Sonego’s Eastbourne Win Was Fun, Entertaining

Lorenzo Sonego (photo: @EastbourneInt/Twitter)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Third seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy advanced to his third semifinal of the season with a 6-1, 7-5 quarterfinal victory over No. 39 Alexander Bublik at the ATP 250 grass court Viking International at Eastbourne, England. Sonego will face lucky loser Max Purcell of Australia, who continued his run of good fortune in winning his third straight three-set match.

In garnering his 17th victory – and third straight over Bublik from Kazakhstan – Sonego hit a backhand slice winner on match point that completed a richly entertaining and enjoyable quarterfinal played over an hour and 19 minutes on Centre Court at Devonshire Park. In his first visit to Eastbourne, Sonego has been playing full of energy but just as importantly, he’s having fun on grass.

“I’m full of energy because I like playing here,” Sonego said during an on-court interview. “My serve is good for the grass court, and I like playing in Eastbourne. There are a lot of Italian fans, and it is good for me.”

Sonego hit three aces and won 74 percent (28 of 38) of his first-serve points while converting four of eight break-point opportunities. Bublik fired eight aces but won just 57 percent (25 of 44) of his first serves. Sonego outpointed Bublik 73-53 and in doing so took care of his business while blocking out Bublik’s entertaining antics, which included an underarm serve.

“It’s not easy playing against [Alexander]; he’s an amazing talent,” Sonego admitted. “It was a tough match – especially in the second set – but I’m pleased with [the win].”

Meanwhile, the 283rd-ranked Purcell, who reached the main draw as a lucky loser after being eliminated in qualifying, went the distance for the third straight day – each time overcoming being down a break – to reach his first ATP Tour semifinal. This time, he beat 95th-ranked lucky loser Andreas Seppi of Italy, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes.

“I’ve been struggling to get into singles events, so getting into one that’s actually on my favorite surface – and winning as many matches – is a dream come true,” Purcell said during an on-court interview. “I’m thankful and grateful I’ve made the most of my opportunities so far.”

De Minaur, Kwon continue winning ways

In the other half of the draw, No. 2 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia and lucky loser Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea advanced to the semifinals, each with a straight-set victory.

No. 77 Kwon reached his first ATP Tour semifinal with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over 87th-ranked Belarus qualifier Ilya Ivashka in one hour and 43 minutes, while the 18th-ranked de Minaur was solid in his 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 66 Vasek Pospisil of Canada in an hour and 28 minutes. He won 81 percent of his first serves, converted three of six break points and outpointed Pospisil 75-57.

Kwon won 79 percent of his first serves, saved all but one of the six break points he faced and he broke Ivashka three times during their quarterfinal match. Kwon outpointed Ivashka 79-75 and left the court with a big smile on his 23-year-old face. He suggested in his post-match interview that he did not feel any pressure, especially going this far in the tournament as a lucky loser.“I’m really happy to win today,” he said. “It’s really amazing.”

Meanwhile, de Minaur, who is the highest seed remaining in the men’s draw, was appreciative of the fan support he received, especially considering the chilly South Coast weather they endured, which saw many of them huddled under blankets while watching the Centre Court match.

“I’m obviously very happy. Vasek is a hell of a competitor and player on the grass courts,” de Minaur said during his post-match interview. “I just want to thank everyone who stayed. It got very cold out there. I appreciate the support. It was great support; I love playing here and feel very comfortable [on the courts].”

Thursday’s ATP Eastbourne results

Sigh of relief for Kontaveit, surprise win for Giorgi

Estonia’s 27th-ranked Annette Kontaveit reached her second semifinal of the season with a 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 victory over 72nd-ranked qualifier Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in two hours and 34 minutes. It’s her third straight win on grass this week in Eastbourne, which is a WTA 500-series event.

“I love playing on grass, it’s such a special surface,” Kontaveit said during her post-match interview on Court 1 following her 18th victory of the season in 26 outings. “I’m really enjoying myself out here.”

Kontaveit hit six aces and 38 winners overall to 43 unforced errors while breaking Golubic’s serve six times in 16 opportunities. Meanwhile, Golubic finished with 29 winners and 42 unforced errors. She broke Kontaveit seven times in 14 tries. Kontaveit outpointed her opponent 116-113.

“It was so tough, I was just trying to fight for everything,” said Kontaveit, who beat Golubic in a three-set, first round match a few weeks ago at the French Open. “I’m so happy to be through that match.

