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Updated: 18 min 24 sec ago

Wawrinka Survives Scare In R1 Of Title Defence

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 1:43pm

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka completed a stirring comeback in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday, battling past Lukas Rosol 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Wawrinka and Rosol were facing each other again just four days after they played in the Geneva semi-finals, when the Swiss prevailed before going on to win his first ATP World Tour title on home soil with victory over Marin Cilic in the final.

“Really tough match today,” Wawrinka said. “He was playing really well. He was going for his shot. (He) didn't miss much until he started to get a little bit tired in the fourth set and fifth. But before that I was always under pressure.”

The 30-year-old Rosol is no stranger to pulling off huge Grand Slam upsets, having shocked Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon second round in 2012. He was looking to make Wawrinka the first defending men's singles champion to lose in the first round at Roland Garros, but the Swiss fought back hard to claim victory in three hours and 11 minutes on a cold and wet day in Paris.

“I didn't think about the Rafa match in Wimbledon. It's totally different. I just focused on today,” Rosol said. “It was a tough match. I had a chance in the fourth set, two break points to break his serve and to feel more comfortable on the court after, but I didn't make it.”

The start of play was delayed for more than three hours due to rain. In their third meeting this year, the Czech broke for a 3-2 lead before going on to seal the opener against Wawrinka. Wawrinka looked to be back on track when he raced through the second set to level the match, but Rosol again took an early lead in the third set and did not allow Wawrinka back in contention as he assumed a two-sets-to-one lead.

Wawrinka was denied an early break in the fourth set as Rosol saved four break points to level at 1-1. But the Swiss made a decisive move in the eighth game, breaking before serving out to send the match into a deciding set. Wawrinka carried his momentum into the fifth, breaking in the third game and going on to close out the win.

The 31-year-old Wawrinka won his second Grand Slam championship in Paris last year, when he denied Novak Djokovic the career Grand Slam by beating the Serb in an enthralling display in the final.

Eighth seed Milos Raonic made a strong start to his campaign, dismissing Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(5). The Canadian hit 41 winners and converted four of his 15 break points to defeat Tipsarevic, who was playing just his second tour-level match since the 2015 US Open after being sidelined through foot and knee injuries.

The 25-year-old Raonic was forced to miss Roland Garros last year, needing foot surgery, but the year before had reached the quarter-finals (l. to Djokovic).

“I was happy I was quite efficient on court. I was able to move on and really give myself something to prepare for in the next match and to be better,” said Raonic. “I'm in good shape. I feel physically strong and I have no nagging issues to start the tournament, which is nice.”

Tipsarevic was playing just his fourth tournament back after missing eight months due to right knee patella tendonitis. He had previously missed 18 months due to persistent foot issues that ultimately required two surgeries to remove a benign tumor on his left heel.

“I don’t feel I’m completely fit. This preseason was more about staying pain-free than really focusing on getting 100 per cent ready for the clay-court swing,” said Tipsarevic. “But four months ago I was in a hospital having surgery, so I’m happy with where I am now.”

French favorite Jeremy Chardy also moved into the second round. The 30th seed advanced past Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 29 year old will face Czech Republic lucky loser Adam Pavlasek in the second round. Pavlasek beat Spaniard qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

"When you come here you want to play really well, especially when you're preparing for it,” said Chardy. “I feel great physically. I feel that I'm playing well. I played a pretty robust match today…It was a dangerous match, and I'm happy that I came out this way and full of energy for the next round."

American Jack Sock prevailed in the final set against Robin Haase 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-2. The first-round match was tied at two sets apiece before rain cancelled play on Sunday. Sock, the 23rd seed, made the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. In the second round, the 23 year old will face German Dustin Brown, who outlasted Dudi Sela 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.

Kiefer Talks Djokovic And Wawrinka At Roland Garros 2016

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 1:21pm
Former World No. 1 Nicolas Kiefer, who reached the 2004 Roland Garros fourth round, provides his views on Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and the fortnight ahead in Paris.

