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Updated: 5 days 12 min ago

France Earns 2-1 Lead In Davis Cup Final

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 10:25am

FRANCE 2, BELGIUM 1
Lille, France (Indoor Hard)

For a while, it appeared that Belgium was ready to shock the fans inside Stade Pierre Mauroy, as Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans served for a two sets to one lead in Saturday's doubles rubber in Lille, France. But Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert battled the whole way in front of their home crowd to defeat the Belgians 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 and move France within one match of capturing its 10th Davis Cup title.

Belgium, which is in its second Davis Cup Final in three years and third overall, now must win both reverse singles rubbers to triumph in the tie and claim their first victory at the event.

Yannick Noah's charges sprinted to a 5-0 lead in the first set, even though Herbert — a Nitto ATP Finals qualifier with Nicolas Mahut — was playing with a new partner in Gasquet. But the Belgians did not go quietly, earning the second set and later serving for the third. But once the French broke back for 5-5, momentum was on their side, and they would win the first six points of the ensuing tie-break to help gain a lead of their own.

And when a De Loore forehand sailed long on match point, French fans erupted knowing their nation had earned a 2-1 lead in the tie.

The doubles rubber proved key the last time France was in the Davis Cup Final, in 2014. After entering Saturday knotted at 1-1 three years ago, a straight-sets loss gave Switzerland a 2-1 lead, which Roger Federer would use to clinch the title in Sunday's first match against Gasquet.

This time around, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have an opportunity to clinch the title for France when he plays David Goffin in the tie's fourth rubber on Sunday. The top-ranked player from each nation will clash for the seventh time, with Tsonga leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-2. Three of their matches on the ATP World Tour have gone three sets, and the pair has split their two meetings on indoor hard courts. In their only match this season, Tsonga defeated Goffin in the Rotterdam final to claim the trophy at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

If Goffin manages to extend the final to a live fifth rubber, his compatriot Steve Darcis is scheduled to play Lucas Pouille

 

ATP University Reaches 1,000 Graduates

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 1:29am

The end of the ATP World Tour season is rewarding for those who qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. The top eight singles players and doubles tandems who earn the most points in the Emirates ATP Race To London guarantee their spot in the season finale at The O2. You can say they lead the tour class for the year.

But elsewhere in the same city, ATP University was just beginning. A group of 25 players graduated in this year’s London session across the river at the Marriott County Hall, bringing the total number of rising stars who have gone through the tutorial on life on the ATP World Tour to more than 1,000 graduates since the program’s inception.  

The weekend opened up with former World No. 2 and 1998 Nitto ATP Finals Champion Alex Corretja speaking to the group and offering advice based on his own journey. The players also listened and participated in presentations covering: Overview of the ATP, ATP Tournaments, Media Training, Nutrition, Player Relations, Social Media, Medical Services, ATP Communications, ATP Marketing, Rules and Officiating, Savings and Investments, Security, Communicated Threats, Anti-Corruption and Anti-Doping.

Outside of the classroom, the players enjoyed group dinners and a trip to the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday to watch the doubles and singles finals.

At the end of the three days of sessions, the ATP IQ test was won by 23-year-old Canadian Filip Peliwo, who claimed the coveted GoPro prize, with Matt Reid finishing in second place and Stefano Napolitano in third place.

The London 2017 graduates included Peliwo, Reid, Napolitano, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Attila Balazs, Salvatore Caruso, Steven Diez, Mao-Xin Gong, Yannick Hanfmann, Roman Jebavy, Enrique Lopez-Perez, Dino Marcan, Maximilian Marterer, Nikola Mektic, Hugo Nys, Sebastian Ofner, Vaclav Safranek, Mohamed Safwat, Antonio Sancic, Brayden Schnur, Max Schnur, Denis Shapovalov, Andrei Vasilevski, Di Wu and Ze Zhang.

India Builds Momentum With Challenger Success

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 1:20am

As players continue to rest and recharge following another exhilarating season, the focus is slowly shifting to 2018. The transition is underway, but there are still trophies to be won on the ATP Challenger Tour this week. The nation of India is making the most of its time in the spotlight.

The country is rapidly rising in the pro tennis landscape and their national programme has been surging in the final weeks of the season. With a pair of Challengers gaining in popularity and the nation's ATP World Tour event finding a new home in January, enthusiasm for the game is growing. 

Last week, home hope Yuki Bhambri prevailed at the $50,000 event in Pune and the two-week swing concludes on Saturday at the $100,000 tournament in Bengalaru. While 25-year-old Bhambri has already cemented himself as one of India's stars, its budding #NextGenATP - 20-year-old Sumit Nagal - is appearing in his first Challenger final in Bengalaru. Could the nation celebrate back-to-back champions on home soil? Bhambri hopes it is the start of an even bigger movement.

