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Updated: 11 min 40 sec ago
ATP World Tour Executive Chairman & President Chris Kermode reflects on the success of the tour and shares his thoughts on the future of tennis.
Guido Pella is making a habit of cutting it close this week.
The 25-year-old Argentine, who won his fourth Challenger title of the year on Sunday in Montevideo, Uruguay, missed his Tuesday flight to Sao Paulo for the ATP Challenger Tour Finals.
Pella traveled home to Buenos Aires after the final, but encountered an unexpected delay in flying to Sao Paulo two days later. He would arrive in the Brazilian metropolis the night before the competition was set to commence on Wednesday. The World No. 76 opened his bid for a second title at the Challenger season finale with a clash against sixth seed Radu Albot, and once again things didn't go according to plan. The Moldavan raced out to a 5-0 first set lead and eventually seized the opener 6-3, before Pella roared back for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 win after one hour and 50 minutes.
"I arrived here yesterday at 6:30PM because I missed my flight," Pella said. "I knew it would be hard because I didn’t have the chance to practise much on this court and I needed to play with a lot of heart. He had a good start and I wasn’t comfortable, but I got better afterwards.
"Playing the Challenger Finals is always amazing, luckily it’s my second time around and I managed to win the first match."
Pella, who won the title in 2012, moved into a tie for second among match wins leaders this year with his 44th victory, drawing level with Marco Cecchinato and Daniel Munoz-de la Nava. He joins home hope and eighth seeded wild card Guilherme Clezar atop Group B following Day One at the Pinheiros Club.
Clezar continued his dominant run of form at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, streaking past Cecchinato 7-5, 6-4. He won an impressive 81 per cent of first serve points and 73 per cent on his second serve, while converting two of three break points. The Brazilian has now won four of his last five matches at the tournament after finishing runner-up last year to Diego Schwartzman.
"I’ve been practising really well over the last two days, so I was really confident with my game," Clezar said. "I believe it was a consequence of that. I had a good run last year, so I feel like it gives me confidence to repeat it this week. I hope I can bring that to the next round."
Pella and Clezar will square off in Thursday's nightcap, with Group B supremacy at stake. Pella leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-1, most recently winning this year at the Guayaquil Challenger. Cecchinato battles Albot in other action.
Cervantes, Lorenzi Move Atop Group A
“It was an extremely tough match," Lorenzi said. "I didn’t have a good start. He won the first set and had a break in the second. I played without pressure after that. I’m happy that I won, not with the way I played but the important thing is getting the win. It’s not easy to play after two weeks out of competition.”
Cervantes, meanwhile, also mounted a comeback in upsetting countryman and third seed Munoz-de la Nava 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. The Spaniard broke into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, following a final run in Montevideo (l. to Pella). He extended his 2015 match wins lead with victory No. 46.
“In a tournament like this, in São Paulo, all eight players have the same level and all matches will be tough," said Cervantes. "Dani is a Spanish player and it was the second time we faced each other this year. I won the other match but in three sets as well. It is always really tough. I’m glad that I could win the match even if I didn’t play my best tennis.”
Andy Murray will attempt to end his best-ever year on a high note by bringing the Davis Cup back to Great Britain in the final against Belgium this week. The tie will be hosted in Ghent, Belgium on indoor clay.
Andy and brother Jamie Murray, who was also nominated to the team, have recently faced adversity on the court, having both been eliminated in the group stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last week. However, both have enjoyed great tour-level results in 2015 – Andy will finish the year No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time, while Jamie qualified for the Final Showdown in doubles for the first time and holds a career-high No. 7 Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking.
Andy will be counted upon to do the heavy lifting for his country. By winning both singles rubbers this week, he would join John McEnroe and Mats Wilander as the only men to go 8-0 in a calendar year since the introduction of the World Group in 1981. Murray has featured in eight of the nine rubbers Great Britain has won this year.
Joining the Dunblane native on the British side are youngster Kyle Edmund (No. 100 Emirates ATP Ranking) and big-hitting Dominic Inglot (No. 23 Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking). Edmund has yet to play a live Davis Cup rubber, while Inglot is searching for a first doubles victory after losing to the USA’s Mike and Bob Bryan in 2014 and 2015.
Defending the Belgian colour in the port city of Ghent will be a familiar line-up of World No. 16 David Goffin, No. 84 Steve Darcis, No. 108 Ruben Bemelmans and No. 128 Kimmer Coppejans, the same four-man lineup which propelled Belgium to victory in the quarter-finals against Canada and in the semi-finals against Argentina. Team leader Goffin is 11-2 lifetime in Davis Cup singles appearances, and has won his past six matches. His only loss on clay was in five sets and came against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in 2013.
Belgium has never won the Davis Cup and has not reached the final since 1904. Nine-time champions Great Britain is attempting to end a 79-year title drought.
To kick off our Season In Review Series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2015. Today we feature Kei Nishikori vs. Milos Raonic:
The young twentysomethings met only twice in 2015, but Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic sure made the most of the occasions. Quantity? Maybe not. Quality? You bet.
The first encounter came in January in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International, where Raonic unleashed 34 aces to power his way past his Japanese opponent 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4). The 6-foot-5 Canadian, 24, held each of his 18 service games in the two-and-a-half hour battle. All three sets were decided by tie-breaks, and neither player was able to break the other's serve.
