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Updated: 13 hours 31 min ago

Hot Shot: Roelofse Covers Every Inch Of The Court In Drummondville

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 3:39pm
Watch as South Africa's Ruan Roelofse shows off his wheels in this jaw-dropping point at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Drummondville, Canada.

Ken Flach: 1963-2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 11:38am

Former World No. 1 Ken Flach, one of the world’s leading doubles players of the 1980s, a winner of six Grand Slam titles and the 1988 Seoul Olympics gold medal (w/Seguso), passed away aged 54 on Monday after a brief illness.

One week ago, Flach was playing 36 holes of golf, the sport he was addicted to, in California. Later that day, Flach fell ill with bronchitis, which in the space of four days turned into pneumonia and then into sepsis. Put on life support, he slipped away on Monday night with his family by his bedside at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

Carling Bassett, a former WTA pro and the wife of Robert Seguso, said in her Facebook post, "It pains me to say our great friend, Ken Flach passed away last night surrounded by his family at his side. Unfortunately, they didn't catch the sepsis fast enough before it so horrifically attacked all his organs. I know Ken fought until the end and now is up in heaven resting in peace. My heart goes out to his whole family."

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, “Ken was taken far too soon and his sudden passing comes as a real shock to everyone in tennis. A former World No.1 in doubles, Ken will be remembered as one of the great US doubles players in the history of our sport. On behalf of the ATP, we send our thoughts and deepest condolences to his family at this difficult time.”

Flach and Seguso were inextricably linked for almost 40 years, first as standout college performers and, within the space of three years on the pro circuit, the world’s best doubles team – a sometimes a volatile partnership, unavoidable when you’re the best of friends. Flach was the possessor of pinpoint returns, lightening reflexes and great hands that complemented the power and serving accuracy of Seguso.

Flach played on the Ad court and first rose to No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings on 14 October 1985 (for a total of five weeks). With Seguso, they compiled a career match record of 352-130 from 1983 to 1995 Wimbledon, winning 28 team crowns, including the 1987-88 Wimbledon titles, the 1985 US Open, plus two other runner-up finishes at the 1987 and 1989 US Opens. Flach also partnered Rick Leach to the 1993 US Open crown and finished his 14-season pro career in 1996 with a 34-24 record in doubles finals (443-215 match record).

St. Louis-born Flach and Sunrise, Florida-resident Seguso came from opposite ends of the spectrum and first met over a poker hand during their teenage years, “when only tennis and cards mattered”. Neither earned a high school diploma and under NCAA regulations both faced the prospect of sitting out a year of tennis at a Division I school. So, first Flach, who knew at aged 16 he was good enough to turn pro, and then in 1981, Seguso, opted to attend Division II Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

Paired together by SIU coach Kent DeMars, they conquered the college world – three straight Divisional II national championships in 1981-83 – after having passed a high school equivalency exam. All-American Flach, 6’1” and 165-pounds, won three singles titles and two doubles championships, while 6’3” and 182-pounds Seguso, who played on two of the title teams, won one doubles crown. Flach once admitted, “We never went to class, all we did was play tennis and eat pizza.”

It was a good education. Upon turning pro in late 1983, Flach and Seguso built on their outstanding college record and quickly became one of the world’s leading pairs. In 1984, their first full year on the circuit, they won 10 titles and the following season, the 22-year olds went 7-4 in finals with a 58-15 match record to become the ATP Doubles Team of the Year.

Doubles was Flach’s ticket to a successful pro career, admitting, “It’s kind of like dating. You find somebody you think you work well with, and you develop a relationship.” At the 1988 Olympics opening ceremony in Seoul, Flach and Seguso ensured maximum television exposure by walking out beside athletics superstar Carl Lewis and later went on to beat Spaniards Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(1), 9-7 in the gold medal match.

Flach, whose Italian mother doted on him, played football, baseball and tennis growing up, following in the footsteps of his older brother Rick Flach, a former pro. At one point, they played and trained together in Germany. Flach was regarded as not only one of the hardest workers on the circuit, but also one of the most superstitious, never stepping on a line when he took to the court and always sat in the chair furthest from the umpire’s chair.

