When Andy Murray lifted the trophy at Wimbledon in 2013, ending the 77-year British title drought, Ivan Lendl was his coach. Lendl had a significant impact as an integral part of Murray's team, and the Scot is looking to rekindle the magic in their second run together.
The relationship is already paying off, having clinched a record fifth title at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club a week ago. Murray hopes to carry his strong run of form to the All England Club.
"Obviously we're working together because I feel like he can help me," said Murray. "He wants to do the job. I think the last weeks have gone extremely well. The time I spent with him beforehand was very good. I don't feel any added pressure working with him again. I think it gives me a bit of extra confidence, because I know the last time we worked together it was very successful. I trust in what he says.
"This last week's been very good. I enjoyed having him back as part of the team. He's very clear in what he thinks and where my game needs to go if I want to keep improving and winning the major events again."
For the seventh time in his career at the tour-level, and the first at Wimbledon, Murray will square off against a fellow Brit. The 29-year-old, who defeated countrymen Aljaz Bedene and Kyle Edmund last week at Queen's Club, is slated to battle wild card Liam Broady in the first round. He admits it will be a strange encounter.
"It will be interesting," Murray added. "It has never happened before here for me. So it will be interesting. I know Liam fairly well. We practised a bit earlier this year, around February and March, after the Aussie Open.
"He's a good guy and works hard. I would imagine we'd probably play on one of the big courts. It's a big experience for him. I look forward to it."
With nine Brits in the main draw (first time since 2006), Murray also commented on the successful run through qualifying by Marcus Willis. At No. 775 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, the 25 year old is making his tour-level main draw debut.
"It was great for him to qualify. I remember, it was a couple of years ago, he was trying to get some funding together because he wanted to try to play a full year on the tour. I remember retweeting something he was doing to try and raise money online to keep playing because he wasn't getting any funding anymore.
"It's just a really cool story. He pretty much stopped playing, then was coaching. To then go to pre-qualifying at the last minute, get through the pre-qualifying and then to the qualifying. There are no guarantees he wins his first match, but with the potential to play Roger, it would be an amazing story."
The first half of the ATP Challenger Tour season has seen several players achieve breakthrough tournament wins and reach career highs in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Nine players produced career-high Emirates ATP Rankings after winning ATP Challenger Tour titles this season, with five of them breaking through to the Top 100. All of them have won at least one ATP Challenger Tour title this year and many have finished as runner-up in several other events.
Take a look at their best results of the season:
Gerald Melzer, 25, kicked off the year by winning three $50,000 Challengers in seven weeks. He first prevailed in January in Mendoza, Argentina, and Bucaramanga, Colombia, then won in February in Morelos, Mexico. Melzer also finished as runner-up at two other ATP Challenger Tour events.
Daniel Evans, 26, prevailed at the $50,000 event in March in Drummondville, Canada, then won again two months later at the $75,000 event in Taipei, Taiwan. He’s also finished as runner-up at two $100,000 tournaments this year.
Jordan Thompson, 22, won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in February at the $50,000 event in Cherbourg, France. He then prevailed in May at the $100,000 tournament in Anning, China.
Gastao Elias, 25, has excelled in Italian Challengers. He won the $50,000 event in April in Turin, then followed that up a month later by winning another $50,000 tournament in Mestre.
#NextGen star Karen Khachanov, 20, won his second ATP Challenger Tour title this May at the $50,000 event in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He also finished as runner-up at the $50,000 tournament in Jonkoping, Sweden.
Thiago Monteiro, 22, won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in May at the $100,000 event in Aix-en-Provence, France, then finished as runner-up a month later at the $75,000 event in Blois, France. He also caused the upset of the year by defeating then-Top 10 player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Sao Paulo.
Konstantin Kravchuk, 31, won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in seven years at the $100,000 event in Busan, Korea. He’s also finished as runner-up at two other Challenger events in the past two months.
Rogerio Dutra Silva, 32, won the $100,000 event in May in Bordeaux, France, and also had a runner-up finish in March at the $50,000 event in Santiago, Chile.
Adam Pavlasek, 21, prevailed at home this month by winning the $50,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic. He’s also finished as runner-up at three other $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour events this year.
Marcus Willis has spent much of this year coaching tennis, but his employers at the Warwick Boat Club will be looking for someone to cover his lessons next week as he continues an improbable run into the main draw of Wimbledon.