Nishikori, 25, would exact revenge in Davis Cup play in March, his clutch three-hour 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win forcing a fifth and decisive rubber in the opening-round World Group clash between Japan and Canada.
“I'm happy with the way I fought, I'm happy with the way I competed, and that's all I can ask of myself,” said Nishikori.
This time, Nishikori withstood a 28-ace barrage from Raonic to prevail in five sets in the hostile territory of Vancouver’s Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia, where rowdy fans waved flags and sported red-emblazoned hockey jerseys.
Nishikori now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head history at 5-2.
Nishikori vs. Raonic: 2015 MeetingsEvent Surface Round
Score Brisbane Hard SF Raonic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) Davis Cup
Hard RR Nishikori 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
The 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals attracted 262,894 fans to The O2 arena as another year of sold-out crowds flocked to the season finale to witness the world’s greatest players battling for the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world.
The 2015 on-site attendance at The O2 brought the overall attendance on the 2015 ATP World Tour season to an all-time record of 4.5 million fans, rounding off a spectacular season for the ATP World Tour both on and off the court.
ATP World No.1 Novak Djokovic defeated six-time tournament champion Roger Federer in the championship match to capture a record-breaking fourth consecutive season-ending crown (and fifth overall). The victory capped off one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport for the Serb who captured 11 titles, including three Grand Slams and a record six ATP Masters 1000 titles, to finish the season with an 82-6 win-loss record, and record prize money of $21,592,125.
In doubles, Wimbledon champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau captured their first season-ending crown and ensured they finished as the year-end No.1 doubles team for the first time.
Off the court, 59 broadcasters across 198 territories televised the season finale. Global television viewership figures are forecast to exceed 100 million. Live and on demand match streaming on TennisTV, the ATP’s official live streaming site and mobile app, received more than 7.2 million total streams, an increase of 24%, while the ATP’s digital platforms attracted approximately 40 million page views across the eight days.
The ATP’s continued focus on offering fans new and creative ways of engaging with the Tour also saw the successful launch of the Tour’s new social network, MyATP powered by Vixlet, during the season finale.
During an ‘ATP State of Play’ media address on Sunday at The O2, Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, disclosed that it had also been a record year for the ATP from a commercial standpoint. “In 2015 alone we’ve generated in excess of $160 million in new commercial sponsorship revenues to come over the next five years,” said Kermode. “The sport is in the best health it’s ever been in thanks to an incredible generation of players as well as the strength of our global platform of tournaments. We will continue to work hard as we strive to ensure continued growth for the Tour in years ahead.”
The ATP enjoyed a stellar year in commercial sales in 2015, securing new agreements with Maui Jim, Infosys and Peugeot, while further deals were announced during the season finale with Chinese digital media company Le Sports, as well as an enhanced partnership with Emirates that sees the award-winning airline become the Tour’s global Premier Partner through 2020.
The ATP also announced that the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals would remain at The O2 in London through 2018.
With the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in the books for 2015, the Challenger circuit will take centre stage on Wednesday with the ATP Challenger Tour Finals set to commence in Sao Paulo.
To be held on indoor clay at the Pinheiros Sports Club from 25-29 November, the field is comprised of seven qualifiers and one wild card. Contested in round-robin format, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals, 125 Emirates ATP Ranking points and $91,200 in prize money will be awarded to an undefeated champion.
Here are the two round robin groups:
TitlesH2H vs. Rest of Group
(1) Paolo Lorenzi
Eskisehir, Cortina, Pereira, Medellin9-3
(3) Daniel Munoz-de la Nava44-16 Napoli, Moscow, Meknes
(5) Inigo Cervantes45-20 Ostrava, Vicenza, Marburg
(7) Farrukh Dustov24-18 Wroclaw, Agri
TitlesH2H vs. Rest of Group
(2) Guido Pella
San Luis Potosi, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Montevideo3-1
(4) Marco Cecchinato44-14 Turin
(6) Radu Albot34-18 Kolkata
(8) Guilherme Clezar25-22
Get to know the contenders:
Home hope and 2014 runner-up Clezar returns. The wild card notched wins over a pair of Top 100 players, including three match points saved in beating Victor Estrella Burgos 14-12 in a deciding tie-break to reach the final. “All the players in the field are really strong, it’s a high level. The matches would be tough in any of the groups. I really enjoy playing here, I had a good run last year and I hope to be able to repeat it now. The important thing for me now is to finish the season on a high note. I will think about rankings next year, because the main goal is to play at a high level.”
Paolo Lorenzi claimed his 300th match win on the ATP Challenger Tour earlier this year, and the Italian says he is not slowing down in his quest to reach 400.
At 33 years old, Lorenzi, who won four titles in five finals in 2015, is one of eight players to feature in the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals in Sao Paulo. One of the most dominant players on the circuit this year, he won a total of 42 matches and lifted trophies in Eskisehir (Turkey), Cortina (Italy), Pereira (Colombia) and Medellin (Colombia).
Born in Rome, the World No. 68 in the Emirates ATP Rankings believes that his strong performance this year is due to several factors, but especially that he had been able to stay healthy and put in a lot of work away from the court.
“I put in a lot of work before the start of the season, putting a lot of emphasis on the physical part and I believe that it has been the key to a good campaign,” Lorenzi told ATPWorldTour.com after his victory at the Seguros Bolívar Open de Pereira. “I am very happy to have arrived at 300 wins and now my goal is to achieve 400. I believe that if I remain healthy, it is an objective that I can achieve.”