Gimelstob Assesses Roland Garros 2016 Draw

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:53am
Justin Gimelstob assesses the Roland Garros singles draw and the chances of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal, plus other players who might make an impression.

Taylor Fritz Mum Discusses His Development

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 9:52am
Kathy May, Taylor Fritz's mother and a former World No. 10, talks about her son's development to the ATP World Tour. Fritz is making his Roland Garros debut this week.

Kyrgios Advances At Roland Garros 2016

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 8:24am
NextGen star Nick Kyrgios reaches the second round at Roland Garros on Sunday with a straight-sets win over Marco Cecchinato. Video courtesy of RolandGarros.com. Photo: Getty Images

Djokovic Celebrates 200 Weeks At No. 1 In Emirates ATP Rankings

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 5:53am

Novak Djokovic is today celebrating his 200th week at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Only four players since 1973 have been ranked more weeks at the summit of men's professional tennis, including Jimmy Connors (268), Ivan Lendl (270), Pete Sampras (286) and record-holder Roger Federer (302). Djokovic is also one week shy of 100 consecutive weeks at No. 1.

ALL-TIME WEEKS AT NO. 1

No. 1 Player Total Weeks Longest Streak Roger Federer 302 237 weeks Pete Sampras 286 102 weeks Ivan Lendl 270 157 weeks Jimmy Connors 268 160 weeks Novak Djokovic 200 99 weeks

MOVING UP THE NO. 1 LADDER - If Djokovic remains at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, he will pass Connors on 11 September 2017 and move to No. 4 in the all-time list for most weeks spent at No. 1.

No. 1 Player Total Weeks Target Date Roger Federer 302 7 May 2018 Pete Sampras 286 15 January 2018 Ivan Lendl 270 25 September 2017 Jimmy Connors 268 11 September 2017

Djokovic the competitor is relentless, constantly seeking improvement. There is no false sense of security, that he can raise his game when needed against his closest rivals. The 29-year-old Serbian knows he's a target, thrives on it and works hard with his coaches, Boris Becker and Marian Vajda, in order to consistently perform at the highest level.

Since he began his third stint at the top of men's professional tennis on 7 July 2014, Djokovic has suffered only 13 losses, including seven against Top 10 foe - Roger Federer (4), Andy Murray (2) and Stan Wawrinka (1). Through his own superb conditioning; his ability to focus on every point and his wide arsenal of shots, he has forced other players to change their games.

Djokovic's self discipline, dedication, devotion and passion for the sport have seen him capture 19 titles from 24 finals (four Grand Slams and 10 ATP World Tour Masters 1000s) since 7 July 2014.

DJOKOVIC AT NO. 1 - Take a closer look at Djokovic's match wins, Top 10 and finals record during his three stints at No. 1.

Stints At No. 1 W-L Record vs. Top 10 Finals Record 4 July 2011-8 July 2012 63-12 (.840) 18-9 (.667) 4-4 5 November 2012-6 October 2013 62-9 (.873) 18-6 (.750) 5-2 7 July 2014-present 143-13 (.917) 56-7 (.889) 19-5

Today, Djokovic has 16,150 Emirates ATP Rankings points - 7,715 points ahead of No. 2-ranked Murray - and looks set to finish as the year-end No. 1 for the fifth time in the past six years. With 64 titles, including 11 Grand Slam championships, his place among the all-time greats is already assured.

AT 200 WEEKS AT NO. 1... - Look at the ages and records of Federer, Sampras, Lendl, Connors and Djokovic in their 200th week at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

No. 1 Player Date Achieved Age W-L Record Titles Roger Federer 3 December 2007 26 years, 117 days 551-134 (.804) 53 (12 majors) Pete Sampras 24 November 1997 26 years, 104 days 557-150 (.788) 52 (10 majors) Ivan Lendl 3 April 1989 29 years, 27 days 563-98 (.852) 76 (7 majors) Jimmy Connors 26 June 1978 25 years, 297 days 544-88 (.861) 66 (4 majors) Novak Djokovic 23 May 2016 29 years, 1 day 723-149 (.829) 64 (11 majors)

Statistical assistance by Joshua Rey and Graham Edgar

Pavlasek Reflects On First Win At Roland Garros 2016

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 5:28am
Adam Pavlasek, a lucky loser in the Roland Garros draw, reflects on beating Roberto Carballes Baena on Monday for his first Grand Slam match win.