Renowned for his shoulder-length hair, Brad Gilbert recalls rooming with Flach at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. “He took three hair dryers out of his suitcase. I said, ‘You should spend more time on your forehand!’” His hair had been involved in a controversial incident in the 1986 US Open doubles final, when Flach and Seguso beat Frenchmen Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 7-6(6), 6-0. Facing a set point in the third set tie-break, Leconte launched the infamous ‘hair shot’ – a volley that whizzed past Flach’s right ear and landed beyond the baseline – during a quick net exchange. The French team were certain that the ball had clipped Flach’s long hair, so the umpire appealed to Flach, who pleaded ignorance. "I still don't know if that ball hit me," said Flach, at the time. "You ever have a serve just zip by your ear when you're at the net? You feel the breeze? It was like that."

Flach, who also partnered compatriot Kathy Jordan to the 1986 Roland Garros and Wimbledon mixed doubles crowns, called time on his career in 1996 and soon coaching became his passion. As a singles player, he rose to a career-high No. 56 in the ATP Rankings on 9 December 1985 and his best Grand Slam performance came at the 1987 US Open, when he reached the fourth round (l. to Wilander).

Off the court, Flach was a dedicated family man with four children from his first marriage to model Sandra Freeman, who he married shortly after the 1986 US Open. He spent time coaching in Naples, Florida and eight years at Vanderbilt University, where he led the Commodores to their first NCAA berth in 1999 and was named Southeastern ‘Coach of the Year’ in 2003, when the team reached the NCAA finals. Moving to California in 2010, he became director of tennis at Rolling Hills in Novato and married Christina Friedman, a make-up entrepreneur, who also has four children, having met on a train from St. Louis to the North Bay. Two years later, Flach opened the Best Lil’ Porkhouse, in San Rafael, California, which he ran with his oldest child, Dylan.

A fan of Bruce Springstein and St. Louis Cardinals baseball, Flach was also a low-handicap and dedicated golfer. In November 2016, he attended the Nitto ATP Finals as part of a reunion of players from the 1980s who had competed at the season finale.

Ken Flach, tennis player, coach and restauranteur, born 24 May 1963, died 12 March 2018.

The Tennis World Pays Tribute

Carling Bassett, former WTA pro and wife of Robert Seguso:
"I had the great pleasure spending most of my 20s and 30s raising our family along side Ken and Sandra's. Our children were the same age, so not only did we spend time together at tournaments but also in our off time. Ken was always mischievous and had a very dry wit that kept us all entertained. He always adored his family and it was always his number one priority. He remarried his second wife Christina eight years ago. What special times we have had since retiring from the pro tennis life. Robert and Ken shared a passion for golf together and the past few years talked daily on investments and family etc.

"He was taken much too young. It doesn't seem fair, but I have to remember all the wonderful times we had throughout the 31 years of friendship. Ken will always hold a very special place in our hearts, with the fondest of memories. My prayers go out to Christina and her family because she loved 'Kendra' (his nickname) to pieces. She couldn't have said kinder things about him raising her children. He treated them as his own. Ken will be remembered with a loving heart and a passion for life. You will be missed physically, but your presence will always be there in spirit. RIP Ken, we will reunite soon! God bless."

Peter Fleming, former doubles World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion
Ken was really similar to me personality wise - really competitive, argumentative and feisty and as such we never really mixed as players, although we played against one another three or four times. What was one of the greatest surprises to me is that five years ago I was touring around California and I was told Ken was coaching at a nearby club. We met and he was really funny and generous. He invited me to come to his house for dinner and I ended up staying four or five days. It was incredible, he was an entirely different guy from his playing days. Ken and his wife, Christina, were both really welcoming and we became great friends. He became like a brother. We played golf together and he was really good, a four handicap. It’s so sad that he has passed away and I send my condolences to his family.

Mark Knowles, former doubles World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion
Having grown up with his brother, Doug, we were always around Ken. He was such a nice guy and helped me with advice on how to navigate the Tour. Our friendship grew over the years and I even had the honour of playing doubles with him at Wimbledon. He was a legend of the game and we will miss him greatly! Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time.

so gutted

Hot Shot: Lopez Shows His Prowess At Net Indian Wells 2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 11:33am
Spain's Feliciano Lopez withstands a Jack Sock tweener to finish the point at net in the third round in Indian Wells. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com

ATP Firsts: Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 11:22am

France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who competes on the ATP World Tour as both a singles and doubles player, gives ATPWorldTour.com an insight into his life off the court...

First moment I realised I loved tennis
Actually, it was the first time I had a racquet in my hand. Since I was a kid, I loved it from the very first time. When I was a kid, it’s amazing the pleasure I got from hitting the ball against the wall. I was born with a racquet in my hand and I loved it from the first time. My parents were both tennis coaches. As soon as I could walk, I had the racquet in my hand.