In May, in Turkey, the Italian became the third player in the history of the ATP Challenger Tour to arrive at the figure of 300 triumphs, something that only had been achieved by Spain’s Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo before this season. It was an accomplishment that had really motivated Lorenzi for the future, as retirement is not an option.
“That moment was very special. It’s not easy to arrive at 300 victories. The Challenger Tour is always very strong and competitive. The stars of tomorrow play there and so do many players that have been very high (in the Emirates ATP Rankings) and motivated to return from injury.
“At the moment, retirement is not something that I have in my head. I feel that I am playing well and I will continue competing as long as I feel that I am competitive and can win. At the least, three years. For that, I remain motivated and I am very happy of what I have achieved in my career. Why can’t I think about achieving 400 or 500 wins? That is the goal that I hope to achieve.”
Lorenzi, who reached a career-high World No. 49 in April 2013, has claimed 16 titles in Challenger tournaments in his successful career. He arrives in Sao Paulo having enjoyed great success there on the ATP World Tour, with a run to the final of the Brasil Open in 2014 (l. to Delbonis) and the doubles title match this year alongside Diego Schwartzman (l. to Cabal/Farah). All of these achievements, in addition to witnessing the success of his fellow Italians, has Lorenzi looking forward to the ATP Challenger Tour Finals and the 2016 season.
“This years has been very good for our generation of tennis players from Italy. Fognini and Bolelli won the Australian Open in doubles, Flavia (Pennetta) won the women’s singles title at the US Open against Roberta (Vinci) and the Davis Cup team reached the semi-finals. Also, Seppi beat Federer in Australia and Fognini beat Nadal three times. All this is very positive and beautiful to see that the players I have grown up with are playing this well.”
These achievements have motivated Lorenzi more than anything. For the second time (2011), he qualified as one of the eight players who will play in the ATP Challenger Tour Finals at the Pinheiros Sports Club from 25-29 November. “I have great memories of Sao Paulo. I like the city. The last time it was on hard courts and this time it’s on indoor clay, which I prefer.”
Argentina’s Guido Pella, Brazil’s Guilherme Clezar, Spain’s Daniel Munoz-de la Nava and Inigo Cervantes, Moldova’s Radu Albot and Uzbekistan’s Farrukh Dustov also qualified for the final tournament of the season.
A native of Palermo, on the Italian island of Sicily, Marco Cecchinato is one of two players from Italy in the ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Looking to follow in the footsteps of 2013 champion Filippo Volandri, Cecchinato and countryman Paolo Lorenzi will seek to cap their seasons with a title at the year-end championships in Sao Paulo. The 23 year old is making steady progress in the Emirates ATP Rankings, breaking into the Top 100 for the first time in late July and peaking at World No. 82 last month.
Tied for second among match wins leaders on the Challenger circuit in 2015, the Italian owns a 44-14 record, with all victories coming on clay. Only Inigo Cervantes has claimed more wins (45) this year. Cecchinato contested two finals in his 2015 campaign, prevailing on home soil in Turin in early May for his lone title and second overall (San Marino 2013). The 6’1” right-hander also finished runner-up in Genova. One of five Italians in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, at World No. 89, he made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open – his fourth tour-level main draw of the year. A qualifier in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Winston-Salem, Cecchinato won the first set against Mardy Fish in Flushing Meadows before falling in four.
To be held on indoor clay at the famed Pinheiros Sports Club from 25-29 November, the field is comprised of seven qualifiers and one wild card. Contested in round-robin format, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals, 125 Emirates ATP Ranking points and $91,200 in prize money will be awarded to an undefeated champion.
Rapid Fire With Marco
Noah Rubin will make his debut Down Under at the first Grand Slam of the 2016 season after winning the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.
The New York native, who made his major debut at last year's US Open (l. to Delbonis), amassed the most points in two of three events on the ATP Challenger Tour's U.S. indoor hard court swing. Rubin won his maiden Challenger crown in Charlottesville three weeks ago, and clinched the wild card after fellow American teen Taylor Fritz fell in Saturday's Champaign final.
"It's probably the first time I had to rely on somebody else to lose for me to win, in a match I had nothing to do with," Rubin told ATPWorldTour.com. "I didn't expect that outcome, but I'm excited to see what's going to come in the future. I've never been to the Australian Open before, even for juniors. I'm going to have to get acclimated to the temperature for sure, but I'm just excited about going there.
"The goal is to have no goals. Anything can happen so quickly. It's just about having the mindset of being open and ready for anything. I was ranked No. 1,000 going out of school and now I'm around No. 350. In a couple tournaments I could be No. 250. It could happen so quickly. Just be ready for anything."
2015 is over and now Australian Open is near. It is an incredible honor and I will do everything possible to prepare for 2016 and rep the US— Noah Rubin (@Noahrubin33) November 22, 2015
The 19 year old became the 13th teenager to lift a Challenger trophy in 2015. He is the oldest of the group, which includes Fritz, Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev, Hyeon Chung, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Jared Donaldson, Elias Ymer and Karen Khachanov. At World No. 339, Rubin is part of a surging crop of American teenagers and he will conclude the season as one of five in the Top 350 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, with Donaldson, Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul.
