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  1. Tennis

Tennis: Estoril and Munich offer interest

This week's ATP World Tour action comes from Estoril and Munich and while the big names will be out in force to a greater extent at next week's Madrid Open, there is still a sprinkling of stardust in both events.

Rafael Nadal remains absent as he recovers from a stress fracture, with Madrid pencilled in as his likely return date. Novak Djokovic, back to form in Belgrade, will also wait for Spain, but a number of familiar faces head to Estoril while ATP number three Alexander Zverev is bidding to regain his Munich crown.

Canadian starlet bidding for clay breakthrough

Felix Auger-Aliassime is the top seed in Cascais but the Estoril Open draw is stacked with quality and the Canadian starlet, a winner for the first time in Rotterdam in the spring, will face a tough examination if he's to claim a clay title for the first time.

FAA is arguably at his weakest on the slowest surface and, while a run to the quarter-finals in Barcelona was promising regarding his future French Open ambitions, the 21-year-old is not certain to go deep in Portugal.

A second-round tie with Lloyd Harris or a qualifier is manageable but Auger-Aliassime may bump into two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals if the Austrian, returning from a series of wrist problems, can start to rediscover top form.

Given Thiem was beaten in a Marbella Challenger event before failing to get past John Millman in Serbia last week, he has a lot of work to do and a much more likely opponent for Auger-Aliassime looks to be Sebastian Korda, who claimed the scalp of Carlos Alcaraz in Monte Carlo two weeks ago.

Beaten Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina should have a big chance of going one better from the second quarter, having decided to skip Barcelona last week, and will expect to reach at least the last eight - he gets a bye before facing Federico Coria or a qualifier.

Marin Cilic is the top seed in the third quarter but clay has never really played to the Croat's strengths and the likes of Jiri Vesely and promising 21-year-old Argentinian Sebastian Baez will fancy their chances of reaching the last four at his expense.

Another Argentinian, Diego Schwartzman, is seeded second and looks the strongest player in the bottom half.

The diminutive 29-year-old, a winner of three ATP clay-court titles reached finals in Buenos Aires and Rio in the Golden Swing earlier in the season and he has little to fear in quarter four, where Albert Ramos-Vinolas is likely to provide his toughest test.

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Home hope Zverev eyeing third Munich crown

The aforementioned Zverev is never too far from controversy but the 25-year-old will be aiming to let his tennis do the talking at the BMW Open, a tournament in which he was successful in both 2017 and 2018.

However, the German has struggled on his last two trips to Bavaria, winning one match in 2019, when he was dumped out at the quarter-final stage by eventual winner Cristian Garin and again last season where Ilya Ivashka ended his bid.

Inconsistent in recent events and yet to claim a title this year, Zverev has a bit to prove and a possible second-round meeting with promising Dane Holger Rune could prove tricky, for all that the top seed should expect to progress.

In the top half, Zverev's biggest challenge could again come from Garin, who he could meet in the semi-finals. Others such as Dan Evans, Maxime Cressy and Reilly Opelka are better suited to faster surfaces, although the last named did win the US Men's Clay Court Championships when last sighted.

On the other side of the draw, Miomir Kecmanovic will expect to see off teenage German wildcard Max Hans Rehberg in his opener and, given he pushed Djokovic all the way in the Belgrade quarter-finals, he certainly makes appeal in a quarter lacking depth, particularly given the woeful form of defending champ Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The bottom quarter of the Munich draw looks to be all about world number seven Casper Ruud, who returned from injury to win on clay in Buenos Aires in February before reaching the final of the Miami Open, where he ran into the buzzsaw known as Carlos Alcaraz.

The Norwegian is yet to find top gear on European clay this year but there was no shame in a quarter-final defeat to Pablo Carreno Busta in Barcelona which should see him spot on for a run at an eighth ATP World Tour title.

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