First coach and most important lesson he/she taught me
My first coach was my father, and one of the first lessons he taught me is that tennis is a game. You have to enjoy it. After the second lesson, it was if you work hard, it’s going to pay off one day.

First pinch-me moment on the ATP World Tour
My first pinch-me moment was my breakthrough in Paris-Bercy. It was 2013 or 2014, I don’t remember, but I was playing Benoit Paire on Court Centrale and then playing against Novak Djokovic. Beating Benoit Paire and then losing against Djokovic in a tight match, I think that was my first big moment on the ATP.

First time I was recognised
I have no answer to this. It would be sometime recently. I think it was the past two years that I started to be recognised. Not that much. Not like Rafa or Roger. Mostly in France, in my hometown.

First time I travelled abroad
Really, really soon. I remember one trip when I went alone to Latvia (for tennis), I was maybe 14 or 15. This was a big trip to go alone, at 14 or 15, to a country where you can’t speak the language.

First thing I bought with prize money
I don’t really know what I bought with prize money. I know I bought a computer, an [Apple] Mac, when I was 19 or 20. But I didn’t make that much money, so I don’t think it was the prize money that bought it!

First autograph/photo I got
One of the first pictures I took was with Arnaud Clement when I was a young guy. I was maybe 10, he played team matches in my region and I was lucky enough to get a picture with him. He had actually a sandwich almost in his mouth, so it was a funny picture. I still have it. I showed it to him.

First celebrity idols
I have a lot of actors that I like. Roman Joules, he’s playing in French movies. After this, I love Denzel Washington. In sport, I think we are lucky enough to have Roger Federer in tennis. I was a big fan growing up. I have a lot of people to look to for examples.

First album I bought
I didn’t buy that many albums, but I’m a big Coldplay fan. The first one, I didn’t buy it, I got it as a present, was a Michael Jackson album. It was one of his last ones.

First pet
In my family we had three cats. The first one died at age 18. I grew up with Mimi. Then there were two others, but they were not as lucky as Mimi. They died younger.

Querrey Confident After Reaching Indian Wells R4 2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 10:42am
Sam Querrey reaches the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Hewitt Belief In De Minaur Paying Off 2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 9:26am
With former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in his coach's corner and backing him, Next Gen star Alex De Minaur has enjoyed great success at the start of 2018.

ATP Rankings Update 12 March 2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 9:21am
Take a closer look at the ATP Rankings as of 12 March 2018.

Kohlschreiber Reflects On His Upset Of Cilic In Indian Wells 2018

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 8:17am
Philipp Kohlschreiber takes down No. 2 seed Marin Cilic and talks about facing Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com

Del Potro, Cilic Headline Tuesday Indian Wells Play

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 7:29am

Two popular ATP World Tour stars – Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer – square off at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday bidding to book a place in the fourth round. Del Potro, the power player who is back in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, against the hard-working Ferrer, still a force at the age of 35, compete third match on Stadium 1.

In a rivalry that began 10 years ago, both players, with contrasting styles are tied at 6-6 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Del Potro 17-15 sets won) ahead of their third meeting of 2018. Del Potro has won their past four clashes, including a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win at their recent Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. World No. 8 Del Potro, who reached the 2013 Indian Wells final (l. to Nadal), is looking for his 20th career win here (19-7), while Ferrer is trying to reach the fourth round for the third time (2007 QF, 2009 4R).

View FedEx ATP Head2Head for the 2018 BNP Paribas Open third round & vote for who you think will win! 
Cilic vs Kohlschreiber | Del Potro vs Ferrer | Sock vs Lopez

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Second seed Marin Cilic comes face-to-face with a notoriously tricky opponent, No. 31 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, in the second match on Stadium 1 today. Kohlschreiber leads 6-4, but Cilic did win their last match in the 2017 Wimbledon first round. Cilic is attempting to advance to the fourth round for the third time in 11 appearances, while Kohlschreiber will look to break a 12-match losing streak against Top 10 opponents (22-87 lifetime). The German’s last victory came against then No. 7-ranked Tomas Berdych in a 2016 Davis Cup tie.

During the night session on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s main show court, eighth-seeded American Jack Sock will take his aggressive power game to No. 28 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain, the serve-volleyer, who uses his sliced backhand to great effect. Sock, who competes in the 2017 semi-finals (l. to Federer), leads Lopez 2-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Lopez is making his 16th straight Indian Wells appearance and he has reached the fourth round three times (4R in 2014 and 2016, QF in 2015).