High Stakes At Roland Garros With Five Vying For Doubles No. 1

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 2:38am

Grand Slam glory isn't the only prize on the line for doubles players at Roland Garros. Five men are in contention to reach the pinnacle of the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, with World No. 1 on the line for Marcelo Melo, Nicolas Mahut, Jamie Murray, Horia Tecau and Bob Bryan.

Melo, the current No. 1 and reigning Roland Garros champion with Ivan Dodig, and Bob Bryan, a two-time winner in Paris (2003 & '13) with brother Mike, must lift the trophy for a chance at the top spot. Murray, who spent five weeks at No. 1 earlier this year, claimed his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January (w/Soares). Tecau and home hope Mahut, meanwhile, are bidding to become the 49th different World No. 1 since the doubles rankings began in 1976.

No. 1 Doubles Scenarios

Player

1R
2R
3R
QF
SF
F
W
Marcelo Melo
5,590
5,680 5,770
5,950
6,310
6,790
7,590
Nicolas Mahut
7,400
7,490
7,580
7,760
8,120
8,600
9,400
Jamie Murray
7,355
7,445
7,535
7,715
8,075
8,555
9,355
Horia Tecau
6,730
6,820
6,910
7,090
7,450
7,930
8,730
Bob Bryan
5,670
5,760
5,850
6,030
6,390
6,870
7,670

Defending champions Dodig and Melo are bidding for their first tour-level crown of the season. Seeded third, they find themselves is a tricky quarter of the draw, with No. 6 seeds and Mutua Madrid Open runners-up Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea, 11th seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers and 13th seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. Kontinen and Peers are coming off a title run in Munich a month ago, while the Colombian power of Cabal/Farah lifted their third trophy of the season on Saturday in Nice.

Three years ago, Mahut came up just short of achieving glory at his home Grand Slam, falling in a deciding tie-break in the Roland Garros doubles final with Michael Llodra. Now, with partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the French duo enter the 2016 edition of the clay-court major as the players to beat. The top seeds open against Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic in their quest for a second Grand Slam crown. The 2015 US Open titlists could face seventh seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock in a blockbuster quarter-final. They are hoping to become the second French duo to lift the Coupe Jacques Brugnon in three years, after Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin prevailed in 2014. Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin received a wild card this year, with Pospisil/Sock looming as potential second-round opponents.

Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor own the most Roland Garros doubles titles in the Open Era, with four apiece. Champion in 2005-06 (w/Bjorkman) and 2011-12 (w/Nestor), Mirnyi is seeded 10th this year alongside Treat Huey. The Belarusian-Filipino tandem open against Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi. Nestor, the titlist in 2007 (w/Knowles), '10 (w/Zimonjic) and '11-12 (w/Mirnyi), is teaming with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. They could face second seeds and reigning Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the third round.

Other former Roland Garros doubles champions in the draw are the Bryans (2003, '13), Nenad Zimonjic (2010) and Leander Paes (1999, '01, '09). All are in the same quarter, with 16-time Grand Slam champions the Bryan brothers entering on the heels of title runs in Barcelona and Rome. Zimonjic is partnering with Radek Stepanek, while Paes is joining forces with Marcin Matkowski. Also in the loaded quarter of the draw are Australian Open titlists and fourth seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. A blockbuster second-round match-up could feature Stepanek and Zimonjic squaring off against the #NextGen duo of Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev.

In the past 10 Grand Slam tournaments, there have been 10 different teams and 20 different players win a title. The doubles competition gets underway on Tuesday.

