Patrick Mouratoglou’s brave new world of tennis, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, is back in play with its third edition taking place this weekend in Antwerp from 16-18 October.
I didn’t realise it was match point to someone every point. It’s obviously very good fun when it gets to sudden death. That’s probably my favourite part. It gives you something in the stomach, you don’t want to lose. It’s good prep for next week, the nerves. Dan Evans
UTS3 is happening in the city of diamonds in collaboration with Tennium and the European Open with Richard ‘The Virtuoso’ Gasquet and Feliciano ‘El Torero’ Lopez back in action and joined by newcomers Taylor ‘The Hotshot’ Fritz, Alex ‘The Demon’ De Minaur, Dan ‘The Viper’ Evans and Pablo ‘The Survivor’ Andujar.
With mid-match interviews, decisive points, sudden deaths, world-class commentating, UTS cards, and much more, players and fans need to keep up with the pace in a program that consists of two groups of three players, with a grand final on Sunday featuring the winner of each group.
All the matches are played at night, adding to the excitement.
- Day 1 – Friday 16 Octobe: Group 1 matches
- Day 2 – Saturday 17 October: Group 2 matches
- Day 3 – Sunday 18 October: Final
The Demon seeps past The Viper
On Friday, Australia’s De Minaur swept past Britain’s Evans, 4-0, with The Viper never getting to grips with The Demon’s groundstrokes and not challenging.
Evans was unable to find a way past the Aussie, one of the fastest players on the Tour and one of the best competitors around, who made a perfect start to his UTS3 campaign, edging the first quarter and then dominating the next three to win 13-12, 23-9, 21-10, 20-13, never allowing The Viper a foothold in the match.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” De Minaur said. “It’s definitely fun, I’m glad it went well for me.
“It wasn’t easy getting used to the conditions and tactics but I’m glad I made a good start.
“I forgot to use the cards and I also forgot what card I had,” he said, after snatching the sudden death point.”
De Minaur will next face Spain’s Andujar, while Evans is set to take on Andujar in his next match.
Evans, the World No 34, had beaten De Minaur in their last meeting, in the ATP Cup at the start of 2020, and the first quarter was close as both men got a feel for the competition.
Neither remembered to use their special UTS cards early on, but it was the Aussie who shaded it before he raced ahead 7-1 in Q2, saving his cards until he needed them.
Evans, whose slice and dice game can get under the skin of his opponents, was never able to get close enough and the Aussie clinched it comfortably to double his lead.
With 15 seconds between points, both men were huffing and puffing but De Minaur made another fast start to the third quarter, taking a 7-3 lead and then, after using his next point counts double card, he cruised through the rest of the quarter to take an unassailable lead.
The Demon tops Group 1
De Minaur produced a second virtually perfect performance, crushing Andujar, 4-0: 23-5, 13-11, 17-13, 18-10, to top Group 1 later on Friday evening, leaving The Survivor empty-handed.
“Very happy, very happy,” De Minaur said. “I definitely didn’t know what to expect. It’s new conditions and a new format so I’m very happy it all went pretty damned well today, so I’m very happy, that’s for sure.”
De Minaur picked up where he left off against Evans, running away with the opening quarter as Andujar, making his debut in the competition, took his time to find his feet.
The Survivor wondered what had hit him after Q1, but The second quarter was much tighter, only for, at 12-11, and just one point remaining, De Minaur fired a serve which hit the top of the net. and Andujar forgot the no-let rule to allow the Aussie to take the quarter.
“Why do you think I was aiming for it?” De Minaur joked. “It’s my second UTS match now!”
Andujar said he was finding it tough to process all the rules and regulations.
“Too many years on the Tour,” he said. “That’s something that’s running through my mind. It [the net cord] wasn’t a difficult ball, either, but I’m happy, I’m happy I improved my game and we played some good points.”
The Demon might have been tiring after back to back matches but his speed was something else and when Andujar asked the question, he always seemed to have the answer.
Andujar actually led 11-10 and had the chance to win Q3 but when De Minaur played the winner x 3 card, the Spaniard made the mistake of scrambling for the ball and gave the Aussie an easy volley instead of making sure he could not hit a winner.