"It's always great to play at home," Bhambri told ATPWorldTour.com. "We travel so much and it's nice to compete at home and play in conditions that we are comfortable with. I've always said that India needs a few Challengers and Pune is the one that has been constant in the calendar. We have many players ranked in the 300s and 400s who are waiting to make the jump and every time we've had Challengers at home, Indians have done well. Hopefully we can have more higher-level Challengers over here."

#WhatADay Thank you Pune for a great show! 2500+ people witnessed the finals! Cheering up for their favourite players! In the end people of Pune were true winners. We will be back soon. Yes Pune It’s #AceOnIndia #KPITChallenger pic.twitter.com/qwSHVx2MCj

— KPIT Challenger Tour (@KPITChallenger) November 18, 2017

Already widely regarded as the Silicon Valley of India, boasting the highest number of software companies in the country, Pune is fast becoming its tennis mecca, with the professional circuit growing long roots in the city. The KPIT-MSLTA Challenger celebrated its fourth edition, with a pair of native sons contesting the final (Bhambri d. Ramanathan), and was a prelude to the relocated ATP World Tour 250 event in January. The Tata Open Maharashtra welcomes a new era of Indian tennis after moving from Chennai.

"I consider Pune to be like a second home," decorated Indian doubles star and former No. 3 Rohan Bopanna told ATPWorldTour.com. "I did my training here back in the day when I was 15 years old. There are lots of tennis enthusiasts in the city and I'm really happy that it will have a big tournament. It gives opportunities for youngsters to watch the top players as well."

"I'm looking forward to coming back for the ATP World Tour event," Bhambri added. "I've played for many years when it was in Chennai and I'm sure Pune will be a successful event. It's a little cooler than Chennai, so players will enjoy that. The stadium is great and it deserves these two events. There are a lot of top guys coming for the 250, so I hope it is just as successful as the Challenger."

Bhambri's victory in Pune marked his first ATP Challenger Tour title in two years, as he continues his comeback following an elbow injury that derailed his 2016 campaign. Also a quarter-finalist at the Citi Open in August, the New Delhi native carries significant momentum into the new year and is projected to rise to a year-end Top 120 position, as the highest-ranked Indian in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

"It's been a great year for me. I've played a lot of matches and a lot on the Challenger Tour, which helps in transitioning to the ATP events. Obviously Washington was a big moment and showed that I can win some matches on the ATP World Tour, and hopefully I can build on that next year."

Meanwhile, in Bengalaru, Nagal will face British 19-year-old Jay Clarke in Saturday's championship. It will be the first Challenger final for both players, who are the youngest in the Top 400 for their respective countries. Nagal is steadily mounting his assault on the Emirates ATP Rankings and is projected to rise at least 50 spots on Monday. A title would see him surpass his career-high of No. 261.

Tourism is an integral aspect of life in Karnataka - the state of Bengalaru - with the Mysore Palace and Ranganthaswamy Temple its chief landmark destinations. The proud culture of 1.3 billion people has been infused in its sporting identity and tennis is no exception. Fans packed the tournament all week, with Nagal stunning top seed Blaz Kavcic in the quarter-finals and routing Bhambri 6-4, 6-0 in the semis.

"Constantly having these Challengers in India helps," Bopanna added. "And the Indian players get better competing at home, since we don't have many tournaments. But it's nice to see the sponsors coming out and helping tennis as well. That's a big part in improving the game. Pune and Bengalaru have always had a big tennis culture and it's nice to see it continuing. 

"Bengalaru is having a Challenger for the very first time. I live there and even this time of year the weather is really nice. Hopefully we can have even more Challengers and the Indian players will benefit from that... Tennis is a sport where you travel a lot and are constantly going to many different countries, so with India on the map, it will just help tennis in general."

Doctor Federer Ready To Serve

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 2:29pm

Roger Federer has earned many honourifics over the years, from maestro to magician. Now, he can add doctor to that list.

The University of Basel awarded seven honourary doctorates on Friday, and Federer was one of the recipients.

Federer’s recognition came from the Faculty of Medicine, which bestowed the honour on the 36-year-old for his efforts to boost his home city and nation’s reputation. The Swiss was also lauded for his charitable efforts.

The Roger Federer Foundation is spreading sustainability in Southern Africa, where it helps children through support for a variety of educational projects for the disadvantaged. The foundation has reached more than 850,000 children in nearly 14 years.

A University of Basel press release states that Federer “claimed that the honourary doctorate makes him just as happy as a Grand Slam title”.

The doctorate adds yet another honour to the recognition Federer has received this month, as the No. 2-ranked player in the Emirates ATP Rankings received three awards in the 2017 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon (ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite, Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award and Comeback Player of the Year).

