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Updated: 4 days 3 hours ago

Spain On A Roll As Carballes Baena Adds Manerbio Crown

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 5:01pm

Spanish tennis is enjoying a resurgent 2017 campaign and the months of July and August are proving to be quite fruitful on both the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour.

Rafael Nadal's return to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, David Ferrer's run to the semi-finals at the Western & Southern Open and Roberto Bautista Agut's triumph in Winston-Salem have grabbed the headlines. But what Spaniards are accomplishing on the Challenger circuit is just as remarkable.

Granada native Roberto Carballes Baena notched his second title in five weeks on Sunday, lifting the trophy in Manerbio, Italy. The 24 year old defeated countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in two hours and 23 minutes. He is soaring towards a return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, rising more than 50 spots in one month to No. 109.

"He told me that hard work always pays off," Carballes Baena said of coach Jose Maria Arenas' advice during the trophy ceremony. "For now he is right and we hope that will continue."

Carballes Baena has reached three finals in recent weeks, claiming crowns in Cortina and Manerbio, while finishing runner-up to Elias Ymer in Cordenons. His run of dominance is reflective of a Spanish trend, with six winners in seven weeks. #NextGenATP stars Jaume Munar and Nicola Kuhn captured maiden titles in Segovia, Spain and Braunschweig, Germany, respectively, while former World No. 23 Garcia-Lopez and Ricardo Ojeda Lara also lifted trophies.

Seeded fifth, Carballes Baena and sixth seed Garcia-Lopez join Munar and Tommy Robredo as Spaniards in next week's Challenger in Como, Italy. Garcia-Lopez and Munar meet in an all-Spanish first round encounter while Carballes Baena opens against surging Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime. Defending champion Kenny de Schepper returns as the eighth seed.

NextGenATP Head To New York 2017

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 4:15pm
The Emirates ATP Race To Milan heats up in New York this week. Meet some of the #NextGenATP players in contention to qualify for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

Emirates ATP Race To Milan Heats Up In New York

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 3:16pm

The Emirates ATP Race To Milan is heating up this week in New York as the season's final Grand Slam, the US Open, begins on Monday.

Race leader Alexander Zverev of Germany has already qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 7-11 November in Milan. But six more automatic-entry spots remain in the Race, which will determine seven of the eight players who compete at the 21-and-under event. The eighth player will be chosen by wild card.

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#NextGenATP Karen Khachanov is currently in second place in the Race. Khachanov, who reached the semi-finals in Halle before falling to eventual champion Roger Federer, is the 25th seed at the US Open and faces Chinese Taipei veteran Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round. The 21 year old will try improve upon his second-round showing last year.

“I think it's great for tennis when Next Gen guys have successful tournaments, and we look to each other and I think we motivate each other and encourage each other,” Khachanov said.

See Who's Pushing Zverev, Khachanov In The Emirates ATP Race To Milan

About a dozen #NextGenATP players, including Khachanov, took part in an ATP World Tour photo and video shoot in Manhattan on Friday evening at the InterContinental New York Barclay.

The players talked about what qualifying for the invite-only event would mean to them and what they think of the new rules that will be trialled in Milan, including a shot clock in between points and a shorter format of play – first to four game sets (tie-break at 3-all) and best-of-five sets, with no-ad scoring.

“I think it's going to be quite exciting and interesting. But on the other side it's something unusual. You have to try to adapt and just enjoy. I think it's going to be a nice and fun event,” Khachanov said.

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They also had some fun, playing with their favourite emoji and checking out the Penthouse suite view.

#NextGenATP American Jared Donaldson also attended the shoot. The 20 year old climbed to third in the Race last week, jumping five spots after his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final run at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (l. to Isner).

Donaldson had his best Grand Slam run a year ago in New York, upsetting World No. 14 David Goffin in the first round before falling to Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Donaldson will open against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

“Every player wants to make it. It's a really tough battle here down the stretch. There are honestly 15-20 players who are worthwhile and deserving of making it,” Donaldson said of the Next Gen ATP Finals. “It's going to be a tough. I just have to make sure that I go in and play well week after week and keep focusing on improving my game and I feel if I do that I have a good chance of making it.”