“These guys are unbelievable tennis players day in and day out, but they aren't that much better than the guys I'm playing and they're not that much better than me,” Rubin added, referring to his experience of facing a Top 100 player in Delbonis at the US Open. “Of course Djokovic and Federer are on a totally different stratosphere, but I believe I can play against anybody.”
The junior champion at Wimbledon last year, Rubin spent a year at Wake Forest University before deciding to pursue his professional career.
“Tennis is a sport of longevity now and you have these 27 year olds at their peak. I want to be mentally and physically prepared to play that long. I can’t be playing professionally and not be mentally prepared for what’s in store. The year (at Wake Forest) was necessary to get into that mental stage.
"I’m very fortunate with the people who are helping me and backing me up. It hasn’t been too much of a change. That being said, I’m still traveling with just one coach. I don’t have an entourage like Djokovic yet. My coach is making sure I’m doing what I have to do and keeping the professional sense in my head. Anything can happen, but with persistence and my feeling on the court and confidence level, I can escalate my game to play against the top pros.”
A breeding ground for ATP stardom, the rising stars of men’s tennis lay the foundation for their budding careers on the ATP Challenger Tour.
The circuit provides a platform for players to develop their talents, but not all careers are created equal. Some rise to the top faster and slower than others and while there is no blueprint to success, Daniel Munoz-de la Nava is doing his best to defy the odds at the ripe age of 33.
In 2014, the Challenger circuit was set ablaze by a 33-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos, who capped his memorable breakthrough season with a trip to the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, before sending shockwaves through the ATP World Tour as the oldest first-time champion in Quito, earlier this year. Munoz-de la Nava is looking to follow a similar path.
Inspired by his thriving group of countrymen over the age of 30, including David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo, the Spaniard torched the competition in 2015, compiling 44 wins in 60 matches. His three titles from six finals, on the clay of Napoli, Moscow and Meknes, saw him soar to a career-high World No. 82 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“This year I am playing with more confidence,” Munoz-de la Nava told ATPWorldTour.com from his home in Madrid. “After two years of working really hard with my team, I’ve been able to play well and be happy on the court. I’ve been working with my physio on treating my knee and my trainer has helped me a lot. I’ve had so many injuries the past few years. As they say, it’s really important to play with two legs, to be able to run and just stay healthy. This is the big difference for me.
“It was really important for me to win the first Challenger in Napoli. It was a big one and it helped me make a big jump in the rankings. Before the victory there, I had played seven or eight finals in my career and only won one. It came so fast and the final was 6-2, 6-1 (d. Donati). The start of my season wasn’t so good. I lost many close matches in the first two or three months. After this tournament, everything changed. And of course I cannot forget the match at the tournament in Manerbio, Italy, when I became Top 100. I will never forget this match.”
When the Madrid native entered the Top 100 for the first time in August, he claimed a slice of history, as the 14th-oldest player to crack the century mark for the first time. He was the first 33 year old to do so since Estrella Burgos last year.
“It’s so special and so important for me (to enter the Top 100). For so many years, it was more than a goal. I was completely blocked when I was playing and I couldn’t focus my energy. It became a big point of pressure for me. After this year, I’ve made it and I feel freer and much better. It was really hard.”
Munoz-de la Nava turned pro in 1999, but his progress was hampered by a car accident soon after receiving his driver’s license, which resulted in persistent knee troubles. For years, the Spaniard’s position in the Emirates ATP Rankings vacillated around the Top 200. His 2011 campaign finished with promise and a year-end spot of No. 140, but setbacks would send it in the wrong direction. No. 171 would follow in 2012, No. 194 in 2013 and No. 206 in 2014. Finally healthy, he is now realising his potential 15 years later.
With two daughters at home – Noa and Paula – Munoz-de la Nava has new sources of inspiration that have driven him to new heights in 2015.
“Noa, my oldest (age 3), has seen me play many times. It’s been a really good inspiration for me and has motivated me. Every time they come with me I play well and I feel better. It’s very important.”
A doubles finalist at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Hamburg in 2012, with Rogerio Dutra Silva, Munoz-de la Nava has also reached a pair of tour-level singles quarter-finals in Estoril earlier that year and in Delray Beach in 2013. The biggest win of his career came in his hometown Mutua Madrid Open, upsetting then World No. 22 Sam Querrey from a set down as a qualifier in 2010. The Spaniard learned to play at age five when his father introduced him to the game. After competing in a national tournament in Madrid, he started practising there on a full-time basis and later turned pro at 17.
“Francisco Clavet has always been my idol. I practised with him a lot when I was 20-23 and he was at the end of his career. He inspired me because he was always focused, professional and working hard. I have to work hard at every point and he really taught me a lot about how to be a professional player.”
Munoz-de la Nava is looking to cap his breakthrough campaign with a strong statement at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals as he sets the tone for the 2016 season. Despite being the second-highest ranked player in the tournament field, he is not taking anything for granted and is grateful to have qualified.
“Since the middle of the year, I decided to be focused on Sao Paulo and I made it. It’s going to be on indoor clay with altitude. More similar altitude to Madrid, so for me it is not going to change a lot, but the balls are going to be fast. Let’s say for guys like Lorenzi, he’s especially good in altitude. I played Albot in a final in Moscow, Dustov likes faster courts and Cecchinato was pretty solid all year, so all the matches are going to be tough. The conditions will be really important. Let’s see how fast the court is. I’ve been practising hard. I haven’t played tournaments this month to rest and be ready to play here.