Elias Continues Top 100 Climb In Mestre; Duckworth Wins Bangkok

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:43am

A LOOK BACK

Venice Challenge Save Cup (Mestre, Italy): No. 4 seed Gastao Elias of Portugal continued his outstanding form in 2016 by prevailing over No. 3 seed Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 7-6(0), 6-2 in Sunday's Mestre final. This was the fourth ATP Challenger Tour final this year between Top 100 players, compared to six for the entire 2015 season. Elias also prevailed in Italy last month at the $50,000 event in Turin, which allowed him to crack the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in his career. He has now won 11 of his last 12 ATP Challenger Tour matches.

Multiple Title Winners In 2016

Player

Titles
Tournaments
Facundo Bagnis
3
Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago
Gerald Melzer
3
Mendoza, Bucaramanga, Morelos Mikhail Youzhny
3
Bangkok I, Bangkok II, Manila
Nikoloz Basilashvili
2
Guangzhou, Heilbronn
Ricardas Berankis
2
Gwangju, Nanjing
Kyle Edmund
2
Dallas, Rome
Gastao Elias
2
Turin, Mestre
Daniel Evans
2
Drummondville, Taipei City
Malek Jaziri
2
Guadalajara, Le Gosier
Jordan Thompson
2
Cherbourg, Anning

Zeballos broke through this week by reaching his first ATP Challenger Tour final of the year, snapping a five match losing streak in semi-finals that dates back to last October.

KPN Renewables Bangkok Open (Bangkok, Thailand): No. 8 seed James Duckworth picked up his first ATP Challenger Tour title of the year by defeating qualifier Sam Barry of Ireland, 7-6(5), 6-4. Playing in his first Challenger since January due to an elbow injury, Duckworth showed resilience throughout the week by rallying from a set down in three of his matches to get to the final. This is the third ATP Challenger Tour title of the 24-year-old’s career, with his last coming in November 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Aussies are also now 4-0 this year in Challenger finals, with Jordan Thompson and Blake Mott also lifting trophies. 

Despite the loss, the week was a positive for Barry in reaching his first ATP Challenger Tour final. The 24-year-old had only won two main draw matches at the Challenger level prior to his run in Bangkok.

A LOOK AHEAD

The lone tournament on the calendar this week is the $50,000 event in Vicenza, Italy. Elias will look for his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the year as the No. 1 seed, while Daniel Brands of Germany is the No. 2 seed. Other notable names in the draw include #NextGen star Andrey Rublev of Russia, rising American teenager Stefan Kozlov and former Top 50 player Andrey Golubev, a winner earlier this year in Jonkoping, Sweden.

View Draws & Watch Free Live Streams

ATP CHALLENGER TOUR ON TWITTER: New in 2016, the ATP Challenger Tour has launched a dedicated Twitter account for the latest news and information about players and events. Follow @ATPChallengerTour at twitter.com/ATPChallengerTour.


Djokovic Celebrates Birthday With Special Message From No. 1 Fan

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 8:12pm

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is enjoying a stretch of significant milestones. The Serb is poised to begin his 200th week atop the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday, with his quest for a maiden Roland Garros title commencing a day later.

But first, a birthday celebration was in order for the 29 year old. On Sunday, Djokovic was presented with a cake by tournament director Guy Forget and was given a special birthday message from his No. 1 fan, Micaela Bryan, daughter of Bob Bryan.

Watch:

.@DjokerNole Happy Birthday from your biggest fan, me!

The 'Last Time' With Hyeon Chung

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 7:03pm

I missed a flight?
Never.

I lost something important?
I've lost my wallet before... two years ago... My coach bought me a new one. I won an ATP Challenger, and he gave it to me as a gift.

I paid money to rent a tennis court or buy tennis balls?
Never.

Being famous helped me?
In Houston, some Korean people every day paid for me. I don't know why. Yeah, every restaurant, different people... I went to a crawfish restaurant, I like the crawfish here. Last year I tried it for the first time. It was really good... Last year and this year, every day, they take care of me.

I strung a tennis racquet?
When I was 15.

I cooked for myself and others?
I do only noodles. That's it.

I met a childhood idol?
Roger Federer... 2016 Australian Open.

I shared a hotel room with another player?
When I was a junior, ITF touring team, three, four years ago... in Europe.