The plucky Brit, ranked No. 775 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, was the last player to receive entry into the pre-qualifying draw for Wimbledon. He earned a wild card into the qualifying draw through his performance at that event and continued to produce inspire tennis this week. In his final-round qualifying match on Friday, he outlasted Daniil Medvedev of Russia in four sets to complete his emotional journey into the main draw.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m delighted,” he said. “I’ve always believed in myself and believed I could play really good tennis. I’ve worked hard, got in the gym and got myself in good shape.”
His previous results hadn't indicated he would be ready for his Grand Slam main draw debut next week. Willis excelled in Futures events, winning eight titles over the past three years, but struggled to replicate that success on the ATP Challenger Tour. He won just one main draw match in the eight Challengers he played last year, which included four losses in the qualifying rounds.
Willis endured an injury-filled start to 2016, which limited him to just one tournament in January. His earnings for reaching the quarter-finals in singles and doubles at that Futures event was just $356. He took up a coaching job while continuing to train, but questioned whether he would be happy doing something else.
“I was adamant I was going to go to America and coach [in Philadelphia]. I even called up someone about the visa,” said Willis. “But I met a girl, Jennifer, who basically told me that I was an idiot and that I should keep going. I’m very grateful for her.”
He began to compete in German and French tennis leagues, working hard to put aside money so that he could make another run on the tour in January. Even though he hadn’t competed in a pro tournament in five months, he was able to sneak into the pre-qualifying draw after David Rice dropped behind him in the rankings just before the entry list closed.
“I was unbeaten in all competitions in the German and French tennis leagues, so I thought I was playing well and it wouldn’t be embarrassing,” said Willis. “I didn’t expect to qualify for Wimbledon, though.”
The £30,000 paycheck he’s guaranteed, win or lose after his first-round match against Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, will go a long way towards funding his comeback. But for Willis, money isn’t the motivating factor for him to make another run at fulfilling his tennis dreams.
“It’s certainly the biggest pay day I’ve ever received. I can pay off a couple of credit cards I used to fund my tennis the last couple of years,” said Willis. “It’s great, but I’m not here for the money. I play for the love of competing.”
The 26-year-old American is the third first-time winner this year, joining Nick Kyrgios (Marseille) and Diego Schwartzman (Istanbul). It marks the second straight year an American has lifted his first trophy, following Jack Sock's victory in Houston in 2015.
How does it feel to be holding your first ATP World Tour singles trophy?
Was this a goal of yours as a junior and in college and how did you envision it?
You reached the quarter-finals last week at Queen's Club and posted your first Top 10 win over Richard Gasquet. Did that give you confidence going into this week?
You beat top seed Kevin Anderson and No. 2 Pablo Cuevas this week. What do you think you did well?
Did you go in with a different approach to your second final after Vienna last year?
In your college career, you won four NCAA team titles and two singles titles at the University of Southern California. How does this compare?
You finished in the Top 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings the past two years. What were your goals coming into this year?
Who were the players you looked up to and admired growing up?
Tell us something about yourself that the majority of fans don't know. What do you do for fun away from the court?
Who has helped you throughout your career to get you to where you are today?
“It is obviously pretty exciting for me to be the 15th seed, but to play Stepanek [first round] is pretty tough,” Kyrgios said. “I'm really good mates with him as well. He was offering to help me a little bit. He's getting towards the end of his career. He's still playing some great tennis. I know it's going to be very tough. I feel like grass is his best surface.
“If I get through that, Dustin Brown is in that section as well. For me, they're just fun matches. I'm not looking too far ahead. I know [a fourth-round match against Murray] would be pretty exciting, but I've got some tough matches ahead.”
For a third-time participant, Kyrgios boasts an exceptional track record on the lawns of the All England Club. In 2014, he announced himself to the tennis world by downing 2008 champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round en route to his first quarter-final finish at a Grand Slam event. Last year, he made the second week and fell to an in-form Richard Gasquet.
“I made the quarter-finals two years ago. I feel as if during that run, I didn't really expect anything at all,” said Kyrgios of his first Wimbledon main draw appearance. “But I feel confident in my game. I feel like I'm getting better.
“I thought, last year, I played all right. I made the fourth round and lost to Gasquet. He made the semi-final. I lost 7‑6 in the fourth set after four hours, so not too bad.”
Kyrgios believes that his upbringing has much to do with the comfort level he has been able to find at SW19.
