthday of the Italian’s girlfriend, Fognini didn’t seem to be willing to give it to her as a present.

“I think we can share it,” he laughed. “The car will stay at home, so she will have the opportunity to use it but I also want to enjoy some rides with my friends in my town.”

Fognini inside the car

ATP Stuttgart: Kohlschreiber to Take on Fognini in Final; Mercedes Cup to Switch to Grass

(July 13, 2013) Another sunny and hot day in Stuttgart began with a fully-packed program off the courts.

In the morning, the organizers of the Mercedes Cup presented their “Vision 2015”, the year when the tournament’s surface will switch from clay to grass. Themed by “Mercedes Cup serves green”, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony took place with tournament director Edwin Weindorfer along local politicians, sponsors, guests like Boris Becker and Toni Nadal as well as officials from the ATP and the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, which supports the replacement at the venue with their know-how during the coming years.

Ground breaking Ground breaking II“We were delighted when Stuttgart came very fast out of blocks in terms of expressing their interest in converting the tournament here from clay to grass,” said the club’s Chairman, Philip Brook. “We are very excited as Stuttgart will be a very important tournament ahead of the All England Championships.”

The Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart has been the only candidate so far, where the ATP accepted the tender for the new calendar structure featuring a three weeks grass court season before Wimbledon. Other applicants like the tournaments in Gstaad and Umag have to readjust their candidature.

Laurent Delanney of the ATP congratulated the tournament on their decision: “I think it is a great success for Stuttgart and the fans!” Right after the end of this year’s edition of the Mercedes Cup the alteration work on the first three courts will start.

Delanney CEO ATP EuropeAnother off-court highlight was a tennis practice session for kids on Centre Court under the special direction of Toni Nadal and Andrea Petkovic.

Practice session with Petkovic & NadalThe Spanish coach has attended the entire week here in Stuttgart to take part in a project called “Making of a Wimbledon Champion.” Moreover, a junior tournament took place with a couple of German youngsters in which the 18-year-old Maximilian Marterer took the title. Properly more important for him is the fact that he will be granted a wild card for the 2015 grass court premiere of the tournament.

In match play, the first contest of the day took place between Fabio Fognini and Roberto Bautista-Agut. The Italian, who knocked out top-seed Tommy Haas in the round before, played his 11th career ATP World Tour semi-final of which he only reached three previous finals.

Bautista-Agut played his second career semi-final after reaching the stage of the last four in Chennai earlier this year. Today, both players made a nervous start and the match began with three breaks in a row. Fognini, however, managed to find his rhythm quickly. The Italian had better length in his shots, put more variety in his groundstrokes and became the more dominant player throughout the match.

Fognini gained two more breaks in the fifth and seventh game to close the first set out after 22 minutes. Bautista on the other hand remained to be an unforced error machine in the second frame as well. Consequently the 25-year-old Spaniard lost his first service game and was only able to hold one after 35 minutes in the fourth game of the second set. It was the time when you might have thought that this could work as a wake-up-call for Bautista, as he could gain the break back in the seventh game but still couldn’t stabilise his play in general. Most of the time Fognini just needed to keep the ball in play to win the rallies.

The 26-year-old Italian broke serve in the eighth game to close the match out winning 6-1, 6-3 after 55 minutes. Fognini has joined his countryman Andrea Gaudenzi as only the second Italian to reach the final in Stuttgart since 1994.

FogniniAfter the encounter, Fognini was understandably happy. “During the first days it was difficult with the transition from grass to clay court but I improved day by day,” said the Italian. “Today, I think I played very solid and I hope to play like this in tomorrow’s final.”

He also told his thoughts about playing on grass here in two years time. “It’s strange and I can’t really imagine it by now. When you have a look around everything is red but when I come back in two years it will be on grass and that’s ok, as I like the courts and the hospitality.”

Fognini IIHe also enjoyed playing in front of the German crowd, which seems to like his style of play and supports him, but he was quick to note his next opponent’s advantage. “If I play Kohlschreiber in tomorrow’s final, I think it will change but nonetheless I hope that I can finally win my first title on the Tour”.

In tomorrow’s final Fognini will have to face the German. Philipp Kohlschreiber broke a five-match losing streak against Gael Monfils yesterday and continued his success today defeating Victor Hanescu in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

In front of a fully packed centre court with 4,200 spectators, the 29-year-old from Augsburg showed a consistent baseline game, broke his opponent’s service in the fifth and ninth game of the opening set. In the following game, Kohlschreiber had to fight harder and it became an even encounter when Hanescu played up his game.

In the end it was the second seed, who gained the decisive break in the eighth game to eventually close the match out after 80 minutes of play. Kohlschreiber becomes the first German to reach the final in Stuttgart after Tommy Haas did so in 1999.

KohlschreiberKohlschreiber was glad that he was able to stick to his game tactic. “I played aggressively with a lot of spin in my shots,” said the German after his win. “That’s what (Hanescu) obviously didn’t like. I’m really satisfied with my performance today and that I could win the decisive points.”