Other notable #NextGenATP first-round match-ups at the US Open (#NextGenATP player is listed first): 

No. 1 Nadal Back In New York: "It Is Always Special To Play Here"

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 3:04pm
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If history is any indication of what's to come at the US Open, Rafael Nadal will be quite pleased with his fortnight in New York.

The last time the top seed entered the last Grand Slam of the year as World No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings was in 2010. The result? His first of two US Open titles, culminating in a four-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the final.

This time, Nadal returns to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center ready to embark on his 142nd and 143rd weeks at No. 1. Ahead of his 13th appearance in the Big Apple, the Spaniard says he is simply happy to be back and has one objective on his mind: take it one match at a time, beginning with Dusan Lajovic on Tuesday.

"I'm just excited to start the US Open," Nadal said during Media Day on Saturday. "It doesn't matter if you are seeded No. 1 or No.  20. For me it is always special to play here in a tournament that I've had success, a tournament that I enjoyed a lot of good matches, and a tournament that normally I have a great connection with the crowd."

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Nadal is looking to build on a quarter-final finish at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, including victories over Top 30 players Richard Gasquet and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He opens against Lajovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday. He claimed the lone encounter in their FedExATP Head2Head, a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 rout at Roland Garros in 2014.

Should Nadal extend his perfect mark in the US Open first round to 13-0, he would face either #NextGenATP home hope Tommy Paul or Taro Daniel. A potential blockbuster quarter-final affair against Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov is on the horizon, as well as a semi-final clash against longtime rival Roger Federer. It would be their first encounter in New York.

Nadal says it would be an epic meeting against five-time champion Federer, but one he would hope to avoid.

"It sounds very good, but the real thing is I'd prefer to play against another player, an easier one if it's possible," Nadal said, smiling. "Of course I understand that it is going to be great for our history. It is true that we played in all Grand Slam finals. But anyway, meeting him here in semi-finals, if that happens that will be something great and amazing."

Nadal's opener against Lajovic will be the third match of the day session on Tuesday, on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Newfound Confidence Carries Querrey

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 11:09am

Sam Querrey likes to keep things simple.

Case in point: His goals, or rather, his goal, for this season at the start of the year. Querrey, an 11-year ATP World Tour veteran, wanted to qualify for the year-end tournament. No, not that year-end tournament, the Nitto ATP Finals, the prestigious event that welcomes only the Top 8 players in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

Querrey wanted to make the Rolex Paris Masters, the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament that's held two weeks before the Nitto ATP Finals. Querrey had missed Paris the past two years, despite a ranking good enough to qualify.

“The last two years I've just been so tired and grumpy I've pulled out of the last two tournaments of the year. So literally my only goal at the beginning of the year was to make it to the Paris Masters,” Querrey exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com.

If he's up for it, Querrey will again easily qualify for the Paris Masters, and he might also make the Nitto ATP Finals. The 29 year old is currently 10th in the Emirates ATP Race To London, and with two players ahead of him – Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – ending their seasons early to due injury, Querrey is in even better position to make his debut at The O2 from from 12-19 November.

See Who's Leading The Emirates ATP Race To London

“It's exciting. There's still a lot of tennis left in the year. You don't want to get too excited yet but it's a great position to be in and hopefully I can continue playing well throughout the year and give myself a shot to make it toward the end,” Querrey said.

“It's not really something that was on my radar the last few years but to possibly be in a position to get there would be a really cool thing.”

Querrey is enjoying a resurgence during his 12th season on the ATP World Tour. He's just the latest player to turn in his best year as he trends closer to 30 than 20.

The American is on pace to earn his highest year-end position in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He's had his best Grand Slam run by reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, and he's already won two ATP World Tour titles – Acapulco (d. Nadal) and Los Cabos (d. Kokkinakis) – equalling his trophy haul from the past six seasons combined.