“I feel that grass is a surface where most of the Australians can do fairly well. I feel I can do fairly well, as well,” he said. “In Australia, we are fortunate enough to have tournaments on grass for younger kids. Fundamentals, serving big, trying to play aggressive, I think that carries through.
“Guys like Bernard [Tomic] have always known how to play on grass. He sets an example for us on grass. Lleyton [Hewitt], as well."
As an added bonus, Kyrgios will have plenty of friends and family members cheering him on during the fortnight.
“This is definitely one of my favorite times of year, coming here. I love how all the players stay in houses around Wimbledon Village. I love the setup,” he said. “I can bring my family over, have that home sort of feeling. I've been fortunate enough to have my family here. They're cooking for me. Sometimes we're going out to dinner with some of my friends.”
Johnson, who was appearing in his second final on the ATP World Tour, following a three-set defeat to David Ferrer on the indoor hard courts of Vienna last year, is the third first-time winner in 2016. The American has enjoyed great success in Nottingham, having notched the ATP Challenger Tour crown on the same court in 2013, before the tournament moved to the ATP World Tour 250 level.
"It feels really good, I'm not going to lie," said an elated Johnson. "I had some ups and downs so far this year. To find my groove on the grass is fantastic. I had a good week at Queen's Club and felt pretty comfortable on the grass. Once I got here and played my first couple of matches, I knew I was definitely a contender to win this."
Diego Schwartzman (ARG)
Steve Johnson (USA)
The first set was a server's paradise, with neither player facing a break point. Johnson would claim 75 per cent of total service points in the opener, clawing back from a mini-break deficit in the ensuing tie-break. Trailing 3-1, the American reeled off six of the next eight points to take a one-set lead. He struck a sublime winner off a Cuevas drop volley, barely avoiding the net post and ball girl, to give himself his first set point and would claim the opener a point later.[ALSO LIKE]
Johnson would carry the momentum into the second set, converting the first break of the match for 2-1 when Cuevas fired a backhand long. But the experienced Uruguayan would not go down quietly, breaking back for 4-all with a stunning backhand cross-court pass on the run. Despite the hiccup, Johnson would regain his composure, breaking once again in the 11th game and converting his second match point with a stellar drop volley a game later. He struck 33 winners in total, including 10 aces, over the one hour and 33-minute affair.
Sixth seed Johnson had a strong week in Nottingham, knocking off four seeded opponents, including No. 1 Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals. He takes home €86,850 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points. He is projected to match his career-high position of No. 29.
Cuevas was vying for his sixth title and first on grass. The last South American to win a tour-level grass-court crown was Venezuela's Nicolas Pereira in Newport 1996.
"I take lots of confidence from this," Johnson added. "Any time you can be the last guy standing at a tournament is definitely a great feeling. I'm super happy, but pretty tired emotionally from stopping and starting so much with the rain the past few days. Starting Monday comes Wimbledon, so there's no time to relax with another tournament right around the corner."
American Johnson wins Aegon Open
Dominic Inglot and Daniel Nestor won their first team title with a 7-5, 7-6(4) win over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the final of the Aegon Open Nottingham on Saturday. They unsuccessfully served for the match in the 10th game of the second set, but returned after a rain delay to secure the win in 80 minutes.
“We started a bit slowly, but we were able to stay in their service games. That let us bide our time,” Inglot said. “They don’t come much tougher than these guys, that’s for sure. To get a win against this caliber of a team before Wimbledon is a big boost. We did well to hang in there even after dropping the match points.”
“I think the rain actually helped us refocus,” Nestor said. “We were still in a good situation, and we came back out pretty strongly. Our opponents played well to get a second life. It was high-quality tennis. There is so little margin for error in the doubles game right now. Every match can be 50/50, but you can also beat anyone as well.”
The title was Inglot’s fifth and Nestor’s 89th, individually. The Canadian left-hander, who won his 1000th match in Sydney earlier this year, has won at least one tour-level doubles title since 1994. The 43 year old’s most recent title came at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati last year (w. Edouard Roger-Vasselin), with his most recent grass-court title dating back to 2012, when he won the Aegon Championships alongside Max Mirnyi. John McEnroe remains the oldest player to capture an ATP World Tour doubles title when he won San Jose as a 47 year old in 2006 (w/ Bjorkman). Inglot captured his lone previous grass title in Eastborne, partnering Treat Huey.