Tsonga Levels Davis Cup Final at 1-1

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 11:12am

FRANCE 1, BELGIUM 1
Lille, France (Hard Indoor)

France needed its top-ranked player to come through in the Davis Cup final on Friday, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga certainly did just that. With his country trailing Belgium 0-1, Tsonga upended ATP World Tour veteran Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in Lille, France to end the first day of play at Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Tsonga, who made a late push in the Emirates ATP Race To London by winning the European Open and reaching the final at the Erste Bank Open 500, beat Darcis in their first meeting in 15 years, which came on the ITF Pro Circuit.

It was an important victory for France, which would have faced a daunting 0-2 deficit if Darcis managed to find the magic that helped him send Belgium to the Davis Cup final with a fifth-rubber victory against Australia's Jordan Thompson in the event's semi-finals.

David Goffin, who advanced to the championship match at last week's Nitto ATP Finals, continued his run of good form to give Belgium the lead, defeating Lucas Pouille 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the tie's opening match. The 2015 finalists are now up 1-0, and within two points of clinching Belgium's first Davis Cup title.

The top-ranked Belgian, who is up to a career-high No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, had trailed Pouille 0-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but all of those losses came last year. The 26-year-old was even with Pouille at 5-5 in the first set, but Goffin took over from there. He is now 5-0 this season in Davis Cup singles action.

The French squad, under captain Yannick Noah, is attempting to claim a 10th title at the event. France is in the final for the first time since 2014, and last captured the title in 2001 against Australia.

Saturday's doubles rubber will be critical, as Richard Gasquet and Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert are scheduled to compete for France against Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore.

Goffin Goes For Glory With Belgium

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 11:36am

Fresh off his run to the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, David Goffin will look to lead Belgium to a historic Davis Cup victory this weekend against France in Lille.

Up to a career-high No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after his impressive run at The O2 last week, the 26-year-old Goffin will look to inspire his nation to a first Davis Cup title. Belgium finished runner-up in 1904 and more recently in 2015, when it was beaten on home soil by an Andy Murray-led Great Britain.

Goffin is joined on the away team by stalwart Steve Darcis, who won the decisive fifth rubber against Jordan Thompson in Belgium’s victory over Australia in September.

View Davis Cup Scores & Schedule

But the duo faces a tough task in France, represented by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille, Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and in front of a partisan 27,500-capacity crowd at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. The French fans will be out in force to see their team attempt to clinch the ITF men’s team trophy for the 10th time.

France is looking to reclaim the Davis Cup crown for the first time since 2001, having fallen in the final in 2014 (l. to Switzerland), 2010 (l. to Serbia) and 2002 (l. to Russia).

Pouille will open the tie for the host nation when he faces his good friend Goffin, before Tsonga takes on Darcis in the second of Friday’s singles rubbers.

“We’re friends and I’m sure we’ll be friends after the match as well,” Goffin said. “I’ve never beaten Lucas so I will try to find a solution to find my best tennis.

“I’m happy to start the first match again,” Goffin added. “I spoke with Steve beforehand and he preferred that I start and he played second. It won’t be easy, two years ago I played first in the final and I was tired. This time I will try to be a little more relaxed and play as good match as I can from the start.”

Gasquet steps in to replace Mahut alongside Herbert in the doubles for France on Saturday. They will face Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore, who is returning from knee surgery in September. “I haven’t played any tournaments since the operation (after the US Open), but I’ve worked hard and practice is going well,” said World No. 276 De Loore. “My knee feels 100 per cent and I feel 100 per cent going into this weekend.”

The reverse singles could decide proceedings on Sunday. 

Nitto ATP Finals Complete Record-Breaking Attendance Across 2017 ATP World Tour Season

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:11pm

The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals brought a spectacular close to a memorable 2017 season that saw more fans come out and watch the world’s best tennis players on the ATP World Tour than ever before. More than 4.5 million fans attended ATP World Tour events in 2017, an all-time record.

The season finale in London attracted a total attendance of 253,642, including six sold-out sessions, making it the ninth successive year that the tournament has broken the 250,000 attendance mark. Cumulative attendance since the tournament moved to London in 2009 stands at more than 2.3 million fans.

This year’s tournament saw a host of three set-matches across the eight days of competition in a tournament that pitted established stars such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer against some must-see newcomers at the season finale. The event culminated with Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov’s dramatic 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win over Belgium’s David Goffin in the final.

The 31-game final equaled the second most games played in a three-set final in the history of the tournament, with only John McEnroe’s win over Arthur Ashe in 1978 longer (34 games). Dimitrov became the first champion to win the title undefeated on his tournament debut since McEnroe in 1978. The Bulgarian collected a total of $2,549,000 in prize money and 1500 Emirates ATP Rankings points to finish the season at a career high No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Eleven out of the 15 singles matches at this year’s season-ending tournament went to three sets, the second most in the 48-year history of the tournament (12 in 1971).

