EXCLUSIVE: Dudi Sela targets significant ranking rise in the remainder of the season

Dudi Sela is pleased in his upturn in form and hopes to recapture the ATP Challenger crown at the Aegon Open in Nottingham on Sunday.

Sela advanced to the final following second seed Marius Copil’s retirement in their semifinal match where the Israeli was leading 7-6(4), 1-0. In assessment of his short match, Sela said: “I think I played well in the match, I was solid. I was a break up two times and played two bad games on my serve so hopefully I can be better in the final.”

It was a right shoulder injury which forced Copil from Romania to call time on their semifinal and Sela told me that he was aware that his opponent was struggling. “I think it was in the last game of the first set and I definitely noticed it in the first game of the second”, the third seed said. “At 6-5 I had a couple of set points and I felt that he was not 100%. At the end he just told me my shoulder is really painful and I don’t want to risk it for the tournaments coming up in the next few weeks”, he added.

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EXCLUSIVE: Thomas Fabbiano targetting top 50 following run to the Aegon Open final

Thomas Fabbiano is enjoying a great season on the ATP Challenger circuit and has already picked up three titles this year. On Sunday he will go for a sixth career title and a first on grass at the Aegon Open in Nottingham.

In his semifinal match the fourth seed took down qualifier Sam Groth in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 and was pleased with his performance. The Italian said: “It was a good match, I was expecting it to be tougher but I managed to break him in the first game of each set and that was the key.

I felt some tension in the middle games of the second set, but with the long rallies I managed to hang on and not lose my serve and continue with my game. I didn’t have many bad moments, I saved two break points, which was important for me in helping to win the second set.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Donna Vekic reflects on biggest win of her season to date at the Aegon Open

Donna Vekic was elated and understandably exhausted after I spoke to her following her marathon two hours and 48 minutes win over Lucie Safarova 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(4) at the Aegon Open in Nottingham.

When asked for her initial thoughts the 20-year-old simply said: “I feel tired, but I feel very happy though!”

In the heat of battle in the final set there was a controversial moment in the sixth game where the Croat had the chance to break her opponent’s serve. Safarova’s forehand appeared to go long and the ball was originally called out, but then corrected and overruled by the umpire. Vekic was distraught with the decision but with no hawk-eye there was nothing that she could do as Safarova held to level at three games all.

Upon reflection Vekic was still very unhappy with the umpire. She said: “When something like that happens it’s very frustrating, especially as it wasn’t even closely in. This umpire made a lot of mistakes, it wasn’t her first mistake so this I mean can change a whole match. I had to just get on with it and try to play the next point and next games.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Johanna Konta confident ahead of Aegon Open final

Johanna Konta will seek to become just the second British woman to win a WTA grass court event in the UK on Sunday when she faces Donna Vekic at the Aegon Open in Nottingham.

Virginia Wade was the only other player to do so back in 1975 in Eastbourne, but the world number eight is enjoying her tennis and is confident that she can join her as part of British Tennis history.

Konta defeated Magdalena Rybarikova in the semifinals in straight sets 6-2, 7-5 and felt as though she handled the task of taking on an in-form player very well. “She’s a very effective player on the grass and has come into this tournament with an 100K win on the grass, (in Surbiton) so she was full of confidence”, said the British number one. “She definitely played like that as well so I was happy that I was able to adjust and get stuck into match as much as I could and I felt I competed well”, she added.

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EXCLUSIVE: Tsvetana Pironkova: “I do feel like I belong in the top 50”

Tsvetana Pironkova is happiest when she is on a tennis court, particularly on grass. Her attitude to the game is typified by her response when I asked her about coming from a sporty background and how that affected her growing up. “I never thought that I would do something else, it was always tennis to me.”

Her mother is a former swimming champion, her father and coach, a former canoe champion. Sport runs through her blood she tells me, “it was always on the cards!”

Coached by her father Kiril, maintaining a father-daughter relationship and a professional working relationship can be tough, but Tsvetana would not have it any other way. “I think its good for me because it’s always been that way”, she said. “There are pluses and minuses you know, it’s not always easy, but he knows me the best!”

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EXCLUSIVE: Steve Johnson feels more confident heading into his second ATP final

Steve Johnson will face Pablo Cuevas in the final of the Aegon Open after a straight sets win over Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4 and the American feels more confident heading into the match compared to when preparing for his maiden final.

The sixth seed is very much looking forward to tomorrow’s match and was delighted with his semifinal win. Johnson said, “I’m very happy to reach my second final and first on grass. I’m glad to put some momentum on the board this grass court swing and happy to be in the final.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Andreas Seppi delighted to reach fourth Aegon Open semifinal

Andreas Seppi booked his place in the semifinals for a fourth time at the Aegon Open with victory over the unseeded Dudi Sela 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in Nottingham on Thursday.

Post-match reflections

The Italian, seeded seven this week, had a difficult start to his match, only winning 46 percent of points behind the second serve. “It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning, it was difficult to find a rhythm and I made a lot of mistakes”, he said. Seppi responded in the next two sets and was very pleased to get the win. “I think I improved as the match went on and we had some good rallies in the last few games, lots of long rallies and it was good to win most of them and it was a great win for me.”

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