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Updated: 2 min 29 sec ago

Top Seed Gasquet Into Winston-Salem QFs

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 10:05pm
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Richard Gasquet breezed into the quarter-finals of the Winston-Salem Open with a 6-1, 6-3 win over fellow Frenchman Stephane Robert. Gasquet saved seven break points (7/8) and broke his opponent’s serve five times in the 66-minute win.

“I’ve known Stephane for a long time now, so I know how dangerous he can be. It was a great win for me and I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals,” said Gasquet, who has yet to drop a set against his 36-year-old countryman in two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. “He likes to play close to the baseline. We’ve practised together often so I know his game and he knows mine. I didn’t make many mistakes today and that was the difference. It was quite humid and hot on the court, so it’s better to be able to finish in one hour.”

“It’s a great opportunity to play against top players, because you see the difference. I will learn from this match,” Robert said. “I started the match nervously, but I was playing better in the second set. Then I made some mistakes and got negative. That is something I need to manage. At this level, you have to be focused all the time and not fight against yourself.”

Next up for the top seed will be Aussie John Millman, who rallied to win 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 against wild card Bjorn Fratangelo. Millman closed out the match with authority, landing 85 per cent of first serves and only losing one point on serve in the deciding set.

“I’ve never played against [John], but I’ve seen his matches and I respect him a lot.” Gasquet said.

Yen-Hsun Lu advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-0 performance against Diego Schwartzman. Lu fired nine aces and did not face a break point in the 62-minute win.

“Fortunately I played really well on game points and on break points. My serve was there when I needed it and that helped me a lot today,” said Lu, who is into his fourth consecutive Winston-Salem quarter-final. “I always seem to play very relaxed, very freely here. Maybe it’s something that is missing for me in other tournaments, but I’m able to find that feeling here."

Lu will take on second seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. Lu has yet to win a set in two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with the Spaniard.

New American No. 1 Steve Johnson was stopped by Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 7-6(7). The No. 15 seed fired 10 aces and saved all three break points faced to improve to 4-0 in tour-level matchups against Johnson. The American saved three match points in the second-set tie-break before succumbing in 87 minutes.

"I was lucky on the important points. I didn't have too many chances in the first set, but had a great return game at 5-4," Verdasco said. "In the second set, it was more of the same. I was positive the whole match, feeling good and moving well. The court is quite fast so you have to be focused on your serve, and do what you can on your returns. It worked pretty well for me today."

In the quarter-finals, Verdasco will face Viktor Troicki, who edged American Sam Querrey 6-2, 7-6(5). The Serb broke serve three times and secured his first win over Querrey since 2011 in 70 minutes.

"I would love to win the tournament. The competition is quite tough and it will be a different match tomorrow, but I will try to enjoy this," Troicki said. "I've had some tough draws this summer. It seemed that everyone I lose to ends up winning the tournament. Last week it was Cilic in the first round of Cincinnati. I hope it's my turn now."

First Doubles Semi-Final Set

No. 2 seeds Mate Pavic and Michael Venus will face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Henri Kontinen in the semi-finals. Pavic/Venus rallied to win 6-7(1), 6-1, 10/7 while Garcia-Lopez/Kontinen edged Jonathan Erlich and Santiago Gonzalez 7-6(1), 4-6, 10/8.

Millman And Friends Are All Smiles In Winston-Salem

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 7:48pm
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Follow all the latest off-court action on MyATP! Download the app for iPhone or Android or visit MyATP.com.

Winston-Salem Open - Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Top seed Richard Gasquet was on hand for the draw ceremony at the Wake Forest University campus.

Steve Johnson, the No. 1 American in the Emirates ATP Rankings, met PGA Tour golfer Rickie Fowler at the nearby Wyndham Greensboro Open.

John Millman and NextGen’s Frances Tiafoe took part in the fun activities on Kids’ Day.

Mackenzie McDonald, NCAA champion from UCLA and US Open wild card, attended the USTA Member Appreciation Day.

NextGen American Taylor Fritz met fans at the VIP Friends Reception, while Eric Butorac and Bjorn Fratangelo attended the USPTA Reception.

Butorac and partner Scott Lipsky tried something they had never done in their careers – wheelchair tennis. Read More

Roberto Bautista Agut, Yen-Hsun Lu, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Sam Querrey, Rajeev Ram Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Jiri Vesely attended autograph signings.