“I’m having fun but the one with three [points] I gave it to him and I should have put it out [deliberately]. It’s difficult,” he said.
De Minaur pulled away to an early lead in the fourth quarter and though Andujar threw in the first underarm serve of the evening, The Demon finished things off 18-10 to take his place in the final.
“I think it was really fun,” Andujar said. “I think it’s another kind of tennis. I’m not happy that I lost, but I’m happy I played this type of format.
“I played against a guy who plays this format really well, I think it suits him, but I think this [format] improves the game of tennis.”
The Viper wins with sudden death
Wounded by his opening-match defeat, Evans bit back to claim his first win of UTS3 on Friday, ending the evening in style as he pipped Andujar in an entertaining encounter in Antwerp.
The 30-year-old came from behind to win 3:2: 14-15, 21-12, 16-17, 15-14 [4-2] in sudden death to put a smile on his face after his first taste of the innovative competition.
“I think it was really good,” Evans said. “I liked the scoring format.”
Both were playing for pride and The Survivor, the World No 54, led 7-1 in the first quarter before Evans began to wake up, the Viper hitting back to level at 14-14 with the best point of the match, only to lose the final point as the Spaniard moved ahead.
“I started a bit slow,” Evans said. “Hopefully I can start this next quarter better and I’ll be OK”.
Tthe Viper began Q2 much more sharply, using his UTS cards smartly to open up a 10-4 lead and then a 14-4 lead with his next points count double counting twice.
The Survivor fought hard to close the gap but Evans was too far ahead and he levelled the match, racing off court for a quick bathroom break.
At 34, Andujar has been on Tour for 17 years and explained to the commentators why he had chosen the nickname ‘The Survivor’.
“Well, I had five surgeries on my elbow and I was out for two years,” he said. “When I restarted in 2018, I had [no points] and so I had to survive. And I have three children, too!”
The third quarter was tight throughout. Evans led 8-6 when he had a coaching timeout, discussing tactics, but the Spaniard was persistent and, with two and a half minutes to go, it was 11-11, with each man still having one card to use.
“Use your card now,” The Survivor’s coach Carlos Calderon said, and Andujar used his next points counts double, only to miss both.
Evans was now in control at 13-11 and turned the screw with his own next point counts double card, winning the second one to go 15-12 with one minute to go.
Andujar got to within one thanks to a couple of big groundstrokes and while Evans thought he had done enough with a big serve and forehand put-away with two seconds to go, Andujar fired an ace to level and then pinched the quarter 17-16 with a backhand volley winner.
“I had to go for it otherwise I was down 2-1,” Andujar said. “I cannot believe I won this [quarter]. This is UTS, guys.”
Evans said he was still enjoying his UTS experience: “It’s good fun,” he said. “Exactly what just happened in the last quarter is what I’m sure this event is [about]. The last few points were exciting.”
The Viper raced to a 7-3 lead in Q4 but Andujar, who had held back his cards until late throughout the evening, used his next points count double card and levelled at 7-7.
At 9-9, it was The Viper’s turn to use the next point counts double card but Andujar won the first one before a lovely Evans slice put him up 11-10.
At 12-11 down, Andujar was about to use his steal serve card but changed his mind, following a coaching timeout, only for Evans to to go up 14-11 with one minute remaining.
Andujar won both points on his serve and then used the steal serve card, finding the sideline with a forehand to level at 14-14, but it was Evans who came up with a big forehand to pinch the quarter 15-14 and force sudden death.
“Let’s see, this is like a lottery right now,” Andujar said, while Evans said he was just going to try to ‘win the first point’.
Both men had match points in sudden death, where you need to win two points in a row to win it, but it was Evans who won it when Andujar netted a backhand pass.
“I didn’t realise it was match point to someone every point. It’s obviously very good fun when it gets to sudden death. That’s probably my favourite part. It gives you something in the stomach, you don’t want to lose. It’s good prep for next week, the nerves.”
Gasquet, Lopez and debutant Fritz contest Saturday’s action in Group 2, bidding to join De Minaur in the final on Sunday.