Improved training and nutrition have helped Querrey and scores of other players, but the biggest change for Querrey has been inside his head. When Craig Boynton started coaching him about two years ago, he knew the American had the skills to rest inside the Top 20 or Top 10. But he needed to convince his player of that as well.

“Most of the tennis was there, it was just more his belief in himself,” Boynton exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com.

Querrey has long had the weapons. The 6'6” right-hander, whose father was drafted by Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers, has a 1-2 serve-forehand combination among the best in tennis, and his improving return of serve allows him to break enough.

But tennis can be a challenging and lonely sport, one where belief and confidence can matter more than power and forehands. You can have the best serve in the world, but it does you little good if at 6-5 in the fifth you're afraid to go for it.

“You've got to identify what is holding someone back, and with a lot of these tennis players, it's fear of losing,” Boynton said. “But everyone's going to lose. There's no one who goes undefeated throughout the season. So if you don't fear losing, then you can free up in the big moments.”

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During the past two seasons, Boynton has seen Querrey play more relaxed. He saw it last year when Querrey ended an eight-match losing streak against World No. 1s and beat Novak Djokovic to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon.

He's also seen it this year, when Querrey beat Rafael Nadal to take the Abierto Mexicano Telcel title in Acapulco and when the American gained another win over a World No. 1, this time beating Andy Murray in five sets at Wimbledon to reach his maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

Before January, Querrey had a 14-51 record against Top 10 players, and if his match was pushed to a deciding set, he stood a 50-50 chance of winning.

Learn More In Querrey's FedEx ATP Win/Loss Section

But this season, Querrey has gone 4-4 against the Top 10 – fifth best on tour – and has won about 70 per cent (11-5) of his deciding sets.

“It's not like I'm necessarily doing anything different as far as practice and things like that. But I feel like I've done a little better job this year of fighting through some matches where I haven't played my best. A lot of times that kind of confidence of winning those matches will carry over to when you play those bigger names,” Querrey said.

Boynton also sees Querrey growing in belief in more subtle ways – in how Querrey talks with reporters and in how he walks around the grounds of a tournament. The self-belief is there, and it's only building.

“The proudest moment in Wimbledon was just looking into his eyes and him starting to think, 'Hey, you know, I think I'm pretty good. I can do this'. That was really goal No. 1 for me starting out with Sam, for him to really realise how good he is and how good he can be,” Boynton said. “We don't talk about it. I can see it. I've said to him for the last 12 months, I truly believe that his best tennis is in front of him.”

This week, Querrey heads to the US Open, where he will have his highest seeding, No. 17, and will go for another career-first: a home Grand Slam breakthrough.

He has reached the fourth round twice in New York (2008, 2010) but never the quarter-finals. Seven years ago, he fell in the fourth round to Stan Wawrinka in the type of match that used to trouble Querrey: a five-set mental battle. He lost 7-6(9), 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 after four hours and 28 minutes.

But this is a new year and a new week for Querrey, who knows better than most how quickly things can change – and improve – the later you go in your career, and the more belief you possess.

“Confidence is huge...There have been times when I've been ranked 30 or 40 and I felt like a Top 20 player and there have been times when I've been ranked 30 or 40 and I've felt like I'm 75 in the world,” Querrey said.

“But right now I definitely feel like I belong in the Top 20. I feel like I'm playing at a high level. I feel like the way I'm playing and the aggressive mindset that I have is really helping my game and hopefully I can stay in the Top 20 for a long time.”

Highlights Bautista Agut Beats Dzumhur For 2017 Winston-Salem Open Title

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 10:50am
Watch highlights of Roberto Bautista Agut beating Damir Dzumhur to win the Winston-Salem Open final on Saturday. Getty Images photo.

Read & Watch: RBA Goes All The Way

Sat, 08/26/2017 - 6:51pm

Roberto Bautista Agut captured his second title of the season on Saturday, beating first-time finalist Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzogovina 6-4, 6-4 to win the Winston-Salem Open crown.