 

European Open To Host Guinness World Record Attempt For Charity

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 7:42pm

The European Open, an ATP World Tour 250 event set in Antwerp, Belgium, will be promoting a Guiness World Record attempt for a good cause. Maxime Braeckman, former coach of ATP World Tour player Xavier Malisse and WTA players Kim Clijsters and Kirsten Flipkens, will play 37 matches in a row in an effort to raise € 25,000 for the charity SOS Children's Villages and to promote the sport of tennis in Belgium. SOS Children's Villages is the tournament's official charity and Clijsters is an ambassador for the organisation.

Braeckman, currently coaching at the Kim Clijsters Academy in Bree, Belgium, will play 37 best-of-three matches in a row. The current Guinness World Record was set by Mike Mitchell of Great Britain, who played 36 matches over 34 hours last year. The first match will begin in the morning of Saturday 8 October on a practice court next to the Antwerp Central station, in the middle of the city. Proceeds from the event will fund the construction of a new multi-sport court in Trjavna, Bulgaria, which will serve over 100 children living in the area.

The inaugural edition of the European Open will take place from 17 to 23 October. ATP World Tour stars David Goffin, Richard Gasquet and David Ferrer will headline the event. #NextGen stars Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz are also slated to play.

With Focused Plan, Vesely Breaks Through Against Best

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 1:28pm
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Before this season, something was missing in Jiri Vesely's game.

He had the weapons – the 120 m.p.h. serve, the whipping forehand. He had confidence from a 2015 Auckland title and a Top 50 ranking. But every time he'd face the top players on the ATP World Tour, Vesely was lacking.

The Czech had gone 0-8 against players ranked inside the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. But he's changed his luck this season. He shocked World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Monte-Carlo and beat then-World No. 8 Dominic Thiem at Wimbledon.

So what's changed? His strategy. Namely, he's picked one and stuck with it.

In the past, sometimes Vesely had been hurrying himself to play more aggressive. Other times, the 6'6” Czech preferred more defensive tennis and tried to push the ball back.

But this season, he's employed an aggressive game plan, starting with his serve, that's helped him beat the top players in the world. The 23 year old hopes the strategy will also help him continue his breakthrough year and finish the season at a new career high.

Read More: Vesely Shocks Djokovic In Monte-Carlo

“I really didn't know which game style, which plan to play against these guys or overall,” Vesely told ATPWorldTour.com at the Winston-Salem Open. “I think that this year I found a little bit more of my rhythm. I found a little bit more of my game that I really would like to play. It's definitely a big change.”

The skills, without a doubt, were always there. He finished 2011 as the top junior in the world.

His power game naturally translated to the ATP World Tour as well, and two years later he was in the Top 100 and named the 2013 Emirates ATP Star Of Tomorrow. The expectations had been set: Vesely would soon contest the best in tennis.

But the next year, his struggles began. He fell to Andy Murray in Indian Wells. He lost to Milos Raonic at Roland Garros. By the end of 2014, the left-hander had climbed into the Top 70 but was 0-3 against the Top 10.

In 2015, the Pribran native won his first ATP World Tour title at the ASB Classic in Auckland. But Vesely lost five more matches against the top players, including a 6-4, 7-6(2) loss to Rafael Nadal in Hamburg.

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“I always was very close to these top guys but I never had a win,” Vesely said.

Everything surprisingly changed in Monte-Carlo, though. Vesely battled back after losing the second set and knocked Djokovic out in the second round, handing the Serbian his earliest loss in three seasons.

His aggressive serving helped carry him to the upset. Vesely won almost 70 per cent of his first-serve points against Djokovic and going big with the weapon has remained an integral part to his new approach.

“Serving is definitely my biggest gun,” Vesely said. “Trying to be a little bit more aggressive. Trying to go to my forehands more.... And I think that's where I made good progress.”

The focused blueprint was on display again on Tuesday evening in Winston-Salem. Facing defending champion Kevin Anderson, Vesely erased the only break point faced and won almost 80 per cent of his service points (50/64). He also frequently followed his serve with a forehand to prevail 7-6(5), 6-4.

“I served well and I think that's what decided it today,” Vesely said after the match.

Read More: Vesely Beats Winston-Salem Defending Champion

In attempting to play more consistent, in a way, Vesely is trying to be more like his childhood idol and countryman Tomas Berdych, who's finished in the Top 10 the past six seasons. The two played at the same club in Prostejov, and Vesely remembers as a 12 year old admiring Berdych, who was 20 but already in the Top 100.