“2016 is going to be interesting but it will be tough. In the Challengers I was almost always seeded and it’s different now. I can play against Top 10, Top 20, Top 30 players. It’s going to be an exciting year and I will try to be as prepared as I can. I will need a little bit of luck with the draws and I’ll try to stay in the Top 100.”
One of five players from Argentina in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Guido Pella is an integral member of the South American nation’s resurgence in 2015.
Less than a month removed from reaching a career-high World No. 73, Pella is looking to cap a strong season with a deep run at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals. He is the first former champion to return to the Brazilian metropolis for a second shot at the trophy. The 25 year old, who won the title on indoor hard in 2012, arrives at the indoor clay courts of the Pinheiros Club with his sights set on surging to full-time ATP World Tour status next year.
Pella’s path has been a rocky one. Following his breakthrough success in 2012, he was on course to soar to new heights following his first match wins at the Grand Slam and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 levels the next year. But the Bahia Blanca native would endure a significant setback just months later, suffering a torn right hamstring in his Wimbledon debut. Locked in a fifth set against Jesse Levine, Pella had to be carried off Court 7 after slipping on the grass. His position in the Emirates ATP Rankings would subsequently slip outside the Top 200 in 2014, but he was determined to rediscover his top form.
Boasting a 43-13 mark this year, which included titles in Montevideo (Uruguay), San Luis Potosi (Mexico), Porto Alegre (Brazil) and Sao Paulo – the host city of this week’s season finale – he is playing the best tennis of his young career and will be the second-highest ranked player in the field.
Pella spoke to ATPWorldTour.com ahead of the ATP Challenger Tour Finals…
Guido, you were out of the Top 200 exactly one year ago, then you won the title in Lima and it all turned around. How special is it to be back inside the Top 100 and at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking?
What are you doing differently this year? Has it been more of a physical or mental hurdle to overcome?
You’ve won 43 matches and four titles this year. Is there one moment that has stood out for you above the rest?
You’re now heading to Sao Paulo. Was this a goal of yours this year? What are your thoughts on the rest of the field?
You won the title in 2012 when it was on indoor hard. What are your memories from that week?
How do you change your approach when you know you can lose a match with the round robin format and not be eliminated?
Looking back at your Wimbledon debut in 2013, when you tore your hamstring, how did that drive you to work even harder to get back to your top level?
Guido, tell us how you got your start in tennis and who were your idols growing up?
You are one of five Argentines in the Top 100. What impact has the rise of Leo Mayer and Federico Delbonis had on your country with Juan Martin del Potro still absent?
Your position in the Emirates ATP Rankings now puts you in position to qualify for ATP level events next year. What are your goals for 2016?
Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his fourth successive Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown at The O2.
Conventional wisdom says that the serve is the most important shot in tennis. The more astute tennis fan knows that quite the opposite is true.
How do you play a match at any level of the game and only lose three points on your second serve? That’s exactly what Novak Djokovic managed to pull off in his 6-3, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday night.
Second-serve performance is typically a key component in deciding victory from the back courts of Lahore to the centre court in London. Djokovic managed to win a mind-blowing 84 per cent (16/19) of his second-serve points against one of the most in-form players on the planet.
Many positive things flowed from this surprise advantage, including Djokovic only facing two break points in two sets against an opponent he lost to in straight sets earlier in the week, when he lost serve four times. In the deuce court, Djokovic amazingly won 88 per cent (7/8) of second serves directed at Federer’s backhand down the T, and all three surprise serves to the forehand wing.
History shows us that Federer’s backhand return is always heavily targeted, but he was not sitting on this preferred location, ripping returns like the scouting report dictates.
In the ad court, Djokovic mixed it up much more, winning 50 per cent (2/4) to Federer’s backhand return on second serves, and 100 per cent (4/4) sneaking second serves right down the T to keep Federer off balance.
Second-serve performance is always a key component of victory, as it’s typically too difficult for the returner to succeed against far more powerful first serves. Federer averaged standing 1.3 metres (4.3 feet) inside the baseline to return Djokovic’s second serves, but quite often lacked the commitment to immediately attack.
On the first point of the 1-1 game in the second set, Federer looked to chip and charge off a second-serve return, second-guessed himself, and missed a routine return. That’s a moment in time when thinking really hurts you.
Federer’s magnificent short-ball-hunter instincts should have taken over, and his chance of winning the point at the net would have dramatically increased. Djokovic won 42 baseline points to Federer’s 23, so why stay back? While Djokovic soared, winning 84 per cent of his second-serve points, Federer struggled mightily, winning only 42 per cent (9/21) against the world’s best returner.
Federer’s game was spotty right from the beginning, committing 31 unforced errors to the Serb’s 14. With everything else being equal, that sinks the boat right there.
Federer hit more winners (19-13) than Djokovic, but as usual, it was the player who made fewer unforced errors than more winners who was smiling at the net shaking hands when the dust settled.
Federer’s backhand proved problematic throughout. He hit six winners off that wing but too often wildly missed the mark with 13 unforced errors, stopping his sporadic good play in its tracks.
Djokovic targeted Federer’s backhand from start to finish, hitting 70 per cent of his backhands cross court, and then on the right ball, attacking 30 per cent down the line to pressure Federer’s forehand on the run.