“I kept thinking I have to fight for everything. We had a tough match a few weeks ago. I knew it was going to be difficult but I think [Viktorija] played a great match. I had to work so hard to get through it.”

In Friday’s semifinal round, Kontaveit will play Italy’s 75th-ranked qualifier Camila Giorgi, who rallied to beat No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 7-6 (5), 0-6, 6-4, in a long and intense – and at times topsy-turvy – match. It was Giorgi’s first Top Five win this season and it moves her into her first semifinal since last year at Palermo and first at the 500 level since 2018 in Tokyo.

Giorgi overcame 11 double faults, seven breaks of her service and 34 unforced errors to hit six aces and 23 winners en route to her two-hour and 18-minute win against the World No. 4 Sabalenka.

“It was a great match, a very good level,” said Giorgi of her first head-to-head win over Sabalenka, who was the last seed remaining in the women’s draw. “I needed [this win] because I haven’t played a lot of matches this year.”

Ostapenko, Rybakina both survive three-setters

The other semifinal will pair No. 43 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia against No. 21 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. Ostapenko advanced with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 roller-coaster of a win over 34th-ranked Birmingham finalist Daria Kasatkina of Russia, while Rybakina needed two-and-a-half hours to close out 61st-ranked Latvian lucky loser Anastasija Sevastova, 2-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5).

Ostapenko, a junior Wimbledon champion on grass in 2014, overcame 43 unforced errors by hitting 38 winners and converting seven of nine break-point opportunities against Kasatkina for her second win against the Russian on grass at Eastbourne. She outpointed her opponent 84-77 during the one hour and 44-minute match to reach her first semifinal since 2019 at Luxembourg.

“[Daria] played really well the whole match. I really needed to find my game and play very consistent to beat her,” Ostapenko said during a televised interview after the match. “You saw match point. It was a long rally. I happy because deserved to win, I’m glad I won it this way.

“I’m trying to enjoy it and not be too hard on myself. I always love to play on grass.”

Meanwhile, Rybakina saved two match points during a second-set tie break, then recovered during the third-set tie break by winning the last three points of the match to advance. Two of her three wins this week have been in deciders and Rybakina fought her way through 72 unforced errors by hitting 47 winners during her quarterfinal victory. She broke Sevastova, who had 22 winners and 34 unforced errors, three times in nine tries. Sevastova outpointed Rybakina 121-113.

“It was a really tough match, [Anastasija] played well today,” Rybakina said on court during an interview. “For me, it was difficult to focus. My concentration was up and down, but I’m really glad I was able to win today.”

Thursday’s WTA Eastbourne results

Zhang first Chinese man in Open Era to make Wimbledon main draw

Sixteen men from an original field of 128 qualified for the Wimbledon Championships main draw at the National Tennis Center in Roehampton Thursday.

First in was No. 22 seed Brandon Nakashima of the United States, who defeated Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Last in was No. 9 seed Benjamin Bonzi of France following his 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Frederic0 Ferreira Silva of Portugal that lasted two hours and 56 minutes.

Other winners included: No. 2 seed Mackenzie McDonald of the United States, who beat fellow American Maxime Cressy, seeded 30th, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4; No. 6 seed Denis Kudla of the U.S., No. 7 seed Arthur Rinderknech of France, No. 8 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, No. 10 seed Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain, No. 15 Gregoire Barrere of France and No. 16 Chris O’Connell of Australia.

One of the biggest surprises was turned in by Zhang Zhizhen of China, who made history by becoming the first Chinese man in the Open Era to play in the Wimbledon main draw at the All England Club.

Zhang, 24, from Shanghai, is the best male player in China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion people. He’s currently ranked No. 178 in the world and is the only Chinese man in the Top 250.

According to the Wimbledon website, Zhang is the first Chinese to play in the Wimbledon main draw since 1959. He’s also only the fourth Chinese man to play singles in the main draw of a Grand Slam since the beginning of the Open Era in 1968. The others were: Wu Di at the 2013-14 and 2016 Australian Open, Zhang Ze at the 2014-15 Australian Open, and Li Zhe at the 2019 Australian Open.

Meanwhile, the first six women are through to the main draw, including: No. 4 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, No. 15 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium, and No. 16 see Claire Liu of the United States.

On Friday, the remaining 10 spots will be decided. No. 1 seed Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia advanced over Panna Udvardy of Hungary, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Thursday’s Wimbledon qualifying results

Friday’s Wimbledon qualifying order of play

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