The British-Canadian duo saved three break points in their second service game of the match and went on a five-game run to lead by a set and a break. With their backs to the wall, Dodig/Melo made the most of the no-ad format of ATP World Tour doubles. They saved a championship point on their serve at 4-5, deuce, then broke at the same juncture of the following game with Inglot/Nestor serving for the match. Dodig/Melo held two set points in the 12th game, but Inglot/Nestor stemmed the tide and won the second-set tie-break in convincing manner.
Inglot/Nestor will share 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and €35,630, while Dodig/Melo will split 150 points and €18,730.
The Swiss returns to the All England Club for a record-tying 18th straight year, with an unprecedented eighth crown once again hanging in the balance, but he explains that while his attitude and expectations are much different this time, his passion for the tournament hasn't wavered.
"I think this is a huge boost for me after pulling out of Paris, that I'm back here at my favourite tournament," Federer said to the assembled media on Saturday. "With all the success I've had here, this is the motivation I need right now to get back on the big courts, play good matches and enjoy Wimbledon.
"I love this tournament more than anything. It's a huge opportunity for me to turn around the season and just play some nice tennis, enjoy myself here."
In the midst of an up-and-down 2016 campaign, which has seen him undergo surgery for the first time in his career following a knee injury suffered in February, Federer enters Wimbledon without at least one ATP World Tour title for the first time since 2000. Still in search of his rhythm on the court, the World No. 3 stresses that it has been a difficult process, but semi-final results in Stuttgart and Halle and a return to his happy hunting ground at SW19 give him renewed confidence.
"I was very, very sad, just because I thought I was going to be lucky not having to do surgery in my career," Federer added. "One stupid move and the season's been completely different than what I expected it to be. So when I heard that I had to do surgery, I took it, accepted it. But then going into surgery was difficult. That's when it hit me. It was a meniscus tear in the knee. It was a simple operation. My recovery actually was very quick and very good.
"Getting some confidence and some knowledge of where I was going to be in those seven matches in 10 days in Stuttgart and Halle [was important]. I think that was crucial for me going into Wimbledon knowing I passed that test and that the body can take that amount of tennis.
"It's really, really important for your mind to know you can manage the five‑setters. If you get a day off and all that stuff, it's not a problem. All of a sudden you're coming into Wimbledon with more confidence, more understanding where you're at. Now we'll see."
New faces will stand opposite the third seed as he begins his Wimbledon quest, having never faced first-round opponent and World No. 51 Guido Pella or potential second-round opponents Ricardas Berankis and Marcus Willis. Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic loom large in his half of the draw, but Federer's focus is on the immediate task at hand.
"Clearly I'm not thinking of the title right away. It's too far ahead. Regardless, Novak or Andy are the big favourites in my opinion. They've had such a great last six months, last few years. To me they are the ones to beat.
"I need to focus on myself, getting myself into those positions, the second week and growing momentum. The whole thing starts rolling then hopefully. Getting the job done in the first week is clearly important."
Federer will open his Wimbledon campaign against Pella on Monday.
“It's always been my goal to get to quarter-finals here because I haven't done really well in the grass court season,” said the Japanese star, whose Wimbledon run-up had been affected by an abdominal injury. “I got hurt in Halle and I couldn't play. I pulled out second round there. It was a little bit unfortunate. But if I can win couple matches with good tennis, I think I will get more confidence on grass, and I will get good rhythm on a grass court. The first couple of matches are very important for me here this week.
“I feel good. I had almost one week after I got injured to recover, so it should be fine. I have been practising really well these couple of days. Two days ago, I played two sets with Richard Gasquet. I should be okay for Monday. I’m not 100 per cent yet, but I am close.”
Nishikori, whose best result at Wimbledon is a fourth-round appearance in 2014, will have a tricky first-round test in the form of big-serving Aussie Sam Groth, who reached the third round last year. Nishikori won the pair’s lone FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in Washington last year, but the fresh grass courts of Wimbledon may work in Groth’s favour.
“He is a tough first-round opponent, especially on grass. He has a great serve and is an aggressive player.”
Motivation to excel at the year’s third Grand Slam event has never been an issue for Nishikori, who feels the historic significance of the tournament whenever he sets foot on the lawns of SW19.
“Wimbledon has a lot of history. I think the first Grand Slam I learned about was Wimbledon. Whenever I come here, I feel something special. The only thing is that I haven't done really well here yet. If I can win more matches here, I think I will love it even more,” said Nishikori, who has reached the final eight or beyond at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open. “I like grass. It's not my best surface yet. But, as I said, I need more confidence to win a couple more matches. I think that's the only thing I need right now.”
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