In doubles, Henri Kontinen and John Peers defeated World No. 1 doubles team Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in the final to become the first team to successfully defend the season finale title since Bob and Mike Bryan in 2004 (Houston).

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, said: “This year’s tournament will go down as one of the most fiercely contested, with so many matches going the distance. The event saw some breakthrough performances from the likes of Jack Sock, David Goffin, and of course Grigor Dimitrov, in front of packed crowds at The O2, the world’s leading entertainment venue. Our thanks go to Nitto for their first year as valued title sponsor of our season finale. And on behalf of the ATP, we would also like to thank the fans that came out in such strong numbers to support our year-end event, and the Tour as a whole in 2017.”

The Nitto ATP Finals has a rich history dating back to the birth of the Masters in Tokyo in 1970. The tournament will be held at The O2 in London though 2020.

BY THE NUMBERS:
• 83,900,000 – number of impressions from social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and MyATP now on Vixlet.
• 42,900,000 – number of page impressions on ATP digital media platforms, including ATPWorldTour.com, NittoATPFinals.com, mobile apps, and MyATP now on Vixlet.
• 24,100,000 – number of video plays on ATP digital media platforms, including ATPWorldTour.com, NittoATPFinals.com, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
• 8,000,000 – amount of prize money (US$) on offer at the 2017 season finale.
• 4,573,152 – number of fans that attended ATP World Tour tournaments in 2017, an all-time record.
• 2,549,000 – amount of prize money (US$) that Grigor Dimitrov won as undefeated champion.
• 2,317,265 – cumulative attendance at the season-ending tournament since it moved to London in 2009.
• 775,000 – number of streams on Tennis TV, the ATP’s official live streaming service which relaunched in January 2017, with each viewer watching an average of 155 minutes per day
• 253, 642 – attendance at the 2017 tournament.
• 30,400 – amount of money (GBP) donated by ATP to help Unicef protect children in danger around the world (£100 per ace – 304 aces in total).
• 26 – number of screens in the arena used for show production around the matches.
• 6 – number of sold-out sessions at this year’s tournament.

Taming The Talent: Why Dimitrov & Vallverdu Are A Winning Match

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:10pm
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Immediately after capturing the Nitto ATP Finals title, Grigor Dimitrov stormed into the stands and embraced Daniel Vallverdu, his coach since midway through 2016 and the man who finally harnessed the potential of Dimitrov and channeled it into the most successful year of his career.

No one had ever doubted Dimitrov's talent. The Bulgarian was known worldwide for his must-see groundstrokes and his abundance of skills. But before he and Vallverdu paired up last year, Dimitrov almost had too much talent, too many options. He admits to being unclear about how to approach his game and on the best way forward for his tennis.

Enter Vallverdu, who has helped simplify Dimitrov's game and guided the Bulgarian to his best season yet.

Dimitrov will end the year at a career-high No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He also finished 2017 with a career-best four ATP World Tour titles (Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, Garanti Koza Sofia Open, Western & Southern Open and the Nitto ATP Finals), a full head of steam and unbridled emotions.

“[We] have a great connection. We see tennis the same way. We have that bond, and we really appreciate how the year has gone for us,” Dimitrov said.

Vallverdu is particularly proud of how his charge dealt with the pressure that comes with playing with so much at stake, including at the Nitto ATP Finals. Dimitrov, who beat David Goffin in the three-set final, composed himself well after the Belgian evened the match.

“Dimitrov battled through nerves, especially in the final, and found a way to win,” Vallverdu said. “When Dimitrov is in his zone, he obviously plays at a very high level but we've worked on getting him to compete even on those days when he's off. It became a question of attitude in the final, and Grigor answered that question.”

The Bulgarian demonstrated that positive attitude numerous times throughout the year, as his record reflects: He went 17-10 in tie-breaks, 8-5 against Top 10 players and 4-1 in finals.

Vallverdu has now worked with Dimitrov for more than a year, and the pair have a strong relationship in terms of communicating and taking each other's ideas into consideration. Building that relationship took time and effort, as the coach and player have very different personalities.

“In a year and a half, Dimitrov is just as receptive as the day we started,” Vallverdu said. “He's opened up to me over that time, sharing his opinions and his point of view on ambitions and motivations. For me, it's important to tell him why we do things a certain way, why we're out there training eight hours a day. I keep a strong focus on achieving short-term goals and reviewing performances after events.”

Another aspect of Dimitrov's game his coach has paid special attention to is his approach to matches and the game itself. Where Dimitrov is more passionate, Vallverdu is more pragmatic. The goal is to find a middle ground, where Dimitrov can combine his emotional self with a practical approach to produce a winning formula.

“Tennis is a lifestyle,” Vallverdu said. “The person you are off the court should be the same person who appears during crucial moments of a match. The player you see who is up 6-3, 2-0, might respond differently in a 5-5, 40/40 situation. During critical moments, that player might be rattled or intimidated. The player who confronts adversity the right way is the person who is accustomed to it, who has that mentality, that day-to-day routine to be comfortable under pressure. It's the time we put into that off the court that helps in those moments.”