On Stadium 2, 2016 quarter-finalist Gael Monfils meets his fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the first time. In the next match, No. 32 seed and 2016 Indian Wells finalist Milos Raonic looks to remain unbeaten (3-0) against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, who upset No. 5-ranked Alexander Zverev on Sunday. In doubles, 2013-14 champions and seventh seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan challenge Pablo Carreno Busta and David Marrero in the second round on Stadium 2, during the night session.

Coric's Resurgence: "There Is No Magic Light"

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 5:11am

As a former junior World No. 1 and going on to stand on the cusp of the Top 30 at age 18, the hype surrounding Borna Coric is to be expected. That career-high in the ATP Rankings, though, was July 2015. 

His transition since, has hit more than its share of hurdles. But a complete change-up in his team and a realigned attitude to improvement has the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier making inroads once more. 

In six sets played in the desert at the BNP Paribas Open, the Croatian has dropped just nine games, fewer than any player in the top half of the draw. For the second match in succession the 21-year-old trounced a seeded Spaniard – this time last week’s winner in Dubai, Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-1, 6-3. 

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It follows his 6-0, 6-3 upset of No. 19 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and an opening 6-0, 6-2 victory over American Donald Young. #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz is next.

“I was playing even better and better and today until 6-1, 3-0 - I was playing maybe the best tennis of my life,” Coric admitted. “I was just playing very aggressively, putting constant pressure on him, but at the same time I wasn’t making mistakes.”

 Watch Full Match Replays

That change in team involved a complete overhaul with the experienced Riccardo Piatti joining Kristijan Schneider as his new coaches, Roger Federer’s coach Ivan Ljubicic coming into the fold as manager.

“I felt like I needed a change,” Coric said. “Some kind of different, not only coach, but manager, the fitness coach, the physio. I spoke a lot to Ivan and to Riccardo before we started working. We had a great off-season. We had a great few weeks after Australia.

“Again, I need to improve. I have time. Kristijan is like a second coach. I look at it as a team. No one is head coach… If we have a big decision to make we always talk all together. We see who has better ideas.

“Ivan kind of watches everything from a different angle and from time to time gives a different opinion and checks I’m on the right path. We see each other very often when I’m in Monte Carlo.”

While the changes appear to be reaping rewards in the Californian desert, Coric is staying grounded. He is all too aware, one flash-in-the-pan result does not constitute a long-term breakthrough.

“There is no magic light. OK, I’m playing well here but it doesn’t mean I’m going to be Top 10 in a few months,” he said. “We need to work in three, four years to become a Top 10 tennis player, that’s my goal.

“I had very big success when I was very young. Also that time I was No. 33 [in the ATP Rankings] but my game level was not there. If I see myself now to when I was 18 – when I was No.33 – you cannot compare the two players. I’m a much better player now.” 

Anderson: "I Need To Trust My Game"

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 7:32am

Kevin Anderson knows that no matter how many years you have played tennis, you never stop learning. After 10 years as a professional and close to 500 matches, the hard-working South African remains a student of the game.

Three weeks on from working his way back into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, the 31-year-old is set to compete at the BNP Paribas Open, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2013 and 2014.

“I need to trust my game and trust the process,” said Anderson. “It’s something I’m still working on. I’m trying to allow myself to be more free on the court and really trust my abilities. It’s something you have to do.

“When you first come on Tour, and play guys you’ve seen on TV, you almost feel like your game is not as good as a [Rafael] Nadal or a [Roger] Federer. But I’m now at a stage where I can play my best tennis, when it matters the most. It comes from experience, but I’m still learning and improving.”

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At Indian Wells this week, 6’8” Anderson will be found on a practice court training for hours on end. Fine turning his game, centred on a serve that has fired down 5,837 aces since he turned professional in 2007.

“Bigger guys do seem to have a pretty big advantage on serve, because of the ability to find better angles, where you can hit and the pace you can generate,” said Anderson. “Now some of the bigger guys are matching the physicality.

“The challenges I face come down to movement and balance. It can be used in an advantageous way, covering the court with fewer strides. I learned to play tennis from the baseline, so my movement is better there, but I do also work very hard in coming forward.”

Having spent one week in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings (at No. 10) on 12 October 2015, injuries and time off the ATP World Tour saw him drop to as low as No. 80 on 16 January 2017. But now back in the Top 10, Anderson is competing with confidence once more.