“I really was always looking up to him and I was trying watch his practice sessions and watch what kind of stuff he's doing,” Vesely said.

As Vesely has improved his game against the Top 10 and come closer to matching Berdych, though, he senses their relationship might be changing. It's a shift that he's glad to see taking place.

“We are fine. We are friends. But of course right now I think also we start to be rivals,” Vesely said before laughing. “I like that.”

Doubles Discussion Part II

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 11:04am
Ross Hutchins sits down with Horia Tecau, Jamie Murray, Bruno Soares and Rohan Bopanna to talk about the camaraderie on tour, communication between team mates and the challenges of playing top singles stars.

Bahrami Sets Trick Shot Challenge

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 11:04am
Trick shot master Mansour Bahrami lays down a challenge for current ATP World Tour stars to try and reproduce some of his best tricks. How will they fare?

Jenga, Anyone?

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 9:35am
Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic lead ATP colleagues in a fast-paced game of Jenga... with a twist.

Veterans Melzer, Smyczek Advance On Day One Of US Open Qualifying

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 3:40am

Former World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer began his quest for a 15th US Open main draw appearance, downing American Tennys Sandgren 7-5, 6-1 on Tuesday. The 2011 doubles champion, Melzer kicked off the first day of qualifying in New York with the victory after just 74 minutes.

"The first match of a tournament is never easy, but it was a very solid match," said Melzer. "I kept my focus and won in straights so it's on to the next one."

Competing in his first Grand Slam since last year's US Open, having recently undergone shoulder surgery, he will face Guido Andreozzi in the second round. The Austrian is coming off a strong week at the ATP World Tour 250 event in Kitzbuhel last month, where he stunned top seed and countryman Dominic Thiem. It was his first victory over a Top 10 opponent in more than five years.

"It gave me all the confidence that I needed after a 10-month break, showing that by body can hold up. It was a very good match and a good tournament. I'm happy to play at a level I'm satisfied with. I want to win matches again and that's what I'm here for. It's not easy playing 14 years in the main draw here and then go through qualies but that's the way it is."

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Joining Melzer in the second round is fellow veteran Tim Smyczek, a 6-3, 6-4 winner of Russia's Alexander Kudryavtsev. The 10th-seeded American prevailed after 73 minutes, firing three aces, while saving all seven break points faced.

"It feels really good," said Smyczek, who will face Guilherme Clezar next. "I haven't been winning that many matches lately, so it feels good. I'm looking to build on it because I did some really good things out there. And they were things that I do well when I'm stringing matches together."

"Billy's message to me is pretty much the same throughout," Smyczek added, referring to coach Billy Heiser. "It's been about me receiving the message and playing every point with intensity and not taking any off."

Also battling into the second round of qualifying was #NextGen star Quentin Halys. The Frenchman snapped a six-match losing skid in style, launching nine aces en route to a dominant 6-1, 6-3 win over Egor Gerasimov. He will meet American Alexander Sarkissian on Thursday.

Meanwhile, 11th-seeded American Ryan Harrison earned a 7-6(1), 6-3 win over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Having previously lost to Stebe in a fifth set at Wimbledon qualifying in 2011, it was sweet revenge for the Louisiana native.

The upset of the day came on Court 4, where Stebe's countryman Daniel Brands stunned fourth seed and World No. 99 Thiago Monteiro 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). The big-serving German fired 14 aces in claiming the win after one hour and 56 minutes. Aussie Matthew Barton provided just as big a shock when the World No. 194 saved a match point in downing fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-6(6).

Wednesday's action at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center features #NextGen stars Karen Khachanov, Jared Donaldson, Stefan Kozlov and Andrey Rublev, with former Top 10 player Radek Stepanek and top seed Yuichi Sugita also opening their campaigns.

Bautista Agut, Querrey Battle Through In Winston-Salem

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 12:02am
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Second seed Roberto Bautista Agut did it the hard way on Tuesday, needing more than two hours to secure a win in his opening match at the Winston-Salem Open. Much like top seed Richard Gasquet a day earlier, the Spaniard needed three sets to get his 2016 campaign off the mark. He prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 against Brit Aljaz Bedene, with his opponent serving 15 aces but finishing one for eight on break points won.

“I wanted to keep going,” Bautista Agut said of the turnaround. “I wanted to leave everything on the court, and I think I was still focused on the match after losing the first set and I could come back.”