Federer hit 61 per cent of his backhands cross court and 39 per cent down the line, but should have directed a lot more down the middle of the court to Djokovic’s forehand, to rebound the ball back down the middle to his own forehand.
Federer used a lot more slice than Djokovic off his backhand wing, hitting 69 per cent topspin and 31 per cent slice, trying to disrupt the Serb’s dominant rhythm. Djokovic was content to just keep ploughing away at the comparatively weaker Federer backhand wing, hitting 97 per cent of his backhands with topspin, and only 3 per cent with slice.
Overall, Djokovic hit 23 per cent of his shots standing inside the baseline, 56 per cent within two metres behind the baseline, and 21 per cent further back than two metres.
Djokovic capped off a magnificent year with a dominant performance against a fierce rival. It’s the first time in the history of our sport that a player has won four consecutive year-end championships in a row.
It’s now time to put a glorious season to bed. Let’s respect Djokovic’s amazing process, and give thanks to him for taking us to a place on the mountain where nobody before has ventured.
It has been a historic season for Novak Djokovic. How will he celebrate his fourth consecutive victory at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals?
Follow the 2015 champion around O2 Arena as talks about his ambitions for next season and reveals his big plans for the holidays.
Roger Federer is the only player to have inflicted defeat on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic more than once this season. He had downed the Serb for a third time on Tuesday in the round-robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
But in the title match on Sunday, revenge came sweet for Djokovic – his straight sets result securing a fifth season-ending championship, in his 15th final from the 16 events he entered in 2015. Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic was the only man who managed to deny him a berth in a final all season. He did so in the Doha quarter-finals.
“I guess Karlovic is my nemesis. I have a negative score against him. I have to talk about him before Doha next year,” Djokovic grinned. “It's been an incredible season. Other than that tournament, I've played all finals. Obviously, sitting here with this trophy alongside me, I couldn't ask for a better finish to the season. The last four years I managed to win the (Barclays ATP) World Tour Finals, where the best players in the world are playing. For some reason or another, I've been playing some of my best tennis after the US Open, in Asia and also indoors, both Paris and London.
“I've been trying to really pay as equal attention to the work and the recovery, as well, mental and physical. It allows me to have the longevity. It allows me to have the matches and the tournaments I've had in the last couple years.
“But this season definitely stands out. I can't say I expected it, not at all … (It) obviously gives me a lot of confidence for anything that is coming in the future.”
Against Federer, in Showdown No. 2 at the season finale, Djokovic adjusted his tactics after the World No. 3 ended his streaks of 38 consecutive indoor match wins, 23 overall this season and 15 straight at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday.
“He's a very complete player. I know that he's always going to push you hard and try to protect the baseline, take away the time from you, which he was doing also today,” he said.
“I think what I managed to do better than what I've done in the last match we played in the group stage here was the fact that I was more solid from back of the court. I served well when I needed to.
“You try to take advantage of certain parts of his game that were not working well today, which was his backhand.”
It caps a remarkable season for the runaway World No. 1 who finished with 11 titles, including three of the four Grand Slams and an record six ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. Only John McEnroe (1984), Jimmy Connors (1974) and Federer (2005 and 2006) have finished with a better winning percentage and with as many or more titles.
Still, however, a Roland Garros champion’s trophy is missing from the Serb’s bounty. And in 2016 an elusive Olympic gold medal will also be on the line in Rio de Janeiro.
“Roland Garros is always one of the biggest challenges I have every year, but it's not the only one. There are the Olympic Games that are happening every four years,” he said. “I will try to do as well as I've done in the last couple of years, always peak at the right moments and always try to perform my best at the biggest events.
“Now what I'm thinking about is the rest. I need some time to really recharge my batteries and then I'll think about my next season.”
Roger Federer shows why he is still a force to be reckoned with on a fast indoor court, turning defence into offence against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Despite this flash of brilliance, Federer was denied a seventh title at the year-end championships and would fall to Djokovic in straight sets.
He said it himself. Only moments after his round-robin victory over Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in London, Roger Federer observed, “The way I know Novak, he's going to find a way to be tougher to beat from now on.”
After 43 FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, you learn a thing or two about your opponent. You pick up on the subtleties, the intangibles. Federer knew good and well that the World No. 1 would adjust, retool and put the 7-5, 6-2 Group Stan Smith defeat behind him. As the Serb sagely observed earlier this year, in the midst of one of the most dominant seasons the sport has ever seen, “If there’s one thing that I learned in the sport it’s to recover fast and to leave things behind.”
The 28-year-old Belgradian’s short memory served him well in Sunday’s winner-take-all showdown at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where two of the game’s all-time greats squared off for the second time in a matter of days, their eighth meeting of 2015. From the moment the first ball was struck, it was clear that Djokovic had put the past behind him; his only concern the task that lay ahead.
Though Djokovic would avenge Tuesday’s loss and level their FedEx ATP Head2Head history at 22-22 with a 6-3, 6-4 win, becoming the first player to win four straight titles in the tournament’s 46-year history, Federer won’t hang his head for long.
He finishes the year at 63-11 overall, including a 39-6 mark on hard courts. Though coming into the final at The O2 he still had a shot at No. 2 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings, he will finish in the Top 3 for the 12th time in the past 13 years. At 34, he is the oldest player in the Top 10 since No. 7 Andre Agassi (35) in 2005.
