Monday, 6 January 2020

ATP Cup Sydney: Croatia Records Second Group Win, Tops Poland 2:1

January 7, 2020 - In their second appearance in Group E at the ATP Cup in Sydney, the Croatia tennis team reached their second victory, topping Poland 2:1. Marin Cilic secured the first point for Croatia against Kacper Zuk (7:6 (8), 6:4). Hubert Hurkacz equalized with a surprisingly convincing victory against Borna Coric (6:2, 6:2), though Croatia’s doubles team of Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic were better than Hurkacz and Lukasz Kubot 6:2, 6:1.

The young Kacper Zuk (20), the 448th best tennis player in the world who played his first-ever ATP match on Monday, was inspiring against Marin Cilic, and in the tie-break of the first set, he reached the set-point (6:5). However, it was Marin to find the path to victory in two sets.

"I think my level of play was good; I was aggressive, served well. If I have to choose something that I was not happy with, then it is definitely utilizing my chances to break,” Marin said after the match. Marin used only one of the 13 opportunities to take Zuk’s serve. Zuk, on the other hand, did not use any of his four breaks. 

Hubert Hurkacz (37th on the ATP list) dominated Borna Coric in the second match. The Zagreb native made as many as 26 unforced errors during the match and won a total of eight points on Hurkacz’s serve.

"It was one of the best matches of my career so far," the 22-year-old  Hurkacz admitted after the match.

As for the doubles, it was a cat-and-mouse game where Hurkacz and Kubot scored just nine points on the return serve. In addition to the Croatian victory, the match will be remembered for a fantastic move by Ivan Dodig at a 3-0 lead in the second set. Ivan instinctively played a fantastic lob behind his back, which resulted in the eruptive applause of fans. It was one of the most beautiful and impressive points ever seen in a doubles competition.

Croatia is now on the verge of winning the group and only needs one win in the match against Argentina, which is scheduled for Wednesday. 

The only way Croatia can fail to qualify for the quarterfinals is in the event of a 3:0 defeat to Argentina and Austria's 3:0 victory against Poland. In this case, Croatia would have the weakest ratio.

One win against Argentina would be enough to put Croatia at the top to secure the quarterfinals. 

Marin Cilic will play against Guido Pella and will be the first to secure Croatia's spot in the quarterfinals. If he fails, a fight between Borna Coric and Diego Schwartzman will follow, followed by a doubles match.

Given the first two rounds, the safest pair would be Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic, who’ve won both matches thus far. 

In any case, Croatia is in a great position to qualify for the quarterfinals of the premier ATP Cup, in which they would meet the winner of Group D. This will very likely be Russia, who only needs to defeat Norway to secure the first place. 

Source: HTS

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Saturday, 4 January 2020

ATP Cup Sydney: Croatia Tennis Team Tops Austria 3:0

January 5, 2019 - The Croatia national tennis team is off to a great start in Sydney for the first-ever ATP Cup, topping Austria 3:0 in their first round of games on Saturday.

At the premiere of the ATP Cup, in the first round of Group E in Sydney, Croatian tennis players defeated the Austria national team 3:0! 

The winning team was decided already after the singles matches - first Marin Cilic celebrated with a comeback against Dennis Novak (108th on ATP list) - 6:7 (4), 6:4, 6:4, and Borna Coric surprised the 4th best tennis player in the world, Dominic Thiem - 7:6 (4), 2:6, 6:3. 

In the doubles match, Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic were better than Austrian Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach 7:6 (4), 6:2.

Marin lost the first set to Novak, but found a way to celebrate in the end.

"It was an extremely difficult match, a real thriller. Dennis played at a high level. It was a great match to start the new season,” Marin said after the win.

Borna, who lost six matches to finish last season, opened 2020 with a massive win against Thiem. It was Borna’s second win in their five meetings thus far, and his 12th career win against one of the top 10 players in the world last year.

"I'm really happy. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from this performance, especially since I didn't play my best tennis last season. Well, it was great. Even though I lost the second set, I felt I was playing really well. In the third set, I played bravely on important points, and in the end, it paid off. This success will further fill me with confidence for the matches to come,” Borna said with special thanks to the Croatia fans in attendance.

"Thanks to them for their support, they carried me through the whole match, and especially at the end of the match, when it was the hardest for me."