I asked someone famous for an autograph or selfie?
(Juan Martin) del Potro in Miami... I put it on Instagram.

 

Rain Forces Busy Monday At Roland Garros

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 6:00pm

The Roland Garros first round got off to a soggy start on Day One, with persistent rain forcing the cancellation or postponement of 11 of the 16 matches on the schedule.

No. 17 seed Nick Kyrgios, 19th-seed Benoit Paire, Igor Sijsling, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Andrey Kuznetsov were the lone first-round winners on Sunday, quickly wrapping up their openers before the skies opened. Fifth seed Kei Nishikori wasn't as fortunate. The Japanese will sleep on a two-set lead over Simone Bolelli, owning a 6-1, 7-5, 2-1 advantage when play was postponed at 6:30pm local time.

Read: Kyrgios Battles Through Opener

Coming off a career-best quarter-final run in Paris last year, Nishikori will look to finish his opening round clash as the second match on Philippe Chatrier Court on Monday. Defending champion and third seed Stan Wawrinka opens proceedings on the main show court against Lukas Rosol. The Swiss is coming off a title run in Geneva on Saturday, his first on home soil on the ATP World Tour. Last year, Wawrinka became the first player aged 30 & over to win at Roland Garros since Andres Gomez in 1990.

View Monday Schedule

Two additional matches are slated to resume play on Monday, with Robin Haase looking complete the comeback against Jack Sock and Dustin Brown leading Dudi Sela two sets to one. Sock took a two-set lead before Haase stormed back to force a decider, while Brown leads 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(5), 1-1. The winners will square off in the second round.

Meanwhile, eighth seed Milos Raonic, 15th seed John Isner, Grigor Dimitrov and #NextGen star Kyle Edmund were among those finding their Sunday starts cancelled. Raonic opens against former World No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic in an enticing affair on Court 2 on Monday. Isner and first-round opponent John Millman are slated as the fourth match on Court 3, with Dimitrov first up against No. 22 seed Viktor Troicki in a rematch of January's Apia International Sydney final, won by Troicki in a deciding tie-break.

Also on the docket for Monday is title contender Andy Murray, squaring off against veteran Radek Stepanek on Chatrier. The second seed is coming off a title run at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Rome, where he upset World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for his third clay-court crown. In addition, Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon kick off their bids for home glory on Suzenne Lenglen Court, with ninth seed Gasquet facing Thomaz Bellucci and 16th seed Simon dueling with another Brazilian, Rogerio Dutra Silva. Less than a month removed from capturing his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on the green clay of Tallahassee, French teen Quentin Halys opens his campaign against fellow #NextGen star Hyeon Chung on Court 17.

Five of the seven players making their Grand Slam debuts are in action on Monday. Roberto Carballes Baena and Adam Pavlasek are first on Court 5, with both looking to take a big step in their quests to crack the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Another match-up of major debutants features home hope Mathias Bourgue against Spain's Jordi Samper-Montana on Court 16. Meanwhile, qualifier Laslo Djere meets wild card Jordan Thompson, a two-time ATP Challenger Tour titlist this year, on Court 8.

Wawrinka In Demand At Roland Garros 2016

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 3:29pm
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who captured the Geneva title on Saturday, finds himself in demand on his arrival at Roland Garros.

Confident Wawrinka Looks To Defend Roland Garros Crown

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 2:29pm

Stan Wawrinka made it to Roland Garros on Saturday night, hours before the first day of play at the season's second Grand Slam. It marks the latest Wawrinka has ever arrived at a Grand Slam during his 15-year career.

But the Swiss star said he still feels prepared to try and defend his Roland Garros title and go for his third Grand Slam championship. “For sure it's late arriving for a Grand Slam, especially if you want to go far in a Grand Slam, but I think I'm feeling good. I'm feeling fit. My tennis is there, and I'm ready to play my first match tomorrow,” Wawrinka said on Sunday during his pre-tournament press conference.