Bautista Agut, a winner of hard-court titles this season in Auckland and Sofia, will play No. 14 seed Marcos Baghdatis in the third round after the Cypriot won through a two-hour-plus struggle of his own against Donald Young. Baghdatis won 76 per cent of first-serve points in the 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 result.

Three-time semi-finalist Sam Querrey also progressed to to the third round after narrowly holding off Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The sixth-seeded American posted a 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 victory in two hours and eight minutes on the back of 24 aces.

Querrey won 86 per cent of first-serve points and saved nine of 10 break points. He will play Viktor Troicki for a place in the quarter-finals after the Serbian defeated NextGen star Kyle Edmund 6-3, 7-5.

"It's been a solid year so far," Querrey said. "I don't feel a ton of pressure. I'm just trying to feel good, just trying to play some good matches.

"The fans are great here. They're really supportive. They get behind the Americans so that was nice."

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Third seed Pablo Cuevas had a smoother path to the third round. The Uruguayan downed Malek Jaziri 7-5, 6-1 to book a clash with Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. The No. 16 seed moved past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-5.

For the second year in a row, Gilles Simon bowed out in his Winston-Salem opener. The seventh-seeded Frenchman fell to Argentine Diego Schwartzman 7-6(2), 6-1 on Tuesday. Schwartzman, World No. 68 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, won his first ATP World Tour title earlier this year at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open (d. Dimitrov). He next plays Yen-Hsun Lu, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 10th seed Joao Sousa.

It was an early exit also for Spanish eighth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He fell 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to John Millman. The Australian next meets American wild card Bjorn Fratangelo, who knocked out 11th-seeded Italian Paolo Lorenzi, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours.

“I had belief going into the match that I could do it, especially my first time I beat him it was on clay, which is his favourite surface,” said Fratangelo. “It was a similar match where he got up early, and I kind of came clawing my way back. I think I played pretty well toward the end of the match. I took time away from him, which I think made him pretty uncomfortable. I think the heat got to him a little bit, and I’m just happy to be in the next round.”

New-Look Johnson Makes Winning Start In Winston-Salem

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 11:53pm
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There was a new look to Steve Johnson on Tuesday at the Winston-Salem Open. Gone was the beard – “Shaved it off, it was getting a little too itchy… clean it up a little bit and keep my momma happy” – and, more importantly, the California native wore the badge of No. 1 American as he swept 2014 champion Lukas Rosol 6-3, 6-2 in 57 minutes.

“Economical. Get in, get out, it’s past my bedtime,” he said. “Lot of ups the last couple weeks. You never know how the body is going to respond mentally, physically. Came out, didn’t serve great tonight… not bad by any stretch, but not the best, and I still felt like I played the important points well and I played great from the ground.”

On Monday, Johnson snapped John Isner’s three-year reign as the top American, backed by a stellar summer run including his first ATP World Tour title in Nottingham, his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final in Cincinnati and first Grand Slam Round of 16 at Wimbledon. He currently stands at a career-high No. 21 Emirates ATP Ranking, one spot ahead of Isner.

“Right now I’m just not hitting the panic button at any moment, until the match is over and at that point there’s not much you can do,” he said. “Even last week in Cincy, losing to Grigor [Dimitrov] I feel like I had a chance to win until that last point, and that’s just how I’m approaching matches now and that’s a big difference for me.”

Johnson will next go for his first win against Fernando Verdasco, though their previous three FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes have come on clay, most recently at Roland Garros this year. Verdasco, the No. 15 seed, advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over American NextGen star Taylor Fritz.

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Fifth seed Kevin Anderson's title defence at the ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tournament came to an early end as he fell in a tricky opener against Czech Jiri Vesely 7-6(5), 6-4. The 23-year-old Vesely, who upset World No. 1 Novak Djokovic this past April in Monte-Carlo, evened his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Anderson in their fourth meeting. 

“We know each other very well," said Vesely. "We both serve good. I knew it was going to be really up to one or two important points, and I think that's what it showed today.

“I'm very happy the way I coped with it, the way I fought because you always have to stay there and you always have to just wait for your chance. That's what I did today. I was just very patient and waiting for my opportunities.”

In doubles, third seeds Robert Lindstedt and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi fought for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-6 win over the wild card duo of Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim. Wild cards Leander Paes and Andre Begemann, meanwhile, set up a quarter-final meeting with top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Nenad Zimonjic after defeating Chris Guccione and Andre Sa 6-4, 6-4.