The key to Croatia’s doubles victory was winning the first set in which Dodig and Mektic were losing 5:3. At 5:4, they saved a set-point and after the tie-break lead 1:0. They had no problem in the second set.

“Despite the final 3:0, the whole round against Austria was extremely uncertain and interesting, with just the singles matches lasted for almost six hours. In the doubles, the first set was also exciting, but it was easier for us in the second,” Nikola Mektic said.

Croatia will play their second match on Monday against Poland, who lost to Argentina 2:1 in the first round.

Source: HTS

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Monday, 18 November 2019

Davis Cup Madrid: Russia Tops Croatia 3:0 in First Round

November 18, 2019 - The Davis Cup debuted its new format on Monday in Madrid. Croatia kicked off their competition in Group B against Russia. 

The Croatia national tennis team lost the first duel on Monday, when Borna Gojo, a 21-year-old debutant for Croatia, was defeated by Andrey Rublev 3:6, 3:6 after an hour and eight minutes of play.

Borna Gojo (ATP-280), who only made his way into the world of professional tennis three months ago, had a poor start to the match against the favored Rublev, the 23rd best player in the world. He lost his service in the first game, but managed to collect himself and immediately return with a break. However, the remainder of the first set was a one-way street in which the Russian tennis player took Gojo’s serve two more times.

At the start of the second set, Gojo had two consecutive breaks but did not use them. Rublev then came to a break and routinely concluded the match in his favor.

Gojo played for American Wake Forest University and joined Croatia after Marin Cilic dropped out due to injury. Interim coach Franko Skugor opted for Gojo because he felt he could do better on a faster basis than Nino Serdarusic.

“I’m not satisfied, I had some chances, but I didn't serve well enough. My serve was not at the level as usual, and especially not at the level for this match. I also had occasions where I could be more aggressive, but I was nervous, so I played safely.  We will get the positive things out of this match and try to be as good as possible on Wednesday," Gojo said after his performance.

In the second match, Croatia’s best tennis player Borna Coric lost to Karen Khachanov 7:6(4), 4:6, 4:6.

Coric opened the match well, won the first set, but unfortunately lost his energy in the continuation of the match due to recent virus. Hachanov thus turned the result in his favor.

There was not too much excitement in the first set until it was 3:3 and both tennis players held their serves. Khachanov had three consecutive break points to lead 4:3. However, Borna managed to even it at 4:4. The set was then decided in the thirteenth game. Hachanov led 2:0 with a mini break, but Borna returned and had a tiebreak at 7:4.

In the second set, Khachanov managed to equalize, and the key was the seventh game in which Khachanov broke Coric for the 4:3 lead. In the next game, Borna had the opportunity to get back the game he lost, but failed.

Coric dwindled in the third set. In the fifth game, he saved four break points, but in the seventh game, he struggled and Khachanov came to a great advantage, which he defended until the end of the match.

It was their third encounter and the first win for the 17th best tennis player in the world. Coric won his first two matches in 2017 in Rotterdam and Milan.

“I played the first set great, I even surprised myself a little, the second set, in my opinion, I was better, I didn't break him at 3:3 and then everything went downhill. My strength fell and I could no longer get anything out. I’m sorry about the second set where; I thought I had the match in control, two, three points decided the match and he prevailed. I just didn't take my chances,” Coric said.

Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic played in the doubles match that followed against Khachanov and Rublev and lost 7:6 (3), 6:4. Thus, Croatia lost 0:3 to Russia on day one.

At this year's Davis Cup, eighteen teams are divided into six groups of three teams. The winners of the groups and the two best runner-up teams will advance to the quarterfinals. All matches are played in a format with two singles matches and one doubles match.

Croatia's group also includes Spain, led by the world number one tennis player Rafael Nadal.

Spain and Russia meet tomorrow, and in the last match in the group, the title defender Croatia will play against Spain on Wednesday.

Source: HRT

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Saturday, 2 November 2019

Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek Among Top 8 in World, Secure Spot in ATP Finals

November 2, 2019 - Ivan Dodig and partner Filip Polasek have advanced to the semifinal of the Paris Masters - and booked a spot in the ATP Finals in London!

Croatian tennis player Ivan Dodig and Slovakian partner Filip Polasek are among the top eight doubles teams in the world to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held in London from November 10 to 17, 2019. 