On U.S. soil, his home for the past decade, he has reached nine of his 16 tour-level finals. Over the course of the next 11 days, he will attempt to break his 0-8 record in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-finals. First up though, seventh seed Anderson will play a Russian, Karen Khachanov or Evgeny Donskoy, in Indian Wells.

Ambitious Cilic Looks To Improve In Indian Wells

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 6:05am

After a strong start to the year, Marin Cilic is looking to improve and potentially break into the Top 2 of the ATP Rankings. Having arrived in the Coachella Valley last week to prepare for the BNP Paribas Open, the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, the Croatian feels that he is ready to make a big run.

“In order to play well, you need to be fresh mentally and strong physically,” said Cilic. “You also need to be hungry when you come to play. It's difficult on the body and on the mind when you play week after week. It's not easy to push yourself every day, so balance is key.

“Playing two out of past three Grand Slam finals (2017 Wimbledon, 2018 Australian Open) guides me in the right direction. I've been improving a lot, but I want more. I'm happy to be No. 3 [in the ATP Rankings], but I want to keep improving and reach as high as possible.”

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After making an appearance in his third Grand Slam championship final in January, Cilic opted to skip the European indoor swing in favour of a trip to the clay of the Rio Open presented by Claro (l. to Monfils in second round).

Watch Video: Cilic & ATP World Tour Stars Take On Rio Carnival

“Generally, I haven't done too well during this US swing at Indian Wells and Miami,” said Cilic. “I feel I played really well on clay last year and that set me up for solid play on grass. I decided to do something different this year, play outdoors. So hopefully this decision pays off.”

Cilic has notoriously struggled in the dry, thinner air of Indian Wells and in 10 previous attempts (9-10 match record) he has only advanced to one quarter-final, in 2016 (l. to Goffin).

“It's something that I'm trying to figure out myself,” said Cilic, the second seed in Indian Wells. “The conditions vary here, day by day. Even last week, it was very cold during the evenings. The temperature is up and down and I'm never as comfortable as I'd like.

“But I need to remember what got me to this position. It gives me motivation to keep pushing forward. I'm focused on the things I need to do and I'm sure the results will follow.”

Cilic will open his Indian Wells campaign against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.

Zverev 'Knows What it Takes' To Win Indian Wells

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 1:49am

For top-ranked #NextGenATP player Alexander Zverev, his progression of firsts will always be duly noted. His first ATP World Tour title, first victory over a Top 10 opponent.

It makes reflecting upon the progression that much more intriguing when the talent in question goes on to post their first Masters 1000 title, first Grand Slam trophy or first stint at World No. 1.

A two-time Masters 1000 champion at the age 20 (in Rome and Montreal) sees anticipation naturally shift to whether the BNP Paribas Open’s fourth seed can go on to land a major or climb to the pinnacle of the ATP Rankings. There is no hiding from it.

“Everybody keeps talking about the Grand Slams but I’ve won two Masters [1000s] so I know what it takes to win the big tournaments, what it takes to beat the big players in those big tournaments,” said Zverev, who fell to Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the third round at Indian Wells last season. “I’ve beaten Novak [Djokovic] and Roger [Federer] in both of those finals so those are not small matches for either of them.”

Miss some of Wednesday's action? Keep reading below in our #ATPMasters 1000 Live Blog

Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung downed Zverev in five sets in the third round of the Australian Open in January. It was a surprise to some, but the German was well aware of the level his free-swinging South Korean opponent was capable of producing. 

“In Australia, I thought I played well. I played against a very strong Chung,” Zverev said. “That is somebody who played with a lot of confidence and great feel. For me it’s more about getting through those matches and playing my best and the rest will take care of itself.”

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An early exit in Rotterdam followed (l. to Seppi) but he found form again in Acapulco where it took eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro to stop him in the semi-finals. Despite the defeat Zverev to declared he was back playing at a confident level.

“I feel like the year has barely started,” he said. “I’ve played three tournaments so far. For me, this is where this season really starts. The first Masters [1000], the first big ATP tournament that we have. I feel like I’m playing really good again and feel ready to play with anyone and for me that’s the most important thing coming into a big event like this.”

That first title came not so long ago, in St. Petersburg in September 2016.  As for that first Top 10 win? That’s one Zverev won’t forget in a hurry.

“[It] was against Roger in Halle on a grass court so that was quite special,” he said. “The way also that I got into the Top 10 last year was also very special to me because I made it through winning a Masters [1000] on clay which is one of the toughest ways to do it. So I remember both of those moments quite clearly and they’re very special.”