Vallverdu's philosophy is clear: be level-headed on and off the court, ahead in a match or with the match on the line. Vallverdu also keeps outside distractions to a minimum and has built a sense of camaraderie within the team by participating in activities as a group.

“In regard to the team itself, we've made a concerted effort to keep the core circle as small as possible,” Vallverdu said. “We want to keep the focus on what's important and avoid unnecessary distractions. Of course, we do fun things off the court, but we do those things as a team. We try to keep things light and upbeat around Grigor, but we also keep our distance from people and things that might take his mind off of what's important. To play well, you can't let your head be somewhere else. Obviously, good results on the court make it easier to keep your mind on the game.”

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Vallverdu's message has struck a chord with Dimitrov, who stayed on course throughout the 2017 season while rediscovering his form. For Vallverdu, Dimitrov had never lost that form in the first place. It was more a matter of putting some of the pieces back together.

“He's always been a top-flight player but in tennis, there's more to it than performing well in tournaments,” Vallverdu said. “The daily dedication, the training and the drive to keep improving – all of that has to come together, and it has for Grigor.”

Heading into the Nitto ATP Finals, Team Dimitrov's goal wasn't necessarily to win the last tournament of the year. Dimitrov's stellar performance in London surpassed even the expectations of Vallverdu.

“It's a very emotional victory,” said the Venezuelan coach. “Dimitrov set high goals for himself. Perhaps we as a team went into London hoping for a good showing, but he had higher expectations.”

A good start to the year set the pace for what would be a strong finish. One particular match that set the tone for things to come took place in January at the Australian Open, when Dimitrov pushed eventual runner-up Rafael Nadal to five sets. For Dimitrov, it was difficult to cope with falling just short of his first Grand Slam final, but for his coach, it was an opportunity for growth.

Read & Watch: Dimitrov Captures Maiden Masters 1000 Title

“A loss like the one Grigor suffered to Nadal in Australia can hurt a player. Grigor is still a little hurt,” Vallverdu said. “He was so close to reaching his first final at a [Grand Slam], so it was difficult for him to accept that. Grigor was playing his best tennis and he still fell short. But we turned the loss into a positive. It helped us going into big matches later in the year. You saw that in London: Grigor started the tournament with a lot of pressure but he managed his nerves. So the loss to Nadal helped in that way.”

Nadal would factor into Dimitrov's development later in the year, when the Bulgarian player spent a week training with the current World No. 1 at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy in Mallorca. Vallverdu hoped his player would pick up a few pointers from the Spaniard, lessons that would hopefully translate to further success on the court. According to Vallverdu, the plan worked, as Dimitrov claimed his first title at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level a few weeks later in Cincinnati.

“Grigor could see how Rafa conducts himself on and off the court,” Vallverdu said. “I have a good relationship with Nadal and I figured his professionalism and attitude would rub off on Grigor. My student got to see not only Nadal as a player but also as a person in private, and his formula for success over the past 15 years. That opened Dimitrov's eyes a little bit.”

With 2017 in the books, Dimitrov and his team are faced with a new challenge for 2018: Maintaining Dimitrov's drive while also continuing to improve. Vallverdu admits there's still work to do if his charge is to continue his climb to the top.

“It will take hard work to continue evolving and to compete at the highest level while also consolidating our high ranking,” Vallverdu said. “The competition in 2018 will be more intense. A lot of top players will be returning from injuries. Luckily, complacency won't be an issue for Grigor. He has taken a liking to winning. Work hard off the court, compete on it, reap the rewards – this is what will keep him hungry.”

Dimitrov, The Morning After: 'I Never Lost The Faith'

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 9:56am
The morning after winning the Nitto ATP Finals, Grigor Dimitrov talks about what his biggest title means to him.

Soaring Swedes: Ymer On The Rise With Soderling

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:39am
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It started with a backhand down the line. Elias Ymer’s eyes grew wide as his opponent left a forehand short. Stepping inside the baseline, he launched his six-foot frame into the ball, sending it careening to the back wall. 

Ymer let out a deafening roar, echoed by his coach Robin Soderling, who raised his fists in approval. One minute later, the sell-out crowd at the Vendespace Arena joined the Swedish duo in celebrating the 21-year-old’s fourth ATP Challenger Tour title. Tournament organizers in Mouilleron-le-Captif stormed the court to set up the trophy presentation as Ymer and Soderling savoured the moment, reveling in their latest triumph.

For the elder Swede, the satisfaction in witnessing his young charge’s victory was made even sweeter by his disciplined execution throughout the week. Every point, regardless of the score and situation in the match, required the same level of aggression and energy. From falling down an early break to open Sunday’s final to launching a backhand down the line to set up championship point. That’s the approach the former World No. 4 took to the court throughout his 10-year career and that’s exactly what he expects from his pupil.