Nadal Commits To Playing Brisbane

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 10:32pm
Rafael Nadal will start his 2017 season contesting the Brisbane International for the first time. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images

Nadal To Make Brisbane Debut

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 9:49pm

Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will commence his season in Australia for the first time when he joins the field at Brisbane International presented by Suncorp this summer.

The Spanish ace has traditionally favoured the Middle East to start his new year campaign, but will break with tradition in January for his maiden appearance in the Sunshine State.

“It’s going to be the first time in my career that I’m going to play in Australia the first week of the season and I’m really excited about it,” Nadal said.

“I think this is something I have to do during my career and I think at the same time it’s going to be a great preparation to be in Australia early. Everybody who has been in Brisbane has told me very beautiful things about the tournament and the place so I want to try it.”

Nadal completes a clean sweep of the ‘Big Four’ to step out at Pat Rafter Arena, with fellow men’s tennis stars Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all having competed at previous editions of the event.

Brisbane International Tournament Director Geoff Quinlan said the World No.5 would be a sure-fire favourite with fans this summer.

“We’re thrilled to announce Rafael Nadal will start his season in Brisbane in 2017 and can’t wait to welcome him to Queensland Tennis Centre,” he said.

“The Brisbane International has a reputation for attracting the biggest names in world tennis and we’re really excited our fans will have the chance to see Rafa in action this summer. We’ve been in talks with Rafa for a number of years about competing in Brisbane, he’s seen the event get bigger and better every year and we’re ecstatic he’s decided to join the field in 2017.

“Rafa is a legend of the sport and one of the most exciting players to see live so I’m sure fans will be counting down the days to January.

“This is just the start of a very exciting line-up of players we will announce over the coming months as we look ahead to Brisbane International 2017.”

Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones said securing Nadal was a win for the tournament and Queensland tourism.

“In 2016 we welcomed legend Roger Federer for a third time, and it’s fantastic to now add Rafa to the list of champions to play in Queensland’s premier tennis tournament,” Minister Jones said.

“Securing marquee players like Rafael Nadal provides a big drawcard for the Brisbane International and boosts the reputation of this world class Queensland event.”

Brisbane International 2017, presented by Suncorp and supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, will be held at Queensland Tennis Centre from 1 to 8 January. The tournament is part of the Emirates Australian Open Series, which also incorporates Hopman Cup (Perth), Apia International Sydney, Hobart International and World Tennis Challenge (Adelaide).

Pre-sale tickets are on sale to registered players through Ticketek from midday today.

For all tournament information please visit brisbaneinternational.com.au.

Steve Johnson: America's New No. 1 Tennis Player

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 7:53pm
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On 8 June, it would have been hard to believe Steve Johnson would be celebrating a lifelong dream this week at the Winston-Salem Open.

In 's-Hertogenbosch, he had just lost to 17-year-old countryman Stefan Kozlov 6-3, 6-4 in 87 minutes. A day earlier, the young American had won his first ever ATP World Tour match.

“Not my best match of the year by any stretch,” Johnson said earlier this week in Winston-Salem.

But the 26 year old didn't let the defeat derail his season. In fact, the next week, he celebrated a career-high win: Johnson beat then-No. 10 Richard Gasquet at The Queen's Club to gain the first Top 10 win of his career. Beginning with that result, he's gone 20-7 in tour-level matches.

On Monday, he celebrated his biggest accomplishment yet. Johnson, No. 21 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, officially became the No. 1 American. John Isner had reigned at the top every week since 29 July, 2013.

“It's easy to pinpoint now that was the turning point to my season,” Johnson said of the Gasquet match. “Even at that point, deep down I believed that I still was capable of this. Maybe there are doubts that creep in but thank goodness I have people who are close to me who never doubted me. They just continued to push me and that's what you need when times are tough.”

It has been quite the past few months for Johnson. After reaching the quarter-finals at The Queen's Club, he won his first ATP World Tour singles title at the Aegon Open Nottingham (d. Cuevas). At Wimbledon the next week, he reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam championship for the first time (l. to Federer).

In Washington, Johnson beat Isner in the quarter-finals before falling to Ivo Karlovic in the semi-finals. The California native also reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final last week at the Western & Southern Open (l. to Dimitrov).

Johnson started the season 6-14. “That's why you have to stay positive. It can turn around at any moment,” he said.

In Winston-Salem, he'll try to continue his “year of firsts” and win his first title on American soil. He has come close to making the final of a U.S. tournament. Johnson has reached the semi-finals in Washington twice and made the last four in Winston-Salem last year.