It was a year in which he claimed six titles (Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, Cincinnati and Basel), second only to Djokovic (11). He compiled a 6-5 record in finals, with all five losses coming to Djokovic. In ATP Masters 1000 play, he went 16-6, highlighted by the title in Cincinnati, where he beat Andy Murray and Djokovic in succession, the first time in his 17-year career that he defeated the Nos. 1-2 players in same tournament.
With his win over Canada’s Milos Raonic in the Brisbane final, he became one of only three players in the Open Era to hurdle the 1,000-win mark, joining Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
“I've got to keep pushing forward,” said Federer. “Got to keep practising hard, being serious about all the things I do. Now rest, recover, enjoy my family, my wife. Just have a great time there. Then once I get back to practice, the gym, enjoy that part as well, which I do. Thankfully, I found a way to embrace that part as well over the years.”
If he’s proven one thing in 2015, it’s that he is far from done. Some 17 years into his professional career, Federer still has the desire, the determination to grind it out it week to week on the ATP World Tour in search of titles.
“I think this year had a lot of great things in my game," he said on Sunday. “How I'm able to play at net now, how I'm moving and feeling at net in particular is a great thing to have. Then my serve has been really working very consistent, very well throughout the year more or less. Maybe if I can just get that to work slightly better at times, that would be incredibly helpful. I'll work on that as well.
“I haven't thought about it too much in terms of what is my number one, number two, number three goals,” he added. “Usually, I go into a season with two or three really big goals, then maybe four or five other ones that are really important to you. The rest of the tournaments I just really enjoy playing. I'd like to defend my titles. But right now my mind somehow doesn't go further than the Australian Open.”
Novak Djokovic completed his argument for one of the greatest seasons of all time on the ATP World Tour, capping a historic campaign with a record fourth consecutive Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown. The Serb downed six-time titlist Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.
It was déjà vu with their second meeting this week at The O2 in London - and 44th overall - coming on the heels of Federer's 7-5, 6-2 triumph in Group Stan Smith play on Tuesday. The FedEx ATP Head2Head is now level at 22-22, with the top-ranked Serb owning a 5-3 edge in their 2015 encounters.
"I'm obviously very proud to have these achievements with my team," said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. "It's been a long season, but the best of my life. Without their support and my family, I wouldn't be where I am. I'm just trying to cherish every moment at this level. As a kid growing up, you dream to be at tournaments like this and fighting for the biggest trophies in sport."
Djokovic, who improved to 18-1 at the Final Showdown over the course of his four straight title runs, won his 11th title of 2015 and 59th overall at the tour-level. He brings home $2,061,000 in prize money and 1,300 Emirates ATP Rankings points. The World No. 1, who also won the title in 2008 when the event was held in Shanghai, draws level with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras as the second-most successful players in tournament history, behind only Federer's six crowns. He concludes the season with an 82-6 win-loss record and is now just 14 match victories from reaching 700 in his career.
"Against Roger it's very specific," Djokovic said in press. "You need to adjust to the tactics because of his game. He plays very quickly. He likes things to happen fast. He takes away the time from his opponent. He has so much variety in his game with slice, comes to the net, great serve, forehand, one of the best ever. He's very complete player. I know that he's always going to push you hard and try to protect the baseline, take away the time from you, which he was doing also today.
"I think what I managed to do better than what I've done in the last match we played in the group stage here was the fact that I was more solid from back of the court. I served well when I needed to. I got myself out of trouble. I returned more balls back than I did five days ago. I think that helped me to get into the rally. I always try to make him play one extra shot."
BEST MATCH RECORDS AT NO. 1
Djokovic has compiled one of the best seasons in the history of the Emirates ATP Rankings (since 1973). Here is a look at the No. 1 players with the best match winning percentages since 1973:
Jimmy Connors1974 93-4 .959 15
Roger Federer2005 81-4 .953 11
Roger Federer2006 92-5 .948 12 Bjorn Borg 1979
Novak Djokovic2015 82-6 .932 11
Roger Federer2004 74-6 .925 11
Ivan Lendl1986 74-6 .925 9 Ivan Lendl 1985 84-7 .923 11 Novak Djokovic 2011 70-6
Federer, meanwhile, was bidding for a historic seventh title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and 89th overall. His season ends with the World No. 3 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, claiming 63 match wins and six titles from 11 finals - in Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, Basel and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati. In 2016, he will continue his quest to pass Ivan Lendl (1071) for second place on the all-time match wins list, pulling to within 12 victories.
"It would have been nice to serve a little bit better early on in the match, play better overall on his second serve, because he does allow you to play on his second serve," said Federer. "Maybe at times I went for too much. The moments where I should have gone safe, I didn't, and vice versa. Those are the two regrets I have.
"If I played the match again, that is what I would try to do different. Other than that, I thought it was a good match. It was close. First six games were tough, to be down 4-2. I had my chances to at least be even. But I thought he played well. Still high-quality match, I thought."
Here is how the final was won...
FIRST SET - Djokovic 6-3
The Swiss was in prime position to continue the same trend on Sunday, but, after saving a break point in his first service game, Djokovic pounced on one of his own at 1-1. A Federer mid-rally forehand clipped the tape at 30/40 and he could not recover as Djokovic secured the opening break.
It did not take long for Federer to have another look at a break point. With Djokovic serving up 3-2, the Basel native launched a sublime backhand down the line winner to bring proceedings to deuce and earned his second break opportunity when the defending champion misfired wide on a forehand. But Djokovic clamped down as Federer's patience slipped, striking his seventh backhand unforced error to give his rival the hold for 4-2.