For Delpo, Some Things Never Change

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 10:25pm

Juan Martin del Potro is playing in his eighth BNP Paribas Open. But to Del Potro, some things are always the same in Indian Wells. For instance, his draw.

Every year, Del Potro said on Wednesday, he has the toughest draw. He doesn't even need to look at the other sections of the field. He just finds his name, and he knows – yep, that's the hardest part of the whole tournament.

“Always. It doesn't change. That's the draw, what I expect for sure,” Del Potro said during his pre-tournament press conference.

That was, without a doubt, the case last year in Indian Wells, when the Argentine, then the 31st seed, was drawn in the same quarter as second seed and five-time champion Novak Djokovic, fifth seed Rafael Nadal, ninth seed Roger Federer and up-and-coming players Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev.

Miss some of Wednesday's action? Keep reading below in our #ATPMasters 1000 Live Blog

The quarter was aptly named “The Group of Death”. Del Potro fell to Djokovic in the third round, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

This year in Indian Wells, however, looks a little more pleasant for Del Potro, who's improved his seeding and therefore his draw.

He is the sixth seed in the desert, and will meet either German Jan-Lennard Struff or #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur in the second round. The earliest Del Potro can face another seed is in the third round, if No. 29 David Ferrer of Spain meets him there. It would be their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting of the year. Del Potro won both encounters but their FedEx ATP Head2Head series is tied at 6-6.

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Should Del Potro get past Ferrer, though, his time in the desert will get more interesting. In the fourth round, he could meet either 10th seed Djokovic or former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori.

“I'm very positive with my level of tennis at the moment, and I want to stay focused just on my first match and then see if I can go far in this tournament,” Del Potro said. “But I think that the most important thing is to try to stay calm and go step-by-step.”

Delpo at the BNP Paribas Open

Year

Result

2017

Round of 32, lost to No. 2 Novak Djokovic

2016

Round of 64, lost to No. 7 Tomas Berdych

2013

Finals, lost to No. 5 Rafael Nadal

2012

Quarter-finals, lost to No. 3 Roger Federer

2011

Semi-finals, lost to No. 1 Nadal

2009

Quarter-finals, lost to No. 1 Nadal

2007

Round of 64, lost to No. 16 Richard Gasquet

The 29-year-old is back into the Top 10 at No. 8, his highest ATP Ranking since 3 August 2014. Just four days ago, Del Potro also celebrated winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, his biggest title since the 2013 Swiss Indoors Basel, which is also an ATP World Tour 500-level tournament.

In Acapulco, Del Potro beat three Top 10 players – Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson – en route to his 21st tour-level title.

“I've got much confidence. Looking forward to playing good tennis in this tournament. I beat top opponents during the Acapulco tournament, which means something good to myself and I'm very excited to keep playing at the same level as I did last week,” he said.

Del Potro has never won the BNP Paribas Open or an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. He reached the final in Indian Wells in 2013 (l. to Nadal).

“If you want to win a title like this, you must play good tennis and beat many other good players, too, and that's my biggest goal,” Del Potro said. “So I need to go step-by-step, match-by-match and see how far can I go.”

Sock Hits Reset For Indian Wells Return

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 9:33pm

Running on empty after a breakout 2017 and with an off-season stacked with charity events and weddings, Jack Sock has hit his reset button a little later than most. The first indication of the American’s big 2017 came at last year’s BNP Paribas Open where he reached the semi-finals.

Back to defend those points with a Top 10 ranking to boot, the 25-year-old is rebuilding after some delayed time-out. He fell in his opening two matches of the season – in Auckland and at the Australian Open – before deciding to take that much-needed break.

“That reset was the month after Australia I took,” Sock said. “Obviously, the last two weeks, results wise, it hasn’t really shown, the work I put in.

“I flew home from Melbourne, I think even that day I was in the gym. I was in the gym for three and a half to four weeks straight, taking that time off, choosing not to play Davis Cup in Serbia to get my mind right again and my body in shape.”

The upside to Sock’s maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters late last season was a last-minute qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

He would reach the semi-finals there on debut to end the season with a Top 10 ATP Ranking. The downside was a shorter than expected off-season, juggling off-court commitments with a race to be fresh again for his return Down Under.

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“I had no expectations being in London so I had to re-do my off-season schedule. I’d already committed to things not thinking I was going to be in London,” Sock said. “I fly home and I’m travelling a lot in my off-season. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have probably scheduled that many things if I’d known I was going to be in London.