Dodig and Polasek advanced to the semifinal of the Masters 1000 Series ATP tournament in Bercy (Paris Masters) with a victory over American Rajeev Ram and British player Joe Salisbury in the quarters - 6:3, 6:7 (5), 10:7, though this success was not ultimately necessary for them to book a spot in London.

Namely, the legendary Americans Bob and Mike Bryan (seventh in the ‘Race for London’) pulled out of all tournaments until the end 2019, thus virtually securing Dodig and Polasek a spot among the eight best doubles teams. 

Of course, it helped that Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut celebrated in the quarterfinal of the Paris Masters against Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, who still had a theoretical chance to skip ahead of Dodig and Polasek - that is, if they won the title. 

This is an excellent success for Dodig and Polasek, who have only been playing together since June this year, and who already have titles from Cincinnati and Beijing and can boast the Wimbledon semifinal.

This will be Dodig’s sixth appearance in the ATP Finals with three different partners. Dodig has played four finals so far with Brazilian Marcelo Melo (2013 - 2016) and in 2017 with Spanish player Marcel Granollers. This will be Polasek’s first appearance in the final.

The Croat and the Slovakian team thus continue their march in Bercy, and their rivals for a spot in Sunday's final will be Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, who defeated Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov in the quarters. 

Source: HTS

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Saturday, 12 October 2019

Shanghai Masters: Mate Pavic Books First Doubles Final with Bruno Soares

October 12, 2019 - Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares will play in their first joint final on Sunday! 

Namely, the Croatian-Brazilian duo advanced to the final of the ATP Masters 1000 Series tournament in Shanghai (Shanghai Masters) after defeating British pair Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski - 7:5, 6:4. 

In a match that saw as many as eight breaks, Pavic and Soares (who achieved six aces and a first-serve percentage of 68 percent) took the serve from their opponents on five occasions. In the final, Pavic and Soares await the second-seeded Polish-Brazilian team Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, who are looking to defend their title at the tournament. 

Recall, after six consecutive wins (and the title in Beijing), Ivan Dodig and his Slovakian partner Filip Polasek lost the Shanghai quarter-final match to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6:4, 7:6 (2). Kubot and Melo thus got revenge on Dodig and Polasek after losing to them in the Beijing final.

In the first set, Dodig and Polasek lost their serve at 3-3. However, they had the chance to take the match into the third set, but after missing two set points at 6-5 and losing the tie-break, the victory went to Kubot and Melo after an hour and 40 minutes of play. 

Recall, after Marin Cilic dropped out of the first round of the Shanghai Masters, Borna Coric, too, failed to make it past the first round. Last year's finalist was stopped by Russian Andrej Rublyov (33rd in the ATP ranking) - 6:4, 7:6 (4).

Donna Vekic failed to reach the quarter-final of the WTA Tournament in Linz, Austria, which boasts a prize fund of €250,000. The Osijek player, who was the fourth seed of the tournament, was defeated by French player Kristina Mladenovic (46th in the WTA ranking) in the second round - 3:6, 6:1, 6:2.

It was their fifth match and the third win for Mladenovic, who tasted revenge against Donna after losing to the Croatian in their two meetings this year - in the 1st round of the Australian Open and the quarter-final of the WTA tournament in Nottingham.

Source: HTS

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Sunday, 6 October 2019

China Open: Ivan Dodig Wins Second ATP Doubles Title with Filip Polasek

October 6, 2019 - Croatian Davis Cup representative  Ivan Dodig and Slovakian tennis player Filip Polasek won the doubles title at the ATP 500 Series tournament in Beijing - the China Open. 

Namely, HRT reports that Dodig and Polasek defeated Polish player Lukasz Kubot and Brazilian player Marcelo Melo 6-3, 7-6 (4) in Sunday's final. 

Kubot and Melo led in the second set 5:2, and at 5:4, they also missed a set point on their serve, though they still found the way to the victory in two sets.

"We had a good time all week. We played good matches. The final was a really exciting match. It was very nice to play in front of a lot of people. We really enjoyed the quality of the match, [it was] very high,” said Dodig for the ATP Tour.

"The first set was really, really good from our side. We started well. In the second set, we also made the break in the beginning. We [had the match] under control. Then they played one really good game, broke back… In the end, we were a little bit better in the crucial moments. I think we deserved to win this final even though the match could go both ways."