The World No. 4 had good reason to arrive later than usual. Wawrinka prevailed against World No. 11 Marin Cilic in straight sets to win the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open on Saturday afternoon. It was the first time Wawrinka has won a title in his home Switzerland. The win also gave him his first clay-court crown of the season and ended a string of earlier exits on clay this year.

Wawrinka reached the quarter-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters before falling to Rafael Nadal in straight sets. At the Mutua Madrid Open, Wawrinka lost the first match he played, bowing out in the second round to Nick Kyrgios in straight sets. And in Rome, the two-time Grand Slam champion reached the third round before losing to then-World No. 114 Juan Monaco in three sets.

“It was good to win the trophy yesterday. It gives me a lot of confidence and happiness,” Wawrinka said.

Arriving just in time at a Grand Slam can be positive, too, he said. Since he was focused on Geneva, Wawrinka wasn't thinking about Roland Garros days before the tournament started.

“It's also quite good to arrive here a few days before to practise on the court and to get ready and everything," Wawrinka said. "But since they put that tournament in Switzerland in Geneva close from my home the week before, I took the decision to play and to change a little bit the rest of the schedule, and last year it happened to be really good for me.”

Last year, Wawrinka lost in the quarter-finals in Geneva before claiming the Roland Garros title. He remains the last player to beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam.

“He's still playing amazing tennis, if you look what happened this year already, and since last year in the final,” Wawrinka said of the Serb. “He's for sure the big favorite, and he's going to be really difficult to beat.”

Wawrinka will try to become the third player in the past 17 years to win back-to-back titles at Roland Garros (Nadal, Kuerten). On Monday, he opens his defence against Lukas Rosol, whom he beat in three sets last week in Geneva. Wawrinka also leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 4-0.

“He's a dangerous player. He's serving big. He's going for his shots,” Wawrinka said of Rosol. “You never know what to expect, really. You need to be really solid and stay there.”

Djokovic Celebrates 29th Birthday At Roland Garros 2016

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 2:20pm
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic celebrates his 29th birthday at Roland Garros with Guy Forget, the new Tournament Director. Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Daniel Credits International Flair With Top 100 Rise

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:44pm

The upbringing that Taro Daniel had has made him truly international, but his success across the globe on the ATP Challenger Tour is what propelled him into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

The 23-year-old from Japan won his first ATP Challenger Tour title last spring at the $50,000 event in Vincenza, Italy, followed by another clay-court crown last June at the $50,000 tournament in Furth, Germany. Daniel also went on a tear last fall on home soil, winning on the hard courts of Yokohoma and finishing runner-up in Kobe. 

Now competing full-time on the ATP World Tour, he hasn't slowed down in 2016, with his big moment coming at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters last month. Daniel qualified for his first Masters 1000 main draw and reached the second round, before falling to Dominic Thiem in three sets.

After spending his formative years growing in Japan, Daniel’s family moved to Spain then he was 14 and he has since set up his training base in the city of Valencia. He credits his all-surface success with training in Spain, allowing him access to top players to practise with and the chance to hit regularly on clay courts.

“Spain has had the most players in the Top 100 and many people in the Top 10. The fact they play a lot on clay is important because if you can play on clay, you can play on any surface,” said Daniel. “That’s a positive for me because not a lot of Asian players get to practise regularly on it. I like hard courts as well, but can say that clay might be my favourite surface.”

Daniel’s rise up the rankings has also meant he has gotten to spend more time with World No. 6 Kei Nishikori. He made his Davis Cup debut for Japan last year against Colombia and teamed up with Nishikori once again to take on Great Britain this March.

“We’ve gotten a lot closer since Davis Cup. We all respect him a lot, but we have a relationship where we can talk to each other about close things,” said Daniel. “He’s definitely an inspiration, so you can only receive positive things from being around somebody like that for a week." 

The 23-year-old’s affable nature means that he has developed plenty of close friendships with players on tour. Because he studied at American schools in Japan and has now lived in Spain for nearly a decade, he’s fluent in three languages and able to easily mingle with players from most nationalities.