About his opponent in the final he added, “Fognini has played a strong season so far this year, in particular on clay where he reached the semis in Monte Carlo amongst others. I think there will be no favourite in tomorrow’s final.”

Kohlschreiber also mentioned the Mercedes for the champion with a smile, “Maybe the possibility of winning the car might be the right incentive for me.”

In the second doubles semi-final Facundo Bagnis & Tomaz Bellucci defeated Dustin Brown & Paul Hanley winning 6-7, 6-4, 10-6 after one hour and thirty minutes of play.

Bagnis & Bellucci

Florian’s Travels: Haas, Paire Fall in Stuttgart; Fognini Thru

Centre Court

(July 13, 2013) Four of the five top seeds, including three Germans, were in action at Friday’s quarterfinals at the 35th edition of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

In the first match of a beautiful sunny day at the Weissenhof Club, two unseeded players met each other for the first time. Roberto Bautista-Agut faced Michael Berrer, who was born in Stuttgart and entered the tournament by a wild card. The German played aggressively right from the beginning and tried to find his way to the net as often as possible. The Spaniard needed some time to respond to the attacking style of his opponent.

Bautista Agut

In the sixth game Bautista broke Berrer’s serve for the first time when he hit some nice passing shots. With another break in the eighth game, the Spaniard took the opening set 6-2 after just 29 minutes. During the changeover, Berrer took a medical time-out and received some treatment to his left elbow and arm. This seemed to help the German break serve in the first game of the second set, but that’s where his luck ended.

After this short feeling of success, however, Berrer was forced to retire.

“I felt pain in my elbow when I was serving and so it was useless to go on,” explained Berrer in his press conference. “Yesterday, I noticed it for the first time and I got treatment but this morning I could hardly brush my teeth.”

Berrer

For the tournament’s local player, it was bitter decision.

“There were so many people here in Stuttgart who wanted to see me play,” Berrer continued. “I could have given at least seventeen tickets away to friends. This also means that I’m out for the qualification in Hamburg but I hope that it will be better in four to five days.”

Berrer also had to withdraw from his scheduled doubles semifinal with his partner Andreas Beck thereby giving their opponents, Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk, a walkover into the final on Sunday.

In the second match of the day, Victor Hanescu extended his head-to-head advantage against tournament No. 4 seed, Benoit Paire to 4-0. The Romanian won the encounter after 71 minutes with a score of 7-5, 6-2.

Hanescu

The Frenchman lost an even opening set when he faced his first break points of the match, and let it get away from him. As a consequence and in typical Paire style, the Frenchman hit the ball clear out of center court, also giving him an expected warning by the chair umpire.

Paire never really recovered from that and lost his service in the fourth game of the second set with a double fault. From then on the “Big Paire-show” began in terms of moaning, complaining and even smashing his racket, which meant the 24-year-old was given a point penalty.

After the match, Hanescu admitted that it might have been the key to his win that he stayed focused during Paire’s tantrums — when he wasn’t really sure about what was going on, on the other side of the net. The Romanian added: “Sometimes I wasn’t really sure if he was playing on or just making show.”

In the afternoon, it was time for the marquee match of the day which featured top seed Tommy Haas against No. 5 seed Fabio Fognini.

Given that Tommy Haas’ manager, Edwin Weindorfer, is also the Mercedes Cup’s tournament director, it was no surprise to find the German’s face plastered on every poster, t-shirt and cap.

Tommymania

On an almost fully packed center court, the 35-year-old Haas appeared in his ninth ATP World Tour quarterfinal of the year facing Fognini for the first time. The Italian had a great start and began to hit some nice backhand winners. The German veteran was under pressure in every service game. Consequently, he lost his serve in the third and seventh games, allowing Fognini to close the set out in only 31 minutes.

Fognini

Seven minutes later Haas gained his first break point of the match but couldn’t capitalize on it. So it was the fifth-seeded Italian again who got the break in the seventh game. Fognini served the match out 6-2, 6-4 after 74 minutes and finished the “Haas-hype” in Stuttgart.

“It wasn’t my best day for sure,” said a calm Haas after the encounter. “I tried to find a rhythm and I fought for that. There were also some unlucky calls today. It is always difficult with the umpires on clay. I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go on for me here in Stuttgart.”

Haas II

Haas will next play at the German Open in Hamburg and also revealed what he did with the car he won earlier this year at the BMW Open in Munich: “I sold it!” Luckily for Haas, he won’t have the problem of finding a buyer for the tournament winner’s car this time, a Mercedes.

All the German hopes have now switched to Philipp Kohlschreiber, the last remaining German left. The second-seed held a 1-8 career head-to-head disadvantage against Gael Monfils, but today the German was able to improve this stat.

Monfils

Kohlschreiber gained two breaks in the third and seventh games of the first set, and Monfils could only get one back. The Frenchman then had the chance to even the set at 5-5, but the German ended up serving out the set after 38 minutes.

Kohlschreiber

The second set became a copy of the first, with Kohlschreiber again up two breaks up. He eventually sealed victory after 70 minutes, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ever semifinal in Stuttgart.

Check back Saturday and Sunday for full semifinal and final coverage from Stuttgart!