“A coach is very important, but I cannot just take anyone. He has to fit your personality and there has to be chemistry between you guys. I didn't find one like that until I contacted Robin,” Ymer told ATPWorldTour.com. “He's telling me all the time to be steady, but be aggressive. We’ve had a very good start.”

That start has been more than fruitful for the duo, since they first teamed up in July. The #NextGenATP has since posted an 18-7 record on the ATP Challenger Tour, including titles on the clay of Cordenons, Italy, and the indoor hard courts of Mouilleron-le-Captif, France, on Sunday. His successful streak has seen him vault nearly 150 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings to No. 146. 

“He has a good chance to go all the way,” Soderling said about his countryman. “He's won Challengers before, but when he plays at his top level, he can not only win these events, but big matches on the ATP World Tour.”

Proud of you @eliasymer.

London A Case Of 'Before And After' For Zverev

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:03am

As someone who has witnessed first-hand Alexander Zverev's growth in the span of a year, coach Juan Carlos Ferrero has no doubt that his pupil is experiencing a breakthrough moment at this year's Nitto ATP Finals. Sunday's opening round win over Marin Cilic is just a preview of what's to come from the 20-year-old, both this week and beyond, according to the Spaniard.

"What we are witnessing is a before and after for Sascha," said Ferrero. The former Emirates ATP Rankings No.1 came on board as a coach alongside the #NextGenATP star's father, Alexander Sr., over the summer. "His experience this week in London will come in handy; he's learning how to handle himself during these types of events. That's essential to his growth."

Zverev showed signs of what was to come back in January when the German, ranked No. 24 at the time, pushed eventual finalist Rafael Nadal to five sets in a losing effort in the third round of the Australian Open. A few weeks later, Zverev claimed his first championship of the year by outlasting the likes of Jeremy Chardy, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet en route to the Open Sud de France title in Montpellier. His breakthrough into the Emirates ATP Rankings Top 10 came at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Rome, where Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final, becoming the youngest Masters 1000 titlist since a 19-year-old Djokovic won the Miami Open presented by Itau in 2007.

 Watch Full Match Replays

Despite the accolades, Ferrero admits that Zverev has felt the pressure that has come with his meteoric rise. Ferrero has done his best to help Sascha manage his success and the expectations that come with it. 

"It has been a very important year for him," Ferrero said. "These accolades have all come very quickly, and that's something that he has struggled to handle at times. Part of my goal is to keep him balanced and not to lash out when things don't go his way. That will improve over time, but I'm trying to accelerate that process. He has to keep growing, keep gaining experience and this week in London is a good opportunity to do just that."

Ferrero's own mentor, Samuel Lopez, is also present in London as current coach of Pablo Carreno Busta, who narrowly missed out on qualifying but will play two matches as an alternate. Lopez is equally impressed with Zverev's improvement as a player as he is with Ferrero's handling and guidance of the young talent.

"They say it's harder to get to the top than it is to stay there," Lopez said. "You have to have the right set of weapons to perform consistently at the highest level; above all, you need to have a competitive edge and have what it takes to play under adverse situations. Sascha has that along with natural qualities so he's here to stay. Juan Carlos is very demanding; he's a professional and that will rub off on Sascha."

For Thiem, It All Changed On The Second Serve

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 9:39am

The conversation about winning and losing tennis matches begins with the second serve.

Dominic Thiem outlasted Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 at the Nitto ATP Finals Wednesday evening with this key battleground being the crucible of the final outcome.

The first serve always reigns supreme in our sport, delivering a healthy win percentage because of its power, freedom, and accuracy. But as soon as it’s missed, the gateway to breaking serve becomes illuminated. The first serve is essentially a red light to collecting return points. The second serve is as green as it gets.

At 4-4, 15/15 in the third set, as the match clock ticked over to two hours on the dot, Carreno Busta chased a first serve down the middle to Thiem’s backhand. It clipped the net and went long, and in so doing, the point flipped from red to green for Thiem.

Carreno Busta kicked in an 83 mph second serve, which Thiem thumped with a forehand return straight to Carreno Busta’s backhand. Thiem followed it up with a leaping run-around forehand winner back behind to the backhand. The match essentially ended right there.

It was the gateway point to victory, as Thiem would win seven of the next nine points to seal a very tight encounter. Both players had a winning record behind their first serves, and both players had a losing record behind their second serves. That’s more common in our sport than we realise.

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The three main reasons second serves get beat up so much are because of the predicability of their location to the backhand return, the reduced speed at which they are hit, and the high volume that come back in the court, instantly putting the server on defence.