But the two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Southern California said he feels especially comfortable playing at the Winston-Salem Open, which is held at Wake Forest University.

“You want to win on American soil as much as possible,” Johnson said. “It would be fun to win obviously one of our, what we consider our home tournaments so hopefully I'll get a chance to be here at the end of the week.”

#NextGen Edmund Steadily Improves Against Game's Best

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 3:51pm
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It was a match a less poised young player might have lost.

On Monday at the Winston-Salem Open, 21 year old Kyle Edmund faced ATP World Tour veteran Rajeev Ram for a spot in the second round. The 32 year old's serve-and-volley tactics and flat, penetrating groundstrokes thrive in quick environments like Winston-Salem.

In similar conditions last month at the Rogers Cup, the American's unique style helped him beat rising Frenchman Lucas Pouille and reach the third round.

But in North Carolina, Edmund was able to break Ram three times. After losing two match points, the young Brit advanced 7-5, 7-6(5).

“I just knew I had to keep going because I was playing well to get match points,” Edmund told ATPWorldTour.com. “There's no point in moping around because if you mope around you get a slow start in the tie-break and that will cost you and then you're in the third set anyway.”

The win was the #NextGen star's first at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament and the latest sign of his continued development. Since the start of 2015, the 6'2” right-hander has hiked 106 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings to No. 85.

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He's spent the season checking off career milestones. He reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final in Doha (l. to Berdych). At The Queen's Club in London, he made his second ATP World Tour quarter-final (l. to Murray) and gained his first Top 20 win, beating then-World No. 18 Gilles Simon 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Twelve months ago this week, Edmund had finished playing an ATP Challenger event and was playing qualifying at the US Open.

“If I look at this stage last year and I say am I a better player? I say definitely,” Edmund said. “I've played more matches on the bigger stages at the tour level... So you're building that experience in the bank, which is good for me and that's exactly what I want.”

Edmund has made a conscious effort this year to play more ATP World Tour tournaments and fewer Challenger events. The choice has helped him gain experience against the best in the world.

In March at the Miami Open presented by Itau, the Beverley resident faced World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round but fell 6-3, 6-3. In the quarter-finals of the Aegon Championships in June, the Brit showed his improved game by taking a set off World No. 2 Andy Murray before losing to his countryman 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

“I was pleased with what I put on court [against Murray],” Edmund said. “What you take away from that is, what we're doing is good, but let's do it more consistently. Step it up a level.”

Murray, who'd go on to win a record fifth Aegon Championships title, noted Edmund's evolving game after the match.

“When he's landing first serves and then getting the first shot of the rally on his forehand, he can dictate a lot of the points,” Murray said. “He doesn't have a real weakness from the back. His backhand is solid... There are obviously things he's going to continue to improve as well... I think his game is getting better all the time, and that's very positive.”

At Winston-Salem, which is held at Wake Forest University, Edmund is looking to keep improving and enjoy another college campus in the U.S. While he was in the Dallas area for the Irving Challenger in February, he trained with the Texas Christian University men's tennis team in Fort Worth.

“It's always individual stuff here. To go there and work with the team is slightly different but it's a nice difference so it's good,” Edmund said.

He especially had fun during their off-court activity of paintballing. Edmund had never been before and learned how intense the game can get.

“We played teams, you win some you lose some. But everyone comes away with bruises, don't they?” he said. “I put on the mask but I remember I got one right in the mouth vent. I just remembered this massive noise, and I didn't know what happened. I knew I got hit. I went back and all my teeth were pink from the ball.”

Maybe in Winston-Salem he'll stick to tennis.

Grigor Dimitrov: The Simple Life

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 3:14pm

A lot can change in two years. In 2014, Grigor Dimitrov, looked to have begun to realise his potential as he surged into the Top 10 after reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon. But success proved fleeting; Dimitrov was far from the finished article.

However, a journey of self-discovery over the past 18 months looks to have led the Bulgarian to finding his own identity, and with it, a sense of calm and happiness once more on the tennis court.

"The one thing I've been really focused on is simplicity and just being me,” Dimitrov told ATPWorldTour.com. “I've been finding my identity not only on the court, but also off the court. I have so many different interests in so many different areas that sometimes I just need to chill, step back and let it be. Wake up and do whatever I feel like and the way I want to do it and live a little bit more on my own terms.”

A new partnership this summer with Dani Vallverdu – former coach of Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych – has further cemented in Dimitrov’s mind the need for simplicity in his life and getting back to basics on the tennis court.