This was the third joint final and the second triumph for Dodig and Polasek after reaching their first trophy at the Cincinnati Masters 1000 Series tournament. Dodig has thus won his 15th doubles trophy in his 30th final, while Polasek won his 14th in his 29th final.

The winners were awarded $228,110 and 500 points, while Kubot and Melo will take home 300 points and $111,660, respectively.

Thanks to these 500 points, Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek have climbed to 9th place in the race for London, where the top eight doubles teams of 2019 will compete in the final tournament at the London O2 Arena. Dodig and Polasek have 2460 points, which is 200 less than the current 8th-placed US-British team of Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.

Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor are ranked 13th with 2020 points and still have a good chance of reaching the final tournament, too. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 5 September 2019

US Open: Donna Vekic and Ivan Dodig Eliminated

September 5, 2019 - Donna Vekic and Ivan Dodig were eliminated from the US Open on Wednesday.

HTS reports that Donna Vekic has ended her run at the US Open this year after losing to the 12th best female player in the world in the quarterfinal, Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, 7:6 (5), 6:3.

In the biggest match of her career, Donna missed a massive opportunity in the first set when, in the ninth game, she had the chance to break her opponent and at 5:4 served to be 1:0 up in sets, though she was unable to capitalize. 

Bencic returned the lost serve and later in the tie-break clinched the first set. In the second set, Vekic held on to a 3:2 lead and then lost four games in a row to end her dream of a Grand Slam semi-final. It was the fourth encounter between Vekic and Bencic, and the Swiss star’s third win. Vekic achieved four aces with a first-serve percentage of 55 percent, scored 28 winners (Bencic 20) but also managed 28 unforced errors (Bencic 21).

Taiwanese player Hao-Ching Chan and New Zealander Michael Venus (1st seed) ended Latisha Chan and Ivan Dodig's stellar series at Grand Slam tournaments this year, where they’ve claimed the title of Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the mixed doubles competition. Namely, Chan and Venus eliminated Chan and Dodig in the US Open semi-final in two sets - 7:6 (3), 7:5.

Chan and Dodig started the match well, and reached a break already in the first game, but that was all they managed to do to against their rival. In game 10, Chan and Dodig lost their serve for the first time, and in the tie-break, they lost the first set. In the second set, both pairs held their serve firmly until game 11, though Dodig and Chan couldn't hold on much longer and ultimately lost the match in which they achieved 27 winners and made 26 unforced errors (Chan and Venus 16). 

Unfortunately, Croatia no longer has a representative in the US Open after Vekic and Dodig dropped out of the tournament on Wednesday. Recall, Petra Martic lost to Serena Williams, Marin Cilic to Rafael Nadal, Ivo Karlovic to Frances Tiafoe and Borna Coric pulled out due to an injury. Mate Pavic, Nikola Mektic, and Franko Skugor did not succeed in mixed and men’s doubles. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

US Open: Vekic into Quarters, Dodig into Mixed Doubles Semi-final

September 3, 2019 - Donna Vekic is into the quarters of the US Open, while Ivan Dodig will play in the semi-final!

HTS reports that Donna Vekic will play in the quarterfinals of the US Open! The best result of her career in a Grand Slam tournament came after the great battle against German Julia Goerges (30th in the WTA ranking) - 6:7 (5), 7:5, 6:3. 

Vekic was on the verge of defeat in the second set, losing 5:3 - and at 5: 4, Goerges (who achieved 21 aces in total) had a match point at her serve. Still, Donna pulled herself out of the abyss and won the second set, and in the third, she made the crucial step in the eighth game when she reached her fourth break of the match. 

Goerges had two returns in the next game (15:40), but Donna managed to keep the serve and reach her first victory in the fourth match against Goerges. 

This success also brings Vekic the best ranking of her career, as she is now 21st in the WTA list. Vekic’s contender for the semi-final is the 12th best tennis player in the world, Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, who surprised Japan's Naomi Osaka (7:5, 6:4) in the round of 16. Vekic and Bencic have played three times so far, and Vekic has one win in their last meeting at this year's Roland Garros.