Carreno Busta’s fastest serve for the match was 122 mph, but his average second serve speed was 83 mph – just 68 per cent of his most powerful delivery. This dynamic allowed Thiem to mentally switch from defence to offence during the match as soon as the first serve was missed. The relationship between the speed of each serve, and the corresponding return speed, dictated who had first rights to enjoy offence.

Carreno Busta’s average first serve speed for the match was 109 mph, forcing Thiem to average 59 mph with his first serve returns – putting Thiem’s return speed at 54 per cent of the shot coming at him.

But how the weather changed when the first serve was missed.

Carreno Busta averaged 83 mph on his second serve, therefore enabling Thiem to average 80 mph with his second serve return – approximately a one-to-one ratio that let Thiem instantly wrestle control of the point.

Normally players step in closer to the baseline to return second serves, but not so with Thiem here in London. In this match, his average return hit point against a first serve was half a metre behind the baseline, but he then migrated back 1.7 metres behind the baseline to return second serves.

This was actually an improvement for Thiem from his opening-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov, where the Austrian averaged standing an astounding 3.3 metres behind the service line to hit second serves. That strategy works brilliantly on clay, but not so much on indoor hard.

Thiem essentially wants the ball to drop lower into his strike zone to crush it, rather than take the ball earlier and higher to get the ball back quicker to the server. Against Carreno Busta, Thiem’s average contact point against first serves was 1.31m, but that dropped to 1.19m against second serves.

The average net clearance of Thiem’s first serve returns was 1.16m, but that dropped to 1.06m against second serves as Thiem significantly upped his average return speed from 59 mph to 80 mph.

With Thiem serving at 5-4 in the third set, he made a first serve on the opening point and won it. Two second serve points followed, and he lost them both. He won the last three points of the match behind three first serves. Putting a first serve in the court at crunch time mattered a lot in this match, and then some.

Peers/Kontinen Beat Klaasen/Ram, Now Prepare For SFs

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 9:30am

Defending champions Henri Kontinen and John Peers completed Group Eltingh-Haarhuis round-robin play with a 2-1 record on Thursday.

Second sedes Kontinen and Peers fought back to beat alternates Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 over 59 minutes in a repeat of last year’s title match at The O2 in London.

Klaasen and Ram replaced sixth seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut after Herbert withdrew on Thursday morning due to lower back pain.

There were two breaks of serve in each of the first two sets, before Kontinen and Peers won eight of the first 11 points in the Match tie-break en route to their 40th match win of the season.

The Finnish-Australian pair, now 40-17 on the season that includes four titles – including the Australian Open (d. Bryans) and the Shanghai Rolex Masters (d. Kubot/Melo) – will now face the top team from Group Woodbridge/Woodforde on Saturday night in the semi-finals.

 Watch Full Match Replays

PRANK! Harrison Tricks Dimitrov In Press

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 8:36am
Ryan Harrison plays a prank on Grigor Dimitrov as he tees him up for an extremely awkward interview after his win at the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday afternoon.

Querrey Previews Federer Vs Cilic Clash Nitto ATP Finals 2017

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 7:41am
Sam Querrey gives his thoughts on the match-up between Roger Federer and Marin Cilic on Thursday afternoon at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Highlights: Dimitrov Seals SF Berth, Thiem Wins

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 8:09pm
Watch highlights as Grigor Dimitrov cruises past David Goffin to earn his spot in the semi-finals and Dominic Thiem keeps his chances alive with a win over Pablo Carreno Busta. Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo and Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares also won. Photo Credit: Getty Images. Watch live tennis at TennisTV.com.

Thiem Tames Carreno Busta In Three

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 7:28pm

Dominic Thiem jolted his chances of making his first appearance in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals. The fourth seed collected his first win of the week on Wednesday, beating Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 at The O2.

The World No. 4 improved to 1-1 in London and will now play for a chance to reach the semi-finals on Friday against seventh seed David Goffin, who is also 1-1 after losing to Grigor Dimitrov 6-0, 6-2 earlier Wednesday. Dimitrov, 2-0, has won Group Pete Sampras and will play in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Thiem trails his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Goffin 3-6, and the Belgian won both of their matches earlier this season, including on the hard courts of the Australian Open.

“I'm very happy and pleased that I get the chance to play for the semi-finals on Friday,” Thiem said. “We had some big, important matches in the past, also in the deep rounds of Slams. This one's going to be another one. We know each other very well. He played a very good match here, one very bad match. I don't know what to expect. I'm hoping that it's going to be a tough match, and I'm trying everything to go through to the semis.”

Thiem had been 1-14 against Top 10 players on hard courts. But his powerful groundstrokes pushed the World No. 10 Carreno Busta enough for the Austrian to record his second career win at the Nitto ATP Finals. Thiem went 1-2 last year during his debut.

Read More: Win and They're In: Zverev & Sock Play For SF Spot

Carreno Busta is an alternate and is taking the place of countryman Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the season finale on Monday due to an injury to his right knee. But Carreno Busta looked very much like a player who deserved to be at the Nitto ATP Finals.