“Now that I'm working with Dani it's also nice to have someone you can really get close to and share a lot,” said Dimitrov. “The structure overall has been better for me. We're simplifying things, working on the right things and that in a way helps you to become a little bit calmer, more confident and that brings a lot to your game.

"Lately we've been doing a lot of work, even after matches, working on small details, whether it's backhand cross or backhand down the line or certain go-to game plays in certain moments to try and make everything a little bit more automatic and lose yourself in the game. It's great when you start feeling that you're hitting the ball well and there's nothing else but the ball and the way you move and the way you hit it. You enjoy the game way more.”

Total immersion in his game has brought Dimitrov and Vallverdu instant results. When the pair joined forces, Dimitrov was World No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his lowest position in more than three years. He is now on the verge of returning to the Top 20 after reaching the quarter-finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto (l. to Nishikori) and the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (l. to Cilic).

For a player blessed with immense talent, the challenge has been understanding his best game and how best to use his range of shots.

“He’s determined to play the best tennis he can,” Vallverdu told ATPWorldTour.com. “During the past year he’s been struggling to find his own identity; he didn’t know which kind of player he was.

“My goal is helping him with this and simplifying his tennis. He has lots of variety, but he only needs those resources when he is facing difficult situations on court. When he’s not in a difficult moment, it's important that he only concentrates on his main weapons, which are really good. That’s what I’m going to try and implement in his game: simplifying it as much as possible. We want him to feel comfortable with his weapons.”

“We had a good start,” continued Vallverdu. “Since Toronto things have been going well. But it's not going to be a process of one or two months. It will be a process of six to 12 months.

“The most important thing in the next three months is to start establishing good habits on the court. Habits that will make him competitive next year. That's what I want, for him to be very consistent every day so that the habits develop as much as possible. It's not easy. It will be a tough mental process. But it's a process I'm certain he has to go through.”

Vallverdu’s assessment of Dimitrov’s career path was simply that success came too early for a player already burdened with the pressure of being ‘the next Roger Federer’.

“Many players who manage to reach the Top 10 at a young age struggle to understand what’s happening,” he said. “It’s a brand new situation for them, as much off the court as on it. I think the problem was that he was trying to find his identity on the court and he didn't manage it.

“His weapons were not as good anymore. Then it’s like a domino effect: when your shots are not working, your confidence drops and the errors increase. He went through this process, but the important thing is to accept it and focus on the current moment. What's good is that we know he is a player that can reach that level. It requires hard work, months of training, and he will have to give everything. But I’m convinced that with hard work he can play at a great level next season.”

"I'm definitely in a better spot [than last year],” said Dimitrov, remembering the doubts and periods of feeling low he struggled with during difficult moments in 2015. “I've been playing a little bit better tennis and had quite a few big wins so far.

“Overall I'm happy with the way things are developing. Of course, there's more homework to be done. But right now I think I'm on the right path and just taking each day as it is and trying to enjoy a bit more every match that I'm playing out there.

"It's a new chapter. I don't feel like I've reached my potential. Of course I was Top 10, but that was momentary. I want to establish myself as one of those players. I've been there, done that, so I know what to do. My body feels excellent, I'm working hard, I'm developing my game, working in the gym and all these things are adding up. I think maturity also comes with that. I just need to get the results.”

“We have a long-term relationship in mind,” concluded Vallverdu. “I accepted the job because I see it as a long-term project. I firmly believe in Grigor and with a lot of hard work, we can achieve several goals. I’m ready to be working with him for a long time.”

Best of ATP Stars 2016

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 3:02pm

Watch US Open Qualifying Live Stream

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 2:47pm

Watch live streaming of the US Open qualifying tournament, which takes place from 23-26 August at Flushing Meadows.

Watch Live Stream

Japan's Yuichi Sugita is the top seed, with #NextGen players Karen Khachanov, Noah Rubin, Stefan Kozlov, Duckhee Lee, Jared Donaldson and Andrey Rublev also competing for 16 places in the main draw. 

Main draw play begins in New York on Monday, 29 August. 

View Qualifying Draw | View Match Schedule

Johnson Reflects On New Top American Status Winston Salem 2016

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 2:10pm
Steve Johnson, the new American No. 1, discusses the hard work it took to get him to the top spot and who he looked up to on the way.

