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The gentlemen’s road to Wimbledon

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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic speaks to the media during an open training session in Belgrade, in his native Serbia on June 19, 2019, ahead of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. – Djokovic leads the men’s ATP tennis rankings released on June 17, 2019, ahead of French Open champion Rafael Nadal and former world number one Roger Federer. (Photo by Pedja MILOSAVLJEVIC / AFP)

There is no rest for the professional tennis players, who compete all year round on every continent. No other period depicts the odyssey as the three-week interval between the Grand Slam in Paris and The Championships in London. Even before Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem squared off in Roland Garros, the Wimbledon warm-up tournaments had kicked off on the grass-courts in Hertogenbosch in Netherlands and Stuttgart Germany.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal skipped the preparatory events but opted to play exhibition matches on grass-courts.
In the Netherlands, 30-year old Adrian Mannarino of France defeated the 25-year old Australian Jordan Thompson 7/6 (7), 6/3 to win the Libema Trophy and garner 250 ranking points.

In Stuttgart, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini defeated Canadian, Felix Auger Aliassime 6/4, 7/6 (11) for the Mercedes Cup and 250 points.

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The result in the Stuttgart finals was a pointer of things to happen with the 18-year old Felix. He defeated France’s Gilles Simon 7/5, 6/4 in the second round and Germany’s showman Dustin Brown in the quarter-finals 7/6(3), 6/7 (2) 7/6 (2) after Brown had dusted off the top seed and world number five, Alexander Zverev 6/4, 6/7 (2) 7/6 (2) in the second round.

In the succeeding week, the higher ranked players selected either London or Germany, with 500 ranking points for the titlist at each location. Roger Federer led the pack at his 17th appearance in Halle. He struggled to win the first set 7/6 (3) in his opening match against Australia’s John Millman and barely escaped defeat in the hands of Joe Wilfried Tsonga before winning 7/6 (5), 4/6, 7/5 in the second round.
 
In the quarterfinals, he scraped a 6/3, 4/6, 6/3 victory over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. In the semi-finals, Federer raced through a 6/3, 6/3 victory over France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The Swiss maestro clinched his 10th title in Halle with a 7/6(2), 6/3 victory over Belgium’s David Goffin, who had defeated the second-seeded Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals, 3/6, 6/1, 7/6.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas headed the seeding in Queens Club with Kevin Anderson seeded second. However, all eyes were on Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the first round and followed with a 6/7 (4), 7/6 (3), 7/5 win in a battle of service aces with Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

Meanwhile, the wildcard entrant Feliciano Lopez of Spain walked over injured Juan Martin del Potro in the second round, then defeated Canada’s Milos Raonic 4/6, 6/4, 7/5 to set up the semi-finals clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had dispatched Tsitsipas 7/5, 6/2.

Auger-Aliassime won the first set 7/6 (4) and had three break points in the first game of the second set but the Spanish veteran cancelled them all. It was the same story in the ninth game before Lopez prevailed 6/4 and 6/3 in the third set to end the Canadians streak on grass. Lopez claimed the title with a 6/2, 6/7(4), 7/6 (2) victory over Gilles Simon and rose in rankings from 110 to 53.

The great news out of London was Andy Murray’s return to competition after hip replacement surgery. He paired Feliciano Lopez and they defeated the top seeded Colombian pair of Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal 7/6, (5), 6/3 in the first round and escaped two close contests before winning the title match 7/6 (8), 5/7, 10-8 from British Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram.


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