The Spaniard fell in the Winston-Salem final last year to compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, but he came through on the big stage on Saturday to match his career-best season in titles won.

"I'm so happy; It's been a great week. I didn't drop a set and I played very good tennis,” the Spaniard said. "It was a tough final. He's playing very smart, he changes the rhythm and plays very tricky. I was very focused and very solid.

"After he broke back in both sets I needed to manage the nerves, stay calm and be focused. I was a bit nervous after losing my serve but I managed it well.”

Bautista Agut, who won the Aircel Chennai Open in January (d. Medvedev), also hoisted two trophies last year and in 2014. He has now won six career crowns.

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The Spaniard raced to early leads in both sets before Dzumhur climbed back. Bautista Agut led 4-1 in the first and 3-1 in the second before the scrappy Dzumhur rallied. But Bautista Agut, who didn't drop a set all tournament, was too solid for Dzumhur. The Spaniard clinched the title when the Bosnian lifted a forehand long on Bautista Agut's first match point. Bautista Agut will receive 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $89,280 in prize money.

"I wanted to make the final and get the title, so it's been a fantastic week for me. It's been a great year for me," Bautista Agut said.

"I feel good playing here on this court. It's a great tournament and great preparation for the US Open. I have to enjoy the title but then get focused for my first match Tuesday.”

Dzumhur was the first player from Bosnia-Herzogovina to reach an ATP World Tour final. Saturday's final was his 11th match in the past 12 days. He played in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Santo Domingo last weekend (l. to Estrella Burgos).

Dzumhur will receive 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $50,830 in prize money.

“Best week for me so far. I really enjoyed playing in Winston-Salem. It was an unexpected good week for me and definitely one that I will always remember,” Dzumhur said.

“I fell behind 0-3 in both sets and it’s not easy to win sets from there, especially against a player like Roberto, who didn’t drop a set all week... He played the big points so well, especially at 4-all in both sets. I made some good points but he hit some great passing shots. I just didn’t have a lot of chances in those two games.

“He was a little better today. My legs were giving up in a few points, but I was trying to fight till the end.”

US Open 2017

Sat, 08/26/2017 - 6:34pm

Zverev Eyes Deep Run At US Open

Sat, 08/26/2017 - 6:25pm

At 20, is Alexander Zverev ready to become a Grand Slam champion? Perhaps so. The next two weeks at Flushing Meadows will tell for sure.

Despite not reaching a Grand Slam quarter-final, Zverev will start among the tournament’s favourites and is the highest seed in the bottom half of the draw following the withdrawal of No. 2 Andy Murray. Two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles this season – Rome and Montreal – are proof that he has what it takes to win the big titles. A Grand Slam crown is the next step.

In New York, the fourth seed is attempting to become the second-youngest US Open champion in the Open Era behind 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1990.

“I played great on the hard courts so far, won two tournaments, Montreal and Washington back to back, which are two huge events,” Zverev said Saturday. “I felt like I could compete and beat anyone during this period of time.

“I think [the Masters 1000 titles] really showed me that I can beat those [top-ranked] guys on a daily basis. I mean, I have won two Masters events this year, which is something new I think the tour hasn't seen for quite a long time apart from the ‘Big 4’. You know, everything is starting to come together and hopefully can continue.”

Zverev opens his campaign against Barbados’ Darian King. He is seeded to meet Kevin Anderson in the third round, Jack Sock in the fourth round and John Isner in the quarter-finals.

Zverev began the year at No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Rankings but has surged to No. 6, enough to earn him the fourth seed with the injured Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka not entered into the draw. Asked if his progress had exceeded expectations, Zverev said: “You probably expect me to be super surprised. Obviously I wouldn't have expected it, but I know what kind of work I have done in the off-season, what kind of work I have done throughout the season, and that me and my whole team are all working towards something like this, and something hopefully even bigger.

“Obviously I'm super happy the way things are going, but I'm not going to be satisfied with just being the No. 4 seed. Doesn't really matter at the end of the tournament what seed you were. It only matters how far you went and what matches you have won.”

The US Open begins Monday.