In the opening set, Thiem broke twice to take the early lead, and it looked as if fans would see another quick match on Wednesday. Thiem had never lost to Carreno Busta, owning a 4-0 record in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including a straight-sets win in February during the final of the clay-court Rio Open presented by Claro.

But the 26-year-old debutant from Spain stole momentum early in the second, breaking in the third game and then again in the ninth game with some old-school serving and volleying to even the match. He pumped his fist and shouted "¡Vamos!" at his box. All of a sudden, Carreno Busta was one set away from joining rare company.

Four alternates had played on the main stage since the Nitto ATP Finals moved to London in 2009. But only one had won a match. Serbian Janko Tipsarevic shocked World No. 1 and countryman Novak Djokovic in 2011.

Watch Classic Moment: Tipsarevic Stuns Djokovic In 2011 London Finale

In a back-and-forth third set, though, Thiem was the last to grab momentum, breaking for a 5-4 lead and serving out the match. After his 12th ace on match point, he filled his cheeks and let out a long exhale – his semi-final hopes were still alive.

 Watch Full Match Replays

Federer Bids For Unbeaten Group Finish Against Cilic

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 6:22pm

Typically a picture of calm, regardless of the score, Roger Federer still grapples with much of the same internal dialogues as his peers at crunch times on court. The 36-year-old conceals it better than most, but during a three-set triumph over Alexander Zverev at the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday, he admits he let it bubble to the surface at times.

Having already qualified for his 14th semi-final in 15 appearances at the season finale, there is less chance of much frustration showing in his final round-robin clash against No. 7 seed Marin Cilic on Thursday. Even a man playing as freely and confidently as Federer in 2017, though, needs to give himself a pep talk in the heat of battle.

“In some ways I feel like it's been a season where playing freely has served me well. In the bigger moments, I try to smile on the inside and think, you know, like it's all good,” Federer said after his victory over Zverev. “I was getting a bit frustrated with some of the shot selections at 5-1 in the third. I'm talking to myself, saying, ‘What am I even getting upset about? I'm leading 5-1 in the third. I'm one game away from qualifying in the semis. You want to get upset? There's zero reason for that. I think it's important sometimes to remind myself that it's all good.” 

 Watch Full Match Replays

It could have been a very different scenario heading into Federer’s and Cilic’s final round-robin clash had the Croat not let slip a 3-1 advantage in the third set against Zverev, and a 3-0 third-set lead against Jack Sock. If Federer was airing his grievances with his play during a win over Zverev, Cilic’s frustrations in two narrow defeats would be understandable.

“Yeah, it is frustrating, absolutely,” Cilic said. “Definitely disappointing in both matches in that third set, being in a good position, putting myself in a good position. But, yeah, unfortunately I didn't close it… It's part of the sport, so I’m just going to try to regroup, get a little bit refreshed, try to play another good match.

“What makes the difference, I think with these top guys, is if you don't take the chances, it's one point here and there. I’m just going to try to be a little bit more stubborn in my preparations maybe for the next match, and hopefully next year.”

View FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup for the Group Boris Becker matches to be played Thursday at the Nitto ATP Finals and vote for who you think will win!
 Federer vs. Cilic | Zverev vs. Sock

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Cilic has the aggressive all-round game to beat Federer, as he showed en route to his US Open title in 2014 but the Swiss is playing with a renewed confidence in 2017 as was evidenced in their Wimbledon final. There a blistered and emotional Cilic had no answers, salvaging just eight games in a lop-sided decider. His US Open upset remains the only time in eight FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes he has triumphed.

Cilic rebounded from his Wimbledon heartache to reach semi-finals in Tokyo, Shanghai and Basel leading into his fourth appearance at The O2. Federer, too, brings solid form into the tail end of the season with titles in Shanghai and an eighth Basel triumph, before his withdrawal from the Paris Rolex Masters on the eve of the Nitto ATP Finals to rest his body. 

His withdrawal from Paris ended any hope of supplanting Rafael Nadal as the year-end No. 1, but as he said following his victory over Sock, the ranking is just a bonus at this stage of his career.
“In some ways I'm happy he clinched it because he deserves it,” Federer said of Nadal finishing the year at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. “And like this, I can focus on playing the tournament, and not having to talk about that at the same time.” With no more talk of No. 1, playing freely is clearly serving him well at The O2 this year. 

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Highlights: Murray/Soares Keep Tournament Hopes Alive

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:46pm
Watch highlights as Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeat Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers on Wednesday at the Nitto ATP Finals. Watch live matches on TennisTV.com

Murray/Soares Satisfied With Performance Against Dodig/Granollers

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:44pm
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares discuss their win over over Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers and the importance of their next match at the Nitto ATP Finals.