With Federer once again applying pressure on Djokovic's serve at 4-3 40/30, the Serb fired a leaping kick serve that pulled the Swiss off the court and followed it up with a rifled backhand winner down the line - a combination that has worked quite effectively for him over the years. Djokovic would secure the opening set a game later after 39 minutes, converting on his second set point.
SECOND SET - Djokovic 6-4
A scintillating, angle-assaulting rally in the second point of the seventh game brought the fans out of their seats as Federer closed it out with beautiful touch at the net. Djokovic would once again hold three points later, with Federer hesitant to come forward and attack the net.
Djokovic's depth and weight of shot drove Federer off the baseline with the Swiss serving at 3-4. A 0/40 lead put him in significant danger, but Federer would reel off five straight points to hold behind a clutch serving display.
Djokovic had won 84 per cent of second serve points to Federer's 44 per cent through eight games in the second set, and he would not suffer a hangover from the slew of missed opportunities, holding to love for 5-4.
Djokovic again applied pressure on the Federer serve in the next game. A 34-shot rally won by the Serb resulted in a 0/30 lead. The Swiss had saved five of seven break points as they arrived at two match points at 15/40, but a double fault sealed Djokovic's place in season finale lore. He became the first player to win four consecutive championships at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after 81 minutes.
Infosys ATP Insights
A LOOK BACK
JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana (Champaign, U.S.A.): For the eighth time this year, an American teen featured in a final on the ATP Challenger Tour as Taylor Fritz battled Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen for the title on Saturday. The Rancho Santa Fe, California native, who took the Challenger circuit by storm last month in becoming the ninth player to win multiple titles before his 18th birthday, would surrender an early lead to the Swiss, losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 26 minutes. The youngest Challenger champion this year, Fritz has since turned 18 and is projected to rise to a career-high Top 200 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, becoming the second-highest ranked American teen.
Laaksonen fired 10 aces and converted on five of 12 break points to capture his maiden title. It was an impressive week for the 23 year old, who rallied from a set down in four consecutive matches, notching two wins in deciding tie-breaks. He is the first player from Switzerland to win a Challenger title since 2010, when Stan Wawrinka won in Lugano and Stephane Bohli in Recanati. The Finnish-born Laaksonen is also the 25th first-time champion this year.
“I had an amazing run here in the U.S.," he told broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. "I was lucky to win a few matches this week at 7-6 in the third, but especially today I played unbelievable.
“A few weeks ago when I lost to [Fritz], I lost pretty badly. He played well. Today, I was returning really well. I took his serve out and I put pressure on his second serve. I struggled earlier in the year, pushing the ball and running. Now I'm hitting through the ball and going for my shots.”
Trofeo Citta di Brescia (Brescia, Italy): Igor Sijsling turned in a dominant week in Brescia, not dropping a set en route to claiming his seventh ATP Challenger Tour crown and first since 2012. Having dropped two final decisions earlier this year, in Alphen (Netherlands) and Rennes (France), the Dutchman entered Saturday’s title match following wins over top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky, ATP Challenger Tour Finals contender Farrukh Dustov and home hope Luca Vanni. He would defeat Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-4 for the title.
Uruguay Open (Montevideo, Uruguay): The Uruguay Open hosted its 11th edition, with a final encounter set between a pair of players who have qualified for the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Spain’s Inigo Cervantes and Argentina’s Guido Pella will be in Sao Paulo for the year-end championships, and they had one last matter of business to tend to on Sunday in Montevideo. Pella rallied for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win, notching his fourth title of the season. He joins Hyeon Chung and Paolo Lorenzi as title leaders, having toppled World No. 40 and home hope Pablo Cuevas earlier in the week. Cervantes secured his debut in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings with a run to the final.
GRACIAS MONTEVIDEO, HASTA SIEMPRE pic.twitter.com/CFrjLcFuuo— Guido Pella (@guido_pella) November 23, 2015
What The Players Said
"I would like to congratulate Soeda for playing very well this tournament. It was an honor being able to play with him in a Challenger final, because I respected him since I was playing in the juniors. I am looking forward to play with him again."
Sijsling: “In the beginning of the year I was struggling with my game. I didn't play so many matches, wasn't so confident and every match was little more difficult. I didn't gain many points. Now I try to finish well: two finals and one title is a good start for next year.
“Dutch tennis is ok, but it was better before with Richard Kraijcek and Jan Siemerink in the Top 20. Eltingh-Haarhuis were No. 1 in doubles. It's not easy to be in their footsteps. Now there are Robin Haase and Thiemo De Bakker inside the Top 100 and I'm trying to get back but it's tough. There are lots of players hungry to be above you. The level of the sport is good.
“I don't know if is the beginning of a new career, but for sure it is the right way to finish the year. To win a tournament is always difficult. My goal for 2016 is to come back to the Top 100.”
Year-end Top 100 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings are up for grabs in Toyota and Andria. In Toyota, top seed and World No. 103 Matthew Ebden looks to close his campaign with a third title of the year and second in the Japanese city (2013). Fourth seed Go Soeda is the defending champion. In Andria, Italy, World No. 104 and last year’s runner-up Nikoloz Basilashvili leads the field. 2013 titlist Marton Fucsovics is unseeded.