Inspired By Chang, Simon Spends A Career Proving Doubters Wrong

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 1:26am

As a kid in Nice, Gilles Simon had great tennis skills but he kept hearing why he wouldn't make it as a pro.

Too skinny. Too short.

“He plays OK but he's too small,” Simon remembers people saying.

But when he was about 10 years old, Simon saw a player who helped him believe those doubters were wrong. The player wasn't particularly big nor particularly strong. He also didn't try to outhit his opponents, opting instead to out-hustle and outsmart them. The American would chase down every ball and place his serve against his opponent's weakness.

Michael Chang would go on to win 34 tour-level titles, including Simon's home Grand Slam championship, Roland Garros, and reach No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He also helped Simon believe that he had a future in tennis.

“It helps a lot when you can see a player like him on the court doing so well, playing smartly, being crafty... trying to use his weapons at the maximum level,” Simon told ATPWorldTour.com. “You realise he can do very good things... and it helped me to believe that I could make it also.”

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Twenty years later, Simon has more than proved the naysayers wrong. At 6'0”, 154 pounds, he's hardly the tallest or the biggest ATP World Tour player. Yet few have been as consistent as Simon during the past 15 years.

The right-hander has won 12 ATP World Tour titles and nearly $11 million in prize money. By the end of the season, he could secure his 400th tour-level match win.

“In tennis, you can play with every type of physique,” he said.

The Frenchman also has won at least one title in eight of the past nine years. He hopes to add another year to that streak this week at the Winston-Salem Open.

Read More: On Seventh Attempt, Fritz Beats Tiafoe In Winston-Salem

Last year as the No. 1 seed, Simon had match point in the third set but lost to Brit Aljaz Bedene 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6) in the second round.

This year, Simon came to Winston-Salem early to try to get more acclimated to the fast and hot conditions. He arrived here last Thursday and has spent more than three hours on court every day sweating and trying to adapt his flat, baseline game to the quick hard courts.

“For me, I hate to miss, and here you are missing. It's really hard. The balls are flying,” he said. “I realise I'm struggling a bit here, so that's why I took the chance to come early and to practise hard and I see already a lot improvement.”

At 31, Simon is firmly in the second half of his career. But his workmanlike style won't end when he decides to retire. He enjoys watching Belgian David Goffin, 5'11”, 150 pounds; and Japanese Kei Nishikori, 5'10”, 165 pounds. They, like Simon, have had to find success differently than most.

“Nishikori, Goffin they are not mountains,” Simon said, “but they are quite good.”

You could say the same for Simon.

On Seventh Attempt, Fritz Defeats Tiafoe In Winston-Salem

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 10:57pm
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In a meeting of 18-year-old American NextGen stars Monday at the Winston-Salem Open, Taylor Fritz finally got the better of Frances Tiafoe, clinching a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

“I thought I played a really great match from start to finish,” he said. “I didn’t let it get too nervy, which I might have been afraid of closing the match out against him because I never beat him before and I really wanted to so badly. I’m glad with how everything went.”

Fritz had lost to Tiafoe in the six previous meetings of their rivalry – five at the junior level from 2011-14 (two of which came in doubles), followed by their first tour-level clash at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this year. On Monday, he capitalised on three of his five break point chances en route to a 63-minute win.

“When I played him in Indian Wells I was thinking about it too much,” he said. “I wanted it way too bad and that just caused me to play a really tight and nervy match. This time I came out with no expectations, not feeling like I should win, not feeling entitled at all to winning the match, and I think that’s what allowed me to play loose and play free and play a good match.”

Fritz, currently a career-high World No. 54, has climbed more than 600 places in the Emirates ATP Rankings in a year and is a lead candidate to be named the 2016 ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates. Tiafoe, who claimed his first tour-level win last year as a qualifier in Winston-Salem, has risen 150 spots to No. 124.

“Frances and I were actually talking about that before the match, that it’s crazy where we are right now,” said Fritz. “Neither of us thought we’d be where we are right now, a year later.

“I think this whole group has transitioned really well on the pro tour,” he added, referring to the American NextGen stars. “I think there’s a really long way to go for all of us, but all of us know that, we’re ready put in the work, and we’re all going to push each other. I think soon we’ll all be in these big tournaments playing each other. I think it’ll be a pretty regular thing.”

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Fritz next meets Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the No. 15 seed.

Czech Jiri Vesely, the 2013 ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, will face defending champion and fifth seed Kevin Anderson in the second round. Vesely opened his campaign with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over lucky loser Tim Van Rijthoven.