“I have no problem communicating with the Japanese players,” said Daniel. “For me, it’s a little boring to hang out with only the Japanese players or only the Spanish players. I like that I get to go with one group and can move to another.”

At 36, Robert Continues Top 100 Ascent With Challenger Success

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:36pm

Most players are starting to wind down their singles careers in their 30s, but Stephane Robert has been peaking in his.

The 36-year-old from France has made a remarkable push this year back into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He won the $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour event this February in New Delhi, India, then finished as runner-up the following month at the $100,000 tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico. Robert even gave World No. 1 Novak Djokovic all he could handle last week in a tight two-set loss at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Rome.

Having started the year at No. 208 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Robert is now comfortably back inside the Top 100 at No. 89. He's now hoping for a deep run on home soil at Roland Garros, having been granted direct entry into the main draw following a strong start to the season on the ATP Challenger Tour.

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence coming into this year, so the beginning I’ve had is surprising for me,” said Robert. “This is the best beginning I’ve had in my 15-year career.”

Although injuries pulled him out of the Top 100 in 2010 (the same year he reached his career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 61) and again in 2014, Robert has enjoyed many of the ATP Challenger Tour events he's played while rebuilding his ranking. He had particularly good things to say about the $50,000 tournament this April in Turin, Italy.

“The organization there is very good and I really liked the stadium,” said Robert. “I also liked the history and architecture of the city.”

With relatively minimal points to defend until late fall, it’s possible that Robert could even surpass his current career-high Emirates ATP Ranking before the end of the year. However, the Frenchman said he isn’t thinking about the possibility and is only concerned about the next match in front of him.

“I’ve never worried about what my ranking is. If you think about this, you won’t have the same positive results,” said Robert. “I just focus on each match so I can play with full focus and without pressure.”

Kyrgios Battles Through Roland Garros Opener

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:13pm

#NextGen star Nick Kyrgios reached the second round at Roland Garros on Sunday as he defeated Italian Marco Cecchinato 7-6(6), 7-6(6), 6-4 on a cold and wet day in Paris.

The 21-year-old Australian saved two set points, down 4/6 in the second set tie-break, before sealing a two-set lead with a rifled backhand winner down the line. Kyrgios then earned the first break of the match in the fifth game of the third set, courtesy of a Cecchinato double fault, and went on to seal victory.

"I thought it was really tough," said Kyrgios. "I thought when I woke up this morning and saw the rain I knew it was going to be heavy conditions. I knew it was going to be a bit of a leveller out there. We were both going to be a little bit cold.

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"I thought he played really well, the way he played the dropshots and he was very crafty. I knew it was going to be a tough match. He had two set points in the second set. I mean, I was a bit lucky at times, but I'm just happy to get through."

Kyrgios claimed his 22nd win of the season, highlighted by winning his first ATP World Tour title in Marseille (d. Cilic). He goes on to face World No. 123 Igor Sijsling, who defeated Adrian Ungur 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(5).

Looking ahead to his next match, Kyrgios said, "He's been on tour for a long time, and I know he's probably played a lot of Grand Slams. My good friend Thanasi [Kokkinakis] played him a while ago, so I know what kind of game style he plays. I'm just glad I got through today and got a couple of days off and can do everything I can to prepare for that."

French contender Benoit Paire was fired up in a dramatic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory over qualifier Radu Albot. The 19th-seeded Paire won just five points more than the No. 137-ranked Albot and converted 10 of his 19 break points to reach the second round in Paris for the fifth straight year.

"It's a relief," said Paire. "It was not easy today. Heavy conditions today. I didn't serve well. So the match was tough for me, even though I did get off to a good start. First round at the French Open, it was complicated, but I'm delighted because I have advanced to the next round. I think I dug deep today."

Next up for Paire is Teymuraz Gabashvili, who dismissed Donald Young 7-6(1), 6-2, 6-3. 

In the one remaining completed match, Andrey Kuznetsov dismissed Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. 

After heavy and prolonged rain interruptions throughout the afternoon, play was cancelled for the day at 6:30pm local time.

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