“So that’s why I took time after Australia to regroup, be home, being in my own bed for more than two days. I feel a lot more confident now, a lot happier, I’m out there playing instead of being stressed out.”

Sock won four straight three-setters before eventual champion Roger Federer brought his run to an end in the semi-finals of last year’s BNP Paribas Open. Sock saved four match points to upset Grigor Dimitrov in the third round and also stunned fifth seed Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals en route.

Hopes of him becoming the next great American have only heightened. It’s an expectation he is all too aware of, having assumed the mantle as American No. 1.

“I think the [American] fans are used to having someone winning a slam, at least competing to win a slam, winning multiple tournaments outside of that,” he said. “There were multiple guys in the past to get behind. Obviously there hasn’t been that level yet. We’re all doing our best. It’s a tough sport.

“There’s a guy named Federer, another named [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic winning a lot of tournaments in the last 15 years so it’s not the easiest just to weasel your way in there and win.

“But I think the sport is changing a little bit … I think there’s a new wave coming in.”

Give Peace A Chance? Grigor Says 'No'

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 8:06pm

With a breakthrough title run at the prestigious season-ending Nitto ATP Finals and a career-best ranking, it is fair to suggest the stars are finally aligning for Grigor Dimitrov. Just don’t suggest he’s at peace with himself.

While the Bulgarian has never produced his finest results in the desert at the BNP Paribas Open – he is yet to make it beyond the third round in six appearances – he returns for the first time with a Top 4 seeding. Dimitrov admits he is enjoying what he does right now more than in previous years.

“Finally my body is starting to understand. I’ve been more consistent,” Dimitrov said. “I wouldn’t say I’m at peace, I don’t want to be at peace right now. I’m only 26. It’s a war.

“All jokes aside I’m in a place I can push myself on and off the court. When I get to the court I want to push myself to the maximum. When I get to the fitness I want to push myself to the maximum.”

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After his scorching run to close out the season in London, there were big expectations on Dimitrov when he returned Down Under as the defending Brisbane International champion and having reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2017. He shone in a fourth-round victory over Nick Kyrgios at Melbourne Park in January to avenge a defeat to the Australian in Brisbane before a surprise loss to unseeded Kyle Edmund.

“I just wanted to kind of continue this momentum going. And I started my off-season kind of early this year,” he said. “My goal was to do very well in Australia. I still had a good result but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I think I just need to keep going with the same attitude. Everything seemed to be in a good way.”

Dimitrov will be keen to erase memories of a harrowing defeat to Jack Sock in the third round at Indian Wells last year, where he let four match points slip. He atoned for that with a win over the American in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals. The pressure has certainly raised a notch though since Indian Wells 2017.

“I like pressure. You can go out on court at 5-all, 30-all, that’s a nice pressure to have so I always strive on that,” he said. “I want to do more and more. The people around me have to pace me sometimes. One of the things I learnt the most [in 2017] is actually how to rest. I’m still not good at it but I’m getting there.”

 

Fearless Felix Reaches First Masters 1000 Main Draw

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 6:30pm
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Weeks after making his ATP World Tour debut in Rotterdam, teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime is about to tick off another first after winning through qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday. The 17-year-old from Montreal defeated Slovak Norbert Gombos 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 to reach his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 main draw.

It makes Auger-Aliassime the first man born in the 2000s to contest a Masters 1000 main draw. And his reward for doing so – a first-round meeting with fellow Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

“I’m grateful. It just shows I’m on the right path,” Auger-Aliassime said “I’m doing some great things. The future is probably bright but there’s still a lot of work to do, to get a constant level in these matches.

“With the knee injury I didn’t play many matches at the start of the year so to come here, playing some tough guys, winning some tough matches, that’s exactly what I needed.”

The teenager narrowly fell to Filip Krajinovic in his tour-level debut at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament last month before falling to Italian Thomas Fabiano in his second tour outing as a wild card in Marseille. Our cameras caught up with Auger-Aliassime before his ATP World Tour 500 debut in Rotterdam.

The Canadian admitted nerves got the better of him on that occasion. Third time around in a tour-level main draw he would place no expectations on his results, just on his attitude.

“So excited. It’s so great,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I started good then he raised his level. He was dominating me through the first set and the first half of the second and then I just stuck with him.

“I served well, stayed calm and I think it just paid off at the end. After playing my best level since the start of the year in the third and to get through to my first Masters 1000, it is just unbelievable.”