Marin Cilic said goodbye to this year's US Open after the winner of the 2014 tournament did not find his way to success against Rafael Nadal in the round of 16. The great Spaniard lost the first set of his tournament, but celebrated 6:3, 3:6, 6:1, 6:2 for his 40th appearance in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament. It was their ninth match and the seventh victory for the Spaniard. Cilic achieved 10 aces with a first-serve percentage of 66%, used two of his three break points (Nadal six of 11) and made 40 unforced errors.

Recall, Petra Martic also failed to reach her second quarterfinal at a Grand Slam tournament (Roland Garros 2019) after she was stopped in the round of 16 by the legendary Serena Williams - 6:3, 6:4.

Ivan Dodig and Taiwanese partner Latisha Chan continue their success in the mixed doubles competition. The Roland Garros and Wimbledon winners have now reached the US Open semi-final after defeating American Raquel Atawo and French Fabrice Martin in the quarterfinal - 7:6(3), 3:6, 10:3.

To play in their third consecutive final, Dodig and Chan will face the 1st seed, Taiwanese player Chan Hao-ching and New Zealander Michael Venus. Unfortunately, Mate Pavic and Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski (2nd seed) were stopped in the mixed doubles quarterfinal by US-British duo Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray - 2:6, 7:5, 10:4.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters: Dodig and Polasek Surprise Top-seeded Duo for Doubles Title!

August 19, 2019 - Croatian tennis player Ivan Dodig and Slovakian partner Filip Polasek are the new Cincinnati Masters doubles champions! 

Dodig and Polasek won the doubles competition at the Masters 1000 series ATP tournament in Cincinnati on Sunday after defeating the Colombian top-seed Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the final 4-6, 6-4, 10-6, reports HRT.

Dodig and Polasek didn't start well and lost a game on their serve in the first game, though it was also the only break they allowed the entire match. Still, that was enough for Cabal and Farah to win the first set. 

In the second set, the Croatian-Slovakian combination snagged the serve from the Colombian duo with a 5-4 lead, which automatically secured them the second set. The winner was then forced to be decided in an extended tie-break. The key to the win was the 4-0 series for Dodig and Polasek, who went from 3-3 to 7-3 and held that advantage until the end.

Dodig and Polasek had their first doubles appearance in late June in Antalya, where they reached the final and lost to Jonathan Erlich and Artem Sitak. The duo also played in the Wimbledon semi-final and was relegated in the first round of the tournament in Montreal. However, in their fourth tournament together, they reached their first trophy.

This is Dodig’s 14th doubles title in his career in his 29th final, and the third in 2019, having previously won in Montpellier and Lyon with Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin. For the 34-year-old from Medjugorje, this is the fifth trophy in the Masters 1000 series tournament, and the second in Cincinnati, where he was also the winner in 2016 with Brazilian Marcelo Melo.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters: Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek in Doubles Final!

August 18, 2019 - Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek advance to their second ATP final together, this time at the Cincinnati Masters!

HTS reports that Croatian Davis Cup representative Ivan Dodig and Slovakian tennis player Filip Polasek have made it to the final of the Masters 1000 Series tournament in Cincinnati, where they defeated British pair Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-1, 6-4 in Saturday's semi-final. 

Dodig and Polasek secured the first set after they broke their opponent in the fourth and sixth games, though in the second set they had a much harder job. 

Namely, Dodig and Polasek led 3:1, Murray and Skupski returned to bring the score to 4:3, though Dodig and Polasek ultimately secured the final after winning three games in a row. In total, Dodig and Polasek used four of the 13 break points, while Murray and Skupski used only one of three.

In the fight for their first ATP title in their second ATP final together (recall, the first was in Antalya, though they were also semifinalists in Wimbledon), they will play against the first-seed of the tournament, Colombian duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who beat Mate Pavić and Bruno Soares in the other semifinal round - 6:3, 6:2. Pavić and Soares did not have a single break point in the match, while there was not a single tiebreak in the match. 

Dodig and Polasek will meet Cabal and Farah in the Cincinnati final on Sunday at 6:15 pm Croatia time. 

The Cincinnati Masters was far from successful for Croatia's singles tennis players. Marin Čilić, Borna Ćorić, Ivo Karlovicć, and Petra Martić all lost in the first round, while Donna Vekić lost in the round of 16 fight to American star Venus Williams. 

Borna Ćorić has already announced he will not participate in the next competition, the 250 series tournament in Winston-Salem.

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