The top seed in qualifying, Pospisil defeated Spaniard Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 7-6(5), 6-2 to book his main draw berth. Three times the World No. 75 has qualified for the BNP Paribas Open. Last year he did so and went on to land his biggest career win over then No. 1 Andy Murray en route to the third round.

The BNP Paribas Open is guaranteed a second all-Canadian battle in the second round when the winner of the Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil showdown meets No. 32 seed and 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic. In an impressive day for the Canadians in qualifying on Wednesday, Peter Polansky made it three from three when he saw off Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to set a first-round meeting with Romanian Marius Copil.

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Indian Wells holds fond memories for Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis as the site of his lone victory over Roger Federer. Now sitting two spots out of the Top 100, the 32-year-old is finding form again at the BNP Paribas Open, into the main draw for the first time in three years.

The former No. 8 in the ATP Rankings posted a convincing 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Frenchman Vincent Millot to book a first-round clash with Yoshihito Nishioka.

It was eight years ago he brought down top seed Federer en route to the fourth round. His best result remains a quarter-final run on debut in 2006 before Rafael Nadal ended his run.

French veteran Nicolas Mahut also won through qualifying – the first time he had done so in four attempts this season. The 36-year-old defeated Spaniard Ricardo Ojeda Lara 6-3, 6-2 and will meet fellow qualifier Yuki Bhambri. In a battle between two players from India, Bhambri scored a 6-4, 6-2 result over Ramkumar Ramanathan.

Japan's Taro Daniel will get the chance to claim his first tour-level win of 2018 (0-5 so far) after he beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-3 in the final round of qualifying. This is the first time in three attempts the World No. 109 Daniel has survived qualifying in the desert and will go on to face fellow quaiflier Cameron Norrie, the Brit a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Sergiy Stakhovsky.

American World No. 200 Evan King, 25 from Chicago, was the first player to qualify for the 2018 main draw after he easily defeated third-seeded Israeli veteran Dudi Sela 6-0, 6-3. King, who will play just his fifth tour-level match, has played exclusively at the Challenger level in 2018 and has just one tour-level match win to his name in his career. He will take on compatriot Jared Donaldson first up.

World No. 126 Tim Smyczek became the second American to win through qualifying when he defeated Belgian World No. 113 Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 7-6(1). The 30-year-old has now survived Indian Wells qualifying in five of his six attempts and meets Laso Dere in the opening round of the main draw.

Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis rebounded to see off Norwegian Casper Ruud 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. The World No. 106 will square off against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the first round.

Delpo’s Big Rise Built On Small Margins

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 6:13pm

Is it possible to move from outside the Top 1,000 into the Top 10 in just two years?

Yes. Juan Martin del Potro just did it.

The Tower of Tandil was ranked No. 1,042 in the ATP Rankings in February 2016. Skip forward two years and he was ranked No. 9 on 26 February, and he's up to No. 8 this week after winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco on Saturday.

You would naturally think that Del Potro’s magical run, cutting his ranking from four digits down to just one in such a short period of time, was predicated on creating lop-sided win percentages. It wasn’t.

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An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis uncovered that the Argentine won just 51.8 per cent (8111/15653) of points from February 2016 to February 2018. It’s simply mind-blowing that a 1.8 per cent increase over a 50-50 battle can produce such phenomenal success in just 24 months.

Del Potro played 15,652 points during the two-year period, crafting a winning margin of just 569 points (won 8111 points / lost 7542 points).

Del Potro - February 2016 - February 2018
Matches Won = 72.3% (81 won / 31 lost)

Points Won = 51.8% (8111 won / 7542 lost)

Del Potro played 112 matches, which breaks his points won advantage (569) down to just a five-point edge, on average, per match. This may be an overly simplistic view of his steep climb up the ATP Rankings, but it does clearly illustrate how little of a margin is really needed to vault from obscurity to the very elite tier of our sport.

Read More: Delpo Carries Momentum Into Critical Stretch

In winning five matches in Acapulco last week, and dropping only one set, Del Potro defeated three consecutive Top 10 opponents and won just 54 per cent (351/645) of total points. Our sport is built on crafting small margins at lots of different stopping points around the globe.

Del Potro Points Won
2016 = 52.5% (2604/4956)

2017 = 51.3% (4379/8534)

2018 = 52.1% (Jan/Feb) = (1128/2163)

It is all too common in our sport to have a “perfectionist” view of competition. We naturally want to win every point we play. Del Potro’s ascendency back into the Top 10 clearly shows that tennis is truly a game of percentages, and small gains in patterns of play when serving, returning, rallying and approaching can turn your wildest dreams into a stunning reality.